Health In Aging Blog


For Older Adults with Heart Failure: Can Taking Too Many Medications Reduce the Ability to Perform Daily Activities?

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

As we age, we tend to develop a number of chronic health conditions and concerns. Often, managing health problems can mean that older adults may take many different medications. When older adults take five or more medicines (a scenario health experts call “polypharmacy”), it can increase the risk of harmful side effects.

Polypharmacy can contribute to serious problems including falls, disability, and hospitalizations. Taking more than five medications is especially common among older adults with heart failure, which is the leading cause of hospitalization for people age 65 and older. Doctors often prescribe several different drugs to improve heart failure, but this can increase your risk of harmful side effects and interactions between your medications. Older adults who have trouble performing routine daily activities are at a particularly high risk for the negative effects of taking a large number of medications.

In a new study, researchers examined whether limitations in older adults’ abilities to perform their routine daily activities were linked to taking multiple medications for heart failure. They published their study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

Having Poor Vision Can Raise Risk for Falls Among Older Adults

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Vision impairment and blindness affect one in 11 Americans age 65 and older. Because our population is aging, the number of older adults with vision problems is predicted to rise. Older adults who have impaired vision may be at risk for decreased independence, poorer well-being, and an increased risk of falls. For example, in any given year, approximately 30 percent of adults over age 65 will fall. Having impaired vision more than doubles this risk.

For older adults, falls are a major cause of illness and death. Even having a fear of falling is a challenge that can limit activity and worsen quality of life and independence as you age.

However, we don’t have much information on how often visually impaired older adults experience a fall, and we have even less information about what happens to them after a fall. A team of researchers suggested that we need this information in order to understand the scope of the problem and create ways to prevent falls in visually impaired older adults.

To learn more, the research team examined information from the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS). They published their study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

Does Having Muscle Weakness and Obesity Lead to Falls for Older Women?

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

As our society continues to age, experts project that falls and the health complications that can come with them will also rise. In fact, about two-thirds of all hospital costs ($34 billion) are connected directly or indirectly with falls among older adults.

Falls can be especially challenging for older people who are obese and who also have sarcopenia (the medical term for a loss of muscle strength as we age). Currently, 5 percent to 13 percent of adults older than 60 have sarcopenia. Those rates may be as high as 50 percent in people 80-years-old and older.

Older adults who gain weight may increase their risk for muscle weakness and falls. Obesity is a growing epidemic: More than one-third of adults 65-years-old and older were considered obese in 2010. Having sarcopenia and obesity, or “sarcopenic obesity,” is linked to a decline in your ability to function physically, and to an increased risk of fractures.

A team of researchers writing for the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society suggested that it is important to identify people at risk for falls related to obesity and muscle weakness so that healthcare providers can offer appropriate solutions. Continue reading

For Older Adults, Does Eating Enough Protein Help Delay Disability?

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

To live successfully and independently, older adults need to be able to manage two different levels of life skills: basic daily care and basic housekeeping activities.

Basic daily care includes feeding yourself, bathing, dressing, and going to the toilet on your own.

You also need to handle basic housekeeping activities, such as managing your finances and having the mobility to shop and participate in social activities.

If you or someone you care for has trouble performing these two types of life skills, this may bring on problems that can reduce quality of life and independence. People 85-years-old and older form the fastest-growing age group in our society and are at higher risk for becoming less able to perform these life skills. For this reason, researchers are seeking ways to help older adults stay independent for longer. Recently, a research team focused their attention on learning whether eating more protein could contribute to helping people maintain independence. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

Exercise May Lessen Risk of Falling for Older Adults who have Alzheimer’s Disease and Mental Health Challenges

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a brain disease that causes changes that kill brain cells. AD is a type of dementia, which causes memory loss and problems with thinking and making decisions. People with AD and other forms of dementia have difficulties performing the daily activities others might consider routine.

Dementia takes a toll on those who live with it—and it also places a burden on caregivers. Along with problems connected to memory, language, and decision-making, dementia can cause neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, changes in mood, increased irritability, and changes in personality and behavior.  People who have AD/dementia also have twice the risk for falls compared to people without dementia. About 60 percent of older adults with dementia fall each year.

Researchers suggest that having neuropsychiatric symptoms might predict whether an older person with AD/dementia is more likely to have a fall. We also know that exercise can reduce the number of falls in older adults with dementia. However, we don’t know very much about how neuropsychiatric symptoms may increase the risk of falls, and we know even less about how exercise may reduce the risk of falls for people with dementia and neuropsychiatric symptoms. A research team decided to explore whether exercise could reduce the risk of falling among community-dwelling people with AD who also had neuropsychiatric symptoms. Continue reading