According to Census Bureau figures, there will be approximately 10,000 people turning 65 every day until nearly 2030. And, with the number of senior citizens rising rapidly, so will the number of cost-burdened senior households. According to the most recent American Community Survey, 42 million households pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing and 20.2 million pay more than half. Unfortunately, older Americans are especially vulnerable to these financial struggles. In fact, the number of older households with severe housing cost burdens jumped by one million between the years 2001 and 2010. Adding to the likelihood of a continued spike in burdened senior households, the recent recession led to a $14.3 trillion drop in net household wealth at the same time the number of older homeowners with mortgages has been increasing. From 1999 to 2009, the share of homeowners over the age of 65 with mortgages increased 11 percent. More here and here.
A study of 12,500 patients with diabetes or pre-diabetes found taking fish oil supplements had no positive or negative effect on their likelihood of having a heart attack or stroke. The research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that patients who took the supplements had the same rate of heart attacks, strokes, and death from heart-related causes as patients who took a placebo. Because the study was conducted on individuals who had an established heart problem or were at high risk, it’s unclear whether fish oil benefits people with a lower risk of heart disease. The researchers also stress that, despite the results, eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids is good for heart health. More here.
Researchers analyzing five previous studies of coffee and heart failure risk found that moderate consumption may help significantly reduce the likelihood of developing serious heart trouble. The research, published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation Heart Failure, defined moderate consumption as two 8-ounce servings and an excessive amount as four or five coffee-house sized servings. Murray Mittleman, MD, senior author of the study and director of the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said there is a commonly held belief that regular coffee drinking may be dangerous to heart health but the research found moderate consumption may protect against heart failure by as much as 11 percent. Mittleman cautioned, however, that excessive consumption had no benefit and could even be dangerous. More here.
An aging American population means more adults are assuming the responsibility of caring for their elderly parents. And, according to a new study from the University of Michigan, the stress of caregiving is often heightened by increased conflict between family members over the distribution of that responsibility. The study, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, looked at 861 adult caregivers and measured their stress based upon the patients’ particular impairments and the likelihood of family conflict. Among the results, the study found that daughters were more likely than sons to devote additional time to caring for their ailing parents as they became more dependent. Sons, on the other hand, were found to be more likely to ask other family members for help, which resulted in more opportunities for conflict over shared responsibility and support. More here.
A study of 713 women in their 70s found that those who ate the most fruits and vegetables and got the most exercise were eight times less likely to die over the next five years than participants who ate fewer fruits and vegetables and exercised less. Among participants, those who exercised the most were 74 percent less likely to die over the next five years and those who ate the most fruits and vegetables were 46 percent less likely to die. Combining a diet high in fruits and vegetables with exercise resulted in the greatest likelihood of increasing longevity. And though the study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, doesn’t prove that eating more produce and exercising after the age of 70 will lengthen your lifespan, it does add to numerous studies showing that combining a healthy diet with regular exercise leads to better health at any age. More here.
According to Census projections, the number of Americans over the age of 85 is set to rise to 19 million by 2050. By comparison, there were only 3 million Americans older than 85 in 1990. A large part of that increase are the approximately 78 million baby boomers now approaching their retirement years. But with increasing life expectancies and dwindling government resources, today’s seniors face the risk of an uncertain financial future. A recent Gallup poll shows that a rising number of Americans say they expect to rely heavily on social security as a source of retirement income. But as people live longer, the likelihood that they’ll require costly medical care or assistance increases. The struggle to pay for the healthcare needs of an aging American population highlights the need for a proper retirement plan that goes beyond social security and accounts for increasing life spans. More here and here.
The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society published a recent study which followed 10,755 individuals over the age of 65 between the years 1998 and 2006 and recorded the rate at which they suffered falls. The results showed that obese seniors were up to 50 percent more likely to have fallen than seniors maintaining their recommended weight, even when factoring in related health conditions such as arthritis and diabetes. The study also found that, though severely obese adults were less likely to have been injured by a fall, when injured, overweight seniors were less likely to recover. There was also a correlation between the level of obesity and the risk of suffering a fall. The more overweight, the higher the likelihood of having fallen. More here.
There are many reasons why people tend to get sick during the winter but following a few common-sense steps can go a long way toward keeping you from catching the common cold or flu. Though it’s tempting to stay indoors when the weather turns colder, getting outside and moving around is one of the best ways to protect yourself and boost your immune system. A recent study found that people who walked just 30 to 45 minutes a day five days a week reduced their risk of illness. Reducing stress and getting enough sleep are also keys to staying healthy. A 2009 study found that sleeping fewer than seven hours a night can triple the likelihood of developing a cold. Finally, washing your hands is among the most effective way of warding off sickness. Viruses can survive for up to eight hours on hard surfaces, which means keeping your hands clean is one of the best ways of avoiding illness this winter. More here.
After age 40, adults generally begin to get shorter due to natural changes in muscles, bones, and joints. Women, on average, lose three inches by the age of 80 and men lose two inches. Adults lose height at a rate of a quarter to a third of an inch every decade after 40. Research shows that losing height at a rate any faster than that can signal a higher risk of hip fracture and, in men, a higher likelihood of heart disease. A study from the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2006, found that men who lost more than 1.2 inches over 20 years were 46 percent more likely to have suffered from coronary heart disease and 64 percent more likely to have died from any cause. Still, having a moderately vigorous exercise routine, even if it began after the age of 40, has been shown to cut height loss in half. More here and here.
Antidepressants known as non-selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors – including Effexor, Trazadone, Wellbutrin, and Remeron – have been linked to an increased risk of falls in older adults, according to a study published in the Journals of Gerontology. The study found that seniors’ likelihood of falling was five times higher during the first four days after beginning a new prescription or receiving a larger dose of the antidepressants. The research looked at the records of 1,181 residents of long-term care facilities who had fallen within seven days of a medication change. Sarah D. Berry, M.D., coauthor of the study, said it isn’t clear why the risk of falling increases following a change in non-SSRI drugs but it may have to do with the medication’s effect on blood pressure and motor skills. More here.