Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

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

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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

Slowing Down is Part of Mature Motorists’ Manual

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 By Cecil Scaglione

Mature Life Features

The “get ’em off the road” gang is after aging drivers again.

This happens every time anyone behind the wheel 75 or older gets into an accident. The more major the mishap, the more media coverage, and the louder the argument about yanking all silver-haired vehicle operators off the road.

Take away their licenses. Test them every year. Give ‘em a walker and let ‘em go.

They point to statistics that confirm their claim that senior drivers are the second-most accident-prone segment of American’s motoring public. That may be, but the single-most road-risky group are teen-aged drivers and no one suggests taking away their licenses when a group of teens are killed or maimed when their overloaded vehicle rolls over or smashes into another.

Detractors of senior drivers suggest taking driving licenses away at a certain age. How about holding back drivers’ licenses to young people until they reach a certain age? Neither of these suggestions make sense. Just as there is a majority of older drivers who pose no hazard on the road, the same is true of teen drivers.

So age is not the problem.

The problem is common sense and competence behind the wheel.

It’s been estimated that more than 20 percent – that’s one out of five – of the nation’s drivers will be older than 65 by 2030. Results of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study indicate that most — not all, most —  older drivers limit or stop driving as they perceive their capabilities diminishing.

About 70 percent of more than 3,800 50-years-and-older drivers queried said they restricted their driving in a variety of ways. These included bad weather, heavy traffic, rush hour, at night, long distances, and freeways. Older drivers apparently develop strategies to compensate for failing vision, slower reflexes, stiffer joints, and medication, according to researchers. One thing they discovered was that older drivers are more at risk for injury to themselves as they grow fragile with age.

The transportation needs of some 70 percent of the people in this country who live in the suburbs or rural areas are a major hurdle to such simple solutions as yanking seniors out of their cars and forcing them into buses, subways, trolleys, and trains.

It’s also been proclaimed that the cost of car payments, auto insurance, fuel, upkeep, and maintenance can buy a lot of taxi-cab rides. But that alternative is not always available.

Pundits, politicians, and protestors are finding some common ground on mandating regular testing for drivers past a certain age. Older drivers can help their cause by supporting physical improvements such as signs that are larger and less complex, improved lighting and enhanced visibility at intersections, and remedial-driving programs.

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2004

Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 9, 2012 at 12:05 am

Posted in Health, Travel

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Pill Power Trumps Will Power Against Migraines

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By James Gaffney

Mature Life Features

Migraine sufferers take note: don’t try to stave off that encroaching headache through sheer will power. Most people who treat their migraines with triptans, among the most popular and effective medications, will find they work best if taken early in the attack, before skin sensitivity develops, according to Harvard Medical School research.

As their headaches progress, nearly four out of five migraine sufferers develop skin hypersensitivity. Merely touching their hair, scalp, or skin around the eyes causes pain. A Harvard study shows that, once this hypersensitivity takes root, it’s too late to abort the painful attack. However, if a triptan is taken before sensitivity develops, it is likely to completely relieve the pain.

Other research from Florida’s Palm Beach Headache Center suggests two-thirds of the people with migraines are pain-free within four hours if they take sumatriptan early enough in the attack.

If the triptans are taken before the skin becomes hypersensitive, they can completely alleviate the pain, Harvard researchers reported. They point out that it is vital that patients learn to recognize the first signs of skin hypersensitivity and to take their triptans before a migraine goes too far.

More than 28 million Americans get migraine headaches. Many are reluctant, for a variety of reasons, to take medication at the first sign of the attack for various reasons. Among them is the feeling that they should be abort their own headaches without medication. The irony, however, is that if a migraine sufferer waits until the headache is bad, the or she may need more medication to try to get rid of it.

People who are having more than two or three migraines a week need to see their doctors so they can be prescribed preventive medication, according to the Palm Beach researchers, who studied 691 migraine sufferers. They all were required to take medication within two hours of the start of the migraine — 236 were given a placebo, 233 were given 50 milligrams of sumatriptan, and 222 were given 100 mgs. of sumatriptan.

After four hours, 71 (30 percent) of the placebo group were pain-free, compared with 142 (61 percent) of the 50 mg. group and 151 (68 percent) of the 100 mg. group. The study also revealed that side effects,such as dizziness and nausea, were less if the medication was taken earlier than later.

A similar study by the American Academy of Neurology focusing on a different medication supports those findings. Of 250 patients studied, 60 percent of those who took the medication within 15 minutes of the onset of symptoms were pain-free two hours later.

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2004

 

Written by Cecil Scaglione

July 29, 2012 at 12:05 am

Posted in Health

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Slip, Slop, Slappin’ Your Sun Tan

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By Cecil Scaglione

Mature Life Features

  As long as a tan is considered cool, the risk of contracting skin cancer will continue.
  More than 1 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed annually. Malignant melanoma, which is easily preventable by wearing sun-protective clothing, using sun screen and seeking shade, will kill some 7,500 Americans this year. While melanoma accounts for only 5  percent of skin cancer cases, it causes 80 percent of skin-cancer deaths.
  Social acceptance — indeed, favor — of tanning is at fault, said Dr. Martin Weinstock, chairman of the American Cancer Society’s skin-cancer advisory group. More than half the population believes people look better with a tan.
  “A hundred years ago it was a very unfashionable thing,” Weinstock said. “It signified that you were the type of person who had to work for a living, usually out in the field under the sun. People who owned farms and big plantations could spend the day inside.” Industrialization changed all that, as workers moved inside large manufacturing plants and the wealthy began lolling along tropical beaches. So tans became a fashionable sign of leisure.
  That image must be changed and Weinstock thinks there are signs of a pendulum swing. A tan is evidence that your skin has been damaged and this damage accumulates with each tan. “Unfortunately, a lot of people simply do not use sun screen correctly. One of the findings in a survey we did was that a lot of people, when they got the worst sunburn of the summer, were using a sun screen of SPF (sun protection factor) 15 or greater. If someone goes to the beach, plays a couple of games of volleyball and then says, ‘My skin is turning red, I’d better put on some sun screen,’ well, obviously that’s too late. Most of the damage has already been done.”
  Added problems are that too little sun screen is used or it may be washed off by sweat or swimming. An SPF of 30 or greater is Weinstock’s recommendation. He also emphasizes that “it’s not the tan that’s the problem; it’s the ultraviolet radiation used to get a tan. ” What causes the problem is the ultraviolet radiation from the sun that triggers a reaction in pigment-producing skin cells to produce a browner color in the skin. This same radiation “causes damage in the DNA of skin cells as well as other types of damage to the skin, and that is what has been related to the risk of skin cancer” as well as premature aging of the skin.
  There are two reasons tanning salons are not safe, even though they may advertise that they use innocuous UVA radiation and not the UVB that causes sunburn. First of all, UVA is not totally harmless. Secondly, most tanning booths give users some UVB also.
  If you use an artificial tanner – tan in a bottle – it probably will give you a tan in color only. “They don’t protect you against sun exposure,” he said. ” They don’t protect against ultraviolet light.”
  “We have a slogan at the American Cancer Society. ‘Slip, Slop, Slap:’ slip on a shirt, slop on sun screen, slap on a hat. “

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2003

Written by Cecil Scaglione

July 1, 2012 at 12:28 am

Posted in Health

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Doctor, Dentist Visits Quell Smoking

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By James Gaffney

Mature Life Features

  If you see your doctor  and dentist on a regular basis, you’re more likely to quit smoking and to remain a non-smoker, according to a study published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

  “Having a regular physician and seeing a physician recently seems to have an important  association with whether or not an older patient is a current smoker,” according to Mark S. Kaplan and Jason T. Newsom of Portland State University and Bentson H. McFarland of the Oregon Health & Science University. “Older adults’ contacts with physicians and dentists are strongly negatively associated with smoking among older adults.”

  Kaplan and his colleagues base their conclusion on a study of one of the largest samples of older adults in which correlations of late-life smoking have been investigated. The sample also included one of the largest arrays of social and demographic variables as predictors of smoking behavior. The analysis is based on data from the Canadian National Population Health Survey conducted by Statistics Canada of 73,402 households across Canada. Kaplan and his associates used the health files of 13,363 persons aged 65 and older who had complete data.

  In the study, 15 percent were current smokers, 41 percent were former smokers, and 44 percent never smoked. The majority of older smokers had not visited a dentist in more than five years. More specifically, individuals without a regular physician and with infrequent physical and dental checkups were more likely to be smokers.

  Kaplan and his associates hope the study will help guide physicians and dentists when they see older patients. “Although physicians have a unique opportunity to intervene when their patients need help to quit smoking, previous studies have shown that fewer than half ask their patients about tobacco use,” he said. While dentists are more likely than physicians “to estimate their patients’ tobacco use accurately, they were less likely to assess and intervene, and less supportive of tobacco cessation, according to prior studies,” said Kaplan.

  “Given the frequency of dental-care among older smokers, communication and cooperation between physicians and dentists are of crucial importance with respect to the management of late-life smoking.”

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2003

Written by Cecil Scaglione

June 24, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Posted in Health

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The Heart is a Lonely Killer

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By Cecil Scaglione

Mature Life Features

Lonely people face a greater risk of heart disease, the biggest killer on the globe, according to a study published in Psychosomatic Medicine.

Lonely students at Ohio State University showed increased blood pressure caused by increased resistance to blood flow that may be harmful in the long run when performing mentally and emotionally stressful tasks. Non-lonely students recorded a more-normal response of increased blood flow from increased cardiac output. Both chronic high-blood-pressure and vascular resistance have been linked to increased risks of heart disease

The students were given a loneliness questionnaire, then monitored during one task involving mental arithmetic and one involving writing and giving a speech to defend themselves against a false accusation of stealing. Blood pressure before and during these stress-inducing tasks rose similarly for both groups, but lonely students had significantly higher vascular resistance and lower cardiac output than the non- lonely students.

In a parallel study of healthy older men and women, aged 53 to 78, systolic blood pressure rose with age in the lonely while it remained more stable in those who were not lonely. The subjects in this study were also given a questionnaire on loneliness, but underwent several medical tests to assess blood pressure and other clinical measures. Blood pressure was significantly higher in the older half of the lonely group. It was similar across all ages among the non-lonely. The study also revealed that lonely people were no different from the non-lonely in terms of behavior risk factors such as drinking, smoking, diet, and compliance with medical treatments.

“Differences in the (mechanisms of blood flow) observed through the session in younger adults may contribute to elevated blood pressure across time in lonely adults,” said Dr. John T. Cacioppo of the University of Chicago. “Previous research has shown that passive coping is associated with elevated (blood pressure) due to vascular resistance, whereas active coping is associated with elevated (blood pressure) due to increases in (cardiac output),” the researchers stated in their report.

“The parallels between these findings are suggestive of recent evidence that lonely individuals are less likely throughout the day to actively cope and more likely to feel anxious and threatened than non-lonely individuals.” Loneliness appears to be a stable characteristic across all ages, they suggest. “Lonely individuals tend to perceive their social world as less reinforcing and more threatening generally than non- lonely individuals.”

Mature Life Features. Copyright 2003

Written by Cecil Scaglione

April 23, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Posted in Health

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