Topic: Health Conditions

Good for the Heart

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Two particularly interesting reports given at a recent American Heart Association meeting were subsequently summarized by Nathan Seppa writing for Science News magazine:

  • Having one’s teeth cleaned by a dentist or dental hygienist may reduce one’s risk for heart attack. Researchers in Taiwan followed the health of more than 100,000 subjects. Over a seven year follow-up period, the rate of heart attack in those who had undergone dental cleaning to remove plaque from their teeth was a fourth lower than in those who did not. Although poor oral hygiene resulting in gum disease has long been linked to heart disease, few studies have investigated the subject specifically in terms of preventing cardiac events.
  • Researchers in Israel studied 50 subjects who had experienced heart attack or unstable angina. All were immediately placed on standard medications, but half were also given 4,000 international units of vitamin D daily. Five days later, the vitamin D group had lower levels of two inflammation-causing compounds that are associated with heart disease: vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (which is involved in the formation of atherosclerotic plaque) and interleukin-6 (which is generally tied to increased coronary risk). Both of the compounds increased in patients who had not received vitamin D.
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    Exercises to Improve Hearing?

    Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    SFA author Jim Evans is a 45-year veteran of the health and fitness industry and an internationally recognized fitness consultant. Today he shares some helpful — and somewhat surprising — news on how to cope productively with hearing loss.

    DEAR JIM: My hearing has gotten worse over the past few years (I’m 72), and it is frustrating — and embarrassing — in social situations when people have to repeat themselves when I can’t hear what they are saying. It’s my own fault because I haven’t had my hearing checked for a long time, and I really don’t like the thought of having to wear a hearing aid. I know there probably aren’t any "exercises" for hearing loss, but I thought I would ask anyway. SUFFERING IN SILENCE IN SAN DIEGO

    DEAR SUFFERING: Believe it or not, there really are exercises for improving your hearing. Well, sort of.

    While actual hearing loss usually cannot be reversed, sometimes there are "focus exercises" (www.hearingloss.ca/focus-exercises.html)
    that can help you to better concentrate on what you are hearing. In other words, you may not be suffering from hearing loss as much as a lack of focus on what is being said.

    On the other hand, you may only have conductive hearing loss, which according to the Hearing Loss Association of America (hearingloss.org/), is "the most easily treated type of hearing loss, which occurs when the sound vibrations are not being conducted through the outer and middle ears effectively. This can be due to wax build-up or an infection in the ear canal, fluid build-up or an infection behind the eardrum, damage to the eardrum or ossicles [the three tiny bones of the inner ear], or thickening of the eardrum or ossicles. Some of these are remedied easily, some require medication, and others require surgery, which may not be able to fully restore the hearing."

    Of course, the only way you are going to know for sure if you really have hearing loss, or not, is to get checked by your doctor. So what are you waiting for? Even if you do eventually have to wear a hearing aid, it will greatly improve your quality of life, so what’s the downside? Vanity? One of the advantages of today’s modern technology is that the new hearing aids (www.nuear.com/hearing-aids/) are so small and unobtrusive that no one else even knows you are wearing one most of the time anyway.

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    Progress for Parkinson’s Patients

    Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    For promising news regarding the ongoing battle against Parkinson’s disease, read the following press release from the University of Florida Health Science Center:

    Researchers from the University of Florida and 14 additional medical centers reported results recently in the online version of The Lancet Neurology journal indicating that deep brain stimulation — also known as DBS — is effective at improving motor symptoms and quality of life in patients with advanced Parkinson’s disease.

    The study, sponsored by St. Jude Medical Inc., tested the safety and effectiveness of a constant current DBS device developed by St. Jude Medical to manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The device aimed to reduce tremors, improve the slowness of movement, decrease the motor disability of the disease and reduce involuntary movements called dyskinesia, which are a common side effect of Parkinson’s drugs.

    After treatment, analysis of 136 patient diaries revealed longer periods of effective symptom control — known as “on time” — without involuntary movements. “On time” for patients who received stimulation increased by an average of 4.27 hours compared with an increase of 1.77 hours in the group without stimulation. Patients also noted overall improvements in the quality of their daily activities, mobility, emotional state, social support and physical comfort.

    “I think it is safe to say since dopamine treatment emerged in the 1960s, DBS has been the single biggest symptomatic breakthrough for Parkinson patients who have experienced the fluctuations associated with levodopa therapy,” said Michael S. Okun, M.D., first author of the study, administrative director of the UF College of Medicine’s Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration, and the National Medical Director for the National Parkinson Foundation. “This study validates the use of mild electrical currents delivered to specific brain structures in order to improve Parkinson’s disease in select patients with advanced symptoms, and additionally, it explored a new stimulation paradigm. Future improvements in devices and the delivery systems for DBS will hopefully provide exciting new opportunities for Parkinson’s sufferers.”

    Only patients who have had Parkinson’s disease for five years or more were included in the study.They were randomly assigned to a control group that delayed the onset of stimulation for three months, or a group whose stimulation began shortly after surgery. All patients were followed for 12 months.

    The deep brain stimulation procedure involves surgeons implanting small electrodes into an area of the patient’s brain that controls movement. The electrodes are connected to a device precisely programmed to use mild electrical current to modulate problematic brain signals that result in movement problems.

    Today’s voltage-controlled DBS devices deliver pulses of current that vary slightly with surrounding tissue changes. The DBS devices tested in this study are intended to provide more accurate delivery and control of the electrical pulses.

    “We are committed to driving research that will provide solutions for physicians and their patients whose needs are currently unmet,” said Rohan Hoare, president of St. Jude Medical Neuromodulation Division. “These results are significant as they offer evidence that stimulation with the Libra constant current system enabled patients to have better motor control and an improvement in their quality of life when compared to the control group.”

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of DBS for Parkinson’s disease in 2002. At least 500,000 people in the United States suffer from Parkinson’s with about 50,000 new cases reported annually, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. These numbers are expected to increase as the average age of the population rises.

    “The study answered some very important questions concerning cognition and mood with lead implantation (alone) versus implantation with stimulation. It also refutes the hypothesis that DBS increases depressive symptoms,” said Gordon H. Baltuch, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of neurosurgery in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and a study author. “The group’s results also showed a decrease in the infection rate to 4 percent from previously published 10 percent. It shows that American neurosurgeons and neurologists with their industry partners are improving the safety of this procedure and working in a collaborative fashion.”

    Comparable with other large DBS studies, the most common serious adverse event revealed was infection, which occurred in five patients. Likewise, some participants also reported an increase in the occurrence of slurred speech, known as dysarthria.

    “Technology is on the move, and we expect to see continued improvements to DBS approaches, equipment and materials,” said Okun, who is also affiliated with UF’s McKnight Brain Institute. “DBS has set the bar high for the development of new therapies for advanced Parkinson’s disease patients. DBS will be the standard of care gene therapy and other cell-based therapies that are now being conceived will be measured against, and this will hopefully translate into significant improvements in what we can offer our patients.”

    In addition to UF and Penn, research was conducted at centers affiliated with Baylor College of Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center, Lahey Clinic, Loma Linda University Medical Center, the Medical College of Wisconsin, Mount Sinai Medical Center, Oakwood Hospital and Health Systems, Texas Health Presbyterian, Rush University Medical Center, the University of Miami, the University of Rochester and the University of Virginia Health Systems.

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    Obesity and Colon Cancer

    Tuesday, January 10th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Here at the start of the new year, many of us pledge to exercise more and shed extra, unwanted inches. Recent research provides some added incentive to stick with those resolutions. Reporting on a study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology, Reuters Health Information has summarized its results as follows: Older persons who are heavy, particularly around the middle, appear to be at higher risk for developing colon cancer than do leaner older adults. There is also evidence that physical exercise plays a significant role regarding that risk, especially in women.

    The project followed approximately 120,000 Dutch subjects (ages 55 to 69) for 16 years, during which roughly two percent developed colorectal cancer and most of those were ultimately diagnosed with colon cancer.

    For men, the findings were rather straightforward:

  • The risk for men who were obese or significantly overweight at the beginning of the study was 25 percent higher than that for men in normal weight range;
  • Men with the greatest belly girth measurements had 63 percent more risk than those with slimmer waistlines.
  • For women, the findings were more complicated:

  • Women of large girth who exercised little were 83 percent more prone to develop colon cancer than those with trimmer middles who exercised more than 90 minutes a day;
  • However, a large middle was only connected with higher risk in women who also exercised little (fewer than 30 minutes a day).
  • "One of our more intriguing observations," the study’s lead author Laura Hughes told Reuters, "was that abdominal fat was associated with colorectal cancer in women only when combined with low exercise levels."

    Exactly why this may be true is not yet well understood. Hughes noted that calorie balance (that is, one’s dietary caloric consumption versus one’s caloric expenditure via physical exercise) could be important. She recommends that women concentrate on living an overall healthy lifestyle, as opposed to focusing mainly on body weight.

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    Robots Aiding Stroke Survivors

    Tuesday, January 10th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    SFA author Jim Evans is a 42-year veteran of the health and fitness industry and an internationally recognized fitness consultant. Today he describes promising innovation in the area of stroke rehabilitation.

    DEAR JIM: My wife suffered a debilitating stroke last year at age 70 and still has trouble using her arms. She has made considerable progress working with her physical therapist, but many of her arm movements still seem awkward and unnatural. Do you have any advice to help her regain the normal use of her arms more quickly? WORRIED IN WACO

    DEAR WORRIED: I would not want to contradict anything in your wife’s current physical therapy regimen because it seems to be working, albeit more slowly than you would like. It typically takes time to recover from a stroke, and recovery is usually measured in very small increments — especially after the first three months or so. Sometimes survivors do not recover substantially even with the best of love and medical attention, so prepare yourself for the long haul and relish even the slightest improvement, no matter how small.

    But take heart, too, because researchers are constantly working to find new and better ways to help stroke survivors. Research appearing in BioMed Central’s open access Journal of euroEngineering and Rehabilitation shows some significant success using robots to help stroke survivors regain the normal use of their arms.

    The researchers’ robot assists patients as they attempt to guide its "hand" in a figure-eight motion above a desk, pulling in the correct direction and resisting incorrect movements to a minutely controlled degree. This interactive assistance allows for alternating levels of help, encouraging patients to re-learn how to use their arms.

    According to Elena Vergaro and a team of researchers from the University of Genoa, Italy, "Our preliminary results from this small group of patients suggest that the scheme is robust and promotes a statistically significant improvement in performance. Future large-scale controlled clinical trials should confirm that robot-assisted physiotherapy can allow functional achievements in activities of daily life."

    "Stroke survivors," said Vergaro, "perform arm movements in abnormal ways, for example, by elevating the shoulder in order to lift the arm, or leaning forward with the torso instead of extending the elbow. Use of such incorrect patterns may limit their ability to achieve higher levels of movement ability, and may lead to repetitive use injuries. By demonstrating the correct movements, a robot can help the motor system of the subject learn to replicate the desired trajectory by experience."

    Robots are being used in various other ways to help stroke survivors, too, so there are some exciting developments that may be available to your wife in the near future. In the meantime, please continue to be patient and supportive while your wife goes through this difficult and painstaking recovery.

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    New Hope for Humans and Horses

    Monday, December 5th, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Like other senior fitness professionals, Janie Clark, president of the American Senior Fitness Association (SFA), has served many clients with osteoarthritis. In addition, Janie’s all-time favorite mare, the late great “Squall Moon,” suffered from the condition during her senior years. So here at SFA we are especially pleased to share the following University of Florida Health Science Center news release describing new progress in the fight against osteoarthritis:

    University of Florida researchers are developing a gene therapy technique that could help both humans and horses fight osteoarthritis, a debilitating condition that causes inflammation and deterioration of the joints. The goal is to create a one-time treatment that works long term.

    The research team received a highly competitive one-year, $900,000 grant from the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease to fund the work. The new effort will expand laboratory studies into trials that better approximate osteoarthritis in humans.

    The work will involve the use of viruses, called adeno-associated viruses, or AAV, as vehicles to deliver genetic material to the joints of horses, where it would produce a therapeutic protein directly at the site of the disease.

    “We’re uniquely poised to do this study, because UF has a leading program in equine medicine and research and is one of the homes of AAV technology,” said principal investigator Steven Ghivizzani, Ph.D., a professor of orthopaedics and rehabilitation in the UF College of Medicine, and a member of the UF Genetics Institute. Researchers at UF’s Powell Gene Therapy Center are among the pioneers of AAV technology and gene therapy applications for a number of diseases./p>

    Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, is a chronic condition that affects large weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the joints that usually allows bones to move smoothly over each other wears away, causing bones to rub. The result is pain, stiffness and swelling. About 27 million Americans age 25 and older have the disease, according to the National Institutes of Health. The economic cost of arthritis and other rheumatic conditions is estimated at close to $130 billion a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    There is no cure for osteoarthritis.

    Joint replacement surgery can help ease the disabling effects of the condition. The few medicines that exist for osteoarthritis mostly offer only limited symptom relief. In addition, those drugs can have unwanted consequences. Corticosteroid injections, for example, which are given to both people and horses, also suppress other healthy activities in the joint, such as processes important for healing. The injections also have to be administered repeatedly, which increases the chance of infection.

    In contrast, the new gene therapies being developed at UF would require a one-time treatment and would not hinder the body’s healing processes.

    Research suggests that the pain, joint inflammation and loss of cartilage associated with osteoarthritis are linked to a protein called interleukin-1. A therapeutic gene used to treat the arthritic joints produces a second protein that naturally counteracts the effects of interleukin-1, but that has not yet translated into effective treatments for patients because of difficulty getting high enough concentrations inside affected joints.

    The UF researchers are devising a gene therapy approach that would allow continued production of therapeutic protein within the joints, directly at the disease site. Unlike existing drugs, the potential one-time treatment would not just address symptoms, but change the course of the disease.

    “Dr. Ghivizzani is at the forefront of trying to develop new technologies for treating osteoarthritis and other joint diseases by gene therapy,” said Christopher Evans, D.Sc., Ph.D., theMaurice Müller professor of orthopaedic surgery at Harvard Medical School, who is not involved in the UF study. “There’s a lot riding on this.”

    Previous studies in small animals such as rats demonstrated that delivery of the gene therapy resulted in meaningful levels of gene expression within affected joints. The researchers will examine how that translates to the larger joints of horses, which are more similar to human joints in terms of size, tissue structure and weight-bearing stance.

    The new studies will determine the therapy dose that can be given safely, how much of the therapeutic protein is produced in the joint — and for how long — and the effectiveness of the therapy.

    The researchers will use techniques such as a minimally invasive procedure called arthroscopy, imaging studies such as MRI and X-ray, as well as hands-on clinical evaluations to check for inflammation and cartilage degradation. Motion capture analysis will help with evaluation of changes in gait, a good measure of pain.

    “We hope that this will be at least the first step in a therapy that will benefit both people and animals,” said Patrick Colahan, D.V.M., a board-certified equine surgeon in the UF College of Veterinary Medicine and co-investigator on the study. “It has the potential to help lots of different species, and from a veterinarian’s perspective, that’s what we’d like.”

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    Depression and Stroke

    Monday, December 5th, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Chinese researchers have analyzed the results of 17 studies (involving more than 200,000 subjects) that investigated the relationship between depression and stroke. They found that persons who had experienced depression at some time in their lives were approximately one-third more likely to have a stroke compared to persons who had not been depressed, according to a Reuters Health Information report.

    Each of the 17 studies started out with subjects who hadn’t had a stroke, and then tracked them over time. Most of the studies showed a clear link between depression and increased stroke risk. Overall, the risk for stroke was 34 percent higher in persons with depression.

    Even though the connection between depression and stroke was seen to be strong, it is not yet known whether depression actually causes an increase in stroke risk. That is an issue that will be addressed by further research. It may be that depression hampers an individual’s ability to follow healthful behaviors. Depression has also been linked to the development of both hypertension and diabetes. Future studies will tackle the question: Can successfully treating the symptoms of depression lead to a lower risk for stroke?

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    Inactivity and Diverticular Disease

    Monday, December 5th, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    In diverticular disease, bulging pouches develop in the lining of the large intestine. The condition is fairly prevalent in older adults and is often treated by increasing a patient’s consumption of dietary fiber. Now Swedish researchers, reporting in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, have found that obese, physically inactive subjects are at a higher risk for hospitalization due to diverticular disease.

    Like many scientific studies, the Swedish analysis of health-survey data (which was collected over the course of 10-plus years from 40,000 female participants) does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship. In this case, that means that a cause-and-effect association has not been established between being heavy or sedentary and developing diverticular disease. However, the paper’s lead author suggests that exercising and losing weight may help to prevent the symptoms.

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    Tune In to Your Feet

    Monday, October 31st, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Walking is a highly popular form of physical exercise among older adults. It is also immensely important in terms of performing the routine activities needed for successful, independent living. Therefore, it is essential to safeguard this precious ability as we age. One practical measure we can take is to pay attention to the signals our feet send to us. Below are two noteworthy examples from the editors of Real Simple magazine:

    • If one’s arches or heels hurt when walking, it may be an indication of flatfeet. With flatfeet, the arches collapse excessively when weight is placed on them. This can contribute to knee and lower back pain. The solution could be as simple as wearing arch-support inserts purchased over-the-counter at the drugstore. However, if the pain continues, a visit to the podiatrist is in order.
    • If one’s arches or heels cramp up when walking, it may be an indication of peripheral artery disease (PAD). With PAD, there is poor circulation to the extremities. This leads to a buildup of lactic acid in the muscles of the feet during walking activity, in turn, causing the cramps. Someone experiencing this symptom should consult with a podiatrist right away to obtain an initial diagnosis.
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    Sciatica

    Monday, October 31st, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    The sciatic nerve runs from the back, down through the buttocks, on down the leg, and to the foot. If it is pressed or irritated, this large nerve can become inflamed, producing the painful condition known as sciatica.

    There are a number of measures that may help to relieve the pain of sciatica, according to Paul Donohue, MD, writing recently in his column "To Your Good Health" published by the News-Journal of Daytona Beach, Florida. He advises that over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil, Aleve or Motrin may help reduce discomfort. For some persons, applying ice to the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes, three times daily, helps to dull the pain. For others, warmth works better (for example, a heating pad or hot compress). Dr. Donohue also offers the following stretching routine, which may take pressure off the nerve:

    • Begin by sitting on a sturdy chair (one without arms would be best) with both feet flat on the floor. Knees should be about shoulder width apart.
    • Sitting tall, gently turn your trunk slightly toward the left.
    • Dangle your right arm down between your knees and your left arm down on the outside of the left leg.
    • Try to keep your back long and straight while bending from your hips down toward the floor as far as possible.
    • Hold this stretch for five seconds.
    • Slowly rise to an upright seated position.
    • Reversing the entire process, repeat toward the opposite side.

    If you will slide your dangling arms lightly along the sides of your upper legs during the bending and rising phases of the exercise, you can provide some manual support for your back. Take note of how you feel while performing this stretching activity. If it hurts, stop. If it is well tolerated, perform five bends toward each side, three times per day. If your sciatica pain persists after trying the self-help ideas given above, consult your personal physician who may determine that you need physical therapy.

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