Exercise For a Healthier Heart: It’s Never Too Late

February is American Heart Month—a great time to consider whether we’re doing all we can to support cardiovascular wellness.

Most people today are aware of the heart health benefits of physical activity. Walk by a gym window or any urban trail, and you’ll note that young people today are likely to make regular exercise part of their daily routine. But what about their parents and grandparents? If you’ve pretty much been a couch potato for most of your life, and you’ve just celebrated your 65th birthday … or 75th, or 85th, or beyond … is it too late for exercise to benefit your heart?

Hearth Health and ExerciseHere’s some good news! A study headed by Dr. Chiadi Ndumele, a cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, revealed that it’s never too late to reap the heart health benefits of exercise.

Said Dr. Ndumele, “Our findings suggest that when it comes to exercise and heart failure, the better-late-than-never axiom rings particularly true.”

Dr. Ndumele and his team studied the heart health and exercise routines of thousands of people. They found that those who followed a lifelong fitness program were the best off—33 percent less likely to develop heart failure than people who never exercised. But the team also found that people who took up the exercise habit later in life could also lower their risk. Said another Johns Hopkins cardiologist, Dr. Roberta Florido, “Our findings demonstrate that every little bit of movement matters, and that picking up exercise later in life is decidedly better than not moving at all.”

So, where should you begin in turning over this new leaf? Especially if you are an older adult, and if you are a person of any age who is living with a heart condition or other serious illness, it’s very important to talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program. The doctor will provide an exercise “prescription,” which will most likely include:

Aerobic activity: which increases heart rate and breathing, bringing more oxygen to the body (for example: walking, dancing).

Muscle strengthening and flexibility exercises: that keeps muscles and ligaments strong (for example: stretching, lifting weights).

Balance training: to prevent falls and enhance confidence in exercising (for example: balance classes, tai chi).

Protecting your heart is only one way exercise will benefit you. Exercise helps reduce the risk and manage a wide range of health conditions—a short list includes diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, lung disease and depression, and certain cancers.

And perhaps of greatest interest to those of us who are growing older, exercise has been found to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and related memory loss, even among people who have been diagnosed with dementia or are at higher genetic risk.

Anxiety Disorders: Seeking Help for Yourself or a Loved One

Could My Loved One Have an Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety affecting older womanCertainly, there are things to fret about as we grow older. We may face health challenges. We may have financial concerns. We may fear falling. We may worry about family members or the state of the world. It is part of human nature to be anxious sometimes.

But it’s a myth that anxiety increases with age. In research published by Liberty Mutual Insurance, psychologists noted, “Unlike the stereotypical depictions of older adults fretting, worry actually significantly diminishes as we age. Studies consistently find that older adults worry less than younger ones … in fact, older adults taking a retrospective look on their life frequently say their biggest regret is that they spent so much time worrying.”

Nonetheless, for some seniors, anxiety can be debilitating—certainly more than some of the things they are worrying about. If a senior is experiencing uncontrollable worries, they may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.

Experts estimate that perhaps one in ten seniors experiences enough anxiety to harm their quality of life and their health. Anxiety can cause nausea, dizziness and sleep problems. People with anxiety report higher levels of pain. Anxiety raises the risk of a host of physical health problems. And University of Southern California researchers recently showed that people with chronic anxiety have a 48 percent higher risk of dementia!

If a senior loved one is showing signs of excess anxiety, seek an evaluation from a doctor who is familiar with senior mental health issues. Diagnosis is the first step. Seniors may experience several types of anxiety disorders:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder, the most common type among older adults, in which a senior seems to fret all the time with no particular reason to do so
  • Panic disorders, which cause sudden, intense attacks of fear, with a seemingly minor trigger or no discernable cause
  • Social anxiety disorder, in which a person is afraid of being embarrassed or judged by others, often avoiding the company of others
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is a delayed reaction to a traumatic event in the past

Anxiety can be treated. For seniors, treatment might include:

Diagnosing and managing underlying health conditions

Certain conditions can make us feel more anxious—in fact, anxiety might be the first symptom of heart trouble, diabetes or digestive problems. Some medications also can cause anxiety, so a medication review should be an early step.

Cognitive/behavioral therapy

“Talk therapy” from a trained professional helps patients understand what’s causing their anxiety, and learn skills to help cope with their fears. Often, treatment focuses on learning to cope with uncertainty in life. Mindfulness practices, such as yoga or tai chi, may help calm our worried thoughts. The Liberty Mutual experts suggest strategies such as writing down your fears, “scheduling” time for worrying, and making lists of practical plans to address our concerns.

Exercise

Experts say that inactivity can markedly increase feelings of anxiety. Get off the couch and into an exercise class. Look for ways to add a bit of movement to your life throughout the day. For senior patients with the not-uncommon fear of falling, a fall protection class can provide confidence.

Increased socialization

We are a very social species, and loneliness raises our anxiety level. It helps to know we’re not alone. Group therapy and support groups are a great way to connect with others who are dealing with the same feelings. Volunteering is another way to take our minds off our own concerns and enhance our sense of purpose in the world.

Medications

Geriatricians caution that while medication should not be the automatic first treatment option for a senior with anxiety, and that some drugs are inappropriate for older patients, several types of medications can be helpful. It’s important to take these medications correctly and to report side effects such as confusion, dizziness or drowsiness.

A combination of these treatments often yields the best results. Finding the best regimen may take some time and patience, but it’s well worth it to return a senior’s sense of peace and joy of living.

The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living is comprised of Stein Assisted Living, Jaffa Gate Memory Care Neighborhood, Stein Hospice, Wilentz Senior Residence, Wilf Transport, and The Foundation at the Wilf Campus. For more information, contact us at (732) 568-1155info@wilfcampus.org or visit us at www.wilfcampus.org.

Foot and Ankle Safety Tips, Doctor Approved

Foot and Ankle Surgeons Offer Winter Weather Safety Tips

Brrrr! Much of the country has seen frigid and treacherous weather during the first weeks of 2018. It’s so important for seniors to take precautions to avoid cold-related illness and injury. Maybe you put on a warm coat and a hat—but what about your feet? Older adults are at higher risk of falling, and are more prone to certain health condition that make their feet more vulnerable.

Winter foot and ankle safetyThe American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) reminds seniors and everyone to protect themselves—right down to their tippy toes. They shared this information:

Many injuries in the lower extremities occur due to cold weather-related incidents, from ankle sprains to frostbite to broken toes. However, by taking proper preventive measures, people can decrease their chance of incurring a foot or ankle problem during the colder months. “During the winter months, patients should take extra precaution to keep their feet warm and dry when navigating frigid temps, especially patients who have existing health conditions,” said Massachusetts-based foot and ankle surgeon and ACFAS Fellow Member Greg Catalano, DPM, FACFAS.

Injury prevention is especially important for those who have poor circulation, nerve damage caused by neuropathy, or Raynaud’s phenomenon, which is an extreme sensitivity to coldness.

ACFAS recently offered three critical and easy-to-follow tips that can mean all the difference between comfort and pain in your feet during the winter.

1. Wear the right shoes

Said Dr. Catalano,Whether caused by wearing high heels on icy surfaces or just by sheer accident, falls are one of the most common causes of weather-related injuries. Wintertime falls often result in an ankle sprain, or worse, a broken bone in the foot, ankle, heel or toe. I encourage patients to wear low-heeled shoes or boots with a traction sole to help prevent slipping.”

Equally important, wearing warm shoes or boots can protect a person’s feet in frigid temps. Says Dr. Catalano, “Wearing water-resistant, insulated footwear serves as a barrier between the feet and outside elements; this is particularly important for patients with neuropathy or Raynaud’s phenomenon. Both conditions block normal blood flow in the feet and place a person at a greater risk of developing additional problems. In some cases, people can incur chilblains, which are itchy, tender, red patches that emerge in response to cold air, or in extreme cases, frostbite.”

Remember, the thicker the insulation, the greater the protection is between a person’s feet and the adverse effects caused by cold weather.

2. Keep your feet dry

Damp feet can cause cold feet and can be just as harmful. Wearing moisture-wicking socks helps prevent internal wetness caused by sweat, while water-resistant footwear will ward off external weather elements that can cause dampness. “I encourage my patients to wear appropriate socks as a standard practice during the winter months to guard their feet in both foreseen and unexpected inclement weather conditions,” said Dr. Catalano.

For some, inserting foot warmers in their shoes serves as an extra layer of protection. But before doing so, it is best to consult with a foot and ankle surgeon. If worn incorrectly, foot warmers can burn the skin and cause severe harm for those with nerve damage.

3. Get the right help

With all that can happen to the feet and ankles during the winter months, it is best to know what to do when faced with a condition or injury brought on by cold weather. Said Dr. Catalano, “In the case of a suspected fracture or sprain caused by a fall, see a foot and ankle surgeon or visit the emergency room as soon as possible for prompt diagnosis and treatment. If medical care is unavailable, for temporary relief of symptoms, try the RICE principle: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.” He cautioned, “But remember, delaying treatment can result in long-term complications.”

If feet are exposed to cold and dampness for a prolonged period, soak them in warm water, avoiding hot water or direct heat. Soaking them in warm water will allow the feet to regain their normal temperature gradually.

For more information on keeping your feet and ankles safe in the winter or to find a foot and ankle surgeon in your area, visit ACFAS’ patient education website at foothealthfacts.org.

Source: The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, adapted by IlluminAge AgeWise.

Always Going Above & Beyond at Stein Assisted Living

Recently, I had two extraordinary experiences with the wonderful staff at Wilf Campus and Stein Assisted Living.

The first experience was challenging. My Mom and Aunt, who both live at Stein, lost their older brother to a sudden illness. He seemed in better physical and mental health than both of them, and although he was 95, he was not really “expected” to predecease them.

Our family had kept my Mom and Aunt apprised of the sudden downturn in their brother’s health, but when he passed away it was still a shock to them.  The family determined that neither my Mom nor my Aunt was able to travel to Florida for the funeral, and so we went without them.

While we were away, the staff checked on my Mom often, texting me that she and my Aunt were okay.  The Rabbi sat with both of them and asked about their memories, did special prayers with them, and really reached them in an extraordinary way.  Even though I work on the Wilf Campus, I was impressed by the effort that was taken to help my Mom and Aunt get through a difficult moment in their lives.

On a happier note, my Mom’s 93 Birthday was this week.  The home health aides knew we were taking her out and got her all “dolled up.” They really made an extra effort to make her feel beautiful and very special.

I want to thank all of you for your hard work and for all that you do.

Toby Ehrlich

Chanukah Lights Up the Season

“May the lights of Chanukah usher in a better world for all humankind.”
~ author unknown

Chanukah celebrationIf it feels like life is sometimes spinning like a dreidel, Chanukah helps us to slow down – to reconnect with family and loved ones, and to celebrate with some traditional holiday foods. This year Chanukah begins on Tuesday night, December 12, and we light candles for eight nights to remember the story of the Maccabees and the miracle of the oil that burned longer and brighter in the ancient Temple, outlasting every expectation.

As winter sets in and the days grow shorter, along comes Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, to lift us out of the darkness. With some tasty latkes, sweet doughnuts and chocolate coins, Chanukah is a cause for celebration, no matter what your age. Digging out the old family recipes brings us a sense of tradition and closeness.

The Deeper Meaning of Chanukah

The Chanukah story is one of perseverance. As we say the blessings each night, we remember that the world may be dark but we can brighten it up with the radiant light of colorful candles. Even if the season conspires to bring us down with grey skies and gloomy weather, the menorah in the window lets us share the candles’ glow with family, friends and neighbors.

The message of Chanukah is that a little bit can go a long way. Good deeds and positive actions can lead to a better and more peaceful world. So at this season, try to appreciate the many miracles in your life, both large and small, and have faith in the belief that light drives out darkness. Indulge in some holiday treats, maybe even a few gifts, and find comfort and joy in the timely and reassuring message of Chanukah.

The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living is comprised of Stein Assisted Living, Jaffa Gate Memory Care Neighborhood, Stein Hospice, Wilentz Senior Residence, Wilf Transport, and The Foundation at the Wilf Campus. For more information, contact us at (732) 568-1155, info@wilfcampus.org or visit us at www.wilfcampus.org.