Archive for August, 2011

Arthroscopic Knee Surgery

A couple of weeks ago, I had arthroscopic knee surgery because of a fall more than a dozen years ago. It was partially exploratory to determine the next step as well as to “clean it up.” The next two weeks will determine my options, but total knee replacement is not necessary.

In order to go through this surgery, I had to get a second opinion and while the second doctor determined that surgery is necessary, it was his opinion that a total knee replacement should be considered “just in case” I might need one down the road. On the other hand, my world-renowned knee specialist said you never replace anything that’s in good condition and basically, other than my knee cap, my knee is in very good condition. But the most important lesson in this is to prevent falls in the first place and to prevent arthritis from creeping in.

Fitness expert Sonia Gow, in a previous post, shared her expertise about why people fall. She mentioned that falls are not a normal part of aging.

Did you know that falls are a leading cause of hospital admissions for people over 65? For those over 65, one in three will experience a fall each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 to 30 percent of the falls result in injuries such as lacerations, hip fractures, and head traumas with hospital bills averaging nearly $18,000 per patient.

According to Mary Tinetti, M.D., professor of internal medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, the more chronic health conditions you have, the more likely you are to suffer a fall.

  • Diabetes can worsen vision and desensitize nerves in the feet.
  • Depression can increase risk of falling.
  • Many medications cause dizziness and affect balance, especially sleep aids.

Other diseases causing a higher rate of falls include:

  • Circulatory disease
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Arthritis

Yoga and tai chi which has slow, rhythmic movements can help you with your balance. Don’t forget to strengthen your arms too since you can use them to steady yourself. Find a personal trainer or borrow/buy a DVD to help you.

The Relaxation Response

As we all know, high blood pressure is a problem for many seniors. Along with our age, high blood pressure creeps up as well. A younger senior might be diagnosed as “pre-hypertensive” and because it’s easier for doctors to simply prescribe an anti-hypertensive medication rather than to encourage lifestyle changes, they find themselves on a pill or two. It is possible, however, that the drug could do more harm than good and could cause unnecessary anxiety. Herbert Benson, MD, author of bestseller, The Relaxation Response, offers an alternative.

Benson believes that by practicing the Relaxation Response, you will be better able to cope with difficult situations by allowing your body to achieve a more balanced state through the physiologic effects of the Relaxation Response. However, stopping the practice will stop the benefits within several days. There are no side effects when practiced once or twice daily for 10 to 20 minutes.

On page 35 of his book, he gives a case study of a woman with moderate hypertension with a family history of high blood pressure. After 14 months of practice she says:

The Relaxation Response has contributed to many changes in my life. Not only has it made me more relaxed physically and mentally, but also it has contributed to changes in my personality and way of life. I seem to have become calmer, more open and receptive especially to ideas which either have been unknown to me or very different from my past way of life. I like the way I am becoming; more patient, overcoming some fears especially around my physical health and stamina. I feel stronger physically and mentally. I take better care of myself. I am more committed to my daily exercise and see it as an integral part of my life. I really enjoy it, too! I drink less alcohol, take less medicine. The positive feedback which I experience as a result of the Relaxation Response and the lowered blood pressure readings make me feel I am attempting to transcend a family history replete with hypertensive heart disease.

There are two essential ingredients to the Relaxation Response:

  1. Repetition of a word, sound, phrase, prayer, or muscular activity.
  2. Passively disregarding everyday thoughts that inevitably come to mind and returning to your repetition.

Here are the simple steps to elicit the Relaxation Response:

  1. Pick a focus word, short phrase, or prayer that is firmly rooted in your belief system.
  2. Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
  3. Close your eyes.
  4. Relax your muscles, progressing from your feet to your calves, thighs, abdomen, shoulders, head, and neck.
  5. Breathe slowly and naturally, and as you do, say your focus word, sound, phrase, or prayer silently to yourself as you exhale.
  6. Assume a passive attitude. Don’t worry about how well you’re doing. When other thoughts come to mind, simply say to yourself, “Oh well,” and gently return to your repetition.
  7. Continue for 10 to 20 minutes.
  8. Do not stand immediately. Continue sitting quietly for a minute or so, allowing other thoughts to return. Then open your eyes and sit for another minute before rising.
  9. Practice the technique once or twice daily. Good times to do so are before breakfast and before dinner.

According to Benson, you can even elicit the Relaxation Response while exercising. If you are jogging or walking, pay attention to the cadence of your feet on the ground — left, right, left, right, left right — and if other thoughts come into your mind say — oh well — and return to — left, right, left, right. He reminds you to keep your eyes open! Swimmers can pay attention to the tempo of their strokes, cyclists to the whir of the wheels, and dancers to the beat of the music. So find a creative way to incorporate the Relaxation Response into your life.