June 29, 2011

Come Along on My Trip to New York City This Past Historic Weekend

Last week we took a walk through my neighborhood's streets and woods. This week, join me on my visit to NYC this past historic, emotion-filled weekend.

I'd been reading about the exceptionally good season the Broadway theaters are having, and it reminded me that I haven't visited New York City in a long time. So, early last week I decided to go up for the weekend and see a few shows. I made an Amtrak reservation to head north on Friday afternoon and return Tuesday. I booked into the Hilton that's near the theater district and bought tickets to a couple of well reviewed shows, all without giving it a lot of thought.

My life in DC has been unusually filled with people and activities lately. Even though I have a couple good friends in New York, I decided to make this a solo, recharge-the-batteries weekend. (Sorry to miss you, Jim and Bonnie.)

Then, as has happened so often in my life, serendipity struck. Friday night the Republican-controlled NY Senate surprisingly passed the state's Gay Marriage law and Governor Cuomo signed it. As fate would have it, this legislative landmark coincided with NYC's Gay Pride weekend. And, in another coincidence, the plays I'd signed up for had a particular relevance to my life.

I want to comment on some of this later. For now, please check out these photo highlights of my weekend adventure in the Big Apple:

June 28, 2011

Activities Keep Us Sharp. What are YOURS?

That recent NIH report about cognitive impairment included this especially upbeat note: “Preliminary evidence suggests beneficial associations of physical activity and other leisure activities (such as club membership, religious services, painting, or gardening) with preservation of cognitive function.”

I’d love to hear what physical or leisure activities YOU pursue and find fun. Won’t you please share your thoughts in a comment below? If you’re a newbie to this blog thing, as I still am, adding a comment is a snap: just click on the “comments” link at the end of this post. You can give your name, or you can remain anonymous. It doesn’t really matter. Your PARTICIPATION matters. Your IDEAS matter. Your great suggestion might help someone else (like me!).

Here are several activities I love:

June 27, 2011

My Thoughts on NIH's Discouraging Report on Dementia Studies

Don't throw up your hands and say "the hell with it" if you've been hoping to fight off the threat of dementia by making smart choices. Yes, it would be easy to feel dismayed by the NIH report that found insufficient evidence to support past studies of potential benefits from exercise, diet, supplements, etc. (See my June 22 review of this study).

While the report is disheartening, it is important to be clear about what it says. In reviewing the past studies that suggested certain options might help prevent or delay Alzheimer's or cognitive decline, it found that the supporting evidence did not meet its rigorous standards. Only in a relatively few instances did it find that the evidence showed a particular treatment would not work. Instead, it said only that the evidence for a purported link between the treatment and a reduction in the risk of dementia did not meet the rigorous standards set by the NIH "jury."
Here are some specifics to keep in mind:

June 24, 2011

A Link Between Parkinson's and Melanoma: Sunscreen! Hat! Dermatologist!

With the arrival of the year's first weekend of "official" summertime, and as millions of us head toward the great outdoors for a little R&R, let’s take a closer look at new information about the connection between Parkinson’s and melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

June 23, 2011

Please Join Me on My Morning Walk!

I'm supposed to take the first dose of my Parkinson's meds when I wake up; then I should wait about an hour before eating. I recently decided I'd use that hour for a walk. Since this is Washington, DC, where the temperature rises quickly into the 80's and 90's -- and the humidity turns the world into a steamroom -- early mornings are often the only time for a walk outside.

I've lived in my house almost 50 years now. But on my new walks around the neighborhood, I'm discovering things that I've never noticed before.

This week, I've been taking a Grand Circuit tour that reminds me of how lucky I was to have found this neighborhood AND to have received the Parkinson's diagnosis and treatments before I carried out my plans to sell the house and move into a retirement residence.

Come along on this walk and you'll see why I refer to this terrific neighborhood as "country living in the city."

June 22, 2011

Warding Off Dementia: Major NIH Study Finds No Evidence That Anything Really Works

With all my recent research on dementia, how on earth did I miss this study?

A year ago, NIH recapped an in-depth review of past studies to answer this question: Can anything -- dietary supplement, prescription med, exercise, Mediterranean diet, strong social network (just to mention several "benefits" we've recently discussed) -- prevent or delay Alzheimer's or cognitive decline?

The disheartening  answer: "No evidence of even moderate scientific quality exists to support the association of any modifiable factor (such as nutritional supplements, herbal preparations, dietary factors, prescription or nonprescription drugs, social or economic factors, medical conditions, toxins or environmental exposures) with reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease."

Let's take a closer look at the report.

June 20, 2011

What Diet do Doctors and Scientists Recommend for Healthy Aging?

Drum roll, please!

Answer: a plant-based menu like the Mediterranean Diet. It seems you find as much written about the positive impact of this diet on health as you do about the advantages of exercise on healthy aging!

Here are some facts about the benefits of such a diet, and a few tips on how to bring these benefits directly to your table:

June 17, 2011

Warding Off Dementia: Male/Female Susceptibility

As part of my on-going series about warding off dementia, I recently discussed research that highlighted the importance of strong social networks for seniors' brain health. Later, I mentioned research that indicated older women develop and maintain those networks better than men.

In a comment to that latter post, Grant asked this pertinent question:
Any idea whether, as a result of these interaction differences, women suffer dementia less than men, or at least later?
Turns out that there isn't a clear answer to this question. Here's what my research shows:

June 16, 2011

Parkinson's, Healthy Aging & Supplements: Goodbye, CoQ10. Hello, Resveratrol!

Millions of us take dietary supplements to ward off disease or slow the aging process. Those of us with chronic progressive diseases like Parkinson's are particularly susceptible to hyped remedies and cures. Unfortunately, scientific studies all too often dash the hopes for a touted supplement.

Here's a personal example: Preliminary studies suggested that large doses of coenzyme Q10 might help those of us with Parkinson's. So, I started taking 1200mg every day. Then last month, NIH stopped studying CoQ10 at the mid-point review because the data showed CoQ10 did not offer benefits greater than the placebo.

Ever hopeful (dupe-able?), I've now jettisoned CoQ10 and will try another supplement -- resveratrol -- based again on promising preliminary studies. At age 82, I'm not inclined to wait for the more definitive studies that could take years unless there are indications of harmful side effects from the supplement being tested. 

Here's some background on both the CoQ10 and resveratrol studies:

June 15, 2011

How I Lost Five Pounds in Seven Days!

I know. I sound like one of those stupid weight loss TV commercials. But I believe this drop resulted from following two basic precepts for healthy aging:

June 14, 2011

June Garden Favorites: Something Old, Something New

As I look at my garden this time of year, my greatest pleasure comes from two plants: one an old favorite, one a new experiment.

June 13, 2011

Warding Off Dementia: Reflections on Older Men and Social Interaction

As part of our ongoing series about warding off dementia, last week I discussed research that highlights the power of maintaining strong social networks. My research made me wonder: what role does gender play in seniors' social interaction? Do men and women "do it differently"? Here's what I found:

June 10, 2011

Isradipine, Weight Gain, Exercise: Trimming the Fat

Are Isradipine or Other Meds Causing My Weight Gain?
Last year during the spring and summer, I lost 10 pounds. This year, with the same diet and exercise, I'm gaining weight. Even after several days of steady work in the garden and light meals of salad and fruit, I've seen the needle on the scale go UP. What's been going on?

June 9, 2011

Healthy Aging Ain't Easy in Washington, DC Today

Our Founding Fathers were brilliant in drafting a constitution. But today I wonder if they were all that smart in deciding to build our capital on a swamp. The photos below are from my morning walk:

The time:
The temperature:

And the Citibank sign doesn't show the worst number -- the humidity which probably is in the 90's. Predicted high temp for today -- 100. 

AS I age,  the humidity increasingly impacts me. So I'll stay in the AC today and complain about the DC swamp.  But when the predicted relief comes this weekend, I'll be back to loving the city.

June 8, 2011

Warding Off Dementia: Reach Out and Touch Someone

Recent research suggests that social interaction is one of the most important keys to warding off dementia. Researchers aren't certain what happens in the brain to produce the positive effects seen among the more socially engaged, but they say it's clear that close relationships and large social networks have a very positive impact on memory and cognitive function as people age.

Here's a quick rundown on some of the recent research results:

June 7, 2011

Aging and Driving: A Wake-Up Call in More Ways Than One!

I celebrated "Drowsy Driving Prevention Week" by demonstrating what happens when you ignore the warning signals of drowsiness. I dozed off at the wheel while driving downtown last Friday, crossed over the right-hand lane beside me, and woke up when the car ricocheted off the retaining wall. Fortunately, no other cars were behind me in either lane. I wasn't hurt. The car had a badly dented front wheel and some new dents and scratches on my 1996 Honda Civic. But it was drivable.

June 6, 2011

Healthy Aging Advice Keeps Changing on Supplements, Diets: Niacin Now a No-No, "Pass the Salt" Debatable

I try to enhance whatever gold is left in my "golden years" by following the medical profession's advice on healthy living, but it isn't easy when that advice keeps changing. The past week's news has scientists and medical authorities questioning the validity of two of the most well-established ground rules: 1) Niacin is good for you, and 2) Lots of salt is bad.

June 3, 2011

"For Every $1 the Federal Government Spends on Children, It Spends $4 to $5 on Seniors"

When I researched the previous posting about the decline in funding for NIH research into seniors' health issues, my first thought was "we need to lobby to reverse that trend!" But then I remembered the quote in the title above, which I've seen often in today's health care debate. It gave me pause.

U.S. Funding Cutback Will Impact Age-Related Health Research

The Federal government funds most aging and mental health research and training, although private charities and foundations are becoming increasingly important money sources.

The federal budget crisis preoccupying Congress and the Administration has already affected funding for age-related health research.  And it promises to get tighter and tighter.

June 1, 2011

Good news and bad news on stem cell research to treat diseases (the best news comes last)

This post will summarize recent news reports on the latest research on the use of stem cells to treat diseases including Alzheimer's diseases, spinal cord injury, stroke, Parkinson's, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.  As is so often the case, there's good news and bad news.

But first some background information.