As we age, there are a number of factors that can threaten our ability to continue driving. Certain health conditions, medication, and cognitive impairments can cause driving to become dangerous for older adults. Still, losing the ability to drive means a loss of independence and increased difficulty providing for everyday necessities. It’s also not always easy to identify at what point a loved one is no longer able to be safe behind the wheel. There are, however, resources available at AAA’s website that offer help for older drivers as well as family and friends hoping to help with the transition. The provided tips and tools, not only assess skills and evaluate weaknesses, but also help to better understand warning signs, transportation alternatives, and ways to improve the performance of older drivers that are still on the road. More here.
A study from researchers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Health found that deaths from heart attack and stroke fell 40 percent among diabetics between 1997 and 2006. The research, which compared 3-year death rates for Americans 18 years and older with and without diabetes, also revealed that deaths from all causes fell 23 percent during the same time period. Despite the encouraging results, people with diabetes are still twice as likely to die from heart attack and stroke than people without diabetes. The CDC recommends following a healthy meal plan, getting 150 minutes of physical activity each week, and losing weight if needed to help manage diabetes and prevent cardiovascular disease. More here and here.
A new study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that, in addition to being bad for the heart, saturated fat is associated with worse cognitive function over time. The research looked at 6,000 women over the age of 65 and found those who ate the most saturated fat, which comes from animal fats such as red meat and butter, had more memory problems and worse cognitive function compared to women who ate the least amount. Also, the women who consumed the most monosaturated fats, such as olive oil, scored better on cognitive tests than those who ate the most saturated fats. Olivia Okereke, MD, MS, of BWH’s Department of Psychiatry, said the total amount of fat intake didn’t matter as much as the type of fat did. According to Okereke, substituting good fat in place of bad fat is a fairly simple dietary modification that could help prevent memory decline. More here and here.
According to an analysis of data from the University of Michigan done by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, poverty rates have increased every year since 2005 for older Americans and are worst among the oldest of the elderly. In 2009, 15 percent of Americans over the age of 85 were living in poverty and 6.0 percent of them fell into poverty after turning 85. The data suggests people are spending their retirement savings too quickly and falling into poverty as they grow older. Sudipto Banerjee, EBRI research associate and author of the report, said, as people age, their personal savings and pension account balances are depleted and their medical expenses increase. The study found that people living in poverty were far more likely to be suffering from health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, or diabetes than people living above the poverty line. The odds of suffering a health condition of some sort goes up 45 to 55 percent for Americans living in poverty. More here and here.
Though most Americans throw their prescription drugs in the trash after they expire or are no longer needed, concerns over the potential environmental harm that could be caused by the nearly 200 million pounds of medicine that goes unused each year have led to increasing focus on how to properly dispose of old medication. The FDA recommends contacting your city or county government to find out about any take-back programs in your area. Take-back programs collect unused drugs and incinerate them along with medical waste. If there are no local take-back programs, however, the FDA suggests mixing your medicine with an unpalatable substance such as cat litter or coffee grounds, placing them in a sealed bag, and throwing them out with the trash. The FDA also provides a list of medicines, such as opiates and high-potency controlled substances, that they recommend should be flushed down the sink or toilet. Douglas Throckmorton, M.D., deputy center director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said simple precautions reduce the likelihood of accidental and potentially dangerous exposure to unused medicines. More here, here, and here.
Hepatitis C-related illnesses, such as liver cancer and cirrhosis, result in 15,000 deaths each year. And, because baby boomers account for more than 75 percent of all American adults infected with hepatitis C, most of those deaths occur among the boomer generation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released new guidelines recommending all baby boomers get a one time test, due to the fact that many people infected with the virus don’t know it because there are few noticeable symptoms. If all baby boomers were tested it could potentially identify as many as 800,000 additional people living with hepatitis C. And, because newly developed medical treatments can cure up to 75 percent of infections, the recommended test could prevent thousands of deaths. According to the CDC, baby boomers are five times more likely to be infected with hepatitis C than other adults. More here and here.
The brain’s white matter acts as a cable, sending signals from one part of the brain to the other. And, according to new research from Vanderbilt University, age-related weakening of those white-matter connections may be responsible for decision-making difficulty in older adults. The study asked 25 adults between the ages of 21 and 85 to complete a task while undergoing an MRI, in order to monitor brain activity. Study author, Gregory R. Samanez-Larkin, said the resulting evidence showing an association between white-matter integrity and decision-making difficulty suggests there may be effective ways to intervene. Previous studies have shown that there are specific types of cognitive training that can strengthen the connections in the brain. More here.
Having a parent with high blood pressure is one of the biggest risk factors for developing the condition. But new research from the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina in Columbia suggests physical fitness may help lower the risk of developing high blood pressure, even in people with a genetic predisposition. The study found that, among participants who had a parent with high blood pressure, the most physically fit had only a 16 percent higher risk of developing the condition than individuals with no family history. And, depending on the level of exercise, they were up to 34 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure than people who rarely exercised. Researcher Robin P. Shook said even a moderate amount of exercise, such as brisk walking for 150 minutes a week, can provide a huge health benefit. More here and here.
A study of 400,000 men and women between the ages of 50 and 71 found that people who drank three or more cups of coffee per day had a 10 percent lower risk of death. The research was conducted by the National Cancer Institute and is the largest ever done on the association between coffee drinking and risk of death. The results showed that coffee drinkers were less likely to die from all types of diseases and ailments, including heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, accidents, injuries, diabetes, and infections. Neal Freedman, Ph.D., of the NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, said coffee is among the most widely consumed beverages in America and the study’s results provide reassurance that it does not adversely affect health. According to Freedman, coffee contains more than 1,000 compounds that could be responsible for coffee’s protective properties. More here and here.
A new report from James P. Ziliak of the University of Kentucky and Craig Gundersen of the University of Illinois found that one in seven American seniors faced the threat of hunger in 2010. That’s nearly 15 percent or 8.3 million seniors. It’s also a significant increase from 2005 when 1 in 9 adults over the age of 60 were facing food insecurity. The report, titled Senior Hunger in America, was prepared for the Meals On Wheels Research Foundation and highlights the challenges and hardships of today’s seniors. Food insecurity increased among older adults between 2009 and 2010, unlike the rest of the population. It is most prevalent in the South and Southwest and among minorities, the disabled, and individuals between ages 60 and 69. The threat of hunger has risen in 44 states since 2007. More here.