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Does your loved one need palliative care?

It was Henry Miller who once said, “It is a very limited concept of medicine that strives to understand disease, but not the needs of sick people.”

Nowhere is that need greater than the care of our elderly. Fortunately, the healthcare industry is taking steps toward recognizing the unique needs of our senior loved ones by providing specialized care that meets the healthcare needs of the patients as well as the emotional and supportive needs of those who love them.

Commonly known as “comfort care,” palliative care provides a team of specialists who cater to the varying healthcare needs of a patient. That team often includes a physician, nurse, pharmacist, a social worker, chaplain and volunteers. Read more

Standing up against the need to be a couch potato

For the past three years, I have been trying to lose the same five pounds.

I’ll lose a couple pounds, feel like I’m doing really well, and then celebrate by going out for ice cream. I know I need to get back to the gym, beat the scale and (more importantly) develop good exercise habits, but I’m just not motivated.

According to R.J. Shephard’s article, “Aging and Exercise,” in the Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine and Science, I am in good company: It is difficult to motivate the vast majority of older adults to exercise regularly. But after doing some research, I’ve discovered ways to get recommitted.

Weigh yourself daily. In a study at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, of 3,026 dieting adults, those who weighed themselves more frequently lost more weight over two years or regained fewer pounds. That makes sense to me. I got frustrated at not losing the pounds, so I quit weighing myself to avoid having a bad day. I need to force myself to look at those numbers.

Stick a model on your fridge. Seriously, this works. But you have to choose people based on your motivational style. In a series of three studies, Penelope Lockwood and colleagues discovered that some people are motivated by success and others are motivated by failure. So, if you’re motivated to succeed, put a slim model on your fridge. If you’re motivated to avoid failure, put an example of a failed dieter where you can see it. I’m not sure which strategy works best for me, so I’m going to pin up Gisele Bundchen and a close-up of my cellulite.

Get rid of the candy jar. Why, oh why, do I keep filling up my candy jar with my favorite chocolate treats? A Wall Street Journal article reported that in a four-week study of 40 secretaries, when candy was visible in a clear, covered dish, participants ate 2.5 pieces of chocolate on top of the 3.1 candies they would have eaten had the chocolates been in an opaque container. Moving the dish closer, so the subjects could reach the candy while at their desks, added another 2.1 candies a day to their intake. I keep the candy jar handy to increase the esprit de corps at work, but I am sabotaging myself in the process.

If all else fails, imagine yourself as a weightlifter. Believe it or not, there is something to visualization – even when it comes to exercise. Guang Yue, an exercise psychologist from Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, compared “people who went to the gym with people who carried out virtual workouts in their heads.” He found that the group of participants who conducted mental exercises of the weight training increased muscle strength by almost half as much (13.5 percent) as those who went to the gym (30 percent). So, if I can’t get to the gym, it helps to know that mental practices are almost as effective as true physical practice and that doing both is more effective than either alone.

Now that I am recommitting myself to exercising, I have a few things to do: get back on the scale, pin up some motivating pictures, get rid of my office candy jar and imagine myself thin and fit. Now, I need an exercise partner.

This article was originally published in the OCRegister.com. It has been republished here with permission.

Listening for the silent epidemic: Hepatitis C

It’s been called a silent epidemic, a woefully underdiagnosed disease with a whopping 40 percent mortality rate that only seems to be increasing with time.

Hepatitis C infections can cause chronic liver disease, liver cancer, a swollen abdomen, gastrointestinal bleeding, skin yellowing and fatigue. Yet many of the 4 million patients infected with Hepatitis C do not learn of their diagnosis for decades until they begin showing end-stage symptoms that are typically irreversible and difficult to manage and treat.

Why is this deadly disease not being diagnosed much earlier in its progression? The fact is that most people don’t get tested because they don’t realize they’re at risk. That means education and awareness are the most important weapons we have to stop Hepatitis C from inflicting this pain and suffering.

I sat down with Dr. Mohammad Alsolaiman, a gastroenterologist at Central Utah Clinic, to learn the key things we need to know to protect ourselves and our loved ones:

Older folks are at the highest risk
Alarmingly, it’s the baby boomer generation that comprises the vast majority of undiagnosed Hepatitis C patients — and yet they’re likely to not realize the need to be tested. Dr. Alsolaiman’s patients are always surprised to learn that many Hepatitis C infections occurred decades ago.

Undiagnosed Hepatitis C also comes at a very high price tag for society
Individuals who develop cirrhosis and end-stage liver cancer from Hepatitis C infection typically require a liver transplant, adding to an already overburdened list of patients waiting for a donor. And the cost of medical care for patients living with Hepatitis C is expected to nearly triple in just two decades, to $85 billion by 2027 if no intervention is undertaken.

There are many routes to infection
The leading risk factors for Hepatitis C are unprotected sex, drug use (including intra-nasal), blood transfusions prior to 1992, incarceration, tattoos, occupational exposure, and surgeries performed prior to the implementation of universal precautions. Patients who undergo hemodialysis or were born to an infected mother also are at risk.

Hepatitis C is fully curable in most of the patients
Unlike HIV infections, a Hepatitis C infection can be cured in most of the patients. In fact, even oral medication is an option, and newly available medications have made it possible to be free of the virus in 8-12 weeks. The success rate is more than 90 percent.

Hepatitis C drugs are far more advanced now
We’ve come a long way since the first Hepatitis C drug, Interferon, was introduced with a paltry 10 to 20 percent success rate with a very bad reputation for intolerable side effects. This has been replaced today with more powerful oral and effective drugs.

There’s no reason for people to suffer and die from a disease that is highly treatable when caught early. To find out more about Dr. Alsolaiman or to schedule an appointment to find out more, connect with Central Utah Clinic for information on services, locations, events and more.

This article was originally published in The Daily Herald. It has been republished here with permission.

The ‘juicy’ secrets and surprising benefits of juicing

As we get older, our bodies process food differently. We tend to have smaller appetites, chewing and swallowing can become more difficult, and preparing meals can become more of a challenge for a variety of reasons.

One trendy, healthy way to get added nutrients is through juicing. Whether you are a purist and press apples straight from the tree or rely on store-bought products to supplement your meals, juicing can be a healthy addition to your loved one’s dietary routine.

Eating whole fruits and vegetables is the best way to ingest nutrients as well as dietary fiber, but many older individuals are more likely to consume produce in inconspicuous liquid form. Best of all, vegetables like spinach, carrots, and kale can be incorporated into juice recipes without the consumer even tasting it. Flavors from the fruit you use typically overshadow those of the veggies.

If you struggle to get your loved one to fit produce into their diet, juicing is a healthy and palatable alternative. However, there are a few things to consider when choosing the healthiest juice possible.

Choose your ingredients wisely.

While there is no magical cure for all of the body’s aches and pains, natural nutrients in fruits and vegetables can be helpful in easing pain, reducing inflammation and bolstering immune system function. Certain varieties and combinations of produce can have both a targeted and overall beneficial effect on your body.

For instance, joint pain can be assuaged by juicing carrots, parsley, ginger, and leeks. Leeks and ginger are high in antioxidants and other vitamins and minerals that can help to reduce inflammation in the body. For a boost in immune and cardiac health, try a combination of pomegranate, orange, and garlic. Pomegranates lower cholesterol and blood pressure and increase the speed at which heart blockages (atherosclerosis) dissolve. With a little bit of research, you can find a healthy juice recipe for almost every ailment you can imagine.

Consider your juicing method.

There are a number of ways to produce your own nutrient-rich juices. Traditional or centrifugal processes use fast-spinning blades to pulverize produce. Heat and air are added during this process—two things that supposedly reduce the nutrients that actually make it into your glass.

Masticating or “cold-pressed” processes extract juice by pressing and grinding fruits and vegetables without adding heat. If you are looking for a ready-to-drink cold-pressed option, then brands like MUSE are a convenient way to reap the benefits without purchasing a machine and doing the work yourself.

Proponents of the raw food movement believe that cooking denatures important vitamins and minerals in food. It is true that some compounds like vitamin C are easily damaged by exposure to heat, air, and water. But, in some cases, cooking actually increases antioxidants and other beneficial components of certain fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, spinach, and carrots.

Depending on what you are trying to accomplish through juicing, it may not matter if your product is cold-pressed or made in a traditional machine.

Be careful not to juice everything.

Although most fruits and vegetables can be juiced, there are a few things to stay away from. This is especially important for seniors.

There is some disagreement over whether or not to peel fruits and vegetables before juicing, but it isn’t a black and white issue. Apples, grapes, cucumbers and even bananas can be processed and consumed without peeling. We waste a great source of nutrition by removing and discarding the skins and rinds of produce. However, there are a few items that are best consumed “naked.” Citrus fruits feature tough rinds that are still nutrient dense, but they also contain oils that can cause indigestion and stomach issues if consumed in large quantities. Try not to throw away the healthy white pith just underneath the rind, though. Mangos are best juiced without the skin as well since this part can cause allergic reactions in some individuals.

Many people like to add leafy greens like kale and spinach to their fruit juices and smoothies, but there are a few varieties that must be avoided or approached with caution. Rhubarb greens can be harmful and release toxic substances, so keep these out of your juicer. Carrot greens have received a bad reputation, but they are not actually poisonous. Some people may have a sensitivity to this part of the vegetable, so if you aren’t sure whether you or a loved one might have a reaction, then it is best to steer clear of them.

Purchase your produce wisely.

When juicing or making smoothies, especially when using whole ingredients with skins and greens intact, it is wise to opt for organic produce. Although fruit and vegetable peels are great sources of concentrated nutrients, pesticides tend to accumulate in the peels of conventionally produced fruits and vegetables and even on the green tops of root vegetables.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has pioneered a “Dirty Dozen” list that ranks produce items according to the amount of pesticide residue they contain. Apples happen to top the list as the worst offender, which is a shame since apple peels are extremely beneficial. If you plan to use conventional produce, be sure to thoroughly wash, and even peel certain items. Pesticides and insecticides can remain even if you take these precautions, so carefully consider purchasing at least some ingredients in organic form.

As we age, it’s even harder to treat your body right and get the nutrients you need, but diet has a significant impact on overall health and the proper function of the body. Juices can be used as a natural dietary supplement in lieu of processed vitamin capsules and tablets, or you can craft your own produce combinations to help improve specific areas of your health.

Achieving proper nutrition through real foods is better than opting for meal replacement shakes and pills, but it is important to approach juicing with common sense and do your research or consult with a physician or nutritionist if you have any questions.

This article was originally published on agingcare.com. It has been republished here with permission.

UTI: Can you feel the burn?

If you are experiencing burning while urinating it could mean one of two things: The toilet is, in fact, on fire. Or you may have a urinary tract infection.

What are some symptoms of a urinary tract infection?

Along with a burning sensation while urinating, symptoms for a UTI also include a frequent need to go to the bathroom, nausea, strong-smelling urine, itching, and muscle pains. In a nutshell, UTI’s are as unpleasant as they are common. But the burning question is what causes this infection and how can one prevent them from occurring?

What are some causes?

According to the Office on Women’s Health, some common culprits include delaying trips to the bathroom when the urge arises and improper wiping after a bowel movement. Older adults may experience a UTI due to diabetes, the reduced production of estrogen, and kidney stones.

They also estimate that about one in five women who get UTIs will get another one. It’s likely for some women to suffer from three or more UTIs in one year. If you are prone to UTIs, ask your doctor about your treatment options. Your doctor may ask you to take a small dose of medicine every day to prevent infection. Or, your doctor might give you a supply of antibiotics to take at the first sign of infection.

What are some proven forms of prevention?

In older adults, practicing good hygiene is the most reliable way to avoid getting a UTI or other undesirable infections. “Having good hygiene helps avoid urinary tract infections, said Jeremy Withers, Director of Nursing at River’s Edge Rehabilitation and Living Center. “Also, it’s important to keep your loved one as dry as possible, and the most critical aspect is hydration. Make sure your loved one is hydrated.” Women’s health recommends drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water per day to stave off infection.

Cranberries are berry good for you.

Despite changing trends in treatment, the go-to method for treating UTIs is antibiotics. However, some studies have found success with pure cranberry juice and supplements. “Cranberry supplements can help treat them or prevent them from happening as often,” said Jeremy. Once scrutinized as a new age trick, cranberry has emerged with a nod from some scientists as an effective method for treating and preventing urinary tract infections.

To better understand its effectiveness, it’s helpful to understand how infection settles in. “The bacteria responsible for more than 95 percent of urinary tract infections are a pathogenic strain of the same E. coli bacteria found in the lower intestine. If not for these fimbriae, the flow of urine would simply wash the bacteria away. But once they’re securely latched onto the urinary tract walls, they quickly start reproducing,” wrote livescience.com contributor Diya Chacko.

Experts admit cranberry juice is not strong enough to kill bacteria. But it does pack enough punch to prevent it from attaching to the intestinal walls. “Cranberries contain large amounts of a chemical called proanthocyanidin, or PAC. PAC functions almost like a shield as it forces the fimbriae to crumple so they can’t attach to the surface of the cells in the urinary tract,” wrote Diya.

So drink your water, and take your cranberry supplements. By taking preventative measures and seeking treatment should an infection persist, you can avoid getting burned by a urinary tract infection.

4 reasons why thinning hair doesn’t mean the end of the world

It’s the stuff some nightmares are made of. For some, it’s being trapped in a snake den. For others, it’s standing in public in nothing but your underwear. But one fear most older adults all share is the fear of losing our hair. In a society that relishes its long locks, anyone touting a “magical cure” can name his price.

One inevitable fact of life is that thinning hair is a common byproduct of aging. Studies show that up to 50 percent of women over the age will experience hair loss. Sadly, many of us have a genetic predisposition to hair loss, called androgenetic alopecia.

“As we age, overall density changes and individual strands become finer,” explained dermatologist Doris J. Day in her article for Prevention.com.

Before you silently accept your follicle-deprived fate, here are some methods that have shown to reduce the rate of hair loss.

1.You are what you eat.
Your hair is a direct reflection of your diet, so if you don’t like what’s happening on your head, you should pay attention to what’s going in your mouth. Good nutrition has a variety of benefits for your health, but your hair stands to benefit from a diet loaded with protein, zinc, iron, and vitamin B12.

“We know that a nutritious diet is key to healthy skin, functioning organs, an alert mind, and good strong hair. Our kitchen staff really go the extra mile in making sure the food is not only delicious, here at arroyo, but that it is just what our residents need,” said Pamela Fernandez, LPN at Arroyo Vista Nursing Center.

At any age, good nutrition is clearly evident in the condition of our hair. “A strand of hair is composed of mostly protein, which means your hair needs protein to grow,” wrote WebMD contributor, Joseph Saling. “At any given time, about 90% of your hair is in the growing phase. For each individual hair, this growing phase lasts 2 to 3 years. At the end of that time, hairs enter a resting phase that lasts about three months before they are shed and replaced by new hair. If you don’t get enough protein in your diet, a disproportionate number of hairs may go into the resting phase.”

2. Get a massage.
Many people have found success in performing a daily scalp massage. According to Livestrong.com contributor, Shemiah Williams, a three-minute scalp massage not only stimulates the scalp and improves circulation it reduces stress. However, there is no medical evidence fully supporting massaging the scalp as a proven method for preventing hair loss.

3. The heat is on.
Ironically, sometimes our efforts to improve our hair’s appearance is the very thing contributing to its departure. Heated styling products are one of the biggest culprits to increased hair loss.

“Certain hair appliances that use high heat to help style your hair can lead to damaged hair and breakage, which can look like baldness,” wrote contributor Krisha McCoy. “Damaging hair appliances include blow dryers, flat irons, curling irons, and other devices that apply heat to your hair.”
Krisha added that these hot hair appliances cause the most damage to your hair when you use them on wet hair. Some devices get so hot they boil the water in your hair shaft, which leaves your hair brittle.

4. Avoiding certain medications.
If you need added incentive to improve your health to the point of decreasing your medications, hair loss could be a strong motivator. Many prescription medications contribute to increased hair loss in men and women.

“Among the medications that can potentially cause hair loss are blood thinners, vitamin A supplements, some arthritis medications, antidepressants, gout medications, medications for certain heart problems, blood pressure medications, and birth control pills,” wrote Krisha. The good news is that your doctor may be able to prescribe an alternative medication.

According to an ABC News report, men will spend over $1 billion on hair treatment products this year. Men also will spend some $60 million on vitamins and nutritional supplements with dreams of keeping their hair on their head instead of their brush. With new products hitting the store shelves on a seemingly weekly basis, it’s important to research the effectiveness of these methods to determine which ones look promising or should get the brush off.

This article was originally published on Orange County Register. It has been republished here with permission.

Seniors and dental care: it’s something worth smiling about

Typically, we make sure our family has regular checkups but is your older loved one following the same schedule? Experts are guessing the answer is probably not.

According to the Center for Disease Control, a little over half (60 percent) of today’s senior adults visited a dentist in 2013 despite the fact that one in four of seniors aged 65 and older have gum disease. This segment of the population is in need of proper dental care since many of today’s serious diseases can be linked to tooth decay or gum disease.

“It is thought that poor dental hygiene allows a proinflammatory state that is associated with CAD,” wrote Youngsoo Cho, MD., “I must emphasize that this is not a proven cause, but studies have shown an association with tooth decay and Coronary Artery Disease.”

Other studies have found correlations between poor oral hygiene and diabetes and pneumonia.

Yes, Aunt Cora needs to visit the dentist, but there are a number of challenges seniors face when it comes to dental care. Three of those reasons include financial, transportation and lack of prevention.

Put your money where your mouth is

“Unfortunately, only about 2 percent of older Americans have dental insurance,” wrote contributor Chris Hawkins for SeniorLiving.com. “This means that many end up going without. And the older the person, the more likely they are to need dental care for a variety of reasons.”

At present, neither Obamacare nor Medicare provides dental coverage. However, there are programs at a state level that can offset the cost of dental care.

Running your mouth off

Oftentimes, it is the responsibility of a loved one to transport a senior to various medical appointments. If that kind of support doesn’t exist, the condition of his or her mouth will decline.

The good news is that many senior facilities are proactively taking the matter of dental care into their hands.

“It’s really hard to find good dental benefits for seniors. Medicaid does cover some but it’s limited in most states. However in a long-term care facility like Provo Rehab and Nursing, there is an internal dentist that makes sure residents have routine cleanings and checkups,” said Loralee Hatch, business director at Provo Rehab and Nursing.

Here’s something to chew on

As with most health conditions, prevention is the best defense against serious disease, and dental care is no exception. It is common for many of your loved ones’ medications to create dry mouth, which encourages tooth decay and disease. Also, treatments requiring chemotherapy or radiation to the head or neck can damage or destroy oral tissue.

Seniors can counteract the potential damage of medications or treatments by drinking lots of fluids, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and adopting a routine of regular brushing and flossing. In some cases, it is difficult for your loved one to brush their own teeth. In situations of dementia or other medical limitations, seniors may not cooperate. The best strategy is to talk with your loved one’s doctor and discuss your dental concerns with the skilled nursing or assisted living facility. You will find that everyone involved wants the best for your senior and will work together to be sure your senior’s dental needs are addressed.

“Keeping your mouth healthy keeps your overall system in shape, especially in your senior years,” said Hatch, and that’s worth smiling about.

This article was originally published by The Daily Herald. It has been republished here with permission.

3 things you should know about diabetes

Did you know at this very moment you could have diabetes?

In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, out of the 29 million Americans with diabetes, 1 in 4 don’t know they have the disease. But as thousands of new cases of diabetes are diagnosed each year, the prognosis is grim. A newly diagnosed diabetic faces a future of pills, vague fitness and nutrition plans and no real answers for effective treatment.

What if the medical community could eliminate diabetes from our families? What if there was a way to prevent diabetes? Better yet, what if there was a way to reverse it?

There is a way.

But it requires a greater understanding of the effects of diabetes on the body, the limitations of today’s healthcare and the empowering effects of looking at this disease differently.

The effects of diabetes on the body

What is happening in your body? Quite a bit. In a healthy body, energy is created when the hormone insulin pulls glucose cells out of the blood and passes through a receptor site to produce Adenosine Triphosphate or ATP.

But in a diabetic’s body, the receptor site doesn’t open for this molecule, so insulin and blood sugar have no choice but to convert to cholesterol, attach to your blood vessel walls and wreak havoc on your system with painful inflammation.

Today’s pharmaceutical companies have created drugs for every health condition. Often a diabetic is prescribed a cocktail of blood sugar, cholesterol, and high blood pressure medications and told to eat right and exercise, yet this generalized treatment plan doesn’t effectively reduce the symptoms of this disease.

The limitations of today’s healthcare system

At times it seems there is a disconnect between treating and curing disease. One pathway doesn’t typically lead to the other. It’s frustrating.

According to the World Health Organization, the US ranks 37 in overall health systems, barely edging out Slovenia and Cuba. Americans take 50% of the world’s medications yet make up a mere 5% of the world’s population. Our nation’s dependency on pharmaceuticals contributes to a healthcare system that focuses on symptoms rather than prevention. That can be frustrating for a patient struggling for answers.

The empowering effects of looking at diabetes differently

“Get busy living, or get busy dying.” —Andy Dufrensne, character from the movie “The Shawshank Redemption”

You have the power to reverse this disease, and there are tools to help you. This isn’t about turning your back on modern medicine. I recognize the use of drugs as an essential part of treatment for a number of illnesses, but I don’t view medications as a permanent solution.

A better approach would be for patients to free themselves from the confines of large quantities of medications and explore long-term solutions through customized treatment plans that profoundly improve quality of life.

If you hope to control diabetes, you must gain a greater understanding of this disease, understand the limitations of the present healthcare system and embrace a new knowledge of what can treat and ultimately reduce the negative effects of this disease. In this way, you are gonna “get busy living” every day.

Dr. Candice Hall is Chief of Staff of Next Advanced Medicine. She was awarded Physician of the Year in 2005 from the NRCC and has over 14 years of experience in Functional Medicine.

This article was originally published on Familyshare.com. It has been republished here with permission.