Archive for January, 2011

LaLanne was an example for seniors and caregivers

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

The passing of Jack LaLanne should remind all of us of the importance of exercising, eating well and staying fit. Few people personified the saying, “Age is just a number” better than LaLanne, who died on Sunday at the age of 96. The fitness guru is credited with starting the health club movement, opening his first club in 1936 in Oakland, California. LaLanne was a vocal proponent of eating right and getting plenty of exercise. He welcomed women into his health clubs, which was unheard of at the time, and encouraged seniors to not let age and physical limitations prevent them from exercising.

LaLanne’s life is an excellent example of how important it is to stay fit. Today, many health clubs have programs catering to older members, and there are plenty of good exercise regimens you can do at home. The National Institutes of Health has an excellent section of their web site dedicated to exercises for seniors and we frequently post information about exercising on this blog.

But LaLanne’s example isn’t just for seniors. In a recent blog post, Get Up, Get Out, Skip the Chips, Think of Jack,’s Paula Spencer offers an important reminder to caregivers that they need to focus on their own health as well. “If you get sick, who will care for your loved one? Who will have to step in to care for you? …But we can try harder to live by the amazing knowledge out there about how to amplify good health and reduce risks.”

If caring for your loved one makes you feel like you’re singlehandidly dragging 13 boats filled with passengers through the water (as LaLanne did at age 62), then it’s time to get in shape. After all, if you don’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of others?


On walking, brushing, seeing the light and living a long, happy life

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

A few interesting studies have crossed our computer screens recently that shed light on living a long, happy, productive life.

Walking speed as an indicator of longevity
A new study appearing today in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds evidence that walking speed is a useful predictor of how long older adults may live. According the MSNBC’s HealthNews Daily:

Those who walked 1 meter per second (about 2.25 mph) or faster consistently lived longer than others of their age and sex who walked more slowly, the study showed.

The article is quick to point out that you shouldn’t suddenly start walking faster in order to prolong life. You need to address the underlying issues that cause you to have a slower gait. However, doctors can use information about walking speed to gauge their patients’ health.

Dental health and mental health
US News and World Reports’ HealthDay has an article on a study in Japan that attempted to find a correlation between a person’s dental health and psychiatric condition. 4,000 participants aged 65 and older were given exams in both areas:

Compared with participants who still had many of their natural teeth, those with fewer or no teeth were much more likely to have experienced some memory loss or have early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

The researcher theorized that tooth infections may cause inflammatory substances to be released that damage the brain.

The American Dental Hygienists Association has a good page on proper tooth brushing technique.

Bright lights, big changes
WebMD reported on a study of older adults with depression that looked at the effects of light therapy on the participants’ mental state. One group of participants were exposed to an hour of bright, pale blue light in the early morning while the control group received an hour of dim red light.

In the short term, the bright light group showed slightly more improvement in their depression symptoms (43% versus 36%), though both groups had positive reactions. However, three weeks after the treatment ended, there was a much larger gap: 54% to 33%.