February 2, 2006               

Table of Contents

  • Preventing Pneumonia    (Research)
  • Painkiller Precautions   (Medication safety)
  • Birds Do It   (Exercise motivation)
  • Parkinson's Findings   (Mayo Clinic report)
  • The Decision Process and Exercise   (Research)
  • Tips for Soothing Varicose Veins   (Successful aging)
  • A Gentle Reminder from SFA   (Cold-weather wellness)
SFA Members can access Round-Up online at www.SeniorFitness.net/Round-Up.htm

Preventing Pneumonia

A study published recently
in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) looked at the number of persons ages 65-84 who were hospitalized due to pneumonia during the past 15 years. That number is on the rise -- significantly -- the article concluded.

Commenting on these findings, Dr. Dale Bratzler, a leading authority on the subject of pneumonia, advised older adults to get their flu shots, according to The Pulse Wire Report. He offered reassurance that the flu vaccine is safe, calling some people's fear that the shot might make them sick a "myth." He recommended flu vaccination as one practical way to slow the trend of increased hospitalizations for pneumonia.

Painkiller Precautions

The Associated Press recently compiled critical information
about the use and misuse of popular pain relievers, information that we think is so important we want to pass it on immediately to all SFA readers, professionals and lay persons alike. Following is a summary of the facts from the AP report.

Medical experts agree that acetaminophen (widely known by the trade name Tylenol -- but also found in Exedrin, Theraflu, Vicodin, Percocet, and many other medications) is one of the safest pain remedies available. That is, when it is used properly.

But problems arise when people exceed recommended doses. They may do so accidentally (for example, if they are unaware that it is contained in more than one medication they happen to be taking at the same time). Or, they may fall prey to the "more is better" line of thought. It can be a very serious mistake to ignore dosing instructions and ingest extra pain pills. To reinforce that point, here are some  sobering data:

  • Current acetaminophen instructions direct adults not to exceed 4,000 milligrams per day (which translates to eight extra-strength  pills). Overdoing it can lead to the need for a liver transplant or to death. Doubling the maximum recommended daily dose can even be enough to kill.
  • Two years ago the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that 100 people per year were dying from unintentionally taking excess acetaminophen. In addition, the FDA said, more than 56,000 emergency room trips per year were occurring as the result of acetaminophen overdoses.
  • A new study suggests that the problem may be growing worse. Its authors spent six years following 662 patients with acute liver failure as they received treatment at 22 different transplant facilities. Nearly half of the cases were acetaminophen-related. In 1998, acetaminophen caused 28 percent of liver poisonings, but by the end of 2003, that statistic had risen to 51 percent.

In summary, forewarned is forearmed. Individuals who rely on these pills for much-needed pain relief should take care not to exceed  the recommended dosage. Family caregivers should ensure that their loved ones use pain relievers correctly. Health care and fitness professionals should help get the word out to all of their clientele to use painkillers according to instructions.    

Birds Do It

In December, 2005, zoo keepers at the Asahiyama Zoo
in northern Japan knew they had a problem. The king penguins were getting  fat. Their practical solution to the problem can be used to combat wintertime weight gain in human beings, too.

The zoo officials began taking their overweight penguins on walks twice a day. The length of each walk, undertaken within the snowy zoo compound, was 500 yards.

Like Japan's king penguins, many people tend to become less physically active during the cold winter months. The result? Unwanted gains in body fat. So, let these re-energized penguins be an example to us. We don't have to take up some stressful form of exercise;  walking is an excellent activity choice. Nor do we have to devote long hours to the cause; one, two, or more short walks a day will make a difference. Of course, the wintry season begs to be enjoyed with a good book in front of a crackling fireplace. But for those of us who have grown perhaps a little TOO cozy this winter, let's get up and slim down with the penguins!

Parkinson's Findings

Mayo Clinic researchers have uncovered an interesting correlation.
The higher one's educational level, the greater one's risk for  Parkinson's disease. For example, physicians' essential risks register at 4 percent (over a lifetime) whereas less educated persons'  risks stand at 1 percent.

A possible explanation for the disconcerting findings may be that highly educated persons tend to pursue less physically active careers than those who are less educated. For example, it was found that persons in relatively sedentary jobs were at higher risk for developing the disease than miners or construction workers were.

The Decision Process and Exercise

Following is an edited abstract
from "Attitudinal, Perceptual, and Normative Beliefs Influencing the Exercise Decisions of Community-Dwelling Physically Frail Seniors" by Kathleen Benjamin and colleagues, Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 13(3),  276:

For seniors, an inactive lifestyle can result in declines in mental and physical functioning, loss of independence, and poorer quality of  life. This cross-sectional descriptive study examined theory-of-planned-behavior,* health-status, and sociodemographic predictors on exercise intention and behavior among 109 physically frail Canadian adults ages 65 and older. Significant predictors of being a high versus a low active were a strong intention to continue exercising, positive attitudes about exercise, and having been advised by a doctor to exercise. Findings indicate that a strong intention to continue exercising differentiates between those who report low levels and those who report high levels of physical activity. The results also highlight the salience of physician's advice for seniors to exercise.

*Authors: "The theory of planned behavior...proposes that more positive attitudes, greater perceived social pressure, and greater  behavioral control will lead to stronger intentions to perform a given behavior."

Tips for Soothing Varicose Veins

Here are some good-sense approaches
to the management of uncomfortable varicose veins:

  • Do not smoke cigarettes.
  • Control body weight.
  • With medical approval, perform gentle physical exercise (such as a moderate walking program).
  • Avoid sitting with one leg crossed over the other, which will further impede blood flow.
  • Never wear tight knee-high hosery.
  • Ask your physician if you should try support stockings.
  • If the condition is severe, discuss surgical remedies with your doctor.

A Gentle Reminder From SFA

If you use antidepressants or tranquilizers
, dress for a little extra warmth during cold weather. Why? Because these drugs can reduce  your perception of just how cold you actually are. Certain other medications may produce the same effect, especially in older adults.  So, if you're going to be in a cold-weather climate, ask your physician if this caution applies to any of your prescriptions.

NOTE: Be sure to visit the SFA website (www.SeniorFitness.net) to see "Speaking of Falls Again" by popular fitness author, James Evans.

Round-Up readers: Thank you for your interest and questions. Due to the high volume of contacts SFA receives, we cannot respond to all individual queries or comments. However, we do address frequently asked questions and topics of vital interest to our members.

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When you join SFA, you'll receive our e-newsletter "Round-Up" which will bring you older adult fitness news, research, wellness tips -- even easy, health-conscious recipes now and then!

You'll also receive occasional e-mail news flashes, senior fitness updates, and special informational articles throughout the year.

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