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Validation Therapy for Dementia: Calming or Condescending?

People with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia often come to live in an altered reality that doesn’t mesh with ours. Their hallucinations and delusions may not make any sense to us, but their perceptions are as real to them as ours are. Dealing with this stark contrast can be difficult, but validation is often the kindest, most respectful way to handle the beliefs and perceptions that a loved one’s brain creates.

Sadly, this is a tough concept for many adult children and spouses of people with dementia to absorb. Most people’s initial reactions to an off-the-wall remark are to refute or correct it. Years ago, this kind of “reorientation” was widely accepted, but the downfall is that it only works on individuals who are capable of rational thinking. Dementia patients lose this ability as the disease progresses and can become agitated or upset when their concept of reality is challenged. Thanks to the work of one woman, jarring reality orientation techniques gave way to the gentler practice of validation in dementia care.

A Dementia Care Pioneer

Naomi Feil MSW, ACSW, was born in Munich in 1932. She grew up in the Montefiore Home for the Aged in Cleveland, Ohio, where her father was the administrator and her mother was the head of the social service department.

Feil earned her master’s degree in social work from Columbia University in New York and then began her own career with the elderly. Between 1963 and 1980, Feil grew increasingly dissatisfied with the traditional methods used to work with severely disoriented elders, so she developed a new technique aimed at acknowledging and accepting their irrational perceptions of reality.

Her first book, “Validation: The Feil Method,” was published in 1982. Although validation was slow to catch on with medical practitioners, by the mid-nineties Feil’s method began to gain popularity. Since then, her technique has gradually become accepted by most geriatricians, geriatric psychiatrists, social workers, nurses and other health care providers as a crucial tool in dementia care.

My Experience with Validation Therapy

I personally witnessed this transition of medical thought as I struggled to care for my father after he was suddenly thrown into dementia due to a botched brain surgery.

My family was completely caught off-guard by this new development and we initially just tried to muddle through. I quickly found that the only way to help Dad relax and retain any sense of self-esteem was to agree with him no matter how deluded his thinking was.

 I agreed with the “fact” that he’d earned his medical degree, even though a reality check would show that WWII had interrupted his studies and prevented him from realizing this dream. I even went so far as to create a faux medical diploma to hang on his wall at the nursing home, which helped for a while.

Then he became convinced that he had received an invitation from Lawrence Welk to be a guest conductor on the TV show, which of course was airing as reruns on PBS since Welk was long deceased.

I bought Dad a conductor’s wand and numerous big band CDs to play in a stereo. He was thrilled. Dad watched the Welk reruns, merrily directing the band whenever he felt up to it. I made him a certificate of thanks from Welk for Dad’s “services” and hung that on his wall as well.

And on it went.

I knew nothing of the validation theory during these early years, but I did know my dad. I could not put this intelligent, well-read man through the horror of correcting his thinking daily when he was no longer able to comprehend why he was wrong. I knew that I needed to get into his world, which was instinctive to me, perhaps because I’m a rather whimsical person by nature.

Years later, I learned that there is a word for my approach to Dad’s altered realities: validation. This technique is now accepted as a practical way of working with people who have dementia. It helps reduce stress, improve communication, reinforce self-esteem and infuse dignity into dementia care. It increases patients’ happiness because they aren’t continually being told that they are wrong and confused by truths that they cannot understand.

The idea of validation stems from an empathetic attitude toward our loved ones and a holistic view of them as individuals. We learn to effectively validate their thoughts and experiences by making ourselves see the world through their eyes.

Isn’t “Lying” to Our Elders Demeaning?

Understandably, my mother had difficultly validating Dad’s altered beliefs about himself and the world. This was the man to whom she’d been married for over half a century. She felt that she was being disrespectful when she placated him by agreeing with his delusions.

I understood why Mom had trouble joining Dad in his world, but I also witnessed the agitation and emotional pain he went through as Mom valiantly tried to make him rejoin reality when he simply couldn’t. She eventually gave up and tried to “play along,” but she was never very convincing. I can’t fault her for that.

Validation Lends Dignity and Respect

Some of us have been told by our parents to never treat them like children when they get old. No one believes more than I do that treating an elder like a child is unacceptable. There is, however, a big difference between raising and educating a child and validating an elder who has dementia.

Children with normal developmental abilities are able to learn and grow intellectually and emotionally. As they gain experience, they gradually understand more and more about people and the world around them. Therefore, gently correcting a child is our job as parents who strive to help them develop and become well-adjusted.

The reverse is true of someone who has dementia. These individuals gradually lose their ability to understand the world as others see it and interact with it appropriately. The disease changes how the brain works and processes information, creating warped perceptions that they cannot differentiate from “true” reality. This is just one way that caring for our elders is different from caring for children.

If we, as dementia caregivers, continually “correct” their thinking, we are chipping away at any self-esteem they have managed to retain throughout the course of this disease. A caregiver’s commitment to honesty and accuracy often comes from a good place, but it can be demeaning, even cruel, for a patient to endure.

Validation is not about treating someone as a child. It’s about respecting the person with dementia and how they see the world. It’s about overcoming our own bias. It’s about adding some dignity to the last years of our elders’ lives by accepting that maybe there is more than one way to look at things.

Yes, there are times when validation doesn’t work, so we lean on redirection and distraction instead.

“No, Dad, you can’t drive right now because I misplaced the keys. Let’s go see if there’s some music on TV.”

“No, Mom, there isn’t a war happening here in town. That is going on far away from us and we’re safe. Let’s change this news channel to Discovery and see what’s on.”

“I’m sorry you’re seeing bugs crawling on your bedroom walls. That must be very upsetting. I’ll call the exterminator and we can go have a cup of tea in the living room while we wait for them to show up.”

Dementia presents countless challenges that call for stellar patience and every tool at our disposal. It may seem backwards at first, but validating your loved one, rather than correcting them, is life-enhancing for both of you. It’s an expression of kindness and respect that will help them feel heard and prevent you from starting unnecessary arguments you will never win.

Source: AgingCare

Baby Boomers Are at High Risk for Hepatitis C

Baby Boomers Are at High Risk for Hepatitis COver the past several years, there has been a lot of interest in hepatitis C (HCV)—television commercials about new HCV drugs, increased media coverage on drug prices and even discussion among presidential candidates.For a disease called the “silent epidemic,” that’s a fair share of attention.

In a lot of ways, though, it remains silent: Most people, especially baby boomers, who are at risk of having hepatitis C, don’t know it and don’t get tested for it. Most people who have HCV don’t know it because it usually doesn’t have noticeable symptoms for years. Many people don’t want to know about it because of stigma or fear.

Caregivers and professionals play an important role in educating baby boomers about hepatitis C and their risk of having the virus. Everyone can do a better job of ensuring baby boomers are educated on and tested for HCV.

What Is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a disease of the liver caused by a virus primarily transmitted by contact with infected blood. It’s relatively common—3.5 to 5 million people in the United States live with it. There is no vaccine for HCV, but it can be treated and cured. The trick is finding out you have it. Hepatitis C is not routinely tested for and there are often no symptoms for decades (hence the “silent” in silent epidemic).

When there are symptoms, initially they are often mild—fatigue, joint aches or mood changes—and mirror other conditions, so people often ignore or work through them. If hepatitis C is left untreated, it may lead to scarring of the liver, a condition called cirrhosis. Cirrhosis can lead to liver cancer, liver failure and death. These outcomes can be avoided when hepatitis C is detected early and treated.

Testing for Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. If that test is negative, and there are no ongoing risks for infection, then no further testing is needed. If the first test is positive, then a second confirmatory test is needed. People often assume their medical provider will order an HCV test as part of routine blood work, but it must be specifically ordered.

Individuals born between 1945 and 1965 account for 75 percent of those living with HCV. The reasons for this are many and varied, but many people were exposed by medical procedures, long-term hemodialysis or blood transfusions prior to July 1992, before we even knew HCV existed and developed the knowledge to prevent it.

See a complete list of who should be tested here.

Why Baby Boomers Should Be Tested

Many baby boomers think they don’t need to be tested for HCV because they don’t have any symptoms of the disease or believe they aren’t at risk. Because HCV is usually asymptomatic, and because baby boomers often don’t have a clear identifiable risk for HCV, yet make up the vast majority of people living with it, it is recommended that all baby boomers get tested for HCV once in their life. While this should happen automatically and with no questions asked, it is still a relatively new recommendation and many medical providers aren’t testing baby boomers for HCV. Anyone born between 1945 and 1965 should ask his or her medical provider if he or she has been tested, and if the answer is no, a test should be ordered. The same goes for the aging adults you work with. Let them know about hepatitis C and tell them they should get tested.

Treating and Curing Hepatitis C

Anyone who tests positive for HCV can begin treatment immediately. Treatments typically include taking pills for 8 to 12 weeks (Some people may need as long as 24 weeks) with mild and manageable side effects. With treatment, 95 percent to 99 percent of people end up cured. Once cured, most people report improved liver health and a reversal of liver disease.

Hepatitis C can feel scary, but it doesn’t have to be. All baby boomers, including baby boomers working in aging services, and their clients, should be tested. The message is simple: baby boomers are at risk—get tested, get cured.

Source: ASA – American Society on Aging

Maple Syrup Fights Alzheimer’s

Maple syrup isn’t just delicious, it also could cure Alzheimer’s disease

It’s a sweet new health discovery: Maple syrup could cure Alzheimer’s disease.Maple Syrup Alzheimer's

The delicious pancake topping may soon find its way into granny’s pill bottle because it stops brain cell damage that causes the disease, scientists revealed Monday.

The tasty treat may prevent the clumping and “misfolding” of brain cell proteins — which build up and cause plaques that trigger the devastating disease, researchers at the American Chemical Society said.

An extract of the sticky stuff stopped the dangerous “folding” in two types of brain proteins, researchers from the Krembil Research Institute of the University of Toronto said.

“Natural food products such as green tea, red wine, berries, curcumin and pomegranates continue to be studied for their potential benefits in combating Alzheimer’s disease,” said symposium director Dr. Navindra Seeram.

“And now, in preliminary laboratory-based Alzheimer’s disease studies, phenolic-enriched extracts of maple syrup from Canada showed neuroprotective effects, similar to resveratrol, a compound found in red wine,” she said.

Researchers plan to study whether a maple syrup extract can be effective as a cure for degenerative brain disease.

The syrup protects two brain proteins — beta amyloid and tau peptide, researchers said.

Researchers from the American Chemical Society discussed the discovery at an annual symposium, which is being held March 13-17 in San Diego.

Dr. Donald Weaver of the Krembil Research Institute revealed the discovery.

 

Source: New York Post, March 17, 2016

How Giving Thanks Can Improve Your Health

As we enter the season of thanksgiving (including The Day itself), we are told repeatedly to count our blessings and practice gratitude. Many of us stop to consider all we have to be thankful for only for a moment on the fourth Thursday of November. But does the act of giving thanks provide benefits beyond a momentary acknowledgement of the good in our lives? Can a daily practice of gratitude actually improve our health?

Many experts think so. One of the main scientists exploring the phenomenon of giving thanks is Robert Emmons, who has studied the topic extensively. His book, Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, chronicles the studies he’s done that have convinced him that gratitude “is literally one of the few things that can measurably change people’s lives.”

Emmons is far from alone in his enthusiasm for gratitude. Dr. Lawrence Rosen, an integrative pediatrician and founder of the Whole Child Center, is also an advocate. According to Rosen, there are at least five benefits of gratitude that have scientific studies to back them up.

  • Gratitude reduces depression.
  • Gratitude engenders a feeling of peace.
  • Gratitude aids in restful sleep.
  • Gratitude improves heart health.
  • Gratitude strengthens memory.

So, how does one practice the art of gratitude?

One of the practices that Mr. Emmons extols is the gratitude journal. Oprah Winfrey has been talking about her personal experiences with a gratitude journal for years. The goal here is to set aside some time every day and write down several things you’re grateful for. According to Emmons, the act of writing “allows you to see the meaning of events going on around you and create meaning in your own life.”

Here are some other tips to keep you on the road of practicing gratitude:

Create visual cues

The toils of daily life can make us quickly forget all we have to be grateful for. So, remind yourself every day with visual reminders. This could be a photograph, a physical token of a feel-good moment (such as a souvenir from a wonderful vacation), or even just a Post-It note listing something for which you’re grateful.

Get support

Surround yourself with people who practice gratitude on a daily basis. Hearing someone share what they’re thankful for (especially if they’re facing a challenge) will remind you of all the blessings in your own life.

Give freely of yourself

Be conscious of the “emotional wake” you leave in the word. Smile at strangers and notice their reaction. Being conscious of how your actions affect others will naturally lead to others being grateful for you, which is the one of the greatest gifts of all.

Gratitude is like any other discipline – it takes practice! It starts with being awake and aware of the world around you and the beauty that is available for all us to share.

 

Senior Volunteers Give from the Heart Wordfind

Serving as a volunteer is a way more and more older adults are giving back to their community and their nation. And volunteering offers many health benefits!

Give your brain a workout with this month’s puzzle, which contains 20 words all having to do with locating volunteer opportunities that are a great fit for your skills and interests. Click here to download and print the puzzle.

Need a little help? Click here for the solution to the puzzle.

Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2015

Grandchild-Proof Your Home

Grandchildren are a great bonus of growing older. You may have heard the old joke: “If I knew grandchildren were going to be this fun, I would have had them first.” Grandparents and grandchildren alike benefit by this special connection. For example, a study presented last month by the American Sociological Association showed that grandparents and grandchildren who have a close relationship lower the risk of depression for both of them.

Today’s grandparents are serving an ever more important role in the lives of their grandchildren. According to a recent MetLife study, there are more grandparents than ever in the U.S.—and despite the stereotype of Granny sitting on the porch in her rocking chair, today’s grandparents are more actively involved than ever with their grandkids.

Maybe your grandchildren live nearby, and you often fill in as a babysitter. Perhaps they live at a distance, and visits are an eagerly awaited special event. You might even be one of the growing number of seniors who are raising their grandchildren when the children’s parents cannot. No matter what your situation, when grandchildren are in your home, you want them to be safe…and you want to be able to enjoy their visits without worry.

Your concern is justified. According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, each year 2.5 million children are seriously injured—some fatally—by hazards in the home. Most of these accidents were preventable! Read on for a quick refresher course in childproofing your home, including some information that may be new to you if it’s been a while since you scrutinized your home for things curious little hands could get into.

A few things to remember:

Child safety precautions may seem more stringent. Health and safety experts continue to refine ideas about keeping children safe. For example, toy safety regulations are much more strict than they used to be, and many experts and young parents are more cautious about the materials from which toys are manufactured. Read labels to be sure toys are safe for the age of the child. And if you’ve saved treasured playthings from when your children were young, or picked up fun-looking items at a garage sale, inspect them carefully to be sure they contain no small parts that could cause choking (smaller than two inches in diameter), sharp edges, or materials that could break into pieces. Some heirloom toys are best kept on display—out of reach.

Outdated safety equipment may be UNsafe. Child safety devices have come a long way. For example, the evolution of the child car seat alone would make quite a story! Remember the pre-seatbelt days when kids crawled all over the back seat during family trips? And those unanchored car seats with a toy steering wheel? Since then, child car seats have been continually improved, so that even a decade-old car seat is probably not consdiered state-of-the art. The same goes for home safety equipment. For example, the common flat plastic outlet protector could fit in a small child’s mouth—a choking hazard. A child’s neck could get caught in the old scissor-style safety gate. Hand-me-down or garage sale equipment may not provide an acceptable degree of protection.

Our homes have changed over the past few decades. The homes of today are likely to have exercise equipment, hot tubs, home offices with computers, and other relatively recent features requiring a new set of precautions. Computers, for example, are often placed on the floor within reach, and monitors and laptops can be pulled down by the cord.

Some grandparents recommend having a designated “kid friendly” section of the house, keeping more dangerous areas locked off (for example, the home gym and garage). Be creative! If the living room has the fewest hazards, make it the playroom while you have visiting little ones.

Be open to suggestions! Don’t get your feelings hurt if your kids correct you. They’re Mom and Dad now, and they’ve probably done plenty of homework about childproofing. Be proud of them.

For More Information

The American Academy of Pediatrics’ consumer site, Healthy Children  http://www.healthychildren.org/English/Pages/default.aspx, features home safety tips http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/Pages/default.aspx, including “A Message for Grandparents: Keeping Your Grandchild Safe in Your Home” http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/pages/A-Message-for-Grandparents-Keeping-Your-Grandchild-Safe-in-Your-Home.aspx.

Copyright © AgeWise, 2013

 

Safety First When Turning Up the Heat

As temperatures drop, more people will turn on heaters to stay warm. The nation’s emergency physicians warn about the potential risks involved with heating your homes and bodies.

“Every year, tragically, people are burned, start fires, get an electric shock and even die from carbon monoxide poisoning, because they weren’t taking proper precautions,” said Dr. Alex Rosenau, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). “I don’t want anyone in my emergency department suffering from an injury that could have been easily prevented.”

Each year more than 2,500 people died in house fires in the United States, according to FEMA and another 12,600 are injured.

Another big concern each fall and winter is carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and even death. People can be poisoned by breathing it.

The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. High levels can cause loss of consciousness. Every home should have a carbon monoxide detector, and if you have any of these symptoms, you should seek emergency care.

ACEP recommends the following:

  • Check all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Make certain they are working properly. If they are battery operated, change the batteries. There should be one of each detector on every floor of your house.
  • Have a professional inspect your gas furnace at least once a year. One with leaks or cracks can be dangerous for your home, leaking carbon monoxide or possibly causing a fire.
  • If you use a fireplace, have a professional inspect and clean it every year to avoid fires. Also make sure any flammable materials are away from the open flame area. Never burn trash, cardboard boxes or items that may contain chemicals that can poison your home.
  • If you use a wood burning stove, have a professional inspect and clean the chimney each year. Make sure you have a safe perimeter around it, because it can radiate excessive heat. Place on a flame-resistant carpet, and use a screen to prevent sparks and hot coals from coming out of the stove. Use safe woods, such as oak, hickory and ash — avoid pine and cedar.
  • Never use a range (electric or gas) or oven as a heating source. It’s not only a dangerous fire hazard; it can also release dangerous fumes, such as carbon monoxide.
  • If you use an electric space heater, keep a safe perimeter around it. Make sure it is away from water or anything flammable like curtains, paper, blankets, or furniture.

Check for any faulty wiring that can cause electric shock or fire. Supervise children and pets around space heaters, and turn them off before leaving the room or going to sleep.

For more on this and other health related topics, go to www.emergencycareforyou.org.

Source: The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Visit the ACEP website for more information (www.acep.org)

 

Blindness Due to Age-Related Macular Degeneration Should Not be Considered an Inevitability

The American Academy of Ophthalmology advises that early detection and today’s treatments for common eye disease among seniors can help stop vision loss.

While age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in Americans age 65 and older, seniors who develop AMD should not consider blindness in advanced age to be inevitable, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. The Academy is advising the public that regular eye exams, along with today’s treatments for AMD—if provided early enough—can help seniors avoid unnecessary AMD-related vision loss.

AMD, which affects an estimated 11 million Americans, is the deterioration of the eye’s macula—the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye that is responsible for central vision, the ability to see fine details clearly. AMD has two forms—wet and dry. While dry AMD leads to a gradual loss of vision, wet AMD leads to faster vision loss and is the most advanced form of the disease. Wet AMD is responsible for 80 to 90 percent of all AMD-related blindness. As AMD is not commonly detected in patients until they begin to suffer vision loss, it is critical for seniors to understand the importance of routine eye exams. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that by age 65, seniors should get eye exams every one to two years, or as recommended by their ophthalmologist.

Years after Joan Nick, an 86-year-old retiree from Carmel, Calif., lost vision in her right eye in her 60s due to glaucoma, she was diagnosed with dry AMD in her left eye. Her ophthalmologist at the time advised her not to worry since the disease typically progresses slowly. But, during a routine eye exam, Nick was shocked to find she could not read an eye chart. Although she hadn’t noticed any changes in her vision, her AMD had progressed from dry to wet. Nick immediately visited a retina specialist who began treatment that restored the vision lost to AMD.

“I am so thankful that this treatment has given me a second chance to enjoy the activities I love, such as reading and cooking,” says Nick.

Rahul N. Khurana, M.D., Nick’s ophthalmologist specializing in retina-related conditions and a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, encourages seniors to learn from Nick’s example of taking action to fight the progression of AMD. “Many older people develop AMD and other age-related eye diseases as part of the body’s natural aging process, but seniors should not suffer in silence about their sight loss because they feel it’s inevitable,” said Dr. Khurana. “There is so much that we ophthalmologists can do these days to help seniors prevent, slow and treat AMD. It’s important for seniors to know that people with AMD today have a much better chance of saving their vision than they did 10 years ago.”

For individuals who have been diagnosed with dry AMD, nutrient supplements have been proven beneficial in lowering the risk of developing wet AMD. For those who have the wet form of AMD, treatments are available and include anti-VEGF injections that are administered directly into the eye, thermal laser therapy, or photodynamic therapy which involves a light-activated injected drug in combination with a low-power laser.

Seniors who are worried about AMD or other eye conditions, and have not had a recent eye exam or for whom cost is a concern, may qualify for EyeCare America, a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology that offers eye exams and care at no out-of-pocket cost for eligible seniors age 65 and older. Visit www.eyecareamerica.org to see if you are eligible.

More information about AMD

Symptoms of dry AMD include:

  • Blurry or hazy vision, especially in your central vision
  • Need for increasingly bright light to see up close
  • Colors appear less vivid or bright
  • Difficulty seeing when going from bright light to low light
  • Trouble or inability to recognize people’s faces

Symptoms of wet AMD include:

  • Distorted vision—straight lines will appear bent, crooked or irregular
  • Dark gray spots or blank spots in your vision
  • Size of objects may appear different for each eye
  • Colors lose their brightness or do not look the same for each eye

Learn about AMD risk factors and view an AMD vision simulator [optional link to: http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/diseases/age-related-macular-degeneration/macular-degeneration-vision-simulator.cfm] to see how this eye disease can affect vision. For more information about AMD and other eye diseases, visit www.geteyesmart.org.

Source: The American Academy of Ophthalmology, the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. For more information, visit www.aao.org. The Academy’s EyeSmart® program educates the public about the importance of eye health and empowers them to preserve healthy vision. EyeSmart provides the most trusted and medically accurate information about eye diseases, conditions and injuries. OjosSanos™ is the Spanish-language version of the program. Visit www.geteyesmart.org or www.ojossanos.org to learn more.

Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2015

“Nightcap” Before Bedtime? Not a Good Idea!

Do you have a “nightcap” to help yourself relax before bedtime? This might not be such a good idea, according to sleep researchers. Experts have long known that consuming beer, wine or spirits right before bedtime can cause us to wake up after only a few hours and then feel tired during the day. A recent study from the University of Missouri School of Medicine helps explain why.

Mahesh Thakkar, Ph.D., and his team report that alcohol is a powerful sleep inducer, and almost one in five Americans drinks alcohol to help fall asleep. But, says Prof. Thakkar, alcohol interferes with the body’s natural mechanism that regulates sleepiness and wakefulness. This mechanism, called sleep homeostasis, makes us want to sleep if we haven’t slept in a while, and wakes us up if we’ve slept too long.

The researchers found that drinking alcohol interferes with the sleep homeostatic mechanism, putting pressure on us to go to sleep right away. When this happens, the sleep period is shifted. In addition, as the alcohol wears off, we may wake up. Said study co-author Dr. Pradeep Sahota, “Based on our results, it’s clear that alcohol should not be used as a sleep aid. Alcohol disrupts sleep and the quality of sleep is diminished.” He added, “Additionally, alcohol is a diuretic, which increases your need to go the bathroom and causes you to wake up earlier in the morning.”

These findings are important for seniors, who are at higher risk of sleep problems, such as difficulty falling asleep, waking during the night and waking up too early. Poor quality sleep worsens many health conditions and can lead to depression and falls. Instead of having a drink, seniors are advised to read a book or listen to soothing music before bedtime, and to improve the sleep environment. Adding exercise during the day—but not right before sleep—also helps.

Dr. Thakkar said, “Sleep is an immense area of study. Approximately one-third of our life is spent sleeping. Coupled with statistics that show 20 percent of people drink alcohol to sleep, it’s vital that we understand how the two interact. If you are experiencing difficulty sleeping, don’t use alcohol. Talk to your doctor or a sleep medicine physician to determine what factors are keeping you from sleeping. These factors can then be addressed with individualized treatments.”

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise, reporting on a study http://www.alcoholjournal.org/article/S0741-8329(14)20115-7/abstract from the University of Missouri Health System

Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2015

How Much Do You Know About Heart Health?

The American Heart Association recently reported that the death rate from cardiovascular disease has fallen more than 30 percent over the last decade, due to better treatment for heart attack, congestive heart failure and other heart disease. But this care comes at a cost: expenditures for the care for heart disease rose to more than $315 billion during the same decade. And heart disease continues to be the number one killer in the U.S. Every 39 seconds, someone dies of cardiovascular disease.

Education is the first step to lowering the risk of heart disease. Start by taking this short quiz to see how much you know about taking care of your heart. (Answers appear below.)

True or False?

  1. The heart is a muscle.
  2. Many diseases and conditions can contribute to the risk of heart disease.
  3. A heart attack always begins with sharp chest pain.
  4. The best thing to do if you experience heart attack symptoms is to call 911 right away.
  5. Women need to worry more about breast cancer than about heart disease.
  6. Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your heart.
  7. If you have a family history of heart disease, you have exactly the same risk yourself.
  8. High blood cholesterol is one of the top risk factors for heart attack.
  9. As we grow older, it’s best to rest as much as possible.
  10. Even a person who has suffered a heart attack should exercise.
  11. It’s possible to eat a “heart smart” diet even if you dine out often.
  12. Emotional stress and anxiety can worsen a heart condition.

Answers to “Test Your Heart Health IQ”:

  1. The heart is a muscle.
    TRUE—The heart is the hardest working muscle in the body, pumping enough blood in your lifetime to fill a supertanker!
  2. Many diseases and conditions can contribute to the risk of heart disease.
    TRUE—A number of conditionsincluding hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol and diabetes increase the risk of heart disease.
  3. A heart attack always begins with sharp chest pain.
    FALSE—A heart attack can begin slowly, with subtle signals. Symptoms can include:
    •    a feeling of pressure or discomfort in the chest
    •    discomfort in the arms, neck, back, jaw or stomach
    •    shortness of breath
    •    nausea, dizziness, sweating for no reason
    •    fatigue and lack of energy
  4. The best thing to do if you experience heart attack symptoms is to call 911 right away.
    TRUE—“Better safe than sorry” is very true when it comes to heart attack. Excellent treatments are now available, and the sooner treatment begins, the better the chance of saving the patient’s life and preventing disability. If you experience chest pain, especially if associated with any other of the signs listed above, call 911 right away. Acting quickly can save your life.
  5. Women need to worry more about breast cancer than about heart disease.
    FALSE—Women are far more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than from breast cancer. It is a myth that heart disease is primarily a men’s health problem. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women—and more women than men die within one year of a heart attack.
  6. Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your heart.
    TRUE—Smoking is one of the top risk factors for heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smokers are up to four times more likely to develop heart disease. And even if you don’t smoke, exposure to secondhand smoke may raise your risk by up to 30%.
  7. If you have a family history of heart disease, you have exactly the same risk yourself.
    FALSE—Although your risk increases if a family member was diagnosed with heart disease, it’s not all in the genes! A healthy lifestyle can cut your risk. Obesity and inactivity are greater risk factors than genetic inheritance for most people. Here are the steps to take to lower the risk:
    •    If you smoke, quit.
    •    Take steps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol level.
    •    Increase physical activity.
    •    Maintain a healthy weight.
    •    If you are diabetic, follow your care plan.
  8. High blood cholesterol is one of the top risk factors for heart attack.
    TRUE—Lowering your cholesterol level through diet and lifestyle changes (and in some cases, medication) can cut your risk.
  9. As we grow older, it’s best to rest as much as possible.
    FALSE—The older you are, the more important regular physical exercise is to your well-being. Inactivity can lead to a downward spiral of decline. Ask your healthcare provider about an exercise program that’s right for you.
  10. Even a person who has suffered a heart attack should exercise.
    TRUE—For most patients, preventing another heart attack will include a cardiac rehabilitation program. Be sure you discuss your workout regimen with your healthcare provider and follow his or her instructions.
  11. It’s possible to eat a “heart smart” diet even if you dine out often.
    TRUE—Most menus feature at least a few low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-sodium items. Avoid fried foods, instead selecting baked or broiled. (If you aren’t sure how a dish is prepared, ask your server.) Skip dessert, and order your salad with low-fat dressing served on the side.
  12. Emotional stress and anxiety can worsen a heart condition.
    TRUE—Stressful emotions can raise your blood pressure, causing your heart to work harder. Lifestyle changes and relaxation techniques help lessen the effects of stress.

This article is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Speak to your healthcare provider if you have questions about heart health or heart disease.

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise, 2015