March 18th, 2010

Table of Contents:

Prescription Drugs and Falls (Medical analysis)

Impact Level (Training controversy?)

Owning a Pet Can Be Healthy (Successful aging)

Get It Just Right (Thought for the day)

Prescription Drugs and Falls

by American Senior Fitness Association

An analysis recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that certain kinds of popularly prescribed medications — such as sedatives and antidepressants — can increase older adults’ risk for falling.

Analyzed were 22 studies, published from 1996 to 2007, involving more than 79,000 subjects age 60-plus. Three classes of drugs were determined to increase the risk for falling significantly:

  • Sedatives and hypnotics (which may be used as sleep aids);
  • Antidepressants; and
  • Benzodiazepines (including tranquilizers, such as Valium and Xanax).
  • Fall risk was also seen to rise with the use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin), as well as with medications used in the treatment of psychosis. However, the conditions for which such drugs are typically prescribed may themselves increase fall risk.

    Interviewed by Reuters Health, researcher Dr. Carlo Marra of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, noted that prescription drug use by elderly patients is increasing — and, in fact, that a recent study found one in seven people over the age of 80 to have filled an antidepressant prescription. He added that older adults using any of the medications linked with a heightened risk for falls should discuss the matter with their physician and their
    pharmacist.

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    Impact Level

    by American Senior Fitness Association

    Conventional wisdom long held that low impact training helps spare the joints of mid-life and older adult exercisers. In recent times, however, impact forces have been advised for good bone health in some sectors of the literature. On the pro-impact side, there are inconsistencies among the recommendations of influential guideline-setting agencies, ranging from: (1) moderate to high intensity, incorporating jumping; to (2) medium impact, such as intermittent jogging or step aerobics; to (3) high impact for osteoporosis prevention, but low impact for its management.

    Now comes a study that brings the question full circle. Recently presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, the investigation involved 100 male and 136 female subjects, ages 45 to 55, of normal weight and without symptoms of osteoarthritis. Researchers examined MRI scans of their knees and evaluated the results in relation to their physical activity patterns. The scientists concluded that high impact weight-bearing activities, like running and jumping, are risky for the health of knee cartilage in aging persons, whereas low impact activities, like cycling and swimming, may protect healthy knee cartilage from becoming diseased.

    Is there a conflict between osteoporosis prevention and osteoarthritis prevention? While the jury is still out on the ideal level and frequency of impact in mature adult exercise training, prudence calls for caution, moderation and highly individualized programming, including activity-specific medical clearance to participate. Look for much more research and clarification to emerge in this important topic area in the future.

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    Owning a Pet Can Be Healthy

    by American Senior Fitness Association

    SFA author Jim Evans is a 42-year veteran of the health and fitness industry and an internationally recognized fitness consultant. Today Jim shares a creative idea with a lonely widow seeking to cope with grief and depression.

    DEAR JIM: My health has been going downhill ever since my husband passed away last year after a long illness. I haven’t been handling my grief very well, and I find myself down in the dumps most of the time. My doctor has prescribed an antidepressant which seems to help a little, but I still can’t seem to shake this constant feeling of loneliness. I know you have always said that exercise helps to fight depression, but I really don’t feel up to anything very physical. Is there anything else you can recommend? DEPRESSED IN DULUTH

    DEAR DEPRESSED: I’m sorry for your loss, and I can understand why you don’t feel like engaging in any physical activity while you are still grieving. However, a little bit of exercise can help in your recovery, even if it’s only a daily walk around the block.

    So, let me suggest a different approach to accomplishing the same thing.

    I’d like for you to get up bright and early tomorrow morning, put on your favorite dress, and visit the local animal shelter. Don’t laugh. Okay, go ahead and laugh if you feel like it. Yes, I mean the animal shelter. And, while you are there, I want you to adopt the first dog — or cat — that you fall in love with. I guarantee that you will fall in love with one!

    Why a dog or cat? Because, according to the Centers for Disease Control (http://www.cdc.gov/Healthypets/health_benefits.htm), pets can decrease your blood pressure, lower your cholesterol, and diminish your feelings of loneliness. Equally important, they increase your opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities and for socialization.

    You guessed it: If you select a dog, you will have to take that cute little critter for a walk on a regular basis, so you’ll both benefit from some fresh air and exercise. With a pet, you will be responsible for its care and feeding, and you will be rewarded with "unconditional love and acceptance," says Rebecca Johnson, associate professor at the University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing, the College of Veterinary Medicine, and director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction.

    "Research in this field is providing new evidence on the positive impact pets have in our lives," adds Johnson in a report to UPI’s ArcaMax Publishing (http://www.arcamax.com/healthtips/s-620986-109857).

    You will be saving a life, too. Between three and four million dogs and cats are euthanized each year in the United States simply because too many people give up their pets and too few people adopt from shelters (http://www.hsus.org/). You can help an abandoned pet — and, perhaps, yourself at the same time.

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    Get It Just Right

    by American Senior Fitness Association

    Not too much — nor too little. That’s the exercise prescription endorsed by a famous English essayist who lived from 1785 to 1859:

    "There is a necessity for a regulating discipline of exercise that, whilst evoking the human energies, will not suffer them to be wasted."

    – Thomas De Quincey

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