Archive | September, 2010

Attitude Matters when it comes to Aging

20 Sep

The idea that an optimistic attitude is not only correlated with, but can perhaps cause people to live longer, became established as scientific fact several years ago by Yale psychologist Becca Levy. In her studies of people’s perceptions about the aging process, Levy found that those who held more favorable views about getting older actually lived to older ages than those who took a less sanguine attitude about their own aging. This research was a great boost to other gerontologists who, like myself, think that society’s negative depiction of the aging process creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. We become what we are expected to become and if the expectation is negative, we give up on ourselves. As a result, we don’t take advantage of strategies that could keep us healthier and more productive.

New research is suggesting some of the mechanisms that could account for this attitude-longevity effect. To understand this research, we need to take a small detour from psychology to cell biology. The telomere is a region of DNA at the end of the chromosome that doesn’t contain genetic information. It seems to be there to protect the genetic material in the chromosome during the process of cell replication. Every time cells replicate, the chromosomes become a little shorter. Eventually, the losses affect not only the telomeres but also start to affect the genetic material we care about–in other words the genes that code the proteins we need to keep our bodies operating smoothly.

Still with me? Even if you aren’t a fan of biology, this is one part of biology that you should care about. If you don’t have telomeres, bad things start to happen when proteins are manufactured in the cells and you start to lose some important functions. Some researchers believe that the telomeres are the key to long life. Just in case you think it would be a good idea to cure aging by promoting telomere growth, though, I have bad news. Unimpeded telomere growth is a process implicated in cancer, as was discovered by 2009 Nobel prizewinners Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak. 

But I digress. The main point here is that we need telomeres and if we lose them prematurely, we will age prematurely. Now, let’s get back to happiness.

A research team headed by UC San Francisco psychologist Aoife O’Donovan studied telomere length in the immune system cells (the ones that ward off disease) of postmenopausal women ranging from 50 to 86 years old. Not only did the pessimists have poorer immune system functioning, but they also had shorter telomeres than the optimists. In fact, the correlation between pessimism and telomere length, even controlling for other important characteristics of their subjects (such as whether they were caregivers), was a whopping -.55. Psychologists rarely get correlations of this magnitude.

You’re thinking–once again–correlation does not equal causation. Because this was a correlational study, there is definitely the possibility that rather than pessimism causing a decrease in telomere length other factors were at play. Perhaps a more aggressive cell replication process, one that saws off the telomeres, causes greater pessimism. Behavioral geneticists are learning all sorts of ways that the environment can alter a cell’s genetic information. It’s also possible that harsh early environments cause people to become pessimistic and also start the stress that will harm their telomeres.

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The Senior Workout – Learn how to better take care of yourself

20 Sep

When I was a younger, I never worried about my health or quality of life. As I started working with older personal training clients, I started to get an inkling of what it meant to get older and experience a change of priorities. My senior clients, some of whom were in better shape than I was, taught me about the importance of being healthy and taking care of our bodies for the future. Even more important, they taught me that it’s never too late to start exercising and that exercise can make all the difference.

You Can Stop the Clock

Despite all the anti-aging products pushed on us, it’s inevitable that we will get older. However, some of the things we lose as we age can actually be prevented, including:

  • Strength: Sarcopenia is the fancy term scientists have given to describe loss of muscle, strength and quality of tissue often seen in older adults. Some experts have suggested that muscle mass declines about 1% each year from age 30.
  • Endurance: As we age, we could lose aerobic fitness and experts believe this often contributes to reduced mobility in daily life.
  • Flexibility: Joints change with age and this can lead to stiffness, decreased range of motion and more injuries
  • Balance: Each year, hospitals see thousands of older patients for broken hips due to falling. Balance exercises can help you avoid injuries from falls and keep you independent and mobile.

The good news is that the loss of strength, endurance, flexibility and balance aren’t inevitable. The National Institute on Aging believes that, “when older people lose their ability to do things on their own, it doesn’t happen just because they have aged. More likely it is because they have become inactive.” (Exercise: A Guide from the National Institute on Aging)

It’s Never to Late

No matter how old you are, exercise can improve your quality of life and you don’t have to spend a lot of time doing it to see and feel improvements. Like everyone else, seniors need to engage in cardio, strength training and flexibility exercises to stay healthy and maintain as much strength and functionality as possible.

Strength Training for Seniors

Strength training has incredible benefits for everyone, but especially for seniors. Experts believe that “resistance exercise may forestall declines in strength and muscle mass for decades.” (Decreased Mobility in the Elderly: The Exercise Antidote)

Before you get started, it’s essential to get checked out by your doctor. If you have any conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, high blood pressure or heart disease, you’ll need to learn the types of exercises you can and can’t do. Use the following guidelines to set up your program:

  • Lift weights for all muscle groups (chest, back, shoulders, arms, abs and legs) at least 2 non-consecutive days each week
  • Start with no weights or light weights to practice the exercises and condition your body. You can use dumbbells, machines and/or resistance bands
  • Do each exercise for at least 1 set of 10-15 repetitions.
  • Progress by adding more sets (with rest in between) and/or increasing the weights each week
  • Focus on having good form for each exercise
  • Be sure to warm up with light exercise before lifting weights

If you’ve never lifted weights before, you may want to work with a personal trainer to learn the proper way to lift. Make sure your trainer has experience in working with seniors, particularly if you have any medical conditions, injuries or joint problems. If personal training isn’t an option, you might want to use videos to see proper technique and to get an idea of what a strength training routine looks like. Some options are Strength Training DVDs for Seniors and Chair Exercises for Seniors.

If you’ve gotten the okay from your doctor and you’re ready to get started today, try this Total Body Workout for Seniors. The exercises are suggestions ONLY and you should modify the workout according to your fitness level. Please skip any exercises that cause pain or dizziness or that may aggravate any injuries you have.

Why we age? Living a Full Life

13 Sep

Overview

The study of aging – gerontology – is a relatively new science that has made incredible progress over the last 30 years. In the past, scientists looked for a single theory that explained aging. There are two main groups of aging theories. The first group states that aging is natural and programmed into the body, while the second group of aging theories say that aging is a result of damage which is accumulated over time. In the end, aging is a complex interaction of genetics, chemistry, physiology and behavior.

Genetics and Aging

Studies have demonstrated that genetics can play a major role in aging. When researchers adjust the genes in certain mice, yeast cells and other organisms, they can almost double the lifespan of these creatures. The meaning of these experiments for people is not known, but researchers think that genetics account for up to 35 percent of the variation in aging among people. Some key concepts in genetics and aging include:

  • Longevity Genes: There are specific genes which help a person live longer.
  • Cell Senescence: The process by which cells deteriorate over time.
  • Telomeres: Structures on the end of DNA that eventually are depleted, resulting in cells ceasing to replicate.
  • Stem Cells: These cells can become any type of cell in the body and hold promise to repair damage caused by aging.
  • No matter what genes you have inherited, your body is continually undergoing complex biochemical reactions. Some of these reactions cause damage and, ultimately, aging in the body. Studying these complex reactions is helping researchers understand how the body changes as it ages. Important concepts in the biochemistry of aging include:

    Body Systems

    As we age, our body’s organs and other systems make changes. These changes alter our susceptibility to various diseases. Researchers are just beginning to understand the processes that cause changes over time in our body systems. Understanding these processes is important because many of the effects of aging are first noticed in our body systems. Here is a brief overview of how some body systems age:

    • Heart Aging: The heart muscle thickens with age as a response to the thickening of the arteries. This thicker heart has a lower maximum pumping rate.
    • Immune System Aging: T cells take longer to replenish in older people and their ability to function declines.
    • Arteries and Aging: Arteries usually to stiffen with age, making it more difficult for the heart to pump blood through them.
    • Lung Aging: The maximum capacity of the lungs may decrease as much as 40 percent between ages 20 and 70.
    • Brain Aging: As the brain ages, some of the connections between neurons seem to be reduced or less efficient. This is not yet well understood.
    • Kidney Aging: The kidneys become less efficient at cleaning waste from the body.
    • Bladder Aging: The total capacity of the bladder declines and tissues may atrophy, causing incontinence.
    • Body Fat and Aging: Body fat increases until middle age and then weight typically begins to decrease. The body fat also moves deeper in the body as we age.
    • Muscle Aging: Muscle tone declines about 22 percent by age 70, though exercise can slow this decline.
    • Bone Aging: Starting at age 35, our bones begin to lose density. Walking, running and resistance training can slow this process.
    • Sight and Aging: Starting in the 40s, difficulty seeing close detail may begin.
    • Hearing and Aging: As people age, the ability to hear high frequencies declines.

    For more information about aging and for people who need care you may visit our website www.eaicareproviders.com or you may call us at

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    Alzheimer’s Hero

    9 Sep

    Alzheimer’s Hero

    by Valerie Stephenson

    You entered my world extending your hand,
    Reaching for the “me” that I had lost.
    You helped me remember who I am
    With kind and gentle reminders
    Of the memories composing my life.
     
    You took the time to know me
    Beyond the intricacies of my disease—
    You helped me find my way, each day,
    Easing my fears,
    Helping me feel that I still belong.
     
    You overlooked my daily confusion,
    Understanding the rage, giving me comfort.
    You walked along with me, not for me,
    Helping me face the day
    With a sense of dignity and a semblance of pride.
     
    My memory fades,
    But I know when someone cares.
    And I know when I look into your eyes
    That you are my hero.
    For you are faithful, you are strong,
    And you respect the best of who I am.
    And I know that your belief and steadfastness
    Have allowed me to rediscover
    The strength and courage
    Of the hero that lies within me.

    Nursing Jobs expected to Rise!

    9 Sep

    The number of registered nurses is expected to swell to 3.2 million by 2018, accounting for approximately 581,500 new jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s up from 2.6 million today, and it represents the largest overall growth projection out of all occupations in the U.S. economy, for good reason.

    Americans aged 65 and older will make up 19% of the population in 2030, up from 12.4% in 2000. As the population ages and the growth of the working-age population slows down, there will be an increased demand for health care services in general, and home health care services in particular. In the past year, the home health care services industry has experienced sales growth of 11.2%, making it the fastest growing industry in the U.S., according to Sageworks, a financial analysis company.

    Along with registered nurses, Sageworks projects that home care aids, physician assistants, pharmacists, and other medical professions will be in high demand for the foreseeable future