Depression Increases Risk of Death in Older Adults

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

As we age, we become more likely to experience symptoms of depression. Research shows that depression’s symptoms can be linked to a higher risk for death. Yet often, older adults’ symptoms of depression may be missed by healthcare professionals.

What’s more, symptoms of depression have been linked to heart disease and stroke in middle-aged and older adults. Researchers suggest that the depression-heart disease link could play a role in the increased risk of death among older adults who have symptoms of depression. There’s also a known link between depression and deaths from cancer and falls in older adults. These connections might contribute to an increased risk of death for older adults, researchers suggest.

Since depression symptoms change over time, it’s possible that studying those symptoms during an older adult’s doctor visits could provide more information. To learn more, a research team designed a study to investigate the role depression symptoms play in an increased risk of death over time. The team also examined the role heart disease and stroke play in the link between depression symptoms and increased risk of death. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

New Wisdom about High Cholesterol Treatment for Adults Aged 80 and Older

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Experts know that in adults younger than 65, having high cholesterol levels in your blood can raise your risk for heart attacks and strokes. However, in adults 80 years old and older, researchers have not—until now—thoroughly studied high cholesterol’s impact on heart disease, your ability to function well, or your risk for death.

In fact, some research shows that a higher level of total cholesterol and a lower level of so-called “bad” cholesterol (also known as “low-density lipoprotein” or LDL cholesterol) might be helpful in protecting your ability to perform daily activities and preserving your life for longer.

What’s more, it appears that having low cholesterol is linked to a higher risk of death from cancer, respiratory disease, and accidents in adults aged 80 and older. It also appears that the benefits of taking medications known as statins, which lower cholesterol, may lessen as people age. Researchers even have a phrase for this phenomenon. They call it the “risk factor paradox.” This describes the fact that for adults aged 80 and older, having some conditions that are considered health risks in younger adults predicts better survival. These conditions include having higher total cholesterol, higher blood pressure, and higher body mass index (BMI, a ratio of body weight to height that helps determine whether you are overweight or obese). Continue reading

Learning about the Impact of Multiple Symptoms in Older Adults

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

“Symptoms” is the medical term for any sign of a health problem, even if that sign doesn’t help your healthcare provider diagnose a specific illness. Symptoms, such as feeling tired or rundown (also called fatigue), are among the leading causes of disability for older adults.

Sometimes symptoms are directly caused by illness—for example, an aching chest can be a symptom associated with a heart attack. But often, symptoms have multiple causes. For example, fatigue can be a common symptom when you have conditions such as knee osteoarthritis, depression, and heart failure.

What’s more, older adults often experience more than one symptom at a time, which can make each symptom feel worse.

Up until now, we haven’t had much information about how symptoms that occur at the same time affect an older adult’s ability to function. To learn more, a team of researchers recently examined information from a large study of older adults, the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS), which included more than 7,500 participants aged 65 and older. The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

For Older Women, Taking High Blood Pressure Medication May Not Raise Risk for Falls

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is the medical term for when the force of blood against your blood vessel walls is too high. We know that using medication to lower high blood pressure can prevent heart attacks and strokes. But healthcare professionals often worry that prescriptions for lowering high blood pressure can sometimes lower it too much. This can put you at risk for becoming dizzy and falling.

Falls are a serious problem in older adults. In 2014, falls caused 2.8 million emergency room visits, 800,000 hospitalizations, and 27,000 deaths, and cost Medicare an estimated $31.3 billion.

Although some healthcare experts suspect that taking high blood pressure medication over time is linked to falls and fractures, very little research supports that belief. In fact, at least two major studies examining blood pressure reduction did not find an increased risk for falls among people taking medication to reduce high blood pressure. Other studies have not shown an increase in fracture risk for people taking medication for high blood pressure—in fact, some studies suggest that high blood pressure medicines may actually reduce the risk for fractures.

Researchers decided to learn more about the links between falls, high blood pressure, and high blood pressure medication in older women. They published their study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

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