So far this year, 111 million Americans have received a flu shot. That’s more than one-third of all Americans over 6 months old and a 3.5 percent increase from last year. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention recommend everyone get a flu shot but particularly those at risk of complications from flu, including children, the elderly, and those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. The flu causes approximately 200,000 hospitalizations each year. And, though flu cases typically rise in January and February, they are easier to find earlier in the season. Dr. Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, said as the holiday season approaches, it’s time to get vaccinated. The CDC estimated that 170 million doses would be available this season. More here.
Forcing your brain to process new information or do familiar things in unfamiliar ways can help stimulate brain function and improve your memory. According to Manning Rubin, coauthor of Keep Your Brain Alive, there are a number of simple mental exercises that can be done daily to boost brain health. Rubin told realsimple.com that improving memory and mental function can be accomplished by regularly exercising each of your five senses. For example, Rubin recommends changing the radio station on your alarm clock and getting dressed in the dark in order to stimulate your brain first thing in the morning. Picking your clothes out in advance and then dressing blindly forces your brain to work harder to compensate for the loss of one of your senses. He also suggests brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand in order to challenge your brain. More here.
A recent survey found that, among people ages 65 and older, 83 percent said they have no plans to stop driving and 36 percent said they had never thought about it. Developed by Florida State University and the Florida Department of Transportation, the survey addresses the need for seniors to have a plan if, and when, they are no longer able to drive, as well as the risk of accidents among elderly drivers. When asked how they’d get around if they were no longer able to drive, 40 percent of respondents said they’d rely on family and friends, while 26 percent said they’d walk and 15 percent felt there was no other alternative to driving. Though the survey focused on Floridians, the issue is of concern nationwide as the number of American seniors increases. More here.
More than three-fourths of Americans recently surveyed by Harris Interactive said having a specific amount saved before retirement is more important than retiring by a certain age. The telephone survey asked 1,500 Americans about their attitudes toward saving, planning, and investing for retirement. The survey found 25 percent of middle-class Americans say they will need to work until they’re 80 years old in order to live comfortably in retirement. More than 50 percent of respondents said they need to reduce their spending in order to save for retirement and 29 percent of respondents in their 60s said they’d saved less than $25,000 for retirement. The survey results highlight the need for better planning and preparation prior to retirement. More here.
Eating fish regularly has been shown to have multiple health benefits. Now, a recent study has found that eating baked or broiled fish once a week may boost brain health and ward off mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. Cyrus Raji, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said it was the first study to establish a direct relationship between eating fish and brain health. According to Raji, the results showed people who consumed fish at least once a week had better preservation of gray matter in the areas of the brain at risk of Alzheimer’s disease. When gray matter volume is high, brain cells are being maintained. When gray matter begins to decrease, it is a sign that brain cells are shrinking. The results applied only to those people eating baked or broiled fish. Fried fish was not found to have any positive effect on brain health. More here and here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.