For many of us, our lives are so hectic, it feels like we suddenly looked up at the calendar and 2017 is almost over. Thanksgiving is already a week behind us. Halloween was over a month ago. And summer … wow.
This time of year is especially hectic with so many holidays and end of year plans, that many of us tend to get a bit stressed out. Maybe you made resolutions last January and never followed through. Or you had a project you wanted to complete this year that you never got to.
We are only human. If it didn’t happen, that’s okay. If it’s truly something you want to do, you can still do it. And maybe it’s just not a priority in your life right now.
Many people tend to look at December as an ending, rather than a beginning. After all, it’s the last month of year. Everything leads up to January 1. So people either give up on things or say, “I’ll wait until next year.” It doesn’t help that the days are shorter and colder and some people become depressed during the winter months.
But why wait?
Okay … okay … maybe because December tends to be crazy with holidays, shopping, decorating and visiting friends and family. That’s true. But if you wanted to start a diet or an exercise routine or plan a trip or a home renovation, you don’t have to wait until January to get started.
Why put off ’til January what you can do today? Do you want to try to lose a few pounds or start eating and living healthier? Start today. You will have a month head start on all those people who are waiting until January.
But the holidays are filled with cookies and pie and candy and …
So, if you start eating healthier now and slip a little bit as December rolls on, you are still ahead of the game. And there are ways to eat a little healthier around the holidays. Begin to add some exercise into your day. Start walking up and down steps at work instead of taking the elevator. Park a little bit further away in the parking lot (But always be careful. See our blog post on Holiday Shopping Safety).
Start looking into airline and hotel deals for that trip you have been wanting to take. There may be some excellent deals you can find now instead of waiting until the new year to book.
Planning a new kitchen or addition to your home? Or maybe just a freshening up with new paint? Retail stores are not the only ones with deals at this time of year. Pick up the supplies now or start putting feelers out for contractors so you’ll be ready to go when the new year rolls around.
December does not have to be an ending. Every day is a new day, whether it’s December 1, January 1 or May 1! So, get out there and start anew … a whole new December is waiting for you!
Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. In most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first appear in their mid-60s.
The number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease is growing—and growing fast. Estimates vary, but experts suggest that more than 5.5 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is currently ranked as the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. It is the fifth-leading cause of death among those age 65 and older and a leading cause of disability and poor health. As the U.S. population ages, Alzheimer’s is becoming a more common cause of death. It is the only top 10 cause of death that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.
Between 2000 and 2014, deaths from Alzheimer’s disease as recorded on death certificates increased 89 percent, while deaths from the number one cause of death (heart disease) decreased 14 percent.
Today, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s every 66 seconds. By mid-century, that is poised to become one every 33 seconds.
Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia among older adults.
Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning—thinking, remembering, and reasoning—and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities.
Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases. Vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke, is the second most common dementia type.
Dementia ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect a person’s functioning, to the most severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for basic activities of daily living.
Just like the rest of our bodies, our brains change as we age. Most of us eventually notice some slowed thinking and occasional problems with remembering certain things. However, serious memory loss, confusion and other major changes in the way our minds work may be a sign that brain cells are failing.
The most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficulty remembering newly learned information.
Alzheimer’s changes typically begin in the part of the brain that affects learning. As Alzheimer’s advances through the brain it leads to increasingly severe symptoms, including disorientation, mood and behavior changes; deepening confusion about events, time and place; unfounded suspicions about family, friends and professional caregivers; more serious memory loss and behavior changes; and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.
People with memory loss or other possible signs of Alzheimer’s may find it hard to recognize they have a problem. Signs of dementia may be more obvious to family members or friends. Anyone experiencing dementia-like symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible.
People with memory and thinking concerns should talk to their doctor to find out whether their symptoms are due to Alzheimer’s or another cause, such as stroke, tumor, Parkinson’s disease, sleep disturbances, side effects of medication, an infection, or a non-Alzheimer’s dementia. Some of these conditions may be treatable and possibly reversible.
An estimated 5.5 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease.
Of the estimated 5.5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2017, an estimated 5.3 million are age 65 and older and approximately 200,000 individuals are under age 65 and have younger-onset Alzheimer’s.
Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.
The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will grow each year as the size and proportion of the U.S. population age 65 and older continue to increase. By 2050, the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease may reach 16 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent or cure the disease.
In 2017, an estimated 700,000 people in the U.S. age 65 and older will die with Alzheimer’s.
As the population of the U.S. ages, Alzheimer’s is becoming a more common cause of death. Although deaths from other major causes have decreased significantly, official records indicate that deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased significantly. Between 2000 and 2013, deaths attributed to Alzheimer’s disease increased 71 percent.
Cost of Alzheimer’s
In 2016, 15.9 million family and friends provided 18.2 billion hours of unpaid assistance to those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, a contribution to the nation valued at $230.1 billion.
Approximately two-thirds of caregivers are women, and 34 percent are age 65 or older.
41 percent of caregivers have a household income of $50,000 or less.
Approximately one quarter of dementia caregivers are “sandwich generation” caregivers—meaning that they care not only for an aging parent, but also for children under age 18.
Alzheimer’s takes a devastating toll on caregivers. Nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high; about 40 percent suffer from depression.
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the costliest chronic diseases to society.
Total payments in 2017 for all individuals with Alzheimer’s or other dementias are estimated at $259 billion.
Average per-person Medicare spending for people age 65 or older with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is three times higher than for seniors without dementia.
Total annual payments for health care, long-term care and hospice care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias are projected to increase from $259 billion in 2017 to more than $1.1 trillion in 2050.
A couple weeks ago, in our Wellness Wednesday post called UV Safety and Eyesight, we shared information about how the sun can cause damage to your eyes if you do not protect them. Hopefully, by now, your mom has recovered from your telling her she was right about not looking directly at the sun.
This post is all the more timely because next Monday, the U.S. will experience its first total eclipse of the sun in over 38 years. I’m sure by now you’ve heard all about it. Maybe you’re even tired of hearing about it … or you figure it doesn’t affect you.
Maybe it won’t. If you are not the least bit curious and have no desire to watch one of the coolest natural phenomena in the universe, then that’s fine … you can stop reading now.
Good. This means you’re either a little curious or you have nothing else to do at the moment. Whichever one is fine. We are not judging. And hopefully while you’re reading you will even learn something in the process.
What is a Total Solar Eclipse?
So, we know the Earth spins on an axis, like a top—giving us night and day. It also revolves around the sun in an elliptical orbit once per year—giving us seasons (with a few exceptions). The moon orbits the earth once every 27.323 days, giving us the different phases from new moon to full moon.
During a Total Solar Eclipse, the moon’s orbit crosses paths directly in front of the sun in such a way that from specific areas of the planet, it blocks the sun from view either partially or completely, causing a brief period of darkness in the middle of the afternoon.
On this occasion, the ‘path of totality’—where viewers will experience a total solar eclipse—cuts diagonally across the U.S. through several states from Oregon down to South Carolina. This means, from those areas, the sun will become completely ‘eclipsed’ by the moon for a brief period on Monday afternoon.
For those of us who are above or below those areas, we will experience a partial eclipse of the sun by the moon. So part of the sun will continue to be visible. But much like the phases of the moon, we will see a waxing and waning effect.
So what’s the big deal?
Well, hopefully, you at least find that a tiny bit fascinating!
But even if you’re not yet sold, if you plan to watch this phenomenon take place or anticipate that your friends might drag you with them to watch … you need to be prepared.
There are many superstitions around total eclipses. But the concern isn’t with the eclipse itself. It doesn’t make people go mad. The sun doesn’t suddenly emit any special rays that are extra harmful. Pregnant women have nothing to fear. You may feel the temperature drop a little for that short time, but it will be brief and no different than just after dusk.
The issue comes when your relaxed eyes are gazing at a covered sun and suddenly it begins to peek back out from behind the moon.
You know what it’s like when you turn on the bathroom light in the morning after your eyes have been in the dark all night long? Ouch! It takes a while to adjust, right? Your dilated eyes need time to constrict and not take in so much light at once.
In an eclipse, this is a similar effect but multiplied by like a million and dangerous because of the UV radiation! When you are typically outside on a sunny day, even without sunglasses (though that isn’t recommended), your eyes adjust, you squint, you look away from the sun … because it is uncomfortable! It’s a reflex. So you are never getting that full on effect of looking at the sun.
During a total solar eclipse, people are purposefully gazing in the direction of the sun and as it begins to peak out from behind the moon, even for a few seconds, that can cause catastrophic damage to your eyes. In the partial phase, visible light is reduced enough that it’s no longer painful or uncomfortable to look at, so people assume it’s safe. And one of the problems is you may not even realize you have done damage until the next day.
You must wear protective eyewear (or you can make a pinhole projector) if you are going to watch any part of a solar eclipse! Sunglasses are not protective. You shouldn’t be able to see anything through a safe solar filter (ISO 12312-2 compliant) except the sun itself.
At this late stage, finding eclipse glasses is getting harder but it’s not impossible. Some libraries are giving them away, or you may still find them at local Best Buy or Lowes stores. You can also try online, but make sure you order from a reputable company and they specify they are ISO 12312-2 compliant.
Witnessing the Total Solar Eclipse
If you are in the path of totality, the moon will begin to cover the sun. Your eyes must be protected. Once the sun is completely blocked by the moon, you can take them off to view this amazing phenomenon. But be brief. This will only last minutes. Be ready to put your glasses back on because as soon as the sunlight begins to appear again, you will need to put them back on.
If you are not in the path of totality, you will only be seeing a partial eclipse. Therefore, you will need to keep your eclipse glasses on for the duration of the event.
When and Where to Watch the Total Solar Eclipse
The actual timing of the eclipse is determined by where you are in the U.S. It can be anywhere between 10:20 a.m. on the West Coast and 2:40 p.m. on the East Coast. Check the NASA website or your local news stations for exact times.
If you cannot get outside to experience the solar eclipse or you do not have the protective eyewear to do so, many networks are live broadcasting the event, and there will be live streams from NASA as well.
American Academy of Opthalmology, American Optometric Association, American Astronomical Society, NASA and Space.com.
Sorry … but it’s true. It’s already August, which means back to school is just around the corner. Of course, this fact usually elicits different reactions from different groups of people, depending on age and whether or not you’re a parent.
If you area parent, you know you have a pretty long to-do list for back to school. Just make sure vaccinations are on that list.
School-age children, from preschoolers to college students, need vaccines. CDC has online resources and tools to help parents and doctors make sure all kids are up to date on recommended vaccines and protected from serious diseases.
Make sure your children are up-to-date on vaccines before sending them back to school. School-age children, from preschoolers, to middle schoolers, to college students, need vaccines. Use CDC’s online resources and tools to check the recommended vaccines for your children. Get your children to the doctor if you discover they need vaccines to protect them against serious diseases.
What All Parents Need To Know
Making sure that children of all ages receive all their vaccinations on time is one of the most important things you can do as a parent to ensure your children’s long-term health—as well as the health of friends, classmates and others in your community.
To keep children in schools healthy, your state may require children going to school to be vaccinated against certain diseases, such as pertussis (whooping cough). If you’re unsure of your state’s school requirements, now is the time to check with your child’s doctor, your child’s school, or your health department. That way, you can get your child any vaccines he needs before the back-to-school rush.
Immunization Requirements for Child Care and School
The CDC does not set immunization requirements for schools or child care centers. Instead, each state decides which immunizations are required for your child’s enrollment and attendance at a child care facility or school in that state.
Talk to a staff member to learn what vaccines are required at the school or child care facility in which you would like to enroll your child. They will be able to provide you with specific information about their requirements.
It’s true that some vaccine-preventable diseases have become very rare thanks to vaccines. However, cases and outbreaks still happen. In 2014, the United States experienced a record number of measles cases. From January 1 to August 1, 2014, there were 593 cases of measles reported in the U.S., with 18 outbreaks of this disease. From January 1 to June 16, 2014, almost 10,000 cases of whooping cough were reported to CDC by 50 states and Washington, D.C. These numbers represent a 24 percent increase compared with the same time period in 2013.
Outbreaks of whooping cough at middle and high schools can occur as protection from childhood vaccines fades. Those who are vaccinated against whooping cough but still get the disease are much more likely to have a mild illness compared to those who never received the vaccine.
Making sure your children stay up to date with vaccinations is the best way to protect your communities and schools from outbreaks that can cause unnecessary illnesses and deaths.
Getting every recommended dose of each vaccine provides children with the best protection possible.
Vaccines for Your Young Children (Newborns through 6 years old)
During the early years of life, your children need vaccines to protect them from 14 diseases that can be serious, even life-threatening. Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children increase the risk of disease not only for their own children, but also for other children and adults throughout the entire community. For example, vulnerable newborns too young to have received the maximum protection from the recommended doses of vaccines or people with weakened immune systems, such as some people with cancer and transplant recipients, are also at higher risk of disease.
Flu vaccines are recommended for kids in preschool and elementary school to help keep them healthy. In fact, all children 6 months and older should get flu vaccines. Getting all of your children vaccinated—as well as other family members and caregivers—can help protect infants younger than 6 months old. Ask your family’s doctor or nurse about getting flu shots or the nasal spray to protect against flu.
Vaccines for Your Preteens and Teens (7 years old through 18 years old)
Preteens and teens need vaccines, too! As kids get older, they are still at risk for certain diseases. Before heading back to school, three vaccines are recommend for 11-12 year olds—HPV, Tdap, and meningococcal conjugate vaccine—for continued protection.
HPV vaccine is important because it can prevent HPV infections that can cause cancer later in life. For other diseases, like whooping cough, the protection from vaccine doses received in childhood fades over time. That’s why 11–12 year-olds are also recommended to get the booster shot called Tdap to help protect them from whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria. Meningococcal conjugate vaccine helps prevent two of the three most common causes of meningococcal disease, which can be very serious—even life-threatening.
It’s important to know that flu can be serious, even for healthy, young people. Preteens and teens are no exception. So older kids should get at least one flu vaccine (the shot or nasal spray for healthy kids) every year.
To learn more about vaccines for your preteens and teens, talk to your child’s healthcare provider or visit the preteen and teen vaccine pages. CDC provides a recommended immunization schedule for people ages 7 through 18 years for parents and doctors to follow to protect preteens and teens from vaccine-preventable disease. If your preteens or teens haven’t already gotten their vaccines, you should get them caught up as soon as possible.
Getting every recommended dose of each vaccine provides children with the best protection possible. If a child misses a shot, it can be difficult to figure out the best way to catch up. To help, CDC and colleagues at Georgia Tech have developed the Catch-Up Immunization Scheduler, an online tool that shows parents and healthcare providers the best options for getting children 6 years of age and younger back on schedule.
Mom probably told you a lot of things growing up that may have seemed silly. “Keep making that face and it’ll freeze that way!” and “Don’t look at me with those eyes!” And, of course, coming back with a retort, like “These are the only eyes I have,” was never in your best interest.
But the truth is … they really are the only eyes you have. And if you ever heard her tell you “Don’t stare into the sun, you’ll hurt your eyes,” you can thank her for that one because she was absolutely right.
We already know ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage our skin, cause wrinkles and skin cancer (melanoma). But did you know it can also damage your eyes?
There are two types of UV rays in sunlight:
UVA rays cause aging in skin cells and can damage the DNA. They can cause long-term skin damage and are responsible for wrinkles. They have also been linked to skin cancer.
UVB rays have more energy than UVA rays. They directly damage the DNA of skin cells and are the main cause of sunburn. They are the rays most responsible for skin cancer.
Both long- and short-term exposure to UV radiation can harm the eyes, affect vision, and compromise eye health. There are also several eye diseases and conditions caused or aggravated by exposure to UV radiation:
Macular Degeneration (AMD) is caused by damage to the retina over time and is the leading cause of age-related blindness. Extended exposure to UV light increases your risk of developing macular degeneration.
A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens—the part of the eye that focuses the light we see. UV light, especially UV-B rays, increases your risk for certain types of cataracts. It is estimated that 10% of all cataract cases are directly attributable to UV exposure.
Pterygium (surfer’s eye)
Often called “surfer’s eye,” pterygium is a pink, non-cancerous growth that forms on the layer of conjunctiva over the white of your eye. UV light from the sun is believed to be a factor in the development of these growths.
The skin of the eyelids is very thin. So even if your eyes are closed, you can do damage to your eyes by exposing the lids to the sunlight. Skin cancer in and around the eyelids is also linked to prolonged UV exposure.
Photokeratitis (snow blindness)
Also known as corneal sunburn or “snow blindness,” photokeratitis is the result of high short-term exposure to UV-B rays. Long hours at the beach or skiing without proper eye protection can cause this problem. It can be very painful and may cause temporary vision loss.
Whenever you spend time outdoors, you should wear quality sunglasses that offer UV protection and a hat or cap with a wide brim. To provide adequate protection for your eyes, sunglasses should:
Block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation
Screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light
Be perfectly matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection
Have lenses that are gray for proper color recognition
If you spend a lot of time outdoors in bright sunlight, consider wearing wraparound frames for additional protection from the harmful solar radiation.
And never, ever look directly at the sun. Looking directly at the sun at any time, including during an eclipse, can lead to solar retinopathy, which is damage to the eye’s retina from solar radiation.
So, go thank your mom and tell her she was right!
American Academy of Opthalmology, American Optometric Association and the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Each July 4th, thousands of people, most often children and teens, are injured while using consumer fireworks. Despite the dangers of fireworks, few people understand the associated risks—devastating burns, other injuries, fires, and even death.
Fireworks are no joke. They are not toys and should not be handled by children or even by untrained adults. However, if you (adults) are determined to use fireworks, you must put your safety and the safety of those around you above all else.
Fireworks by the numbers
Fireworks were involved in an estimated 11,900 injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments during calendar year 2015
An estimated 8,000 fireworks-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments during the one-month period between June 19 and July 19, 2015.
Children younger than 15 years of age accounted for 26 percent of the estimated 2015 injuries. Forty-two percent of the estimated emergency department-treated, fireworks-related injuries were to individuals younger than 20 years of age. (Note that this means more than half of injuries were to adults over the age of 21!)
There were an estimated 1,900 emergency department-treated injuries associated with sparklers and 800 with bottle rockets.
Follow these safety tips
Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don’t realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees—hot enough to melt some metals.
Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.
Fireworks and pets
More pets go missing on July 4th than any other day of the year. The days surrounding the holiday are the busiest at shelters because many pets get scared of the loud noises and strange burning smells and run off. Also, the additional people at holiday barbecues, leaving open doors and/or gates, can contribute. Even indoor cats who have never run off can go missing.
So pay close attention to your pets. Be sure you check all gates and doors throughout the day. Don′t allow your pets near any fireworks, candles or foods they shouldn′t eat. And always have a safe place for them to retreat, away from the noise.
Alternatives to fireworks
There are other ways to celebrate the 4th of July. If you don′t have to stay home, enjoy a public display put on by professionals. If you are hosting a party or invited to one, here are some fun, child-friendly ideas:
Piñatas … You can purchase or make your own colorful paper-mache piñatas, filled with red, white and blue confetti and candy!
Confetti-filled balloons … fill balloons with red, white and blue confetti and let the kids pop them.
Glow in the dark toys and bubbles … great for after dark with no worry about fire.
Confetti poppers … again, incorporates the red, white and blue colorful display with a popping noise.
Noisemakers … always a hit!
Remember, fireworks can be dangerous, causing serious burn and eye injuries. You can help prevent fireworks-related injuries and deaths. By spreading the word and practicing safety at your next holiday barbecues.
Sources: National Council on Fireworks Safety, Consumer Product Safety Commission, National Fire Protection Association, Petfinder, Safe Kids and Protect America.
May is Older Americans Month. People in the U.S. are living longer than ever before. Many older adults live active and healthy lives. But there’s no getting around one thing: as we age, our bodies and minds change.
Though there are things you can do to stay healthy and active as you age, it is important to understand what to expect. Some changes may just be part of normal aging, while others may be a warning sign of a medical problem. It is important to know the difference, and to let your healthcare provider know if you have any concerns.
As you age, your heart rate becomes slightly slower, and your heart might become bigger. Your blood vessels and your arteries also become stiffer, causing your heart to work harder to pump blood through them. This can lead to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems.
Engaging in social and productive activities you enjoy, like taking an art class or becoming a volunteer in your community or at your place of worship, may help to maintain your well-being.
Research tells us that older people with an active lifestyle:
Are less likely to develop certain diseases. Participating in hobbies and other social and leisure pursuits may lower risk for developing some health problems, including dementia.
Are more happy and less depressed. Studies suggest that older adults who participate in what they believe are meaningful activities, like volunteering in their communities, say they feel happier and more healthy.
Are better prepared to cope with loss. Studies suggest that volunteering can help with stress and depression from the death of a spouse. Among people who experienced a loss, those who took part in volunteer activities felt more positive about their own abilities.
May be able to improve their thinking abilities. Another line of research is exploring how participating in creative arts might help people age well. Other studies are providing new information about ways that creative activities like music or dance can help older adults.
For more information about healthy aging, visit these websites: