More Than 100 Million Americans Have Chronic Pain

More than 100 million American adults suffer from chronic pain, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine. That’s nearly one-third of all Americans and more than the number affected by heart disease, cancer, and diabetes combined. But despite costing nearly $635 billion a year in treatment and lost productivity, chronic pain receives less attention and focus than other diseases and conditions. According to the report, government agencies, healthcare providers, professional associations, educators, and public and private funders of health care need to lead a transformation to better prevent, treat, and understand pain of all types. Among the recommendations offered by the Institute of Medicine were increased education and research to help health professionals better understand pain and the available treatments, as well as improving care by increasingly tailoring it to each patient’s experience. More here and here.

The Rising Number Of Cost Burdened Senior Households

According to Census Bureau figures, there will be approximately 10,000 people turning 65 every day until nearly 2030. And, with the number of senior citizens rising rapidly, so will the number of cost-burdened senior households. According to the most recent American Community Survey, 42 million households pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing and 20.2 million pay more than half. Unfortunately, older Americans are especially vulnerable to these financial struggles. In fact, the number of older households with severe housing cost burdens jumped by one million between the years 2001 and 2010. Adding to the likelihood of a continued spike in burdened senior households, the recent recession led to a $14.3 trillion drop in net household wealth at the same time the number of older homeowners with mortgages has been increasing. From 1999 to 2009, the share of homeowners over the age of 65 with mortgages increased 11 percent. More here and here.

Men, Women, And The Effects Of Alzheimer’s Disease

New research from the University of Hertfordshire found that women with Alzheimer’s disease tend to deteriorate faster than men with the disease. The paper, published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, discovered men consistently scored higher on a series of cognitive tests and outperformed women in verbal and visuospatial tasks. Keith Laws, professor of psychology, said Alzheimer’s specifically disadvantages women, unlike with normal aging where women tend to decline more slowly than men. Alzheimer’s disease, according to current estimates, affects 30 million people worldwide with 4.6 million new cases every year. Women are more prone to the disease than men, though the reason behind the gender-based differences in decline are unknown. More here.

Electrical Charge Boosts Health Benefits Of Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of a type of antioxidant called polyphenols. Polyphenols are thought to help control damaging free radicals, which have been linked to the development of certain cancers and diseases. Now new research from the University of Ryukyus, Nishihara in Japan has found that sending an electrical current through the potatoes can boost levels of the naturally contained antioxidants by nearly 60 percent. The electrical charge causes polyphenols to be released from the fibers within the potato. With or without electrical charge, however, sweet potatoes are an excellent source of antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber. More here.

Eating Vegetables Helps Protect The Pancreas

According to a study from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, eating vegetables may help protect the pancreas and prevent acute pancreatitis. The research followed 80,000 adults for 11 years in order to examine the link between antioxidant levels and acute pancreatitis. Participants ate, on average, 2.5 servings of vegetables a day, but those who ate more than four servings were 44 percent less likely to develop the disease than those who ate less than one serving each day. Researchers found no link between eating fruit and a lowered risk of acute pancreatitis. The study’s authors theorized that the antioxidants gained through eating vegetables helped prevent the disease, whereas the natural sugars contained in fruit weakened the protective effect. More here.

The Extraordinarily Healthy Brains Of SuperAgers

SuperAgers are people over the age of 80 whose brain and memory functions as well as someone 20 to 30 years younger than them. And though there are not a lot of them, a new study attempts to determine what helps preserve and protect their brains from the deterioration associated with normal aging. The study, from Northwestern Medicine researcher Emily Rogalski, compared the brains of 12 SuperAgers, 10 normally aging elderly participants, and 14 middle-aged volunteers. According to her research, not only do the brains of SuperAgers function as well as a middle-aged brain, they also look younger as viewed through MRI scans. Rogalski said examining a really healthy older brain can help deduce how SuperAgers are able to maintain their good memory. Rather than studying what’s wrong with the brain, Rogalski says she hopes to discover strategies for improving quality of life by studying what’s goes right in healthy brains. More here.

Survey Says Nearly 40 Million Americans Providing Eldercare

The first-ever American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 16 percent of the U.S. population provided unpaid care to someone over the age of 65 in 2011. According to the report, the rising number of eldercare providers were most likely to be women between the ages of 45 and 64 and most took care of only one person, with 42 percent providing care for a parent. Eldercare, as defined by the survey, can include anything from assistance with grooming, preparing meals, and providing transportation to companionship or being available to help when needed. Among the 39.8 million eldercare providers in 2011, the average person spent 3.1 hours providing care on days they were needed and just over half of this time was spent on leisure and household activities. More here and here.

Most Americans Expect To Work Past Retirement Age

According to a new retirement survey from the Society of Actuaries, the number of respondents who say they do not expect to be able to retire has risen since 2009. That year, 29 percent of workers approaching retirement age said they didn’t expect to be able to retire. The latest results, on the other hand, found 35 percent of pre-retirees pessimistic about their retirement options. Among surveyed participants, nearly 90 percent of people approaching retirement age say they plan to continue working in order to stay active and engaged but, among those with financial concerns, more than 80 percent named additional income and preserving assets as their reason to keep working. Benefits were cited by 61 percent of those who plan on staying employed. Carol Bogosian, actuary and retirement expert, said current trends indicate that people may need to work longer than they originally planned. More here and here.

Leisure Activity During Retirement Contributes To Heart Health

Regularly engaging in leisure-time activities such as walking, gardening, housework, and home maintenance can contribute to heart health, according to new research published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation. The study, which followed 4,200 participants over a 10 year period, found that moderate-intensity exercise had a positive effect on cardiovascular health, regardless of when participants became physically active. Mark Hamer, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and associate professor of epidemiology and public health at University College in London, said it is especially important for older people to be physically active because it contributes to successful aging. Hamer noted that activity levels increased as participants reached retirement age and even those who moved from inactive to active saw heart health benefits. More here.

Dark Chocolate May Help To Reduce Blood Pressure

Flavanols are a compound found in cocoa that may help reduce blood pressure, according to new research. The study, which reviewed the results of short-term trials in which participants were given cocoa powder or dark chocolate daily for up to 18 weeks, found a slight reduction in blood pressure among the group consuming chocolate as compared to a control group. The researchers theorize that, because nitric oxide causes blood-vessel walls to relax and flavanols are responsible for the formation of nitric oxide, foods that are rich in flavanols could have a positive effect on blood pressure. Karin Ried, lead researcher, said the evidence indicates that, over the short term, chocolate may complement other treatments and contribute to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Because flavanol concentration varies depending on production and processing procedures, however, researchers are unable to determine the optimal amount of chocolate needed to produce an effect. More here.