anti-aging, exercise

According to a Johns Hopkins study, “Most experts recommend exercise as the single most important anti-aging measure anyone can follow, regardless of age, disability or general level of fitness. A sedentary lifestyle accelerates nearly every unwanted aspect of aging.” [JackF]/[iStock]/Thinkstock

Exercise has long-term physical and mental benefits, even reducing arthritis symptoms in older adults

Physical Benefits of Exercise
A lack of physical activity can put you at higher risk for health problems such as diabetes and osteoporosis. In fact, according to Dianne Braun, P.T., a clinical program manager and physical therapist with Howard County General Hospital, “It is not only healthy for seniors to exercise, it can also be dangerous to not exercise. Not being physically active can be risky, as seniors can lose up to 75 percent of their strength from inactivity, making them prone to falls. Current statistics show that one in three people over the age of 65 fall every year and that number increases to one in two by age 80.”

Mental Benefits of Exercise
Not only does exercise help seniors physically, it can also have a positive effect mentally. Physical activity can help manage stress and reduce feelings of depression. “Depression is a big issue for seniors, and just five minutes of exercise a day has been shown to reduce the incidence of depression,” said Braun. Some studies also suggest that regular physical activity can increase various aspects of cognitive function.

How Much Exercise is Enough?
“General exercise recommendations for seniors include 30 minutes of exercise with strength training two times per week,” said Braun. “If you have a fear of increasing pain, or have a heart or medical condition, check with your physician for exercise guidelines. The important thing is to start exercising and make it a part of your daily routine.”

Studies show that exercising regularly and staying active have long-term benefits and improve the health of older adults. According to a Johns Hopkins study, “Most experts recommend exercise as the single most important anti-aging measure anyone can follow, regardless of age, disability or general level of fitness. A sedentary lifestyle accelerates nearly every unwanted aspect of aging.”

The Arthritis Antidote 
Though exercise may seem like the last thing you want to do when suffering from arthritis, exercise is very important to increase strength and flexibility, reduce joint pain and help with fatigue. Physical activity does not have to be at a high-intensity level, but studies indicate that a moderate level of exercise can help with the pain as well as help maintain a healthy weight.

“Strength training and aerobic activity (walking or other) are good for the joints. Many studies have shown a reduction in pain with regular strength training and aerobic conditioning,” said Braun.

Exercise Examples: 

  • Aerobic conditioning activities such as walking, biking, swimming, raking leaves
  • Strengthening activities for lower body: squats, single-leg stance, step-ups and sit to stand from a chair (try not to use your arms and upper body)
  • Strengthening for upper body that incorporates some weight lifting, such as arm raises, overhead raises and biceps curls.
Dianne Braun is a clinical program manager and physical therapist with Howard County General Hospital.

read more

growing up emptyI recently watched a great documentary film, Living on One Dollar, which featured four university students who decided to spend a summer in rural Guatemala, and attempt to survive on $1 a day. The young men planned to stay a total of 56 days, so each brought $56 US dollars for a grand total of $224 US Dollars. In order to simulate the inconsistent and unpredictable income of the local day laborers, the students broke down their sum total into increments of $0-$9, and would randomly draw a piece of paper each morning with their “income” for that particular day. There were days that the “family of four” would receive anywhere from $0 to a whopping $9. The young men learned a lot from their new neighbors regarding how to plant and maintain a plot of land, as well as how to seek out and obtain a loan to cover necessary expenses.

Prior to embarking on this excursion, the students did their research, especially the two who were the brains behind the project (international development majors’, Chris and Zach). The men set out in the summer of 2010, and gained invaluable knowledge about the struggle and hardships of the individuals and families living in the rural Guatemalan village that they would temporarily call home. During the course of their stay, they encountered struggles of their own, not only in their attempt to secure proper nutrition each day, but also in their attempt to overcome unforeseen financial expenses. The domino effect experienced by so many living in rural villages like the one the men visited looks something very similar to this: limited opportunities leads to limited education leads to limited income leads to limited resources, which leads to limited/insufficient food options, which then leads to poor health/energy. Without a stable income, individuals and their families are unable to purchase food or maintain the gardens that will provide them with their daily recommended caloric intake values. Lack of a proper caloric diet, replete of all necessary vitamins and minerals, results in increased susceptibility to illness, diminished weight, diminished height, and diminished energy levels. Each of the young men experienced significant weight loss, as well as diminished energy levels during their stay. They also witnessed first-hand how the link between limited income and poor nutrition affects the individuals of the village, especially the children.

a place at the tableThe importance of good nutrition and adequate caloric intake is particularly important for growing children, but essentially, it’s of great importance to people of all ages. In order for the body and mind to function at an optimal level, one must consume a nutritious diet that provides adequate calories. In addition to low energy levels and an inhibited immune system, persistent lack of necessary vitamins and minerals may result in various nutrient and vitamin deficiencies, which may put one at risk of developing more serious health problems. In the United States, good health and nutrition are pillars of education taught with much emphasis from an early age. However, we can’t ignore the fact that health and nutrition are strongly influenced by income and economic status.

Just as the poor rural families in Guatemala are limited to a few staple sources of nutrition, so are the poorest families in the United States, and the rest of the world. Food assistance programs available here in the US, include Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Americans who are struggling simply to put food on the table, may benefit from such programs to enhance the quality of their diets. In Guatemala, a country with the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world and the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean-international organizations, rely on programs such as UNICEF and USAID.

I recommend that you check out the documentary, Living on One Dollar. It’s a great film!

When Jinelee De Souza isn’t channeling her inner super-heroine at Howard County Library System as an Instructor & Research Specialist, she’s doing so at the gym, during impromptu photoshoots with her bff, and everywhere in between.

read more

5149339976_9109e8fd23_bHerd immunity. In the abundant coverage of the measles outbreak, we read about herd immunity. What is it and why is it critical to understanding the public health requirements for vaccinations? When considering immunization recommendations of professional organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), and the American College of Physicians (ACP), there are many factors taken into account. In deciding which immunizations are needed for ourselves and our family members, we weigh expert advice, personal health history, family medical history, regional infectious disease risk factors, age, immune status, and public health considerations.

Herd immunity, or community immunity, refers to outbreak containment despite lack of 100% immunization rates. Herd immunity exists when a sufficient percentage of the population is immune to an infectious disease to prevent spread of the illness. Why wouldn’t everyone be immunized if all the professional medical organizations recommend otherwise? How can the vaccinated person essentially protect the unvaccinated person?

Infants have passive immunity from antibodies in their system passed along from their mothers. For this reason, infants start their immunizations at the age of 2 months. Because all immunizations cannot be given at once, infants are not fully protected from dangerous infections such as mumps, measles, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, chicken pox, and hepatitis. Infants rely on herd immunity to reduce their risk of contracting or dying from illnesses that can be prevented by modern vaccinations.

Immunocompromised patients rely on herd immunity as well. Vaccines prevent disease by activating the formation of antibodies in the vaccinated person’s body. If that individual comes into contact with the particular bacteria, the antibodies generated in the body by exposure to the vaccine fight off the infection. Immunocompromised patients cannot generate these antibodies and may become ill from certain vaccines. Patients with HIV and congenital immunodeficiencies, those who have received organ transplants, and patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer treatment are often not medical candidates for vaccines. If the population as a whole has been immunized, then the infections are not active in the community and even those people who have not been vaccinated are protected.

The number of people who cannot be vaccinated due to age, health status, and medical condition is relatively small compared to the population at large. When otherwise healthy people with no contraindication to vaccination do not get the recommended vaccines, however, contagious diseases can spread, uncontrolled, causing illness and death that would have otherwise been prevented.

Additional reliable medical information about vaccines can be found on websites such as vaccines.gov and Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Cherise Tasker is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Central Branch and has a background in health information. Most evenings, Cherise can be found reading a book, attending a book club meeting, or coordinating a book group.


read more
childhood diseases, measles, mumps

© smartview27 | Dreamstime.com

How you can avoid the outbreak of childhood diseases, and what to do if you develop one

As if the flu and Ebola weren’t enough to worry about, now we’re hearing increasing stories of outbreaks of childhood diseases among adults. Angelina Jolie misses the premier of her new film due to a case of chickenpox. NHL hockey players sit out games because they’re coming down with the mumps, along with approximately 1,100 other Americans in 2014. In California, there’s an outbreak of whooping cough, among kids and adults. There’s also a multi-state outbreak of measles, 102 cases in January alone, most linked to Disneyland. Most of the measles cases were among people who were not vaccinated. (Measles cases in 2014 were triple the number from the previous year.)

Even adults who were vaccinated against these diseases as kids are contracting them at record rates. So, what’s happening and why are adults becoming victim to diseases we thought only children could catch?

Waning immunity
People old enough to remember the days before vaccines for mumps, measles and chickenpox probably contracted these diseases when they were young, so they have natural immunity and will be unlikely to succumb to the maladies. But adults who were vaccinated as young children, and therefore didn’t contract the diseases, may become vulnerable again because immunity can fade over time.

If you are concerned that your immunity may be wearing off, ask your doctor about a blood test that checks for antibodies to see if you are still immune. This is especially important for people with chronic medical conditions or who do a lot of foreign travel. And be sure you are up to date on vaccinations the CDC recommends for adults: a booster shot every 10 years for tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough, and an annual flu shot.

Lower vaccination rates for children
The best defense against childhood diseases is to have your children vaccinated. In some parts of the country, skepticism regarding the safety of vaccines has resulted in fewer children being vaccinated for chickenpox, measles, mumps and whooping cough. Among parents of kindergarten children in California, “personal belief exemptions” rose from 1.56 percent in 2007-08 up to 2.79 percent in 2012-13. With fewer children being vaccinated against these diseases, they are much more likely to spread from one person to another.

Childhood diseases that are affecting adults
Chickenpox
Causes fatigue, irritability, itchy rash that progresses to raised red bumps and then blisters. Adults who get chicken pox are more likely to contract pneumonia, hepatitis or encephalitis. This virus can also resurface years later as shingles.

Treatment: Bed rest, lots of fluids, a fever-reducer and an antihistamine to relieve itching. Calamine lotion or an oatmeal bath may also relieve symptoms.

Whooping Cough
Causes violent coughing accompanied by a “whooping” sound, nasal discharge, fever, sore and watery eyes. Lips, tongue and nail beds may turn blue during coughing spells. It can last up to 10 weeks and can lead to pneumonia and other complications.

Treatment: Antibiotics, keeping warm, plenty of fluids and reducing stimuli that provoke coughing.

Measles
Causes a rash, fever, runny nose, conjunctivitis, cough, swollen lymph nodes and headache. It can have serious complications in adults and can be fatal for children and adults with compromised immune systems. Complications include ear infection, pneumonia, vomiting, diarrhea and encephalitis.

Treatment: Plenty of fluids, fever reducer and antibiotics if a secondary infection develops.

Mumps
Causes discomfort and swelling of salivary glands in front of neck, difficulty chewing, fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness and loss of appetite. In males it can cause pain and tenderness of testicles, and, on rare occasions, sterility.

Treatment: Bed rest and analgesics (acetaminophen, ibuprofen) for fever and pain and applying cold packs to the swollen and inflamed salivary gland region may reduce symptoms and pain.

Fifth Disease
Causes cold-like symptoms and bright red rash that spreads from the cheeks to trunk, arms and legs. There may also be fever, headache, sore throat, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea. It can be associated with persistent fevers and arthritis in adults.

Treatment: Plenty of fluids,­­­ fever reducer and antihistamine for itching.


read more

after tobaccoIt is the time of year when many of us make resolutions to better ourselves. I always have a hard time making a New Year’s resolution because within a short time I have failed, and then, I need to think of yet another resolution! Eventually, I reach the point where it becomes ridiculous because I have made and broken so many resolutions that I run out of ideas!

It’s difficult to tackle resolutions at any time of year, even when there are sound reasons to do so. Change can be difficult. Start by educating yourself about the risks and benefits of making these changes. You also have to be careful that you do not replace one bad habit with another one. For example, the dangers of smoking are well documented, but the risks associated with e-cigarettes are still unknown. Yet some people who are trying to quit smoking are turning to e-cigarettes. There are also a number of people that have never smoked that are now “vaping” (using an e-cigarette). E-cigarettes or electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices that often look like regular tobacco cigarettes. The way they commonly work is that an atomizer or heating element heats a liquid often containing nicotine and various flavorings. Flavoring options include tobacco and menthol flavor, and flavorings that might appeal to younger users like bubblegum, cherry and apple. The heated liquid converts into a vapor or mist that the user inhales. The vapor cloud resembles smoke, but does not have an odor, so it is harder to know later if someone has been vaping.

Recent studies suggest that e-cigarettes do not help people reduce or quit smoking. E-cigarettes do not contain carbon monoxide or tar, which are two of the harmful chemicals in traditional cigarettes, but the Federal Drug Administration does not regulate e-cigarettes for recreational use, so what’s in them can vary. The FDA is currently looking into extending its authority to include alternatives to tobacco products, which would allow them to use regulatory rules to impose age restrictions and review claims made that e-cigarettes reduce tobacco-related disease and death.

tobacco smokingI applaud you if one of your resolutions this year is to quit smoking. I encourage you to educate yourself on the many resources available to help you. I recommend that you read the American Heart Association’s policy statement on the use of e-cigarettes. You may still find that e-cigarettes are a viable option for you or you can find a quit-method that may work for you here. If you live or work in the Howard County there are free Smoking Cessation & Tobacco Treatment Programs. Visit the library for resources on smoking and health-related issues.

This is a great time of year to reflect on major issues you would like to change in your life. You do not have to tackle everything at once. In fact, if you successfully tackle the little things it may give you confidence to tackle more major issues.

For me, I may try going to bed earlier one night a week, drinking a glass of water in the morning, taking a walk before lunch or dinner, exchanging a piece of fruit for candy as an afternoon pick me up, or using the stairs at work instead of the elevator to my resolution list. These small changes are more doable, and even I might just succeed this year in keeping a New Year’s resolution. Wish me luck! If some of you still need inspiration here are some resolutions that are popular each year with information on how to successfully achieve these resolutions.

Happy New Year!

Nancy Targett is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Miller Branch. She lives in Columbia and is the proud mom of three boys and a girl and a Siamese cat.

read more
sneezing father and daughter

© Jedimaster | Dreamstime.com

The flu season started earlier than usual this year, and most states are reporting continued and widespread outbreaks. Here are some commonly asked questions answered by a Johns Hopkins infectious disease specialist.

Q. Is it true that the flu season is turning out to be more severe than expected this year?
A. The flu season started off earlier and stronger than in several previous years, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says state-by-state reports of flu cases, hospitalizations and deaths are elevated. But it is still too early to tell if there will be more flu cases than is typical in the United States this flu season, which runs from October until May. That said, influenza is widespread in most states, so everyone should take precautions to avoid getting the flu.

Q. If people become sick with flu symptoms, should they go to an emergency room?
A. The flu can make you feel pretty lousy, but the best thing to do is first consult your personal doctor or health care provider. If you don’t have one, visit a community health clinic. Your personal health care provider is best able to determine, based on your symptoms, age and medical history, whether you need specialized care in an emergency department or hospital setting. Emergency departments are primarily set up to address urgent and critical medical issues.

Q. The flu vaccine available this year isn’t very effective. Why?
A.
Flu vaccines are developed in advance to protect against several strains of flu virus that epidemiologists who track worldwide flu virus outbreaks do their best to predict. Unfortunately, the strain infecting most people this season — known as H3N2 — mutated, something viruses often do. As a result, the vaccine available this season isn’t as effective as hoped in protecting against the H3N2 strain.

Q. Does that mean the vaccine is useless? Should people still get it?
A. The vaccine still has significant value. Definitely ask your doctor or health care provider for a flu shot, because even this late in the season, it may still offer some protection or moderate the flu if you get it. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months or older get a flu shot every year because it is an effective way of boosting the immune system to fight circulating strains of flu virus. In addition, by protecting yourself, you may also help protect others who could be exposed if you don’t get a flu shot and come down with the flu.

Q. Other than a flu shot, what other steps can we take to keep from getting the flu?
A.Yes. Wash hands often or use alcohol-based hand gel, especially after shaking others’ hands or being around someone who has cold or flulike symptoms, such as high fever, cough and fatigue.

Q. Should people who have the flu take Tamiflu?
A.
Antiviral drugs like Tamiflu are best and typically prescribed for those most at risk for serious flu complications, including the young, elderly, or those with other serious health conditions or compromised immune systems. Antivirals are only available by prescription and can’t be purchased over the counter. No one should take an antiviral unless a doctor specifically prescribes it. Most otherwise-healthy people can beat the flu by staying home and resting in bed, taking medicines to reduce fever and drinking plenty of water or other clear liquids to stay hydrated.

Q. What can health care workers do to keep themselves and patients healthy in flu season?
A. First and foremost, health care workers who have direct patient contact should get the flu vaccination. They also should practice good hand hygiene with frequent hand-washing or the application of sanitizing hand gel. Health care workers who feel sick with cold and flu symptoms should stay home and rest to avoid exposing patients to a flu or cold virus.

Lisa Maragakis, M.D., is an infectious disease expert and director of the Department of Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

read more