March 4th, 2013

Table of Contents:

Sleep and Memory (Cognitive fitness)

Hearing, Aging and Mental Function (Possible links)

Overactive Bladder (OTC treatment)

Lightning and Migraines (A potential trigger?)

Nutrition Labeling (Healthy eating)

Balance Basics (Old standby still an effective move)

Cough, Be Gone! (Mayo Clinic tips)

A Time to Be Cozy (Humour)

Sleep and Memory

by American Senior Fitness Association

Recent research published in the journal Nature Neuroscience looked at the effects of lighter sleep — which often accompanies aging — on memory skills. The small study involved 18 young people (average age 20) and 15 older adults (average age 72).

Given a memory test after sleeping, the older persons scored 55 percent lower than the young persons. The researchers think that the older adults remembered less than their younger counterparts during the memory task because the older persons’ sleep was not as deep.

With age, sleep may become lighter due to sleep interruptions caused by aches, pains and/or the need to urinate. However, sleep quality can be improved which might, in turn, lead to better everyday memory function.

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Hearing, Aging and Mental Function

by American Senior Fitness Association

New findings published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine suggest that older adults who are hard of hearing may experience a more rapid decline in thinking skills, compared to older adults without hearing problems.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore studied 1,984 men and women in their seventies and eighties. At the beginning of the study, most of the participants (1,162) did have some hearing loss, but none exhibited signs of impaired memory or thinking ability.

During a six-year follow-up period, the participants underwent periodic testing to assess their memory, concentration and language skills. During that interim, 609 of them showed new signs of mental decline. Interestingly, the risk was 24 percent higher in those who had hearing deficits.

This study, which was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, did not prove a cause and effect relationship between hearing loss and dementia. However, it did underscore the importance of having one’s hearing checked regularly by a qualified health professional as one ages.

Hearing problems might contribute to declines in cognitive function by promoting social isolation. When it is difficult to hear what others are saying, some elders tend to avoid interaction. Previous research has connected social withdrawal to an elevated risk for dementia.

Also, it is possible that hearing loss might cause one’s brain to expend extra energy trying to process the "garbled" input that it is receiving through the ears. This could mean taking resources away from other brain functions such as memory.

Hearing loss impacts approximately two-thirds of persons over age seventy. Hearing aids and other assistive devices, for example, telephone amplifiers may be helpful. Whether successfully treating hearing impairment can slow down declines in cognitive function is a question soon to be tackled by the research team that conducted this investigation.

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Overactive Bladder

by American Senior Fitness Association

Having an overactive bladder can interfere with one’s ability to enjoy a physically active lifestyle. Fortuitously, the drug Oxytrol (marketed by Merck) was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as an over-the-counter treatment for women ages 18 and older who have the condition. It remains available by prescription only to adult men.

Overactive bladder, which affects approximately 33 million Americans, may entail leakage, frequent urination and feeling a sudden, urgent need to go. Oxytrol, which is administered by applying a patch to one’s skin, helps relax the bladder muscle. During its clinical testing phase, Oxytrol’s reported side effects included dry mouth, constipation and skin irritation where the patch was applied.

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Lightning and Migraines

by American Senior Fitness Association

Recent research published in the journal Cephalalgia indicates a possible connection between nearby lightning and the onset of migraine headaches. More than 28 million Americans are affected by migraines, which may be accompanied by nausea, sensitivity to light and visual hallucinations. Migraine patients are sometimes disabled for hours or days by their severe headaches.

Scientists from Ohio’s University of Cincinnati College of Medicine studied research participants’ headache logs along with weather data from Ohio and Missouri. They found that their participants were 28 percent more likely to have a migraine on days during which lightning strikes occurred within 25 miles of their homes.

How might lightning induce migraines? Perhaps thunderstorms bring more allergy spores into an environment. Or, perhaps the electromagnetic waves and ozone produced by lightning somehow act to trigger the headaches.

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Nutrition Labeling

by American Senior Fitness Association

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has issued a fascinating press release entitled "Can Changes in Nutrition Labeling Help Consumers Make Better Food Choices?" The Academy’s statement, which will be of great interest to health-fitness professionals, follows:

The Nutrition Facts label was introduced 20 years ago and provides consumers with important information, including the serving size, the number of servings in the package, the number of calories per serving, and the amount of nutrients for each serving of a packaged food. However, research has shown that consumers often miscalculate the number of calories and the nutritional content of products that have two or more servings per container but are usually consumed in a single eating occasion.

Two nutrition labeling changes could have the potential to make nutritional content information easier to understand: 1) dual-column information that details single serving and total package nutrition information, and 2) declaring nutritional information for the entire container.

Amy M. Lando, MPP, and Serena C. Lo, PhD, of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, College Park, MD, conducted an online study with more than 9,000 participants to measure consumers’ accuracy in using modified versions of the Nutrition Facts label and to assess their perceptions of how useful, trustworthy and helpful the label was.

Says Ms. Lando, "FDA commissioned this experimental study to look at whether different ways of presenting the serving size and nutrition information on the Nutrition Facts label might help consumers. In particular we were interested in studying products that have two servings per container but that are customarily consumed in a single eating occasion."

Study participants evaluated nine modified Nutrition Facts labels and the current label format for four fictitious products (two frozen meals and two grab-and-go bags of chips). The labels were classified into three groups. The first group of labels used a single-column format to display information for products with two servings per container; the second group used versions of a dual-column format to display information for products with two servings per container; and the third group used single-column formats that listed the contents of the product as a single, large serving.

The study team also tested whether changes in formatting, such as enlarging the font size for the declaration of "Calories," removing the information on the number of calories for fat, or changing the wording for the serving size declaration, would be helpful to consumers in determining the calories and other nutrient information for a single serving and for the entire package.

Study investigators determined that participants could more accurately assess the number of calories or amount of fat or other nutrients per serving and in the entire package when a single, large serving per container or a dual-column format was used.

"This research is just one step in understanding how some potential food label modifications might help consumers make better decisions. Ideally, we would like to see how these labels perform in a more realistic setting, such as in a grocery store, with actual packaged foods as opposed to large labels on a computer screen," concludes Dr. Lo. "The Nutrition Facts label is only one tool that can help consumers make informed food choices and maintain healthy dietary practices, but it is a valuable tool so it’s important to continue exploring ways to support effective use of the label for these purposes."

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Balance Basics

by American Senior Fitness Association

When planning physical activity sessions with fall prevention in mind, don’t forget to include the good old tried-and-true heel lift, also known as the ankle pump. Have standing exercise participants lift up their bodies on tiptoes and then lower their bodies back down while holding on to the back of a sturdy chair. Participants with poor balance can perform this exercise in a chair-seated position by lifting up their heels on tiptoes and then lowering the heels back down. In either case, perform approximately 15 repetitions, as well tolerated. The heel lift is a good anti-falling exercise because it improves ankle strength and balance.

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Cough, Be Gone!

by American Senior Fitness Association

The Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies offers the following helpful advice for relieving the coughing that may well accompany colds this time of year:

Drinking lots of fluids helps keep one’s throat clear. Choose water and fruit juices over coffee or soda.

Using a humidifier to moisturize the air at home will make breathing easier. When one has a cold, dry air irritates the throat — and the air in one’s home can get very dry during the winter.

Sucking on hard candy or medicated throat lozenges can discourage coughing when one’s throat is dry or sore.

Having a little honey may be soothing. Stir 2 teaspoons of honey into a cup of warm tea or warm lemon water.

Elevating the head of one’s bed may improve one’s ability to rest. Raise it from four to six inches if the cough is due to a backup of stomach acid. Also eschew food or drink within two to three hours of
bedtime.

The Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies does not encourage using over-the-counter cough syrups and medications "because they aren’t effective." If a cough persists longer than two or three weeks — or if it is accompanied by fever, increased shortness of breath or bloody phlegm — contact a medical doctor.

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A Time to Be Cozy

by American Senior Fitness Association

"Winter is the season in which people try to keep the house as warm as it was in the summer, when they complained about the heat."

– Author Unknown

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