Topic: Healthy Living

More About the Brain

Thursday, September 27th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Recent research undertaken at NYC’s State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, and published in the journal Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience, indicated that worrying may have evolved in conjunction with intelligence as a critical survival mechanism in human beings.

Scientists compared research subjects who had generalized anxiety disorder with subjects who did not have the disorder. They discovered that worry as well as high intelligence were connected with specific brain activity, measurable by changes in the brain’s white matter. The results suggest that anxiety (worry) may have evolved right alongside intelligence as an important means of survival.

In a medical center news release, Professor Jeremy Coplan said: "While excessive worry is generally seen as a negative trait and high intelligence as a positive one, worry may cause our species to avoid dangerous situations, regardless of how remote a possibility they may be… In essence, worry may make people ‘take no chances,’ and such people may have higher survival rates. Thus, like intelligence, worry may confer a benefit upon the species."

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Myth Bustin’

Thursday, September 27th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

An interesting investigation conducted recently by a University of Florida physician and his colleagues found that, contrary to popular belief, patients at teaching hospitals don’t fare worse when trainee doctors come on board. For details, see the following news release from UF&Shands Newsnet:

A University of Florida physician and colleagues have “mythbusted” a notion long held in medical circles: patients at teaching hospitals fare worse in July when new medical graduates start their residency training and older residents take on more responsibilities. A large national study revealed no such “July phenomenon” or “July effect” — at least not in the field of neurosurgery.

The findings were published recently in the journal Neurosurgery.

“If anything goes wrong in July, then everyone’s quick to say ‘Do you see? It’s because of the July effect’ — but we saw no evidence for that,’ said senior author Dr. Brian Hoh, the William Merz associate professor of neurological surgery at the UF College of Medicine. “This study will raise thoughts and ideas about how we can improve training for residents and improve safety for patients.”

The July phenomenon is infamous both among physicians and patients. Conventional wisdom has it that if you are going to be a patient at a teaching hospital, try not to go in July.

The graduate medical year starts on July 1, at which time recent medical school graduates start bearing responsibility for patients for the first time, and previous interns and residents move up a level, taking on new and unfamiliar tasks.

Previous studies of the July phenomenon in fields such as general surgery, obstetrics, gynecology and internal medicine have yielded inconsistent results, some finding an effect and others finding none. Hoh, a member of UF’s McKnight Brain Institute, wanted to see what happens in neurosurgery, where doctors train for many years to gain proficiency in complex and delicate brain surgeries. One earlier study of pediatric neurosurgery found no effect, whereas another study found a small effect.

Seeking a clearer view, Hoh and colleagues at UF and Harvard’s Massachusetts General Hospital analyzed more than 850,000 teaching hospital admission and patient-outcome records from a database called the National Inpatient Sample. They assessed the rates of patient deaths and surgical complications in July compared with all other months, from 1998 to 2008.

The researchers evaluated four brain conditions that were representative of diseases commonly treated at teaching hospitals: nontraumatic hemorrhage, central nervous system trauma, central nervous system tumor and hydrocephalus.

After taking variations in patient demographics and hospital characteristics into account, the researchers found that the risk of death or complications at teaching hospitals was the same in July as in other months. The results reflected those at nonteaching hospitals used for comparison.

“If you’ve got new physicians on the job and you’ve got physicians that have just been promoted to a new level, it’s sort of the perfect storm for medical errors — it makes intuitive sense, but for a variety of peculiar reasons it’s just not the case,” said Dr. Hunt Batjer, the Lois C.A. and Darwin E. Smith Distinguished Chair in Neurological Surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and chair of the Residency Review Committee for neurological surgery of the
Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, the body that certifies post-medical school training for the entire U.S. Batjer was not involved in the study.

The authors say multiple layers of supervision seem to more than compensate for the inexperience of young physicians, providing a safety net for patients.

“Maybe in July, that oversight is heightened because supervising physicians pay more attention to what new residents and interns are doing,” said Hoh, who practices at Shands at UF medical center.

Still, the researchers point out, there might have been near misses in which errors or complications were averted, but there was no way to identify from the database whether such occurrences increased in July compared with other months.

“In some ways, I hope people continue to talk about the July effect or the August effect,” Batjer said. “It will force us to remain vigilant.”

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Men Who Hate Seeing the Doctor

Thursday, September 27th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

SFA author Jim Evans is a 45-year veteran of the health-fitness industry and an internationally recognized fitness consultant. Today Jim talks common sense to an older gentlemen who, for his own good, needs a reality check.

DEAR JIM: I’ve had a sharp pain in my lower abdomen for the past several months. It hurts like the dickens, but it comes and goes, so I haven’t been too worried about it. My wife keeps telling me to go to the doctor and have it checked, but I’ve managed to get by without seeing a doctor for the past 20 years, so why should I start now? I’m 72, and I already know I don’t take very good care of myself. I’m an overweight couch potato and proud of it, and I enjoy my TV, a good cigar and a cold beer before I go to bed every night. My wife says I’m just an old fool, and maybe she’s right, but as long as I can still tolerate the occasional pain, why should I worry? It can’t be that bad if it hasn’t killed me yet, right? Ha, ha! OLD FOOL IN FARGO

DEAR OLD FOOL: I have to agree with your wife on this one. You really are an old fool, aren’t you? Worse, a stubborn old fool. However, you’re in good company with a lot of other old fools — and young ones too. There’s a reason why women outlive men on the average, and you’re the proof.

A national survey by Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine (LUCSSM) found that women were three times more likely than men to see a doctor on a regular basis. In fact, the study indicated that "trying to get a man to a doctor can be harder than pulling teeth." Come on! I’m a guy, but even I don’t understand that kind of nonsense. Why do you hate going to the doctor so much?

"There could be as many answers to that question as male patients that I see, but more often than not it’s that it’s not a priority for them," says Timothy Vavra, DO, Loyola University Health System physician and associate professor of internal medicine at LUCSSM. "They’re not willing to make a lifestyle change, so they think it’s a waste of time listening to a doctor tell them to change the way they eat, to start exercising and stop smoking if they’re not going to do it anyway."

According to Dr. Vavra, this kind of obstinate thinking just doesn’t add up. "The longer a person puts off seeing a doctor, the more likely they’ll have to see a doctor on a regular basis," he says. "Prevention isn’t a hundred percent, but we can address issues and keep an eye out for warning signs. I have patients that, if they would’ve seen me more regularly, we could have made little changes that would have helped prevent them from having a medical crisis that resulted in a complete lifestyle change."

Are you afraid that if you see a doctor you might find out something is wrong with you? Well, the longer you wait, the more that just might turn out to be true.

"If you wait until you have a health crisis, it’s no longer preventive care," adds Dr. Vavra. "It’s secondary care, and that may include surgery and/or hospital stay. Instead of making a simple change in diet and lifestyle, a person will have to make significant changes and often be on medications. Having to see specialists, paying for procedures and taking daily medications can really affect a person’s financial health."

And, what kind of example are you setting for the young men in your family who look up to you as a parent, grandparent or relative if they see you neglecting your health and making lame excuses about not going to the doctor. My advice is to pick up the phone and schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. If you do find something wrong, deal with it. If you don’t find anything wrong, change your lifestyle and move forward so that your next appointment won’t be so traumatic. Either way, you’ll be glad you did. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for your wife.

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Reducing the Risk for Stroke

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

A Swedish study recently published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke found that adult men and women who ate low-fat dairy products had a reduced risk for stroke, compared to their counterparts who ate full-fat dairy products.

Nearly 75,000 adults, ages 45 to 83 years old, served as subjects for the study. At the beginning of the project, they were free of heart disease, stroke and cancer. They completed a dietary habit questionnaire, on which they described their food and drink consumption (for example, they might note consuming a particular item "never" or up to four servings per day).

Four thousand eighty nine strokes occurred among the subjects during a 10-year follow-up period. That is, 2409 in men and 1,680 in women. Most of the strokes were ischemic (3,159) whereas 583 were hemorrhagic and 347 were unspecified.

Compared to study participants who ate high-fat dairy foods, those who ate low-fat versions had a 13 percent lower risk for ischemic stroke and a 12 percent lower risk for stroke in general.

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A Cure for “Sitting Disease”

Thursday, August 23rd, 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 Jim shares some great advice on staying active in the workplace.

DEAR JIM: I’m getting along in years at 74, but I’m still working full-time and love my job. However, it’s a "sit-down" job in front of a computer that doesn’t provide much physical activity, and my weight seems to be creeping up on me during the past few years. It’s not much — only two to three pounds a year — but I’ve put on about 12 pounds in the past five years. I watch what I eat and try to stay active when I’m not working, but it doesn’t seem to be helping now. I know my metabolism has slowed down with age, but is there anything else I can do? GAINING IN GRINNELL

DEAR GAINING: Although you have tried to stay physically active, you are probably suffering from a common infirmity known as "sitting disease." But not to worry. There is a cure. In fact, the cure can increase both your physical activity level and your metabolism at the same time, even while you are working.

Studies have found that the physical activity associated with standing — rather than sitting — has a profound impact on overall health. "Sitting disease," a long-term result of prolonged sitting (more than 6.5 hours a day), includes increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and early mortality.

Based on the results of these studies, Ergotron, Inc.,www.ergotron.com of St. Paul, Minnesota, the global leader in ergonomic and wellness-enhancing mounting and mobility products, is urging employers to start utilizing stand-up and walkable work stations to fight "sitting disease."

"Responsible businesses need to understand the strong correlation that exists between extended periods of sitting and the associated impact that conditions such as heart disease and stroke will have on the global workforce," says Joel Hazzard, president and CEO of Ergotron. "By offering access to sit-stand computing options, businesses are creating an environment that promotes and supports optimum wellness and an active work style, and as a result healthier and happier employees."

Jacquie Evans, communication manager and executive assistant to the CEO of Hospice of the East Bay (hospiceeastbay.org/), has long been an advocate of working while standing. She says, "Like many people working in an office environment, I spend a lot of time on my computer and, after watching a special segment on ABC’s Good Morning America about the benefits of standing while working, I decided to try it. Now, after standing at my desk for more than two years, I really think it has made a difference in my overall concentration and alertness during the day, and it has definitely improved my posture. And, I don’t experience the back pains anymore either from sitting for so long day after day. It has helped me control my weight, too, because I find myself eating less in a standing position."

Until and unless your company acquires ergonomically-correct furniture to accommodate some kind of a mounting device or "lift" to raise your computer to a higher level where you can easily use it in a standing position, you might place something under it. "I just placed a simple cardboard box under my computer in the beginning," says Evans, "until I could find an adjustable desk top that offered more stability."

So join the "uprising" and see what happens. You might be pleasantly surprised to see your weight start heading in the right direction again.

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Work versus Rest

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

With Labor Day fast approaching, we hope you will enjoy the following thoughts on working, resting and making the most of your holiday weekend:

"Sometimes it’s important to work for that pot of gold. But other times it’s essential to take time off and to make sure that your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow."

– Douglas Pagels, These Are the Gifts I’d Like to Give You

"Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop."

– Ovid

"The man who doesn’t relax and hoot a few hoots voluntarily, now and then, is in great danger of hooting hoots and standing on his head for the edification of the pathologist and trained nurse, a little later on."

– Elbert Hubbard

"The end of labor is to gain leisure."

– Aristotle

"If all the cars in the United States were placed end to end, it would probably be Labor Day Weekend."

– Doug Larson

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Relax into Yoga

Friday, July 27th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Yoga therapists Kimberly Caron of Oregon Health & Science University and Carol Krucoff of Duke Integrative Medicine have developed a user-friendly yoga plan for older adults that is demonstrated in their new DVD "Relax into Yoga." The program is described as follows by its producer, PranaMaya:

Based on the pioneering "Yoga for Seniors" teacher training — offered at Duke Integrative Medicine and the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health — these practices combine the best of modern, evidence-based medicine with the ancient wisdom of the yoga tradition. Kimberly and Carol’s extensive experience working in medical settings with older adults and people with health challenges has helped them create safe, effective and enjoyable practices that are accessible to virtually anyone who can breathe.

DVD highlights include:

  • 4 Main Practices for varied levels of mobility: In bed, in a chair, standing and lying down;
  • 3 Special Practices to build strength and stability, improve balance and promote relaxation;
  • Safety guidelines and large English subtitles for easy viewing.
  • Buyer’s Guide:

  • Audience — No Yoga experience necessary;
  • Style — Easy movement;
  • Intensity — Gentle physical exercises and breath work;
  • Props — Sturdy chair, Yoga mat, blanket and/or cushion.
  • For more information, visit www.yoga4seniors.com.

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    Let Go of Regrets

    Friday, June 22nd, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    A recent study published in the journal Science suggests that persons who don’t dwell on missed opportunities may have more satisfying later years. The German study involved healthy young people in their twenties, depressed older adults in their sixties, and healthy older adults in their sixties.

    Using functional MRI brain scans, the researchers gauged their subjects’ responses to missing opportunities while playing a computerized game-based test. Winning or losing at the game was largely a matter of chance. When the young adults and depressed older adults realized they had missed opportunities earlier in the game, they typically began taking greater risks as the game continued. The healthy older adults, however, reacted more calmly without greatly changing their game-playing strategies. The brain scans revealed that the healthy older adults were feeling less regret and were better able to control their emotions. They seemed better able to keep in mind that luck played an important role in the game’s outcome, whereas the depressed subjects seemed more likely to blame themselves.

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    Lean Forward

    Friday, June 22nd, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends looking for certain words on meat labels in order to purchase leaner cuts. Good-bet words include:

    • Round,
    • Loin, and
    • 95 percent lean.

    The academy also advises trimming off visible pieces of fat prior to cooking and then using cooking methods that minimize fat. These include:

    • Braising,
    • Stewing,
    • Stir-frying, and
    • Grilling.
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    Temperature Fluctuation Concerns

    Friday, June 22nd, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Research conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston suggests that temperature swings may place elderly persons who have chronic conditions (for example, diabetes, heart failure and lung disease) at a higher risk for death during the summer months. Published recently in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study found that for every 1-degree Centigrade* increase in summer temperature variability, there was a corresponding increase of from 2.8 to 4 percent in the death rate of elderly people with chronic diseases.

    In a news release about the study, Harvard researcher Antonella Zanobetti stated: "We found that, independent of heat waves, high day-to-day variability in summer temperatures shortens life expectancy. This variability can be harmful for susceptible people."

    The study’s lead author Joel Schwartz said in the news release: "People adapt to the usual temperature in their city. That is why we don’t expect higher mortality rates in Miami than in Minneapolis, despite the higher temperatures. But people do not adapt as well to increased fluctuations around the usual temperature. That finding, combined with the increasing age of the population, the increasing prevalence of chronic conditions such as diabetes and possible increases in temperature fluctuations due to climate change, means that this public health problem is likely to grow in importance in the future."

    Additional, more specific study findings included:

    • The risk of death for persons with diabetes rose 4 percent for each 1-degree C increase in summer temperature variability.
    • The risk of death for persons with a previous heart attack rose 3.8 percent for each 1-degree C increase in summer temperature variability.
    • The risk of death for persons with chronic lung disease rose 3.7 percent for each 1-degree C increase in summer temperature variability.
    • The risk of death for persons with heart failure rose 2.8 percent for each 1-degree C increase in summer temperature variability.
    • Temperature-related mortality risk was 1 to 2 percent higher for persons living in poverty and for black persons.
    • Risk of death was greater for elderly persons living in hotter climes.

    The researchers concluded that greater summer temperature variability in the U.S. alone could result in over 10,000 additional deaths per year. Areas that may be particularly affected include the mid-Atlantic states. Elsewhere in the world, areas that may be particularly affected include parts of France, Spain and Italy.

    *approximately 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit

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