Health In Aging Blog


Pedometers Allow Healthcare Practitioners to Track Physical Activity for Older Adults

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Loss of mobility is one of the leading causes of a decreased quality of life, loss of independence, and even death for us all as we age. Since physical activity is the key to helping prevent mobility loss, it’s important to maintain a decent level of physical activity for as long as possible.

Researchers for a new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society now suggest that we don’t know much about how the duration and intensity of physical activity affects the development of major mobility problems.

In their study, the researchers tracked the activity of 1,590 adults between the ages of 70 and 89. To measure the participants’ activity levels, they were asked to wear a pedometer, which is a research instrument that measures how many steps you take. Participants wore the devices for at least three days for 10 hours a day while going about their daily routines. None of the participants had major mobility problems at the start of the study. Continue reading

A Personalized Approach to Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. It affects more than 5 million Americans. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that some 16 million people will develop the disease by the year 2050 if an effective treatment is not discovered. Symptoms of AD usually develop slowly and worsen over time. They often become severe enough to interfere with daily tasks, and can eventually cause death.

In a new study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, James E. Galvin, MD, MPH, Professor of Integrated Medical Science and Associate Dean for Clinical Research, Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, Florida Atlantic University, examined potential AD prevention strategies.

Dr. Galvin notes that just four medications have been approved to treat AD symptoms. A major effort is underway to develop new treatments for the disease by the year 2025, and researchers have launched several new studies. Continue reading

Older Adults May Need Better Follow-up After Emergency Room Screenings for Suicide

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

According to the World Health Organization, suicide rates for men over the age of 70 are higher than in any other group of people. In 2015, almost 8,000 older adults committed suicide in the U.S., and the proportion of suicides is higher among older adults than younger people. When older adults try to commit suicide, they are more likely to be successful compared to younger adults.  This is why suicide prevention strategies are especially important for older men and women.

Hospital emergency departments (EDs) are caring for an increasing number of people with mental health concerns, including thoughts or actions related to suicide attempts. For example, nearly half of the older adults who committed suicide had visited an ED in the year before their death. However, when healthcare providers see older adults in the ED, some may be too quick to assume that the warning signs for suicide are just a natural part of aging. As a result, many older adults may not get the help they need to address suicidal thoughts. These facts prompted a team of researchers to study older adults seen in EDs and the related risks for committing suicide. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

Some Frail Older Adults May Receive Potentially Inappropriate Medications When Admitted to Nursing Homes

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Medical experts know that older adults who have dementia or other mental health concerns that impact thinking or decision making should avoid certain “potentially inappropriate medications” (PIMs). PIMs can worsen confusion and raise the risks for falls, fractures, and even death, particularly for people with complex health needs.

PIMs may include treatments like:

  • Benzodiazepines (medications sometimes called “tranquilizers” and used to treat sleep problems, anxiety, or to relax muscles)
  • Antipsychotics (medications sometimes used to address mental health conditions)
  • H2-blockers (medications sometimes used to decrease the production of stomach acid)
  • Anticholinergics (medications that block a substance called acetylcholine, a “neurotransmitter” that transfers signals between certain cells to impact how your body functions. Anticholinergics have been used to treat several different conditions, including incontinence and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, or COPD).

A Canadian research team investigated how often healthcare providers prescribed PIMs to older adults living with dementia or other mental health concerns and who were being admitted to nursing homes. The research team examined records from more than 40,000 people with dementia or cognitive impairments who were over the age of 66 and had been admitted to nursing homes between 2011 and 2014. The team published their study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Continue reading

Poor Appetite and Food Intake in Older Adults

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Having a poor appetite is a serious health concern for older adults. It can lead to inadequate nutrition, which can shorten your life or reduce your quality of life. Between 11 percent and 15 percent of older adults who live independently are estimated to have poor appetites.

Strategies to improve our appetites as we age include reducing portion size, increasing meal frequency, and using flavor enhancers. Until recently, however, these options have not proven to improve food intake or quality of life for older people. That’s part of the reason why a team of researchers designed a study to examine the differences in food intake among older adults with varied appetite levels. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The researchers looked at data from 2,597 people between the ages of 70 and 79. Nearly 22 percent of the people in the study described their appetite as “poor.” The researchers interviewed the participants using a 108-item survey to estimate how much food they ate. Continue reading