Health In Aging Blog


Older Adults with Blood Cancers: How They Fare

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Although the majority of patients who have blood cancers are older adults, they make up only a small percentage of participants in the clinical trials that lead to new therapies. That’s because the standard research methods used in oncology (cancer medicine) are not ideal for identifying certain vulnerabilities linked to aging, such as having multiple chronic diseases and being frail.

To help remedy that situation, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) issued a guideline recommending that older adults who have cancer receive a geriatric assessment to see if they are at increased risk for experiencing side effects from medication and other complications from cancer and its treatment. Recently, a team of researchers examined older adults who have cancer to see whether their ability to manage daily activities as measured by these assessments was linked to staying alive longer. The team published their study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

Acetaminophen Safe for Most Older Adults—But May Increase Stroke Risk for Those with Diabetes

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Acetaminophen (otherwise known by brand names such as Tylenol) is one of the most widely used pain relievers. Almost 60 years of widespread use have made acetaminophen a household product. It’s distributed over the counter (OTC) in most countries and judged safe by the scientific community. However, acetaminophen is also one of the most common medications involved in overdoses (the medical term for taking more of a medicine than you should) and is the most common cause of drug-induced liver failure.

Surprisingly, we are only now coming to understand how acetaminophen works—and recent research shows that we may need to develop a better understanding of the need for caution when using acetaminophen, especially when it comes to avoiding some of the risks associated with its use. Past research suggests these can range from increased asthma to interactions with other medications or the risk for developing other health concerns (such as kidney toxicity, bone fractures, or blood cancers).

Another important reason to look more carefully at all medications is that our bodies may react to these treatments differently as we age. Older adults experience physical changes as they age including, for example, reduced muscle mass, more fat tissue, changes in body composition, and less fluid in the body systems. Older people may also have multiple chronic conditions and take several different medications. These issues affect many different body functions, and that can raise your risk of having an unwanted reaction to a medication.

For all these reasons, a team of researchers decided to study the safety of acetaminophen in a nursing home setting. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

Caring for an Older Adult with Cancer Comes with Emotional Challenges for Caregivers, Too

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

The number of informal caregivers who look after older adults with cancer is on the rise. Caregivers could be relatives, partners, or even friends who provide assistance to people in order to help them function.

Most older people with cancer live at home and are dependent on informal caregivers for support with their cancer treatment, symptom management, and daily activities. Caregiving itself can also take a toll on a caregiver’s own physical and emotional well-being, which makes it important to ensure the proper supports are in place.

Until now, no large study has evaluated whether or not caring for older adults with advanced cancer is linked to caregivers’ emotional health or to their quality of life. Recently, researchers studied a group of adults aged 70 or older who had advanced cancer (as well as other challenges). This study used information from older patients with advanced cancer and their caregivers from local oncology practices enrolled in the “Improving Communication in Older Cancer Patients and Their Caregivers” study conducted through the University of Rochester National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program Research Base between October 2014 and April 2017. Results from the study were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

Have Sleep Apnea? Using Your CPAP Device Consistently May Slow Memory Loss

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) refers to having problems with your memory and decision-making abilities. Usually, people with MCI experience few if any problems with performing their daily activities. Experts say that MCI could be a stage between normal aging and Alzheimer’s disease.

A growing number of studies suggest that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), or “sleep-disordered breathing,” is associated with a higher risk for memory problems and for problems with thinking and making decisions. OSA is a common condition in older adults who have MCI. Symptoms include disturbed sleep due to reduced or momentarily stopped breathing at night.

If your healthcare practitioner diagnoses you with OSA, she may recommend treatment with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), a pressurized mask worn during sleep. CPAP treatment eliminates obstructive sleep apnea. However, to be effective, people must use the CPAP machine regularly for at least four hours per night. Only 30 to 60 percent of people who are prescribed CPAP therapy use the machine regularly as prescribed. Additionally, few studies have confirmed whether or not CPAP treatment delays cognitive decline. Now researchers in a new study examined whether using CPAP treatment had an effect on slowing cognitive decline. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

Periodontitis May Raise the Risk for Developing Dementia

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Gum disease (gingivitis) that goes untreated can become periodontitis. When this happens, the infection that affected your gums causes loss in the bone that supports your teeth. Periodontitis is the main cause of tooth loss in adults.Interestingly, periodontitis is also a risk factor for developing dementia, one of the leading causes for disability in older adults. A United Nations forecast estimates that 1 in 85 individuals will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia, by the year 2050. Reducing the risk factors that lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease could potentially lower older adults’ chances of developing those conditions.

Recently, researchers in South Korea studied the connection between chronic periodontitis and dementia. They published their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The research team examined information from the National Health Insurance Service-Health Screening Cohort (NHIS-HEALS). In South Korea, the NHIS provides mandatory health insurance covering nearly all forms of health care for all Korean citizens. The agency also provides health screening examinations twice a year for all enrollees aged 40 years or older and maintains detailed health records for all enrollees.

The researchers looked at health information from 262,349 people aged 50 or older. All of the participants were grouped either as being healthy (meaning they had no chronic periodontitis) or as having been diagnosed with chronic periodontitis. The researchers followed the participants from January 1, 2005 until they were diagnosed with dementia, died, or until the end of December 2015, whichever came first.

The researchers learned that people with chronic periodontitis had a 6 percent higher risk for dementia than did people without periodontitis. This connection was true despite behaviors such as smoking, consuming alcohol, and remaining physically active. The researchers said that to their knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate that chronic periodontitis could be linked to a higher risk for dementia even after taking lifestyle behaviors into account.

The researchers suggested that future studies be conducted to investigate whether preventing and treating chronic periodontitis could lead to a reduced risk of dementia.

This summary is from “Association of Chronic Periodontitis on Alzheimer’s Disease or Vascular Dementia.” It appears online ahead of print in the February 2019 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study authors are Seulggie Choi, MD; Kyuwoong Kim, BSc; Jooyoung Chang, MD; Sung Min Kim, BSc; Seon Jip Kim, RDH; Hyun-Jae Cho, DDS, PhD; and Sang Min Park, MD, PhD, MPH.