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Loneliness

Winter in the northern states can be isolating, increasing loneliness and depression.  The holiday season often highlights feelings of loneliness.  Today, 17% of Americans over 65 live alone, and an estimated 8.8% of seniors are chronically lonely.   The sad fact is that loneliness can cause health problems and affect quality of life. Health Factors of Loneliness According to an article in Forbes, persistent loneliness may be a bigger health risk than smoking, obesity, exercise or nutrition.   A few years ago, researchers at Brigham Young University found that social isolation increases your risk of death by 30%.  There are 3 main factors contributing to this outcome. Psychologically, loneliness and social isolation are often associated with depression, anxiety, dementia, substance abuse, and an increased risk of suicide. Practically, human beings have a better chance of surviving in social and family groups than in isolation. If you have an accident or a sudden health event, there may not be anyone around to help. You could be showing signs of decline or disease that no one is round to notice.  Self-maintenance and healthy hygiene habits are something lonely people are less likely to engage in without some sort of encouragement from others.  Lonely people tend to eat worse, get less exercise, and not sleep as well. Physically, loneliness itself appears to be something that negatively impacts the body, from hardening your arteries to depressing your immune system to deterioration of your brain. Loneliness can raise blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol.  This makes your heart muscle work harder and causes damage to blood vessels.  Obesity and low levels of immunity...

SENSORY LOSS

Sensory Loss   Sensory loss impacts millions of older folks in one or more of their primary senses.  Loss of even one sense can cause major changes in how you experience your life.  And sensory loss can lead to other health problems such as poor balance, poor nutrition, depression or even dementia.   Sensory Loss: Hearing A lifetime of noise can lead to hearing deterioration.  The tiny hair cells in your ears that send signals to your brain don’t regenerate.  And while the brain naturally shrinks as we age, hearing loss can accelerate the shrinking, which in turn increases the risk of dementia. Often the ability to hear high-frequency sounds goes first. You may have trouble telling the difference between similar sounds.  And when you can’t hear wellenough to get in on the conversation, loneliness and depression can become factors.   Hearing loss can mess with your balance, increasing the risk of falling.  You may have problems maintaining your balance as you sit, stand, or walk. Things you can do: Wear ears plugs or head phones to protect your ears from loud sounds. Watch your weight, blood pressure and blood sugar levels to help keep the tiny arteries that feed the hair cells in your ears healthy. Use hearing aids or TV & phone amplification devices. Hearing aid users score better than nonusers on cognitive and memory tests. Have your ears checked for wax build-up – a common age-related cause of hearing issues. Sensory Loss: Sight Focusing up close becomes more difficult as you age and you may need more light to see.  Your eyes produce fewer tears, and may...

Care for the Caregiver

Caregivers need to schedule regular care for the caregiver. Providing care for a loved one with a long-term illness or disability can be both fulfilling and challenging. Over time, the daily stresses can wear heavily on the caregiver. That’s why it’s so important for caregivers to take care of themselves. Staying hopeful, energetic and optimistic is vital to providing the best care possible. However, maintaining a positive outlook and a high level of energy will be difficult if the caregiver doesn’t take care of his/her own needs. Finding the time to care for the caregiver with proper nutrition, exercise and sleep will help relieve stress and prevent burnout.   It’s also important to ask for help when needed. Many of the things a caregiver needs to stay rested, healthy and optimistic can’t happen without the support of family and friends, or paid caregivers. Signs you may need to do more care for the caregiver include: • Feeling overwhelmed, frustrated or angry • Making mistakes while giving care • Feeling alone, isolated or deserted • Not getting enough sleep • Gaining or losing weight without trying • Frequently feeling worn out • Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy • Becoming easily irritated • Being constantly worried or sad • Having frequent headaches or body aches Physical ways to care for the caregiver may include: • Getting regular exercise • Eating a balanced diet • Pampering yourself (hot bath, massage) • Meditating • Getting regular sleep • Staying on top of your own health and physical check-ups. Mental/emotional ways to care for the caregiver may include: • Talking with...

TEN TIPS FOR LIVING LONGER

Following these Ten Tips for Living Longer is likely to improve the quality of your current state of being as well as giving you a fighting chance at a longer, healthier life. 1. Get regular sleep for the right amount of time. a. Seven to eight hours of sleep each night can help maintain cognitive function. b. Studies indicate sleeping less than six hours per night nearly doubles your risk of heart attack and stroke, and can contribute to depression and dementia. c. Avoid naps late in the day. Limit naps to 30 minutes in the early afternoon. d. Try a warm bath, wearing socks to bed, room temp below 67°, and a pitch-black room to improve sleep.   2. Cut back on pain pills. a. Regular use of over-the-counter pain killers may raise your risk of heart attack or stroke by 10%; prescription-strength pain killers by 20-50%. b. Try massage, mild exercise, aromatherapy, or muscle rubs first. c. Save the pain pills for more severe pain, using the smallest possible dose for the shortest possible time. 3. Drink plenty of the right kinds of fluid. a. Coffee can be good for you! Studies note daily coffee drinking may reduce risk of stroke, diabetes and some cancers. b. Anti-oxidants in green tea also combat diabetes and heart disease, increasing longevity. c. Drink whole milk! Research indicates those who consume the most dairy fat have a lower risk of developing diabetes. d. Fill up with water. Not only can sipping water help you lose weight, staying well-hydrated can reduce the risk of bladder infection and colon cancer. 4. Choose healthy fuel for...

Vision Loss among Seniors

Vision loss among seniors is a major health issue.  About one in three people over 65 will experience some form of vision-reducing eye problem. Since many eye problems develop slowly and painlessly, it is important to get regular eye exams. You may not notice the changes in your vision, but an eye exam could detect a potentially serious eye disease. Early treatment might save your eyesight. Since your 40s, you may have noticed that your vision is changing. Perhaps you need glasses to see up close. Maybe you have more trouble adjusting to glare or distinguishing some colors. These changes are a normal part of aging and don’t need to stop you from enjoying an active lifestyle or maintaining your independence. But as you age, you are at higher risk of developing age-related eye diseases and conditions. These include: age-related macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic eye disease, glaucoma and dry eye. Early detection and treatment is critical to avoid vision loss. Eye exams may also uncover other health issues such as artery blockages, hypertension or diabetes. Common Age-related Eye Diseases and Conditions: Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) AMD is the leading cause of loss of vision in people over 65. AMD is a disease that gradually destroys sharp, central vision. Central vision is needed for seeing objects clearly and for common daily tasks such as reading and driving. Risk factors for AMD include age, family history, hypertension and smoking. Cataract Cataract is a common cause of senior vision impairment and a leading cause of blindness worldwide. In the US, cataract-related blindness is reduced due to surgery that is readily available, safe...