Wellness Wednesday: Living Well as You Age

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.

Logos2Though 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.

Two senior women having fun painting in art classEngaging 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:

http://nihseniorhealth.gov/category/healthyaging.html
https://go4life.nia.nih.gov/
https://www.choosemyplate.gov/older-adults
https://www.ncoa.org/healthy-aging/
https://www.cdc.gov/aging/index.html
https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/seniorshealth.html

Sources: Mayo Clinic and the National Institutes of Health and the Administration on Aging

Wellness Wednesday: Fighting Alzheimer’s Disease

One in nine people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s disease. And almost two-thirds of them are women. It is estimated that a total of 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease today.

Home healthcare nurse giving medications to senior adult woman.These numbers are predicted to escalate rapidly as the baby boom generation reaches age 65 and beyond. By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease may nearly triple, from 5.2 million to a projected 13.8 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent or cure the disease. Previous estimates based on high range projections of population growth provided by the U.S. Census suggest that this number may be as high as 16 million.

What is Alzheimer’s?

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.

Alzheimer’s disease is currently ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., but recent estimates indicate that the disorder may rank third, just behind heart disease and cancer, as a cause of death for older people.

Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia among older adults.

What is Dementia?

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.

Alzheimer’s Symptoms

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.

Prevalence

An estimated 5.4 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease in 2016.

  • alz-risksAn estimated 5.2 million are age 65 and older, and approximately 200,000 individuals are under age 65 (younger-onset Alzheimer’s).
  • Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. Of the 5.4 million people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s in the U.S., 3.3 million are women and 1.9 million are men.

The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias 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 people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease may nearly triple, from 5.2 million to a projected 13.8 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent or cure the disease.

61 percent of those with Alzheimer’s are expected to die before age 80 compared with 30 percent of those without 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.


Alzheimer’s is the only disease among the top 10 causes of death in America that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.


Cost of Alzheimer’s

In 2015, caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias provided an estimated 18.1 billion hours of unpaid assistance, a contribution to the nation valued at $221.3 billion.

  • About one in three caregivers is age 65 or older.
  • Approximately two-thirds of caregivers are women. More specifically, over one-third of dementia caregivers are daughters.
  • Forty-one percent of caregivers have a household income of $50,000 or less.
  • Over half of primary caregivers of people with dementia take care of parents.
  • It is estimated that 250,000 children and young adults between ages 8 and 18 provide help to someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia.

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. The physical and emotional impact of dementia caregiving is estimated to have resulted in $10.2 billion in health care costs in the United States in 2015.

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the costliest chronic diseases to society.

  • Total payments for health care, long-term care and hospice are estimated to be $236 billion in 2016 for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
  • Medicare and Medicaid are expected to cover only 68 percent of the total health care and long-term care payments for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
  • Nearly one in every five Medicare dollars is spent on people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. In 2050, it will be one in every three dollars.

Unless something is done, in 2050, Alzheimer’s is projected to cost over $1.1 trillion (in 2016 dollars).

Sources: NIH National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer’s Association


More Information:

Alzheimer’s Association

Alzheimers Warning Signs

Alzheimer’s Disease Facts & Figures Infographic

2016 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures

NIH Alzheimer’s Fact Sheet

Wellness Wednesday: It’s Healthy Aging Month

Chinese Grandparents Sitting With Grandchildren In ParkPeople in the U.S. are living longer than ever before. Many seniors live active and healthy lives. But there’s no getting around one thing: as we age, our bodies and minds change. There are things you can do to stay healthy and active as you age:

Eat a balanced diet

Studies show that a good diet in your later years reduces your risk of osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart diseases and certain cancers. As you age, you might need less energy. But you still need just as many of the nutrients in food.

Keep your mind and body active

Exercise is perhaps the best demonstrated way to maintain good health, fitness, and independence. Research has shown that regular physical activity improves quality of life for older adults and decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease and many other illnesses and disabilities. In many ways, it is the best prescription we have for healthy, successful aging.

Don’t smoke

iStock_000018054489_LargeDo we really need to explain this one? Smoking is bad for you. So if you smoke, you should quit. There are many programs out there that can help you kick the habit. Visit the classes and events page on our website to join a free smoking cessation group, or ask your doctor for more information on ways to quit. Even if you’ve spent a lifetime smoking, you will benefit from stopping now.

Get regular checkups

Regular health exams and tests can help find problems before they start. They also can help find problems early, when your chances for treatment and cure are better. Which exams and screenings you need depends on your age, health and family history, and lifestyle choices such as what you eat, how active you are, and whether you smoke.

To make the most of your next check-up, here are some things to do before you go:

Practice safety habits to avoid accidents and prevent falls

A fall can change your life. If you’re elderly, it can lead to disability and a loss of independence. If your bones are fragile from osteoporosis, you could break a bone, often a hip. But aging alone doesn’t make people fall. Diabetes and heart disease affect balance. So do problems with circulation, thyroid or nervous systems. Some medicines make people dizzy. Eye problems or alcohol can be factors. Any of these things can make a fall more likely.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NIH: National Institute on Aging

Wellness Wednesday: Taking Steps to Prevent Prostate Cancer

iStock_000016342465_LargeDid you know that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death among American men?

In 2013 (the most recent year numbers are available):

  • 176,450 men in the U.S. were diagnosed with prostate cancer.*
  • 27,681 men in the U.S. died from prostate cancer.*

*Incidence counts cover about 99% of the U.S. population; death counts cover about 100% of the U.S. population. Use caution when comparing incidence and death counts.

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and we would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to care for yourself and your loved ones, by reminding you of the importance of preventive care.

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Controlling Risk

Disease prevention begins with a variety of factors including understanding the risks—the ones we can control and the ones we can’t. According to the American Cancer Society, risk factors for prostate cancer include:

Age

The chance of having prostate cancer rises rapidly after age 50. Nearly two out of three prostate cancers are found in men over the age of 65.

Race/ethnicity

Prostate cancer occurs more often in African-American men than in men of other races. African-American men are also more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage and are more than twice as likely to die of prostate cancer as white men. Prostate cancer occurs less often in Asian-American and Hispanic/Latino men than in non-Hispanic whites. The reasons for these racial and ethnic differences are not clear.

Family history

Prostate cancer seems to run in some families, which suggests that there may be an inherited or genetic factor. Having a father or brother has been diagnosed more than doubles a man’s risk of developing this disease.

Diet

Men who eat a lot of red meat or high-fat dairy products appear to have a slightly higher chance of getting prostate cancer. These men also tend to eat fewer fruits and vegetables. Doctors are not sure which of these factors is responsible for raising the risk.

Obesity

Most studies have not found that being obese is linked with a higher risk of getting prostate cancer. Some studies have found that obese men have a lower risk of getting a less dangerous form of the disease, but a higher risk of getting more aggressive one. The reasons for this are not clear.

BlueStar1Maintain a Healthy Outlook

While knowing the physical risk factors is key in helping prevent any disease, so is maintaining a healthy spirit. For example:

  • Remaining optimistic. Research shows that happiness and a positive attitude are associated with lower rates of disease. Focus on your thoughts—stop negative ones and replace them with positive ones.
  • Controlling stress. Stress relievers like deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercises and keeping a journal, can be helpful in controlling the impact stress has on your body.
  • Doing everything in moderation. Don’t try to do too much at one time—make sure to have time for proper nutrition, sleep, work and play.
  • Creating a network. Maintaining a close circle of family and friends can provide you with support when you need it.

Lastly, getting annual screening tests is vital to sustaining your health and helping prevent diseases. Having a primary care physician (PCP) who can coordinate your care is vital to your good health. If you don’t have a PCP, just visit your insurance carrier’s website, look for the “find a doctor” area and follow the instructions.

To find a Mercy Health System physician, visit www.mercyhealth.org/find-a-doctor.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 

Wellness Wednesday: Are Vaccinations on your back-to-school list?

VaccinationAll school-age children, from preschoolers to college students, need vaccines. The 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.

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  or she 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.
  • If you would like to know your state’s immunization requirements, contact your State’s Immunization Program or Department of Health.
  • CDC also has a tool to help find more information about your state’s school vaccination requirements. (Select your state under “Grantee” options, your child’s level, and click “Get Results” to view your state vaccination requirements.)

BackToSchool

Disease Outbreaks Still Happen

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.

Vaccines for Your Young Children (Newborns through 6 years old)

2014 Recommended Immunizations for Children from Birth Through 6

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.

Parents can find out what vaccines their children need and when the doses should be given by reviewing CDC’s recommended Childhood Immunization Schedule.

Vaccines for Your Preteens and Teens (7 years old through 18 years old)

2015 Recommended Immunizations for Children from 7 Through 18 Ye

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 every year.

To learn more about vaccines for your preteens and teens, talk to your child’s healthcare provider or visit the CDC’s preteen and teen vaccine pages. If your preteens or teens haven’t already gotten their vaccines, you should get them caught up as soon as possible.

The Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program offers vaccines at no cost for eligible children through doctors enrolled in the program. Find out if your child qualifies.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Wellness Wednesday: Preventing Measles Breakouts with Vaccination

Measles is the most deadly of all childhood rash/fever illnesses. The disease spreads very easily, so it is important to protect against infection.

VaccineTo prevent measles, children (and some adults) should be vaccinated with the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Two doses of this vaccine are needed for complete protection. Children should be given the first dose of MMR vaccine at 12 to 15 months of age. The second dose can be given four (4) weeks later, but is usually given before the start of kindergarten at 4 to 6 years of age.

Measles starts with a fever. Soon after, it causes a cough, runny nose and red eyes. Then a rash of tiny, red spots breaks out. It starts at the head and spreads to the rest of the body. Measles can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis (swelling of the brain), and death. Measles spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people around him or her will also become infected if they are not protected.

People in the U.S. still get measles, but it’s not very common because most people in this country are protected against measles through vaccination. However, measles is still common in other parts of the world, including many countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa. Every year, unvaccinated people get measles while they are abroad and bring the disease into the U.S. and spread it to others.

Measles can spread quickly in communities where people are not vaccinated. Children and anyone else who is not protected against measles is at risk of getting infected. That’s why it is so important to be up to date on vaccinations, including before traveling abroad.

Measles

Protect your Child with Measles Vaccine

You can protect your child against measles with a combination vaccine that provides protection against three diseases: measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). The MMR vaccine is proven to be very safe and effective. CDC recommends that children get two doses:

  • the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age, and
  • the second dose before entering school at 4 through 6 years of age.

Your child’s doctor may offer the MMRV vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chickenpox). MMRV vaccine is licensed for children 12 months through 12 years of age. It may be used in place of MMR vaccine if a child needs to have varicella vaccine in addition to measles, mumps and rubella vaccines. Your child’s doctor can help you decide which vaccine to use.

Make Sure Your Child is Protected Before Traveling Abroad

VaccineChildren six (6) months of age and older should be protected against measles before they travel abroad.

  • Infants six (6) months through 11 months of age should have one dose of measles vaccine. Infants who get one dose of measles vaccine before their first birthday should get two more doses of the vaccine (one dose at 12 through 15 months of age and another dose at least 28 days later).
  • Children 12 months of age or older should have two doses separated by at least 28 days.

Talk with your child’s doctor to see if he or she should be vaccinated before traveling abroad.

Some teens and adults need measles vaccine too. For more information, see Measles Vaccination: Who Needs It?

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Paying for Measles Vaccine

Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines. But you may want to check with your health insurance provider before going to the doctor. Learn how to pay for vaccines.

If you don’t have insurance or if your insurance does not cover vaccines for your child, the Vaccines for Children Program may be able to help. This program helps families of eligible children who might not otherwise have access to vaccines. To find out if your child is eligible, visit the VFC website or ask your child’s doctor. You can also contact your state VFC coordinator.

Helpful documents:

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


More Information:

Diseases and the vaccines that prevent them: measles

Measles Elimination

Measles CDC Fact Sheet

Measles Infographic

Wellness Wednesday: Vaccinate to protect your family

August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). The importance of vaccination has been debated back and forth over the last decade, with some parents deciding to forgo vaccinating their children. For some, it is concerns about side effects; others think since many of these diseases appear to be eradicated, why bother? Well, the reason we see less and less of these communicable diseases is because of vaccination.

Diseases are becoming rare due to vaccinations

VaccinesSome diseases (like polio and diphtheria) have become very rare in the U.S., largely because we have been vaccinating against them. However, this isn’t true everywhere in the world.

Only one disease—smallpox—has been totally erased from the planet. Polio no longer occurs in the U.S., but it is still paralyzing children in several African countries. More than 350,000 cases of measles were reported from around the world in 2011, with outbreaks in the Pacific, Asia, Africa and Europe. In that same year, 90% of measles cases in the U.S. were associated with cases imported from another country. Only the fact that most Americans are vaccinated prevented these clusters of cases from becoming epidemics.

Immunize until disease is eliminated

Even if there are only a few cases of disease today, if we take away the protection given by vaccination, diseases that are almost unknown would stage a comeback. Before long we would see epidemics of diseases that are nearly under control today and we will undo the progress we have made over the years.

How do vaccines work?

The-Importance-of-VaccinationVaccines contain the same antigens (or parts of antigens) that cause diseases. For example, a measles vaccine contains measles virus. But the antigens in vaccines are either killed, or weakened to the point that they don’t cause disease.

Vaccines help develop immunity by imitating an infection, but this “imitation” infection does not cause illness. It does, however, cause the immune system to develop the same response as it does to a real infection so the body can recognize and fight the vaccine-preventable disease in the future.

In other words, a vaccine is a safer substitute for a child’s first exposure to a disease. The child gets protection without having to get sick. Through vaccination, children can develop immunity without suffering from the actual diseases that vaccines prevent.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


More Information:

2016 Recommended Immunizations for Children from Birth Through 6 Years Old

2016 Recommended Immunizations for Children 7-18 Years Old

Parents’ Guide to Childhood Immunizations

Ensuring the Safety of Vaccines in the United States

Making the Vaccine Decision