Soluble Fiber May Boost Your Immune System

There are two main types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Both are found naturally in plants and are important for digestion and the prevention of conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Soluble fiber has been shown to have a beneficial effect on blood-sugar levels and cholesterol. Now, research shows soluble fiber also has a positive effect on the immune system. Gregory Freund, M.D., of the University of Illinois, said soluble fiber changes immune cells from being pro-inflammatory warrior cells to anti-inflammatory peacekeeper cells. In short, the fiber stimulates the body’s T-cells, which fight infection. Sources of soluble fiber include oatmeal, lentils, apples, oranges, pears, strawberries, nuts, flaxseed, beans, cucumbers, celery, and carrots. The FDA recommends 28 grams daily for women and 36 grams for men. More here and here.

Fewer Seniors Paying Off Debts Before Retirement

According to a survey from CESI Debt Solutions, a majority of retirees retired with debts and most didn’t delay retirement in order to pay them off. The survey found 56 percent of respondents had debt when they retired and 59 percent said they’d saved less than $50,000 toward their retirement. Neil Ellington, executive vice president of CESI, said we’ve become more comfortable with indebtedness than previous generations. Among the types of debt, 35 percent had credit-card debts while 30 percent cited mortgage debt. Auto and student loans made up an additional 23 percent. More than two-thirds of participants said they used money borrowed after retirement for medical and funeral expenses, while fewer listed leisure activity, clothing, vacation and travel. More here.

Protein Protects Against Sleepiness, Need For Naps

Orexin cells in the brain are responsible for making us feel energetic and telling our body when to burn calories. When the cells are less active, so are we. According to a recent study that tracked the cells’ activity in mice after they were fed various foods, glucose blocked the function of orexin cells while amino acids kept the cells active and the mice energetic. The research indicates that protein is better for boosting energy than sugar. Sources of protein include eggs, beans, milk, cheese, and yogurt, in addition to seafood, white-meat poultry, lean beef, and pork tenderloin. Protein bars, while popular, often contain sugar and fat. Be sure there are at least six grams of protein in your energy or protein bar. More here.

One In Four Need Assistance With Medical Decisions

According to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, more than one in four elderly adults will need someone to help make decisions about their medical care near the end of life. The study, which looked at 3,746 people who died between 2000 and 2006, found 30 percent needed someone to make treatment decisions for them before death. The research was the first of its kind and highlights the importance of having a living will or health proxy to ensure any given medical treatment is in accordance with the patient’s wishes. Among the 30 percent who were unable to make their own end-of-life decisions, nearly two-thirds had a living will. More here.

Happiness Linked To Gratitude More Than Achievement

Studies have linked happiness to better health and longer life. But though many measure happiness in terms of achievement, recent research shows being grateful for what you already have increases happiness more than a concentration on achieving goals or acquiring possessions. In a controlled study, participants who were instructed to focus on a time in their life when they were at their best were less likely to report increased happiness than those who were instructed to express gratitude to someone who they’d never properly thanked. The same study found participants who were asked to write down three things that went well each day for a week reported less depression at one-month, three-month, and six-month follow-ups. More here.

Elderly Patients Less Likely To Receive Pain Medication In ER

Compared to middle-aged emergency room patients, adults over the age of 75 are much less likely to receive pain medication, even when in severe pain. Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine looked at data collected from American emergency rooms between 2003 and 2009 and found patients between the ages of 35 and 54 received pain medication more often than elderly patients. Nearly 80 percent of middle-aged patients complaining of severe pain were given medication, while just 67 percent of older patients were given medication to relieve their pain. Timothy F. Platts-Mills, MD, lead author of the study, said they don’t know why this is, though it may be because physicians are more concerned about side effects in older patients. Platts-Mills said the study highlights the need to better understand how to best manage pain in elderly patients. More here.

Aging Population Increases Need For Long Term Care

The American population is aging. Already, the fastest-growing age group is made up of people over the age of 85 and, by 2030, one in five Americans will be at least 65 years old. The increasing number of senior citizens, combined with the economic pressures of the recent recession, mean more families will take on the burden of providing ongoing care for an aging loved one. Senior advocates recommend familiarizing yourself with the needs of the person you’re caring for and learning about their disease or condition in advance. Studies have found higher stress levels among caregivers that felt thrown into the role. Also, look for help from friends, family, and local caregiving support services. Most importantly, caregivers should be sure not to sacrifice their own health, as it will negatively affect both the caregiver and the level of care they’re able to provide for their loved one. More here and here.

Dancing Among The Best Exercises For Improving Balance

Among the elderly, falls are common, dangerous, and can lead to serious health consequences. According to the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention, one in three elderly adults fall each year. Exercise can be an effective way of reducing falls and strengthening balance. A new study aimed at determining the best exercise for improving balance and coordination in the elderly tested a number of different exercises, including yoga, dance, walking, and cycling, on 9,917 participants. The research showed the best activities to prevent falls were dancing and carrying objects while walking. Tracey Howe, study researcher, said combining activities that use various parts of the body and keeping a routine of three times a week for three months was the best method for reducing falls. More here.

Poverty Rate Rises Among The Elderly

The U.S. Census Bureau’s official poverty measure focuses on food budgets and the wages of the poor but a new formula for calculating the poverty rate in America, which takes into account taxes, medical and housing costs, hopes to offer a more accurate depiction of the nation’s poverty rate. According to the new formula, the poverty rate is 16 percent, as compared to the official 15.1 percent. The new measure also found a spike in the poverty among people over the age of 65. The official rate of poverty among the elderly was 9.0 percent, while the broader calculation found the rate at 15.9 percent or approximately 1 in 6 seniors. More here.

Study Says Sense Of Smell Changes With Age

According to research from the Center for NeuroScience at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, our ability to distinguish between specific odors deteriorates as we age. Professor Diego Restrepo, Ph.D., the study’s lead researcher, said, when presented with two different odors, the olfactory sensory neurons of younger participants were able to respond to one or the other, while older participants responded to both. The inability to distinguish between smells poses a risk to seniors as it could make it more difficult to detect spoiled food or leaking gas. The researchers tested 440 people split into two groups, one under the age of 45 and those over the age of 60. Though they expected to find fewer neurons in older subjects, researchers found older participants had just as many olfactory sensory neurons but, those over the age of 60, could not distinguish between two odors, suggesting that changes to the nose and brain contribute to a loss of smell as we age. More here.