August 1, 2006
Table of Contents
Attention SFA Members (Industry news)
Breathing Easier (Try these exercises)
Stress Management (Valuable resource link)
Senior Women Skipping Critical Test (Bone health)
Using Leisure Time Wisely (Senior fitness research)
Fall Prevention (Safety tips)
Sports and Aging (Humor)
Attention SFA Members
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For persons with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), progressive lung disorder interferes with the ability to breathe freely. The Johns Hopkins Medical Guide to Health After 50 offers the following tips for easier breathing:
- Diaphragmatic breathing -- Persons with COPD often rely on their rib cage muscles in order to breathe, whereas actually the diaphragm should power the breathing process. The diaphragm is the sheet of muscle located just above the abdominal cavity and just below the lungs. To practice using your diaphragm, lie on your back, rest a hand on your abdomen, and breathe. Watch your hand's movement. It should rise during inhalation and descend during exhalation. Try this two times a day for 20 minutes per practice session. Once you become good at diaphragmatic breathing while lying on your back, try it while sitting up.
- Forward-bending position -- For some persons with severe COPD, breathing is easier when bending slightly forward from the waist. This posture may provide the diaphragm with more space in which to expand.
- Pursed-lip breathing -- Learn this technique by practicing the following steps while lying on your back and resting your head on a pillow. Once you have mastered pursed-lip breathing in a lying position, try employing it when you are sitting up, walking, and ascending stairways. There are three steps: (1) Inhale through your nose; (2) Contract your abdominal muscles so that they will press upward on your lungs; (3) Breathe out through your mouth with your lips pursed in a way that produces a soft hissing sound. You will note a feeling of pressure in your chest and windpipe. That pressure serves to hold open the bronchial tubes, allowing the lungs to expel air more completely. During pursed-lip breathing, you should take twice as long to exhale as you do to inhale.
- Obtaining professional support -- If you need some help learning the skills described above, a respiratory therapist can assist you. He or she will also know additional breath-training methods to better control respiration, reduce the amount of energy expenditure necessary for breathing, adjust the positioning of your respiratory muscles, and improve the functioning of those muscles.
The American Psychological Association (APA) provides useful pointers on how to successfully manage stress through its online APA Help Center at www.apahelpcenter.org. In addition, the web site includes interesting and educational information on the subject. For example, you can access an interactive, animated cross-section of the human body that shows how stress can impact the functioning of various body systems. This anatomical feature demonstrates why managing stress can be important to the management of other conditions such as high blood pressure, depression, and obesity.
Senior Women Skipping Critical Test
Researchers recently looked at the records of approximately 44,000 women 65-90 years of age to determine how many underwent bone density testing between 1999 and 2001, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
One reason why it is important for older women to have their bone density screened is that the risk for osteoporosis rises dramatically with age. Of women 65-74 years old, 19 percent have the disease. In those 75-84 years old, the rate is 32.5 percent. Of women ages 85-plus, more than half have osteoporosis.
Another reason to undergo the test is that osteoporosis is treatable. With modern therapies (for example, bone-building medications), the risk for bone fracture can be reduced by a third.
Unfortunately, the results of this study show that not nearly enough older women are taking advantage of this important screening tool. Only 27 percent of women ages 65-70 had the bone density test. Only 25.6 percent of women ages 71-75 were tested. And fewer than 10 percent of those ages 75-plus had the test. In other words, elderly women who had the highest risk for osteoporosis were the least likely to have the test that would detect it and set them on a path of treatment that might well prevent a hip fracture.
Using Leisure Time Wisely
Following is an edited abstract from "Associations of Leisure-Time Physical Activity with Mobility Difficulties Among Middle-Aged and Older Adults" by Jarmo J. Malmberg and colleagues, Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 14(2), 133:
The authors investigated the associations of the amount, frequency and intensity, and type of leisure-time physical activity with the risk of self-reported difficulty in walking and stair climbing over 16 years in a population-based cohort age 40-64 years at the onset of the study.
The results indicated that the risk for stair climbing difficulty was highest among men and women with a low amount of weekly leisure-time physical activity. The risk was high also among women with weekly light leisure-time physical activity, compared with women with weekly vigorous leisure-time physical activity.
The risk for walking difficulty was highest among men who engaged in fitness activity once a week, compared with men who engaged in fitness activity at least three times a week.
A low amount of weekly leisure-time physical activity, light leisure-time physical activity twice or more a week, and leisure-time physical activity for keeping fit and healthy performed less than three times a week are associated with future risk of mobility difficulties among middle-aged and older adults.
The Good Health Fact Book (from Reader's Digest) offers some very practical hints for avoiding falls:
- Keep up with your eye examinations;
- Have regular hearing check-ups;
- Don't permit wax to build up in the ears because it can affect equilibrium;
- Take medications according to instructions, and consult with the physician to ensure that your prescription drugs don't hinder balance or cognizance;
- Keep in mind that alcohol can affect both judgment and reflexes;
- Make certain that shoes are well-fitted and in good repair;
- Remove anything in your household that could cause you to trip;
- Maintain your strength, balance, and flexibility by participating in a sensible program of regular physical exercise.
Sports and Aging
Hugo La Fayette Black (1886-1971) was an American jurist with an uncharacteristic sense of the comical. Here's his ruling on letting age slow us down:
"When I was 40, my doctor advised me that a man in his 40s shouldn't play tennis. I heeded his advice carefully and could hardly wait until I reached 50 to start again."
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