Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

A Disease That Sneaks up on You

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By Tom Morrow

Historically speaking, a 19th century malady that is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society is Parkinson’s Disease.

PD is thought to occur primarily with the elderly. That’s not necessarily always the case. There are no easy explanations and it can hit the young.

Males are more often affected than females at a ratio of around 3 to 2. When it is seen in people younger than the age of 50, it is called “early-onset Parkinson’s.”

I was 75 when I was diagnosed.

When young people like actor Michael J. Fox, boxer Muhammed Ali, and singer Linda Ronstadt are afflicted, the age factor sort of goes out the window. Fox was 27 when he was diagnosed. Ali was 38 and Ronstadt was 67. Older victims such as well-known actor Alan Alda are more commonplace.PD is a long-term degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that mainly affects the motor nerves. The symptoms usually emerge slowly, and as the disease worsens, non-motor symptoms become more common. The most obvious early symptoms are tremor, rigidity, slowness of movement, and difficulty with walking and keeping balanced.

By 2015, it was estimated PD affected more than 6 million people and resulted in about 117,400 deaths globally. The average life expectancy following diagnosis is between seven and 15 years.

The cause of PD is unknown but both inherited and environmental factors are believed to play a role. Those with a family member affected by PD are at an increased risk of getting the disease, with certain genes known to be inheritable risk factors. Other risk factors are those who have been exposed to certain pesticides and those who have had head injuries. Cognitive and behavioral problems also may occur with many victims suffering from depression, anxiety and apathy. Dementia can become commonplace in the advanced stages of PD. 

Boxers, such as Ali, and those sports figures who have sustained a number of blows to head often have developed PD. Football players often are victims.

Football organizations at all levels lately have established a number of rules and procedures to minimize head trauma.

Those suffering with Parkinson’s also can have problems with their sleep and sensory systems. The motor symptoms of the disease result from the dead cells in the mid-brain leading to a dopamine deficit. The cause of this cell death is not very well understood. Diagnosis of typical PD cases is usually based on symptoms when motor skills difficulties are the patient’s chief complaint.

The bad news is that there still is no known cure for PD.

For those of us with PD, treatment can reduce the effects of the symptoms. Initial treatment is done typically with medications such as levodopa or dopamine agonists. As the disease progresses, experience has shown these medications become less effective.

Actor Fox has greatly increased the public awareness of the disease. After diagnosis, Fox embraced his Parkinson’s in television roles, sometimes acting without medication to further illustrate the effects of the condition. He has appeared before Congress without medication to illustrate the effects of the disease. The Michael J. Fox Foundation aims to develop a cure for Parkinson’s disease.

Professional cyclist and Olympic medalist Davis Phinney, who was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s at age 40, started the Davis Phinney Foundation in 2004 to support PD research, focusing on quality of life for people with the disease.

Boxer Ali showed signs of PD when he was 38, but was not diagnosed until he was 42. He has been called the “world’s most famous Parkinson’s patient.” There continues to be debate on whether he actually had PD caused from boxing.

At the time of his suicide in 2014, actor-comedian Robin Williams had been diagnosed with PD.

A physician initially assesses PD with a careful medical and neurological history. Focus is put on confirming motor symptoms and supporting tests with clinical diagnostic criteria being discussed by a physician and PD specialist.

Multiple causes often mimic PD, making it look similar to the disease. Stroke, certain medications, and toxins can cause “secondary parkinsonism” and need to be thoroughly and properly assessed. Parkinson-plus syndromes, such as progressive palsy and multiple system atrophy, should be considered and ruled out appropriately due to different treatment and disease progression.

For those losing their motor skills, such as walking and difficulties in keeping balance, swallow your pride and use a walker both indoors and out. The results of a bad fall can be worse than any disease.

The above information on PD is just that … information. It is a complex disease and should be thoroughly discussed with your physician and a PD specialist to make sure you get the correct information and treatment.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

September 16, 2021 at 1:19 pm

The ALS Journey

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Imagine a slope.

You’re standing on it. But something’s wrong.

You’re sliding. You try to dig in your toes and your heels. You try to walk backwards or to turn around and get back up. But you keep sliding.

You don’t feel any texture, you just keep sliding. You’re in total blackness. There is no light. There is no breeze or draft or odor. You’ve never been here before.

You can’t see where the slide bottoms out. You can’t see if it levels off. Or if it undulates up and down.

And you keep sliding.

You realize there’s someone beside you. “Are you OK,” you ask.

The response is quite close. It’s a bit slurred. Like a person who just tumbled out of bed. Or has had a bit too much to drink.

You touch an arm and follow it down to the wrist and hand. The hand accepts yours. It feels cool and smooth — a bit like metal — but it’s soft and flaccid. Instead of gripping your clasp, it sort of shakes it to let you know it’s there.

You’re still sliding. Both of you. You don’t know how fast. You start wondering if you’re going to bump into or trip over anything.

There’s a sound you don’t recognize. Their hand slips out of yours.

“Are you OK,” you ask. “Yesshh,” you hear. It’s still close but the source seems somewhere.

You reach out and around and touch an arm. You try to help them stand up but there’s no cooperating strength or self-help.

“Can you stand up,” you ask. You’re told they can’t feel their feet and their legs won’t move.

You keep on sliding.

Then you hear coughcoughcoughcoughcough khaaaccccch coughcoughcoughcough. You reach out to help but you can’t reach them. You didn’t realize it but they’ve slid somewhere out of reach. There’s nothing you can do.

You both just keep on sliding. The coughing is sliding with you.

Then you hear a different sound – short gasps. “Ican’tbreatheIcan’tbreathe” they’re trying to shout but they start to choke. It sounds like they have a plastic bag tied over their head.

Your foot hits something so you reach down to pick it up. It’s feels like a sandwich. Food. It smells like ham and cheese.

Then there’s a new sound. “I…can’t…swa…llow.” You feel guilty but you have to eat. It’s difficult to push it through that knot in your stomach. You have to stay strong to try to help them.

And you keep on sliding and sliding and slid…



Written by Cecil Scaglione

June 17, 2018 at 8:56 am

Bev’s Being Battered . . .

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Finally getting back to work on this venue after being blocked out by some cyberspace quirk. Had to use Beverly’s email address in settling for whoknowswhat reason so anyone responding to messages will have to do it on this site or address it to

Much has happened since we were cut off from posting last December.

The most devastating has been the medical blows landing on Beverly.

It all began early this year when a neurologist diagnosed three possible problems for her rapid loss of motor facilities: a neurological disease, cancer and/or ALS. Specialists were recommended and visited.

The first diagnosis was cancer in her left breast and two malignant tumors in her spine. Bone-building IV every four weeks was initiated immediately and radiation and chemotherapy were both prescribed. Bev started a five-days-a-week radiation treatment for three weeks and the thousands-of-dollars’-a-month’s worth of chemotherapy medication was arranged without cost through the efforts of a patient advocate/support worker at the cancer clinic.

Both prescriptions were disastrous.

The radiation launched a serious coughing problem that racked her for hours and hours and still attacks out of nowhere. After her ninth of 15 scheduled sessions, she told the doctor she wasn’t taking anymore, and why. She also told the oncologist she was dropping the chemo medication because it made her sicker.

By this time, she also was diagnosed with ALS so both doctors (radiologist and oncologist) agreed with her so her life will be more comfortable. She’s still getting the IV every four weeks and has blood drawn monthly to monitor the progress of Lou Gehrig’s disease. All we can do is try slowing it down and help her maintain some level of comfort.

She was told she probably has had ALS for the past half-dozen years, leading family members to speculate on whether or not she needed the spinal surgery that was performed in San Diego to stop the deteriorating use of her right arm and hand. A possible trigger was son Ross’ death.

She now uses a walker and no longer drives. Through contacts made at the first of her quarterly clinics with the ALS doctor, she has received a transport wheelchair, toilet support bars and large-handled eating utensils from the ALS Association. A doctor’s prescriptions also got her a respiratory machine to assist her breathing and we’ve yet to make an appointment to get fitted for toe braces prescribed to keep her toes lifted so she doesn’t trip and fall, which would be crippling.

We’re also talking with home-care workers and hospice/palliative care organizations to identify pathways to take as the unknown continues to happen. The ALS Ass’n is scheduled to deliver a power chair this week so she can get around more easily.

Despite being unable to perform such everyday actions as driving five minutes to visit the grandkids and opening bottles of water, she still erupts into her solar smile when someone calls or her favorite horse wins.

Her birthday was June 6 and she had a good day opening a pile of cards, phone-chatting with new and long-time friends, swapping plans with daughter Heather who came to visit and then elevatoring downstairs for dinner that ended with balloons, a cake and sing-along greeting.


Written by Cecil Scaglione

June 15, 2018 at 7:59 am

Just Ask

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The out-of-control spin ignited by Bev’s recent disastrous diagnoses of debilitating diseases – breast and spinal cancer and ALS – has become a bit more manageable because of some welcome experiences with care, comfort and support personnel and organizations we’ve encountered who have taught us to ask.

Our first major eye-opener occurred when we were faced with a thousands-of-dollars-a-month chemotherapy medication the oncologist prescribed. We said we just can’t afford that much. A patient advocate on staff called us in and asked for a copy of last year’s income-tax return. A few days later we were notified the medication would be provided for us – FREE. The staffer told us to just ask for her whenever we feel the need for some support, whether it’s economic or emotional.

Then, during our first appearance at the ALS doctor’s regular clinic, monitoring tests were conducted by several medical experts and we also met with an ALS organization volunteer. A few days later, a delivery man dropped by with toilet support bars (which he installed for us) and a transport wheelchair.

“They’re on loan until you’re through with them,” he said. “If there’s anything else you need, just ask.”

While there is no stopping the disease chewing away at her nerve cells, these are just a couple of the several events that are making Bev’s life more comfortable by simply asking.


Written by Cecil Scaglione

June 3, 2018 at 7:43 am

Let’s Drink For Your Health

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By Cecil Scaglione

Mature Life Features

It may not be a coincidence that toasts around the world are addressed to your health.

Results of several studies and surveys in various parts of the globe support the view that the moderate use of alcohol actually is good for your well-being and longevity, according to a report by the Center for the Advancement of Health in Washington, D.C.

For example, women who drink an average of half a drink a day have a 14 percent lower risk of developing high blood pressure than non-drinkers. Those who average 1 1/2 a day lower their risk of hypertension by 20 percent compared with teetot0talers.

This does not condone drinking. If you don’t drink, don’t start. If you do drink, we’re talking about moderate drinking, which translates to an average of one or two drinks a day. One drink is defined as an ounce of liquor, four ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer.

A study of more than 38,000 men over a dozen years indicated that those who drank moderately three or more times a week had a reduced risk of heart attack compared with those who drank less frequently. A 2001 study revealed drinkers who averaged one a day were more than 30 percent less likely to die after a heart attack than teetotalers. Also, moderate drinkers appear to be more likely than lifelong non-drinkers to seek preventive health-care and participate in other healthy behaviors, according to a study the same year. People 65 and older who downed more than 15 drinks a week were 41 percent less likely to have silent strokes than abstainers but were at greater risk for brain shrinkage.

Harvard researchers report a slight reduction in Parkinson’s-disease rates among moderate beer drinkers. However, a British study suggests the health benefits attributed to moderate drinking do not apply to men younger than 35 and women under 55.

Despite the data supporting the cardiovascular-health benefits of moderate drinking, physicians are loath to prescribe a glass of wine after dinner to improve your well-being. Medical experts argue that alcohol use can lead to abuse while exercise, proper diet, and cholesterol-controlling drugs can achieve and maintain the same level of health.

Supporters of the moderate use of alcohol suggest it dovetails smoothly into the litany of a healthy lifestyle: don’t smoke, be active, maintain a healthy weight, and eat a balanced diet — with a daily glass of wine.

Among both the drinkers and doctors, the age-old white-vs.-red wine debate goes on. A study of 1,565 adults gives the edge to white wine when it comes to boosting lung capacity and function.

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2005

Written by Cecil Scaglione

March 8, 2014 at 12:05 am

Eye-Care Professionals Hunger for Nutrition Knowledge

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bunnyBy James Gaffney

Mature Life Features

Some of you may recall, when being urged to eat your vegetables, your parents told you carrots were good for your eyesight.

While they couldn’t support this for sure, an eye-catching 86 percent of optometrists in the United Kingdom said they would take dietary supplements for eye health, according to the British journal Optician. However, less than 40 percent made such products available at their practice.

An overwhelming majority — 93 percent — reported nutrition was not included in their university education, according to a survey aimed at the application of new learning issues to their everyday practice. Nearly all of them  – 98 percent — said they wanted to learn more about nutrition.

“These survey results reveal the growing awareness and interest among these practitioners, and as their knowledge is enhanced, consumers are sure to benefit,” said Dr. Cindy Schweitzer, Cognis’ senior scientist at the time of the survey and head of its North American research programs on lutein esters, mixed carotenoids, and natural vitamin E. Cognis is a worldwide supplier of specialty chemicals and nutritional ingredients and has some 9,000 employees in almost 50 countries.

Lutein esters are an effective source of lutein and are being studied for their potential benefits in the maintenance of eye health. Evidence continues to accumulate showing that intakes of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.

“We’d like to encourage eye-health organizations here in the United States to survey members to see how their nutritional wisdom compares to their colleagues in the UK,” she said.

Only 2 percent of the practitioners polled thought nutrition unimportant while about 65 percent said they recommend eye supplements to their patients on an occasional basis.

Several factors have come together to drive this heightened awareness and interest. Foremost is demographics. As the population ages, the incidence of age-related eye diseases rises. Long-term research studies are adding support to documentary evidence of age-related eye disease and the beneficial effects of certain vitamins and carotenoids.

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2004

Written by Cecil Scaglione

March 1, 2013 at 12:05 am

No Pain Required for Muscle Gain

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Cecil Scaglione

Mature Life Features

    You may be too tired to do any exercise. Or too lazy. But you’re never too old.

And you’re never too old to benefit from lifting weights, or strength exercises, according to the National Institutes of Health’s National Institutes of Aging.
That doesn’t mean you have to adopt the regimen of a Terminator body builder.  Nor do you have to spend hours at a gymnasium.
There a strength-exercise guide called “Exercise: a Guide from the National Institute on Aging” available on the Web at book or by calling toll-free (800) 222-2225. There’s also a video available through its Go4Life program on the website.
You don’t have to rush down to an athletic-equipment or sporting-goods store to pick up sets of bar bells, or ankle and hand weights.
There are many household items you can use.
A one-pint bottle of water or a 16-ounce can of peas can substitute for a one-pound bar bell, for example. Or you can fill empty milk jugs or cartons with water or sand.
An early step to take during any exercise program is to check with your doctor, especially if you’re among the 40 percent of Americans who’ve been sedentary for the past few years.
Keep in mind that there are many forms of non-strength exercise: walking, swimming, bicycling, jogging, gardening, tennis, and bowling are examples. None of these require a medical imprimatur if you don’t have any serious handicap or disease.
But it’s not a bad idea to do a bit of muscle-building even if you participate in some other form of activity. A tip to follow at all times is to exercise different groups of muscles. Never exercise the same group – legs, arms, back, stomach, chest, shoulders, or arms, for example – two days in a row. Give your muscles time to rest.
You should exercise your major muscles groups, such as shoulders, back, arms and legs, twice a week. And start slowly. Start with one pound weights. And don’t rush up the poundage.
Do 10 to 15 repetitions of each exercise. Take about three seconds to slowly lift or push a weight, hold that position  for a second, and take another three to five seconds to return to the original position.
Exhale as you lift or push a weight. Inhale when you relax and lower the weight to your original position. Don’t hold your breath while you’re doing exercises.
Once you can lift or push a weight 15 times easily with smooth, steady motions, you may increase the weight a couple of pounds as your muscles become stronger. This can take two to three weeks.
You should experience a bit of soreness and fatigue in the beginning. That’s normal. But you should not experience sore joints, pain, or exhaustion. Those are signs that you’re overdoing it. If any of this persists, check with your doctor again.
Just remember: forget “no pain, no gain.”
                      Mature Life Features, Copyright 2004

Written by Cecil Scaglione

January 4, 2013 at 12:05 am

Posted in Health

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Listen to Alzheimer’s Victims, Then Talk

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By Cecil Scaglione

Mature Life Features

A friend has a running gag in which he tells someone he received a solicitation for a contribution to the Alzheimer’s Association but he forgot where he put it.
The association does  more than request donations. It offers advice to Alzheimer’s sufferers and caregivers. The organization suggests strongly that each family plan for the onset of this frustrating disease by one of its members.

The AA urges victims to be candid about their disease and, at the appearance of its signs, to discuss symptoms with relatives and friends.

Stress and lowered self-esteem are sidebar symptoms of this disease, according to experts.

Maintaining open lines of communication with people doomed by dementia are critical to keeping victims, caregivers, relatives and friends on as even a keel as possible as the disability progresses.

So listen

That’s first of a half dozen steps recommended by the AA to everyone around an Alzheimer’s sufferer: listen.

Communicating with an Alzheimer’s victim requires patience and understanding, so those around such a person must be good listeners. And they must let the sufferer know they are listening, are being patient, and are trying to understand what he or she is saying.

And be a comfort, not a critic.

If the person is having difficulty finding the right word or phrase, encourage him or her to take time and continue to explain. Don’t cut in and correct the speaker. You can repeat what was said if you feel some clarification is needed.

Without adding to the Alzheimer’s sufferer further, you can often guess what he or she means or wants, even though incorrect words have been used. Don’t argue with a person affected by Alzheimer’s because that only exacerbates any emotional turmoil

Be open to feelings, not just facts

This is probably the most important matter to remember when dealing with anyone suffering the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Many times the emotions being expressed by the victim are more important than the words used. The tone of voice can help you search for the feelings behind the phrases.

Words often are unnecessary.

If you don’t understand what’s being said, ask  the Alzheimer’s-afflicted person to point or gesture to let you know what he or she wants.

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2004

Written by Cecil Scaglione

November 19, 2012 at 12:05 am

Urban Sprawl May be Harmful to Your Health

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By Cecil Scaglione

Mature Life Features

Walking, which has been called the best exercise investment, can be helped or hampered by where you live. While it costs nothing, can be done anywhere at anytime, and requires no special equipment — except, perhaps, for a good pair of sturdy shoes — your environs could be less than walking friendly.

If you live in a sprawling suburban community, you’re more likely to weigh more, have higher blood pressure, and walk less than residents of more compact counties, according to the American Journal of Health Promotion. A research team headed by Dr. Reid Ewing of the National Center for Smart Growth, University of Maryland, cites a strong association between your health and urban environment, which is of serious concern to older residents.

After accounting for such personal variables as age and education, the researchers found residents of the most compact — you might consider the word “congested” here — counties weighed more than five pounds less and walked almost 1 1/2 hours more a month than people living in counties that are more sprawling — you might consider the word “open” here. The team gathered information from more than 200,000 people living in almost 450 counties in more than 80 metropolitan regions. The areas were graded on their levels of sprawl based on factors such as the density of its residential neighborhoods, connections between roads, and the physical separation of homes, shops and workplaces.

“Poor accessibility is the common denominator of urban sprawl,” Ewing said. “Nothing is within easy walking distance of anything else.” Among the most-compact counties were the New York City boroughs, San Francisco County, and Hudson County in New Jersey. Those with the highest level of sprawl included Geauga County in the Cleveland area, and Goochland County in the Richmond, Va., region.

Those who said they had safe, convenient places to walk or to get other forms or exercise were most likely to be physically active, according to  a team of Georgia Department of Human Resources researchers. Access to indoor and outdoor exercise areas was also an important factor for residents of North Carolina communities to attain daily guidelines for physical activity.

Increasing the number of desirable location destinations within a 20-minute-walk radius might encourage older women — the least active Americans — to exercise, according to a University of Pittsburgh study. Older women in the Pittsburgh region who lived within walking distance of a biking or walking trail, park, or department, discount or hardware store logged significantly more walking time than those who did not have similar facilities nearby, said researcher Wendy King. “Adding businesses or recreational facilities to residential areas may be effective (to boost exercise levels among older women),” she said.

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2004

Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 26, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Posted in Health

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Obesity Fattens Medical-Care Costs

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By James Gaffney

Mature Life Features

Getting obese gets expensive.

Overweight and obese individuals incur up to $1,500 more in annual medical costs than healthy-weight individuals, according to a two-year study of nearly 200,000 employees of General Motors.

Average annual medical costs for normal-weight workers in the study were $2,225, while costs for overweight and obese individuals rose steadily, from $2,388 for overweight individuals to $3,753 for the most-severely obese persons.

The study headed by Dee W. Edington of the University of Michigan was the first to examine the relationship between medical costs and the six weight groups defined by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s weight guidelines.

The guidelines separate individuals into under weight, healthy weight, overweight, and three obesity designations based on average body-mass index. The findings highlight the economic burden that obesity places on society, Edington and colleagues note. Back in 1994, researchers conservatively estimated the direct medical costs of obesity in the United States at $52 billion dollars. Controlling weight and obesity-related health conditions “is especially important to corporations, where the percentage of revenue spent on medical benefits continues to increase,” said the study authors.

Edington and colleagues analyzed weight, height, gender, age, and annual medical costs charged per person. They found that 40 percent of the GM employees in the study were overweight and 21.3 percent were obese. Healthy-weight employees made up 37 percent of those in the study, while 1.5 percent were considered under weight. In general, annual median medical costs were lowest for the healthy-weight group, compared with both underweight, overweight, and obese groups. Medical costs steadily increased as body mass index increased, regardless of gender or age for the most part.

The relationship between body mass and medical costs was unclear for the oldest males in the group, aged 75 and older. Although the study did not consider any specific links between obesity and medical costs, the authors noted that “it has already been established that overweight and obese conditions can lead to many chronic diseases and excess health-care utilization.”

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2004

Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 15, 2012 at 8:22 pm