Category Archives: Health

For Lowering Cholesterol, Pills Are Not Enough!

A large number of seniors (one recent article pegged the number at 40% or higher) are taking statins – prescription drugs to lower cholesterol. But several articles and studies have reminded us that the first way to lower cholesterol is not a pill. Instead, we should be paying more attention to what’s on our plate.

We found this article on the New York Times website from nationally-known author Jane Brody. It reminds us of something we’ve heard before but tend to ignore: as Brody puts it, “Many Americans, when faced with a serious health risk like high cholesterol, opt to take a pill rather than adopt healthier living habits.” Her column is one more in a long list of articles, books and studies recommending what’s commonly known as the Mediterranean Diet. This approach to eating is based on the kind of foods enjoyed by people who live in the coastal countries of the Mediterranean Sea – little or no red meat, higher consumption of fish and white meat poultry, avoiding unhealthy fats, and eating plenty of healthy vegetables and legumes.

The underlying problem is that changing habits is hard, but taking a pill is easy.  “People should be following a heart-healthy diet, keeping their weight under control and exercising regularly,” says Northwestern University cardiologist Dr. Philip Greenland. “This would be a highly preferable approach.” But it’s not the trend in our over-medicated society.

Why is this knowledge important as you plan ahead for retirement? It’s simple. Here at Aging options we always urge our clients and radio listeners to make wise, intentional choices in all aspects of their lives as they age. Since none of us wants to be a burden to our loved ones, and all of us would rather avoid unplanned institutional care, the health choices we make today will have life-long implications in the decades to come.

Eating more wisely affects much more than our cholesterol levels. Brody’s article states, “In addition to its heart benefits, studies suggest the Mediterranean diet may ‘reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, arthritis and the metabolic syndrome,’” according to Mayo Clinic cardiologist  Dr. Stephen Kopecky. That’s quite a list! On top of all that, the Mediterranean Diet tastes great and can cost the same as or less than the unhealthier options many seniors choose. And getting off statins helps you avoid potential side effects that affect some users.

Changing your medications or your diet requires sound professional advice. We highly recommend seniors consult a geriatric physician, or geriatrician, as part of their health care team. We can recommend a geriatrician in your area. We also invite you to get the facts about wise retirement choices by attending a free LifePlanning Seminar in your area. The Upcoming Events tab lists locations, dates and times. We’ll help you chart a course to a healthier, well-planned retirement.

(Originally reported at www.nytimes.com)

New Study Shows Hearing Aids May Help Brain Stay Healthier

An important new study out of France reveals something striking: wearing hearing aids may actually help slow cognitive decline among seniors. This study, reported at the blog site of AARP, seems to show a linkage between better hearing and a healthier brain. Click here to access this fascinating article.

The study, recently published in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, reportedly followed nearly 3,700 adults age 65 or older for 25 years. A little less than one third (about 1,300 participants) reported moderate to major hearing loss during that period.  According to the research, while the majority of subjects experienced some level of cognitive decline, those with hearing loss who did not wear hearing aids declined at a faster rate. For those who used hearing aids, the rate of decline matched that of subjects with normal hearing.

In other words, the hearing aids seem to slow the rate of cognitive decline. What was going on?

After further analysis, according to the AARP article, the researchers concluded that “hearing loss causes depression and social isolation, which then affect brain health.” The report further stated that, because they help restore communication abilities, “hearing aids may help improve mood, increase social interactions, and enable participation in cognitively stimulating abilities and consequently could slow cognitive decline.”

As with many medical studies, these results are preliminary. Still, the evidence seems to suggest that preserving our hearing as we age is one way to slow the rate of cognitive decline that can adversely affect our quality of life. Since all our clients want to avoid becoming a burden to their loved ones, it’s imperative that we do all we can to preserve our health and our mental faculties.

In the words of the AARP article, “Consider the French study a wake-up call…This study is a strong indication that correcting hearing loss is an important component in keeping your brain in good working order.”

How can you help ensure that you’re getting the best advice for healthy aging? We strongly advise our clients that their personal medical team should always include a geriatrician – a physician who specializes in issues related to aging. This professional can advise you in making health care decisions designed to optimize all aspects of your physical and emotional health – just as we will work with you to optimize all facets of your comprehensive retirement plan. As a first step, why not attend one of our free LifePlanning Seminars? Click on the Upcoming Events tab for locations and dates. We’ll look forward to seeing you there!

Link to blog.aarp.org

http://blog.aarp.org/2015/11/11/study-hearing-aids-may-help-protect-brain-health/

(originally reported at http://blog.aarp.org)

 

Widow Reveals Dementia, Not Depression, Triggered Robin Williams Suicide

He was one of the funniest people in a generation. On stage and on screen, Robin Williams’ unique brand of rapid-fire comedy entertained the world for four decades. So the death by suicide of this treasured comedian and actor in August 2014 shocked and saddened us all.

At the time, depression was blamed for Williams’ suicide. Now, though, in an ABC News and People magazine interview, Robin Williams’ widow reports that the comedian also suffered from a surprisingly common illness called Lewy body dementia. An article on the website of the New York Times reports that more than 1.3 million Americans are affected by this little understood and frequently misdiagnosed illness. (Click here to read the article.)

The Times article states that Lewy body dementia “is often mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease, or Parkinson’s disease” with “an Alzheimer’s-like slippage in memory and thinking, as well as stiffness and movement problems seen in Parkinson’s.” These similarities mean that “it often takes more than a year — and multiple visits to specialists — to get an accurate diagnosis.”

Someone who is relatively young, like Robin Williams who was 63 when he died, knows what it happening to him or her, which makes this form of dementia particularly devastating. It was likely this emotional distress combined with other afflictions, including dementia-induced depression, which triggered Williams’ suicide.

This tragic story shows how important it is that loved ones, caregivers and medical personnel pay particular attention to the emotional and physical state of those closest to them. It’s also another excellent reason why we strongly recommend to our retirement-age clients that they seek the care of a geriatrician – a medical specialist trained to observe and diagnose conditions particularly relevant to seniors. Having a geriatric specialist as part of your team means you’ll have the benefit of a trained specialist as you age. We can recommend a geriatric care practitioner in your area.

For more insight into health-related decisions that can help you enjoy a happier retirement, we invite you to attend one of our free LifePlanning seminars – click on the Upcoming Events tab on this website for dates, times and locations near you. Preserving your health in retirement will help you avoid unplanned institutional care and allow you to enjoy many more years of independence. Let us help you chart a course toward a healthier future.

(originally reported at www.nytimes.com)

Study Finds Most Medicare Recipients are of Modest Means

A recent report from the Kaiser Family Foundation sheds some light on the importance of Medicare – a timely consideration during an election year as many politicians float their proposals for cuts in benefits. The research shows that most Medicare beneficiaries are people of very modest means, and their reliance on Medicare is a vital part of their financial health.

According to the study, in 2014 fully one half of all Medicare recipients had incomes below $24,150. This figure is per individual, not per couple, and includes income from all sources including Social Security, investments and pensions. The study goes on to show that most Medicare recipients did have some home equity, with the median amount at about $112,000 (depending on age), but about 24% of beneficiaries had no home equity at all. As for personal savings, half of all beneficiaries reported less than $63,350 in combined savings, and one quarter had savings below $12,000.

Read the brief study here for more details, including a projection of what the profile of Medicare recipients is likely to look like in 2030.

This study and others like it raise profound questions about whether the average Medicare beneficiary can absorb the costs of decreased benefits as some politicians have proposed. Those relatively few retirees with large amounts of home equity and significant income and savings could likely cope just fine, but as the study shows, the average beneficiary seems to have little margin to take on higher living costs resulting from reduced Medicare benefits.

Planning for your financial needs in retirement is vital to your peace of mind. That’s why we urge you to attend one of our upcoming Life Planning seminars where we review several essential factors for you to consider in the years ahead. Besides a comprehensive approach to financial strategies for retirees, we also discuss Family matters, Legal concerns, Housing options and Health planning. Click on the Upcoming Events tab on this website for seminar dates and times, and we’ll look forward to seeing you at a Life Planning seminar in the near future.

(Originally reported at http://files.kff.org/attachment/issue-brief-income-and-assets-of-medicare-beneficiaries-2014-2030)

Taking Statins? It May Increase Your Risk of the Flu

If you’re one of the 40% of American adults over 65 who take statins to control cholesterol, a new study reveals an unexpected health concern: statin use appears to reduce the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. That could put millions of seniors at greater risk from the effects of this common but sometimes deadly illness that kills over 20,000 Americans in the average flu season, many of them elderly.

We found an article about this new study on the website Medical News Today. (Read the article here.) It reports on a study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases showing that many senior statin users had a significantly reduced immune response to the flu vaccine compared with those not taking statins. If the findings are confirmed, they could add ammunition to the belief that all seniors should receive the high-dose flu vaccine, or a vaccine containing effectiveness-boosters called adjuvants. (These flu vaccines containing adjuvants are approved for use in Europe but are not presently available to the general public in the U.S.)

The study went on to suggest that, especially when flu is widespread, vaccines may inadequately protect seniors on statins from respiratory illness, compared with seniors not on statins. The take-away seems to be that seniors on statins should always insist on the higher-dose flu vaccine now available. If you’re a senior on statins you should also take extra precautions during flu season to stay healthy: wash hands frequently, avoid contact with those who are or may be ill, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, stay home when you are sick, and take good care of yourself in other ways with a good diet, plenty of sleep and consistent exercise.

Adequate health planning is a vital component of your retirement strategy. We always advise our clients and listeners to our radio program to make plans now to care for their health needs as they age. We can help you do just that, and a good place to start is by attending one of our free Life Planning seminars. There we’ll talk about all aspects of comprehensive retirement planning: Health, Finances, Legal, Family and Housing. Click on the Upcoming Events tab on this website to find the date, time and location of a seminar near you. Of course, should you wish to make a personal appointment, contact us – we’d be delighted to meet with you.

(Originally reported at www.medicalnewstoday.com)

Keep Your Brain from Aging with the “Mediterranean Diet”

A new study has shown a dramatic new benefit from what is commonly called the “Mediterranean Diet” – it can actually improve the health of your brain.

For years the advantages of the Mediterranean Diet have been touted as a way to improve physical health. This eating pattern, emphasizing high concentration of seafood and plant-based foods, along with healthy fats, nuts and legumes, has been shown to bring a host of benefits, from lowering blood pressure to reducing the risk of breast cancer. But now a study published in the journal Neurology shows that this type of diet can help slow the shrinkage of the brain that commonly occurs with aging. We found a recent related article on the website Medical News Today (you’ll find the link here.)

The study followed more than 670 older participants, some of whom ate a Mediterranean Diet while others did not. After seven months a brain scan compared brain volume. Those with the healthier diet had significantly less brain shrinkage – a difference equivalent to five years of aging, say the study authors. In other words, eating the healthier diet protected the brains of some study subjects against five years’ worth of cumulative aging effects.

If you’re interested in maintaining your independence and not becoming a burden to your loved ones, this is important news for you, and it certainly seems to provide one more good reason to change to your diet. Brain shrinkage has been linked to dementia, but it also seems to trigger a host of other detrimental side effects that can greatly affect seniors, including loss of sensory abilities and impaired mobility. And the good news is, the Mediterranean Diet is not only good for you, it’s delicious, too.

We want our clients to experience a richer, healthier retirement – and that requires a plan. Just as you plan for the food you’ll eat, you also need to plan for every other aspect of retirement including where you’ll live, how you’ll protect your assets and how you’ll manage your health care. This can seem overwhelming! But it doesn’t have to be, if you get the right guidance. For thousands of Pacific Northwest seniors that guidance starts with attending one of our free Life Planning Seminars. Click on the Upcoming Events tab to find out where the next seminars will be taking place. We’re looking forward to seeing you there, and answering many of your questions about what can be the most rewarding time of your life: retirement

(originally reported at www.medicalnewstoday.com)

Seniors, Don’t Wait: Get Your Flu Shot Now!

If history is any guide, 90% of those who die in the months ahead from the flu will be 65 years old or older. Because flu is such a serious threat to seniors, getting your annual flu shot is a must – and the time to act is now.

That’s the strong advice from an online article on the website SeniorJournal.com. The article, called Seniors Must Get Flu Shot Now, is subtitled “The deadly season is here.” The point of the article is crystal clear: older men and women should not take flu danger lightly. Recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention state that everyone age 6 months old or older needs the shot, preferably by October. But the annual vaccine is particularly important to seniors.

According to the article, those 65 and older now have two choices in flu vaccines: the regular dose or a newer, higher dose formulated for seniors. (You may also have heard about the nasal spray flu vaccine, but that is not an approved option for those over age 49.) The CDC has not stated which of the vaccines, regular or high dose, they recommend, but studies are underway.

Besides getting vaccinated, it’s especially important that seniors take all the common sense precautions to avoid illness. Stay away from friends and family who are sick; wash hands frequently; cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing. And if you’re feeling ill, do everyone around you a favor and stay home from work, church or family gatherings!

Maintaining your health is a big part of continuing to live independently. Something as common as the flu can lead to a cascade of health setbacks that can force you into a living situation that is not of your choosing! So take the CDC’s advice and get vaccinated now.

For more tips on maintaining health and independence, we invite you to attend one of our Life Planning Seminars. You’ll receive invaluable advice to help you protect your assets, avoid unplanned institutional care, and avoid becoming a burden to your loved ones. Click on the Upcoming Events tab for dates and times of seminars in your area.

(Originally reported at www.seniorjournal.com)

Coming Soon: a Major Hike in Medicare Part B Premiums!

With the Medicare Open Enrollment period about to start, beneficiaries are thinking more carefully about their plans, benefits and premiums. Unfortunately, based on projections, millions of seniors have a shock coming: Medicare Part B premiums are slated for an unprecedented increase.

A few months ago, many news outlets including Kaiser Health News (read the article here) reported a “good news, bad news” story about Medicare. The good news has been that long-term Medicare solvency appears unchanged. But the bad news was ominous: because of low inflation, there would be no cost of living increase in Social Security benefits – but due to increased spending for Medicare Part B benefits, almost one-third of beneficiaries would be seeing a major rise in premiums. This 50% jump in premiums represents a boost from $104.90 per month to a projected $159.30.

Those affected by the increase include new enrollees, higher income seniors, and those who pay premiums directly instead of having them deducted from their Social Security payments. Another group affected by the premium hike includes an estimated 9 million people who are dually eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.

While officials touted the fact that Medicare premiums will not rise for 70 percent of beneficiaries, the size of the increase for the remaining millions affected has resulted in some behind the scenes maneuvering. As of now the size and scope of the increase is projected. We’ll do our best to keep you posted as real numbers come to light. Meanwhile, an online petition to members of Congress, alerting them to the adverse impact of the rate hike, is being circulated and has already been signed by major organizations nationwide. Read the petition here.

Since protecting your assets is a top priority, we urge you to plan ahead for retirement. One excellent way to start is by attending one of our upcoming Life Planning Seminars to get more information about Medicare costs and other factors that can drastically affect your financial solvency and freedom in retirement. Click on the Upcoming Events tab on this website for dates and times of seminars near you. We also welcome you to make an appointment any time to come to our office and discuss the particulars of your situation.

Helping our clients plan for their retirement years is important to us! Let us be your guide to a more secure retirement.

(Originally reported at Kaiser Health News – www.khn.org)

Medicare Open Enrollment is Coming, and the Time to Plan is NOW

If you’re enrolled in Medicare, a critical time period starts October 15 and lasts just over 7 weeks. And no matter what coverage you presently have, now is the time to begin examining your options and preparing for possible changes.

On October 15th each year, Medicare Open Enrollment begins. For the following 7-plus weeks, until December 7th, there are several things you can do that will directly affect your Medicare coverage, and your costs. We found a helpful snapshot of options in this recent article on the popular financial website, Motley Fool — click here to access the article.

During Open Enrollment, here’s some of what you can do:

  • Switch from traditional Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan, or vice versa
  • Swap one Medicare Advantage Plan for another
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan with drug coverage to one without, or vice versa
  • Add, drop or change Medicare Part D coverage.

If all those options sound complex, it’s only because they are! As the Motley Fool article cautions, “The first thing to realize about Medicare open enrollment is that it can be far more complicated than you realize.” The article goes on to state that, because total costs and coverage can vary greatly between plans and no one can truly predict their future health care needs, “it’s impossible to come up with a choice that’s guaranteed to work out to be the best one you could have made.”

But don’t despair. There are several things you can do to guide you as you choose the plan that’s best for you, starting with an honest consideration of your personal health and finances. You’ll find links to some helpful resources on the Motley Fool article. We also recommend you attend one of our upcoming Life Planning Seminars in your area, where you’ll receive more guidance on how to make a wise Medicare choice. Click on the Upcoming Events tab on this website for the dates and times of a Life Planning Seminar near you.

(Originally reported at www.fool.com/retirement)

New York Times Article says Lack of Geriatricians is a “Crisis Brewing”

Here in the U.S., our population is aging – but the number of geriatric care specialists is declining. And that spells a brewing health care crisis among seniors, according to a recently published article in the New York Times. You can access the article here.

We have repeatedly emphasized how important it is for seniors to have a proper medical team, including the expertise of a geriatric care physician, or geriatrician. The New York Times article provides a dramatic illustration. It describes the author’s aging father and how the care of a geriatrician saved him from empty, drab institutional living. For anyone who wants to avoid unplanned institutional care as they age – and that’s just about everyone – this article and other resources we’ve cited in our Resource archive (click here to access our archive) is both encouraging and sobering.

The encouragement comes from the results geriatricians can achieve for their patients. “Good geriatric care can make an enormous difference,” the Times article states. “Older adults whose health is monitored by a geriatrician enjoy more years of independent living, greater social and physical functioning, and lower presence of disease. In addition these patients show increased satisfaction, spend less time in the hospital, exhibit markedly decreased rates of depression and spend less time in nursing homes.” We’ve been talking about these advantages for years!

But the sobering news is this: there’s a growing shortage of geriatric care physicians in America. The American Geriatric Society suggests that we should have one geriatrician for every 300 aging people. But projections show that, in 2030, the U.S. will have one geriatrician for every 3,800 seniors! There are currently only about 8,000 practicing geriatricians in the country, and that number is declining.

Fortunately, here at our practice we have established relationships with geriatric care physicians in our area. Contact us for details, or come to one of our Life Planning Seminars to learn more about this vital component to your health care planning. Click on the Upcoming Events tab on this website for dates and times of seminars in your area.

(Originally reported at www.nytimes.com)

Category Archives: Health

For Lowering Cholesterol, Pills Are Not Enough!

A large number of seniors (one recent article pegged the number at 40% or higher) are taking statins – prescription drugs to lower cholesterol. But several articles and studies have reminded us that the first way to lower cholesterol is not a pill. Instead, we should be paying more attention to what’s on our plate….

New Study Shows Hearing Aids May Help Brain Stay Healthier

An important new study out of France reveals something striking: wearing hearing aids may actually help slow cognitive decline among seniors. This study, reported at the blog site of AARP, seems to show a linkage between better hearing and a healthier brain. Click here to access this fascinating article. The study, recently published in The…

Widow Reveals Dementia, Not Depression, Triggered Robin Williams Suicide

He was one of the funniest people in a generation. On stage and on screen, Robin Williams’ unique brand of rapid-fire comedy entertained the world for four decades. So the death by suicide of this treasured comedian and actor in August 2014 shocked and saddened us all. At the time, depression was blamed for Williams’…

Study Finds Most Medicare Recipients are of Modest Means

A recent report from the Kaiser Family Foundation sheds some light on the importance of Medicare – a timely consideration during an election year as many politicians float their proposals for cuts in benefits. The research shows that most Medicare beneficiaries are people of very modest means, and their reliance on Medicare is a vital…

Taking Statins? It May Increase Your Risk of the Flu

If you’re one of the 40% of American adults over 65 who take statins to control cholesterol, a new study reveals an unexpected health concern: statin use appears to reduce the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. That could put millions of seniors at greater risk from the effects of this common but sometimes deadly illness…

Keep Your Brain from Aging with the “Mediterranean Diet”

A new study has shown a dramatic new benefit from what is commonly called the “Mediterranean Diet” – it can actually improve the health of your brain. For years the advantages of the Mediterranean Diet have been touted as a way to improve physical health. This eating pattern, emphasizing high concentration of seafood and plant-based…

Seniors, Don’t Wait: Get Your Flu Shot Now!

If history is any guide, 90% of those who die in the months ahead from the flu will be 65 years old or older. Because flu is such a serious threat to seniors, getting your annual flu shot is a must – and the time to act is now. That’s the strong advice from an…

Coming Soon: a Major Hike in Medicare Part B Premiums!

With the Medicare Open Enrollment period about to start, beneficiaries are thinking more carefully about their plans, benefits and premiums. Unfortunately, based on projections, millions of seniors have a shock coming: Medicare Part B premiums are slated for an unprecedented increase. A few months ago, many news outlets including Kaiser Health News (read the article…

Medicare Open Enrollment is Coming, and the Time to Plan is NOW

If you’re enrolled in Medicare, a critical time period starts October 15 and lasts just over 7 weeks. And no matter what coverage you presently have, now is the time to begin examining your options and preparing for possible changes. On October 15th each year, Medicare Open Enrollment begins. For the following 7-plus weeks, until…

New York Times Article says Lack of Geriatricians is a “Crisis Brewing”

Here in the U.S., our population is aging – but the number of geriatric care specialists is declining. And that spells a brewing health care crisis among seniors, according to a recently published article in the New York Times. You can access the article here. We have repeatedly emphasized how important it is for seniors…