The old saying, “mind over matter”, takes on new meaning when scientists view it in terms of the complaints some older people make during routine doctor visits.
Instead of pooh-poohing these concerns as simple age-related worrying (and fear of senility), physicians are being asked to pay more attention to the mind.
“The concerns are being taken more seriously,” notes Zaven Khachaturian, PhD, and editor of Alzheimer’s & Dementia, a journal. This concern is even more important, notes Doctor Ron Peterson of the Mayo Clinic, as medicine moves toward earlier and earlier intervention. In fact, this intervention – in the form of clinical trials and ongoing studies – has begun to identify older individuals’ concerns as perhaps the first onset of Alzheimer’s and other age-related mental illnesses like dementia and depression.
This disease begins in a part of the brain that controls memory, and causes brain cells to literally die. As it spreads, it can affect a large number of intellectual, emotional and behavioral characteristics, ranging of sociability to personal hygiene and toilet skills.
The fourth leading cause of death in America, Alzheimer’s affects about one out of every 100 adults. As of 2015, 5.2 million adults over 65 were afflicted with Alzheimer’s. More than 200,000 under 65 also had the disease. The odds of developing Alzheimer’s climb by 400 percent among families where it is prevalent. Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, with similar rates occurring all over the world in developed nations.
The first symptom of Alzheimer’s and it’s affect on the mind is usually a loss of recent memory: that is, what has occurred, or what must be done, within the last few hours or days. This can range from forgetting to turn off the oven to forgetting medication.
Later, Alzheimer’s patients will have trouble working with numbers, and this shows up when they are unable to calculate the exact cost of several things, or when paying bills (versus the amount of money in the checking account).
Ultimately, Alzheimer’s patients will forget where they live, the names of loved one, or recent events. They become, first, quarrelsome and difficult, and then remote, and are unable to physically care for themselves.
Dementia vs. Senile Dementia of The Mind
Dementia simply means “loss of mind”. When it occurs among elderly people, it is labeled senile (for “senior”) dementia.
There are a number of kinds of dementia, ranging from Alzheimer’s to Lewy body dementia or vascular dementia (which results from changes to blood vessels in the brain). They also include such esoteric names as frontotemporal dementia. Dementia is associated with certain diseases, notably Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s chorea, or disease. Senile dementia, which was once a used as a diagnosis, is no longer valid, but doctors often retain the term because it describes the failure of mind associated with simply aging.
The likelihood that a person will develop some form of dementia depends on age, family history, alcohol and tobacco use, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. However, because aging makes us all a little less sharp and focused, some older people who are merely forgetful may accidentally be labeled with dementia when in fact it is simply a normal effect of aging.
Forgetting to take medications, taking too many, or forgetting to drink fluids can also lead to symptoms similar to dementia, and result in false diagnoses.
Preventing Mental Disease
So far there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, though much significant work has been done on diagnosing its cause.
There is, equally, no cure for Lewy body, Parkinson’s or Huntington’s. But just because there is no cure for dementia, doesn’t mean people can’t help prevent it. Here are some things to do to delay the onset of mental aging:
- Pets. Having a pet is important for single seniors, but not always possible. Pets can help prevent the anxiety and depression typical of aging, but not every older person is capable of caring for an animal, or wants one.
- Hobbies are also helpful because the focus the mind, create pleasure, and usually deliver a tangible reward – at least to the hobbyist. But as the hands lose their dexterity, the eyes their acuity, and the general health its stability, hobbies may also become more and more difficult.
- Holistic healing, which involves the use of herbs and supplements, may also be helpful. At the very least, they are not likely to be as harmful as pharmaceutical preparations. In addition, some are vitamins that deplete as we age, and some are supplements that we can’t get without a perfectly balanced diet (and who has one of those?). These “mental healers” include:
- Omega-3 DHA
- Vitamin B (especially B-12)
- Choline, (L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine)
- Bacopa Monnieri
- Huperzine A
- Ginkgo Biloba
- Vitamin D
- DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid), omega-3 essential fatty acid
- Huperzine A
In the health arena, the three most important developments of the last 100 years are disinfection, microsurgery, and pharmaceuticals.
The first two continue to deliver benefits to the ill and injured. The third, pharmaceuticals, produces some spectacularly effective results. Think Advair Diskus, without which some asthma sufferers would have died, or Synthroid, the synthetic thyroid hormone that has allowed hypothyroid victims to live more or less normal lives.
If that isn’t convincing, think of the lives both Amoxicillin and Azithromycin – powerful, broad-spectrum antibiotics – have saved. Or Metformin, one of the oldest diabetes drugs on the marketplace, and still one of the best blood sugar regulators available. Metformin is also used to treat polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, and may in future be used to treat the symptoms of aging like heart disease, senility, and cancer. It may even be used to extend the human life span to 120 years!
Infamous Recalls: And Then There Was Thalidomide
German pharmaceutical company Grunenthal GmbH received a patent for thalidomide in 1954, and as soon as 1956 began marketing thalidomide for morning sickness, insomnia, coughs, colds, and headaches.
It took another five years for the drug to produce enough deaths and deformities that the public demanded its removal. In 1961, thalidomide was taken off the market after causing serious birth defects in about 10,000 children (half in West Germany), and deaths in another 2,000 children.
Even though thalidomide’s effect on the fetus occupies only a 13-day window, the results were horrendous. Arms and legs failed to develop. Less frequently – but more fatally – organs failed to develop. Thalidomide babies were also born without eyes or ears.
The class action lawsuit in Germany was dropped, presaging the way future pharma lawsuits would be handled if tort reformers got their way. Either that, or lawsuits would be handled out of court, giving lawyer-rich Big Pharma the field advantage in every case.
Case Closed (Sort of) …
The New Zealand thalidomide suit was finally settled in 2013, for $81 million U.S. dollars – a far cry from the actual costs, but better than nothing.
Because the drug was never actively marketed in the United States, thanks to the FDA’s reluctance, no suit has ever been brought to trial successfully. In 2013, U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond allowed 50 lawsuits to go ahead, rejecting arguments that the statute of limitations vis à vis thalidomide had run out.
In spite of that, the cases continue to be contaminated with charges of “bad-faith advocacy”, as one firm – attempting to dismiss presumably non-winnable cases en masse – refused to let a special investigator interview the plaintiffs, who were apparently never fully informed of their rights or of the likelihood of success.
One Good Thing …
The thalidomide tragedy prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, to tighten its regulations surrounding drug development. Unfortunately, 15,000 individuals – give or take a hundred – are not enough to oversee the yearly development of about 50 new drugs, and the continuing production of about 500 drugs (out of 1,500 approved since the FDA began its work in 1938).
Even though pharmaceutical development is no longer the “Wild West” of the medical industry, mistakes continue to happen. Drugs continue to find their way into the marketplace with inadequate or improper testing, and the FDA continues to behave, perhaps inevitably, like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
Some of the more egregious failures (i.e., drugs dropped from production, recalled, or involved in lawsuits) include Actos, a diabetes drug, fluoroquinolone (an antibiotic), Yaz (birth control), and Zoloft (an antidepressant). In addition, there were the medical scopes from Olympus Corp. – scopes about which an Olympus company official told American executives not to warn hospitals. Not a pharmaceutical, granted, but a good example of how design and manufacturing flaws combined with advertising and sales efforts, can make products dangerous.
If you or a loved one is taking prescription medication, the best advice is “let the buyer beware (caveat emptor)”, because the FDA can’t be everywhere. If you experience side effects or widespread discomfort, consult your doctor. There are other treatments available. You might even want to consider “natural” or holistic remedies, which can range from acupuncture to Ayurvedic or Chinese medicine, – even to herbs, spices and over-the-counter vitamins and supplements.
Walking doesn’t get enough attention. In a world of high-energy, intense workout routines like Crossfit and extreme kayaking, the simple walk often gets left out of the spotlight. To too many people, walking is the Werther’s Original Candy of exercise: plain, unchallenging, and appealing to an unglamorous crowd.
Walking is a great exercise, though, and it has some benefits you’re unlikely to find in other places. Walkers understand that not all workouts have to be high-stress or high-impact. A walk is good for your body and mind. When you start walking, expect to see some of these changes in your life.
Walking will help you lose weight. If you get a brisk walk in for 40 minutes day, you’ll burn a significant amount of calories. Combined with healthy eating routine, walking can be one of the healthiest choices you make each week. And walking is easy. The low stress involved in a daily walk means that you can easily get into the habit. And it gets you off the couch.
Blood Sugar Control
For those of you who need to monitor your blood sugar closely, walking can be the perfect exercise. You’ll burn carbs at a reasonable pace, and—unlike with higher energy workouts—you won’t be in much danger of running your body into hypoglycemic levels (even if your blood sugar gets low, you’ll have to time to feel it coming and react). Of course, speak with your doctor ahead of time before beginning any exercise routine. People’s needs vary from person to person.
Walking helps you on the way to happiness and stability. When you walk, your brain increases production of chemicals associated with good feelings. Beyond chemistry, you’ll simply feel good when you get fresh air, focus on your surroundings, and get your heart rate up. Bonus points if you’re outside—walking in the outdoors, in the presence of trees, wildlife, and running water, imparts strong benefits on the brain.
Walking poses far fewer health risks than do other exercises. As long you stretch, wear good shoes, and pay attention to your body’s needs (and doctor’s orders), you’ll be at low risk for the problems associated with running, such as joint and bone strain, or higher tech exercise—even bicyclists need to watch out for car doors, debris in the roads, etc. As a walker, your likelihood of tripping over a surprise downed branch or struck by a vehicle is much lower than it would be if you were engaging in other exercises.
A Social Life
Walking has the potential to be a very social event. Social engagement is an integral part of your health, believe it or not, and your nightly walk can be an essential part of your social life. Walkers will tell you they have some of the best talks of their lives while out for strolls. Walkers tend to be thoughtful, introspective people with a lot to say. If you put together a walking group, you’ll develop important friendships. You might even strengthen your marriage if you and your spouse make a regular walk date.
We often talk about wanting to live our life to the fullest. We want to life as we want with the freedom to eat and do as we desire without limitations. Unfortunately as we age, our bodies change, and living the lifestyle that you lived in your teen years and even your twenties may not be an option. Who doesn’t love juicy hamburgers, pizzas and sodas? Enjoying life and eating whatever we want is enticing, yet it’s not always practical. What we eat eventually catches up with us and can lead to disease or other issues like a high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
If you are experiencing high blood pressure, it is imperative that you visit a doctor. Your physician will guide you in making specific changes to your lifestyle and diet that can make way for a healthier you. It may require sacrifices that you may not like, but making changes to your diet may the answer to lowering your blood pressure.
The dangers of high blood pressure
High blood pressure can lead to dire health conditions like heart disease, a heart attack, and damage to the heart and arteries. It is no laughing matter. If you’re experiencing any of these conditions, it may be time to make some serious changes to your diet and lifestyle. Be aggressive with your wellness. Start researching ways to lower your high blood pressure!
Some practical ways to lower your blood pressure
Sometimes our blood pressure rises with our daily lifestyle choices. Stress can also be a factor.
Consider the following options to help you keep your blood pressure in check.
Lose weight. It is sad but true that weight gain can affect your blood pressure. Being overweight can disrupt your breathing, and affect your sleep. Losing just ten pounds can help reduce your blood pressure. Women are usually at risk for high blood pressure if their waist measurement is greater than 35 inches.
Reduce anxiety. Stress can induce anxiety and cause your blood pressure to rise. Learn to not take the entire world upon your shoulders. You can’t fix everything, so stop trying to. Make it a goal to eliminate stress triggers from your life. And if you’re an anxious eater, try to divert your stress by staying active or doing some yoga.
Limit alcohol consumption Alcohol can reduce your blood pressure if taken in small amounts. But like anything in life, moderation is key. If you enjoy a little wine with a meal or while reading a relaxing book by the fire, try to drink in small amounts. Drinking more than moderate amounts not only raises blood pressure, but it can also reduce the effectiveness of the medications you’re taking for your blood pressure.
Change your eating habits. Eating a well-balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains is essential to maintain overall health and wellness. Speak to your physician about a specific diet. Many doctors and medical experts call the Mediterranean diet the answer to a well-balanced meal.
Stay positive and maintain discipline!
Mindset is key in wellness. Eating healthy foods that help you maintain wellness and balance is key to a healthier you. Keep a journal if you must and strive for a healthier lifestyle. You are well worth it!
If you’ve made the choice to live in a warmer climate, the summer months are probably some of your favorite months of the year. With beautiful weather and a brightly shining sun, it’s hard to stay cooped up inside. You can ditch the gym and instead revel in that fresh, natural air as you exercise. The problem though is the heat itself. If you live in an extremely warm climate, the heat can be almost unbearable. The last thing you want is to pass out from heat exhaustion. Check out these 10 tips for exercising safely in the heat of the summer.
This is (somewhat obviously) the number 1 important factor for exercising in the heat. Really, it’s the most important tip for safely exercising in any temperature. Body temperature increases even more when you exercise in hot weather, so it’s important to keep yourself cool by drinking water during and after your workout.
Try to Avoid the Hottest Part of the Day
It’s best to make it out in the morning when the air is still cool, or go outside as the sun is setting or even later in the evening.
Give your body time to get acclimated to the heat. Don’t push yourself too hard to begin with. You might even start by exercising in the heat for just a few minutes at a time.
Go Easy on Yourself
Heat and humidity will wear you down much quicker than milder temperatures. Remember that even if you can’t do as much as you normally can, that’s completely typical of exercising in the heat. Don’t beat yourself up about it.
Run on the Beach
Running barefoot, and especially through sand, can help reduce impact-related injuries. Plus, you’ll get that cool ocean breeze even when it’s sweltering outside. You’ll also have the perfect place to take a dip after you get done with your workout!
Eat Healthy Snacks throughout the Day
Keep your energy high by snacking on healthy goodies throughout the day. Juicy snacks like grapes, apples and oranges are a great way to keep you hydrated as well.
Wear Light Clothing
Imagine stepping barefoot onto dark asphalt in the heat of the day. How hot is it? Dark colors absorb heat, so you end up getting incredibly hot if you’re wearing dark clothing. Think about the material too. Try to wear wicking fabrics and avoid heavy cotton. The looser the clothing, the more air will be able to circulate across your body and the cooler you’ll be.
If it seems way too hot to even be outdoors, why not try an activity in the water? Swimming is an awesome way to really get a workout and not overheat. Any ocean, lake or pool will do!
Bring a Buddy
Heat exhaustion can happen quicker than you’d think. If you’re going to be exercising outdoors, it’s a good idea to bring a buddy along just in case.
Listen to Your Body
If you’re body is physically telling you to give it a rest, listen to it! Exercising in the heat can be far more challenging than in more moderate temperatures. Know when enough is enough. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep at night as well to let your body fully recharge.
For millions of Americans, summertime is a welcome sight, particularly for those who live in the Northern states where winter weather can be tough. If you want to get the most out of the summer season, it’s important to take care of yourself by staying healthy and safe. Here are some tips to stay on top of your health so you can enjoy everything that summer has to offer:
Stay Hydrated and Eat Well
Although summer marks the season of ice cream, backyard BBQs, and festive alcoholic beverages, make sure you balance all the indulgences with a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables. Whether you take advantage of the local and in season produce at your Farmer’s Market or plant your own garden, it’s the perfect time of year to stock up on a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Staying hydrated is important year round, but even more so when the temperatures begin to rise. Whether you’re running errands around town, heading out for a nature hike, or are just doing some work around the yard, it’s crucial to stay on top of your water intake. Experts recommend drinking at least 64 oz. of water a day (throughout the day) and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to get caught up on your water intake. It’s also important to recognize signs of dehydration, a potentially serious issue, particularly during summertime. You may have mild dehydration if you are feeling thirsty, have a headache or feel lightheaded, feel fatigued, have less frequent urine (or dark yellow) output, and constipation.
Protection From the Sun
Spending time in the sun can give you a much needed dose of Vitamin D, but too much sun can be bad for your health. Too much exposure to the sun can put you at risk for skin cancer and a severe sunburn is also known as “sun poisoning” and can make you feel very ill. A severe sunburn can result in skin redness and blistering, pain, tingling, swelling, headache, dehydration, dizziness, and flu like symptoms. The best way to avoid a sunburn is by wearing broad spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 SPF and by avoiding being in the sun for long periods of time.
In addition to wearing sunscreen and limiting your exposure to the sun, don’t forget to protect your eyes from sun by wearing sunglasses and wear a wide brimmed hat. If you begin to feel too overheated in the sun, try to find a shady spot and make sure you stay hydrated.
Be Responsible During Summer Activities
Summer is the perfect time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Whether you prefer to go on a bicycle ride with your family, a short getaway on your motorcycle, or heading to the beach for a day of fun by the water, it’s important that you stay safe and avoid risky behavior. Everyone in your family should wear a helmet when riding bicycle or operating a motorcycle.
If you’re heading out to enjoy water sports, make sure that you wear a Coast Guard approved life preserver and make sure you dive into water feet first to avoid head injuries.
For most of us, the arrival of spring is a welcome sight and can be an invigorating season. However, for spring allergy sufferers, the season can leave many feeling like they’re walking around in a haze. While some, who suffer from seasonal allergies, may have mild symptoms that are a slight inconvenience, some people have symptoms so severe that it affects and interrupts daily routines. Regardless of the severity of your symptoms, there are ways to control your springtime allergies and hopefully help you get the most out of the season of renewal:
Pay Attention to the Weather
The springtime weather is ideal for most everyone, but allergy sufferers. Although allergies can strike at anytime, it’s important to pay attention to the weather outside in order to control your symptoms. It’s important to know that tree, grass, and ragweed pollens are abundant during warm days and cool nights and pollen levels often peak in the morning hours. Although rain can wash pollen away from surfaces in your yard (such as the sidewalks or your car), pollen can also worsen after a rainfall. When the weather is windy, you are more likely to be affected by the pollen rather than days without wind. If you are are sensitive to mold, you are more likely to struggle with your mold allergy when the weather is hot and humid.
Avoid Your Triggers
In addition to paying attention to the weather and limiting your exposure to the outdoors when allergen counts are high, you should take proper precautions to managing and avoiding your triggers. If you had a food allergy, you would go out of your way to avoid eating anything with the allergen; springtime allergies should be treated no differently. Although may not be able to easily control going outside, you can do other things to limit your exposure and avoid your allergen triggers. When allergen counts are high, consider keeping the windows and doors shut at home or in your car, take a shower and change your clothing after spending time outside, avoid hanging laundry outside, skip wearing contact lenses, and wear a filter mask if you need to take care of outside work (ie. yard maintenance).
In addition to taking necessary precautions outside, it’s important to keep your the indoors free from allergen triggers by limiting the amount of mold and pollen throughout your home. Immediately wash any clothing covered in allergens, use a vacuum with a high quality filter, use a dehumidifier, and use an air conditioner when possible.
Manage Your Allergy Symptoms
If your allergy symptoms continue despite your efforts to limit your exposure to certain triggers, medications may be your best option. Whether you take a nonprescription oral antihistamine or decongestant or are prescribed a medication by your doctor, it’s important that you are aware of what you’re taking, how they may affect you, and keep your medicine cabinet up to date and organized. If you are an annual allergy sufferer, you may want to get ready for allergy season before it hits by stocking up on allergy medication and making proper preparations throughout your home.
According to the Washington Post, the average adult sits 8 hours a day and it’s not just out of pure laziness, many Americans are forced to sit due to their occupational field or sitting behind the wheel of their car. An hour commute, an 8 hour shift at work, a 2 hour binge watch at night, this may be your typical day, which means you are sitting far more than the average American adult. Not only can sitting all day become rather boring, but sitting can lead to health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and simply increase your mortality rate of any cause of death by 50%. Here are some tips for staying healthy and active in a world of sitting:
Adjust Your Desk and Chair
Millions of Americans sit at a desk and in front of a computer screen for 40 hours a week. The more you sit, the more you may notice little things like an achy back, a nagging headache, or even eye strain, which are often all related to your posture at your desk. Take a look around the office, how many colleagues are slouching, straining their eyes, or resting their feet on the legs of their rolling chair. This posture often occurs when we are concentrating or simply forget how we should be sitting.
A healthier (and proper) posture is to sit up straight rather than leaning forward, relax your shoulders, keep your arms close to your sides, keep elbows bent 90 degrees, and your feet flat on the floor. With a proper adjustment of your chair, you should be able to achieve this posture. Many people, who work in front of a computer all day, put their computer monitors on a stand (or elevate them some other way) so the head can look forward, rather than down. By simply changing your posturing, you are taking stress and pressure away from your spine, neck, and even vital organs. If you need to remind yourself to sit up straight, set an alarm on your computer or phone to “check your posture”. It may take you time to adjust, but you’ll notice improvements over time.
When you’re hard at work, answering emails, filing reports, and taking care of other important business, it’s easy to lose track of time. You check your clock and it’s already lunchtime (when you’ll leave your desk and continue to sit somewhere else). When you have a break, try to make the most of it. If you’re hungry, have a light snack, but then take the remaining time to walk around the office complex or even hit the outdoors. If you’re short on time, do a couple of laps up and down the steps (skipping the elevator whenever possible). If breaks are somewhat infrequent, set an alarm on your computer or phone and take a short lap around the cubicles. Take any chance you can get to move, even if that means grabbing a document from the printer or filling up your water bottle at the water cooler.
If you need a little boost of motivation to remind you to keep moving in a busy work day, download a self-monitoring app to your phone, such as an app that tracks your steps, and set a goal to hit that amount of steps each day.
When you have a busy work and home life, it’s difficult to find time to exercise, but make it a goal to move, stand, or stretch whenever you get a free moment whether you’re binge watching your favorite show or taking the subway home from a long day at the office. Your mind and body will thank you.