Thursday, February 28, 2013


Feeling anxious or nervous is a common emotion and can help us handle problems and strange situations, and even avoid danger.  It is normal to feel anxious about illnesses, new social interactions and frightening events.  But, when one feels anxious often and the anxiety is overwhelming and affects daily tasks, social life and relationships - it may be an illness.

Anxiety is one of the most common feelings in America today.  More than 30 million people in America experience some form of anxiety each year. Women are twice as likely as men to develop anxious or stressful feelings.  Anxiety is a common illness among older adults, affecting as many as 10-20% of the older population. 

Older adults with anxiety disorders often go untreated for a number of reasons. Older adults often do not recognize or acknowledge their symptoms.  When they do, they may be reluctant to discuss their feelings with their physicians.  Some older adults may not seek treatment because they have suffered symptoms of anxiety for most of their lives and believe the feelings are normal.    Both patients and physicians may miss a diagnosis of anxiety because of other medical conditions and prescription drug use, or particular situations that the patient is coping with.  For example, the anxiety suffered by a recently widowed patient may be more than normal grieving. Complicated or chronic grief is often accompanied by persistent anxiety and grieving spouses may avoid reminders of the deceased.  

Anxiety is not fun for the millions of people who experience it.  For some it can be a sense of apprehensiveness or uneasiness of mind – or worrisome thoughts and tension, sometimes panicky feelings about the ordinary stresses associated with everyday routine life events and activities.  For others, it may be an undesired sense of uneasiness that may be accompanied with self-doubt about one’s ability to cope with it.  An anxiety sufferer may anticipate something worse even though there is little reason to expect it.

Untreated anxiety can lead to cognitive impairment, disability, poor physical health, and a poor quality of life.  Anxiety costs billions of dollars in the U.S. alone in direct and indirect costs annually.  One survey found that people experiencing anxiety feelings make more trips to their health care provider than the general population. 

For older adults, depression often goes along with anxiety, and both can be debilitating, reducing overall health and quality of life.  Anxiety is strongly linked to memory.  Anxiety can interfere with memory.   The single most important thing you should know about anxiety is that relief is there for you.  But, you need to help yourself by taking advantage of the help that is available.

Older adults who think they may be suffering from anxiety should share their concerns with their primary care physician.  A physician can help determine if the symptoms are due to an anxiety disorder, a medical condition, or both.  If the physician diagnoses an anxiety disorder, the next step is to see a mental health care professional.  Both patient and provider should work as a team to make a plan to treat the anxiety disorder.

Treatment can involve medication, therapy, stress reduction, coping skills, and family or other social support. 

An increase in physical exercise also appears helpful. Numerous studies have shown that lack of physical activity is a risk factor for health problems.  Overall, the results show health concerns are almost twice as likely to develop in inactive people as in those who are more active. 

Research has also demonstrated that if people do not get enough sleep, physical as well as psychological distress may occur.  This could be fatigue, daytime sleepiness, concentration difficulty, anxiety, panicky feelings and other unwanted feelings. 

A healthy diet and changing the way you eat will change the way you feel.  The right foods can lower the risks for potential health problems while also promoting overall health. 

There are so many things you can do about anxiety disorders to help you live a fuller, more active life.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Age Wave Study

I was recently reading an article about Dr. Ken Dychtwald, who has a 35 year history as a visionary and original thinker regarding lifestyle, marketing, health-care and workforce implications of the “age wave”.  He is a psychologist, gerontologist, documentary film maker, entrepreneur and best selling author of 16 books on aging related issues.  He has dedicated his life to battling ageist stereotypes while promoting a new and vital image of maturity.  I’m sharing some of what he calls “facing the boomer tsunami”.

“Our whole world is sculpted around youth; so in the coming decades, we face an enormous change. Aging is the new frontier.  The mounting population of people over 55-years old during the next 10 years is unprecedented. There is nothing about it that we are prepared for," says Dychtwald. "We can't rely on the past and how we treated seniors. In the past, people didn't age; they died. They died of infectious diseases, not their bodies giving out because of age."

Dychtwald says, “It is time to reset the markers of aging. Life expectancy today is 80 for women, about 74 for men; so using 65 as the marker of old age, as in the past, does not make sense. Two new life stages -- "Middle Essence" from 50-65 years of age and "Late Adulthood" for those over 65 -- matches today's reality”

Dychtwald also suggests "flexible life scheduling" as a new model for aging. Instead of facing decades of retirement without work, elders could cycle between periods of work, volunteerism and leisure. "There will be people who work because they have to and those who work because they wish to," he says "And there will be people who take up 'encore careers' and engage in lifelong learning."

Creating a new image for people of advanced years is also critical, Dychtwald says. Instead of seeing elders as non-productive, "We should view older people as contributors of their talent, experience and abilities. We should create a new social model where older people can be useful. Older people have more free time than any other age group and the most life experience, so why don't we use them?"

One last area of focus in the article was geriatric medical care. Fostering healthy aging by accelerating medical research is imperative, according to Dr. Dychtwald. Presently, only 57 cents per capita is spent on medical research in this country while over $4 per capita is spent on Medicare and over $6 on defense. "We don't take spending on medical research as seriously as we should." He also asserted that too few medical professionals receive training in geriatrics. 

Some critical course corrections could substantially improve the way seniors age in the coming decades, says Dr. Dychtwald.  I think we can all learn from Dr. Dychtwald’s wisdom.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Managing Diabetes

As people get older, their risk for type 2 diabetes increases.  In fact, in the United States about one in four people over the age of 60 have diabetes.  If you already have diabetes, you may find that you need to adjust how you manage your condition as the years go by. 

What is Type 2 Diabetes?  When you eat, food is broken down into sugar called glucose.  Glucose gives your body the energy it needs to work.  But, to use glucose as energy your body makes insulin, which “unlocks” your body’s cells so they can receive the glucose they need.  When you have type 2 diabetes, your body does not make enough insulin or use it well.  This means your cells can’t use the glucose as energy, so the glucose stays in your blood. 

Having high blood glucose can cause problems like eye, kidney, nerve and food disorders.  People with diabetes are also at higher risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, and other serious conditions.

There is no cure for diabetes, but it can be managed.  Balancing the food you eat with exercise and medicine (if prescribed) will help people control weight and can keep blood glucose in the healthy range.  This can prevent or delay diabetes complications.  Many people with diabetes live long and healthy lives.

If you are you an adult with diabetes, pre-diabetes, or you are providing care for someone with an ongoing condition, a FREE six week workshop is being offered that provides in depth information on living with the chronic illness of diabetes. The workshop is being offered by P2 Collaborative of Western New York and American Red Cross Greater Buffalo Chapter.  Trained volunteers will provide information and practical help with managing diabetes.  The workshop begins Monday, March 11, 2013 and will run the next five Mondays March 18, 25, April 1, 8, and 15 from 1:00pm – 3:30pm each week.   All sessions will meet at The Dale Association, 33 Ontario Street, Lockport, NY  14094.

The course will cover a new topic each week and provide opportunities for interaction and group problem solving.  Participants will receive a book, relaxation CD and a guided workout CD.

Having diabetes puts you at risk for serious health problems.  The good news is you may be able to prevent complications by managing your diabetes.  The public is invited to attend this free course to learn practical skills on managing the chronic illness.  Please call the American Red Cross Greater Buffalo Chapter at 878-2371 to register.  For more information, call the American Red Cross or The Dale Association at 433-1886.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Low Vision Awareness

February is “Low Vision Awareness Month”.  Vision impairment can range from low vision to legal blindness to complete blindness.  Some conditions that cause vision impairments include cancer, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, macular degeneration, multiple sclerosis and stroke.

Persons who are losing their vision often feel depressed, confused, frustrated, and scared.  Sight accounts for 90 – 95 percent of all sensory perceptions.  Over eleven million people in the United States suffer from a visual impairment that cannot be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses.  Low vision is not a natural part of getting older and it can happen to people of any age. One reason why it occurs most often in older adults is that they are the ones most likely to contract the diseases that cause low vision. 
Imagine having difficulty seeing and no longer being able to drive to get groceries, go to the doctor or visit friends. Changes in vision can prevent a person from reading mail, reading a recipe or taking a walk around the block – things many of us take for granted. 

One of the focuses of “Low Vision Awareness Month” is to increase the knowledge of people to recognize symptoms and be aware of causes of vision impairments.  

More than 2.2 million Americans, age 40 and older, suffer from glaucoma.  Nearly half do not know they have the disease – because it causes no early symptoms. Cataracts  is the leading cause of blindness in the world.  There are close to 22.3 million Americans age 40 and older with cataracts. More than half of all Americans will have cataracts by age 80. Exposure to UV rays can burn delicate eye tissue and raise the risk of developing cataracts and/or cancers of the eye.  Age related macular degeneration is also a cause of vision loss, affecting more than 2 million Americans, age 50 and older. Hormonal changes, diabetes and smoking can also endanger sight.

Sensory changes can cause less effective functioning in society and in carrying out of personal activities.  Many older adults are able to cope with changes in vision, but some extra help is appreciated. It is a wonderful feeling to live on your own and to be independent.  I hope that what you read in today’s column will be helpful for those of you who have relatives or friends with low vision. 

  • Identify yourself when you approach those who are visually impaired.  Sometimes it is difficult to remember a person by the sound of their voice.
  • Speak directly to the individual, using a normal tone of voice.
  • Ask how the person would prefer to be guided or helped.  For example should you walk on their left or right side?
  • When accompanying a visually impaired person into an unfamiliar room never leave them standing alone – give them a point of reference such as a wall or table.
  • When you enter a room or leave a room, say hello or goodbye.  Footsteps and directions are difficult to hear and understand.
  • It is acceptable to use words such as “you see” or “look” in everyday conversation.
  • When you offer assistance, allow a person to take your arm so that you can guide them, rather than push or pull.
  • Those who are visually impaired cannot see the facial expressions such as happiness.  Happiness and a positive attitude are contagious – Express your feelings in your voice or by touch.
  • Learn more about visual impairments and the technologies available to help with maintaining and independent lifestyle.  Equipment is available to assist those with vision limitations.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Living with Arthritis

One out of five (22%) of adults in the United States report having doctor diagnosed arthritis.

In 2007-2009, 50% of adults 65 years or older reported an arthritis diagnosis.

By 2030, an estimated 67 million Americans ages 18 years or older are projected to have doctor diagnosed arthritis.

25.9% of women and 18.3% of men report having doctor diagnosed arthritis.

There are over 100 different types of arthritis.

If you want to know more about the different types of arthritis, treatment, reducing pain and simple exercises that help arthritis, a free workshop on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 10:30 am is being sponsored by Health Now New York Inc. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York as a public service to the community.  The “Living with Arthritis” presentation and interactive session will be held at The Dale Association building, 33 Ontario Street, Lockport.  Treatment options will include medical as well as natural approaches.

Patty Rockwood, Dale Association Wellness Program Coordinator says, "Arthritis is a chronic disease but one that is very treatable. The 'Living with Arthritis' seminar will give you helpful tips so that even though you have arthritis, life will be more enjoyable."

People are encourages to register in advance by calling 433-1886.  The public is invited and you do not need to be a member to attend.