Senior Health Updates


What's new in healthy aging and senior care research?

Senior man conflicted about his drinking

Doctors Should Talk to Older Patients About Their Drinking

In our later years, plenty of things can harm our health. So at our annual Medicare checkup or other visit, our doctor is likely to ask us about our diet, exercise, and managing our medications. But a new study from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health suggests there's another topic doctors should raise—though fewer than half do. "Older adults are at high risk for the harms of alcohol use, especially those with existing chronic disease and who take prescribed medications," says study author Pia Mauro, Ph.D. "Alcohol use can therefore lead to negative consequences and complicate the management of chronic medical diseases among older adults, making discussions about alcohol with providers particularly important in this population."

Mauro, who is an assistant professor of epidemiology, says that for doctors to bring up the topic on a regular basis would be helpful. "Normalizing discussions about alcohol use with providers in a non-judgmental way is an important step to reduce stigma and prevent potential negative health consequences," she says.

Carrying Extra Pounds? Small Lifestyle Changes Can Really Help Your Heart

As we grow older, we're likely to experience stiffening of the aorta, which is the largest artery in the body. This makes the heart work harder to deliver the oxygen and vital nutrients we need.

According to Wake Forest School of Medicine gerontology professor Tina E. Brinkley, Ph.D., "Higher body mass index, body weight, total body fat and abdominal fat, as well as a larger waist circumference, are all associated with higher aortic stiffness, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular events including heart attack and stroke, and even death."

Brinkley and her research team conducted a study on a group of older adults with obesity, and found that those who got two hours of exercise each week and eliminated just 200 calories per day lost weight and experienced a significant improvement in aortic stiffness. "These relatively small changes should be manageable for people and more sustainable over the long term," Brinkley noted. So don't forget—every little bit helps!

COVID-19 Symptoms May Look Different in Older Adults

A recent study published in the Journal of Gerontology found that although younger patients most often come to the hospital with "typical" COVID symptoms—fever and chills, coughing and shortness of breath—older patients might also (or only) have symptoms such as altered mental status and functional decline, which could include confusion, falling, or the inability to eat or walk.

"While older adults account for the majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations, there is a lack of research on symptoms this population may experience at the onset of the disease including uncharacteristic symptoms like weakness, delirium, agitation or lethargy," said study author Allison Marziliano, Ph.D., assistant professor at The Feinstein Institutes, which is the research arm of Northwell Health, New York's largest health care provider. Marziliano and her team hope this information will help health care workers better identify and treat symptoms of COVID-19 among older patients.

Source: IlluminAge