Aging & Caregiving in the News

Information, updates and interesting tidbits from across the country and around the world.

  • More women are skipping the hair dye.
  • For heart health, your BMI isn't the only number to know.
  • Could a sad movie make us happy?

Women with silver hair in salon


Many Women Went Gray During the Pandemic and Aren't Going Back

Over the past year and a half, many older women allowed their hair return to its natural color. For many, it was a matter of caution about going to a public salon. But others report that the quarantine provided an opportunity to go through that awkward growing-out phase in private! Many are emerging with what we might call "lockdown silver locks," and they like it. "I'd been dyeing my hair for so many years that I wasn't even sure what the real color was," they say.

"This appears to have accelerated a shift that was already happening, with more and more women choosing not to dye their hair," reports psychology Ph.D. candidate Vanessa Cecil of the University of Exeter in the UK. Cecil and her team interviewed women about their experiences with their newly gray hair, and found that many viewed it as a welcome personal choice and as a way of expressing their confidence and authenticity. Yes, some faced ageism, reporting "negative consequences such as being ignored or treated as less competent." But they also felt "happier to be 'flying my natural flag.'" Read more about the study here

My BMI Is OK—Could My Weight Still Be Unhealthy?

Man getting his midsection measured

For years, doctors have been telling us that being overweight raises our risk of heart disease. We're advised to know our body mass index (BMI), which is calculated using our height and weight. A BMI of 25 is considered overweight, and 30 indicates obesity. Now, in an April 2021 scientific statement, the American Heart Association has announced that excess belly fat, even more than simple BMI, is the strongest indication of high risk.

The experts advise patients to know their visceral adipose tissue (VAT) number, which is determined by the ratio of height and waist circumference, or waist-to-hip ratio. "Studies that have examined the relationship between abdominal fat and cardiovascular outcomes confirm that visceral fat is a clear health hazard," said Dr. Tiffany Powell-Wiley of the National Institutes of Health. Some cardiologists even speak of "medically healthy obesity," when a person carries those extra pounds elsewhere than their midsection, and therefore might have a lower risk than a person with a lower BMI but higher VAT. So, especially if you've developed a "beer belly" during the pandemic, talk to your doctor about ways to return to a healthier weight.

A Tearjerker Movie Could Make Us Feel Better

Couple sniffling in the movie theater

"I'm in the mood for a sad movie!" You don’t hear many people say that, yet there are plenty of films that tug at our heartstrings—and those movies wouldn't be made if people didn't like them. Researchers from Ohio State University wanted to know why.

"Watching meaningful films—those that we find moving and poignant—can make us feel more prepared to deal with life's challenges and want to be a better person," the study authors said. To learn more, they had people watch films with sad themes but a meaningful resolution, such as Schindler's List and Hotel Rwanda, and then comedy or adventure films. After seeing the sadder but uplifting films, viewers said that those movies helped them make sense of difficulties in life, "more easily handle difficult situations with grace and courage," and realize that "both happy and sad experiences give meaning to our life."

This is an individual thing, of course. Some people prefer comedies or action films to more serious fare. But if you like tearjerkers, go ahead and cue one up. Don't forget the popcorn—and tissues! Read more about the study here.


Source: IlluminAge Communication Partners; copyright 2021 IlluminAge