News & Updates

Physical activity can help elderly men live longer

A new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests half an hour of physical activity, 6 days a week, may be linked to a 40% lower risk of death among elderly men. The study examined the data of about 15,000 Norwegian men born between 1923 and 1932 who received a physical evaluation in 1972-73. At the screening, participants’ physical activity level was described as sedentary, light (walking or cycling at least 4 hours per week), moderate (formal exercise or sports for at least 4 hours per week) or vigorous (hard training or competitive sports several times per week). 5,738 of the surviving participants repeated the health screenings in 2000 and were monitored for 12 years to determine any possible association between activity level and risk of death.
The researchers found that less than 1 hour per week of light physical activity did not seem to be associated with risk of death from any cause. However, more than 1 hour of physical activity per week was linked with a 32-56% decrease in risk. For vigorous physical activity, less than an hour per week was linked with a reduced risk of 23-37% for death from any cause. Men who engaged in moderate to vigorous exercise lived on average 5 years longer than sedentary men. Overall, 30 minutes of light or vigorous physical activity, 6 days a week, was linked to a 40% reduction in risk of death from any cause.

Healthy facts can protect cognitive function

Research suggests that the Mediterranean diet, which typically bases meals around fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and olive oil, supplemented with additional portions of extra virgin olive oil or mixed nuts, may prevent cognitive function in older adults.

The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, followed cognitive change over time among volunteers assigned to follow one of three different diets. Volunteers received cognitive testing and were determined to be cognitively healthy, have a high cardiovascular risk and an average age of 67.

The researchers examined the effects of the Mediterranean diets supplemented with olive oil or nuts compared with a low-fat control diet. A total of 155 participants were randomly assigned to follow a Mediterranean diet supplemented with one liter of extra virgin olive oil per week. Another 147 participants were assigned to follow a Mediterranean diet supplemented with 30 grams per day of mixed nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds). These participants were compared with a control group of 145 participants following a diet where they were advised to reduce dietary fat. After about 4 years of the dietary intervention, follow-up cognitive tests were performed in 334 participants. The researchers found that the group with nuts did better than the control group in memory tests and memorizing names or words, while the olive oil group did better on tests that require speed of thought. The researchers admit that the study has its limitations – not all participants received follow up testing and adherence to the three diets cannot be guaranteed. The findings do suggest though, that clinical decline may be prevented in older adults consuming Mediterranean diets supplemented with olive oil or nuts. Considering the lack of effective treatments for cognitive decline and dementia, preventive strategies to delay the onset and/or minimize the effects of these conditions becomes even more important.

Tips for staying cool this summer.

Due to many factors, the elderly may not feel the heat in hot weather and are thereby more susceptible to overheating and heatstroke. A cognitively-impaired person may not be able to tell you when he or she is feeling hot or ill. With summer on the way, caregivers should be aware of the signs of heat stress and follow these tips for dealing with hot weather:

  • Wear cool clothing. If the air conditioning appears to bother the person, offer layers, such as a long-sleeved shirt or sweater over the shoulders, or a light cloth over the ankles.
  • Use air conditioning: If you don't have air conditioning, invest in a room air conditioner or use room fans to circulate inside air. If possible, drive the person a short distance to an air-conditioned place where they can sit, such as a library, mall, restaurant or theater.
  • Avoid direct sun: Stay indoors during the hottest hours, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Drive as close to the door of destinations as possible. If the person wants to be outside, make sure it's during cooler hours and that he or she is in the shade, on a covered porch, or under an umbrella. Also be sure to pull the shades on windows that are in direct sunlight.
  • Eliminate or limit physical activity: If the person's physician approves light exercise such as walking and movement exercises, limit them to short periods during cool hours. Eliminate entirely on very hot days.
  • Drink plenty of fluids: Give the person plenty of water and fruit or vegetable juice even if they say they're not thirsty. No alcohol, coffee or tea. Seek medical help if you suspect dehydration.
  • Light meals: Avoid hot, heavy meals and don't use the oven.
  • Monitor medications: Find out if the person's medications increase his or her risk for heat stress. Be sure to ask a physician about all the medications being taken, including off-the-shelf items.
  • Take cool showers: Help the person take a cooling shower or bath. Lay a cool, moistened towel over the forehead or back of the neck and replace often.
  • Check in often: If the person lives alone, check in daily or ask a neighbor to look in several times a day. If the person lacks transportation, make sure someone takes him or her to and from appointments, grocery stores, etc. (https://caregiver.org/hot-weather-tips)
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