Category Archives: Aging
CNN: President Will Call for Wider Gun Control
CNN is reporting that when President Obama releases his list of gun control proposals later today, they will include a ban on assault weapons, restrictions on high-capacity ammunition magazines, stronger background checks for people purchasing guns and increased funding for U.S. mental health services and school safety efforts. Read more on violence.
DOT Proposes Minimum Sound Rules for Hybrid, Electric Cars
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is proposing minimum sound standards for electric and hybrid cars to help make pedestrians and bicyclists more aware of the cars when the vehicles are approaching.
According to DOT, electric and hybrid vehicles do not rely on traditional gas or diesel-powered engines at low speeds, making them much quieter and more difficult to hear when they approach people walking or biking. DOT estimates that the proposals could result in 2,800 fewer pedestrian and cyclist injuries over the life of each model year of hybrid cars, trucks and vans and low speed vehicles, compared to vehicles without sound.
New sounds for the cars created by car manufacturers would need to be detectable under a wide range of street noises and other ambient background sounds when the vehicle is traveling under 18 miles per hour. A sixty day comment period on the new proposals begins today. Read more on safety.
New NIH-Supported Alzheimer's Studies to Focus on Prevention and Innovative Treatments
With a goal of effectively treating and preventing new cases of Alzheimer’s disease by 2025, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced funding for four major studies: drug and exercise interventions for people in the early stages of the disease, a new drug to reduce agitation in people with the disease, and a new approach to faster testing of drugs in clinical trials. Read more on aging.
APHA Supports Measures to Protect Against Gun Violence
The American Public Health Association (APHA) has expressed its strong support for action to protect our nation’s children and their families from the growing epidemic of gun violence. “Gun violence is one of the leading causes of preventable death in our country and we must take a comprehensive public health approach to addressing this growing crisis,” said APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD. “For too long, we as a nation have failed to take on this devastating problem in our communities, and we can wait no longer.” Key steps recommended by the APHA include:
- Adopting common sense gun control legislation (such as reinstating the federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines) and closing the “gun show loophole,” which exempts private sellers of firearms from conducting criminal background checks on buyers at gun shows.
- Expanding the collection and analysis of data related to gun violence and other violent deaths to better understand the causes and allow authorities to develop appropriate interventions to prevent such violence.
- Ensuring adequate funding for critical mental health services.
Read more on violence.
FDA Expands Use of Flu Drug for Kids Younger than 1 Year
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has expanded the approved use of Tamiiflu, a key drug used to treat influenza, for children as young as two weeks who have had flu symptoms for no longer than two days. Eight babies have already died of flu this season, so having an approved treatment is critical. Tamiflu was first approved in 1999 to treat adults. Its approved use was later expanded to treat children a year old and older as well as to prevent the flu in adults and in children a year old and older. The new approval is for treatment only, not for prevention of the flu. Vaccination with flu vaccine begins at six months of age, according to the CDC. Read more on flu.
HUD Awards $26M to Convert Apartments to Assisted Living or Enhanced Service Senior Housing
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded $26 million in grants to the owners of multi-family housing developments in nine states to convert some or all of their apartments into assisted living or service-enriched environments for elderly residents. The funding is provided through HUD’s Assisted Living Conversion Program, which helps convert apartments into units that can accommodate the special needs of seniors who want to “age in place.” “We’re getting older as a nation and with that demographic shift, there is a growing demand for affordable housing that will allow our seniors to live independently in their own homes,” said Carol Galante, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Housing and Federal Housing Commissioner. Read more on aging.
University of North Carolina Researchers Receive Grant to Develop Post-Disaster Recovery Benchmarks
Two University of North Carolina (UNC) researchers have received a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Grant to develop indicators of effectiveness for post-disaster recovery efforts. "This project is particularly important because it focuses on giving practitioners at the federal, state, and local levels the tools they need to measure how well a community is recovering from a disaster," said Jennifer Horney, PHD, research assistant professor of epidemiology and director of the UNC Center for Public Health Preparedness at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health. The grant will be administered by the Coastal Hazards Center of Excellence at UNC. Read more on Hurricane Sandy.
Study Links Diabetes, Rise in Severe Vision Problems
Diabetes may be responsible for a significant increase in serious vision problems in U.S. adults, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. From 1999 to 2008, the rate of severe problems climbed 21 percent for adults ages 20 and older. "There has been a change on two fronts during the last seven to 10 years. One is that visual impairment is increasing, and this is visual impairment that can't be fixed with glasses. The other is that 20- to 39-year-olds are now losing vision as well," said Fang Ko, MD, an study author, ophthalmologist and resident at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. There were other contributing factors, but researchers identified diabetes as a consistent contributor. While diabetes has become more manageable, the study’s findings demonstrate the need for people to be more away about the risk factors that can lead to the disease. Read more on diabetes.
Americans Living Longer, But Not Always Healthier
While Americans are living longer on average, chronic diseases mean that those extended lives are not always healthier, according to the United Health Foundation's 2012 America's Health Rankings. In 2009, the American life expectancy was 78.5 years. "As a nation, we've made extraordinary gains in longevity over the past decades, but as individuals we are regressing in our health," said Reed Tuckson, MD, a medical adviser at the United Health Foundation and chief of medical affairs at the UnitedHealth Group. Preventable chronic conditions include diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. Read more on aging.
Study: Junk Food Taxes Can Improve Nutrition, Health
Junk food taxes that help subsidize fruits and vegetables can help improve eating habits and overall public health, according to a new study in the journal PLoS Medicine. A price increase of as little as 1 percent would cut the consumption of fatty foods by 0.02 percent, while a 10 percent jump in the price of soda would cut consumption by as much as 24 percent. While the rates might seem relatively low, researchers believe the positive health benefits would be greater for low-income families, who are at higher risk for poor health due to inadequate nutrition. Read more on nutrition.
Study: Genetics Could Keep People from Quitting Tobacco
Is genetics to blame for a recent plateau in the numbers of people who smoke? Quite possibly, according to a new study by Jason Fletcher, PHD, an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Yale School of Public Health. Cigarette smoking in the United States dropped sharply after the release of a landmark Surgeon General’s report on the dangers of tobacco was released in 1964, according to Fletcher, a former Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society scholar. But in the last two decades smoking cessation has stopped its descent, despite increased efforts from both the private and public sectors. Fletcher’s study, published in PLOS ONE, says some smokers may have a variation of a nicotine gene receptor that does not respond to social efforts to reduce smoking, such as higher taxes and clean-air laws that prohibit smoking in many public places. The study found that smokers with a specific nicotine genetic variant decreased their tobacco use by nearly 30 percent when faced with high tobacco taxes, while smokers with an alternative genetic variant had no response. Fletcher says the study “is an important first step in how to further reduce adult smoking rates.” Read more on tobacco.
Regular Exercise Can Add Years to a Person’s Life
Regular exercise can help extend a person’s life for years, according to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Specifically, researchers found white men who were physically active at the age of 20 lived about 2.5 years longer than non-active white men. However, the most dramatic findings were for black women, who lived an average of six years longer if they exercised for about 2.5 hours a week. "We were able to show that if black women engage in an hour of vigorous activity like jogging or swimming, that would extend their lives by 11 hours,” said Ian Janssen, study author and an associate professor who studies physical activity at Queen's University in Ontario. Researchers said there could be other contributing factors to the longer lifespans, such as diet, and the subject needed further research. Read more on aging.
HUD: Number of Homeless People Down Slightly in 2012
The number of homeless people is down slightly—0.4 percent—from last year, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). “We continue to see a stable level of homelessness across our country at a time of great stress for those at risk of losing their housing,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan in a release. “We must redouble our efforts to target our resources more effectively to help those at greatest risk. As our nation’s economic recovery takes hold, we will make certain that our homeless veterans and those living on our streets find stable housing so they can get on their path to recovery.” The analysis is a part of HUD’s 2012 Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness. Read more on housing.
National Hurricane Center Update on Tropical Storm Isaac
According to the most recent advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Tropical Storm Isaac is on the verge of growing to hurricane strength and significant storm surge and flooding are expected for the northern Gulf Coast. A tropical storm watch—which can bring significant and deadly high winds, rainfall and flooding even if it does not grow to hurricane levels—has been expanded along the northern Gulf Coast. A hurricane warning is in effect for points along the Gulf Coast, including metropolitan New Orleans. A warning means that those weather conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area and that people in the full area should be finalizing their safety preparations. A watch means those weather conditions are possible within the watch area. The center of the storm could reach Louisiana between this evening and tomorrow morning. Because the storm will cover such a wide area up until, during and after that time, life threatening conditions are possible and people in the path of the storm should follow all precautions. Tornadoes and rip current conditions are possible from now until the storm ends. Read regular updates from the National Hurricane Center.
People Physically Fit in Midlife Face Lower Risk of Chronic Diseases Later On
Being fit in midlife is linked to a lower risk of chronic disease later in life in men and women older than 65 years and enrolled in Medicare, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a JAMA Network publication. The researchers examined the association between midlife fitness and chronic disease outcomes later in life by linking Medicare claims with participant data from the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study, a large group of individuals who were examined at the Cooper Clinic from 1970 to 2009. The study of 14,726 healthy men and 3,944 healthy woman (overall median age 49 years at baseline) looked at eight chronic conditions: congestive heart failure; ischemic heart disease; stroke; diabetes mellitus; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; chronic kidney disease; Alzheimer’s disease; and colon or lung cancer. The median follow up was 26 years and at that time the highest level of midlife fitness was associated with a lower incidence of chronic conditions, compared with the lowest midlife fitness group, based on treadmill times. Read more on aging.
Exercise May Help Curb Cigarette Cravings
A review of close to twenty clinical trials suggest that exercise can help cut back on cigarette cravings, perhaps by being a distraction, or by putting the smoker in a better mood. However, the researchers do not yet know whether the reduced cravings also lead to quitting cigarettes. Read more on tobacco.
Broken Arms in African American Kids May Foretell Bone Strength
A new study of 150 African American children published in Pediatrics finds that African American children with forearm fractures are at higher risk of low bone mineral density and vitamin D deficiency compared to African American children without fractures. The study also finds obesity may increase the risk of fractures in this population. The authors also found that every increased unit of vitamin D level led to a 10 percent decrease in fracture risk. Read more on pediatrics.
AHA Identifies Most-Effective Public Health Strategies
American Heart Association researchers have examined more than 1,000 scientific studies to determine 43 of the most effective public health prevention strategies. They include school and workplace interventions; economic incentives to improve access to healthy food; direct mandates and restrictions related to nutrition; local environment efforts; and media and education campaigns. The findings were published in Circulation, an American Heart Association journal. “Policy-makers should now gather together and say, ‘These are the things that work—let’s implement many right away, and the rest as soon as possible,’” said Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, chair of the statement writing group. Read more on heart health.
Poor Dental Health May Be Factor in Dementia
A new study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society shows a link between poor dental health and a greater risk of dementia. The study looked at the number of natural teeth, dentures worn, the number of visits to a dentist and other general oral health habits of 5,486 adults with the median age of 81 between the years of 1992 and 2010. The link was especially significant in men. A 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, Improving Access to Oral Health Care for Vulnerable and Underserved Populations, stressed the importance of providing good oral health care to vulnerable and underserved populations. Read more on aging.
New Federal Report on the Health, Economic Status of Older Americans
While today’s older Americans are healthier and living longer than those of past generations, increased financial obligations and the rising obesity rate are still major considerations, according to Older Americans 2012: Key Indicators of Well-Being, a new report from the National Institutes of Health. The report looks at 37 key indicators to determine which areas are—and are not—improving for older Americans. By 1930 there will be approximately 72 million Americans age 65 and older, according to the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics. Read more on older adults.
NYU Study Finds Antibiotic Use in Very Young May Increase Childhood Weight
Infants who received antibiotics before the age of 6 months are more likely to be overweight, according to a new study of more than 10,000 children. The study was published August 21 in the International Journal of Obesity and conducted by the NYU School of Medicine and the NYU Wagner School of Public Service. The researchers were careful to note that the study merely showed a correlation—not causation—and that more study is needed. “We typically consider obesity an epidemic grounded in unhealthy diet and exercise, yet increasingly studies suggest it’s more complicated,” said Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, an associate professor of pediatrics and environmental medicine at the NYU School of Medicine. “Microbes in our intestines may play critical roles in how we absorb calories, and exposure to antibiotics, especially early in life, may kill off healthy bacteria that influence how we absorb nutrients into our bodies, and would otherwise keep us lean.” Read more on infant health.
Dallas Mayor Declares West Nile Emergency, Calls For Aerial Pesticides
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has declared a state of emergency and requested county and state officials begin aerial pesticide spraying to combat the West Nile Virus, according to The Dallas Morning News. Ten country residents have died of the disease, including five in the city. There have so far been 111 total infections reported in Dallas. West Nile is spread by mosquitoes and cause severe neurological effects, and even death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on infectious disease.
Army Reports 26 Potential Suicides in July; 116 in 2012
The U.S. Army reported 25 potential suicides and one confirmed in July, up from 12 potential suicides in June. There have been 116 potential active-duty suicides in 2012. In a U.S. Department of Defense news release, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, vice chief of staff of the Army, said the military must help soldiers “build resiliency and strengthen their life coping skills.” “As we prepare for Suicide Prevention Month in September we also recognize that we must continue to address the stigma associated with behavioral health,” he said. “Ultimately, we want the mindset across our force and society at large to be that behavioral health is a routine part of what we do and who we are as we strive to maintain our own physical and mental wellness.” Soldiers and their families can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website 24 hours a day to speak with trained consultants. Read a Q&A with the head of the National Association of Social Workers on their growing role in suicide prevention among active military and veterans.
U.S. Adults Consume Too Much Sodium, Too Little Potassium
U.S. adults consume far too much sodium and too little potassium, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It found that 99.4 percent of adults had a higher daily sodium intake than recommended by the American Heart Association. Fewer than 2 percent of adults met the recommended potassium levels. The nature of most food in the United States makes it hard to avoid high salt levels. “People are trying to follow the guidelines, but it’s difficult because there’s so much sodium in the processed and restaurant food we eat,” said Dr. Mary Cogswell who led the study at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, told Reuters. Read more on nutrition.
CDC Says Baby Boomers Should Get Hep C Tests
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that all U.S. baby boomers be tested for hepatitis C, according to the latest recommendation in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. One in 30 boomers have hepatitis C—the majority of them unknowingly—which can lead to serious liver disease and death. “A one-time blood test for hepatitis C should be on every baby boomer’s medical checklist,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, in a release. “The new recommendations can protect the health of an entire generation of Americans and save thousands of lives.” Read more on aging.
Strength Training May Reduce Falls in the Elderly
A new study in the British Medical Journal indicates that balance and strength training can help reduce falls—and injuries—in older people, who are slower to recover from injuries than younger people. Researchers at the University of Sydney created the Lifestyle integrated Functional Exercise (LiFE) programme and tested it on 317 men and women aged 70 or older. The program “involves embedding balance and lower limb strength training into daily routines, such as walking, stepping over objects and moving from sitting to standing.” They found such training can cut falls by nearly a third. Read more on aging.
High Pollen Counts Increase Asthma ER Visits
High pollen counts mean more asthma-related visits to emergency rooms, according to a new study in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. The study looked at the link between high pollen days and emergency room visits in the Atlanta metropolitan area between 1993 and 2004. “For people who have an allergy component to their asthma, using the tools of pollen surveillance and public health warning systems…can help with behavioral management of symptoms for people who are affected by these diseases,” said Lyndsey Darrow, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, in a Reuters story. Read more on asthma.
Study Finds Some Improvement in U.S. Kids’ Cholesterol Levels
A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows improvements in the cholesterol levels of children in the United States. The study looked at serum lipid concentrations in 16,116 children and adolescents, finding overall decreases in youth ages 6 to 19 years between the years 1988-1994 and 2007-2010. High concentrations in childhood can lead to high concentrations in adulthood, according to the study’s authors. Read more on heart health.
Study: Integrated System Model the Best Way to Ensure Subspecialty Services
August 5-11 is National Health Center Week, when community health centers across the nation focus on increasing public access to affordable, cost-effective, high-quality care. While the Affordable Care Act is increasing funding for community health centers, there is still the question of how to ensure access to subspecialty services. Researchers interviewed directors of twenty community health centers to determine how best to deliver these services and “determined that the Integrated System model appears to provide the most comprehensive and cohesive access to subspecialty care,” according to the study’s abstract. “Because Medicaid accountable care organizations encourage integrated delivery of care, they offer a promising policy solution to improve the integration of community health centers into ‘medical neighborhoods.’” “Integrating Community Health Centers Into Organized Delivery Systems Can Improve Access To Subspecialty Care” was published in the August 2012 edition of Health Affairs. Read more on community health.
Study: Glioma Risk May Be Lower For People With Allergies
A new study out of Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center indicates that people with allergies may be at lower risk of developing a particular type of brain tumor. Scientists have long thought there was a link between allergies and glioma, a type of tumor capable of suppressing the immune system, but have never been sure of the exact nature of the linl. The study’s researchers analyzed blood taken long before the glioma growths, finding that people “whose blood samples contained allergy-related antibodies had an almost 50 percent lower risk of developing glioma 20 years later compared to people without signs of allergies.”Read more on cancer.
Urine Test Can Predict Risk of Bone Fractures for Women
A premenopausal woman’s risk of suffering bone fractures later in life can be determined through a simple urine test, according to a new study. The study looked at N-telopeptide (NTX) levels—the byproduct of bones breaking down—finding that women in their 40s and early 50s with above-normal levels in their urine were at a 59 percent greater risk of fractures later in life. Bone fractures are a significant public health burden for the elderly, with hip fractures linked to earlier deaths. The study was led by Jane Cauley, MD, an epidemiologist in the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.
“Bone fractures—particularly in the hip, wrist and back—have serious consequences, including disability and death,” Cauley said. “Knowing a woman’s risk of fracture can help doctors determine the best course of action to protect her bones as she enters menopause, a time when estrogen deficiency negatively affects skeletal health.” Read more on aging.
A new analysis of three years of clinical trial data published on ClinicalTrials.gov, a registry maintained by the National Institutes of Health, found that many of the trials were too small and of too poor quality to provide sufficient results for practitioners. The study authors, who published their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reported that their “analysis raises questions about the best methods for generating evidence, as well as the capacity of the clinical trials enterprise to supply sufficient amounts of high-quality evidence needed to ensure confidence in guideline recommendations.”
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded more than $56 million to 76 tribal communities to improve housing conditions and promote community development. Funding can be used for a variety of projects such as rehabilitating housing , building new homes, to purchase land to support new housing construction, to build infrastructure such as roads, water and sewer facilities and to build community and health centers.
Examples of the new projects include:
- The Caddo Nation in Oklahoma will build a community facility for elderly low income residents.
- The Ho-Chunk Nation in Wisconsin will install solar photovoltaic panels on low-income single-family home and apartment rental units to decrease resident energy costs by 24 percent, and to decrease emissions.
- The Cook Inlet Tribal Council in Alaska will help build a group home for Alaska Native youth to reduce the number of homeless youth and increase academic stability and support.
- The Chemehuevi Indian Tribe of California will use its grant to upgrade the reservation’s old sewer lines.
The theme of Older Americans Month 2012 is “You’re Never Too Old to Play.”
Seniors can find resources for mental and physical health-related activities on this site, maintained by the National Institute on Aging.