Friday, August 26, 2016

Oldies but goodies

"Get off my lawn" is the alleged rallying cry of grumpy older people--yet a new study at the University of California San Diego suggests that the mental health of adults gets better over time.

They have an improved sense of psychological well-being.

You can check this out in the August issue of J of Clinical Psychology.

Interestingly, they also noted high levels of stress and symptoms of depression and anxiety in adults in their 20s and 30s.

Usually we think of aging as meaning loss of mental faculties--the old dementia bugaboo. We assume that mental health declines along with cognitive function.

Yet actual findings show mental health trending upward after middle age.

Most epidemiological studies show a decline in mental illness in older adult--dementias being the exception.

One reason might be that as you get older, you learn not to sweat the little things. Older adults may be better at adapting to stressful changes.  Older people may mature more emotionally.

I am getting my bathroom remodeled and have been living in a construction zone all week, so I may not be the one to ask...I feel like I am not as resilient as I used to be.

And--seriously--no one needs to get on my lawn, ever.

But I also have achieved some perspective in my later years. I know as easily as something turns bad, it can flip to good.

"This too shall pass."

But, of course, as a worrier, I still worry. What is it doesn't pass?

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Foodies--48 million foodies

According to an article in Food Technology by A. Elizabeth Stone, 48 million Americans consider themselves foodies--meaning involved with food, interested in food and cooking. This would be the live to eat crowd.

Some morsels about them:

--Over the past five yrs, consumers who want to try a new product first have gone up by 39%.

--Those who want to eat more "gourmet" food--up 27%.

--Foodies are 60% more  likely to buy foods labeled organic and natural--and 40% more likely to buy locally.

--Although they usually buy 10 items or fewer per trip to the store, 47% of foodies spend $100 or more per trip (only 34% of non-foodies do this).

--Foodies shop for groceries four days or more per week.

--Despite this preoccupation, foodies tend to want short cooking times more than non-foodies.

--Still, 47% of foodies bake for fun, compared to 32% of adults overall.

--Core foodies are much more likely to count calories, be on a diet, exercise regularly, and are twice as likely to avoid certain foods because of allergies or intolerances.

--One in five foodies bought food from a restaurant 15 or more times a month.

Foodies--I like the name. It's yummy.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Memory Cafes

Recently at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, some people sat around a table with Egyptian artifacts in the center. The museum people explained each item in a highly entertaining way.

One artifact was a brain hook used by Egyptian embalmers to remove the brain.

One of the participants mused, "I wish I could use it to scrape Alzheimer's off my brain."

These participants were members of a Memory Cafe--a program created by the Penn Memory Center for patients with memory issues and their caregivers.

So often, dementia leads to isolation--and this can lead to depression and anxiety,

The Memory Cafe offers a safe place for people to socialize with those who share their concerns.

This Memory Cafe thing started in 1997 in the Netherlands. It pread through Europe and came to the US in 2008.

Today there are more than 100 in this country.

Social connections, friendships are the goal. These are not really a support group gabbing about dementia or caregiving all day.

Sometimes the meetings include music. This is very soothing--everyone enjoys it.

Above all, no one has to worry about acting "weird" or being judged or disdained.

It's probably even fun.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Health officials surprised by who keels from heat

Writing on the website ROUTE FIFTY, the site's news editor Dave Nyczepir says some health officials in Pinal County, an Arizona county near where I live, used data analytics to find out who was succumbing to heat-related illness.

They used to comb the death stats for keywords related to heat and try to find out who experienced what that way.

But now, they are matching that data with hospital dischange numbers to see what is happening in real time.

Is heat stress morbidity related to the temperature or a time of year or a special group or gender?

This is how they try to detect epidemics before they get full-blown--how many people come in with a certain rash, say.

They found that heat illness was more common than they thought.

And, interestingly, it seemed to affect younger people more than old, which turns the old assumption on its head.

When it gets to be above 100 degress, the 25-yr-old doing construction is more likely to suffer than the 70-yr-old going grocery shopping.

So construction companies should not only have lots of water available, but start early and quit by 2 PM.

This is not the only ailment that can be prevented or handled with good statistics. Pinal County also has a person whose only job is to work on managing tuberculosis cases in the county.

Technology at work!

Stay well.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Participating in medical studies

Do you ever get those letters saying a medical study is starting--do you want to be in it? Often they offer a decent-sized payment.

I get these pretty often--maybe once a week. I am not very mobile and am skeptical anyway.

The pitch they give is that you will be adding to scientific knowledge to help the next patient like you.  They may also point out that you are already profiting from people who went before you in studies.

A cohort study is a large group of people, such as the Framingham Heart Study, which yielded a huge amount of info on heart disease and stroke (www,  These studies usually run for many year, even decades.

Another type is a clinical study. In these, volunteers receive a new treatment, a medication, procedure or device, for example.  Usually, you are randomly assigned to receive the new rtreatment or a comparison item such as a placebo or existing treatment.

In these cases, the researchers really don't know which is better--the new or the old. Both probably have pluses and minuses.

All clinical trials have specific requirements for participants. Some want healthy people, some want people with a specific condition.

You will undergo informed consent, meaning you will be told what will happen and the pluses and minuses (side effects). This will be overseen by an independent Institutional Review Board.

The FDA also checks out studies--and approves only those where the potential benefit is greater than the possible risk.

And you will receive free medical care during the study and maybe even access to new therapies before others get them.

If you are considering this:

--Ask if there are alternative treatments besides those in the trial.

--How will your safety be monitored?

--After the trial ends, can you stay on the treatment or switchto it if you were a control?

--What happens if you are harmed?

I would advise that if you have a bad condition and want to try a new therapy, you look into all this carefully. What if you are a control--and don't get the treatment and your condition gets worse?

Talk it over with your doctor.