Thursday, September 27, 2012

Medicare Changes in 2013

This week, millions of people will receive notice that Medicare's annual open
enrollment period is approaching. That means it's time to review their current coverage and
decide if they would benefit from switching plans for 2013.

During the Medicare annual enrollment period -- Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 -- all Medicare
beneficiaries may change their Medicare coverage for the coming year. This includes
anyone using traditional Medicare, Medicare Advantage and prescription drug coverage.

Medicare Advantage participants should review 2013 plan changes as soon as they receive information from their providers. Changes could include costs such as premiums, deductibles and co-pays, as well as changes to covered procedures, tests and other provisions. Some plans may be eliminated, requiring enrollees to choose a new plan for 2013 or default to traditional Medicare Part B. Enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans continues to increase, with 10 percent more Medicare beneficiaries choosing these plans for 2012 compared to 2011.

Medicare beneficiaries should receive their Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) and Evidence of Coverage (EOC) from their existing Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plan providers by Sept. 30.  Take time to review the information you receive and look at all of your Medicare options; you may find more affordable coverage through a different combination of plans -- whether Medicare Advantage or traditional Medicare with Part D and Medigap plans. Keep in mind that you may see a lot of ads for Medicare plans, but there could be a plan that's perfect for you that isn't getting a lot of attention with ads and mailers.

Locally, a free “Understanding Medicare Plan Choices for 2013” is being held on Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 10:00 am at The Dale Association, 33 Ontario Street, Lockport.  Representatives from Niagara County Office for the Aging, NYS EPIC and Medicare Advantage Representatives will be present to provide enrollment information, assistance and to answer questions. 

Information will be available about: changes to the Medicare Plans, enrollment updates, NYS EPIC, Medicare Part D, and the “extra help” subsidy program. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Centenarian's: A Celebration and Retrospective

A centenarian is a person who lives to or beyond the age of 100 years. Because current average life expectancy is less than 100, the term is associated with longevity.  The United States currently has the greatest number of known centenarians of any nation, estimated at 70,490 (as of September 2010).  This corresponds to one centenarian per 4,400 people, nationally.

In many countries, people receive a gift or congratulations on their 100th birthday. In the United States, centenarians traditionally receive a letter from the President congratulating them for their longevity.  Niagara County has identified approximately 50 centenarians who will be invited to one of several celebrations that will be taking place around the county during October and November 2012.

According to Glenda Reardon, Registered Dietician and Nutrition Coordinator for Niagara County Office for the Aging, “The public is welcome to help celebrate the 100 plus year olds in Niagara County.  The Niagara County Office for the Aging supports the nutrition needs of older adults and it is always amazing to me to see how good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, and supportive family and community contribute to the successful aging of older adults.”  She goes on to say, “We have 50 people that have been identified in Niagara County that will celebrate reaching the 100 year milestone.  If any other Niagara County residents have reached age 100 or more and did not receive an invitation, I hope they will contact me so we can include them in the celebration.”

Several lunchtime events have been scheduled at various locations across the county.

October 1, 2012 –             Tuscarora Nation House
                                                 5226 Walmore Rd.
                                                Lewiston, NY

October 2, 2012 -              Lewiston Senior Center
                                                4261 Lower River Rd.
                                                Youngstown, NY

October 3, 2012 -              The Dale Association
                                                33 Ontario St.
                                                Lockport, NY  14094

November 1, 2012 -        North Tonawanda Senior Center
                                                110 Goundry St.
                                                North Tonawanda, NY 

November 8, 2012 -        John Dukes Senior Center
                                                1201 Hyde Park Blvd.
                                                Niagara Falls, NY 

At each site, a special program and presentation of a proclamation will take place from 11:30am – noon.  Lunch will be served at 12:00.  Various representatives will be on hand to commemorate the individuals in attendance.  Transportation is available, if needed.  Advance reservations are needed and can be made by calling Glenda Reardon, Niagara County Office for the Aging Registered Dietician and Nutrition Coordinator at 438-4030.

Many things have happened in the last 100 years that have helped shape the lives of generations since then.  100 years ago:

*People lived a much shorter life; average life expectancy in US was approximately 51 years.

*The car began to change the way people live.  Ford’s Model T was being mass produced.

*The first electric self starter for automobiles was introduced; it was no longer necessary to crank start the car.

*Women were not yet allowed to vote.

*The radio started becoming a major communication tool.  The Titanic would be the first ship to send a radio SOS before it sank in April 1912.

*Purer food and safer drug laws began making life healthier for everybody. 

*United States Public Health Service is established.

*Zippers in clothing first appeared.

What a difference 100 years makes.  It would be interesting to know what the guests of honor and their families remember and like to reminisce about.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cocoa for brain health

A new study hints that regular consumption of cocoa might improve cognitive function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment, perhaps by improving glucose-insulin metabolism.
"Given the global rise in cognitive disorders due to the 'graying' of populations in Western countries, our findings provide encouraging evidence that consuming cocoa could represent a fascinating new tool for preserving/improving cognitive function" lead author of the study said. 

These findings are intriguing. "There is great interest in identifying nutritional factors that could potentially delay or prevent conversion of mild cognitive impairment to dementia," according to a national spokesperson for the American Society of Nutrition, who was not involved in the study.  What makes this study novel, she said, is that it is a randomized controlled trial, it employed well-known cognitive tests, and it used 3 levels of cocoa: low, medium, and high.

Based on prior studies, intake of cocoa may be associated with a decreased risk for incident dementia, a lower prevalence of cognitive impairment, and better cognitive evolution over 10 years in aging adults, the authors note.

To investigate further, 90 elderly individuals with mild cognitive impairment were recruited  into the Cocoa, Cognition and Aging study. They were randomly assigned to consume once daily for 8 weeks a drink containing 1 of 3 levels of cocoa.  Overall compliance was good — 99.6% at week 4 and 99.4% at week 8, with no between-group differences.  The team assessed cognitive function.  

These are intriguing findings that should be followed up with additional research studies to confirm these findings for cocoa.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Brain Study: Super Agers

They’re age 80 and older, yet they have the memory and brain power of people in their 50s. So what’s their secret? 

That’s what researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine are trying to figure out. A new study found that this elite group of elderly — or SuperAgers, as researchers call them — have brains that appear as young as people in the prime of middle-age. In fact, one brain region of this SuperAger group was even bigger and healthier than a person’s in midlife.

The senior study author wanted to know what was different about the brains of people in their 80s who were super-sharp cognitively. For the study, participants in their 80s and older were screened.  Only 10 percent of those who considered themselves to have “outstanding memories,” made the cut.  Eventually, 12 SuperAgers, plus a control group of 10 normally aging adults with an average age of 83, were chosen, as well as 14 middle-aged participants, average age 58.

Looking at three-dimensional MRI scans, researchers were surprised by the remarkable appearance of the SuperAgers’ cortex – that is the portion of the brain responsible for memory, attention and other thinking abilities. While the cortex had begun to thin among normally aging people in their 80s, the SuperAger group had a thick, healthy cortex similar to adults 20 or 30 years younger. Plus, in another brain region important for memory, the SuperAgers’ was actually thicker than those age 50 to 65.

Researchers’ ultimate goal is to unlock the secret behind why some people are protected against the deterioration of memory and diminished brain cells that typically accompanies aging. She hopes her discoveries can help protect others from memory loss or even Alzheimer’s disease.
Many scientists study what’s wrong with the brain, but maybe we can ultimately help Alzheimer’s patients by figuring out what goes right in the brains of SuperAgers.