Health and Fitness

Exercise Program Associated With Denser Bones, Lower Fall Risk In Older Women

Women age 65 or older assigned to an exercise program for 18 months appeared to have denser bones and a reduced risk of falls, but not a reduced cardiovascular disease risk, compared with women in a control group. Wolfgang Kemmler, Ph.D., and colleagues at Freidrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Erlangen, Germany, studied a total of 246 older women. Half of the women exercised four days per week with special emphasis on intensity while the other half participated in a wellness program that focused on well-being. Among the 227 women who completed the study, the 115 who exercised had higher bone density in their spine and hip, and also had a 66 percent reduced rate of falls. Fractures due to falls were twice as common in the controls vs. the exercise group (12 vs. six). However, the 10-year risk of cardiovascular disease-assessed using the Framingham Risk Calculator, which incorporates factors such as cholesterol level, blood pressure and presence of diabetes-decreased in both groups and did not differ between the two.

Designing Easy-To-Use Products With The Help Of Arthritis Simulation Gloves

As the U.S. population ages, manufacturers of consumer goods are realizing that many customers may not be as nimble-fingered or sharp-sighted as they once were. To help product designers and engineers address those changing requirements, researchers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) have been developing evaluation methods and design techniques to identify and address the needs of all consumers, including those with functional limitations. GTRI's latest product is a pair of arthritis simulation gloves, which reproduce the reduction in functional capacity experienced by persons with arthritis. The gloves help those responsible for consumer products better understand how arthritis affects a person's ability to grasp, pinch, turn, lift and twist objects. "A product manager or designer can put these gloves on and attempt to open their company's products or packaging, " explained GTRI principal research scientist Brad Fain. "If they are unable to open a product or package, then chances are high that people with moderate to severe symptoms of arthritis will also have difficulty opening it.

Physical Activity May Be Associated With Reduced Cognitive Impairment In Elderly Population

Moderate or high physical activity appears to be associated with a lower the risk of developing cognitive impairment in older adults after a two-year period. Thorleif Etgen, M.D., of Technische Universit t M nchen, Munich, and Klinikum Traunstein, Germany, and colleagues examined physical activity and cognitive function in 3, 903 participants (older than 55) from southern Bavaria, Germany between 2001 and 2003. At the beginning of the study, 418 participants (10.7 percent) had cognitive impairment. After two years, 207 (5.9 percent) of the remaining 3, 485 unimpaired study participants developed cognitive impairment. "The incidence of new cognitive impairment among participants with no, moderate and high activity at baseline was 13.9 percent, 6.7 percent and 5.1 percent, respectively, " the authors write. "Future large randomized controlled intervention trials assessing the quantity (e.g., no activity vs. moderate vs. high activity) and quality (aerobic exercise or any kind type of physical exercise, like balance and strength training or even integrated physical activities like dancing or games) of physical activity that is required to prevent or delay a decline in cognitive function are recommended, " they conclude.

Senior Cancer Survivors Become Bold Advocates

Sociologists at Case Western Reserve University found that when passive cancer patients become survivors, they have plenty of bold advice to offer other cancer patients, according to a study in JAGS, the Journal of American Geriatric Society. Eva Kahana, Robson Professor of Sociology and director of the Elderly Care Research Center at Case Western Reserve, reported the findings from interviews with 100 cancer survivors. These survivors are part of a longitudinal study of 1, 107 elderly adults living in a retirement community. This study calls attention to generally accepting, timid behaviors that elderly patients report about their interactions with the healthcare system while battling cancer. Nevertheless the very same older adults offer advice to other older cancer patients to take a more activist stand and become advocates in their care. This finding of the study overturns the notion that elderly patients are disinterested and disempowered health consumers, Kahana said. For nearly 20 years, the longitudinal study's research team gathered information from this Florida retirement community to find out what older people do to age successfully and weather chronic illnesses and the frailties in their later years.

Investigation: Washington State Moves Medicaid Nursing Home Patients To Adult Family Homes

The Seattle Times investigates Washington's practice of relocating some Medicaid patients from nursing homes to adult family homes. "Jeri Ringseth had no business being in an adult family home. Her physical and mental disabilities are so significant that she's spent most of her adult life in nursing homes or state hospitals. ... Ringseth is just one of thousands of Medicaid recipients who have been steered by the state from expensive nursing homes into adult family homes, which cost the state one-third as much. These homes are a growing, little-regulated housing option for the state's aged - as well as for the poor and frail, such as Ringseth, who cannot care for themselves alone. ... In hundreds of cases, a Seattle Times investigation has found, medically fragile adults such as Ringseth are handed over to amateur caregivers who are inadequately trained to keep them safe" (Berens, 2/1). This information was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with kind permission from the Henry J.

Aged Care Planning And Investment Needed To Meet Growing Demand, Australia

AMA President, Dr Andrew Pesce, said today that urgent planning and investment is needed to meet the health and care needs of an ageing and growing Australian population. "Access to medical care for older Australians in residential aged care today is limited, " Dr Pesce said. "The health needs of older Australians are becoming more complex and numerous, so access to general practice services in particular is crucial. "The AMA wants access to ongoing medical care to be a specific accreditation standard for aged care providers. "Older Australians should continue to have access to a range of quality health services, particularly at this time of their lives when they need them most." To address the growing medical care needs in aged care, GPs and their practice nurses and geriatricians and other medical specialists need to be supported to provide more regular ongoing care for their older patients in aged care facilities and in the community. The AMA proposes: - Allowing GPs to use general practice nurses to assist in the delivery of medical care in aged care facilities;

Physical Activity Associated With Healthier Aging

Physical activity appears to be associated with a reduced risk or slower progression of several age-related conditions as well as improvements in overall health in older age, according to a commentary and four articles published in the January 25 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. Exercise has previously been linked to beneficial effects on arthritis, falls and fractures, heart disease, lung disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity, write Jeff Williamson, M.D., M.H.S., and Marco Pahor, M.D., of University of Florida, Gainesville, in a commentary. All of these conditions threaten older adults' ability to function independently and handle tasks of daily living. "Regular physical activity has also been associated with greater longevity as well as reduced risk of physical disability and dependence, the most important health outcome, even more than death, for most older people, " they continue. Four new studies published in this issue of the Archives- outlined below-"move the scientific enterprise in this area further along the path toward the goal of understanding the full range of important aging-related outcomes for which exercise has a clinically relevant impact.

Midlife Exercise Associated With Better Health In Later Years

Among women who survive to age 70 or older, those who regularly participated in physical activity during middle age appear more likely to be in better overall health. Qi Sun, M.D., Sc.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, and colleagues analyzed data from 13, 535 participants in the Nurses' Health Study. The women reported their physical activity levels in 1986, at an average age of 60. Among those who had survived to age 70 or older as of 1995 to 2001, those who had higher levels of physical activity at the beginning of the study were less likely to have chronic diseases, heart surgery or any physical, cognitive or mental impairments. "Since the American population is aging rapidly and nearly a quarter of Americans do not engage in any leisure-time activity, our findings appear to support federal guidelines regarding physical activity to promote health among older people and further emphasize the potential of activity to enhance overall health and well-being with aging, " the authors conclude.

Highlights From February Ophthalmology

This month's Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, includes results from a large Kaiser Permanente study of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) treatments, the first global report on retinal vein occlusion, and new recommendations to help elders with vision loss avoid falls. Kaiser Study Compares Effectiveness of Two AMD Drugs A Kaiser Permanente Southern California study compared two very similar medications - ranibizumab and bevacizumab - used to treat "wet" AMD and found the two equally effective at halting vision loss. Because many Americans will soon be 65 or older and AMD incidence rises sharply with age, the disease is becoming an urgent concern for the healthcare system. Donald S. Fong, MD, MPH, and his Kaiser colleagues followed 324 newly-diagnosed AMD patients treated with bevacizumab and 128 treated with ranibizumab between 2005 and 2008. Visual acuity improved and stabilized in both patient groups: the proportion of patients who had 20/40 vision or better increased from 13.

Decreased Muscle Strength Predicts Functional Impairments In Older Adults

Decreased muscle strength is associated with difficulty in performing functional activities such as stooping, crouching, or kneeling (SCK) in older adults, according to an observational study published in the January issue of Physical Therapy, (PTJ) the scientific journal of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). These researchers found that adults with SCK difficulty had significant decreases in adjusted strength measurements of trunk extensor, knee extensor, and ankle flexion muscles. Concluding that measurements of strength predict SCK difficulty, their study sets the stage for research exploring whether rehabilitation programs that focus on training specific muscle groups are effective in improving functional performance and whether improvements in functional performance reduces falls in older adults. Bending down and kneeling are fundamental tasks of daily living. Other researchers have suggested that older adults with SCK difficulty are more likely to have limitations in other lower-body functional tasks, such as lifting and prolonged standing.

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