Archive for the ‘research’ Category

Drink coffee. Lots of coffee.

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

The media is abuzz about coffee today. We’re not talking about the buzz they get from their cup of morning joe. We’re talking about the buzz from new research that further points to coffee being the miracle drug.

Yesterday, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health published a report that men can significantly reduce their risk of prostate cancer. Men who drank six or more cups a day over an extended period of time reduced their risk by sixty percent. Those who drank less coffee still saw their risk decline, though not by as much. It doesn’t matter if the coffee is caffeinated or decaf, pointing instead to coffee as an antioxidant.

Last week, a study out of Sweden found that women who drank five or more cups of coffee a day had a much lower risk of aggressive breast cancer.

Of course six cups a day from Starbucks could send you and your newfound health to the poorhouse, which is why we present you with this helpful video on how to pick the right coffee. Spoiler alert: in blind tests, the cheapest coffee nearly always wins.

Photo by visualpanic via flickr

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Real-world advice for women about heart disease

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Last week, the American Heart Association issued the 2011 update to its guidelines for preventing heart disease in women. Often thought to be a male disease, heart disease is the number one cause of death among women. More women die from heart disease than from cancer, respiratory diseases, Alzheimer’s and accidents, combined.

Dr. Lori Mosca, the chair of the guidelines writing committee, noted, “These recommendations underscore the fact that benefits of preventive measures seen day-to-day in doctors’ offices often fall short of those reported for patients in research settings.” Dr. Mosca noted that patients in the real-world often don’t fair as well as patients in studies because they are “older, sicker, and experience more side effects.”

Most of the AHA’s guidelines are generally considered common sense these days, but they’re definitely worth reviewing and heeding. Some key guidelines are:

  • Don’t smoke and avoid environmental smoke.
  • Get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week.
  • Women’s diets should be rich in fruits and vegetables and include whole-grain and high-fiber foods. They should eat fish at least twice a week, limit saturated fat and avoid trans-fats.
  • Aspirin should be taken by women at high risk, and it can also be useful for other women, including healthy women.

Visit the American Heart Association site to view the entire list and discuss them with your doctor.

Photo of Dr. Mosca courtesy: American Heart Association

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%.

Report says exercise and vitamin D can prevent falls among the elderly

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Falls are the number one cause of injury-related deaths among people 65 and over, according to the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (See our recent post “Big risks from small falls“.) A medical alert system is important to summon help quickly in the event of a fall and mitigate complications. However, its also important to take steps to prevent falls from happening in the first place. That’s why we frequently post items on our blog, Facebook and Twitter feeds about how we can improve our health and living environment to reduce the risk of falling.

This month, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts mandated by Congress, sorted through hundreds of articles and thousands of abstracts help guide the advice that primary care practitioners give to their patients. Based on 16 studies that the task force analyzed, exercise can reduce the risk of falling by 13% and 9 studies provided evidence that vitamin D supplementation can reduce risk 17%.

The report is just as interesting for what it found did not reduce risk. Neither vision correction nor education alone were associated with reducing the risk of falling. One study in Australia actually found an increase in the proportion of fallers among those who got vision correction. According to the researchers, this may be because frail older adults became more active because of their improved vision, thus increasing their risk of falling.

(Photo by TooFarNorth via flickr)

Treatment via telemedicine may reduce depression in homebound seniors

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Remote technology may be able to significantly improve the lives of homebound seniors. Depression among seniors who need home healthcare is much higher than it is among other elderly people living at home, but results from a new study indicate that treatment through telemedicine may be able to significantly reduce depression levels. Telemedicine is the transfer of medical information and the treatment of conditions through interactive audiovisual communications such as video conferencing.

The pilot study by researchers at Rhode Island Hospital and other organizations worked with 19 homebound seniors initially diagnosed with major depression. Upon follow-up after the remote treatment, the average depression level scores were “mild”.

Early Surgery After Hip Fractures Reduces Risk of Death, Study Finds

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

On Monday, we told you about a new study that had found that exercise could significantly reduce the likelihood of broken bones among older women. On a related note, another new study looked at the effect on mortality of early surgery after a hip fracture compared to delaying the surgery. The study found that:

surgery before 24 to 72 hours reduced the risk of death and may reduce the risk of postoperative pneumonia and pressure sores.

The study is published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Exercise linked to lower fracture rate in senior women

Monday, October 4th, 2010

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine followed two groups of women over seven years and found that the group that participated in controlled leg strength, impact and balance exercises experience fewer fracture than the control group. The group that exercised also had no hip fractures, unlike the control group. Read more.

Exercise Helps You Sleep; Sleep Helps You Stay Thin

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

It’s no surprise that exercise helps you lose weight, but it’s interesting to see how its affect on sleep factors into the mix. Here are a couple of interesting stories that just came across our computer screens:

  • senior couple on cycle ride in countrysideHaving trouble sleeping? Scientists at Northwestern University analyzed the habits of sedentary middle-aged and older adults. One group exercised for two 20 minute sessions four times a week. The control group didn’t exercise but did various mentally stimulating activities throughout the week including going to cooking classes and museum lectures. The group that exercised experienced better sleep, and as a results tended to be more aware during the day. Read more.
  • Want to lose weight? Sleep. According to an article in SELF magazine, a study of more than 68,000 women by the American Thorasic Society found that those who slept 7 or more hours weighed on average 5.5 pounds less than those who slept five hours or less. To sleep more, you should probably try to be less stressed, and that can help improve metabolism, too. Read more tips on improving your metabolism.

(Photo by Hygiene Matters via Flickr)

Risk factors for falls

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Several news outlets recently reported on a new study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society that studied the risk factors for falling among seniors. Approximately 40% of people aged 65 or older fall each year. Whereas most studies just look at falls indoors, this report looked at falls that occur both inside and outside of your home.

Here’s a brief summary of the study’s findings:

  • Risk factors for indoor falls included being female, older age, inactive lifestyle, disability, having lower cognitive function, taking more medications, and overall poorer health.
  • Risk factors for outdoor falls included being male, being younger and more physically active, having more education, and having average or better-than-average health.
  • Among all the falls that were recorded, 9.5% resulted in serious injury, including 10.2% of indoor falls and 9% of outdoor falls.
  • The majority of outdoor falls occurred on hard concrete surfaces, including sidewalks, streets, curbs, outdoors stairs, and parking lots.
  • Fourteen percent of outdoor falls occurred in yards or gardens.

From this list, it’s clear that we’re all at some risk of falling: you’re either male or female, younger or older, active or inactive, healthy or not. The key is to make sure that when you fall, you can get help as quickly as possible.

LifeStation’s medical alert system works inside and around your house. As soon as you press the LifeStation button, our monitoring center is notified. If we are unable to communicate with you, we’ll immediately put your personalized emergency plan into action.

To ensure that help is available if you fall, always wear your help button when you’re at home. Also consider installing inexpensive bathroom and hallway buttons around your home.