Is pre-diabetes meaningful in older adults?
JAMA Internal Medicine recently reported that a longitudinal study of older adults diagnosed as being pre-diabetic were far more likely to have their blood sugar levels return to normal than to progress to diabetes. And they were no more likely to die during the follow-up period than their peers with normal blood sugar. Pre-diabetes, a condition rarely discussed 15 years ago, refers to a blood sugar level that is higher than normal but that has not crossed the threshold into diabetes. It’s commonly defined by a hemoglobin A1C reading of 5.7 to 6.4 percent. The American Diabetes Association told the New York Times they plan to review the study and may make some adjustments in their recommendations. Consult with your own physician.
Best shoes for knee arthritis
A recent New York Times article reported on a randomized trial that assigned 164 men and women, average age 65, to wear either a flexible or stiff shoe for at least six hours a day for six months. The report in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that 58 percent of those wearing stable shoes achieved a clinically significant reduction in pain, compared with 40 percent wearing the flexible shoes. Ostearthritis is the most common joint disorder in the U.S.
What does a healthy diet look like?
A recent article from Harvard Health publications notes that there is no single way to eat for good health. That’s why some people may feel great on a vegan diet while others prefer a paleo diet, diets that are polar opposites. The thing they have in common is that both include lots of vegetables and minimizes highly processed foods. From there, they say, you can fill in the blanks to suit yourself. It takes a varied diet to get the vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals for optimal health but there are many combinations of foods that get you there. In fact, a number of recent studies have found that the quality of the food you eat, whole foods over processed, is more important than whether it’s low-fat, low-carb or somewhere in between.
Do hair dyes increase cancer risk?
It’s estimated that 50 percent or more of women and 10 percent of men over age 40 color their hair. There have been many studies that explored the relationship between personal hair dye use and risk of cancer or cancer-related death. Most were too small and had short follow-up times or other inconsistencies. However, a recent study by Harvard Medical School researchers looked at data from 117,200 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study, collected over 36 years. The key highlights are:
- Personal permanent hair dye use did not increase risk for most cancers or cancer-related death.
- Additional research is needed to study diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, specific hair dye colors (light versus dark), cancer subtypes and exposure levels (persona vs. occupational).
- Though this study exposed possible associations between permanent hair dye use and increased risk for some cancers, there is not enough new evidence to move the needle on recommendations for use. Until more is known, consider your personal and family histories when deciding whether to use permanent hair dyes.
Napping is not bad!
A study published in General Psychiatry suggests giving into the impulse for a nap might be a good thing. The study divided 2,214 Chinese senior citizens into two groups: napping and non-napping. They all received cognitive assessments and some volunteered to take blood lipid tests. The nappers exhibited better orientation, language and memory. A 2019 study found that an afternoon nap can lower blood pressure as well.
Weight gain later in life extends life
Results from a recent Ohio State University study indicate that people who begin adulthood with a normal-range body mass index and become overweight—but never obese—later in life, tend to live the longest. This was even compared to people who maintained a normal BMI throughout their lives. However, people who entered adulthood with obesity and gained more weight had the highest mortality rate.
Researchers said that for those who start at a normal weight in early adulthood, gaining a modest amount of weight throughout life and entering the overweight category in later adulthood can actually increase the probability of survival.
Deadly falls in older Americans rising
The deaths of actor Christopher Plummer, 91, last year and Leonard Cohen, 82, in 2016 from falls indicates a growing trend published in the medical journal JAMA. As the population ages, the number of older Americans who die following a fall is rising—the rate of mortality from falls more than doubled from 2000 to 2016. Reasons include people living longer with conditions that might have killed them at an earlier age in the past and older adults on medications that increase the risk of falling. To mitigate the risk, experts advise the following:
- Exercise at least 20 minutes a day. Include aerobic and anaerobic (tai chi is good), and weightlifting, particularly to strengthen the legs.
- Mind your meds. Drugs such as Valium and Xanax for sleep are particularly bad and can cause dizziness. Others to avoid include Ambien, Benadryl and Advil PM, all are bad for balance.
- Re-accessorize. Eyesight is crucial when it comes to falls. Avoid bifocal or progressive lenses when walking outside. Of course, no high heels but also avoid slide-in sandals, and slippers (which make you slip). All shoes should have a back and a sole with good tread.
- Eliminate tripping hazards. Clutter, small scatter rugs, extension cords in pathways, pets, uneven thresholds all can add to the risk of a fall. Keep a night light on.
- Early and often to the bathroom. Hydration is a good way to fight dizziness. Drink plenty of water throughout the day but don’t wait until you have to rush to get to the bathroom. Besides, a bonus to the frequent trips is the sit-to-stand move is good exercise!
The no-drug approach to mild depression
Many people suffer bouts of mild or moderate depression as they age. Health issues and the loss of a spouse, family member or friend are common triggers. For those who don’t want to or can’t take antidepressants, Harvard Men’s Health Watch reports on four nondrug strategies.
- Exercise. There is strong evidence that any kind of regular exercise is one of the best antidepressants. Focus on doing whatever gives you enjoyment, be it walking, gardening, or house projects, as regular movement is key.
- Nutrition. Focus on what not to eat, curbing refined sugar found in sweets, soft drinks, and processed foods may be most beneficial. A 2017 study examined the diets of 8,000 men and found those who consumed 67 grams or more of sugar per day (equal to three candy bars) were 20 percent more likely to be diagnosed with depression compared with men who ate 40 grams or less.
- Gratitude. Expressing gratitude has been shown to have a positive emotional effect on people with depression. A 2016 study found that writing down what you appreciate in your life can increase activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, the brain region often associated with depression. Even writing down examples of what inspires your gratitude just once a week is helpful and reflect on those entries for a mood boost when you feel low. Be sure to include some details about the things or people for which you’re grateful.
- Social connection. The evidence is clear that social isolation increases a person’s risk of depression and can make symptoms more severe and longer lasting. Whether volunteering for a favorite cause or playing a team sport, stay connected.