Archive for April, 2009

Swine Flu

pig

The United States has declared a public health emergency for the swine flu. This is not a cause for panic. It’s what the government does when there’s an impending catastrophe such as a hurricane. There might be a pandemic, there might not.

The swine flu virus is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by Type A influenza viruses. (See past blog post of March 26, 2009). Symptoms for the pig include:

  • Coughing (“barking”)
  • Discharge from the nose
  • Sneezing
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Going off feed

Pigs get infected from other pigs that have the swine flu, but they can also get it from birds with the avian flu and from human beings. This crossing of species can lead to new viruses.

Interestingly, there is no evidence that humans can catch the swine flu from eating pork. Be sure to cook pork to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F and that would kill bacteria and viruses.

Symptoms in humans include:

  • Fever (101 to 102 degrees)
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Coughing

It can also include runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.

You should use a mask even when going to the doctor. (Masks are for healthy people, too, so if you go to the doctor for say, a physical, it would be prudent to wear a mask. Some doctors provide masks for their patients). Diagnosis includes getting a respiratory specimen during the first four or five days of the illness when shedding the virus. Children may shed up to 10 days or longer.

The swine flu is currently making headlines, but CNN reports that the regular flu has killed thousands since January. They report the following:

  • Swine flu getting focus, but so far it’s not deadly in the United States
  • Since January, more than 13,000 have died of complications from seasonal flu
  • Worldwide annual death from the flu estimated between 250,000 and 500,000
  • About 9 out of 10 flu deaths are among people older than 65

For the full article, see http://budurl.com/j9t6.

Seniors with a weakened immune system are especially at risk for any type of flu and this should serve as a wake-up call for seniors. It’s a time to be really pro-active to protect yourself. Currently there is no vaccine that would take care of this particular strain of the swine flu. Even if there were one to be developed, it would take time to get it out to the public.

Besides a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and exercise, take stock of your nutritional supplements. Vitamark International, for example, has a drink called Limu Plus that does many things, but I take it specifically to boost my immune system. It can’t prevent colds by any means, but it might shorten the recovery time. Additionally, most people, including myself, who take superior quality vitamins also find that they have fewer illnesses or that the recovery time is shortened. I can’t make any claims for the products, but I can only share what they’re doing for me.

Take the standard precautions of washing your hands frequently and avoid rubbing your eyes. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers. If you cough, cough into your elbow, not your hands. Let your doctor know if you have flu-like symptoms and have been around pigs, been to Mexico, or around someone who has the swine flu virus.

I wish you the best of health!

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Diabetes Epidemic and Complications

50-fabRecently I attended a wellness fair called “50 and Fabulous” held in Fairfax, VA. There were approximately 70 vendors. There were a couple of diabetes organizations and many others like the optometrist and the hospital were passing out literature on diabetes.

So I wondered, how prevalent is diabetes? According to an article in Health News, Catherine Cowie of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a part of the National Institutes of Health, says: “We’re facing a diabetes epidemic that shows no signs of abating, judging from the number of individuals with pre-diabetes.” Additionally, researchers say one-third of adults in the United States 65 and over have diabetes and another 30% are pre-diabetic. http://budurl.com/rgdq

Look at this list of diabetic complications from the FDA:

  • Heart disease: Heart disease is the leading cause of death for people with diabetes. Three out of four diabetes-related deaths are caused by heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease. People with diabetes are 2-4 times more likely to have heart disease than persons without diabetes. Even people with type 2 diabetes who do not have heart disease have an increased risk of having a heart attack.
  • Blindness: Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels that feed the retina of the eye. In nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR), an early stage of diabetic eye disease, the blood vessels may leak fluid. This may cause the retina to swell and vision to blur, a condition called diabetic macular edema. In advanced or proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR), abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. The abnormal blood vessels don’t supply the retina with normal blood flow. In addition, they may eventually pull on the retina and cause it to detach.
  • Kidney Failure: Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage the kidneys. Even when drugs and diet are able to control diabetes, the disease can lead to kidney disease (diabetic nephropathy) and kidney failure. Healthy kidneys act like filters to clean the blood of waste products and extra fluid. Damaged kidneys do not clean the blood well. Instead, waste products and fluid build up in the blood.
  • Foot Ulcers: People with diabetes are at risk for foot injuries due to numbness caused by nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy) and low blood flow to the legs and feet. The most serious injury is a foot ulcer. Diabetic foot ulcers are at very high risk of becoming infected, and sometimes they cannot be healed. Non-healing foot ulcers are a frequent cause of amputation in people with diabetes. Patients with foot ulcers may use wound dressings, skin substitutes, or other treatments to protect and heal their skin.

Wow! Isn’t this list enough to send shivers through your spine? Some people prefer to stay on diabetes medication to control their blood sugar level, but most prefer to do it naturally through diet and lifestyle changes. If you’re in the latter category, what are you doing? If you’re interested in lowering your blood sugar naturally, read about how GluCare helps you maintain a healthy blood sugar level.

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Fitness Required

six-flagsLast month I was in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas and spent a wonderful day at Six Flags over Texas. I enjoy the shows at theme parks so I was hoping to attend some. Also, it has been several years since I’ve been to a theme park, so I thought it would be fun and good walking exercise. Unfortunately, they were only open for the week of spring break in Texas and there were just a couple of outdoor live shows.

In walking the park, I made several observations about the senior population.

1. You need to be in good shape, specifically you need to be able to walk, sometimes up small hills.

2. You need to be able to afford it. Admission is costly although I found admission at the children’s rate on the Internet. Food is over-priced. A bottle of water is $3.50.

3. Many members of the senior population and their families are overweight, including children. That makes mobility difficult for them.

4. Considering the cost and the expansiveness of the park, you’d want to spend the day there, not just a couple of hours. Stamina is critical.

5. You can save on the cost of parking by staying at a hotel in the Arlington Entertainment District and taking the Hotel Guest Trolley. However, that too, requires walking a distance from the trolley stop to the entrance.

Summer is just around the corner … are you a senior who is ready to enjoy the outdoors? By now I know you’re no longer a couch potato and at the very least, you’re walking. Are you trying to lose weight? Have you heard of a weight loss system that includes eating delicious cookies? Check it out here.

Heart Palpitations and Stroke

entrecard_logoI’ve been encouraging you to walk, preferably with a pedometer so you will know the number of steps you walk each day. Experts tell us to aim for 10,000 steps a day. In a recent issue of Bottom Line Retirement, it stated that walking reduces the risk for heart palpitations and stroke. Approximately 20% of people over age 65 have episodes of irregular heart rhythm known as atrial fibrillation (AF). This temporary arrhythmia is what increases the risk for stroke.

A study of more than 5,400 people age 65 or older without AF were followed for 12 years. Those who had walked 60 blocks a week (about three miles) on average were 44% less likely to have developed AF than those who had walked less than five blocks per week.

In its April 2009 issue of Diabetes Forecast, Andrew Curry reports that 2 out of 3 Americans over age 60 exercise less than 30 minutes a week and the numbers are even lower for people with diabetes. Is it any wonder that Type 2 diabetes is on the increase?

Once again, I encourage you to lower your risk of AF by walking. Even moderate exercise will reduce your risk.

If you’ve not started moving, what’s your excuse? If you walk regularly, but had a problem getting started, how did you overcome the obstacle? I invite you to comment.

Senior Years are Happiest

A Happy Senior

A Happy Senior

Have you heard the good news? With age comes happiness. So says a study based on interviews of about 28,000 people ages 18 to 88 from 1972 to 2004. At age 88, one-third of Americans reported being “very happy” compared with 24% of people in their 20s. The study concludes that older people gain perspective on their achievements, placing greater value on what they have accomplished and becoming more accepting of what they haven’t. This study was reported in the American Sociological Review.

It’s my opinion that good health is essential to happiness. If you’re living with foot problems, for example, I would imagine that the pain would interfere with happiness. But I know there are exceptions; just as only you can make yourself angry, you are responsible for your own happiness.

There’s a picture of happiness above — yours truly enjoying a walk in Ko Olina, Hawaii on the island of Oahu. So here’s to YOUR happiness! Aloha from Hawaii!

Good Genes and Long Life

surferdudeIn the March 2009 issue of Malamalama, the alumni magazine of the University of Hawai’i (my undergraduate alma mater), there was a short article on how good genes are tied to long life. As a blog dedicated to seniors, I have a definite interest in leading a long life and I’m sure you do, too.

The Hawai’i Lifespan Study shows strong evidence that a specific variation of gene FOXO3A is linked to a long, healthy life. According to the article, the gene is related to the regulation of cellular and blood sugar levels and it was previously linked to longevity in other species.

The study was done on 615 Japanese-American men and those who had a specific variation on one copy of the gene doubled their odds of living an average of 98 years, with some living as long as 106 years. Men with two copies almost tripled their odds of living for one century! Both groups appeared significantly healthier at older ages compared to men with average life spans.

This study was published last fall in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). In February, another study published in the same journal confirmed this by comparing DNA samples taken from 388 German centenarians with those of 731 younger people.

Genes probably account for 50 percent of what determinies longevity, but lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, and smoking also play a major role. Well … we can’t do anything about our genes, but we do have control over our lifestyle. Have you made any changes … even one small step?