Nysha Recent News

Senior Care

September 15, 2015

 By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

ERs: Check senior falls for infections!

Conventional wisdom says that seniors are prone to falls because of their age, and the reduced coordination and mobility that comes with age.  But Massachusetts General Hospital researchers noticed that many seniors (and others) visiting their ER over the years for falls also turned out to have infections.

According to their new study, infections can lower blood pressure and lead to lightheadedness and dizziness, increasing fall risk.  Older people already affected by dementia can be further confused under the influence of an infection, also increasing fall risk.

The study looked at 161 patients being treated in the ER for falls who were later found to be carrying urinary, bloodstream or respiratory infections.  Four out of ten were at first not suspected of being infected, perhaps because of lack of defining symptoms like fever or rapid heart rate.

According to the researchers, ERs treating seniors for falls should check for infections, too.

Carrots, greens do help aging eyes

A review of health data by the Harvard School of Public Health has found an apparent connection between not getting age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in the eyes and eating bright orange and/or dark green vegetables.

Orange-colored veggies like carrots or sweet potatoes, and dark green-colored ones like spinach, broccoli and kale, contain natural pigments called carotenoids.  Carotenoids, particularly the types of carotenoids called lutein and zeaxanthin, concentrate in the macula, the part of the eye whose degeneration causes major vision impairment and loss in older adults. 

Carotenoids are believed to help protect the macula against long-term damage from light and oxygen exposure.

The study reviewed 25 years of health data collected from nurses and other health professionals who were 50 or older at the collections’ start.  Researchers found that those who reported regularly consuming the highest amount of vegetables containing lutein and zeaxantin had a 40 percent lower risk of advanced AMD.

However, researchers did not find any link between the carotenoids and the intermediate form of AMD.

Lutein is found in eggs and dark leafy vegetables like broccoli, kale and spinach.  Zeaxanthin is found in corn, orange peppers and goji berries.

The study was published Oct. 8 in JAMA Ophthalmology.

Concussion symptoms persist in older adults

According to a study published Oct. 6 in the journal Radiology, older adults recover more slowly from concussion than younger patients.  The study of 26 concussion patients, 13 between the ages of 21 to 30 and 13 aged 51 to 68, found that while the younger patients saw a significant drop in symptoms by ten weeks after the concussion, the older patients did not.  Concussion accounts for 75 percent of all traumatic brain injuries.

Non-MDs match docs’ care for heart patients

A look at U.S. heart disease patients now finds that certified nurse practitioners (CNPs) and physician assistants (PAs) are just as good as doctors (MDs) at treating them at outpatient clinics.

The study looked at records for 600,000 heart disease patients who received care from a total of over 1,200 healthcare pros at some 90 outpatient practices nationwide in Year 2012.  About 70 percent of these practices staffed CNPs, PAs and MDs.  The remainder had doctors only.

The study authors found very little difference between doctors and CNPs/PAs in terms of care quality, even after accounting for patients’ age, gender, insurance status, and frequency of visits.

However, the study also found that just over ten percent of those heart care providers complied with all current recommendations for outpatient cardiac care. 

Those guidelines include giving beta blockers to anyone who’s had a prior heart attack; prescribing anti-platelet medications and effective cholesterol control; and prescribing anti-clotting drugs for patients with histories of irregular heartbeats.

Vitamin D, calcium don’t stop colon cancer

An Oct. 15 study in the New England Journal of Medicine says that calcium and vitamin D are not all they’re cracked up to be—at least when it comes to preventing colorectal cancer.

In decades of previous studies, including one conducted by an author of the current study, calcium and vitamin D were shown to be associated with the prevention of precancerous growths (adenomas) in the colon.  The new study negates that.

The study had some 2,000 people who’d had precancerous adenomas removed take low dosages of calcium or vitamin D, or both, or a placebo, for up to five years.  Upon follow-ups three to five years after the study’s start, though, 43 percent of participants had recurring adenomas—whether or not they were taking calcium, vitamin D or both.

Still, other experts note that results may have been different had participants had no histories of colon growths, or had they taken higher dosages of the nutrients.

In related news, another study found that calcium supplements (meaning calcium pills, not calcium in your food) actually increased growth of kidney stones in patients at risk for them.

Vitamin D, for its part, has long been associated in a number of unrelated studies with a number of health benefits.  Vitamin D is primarily absorbed through the skin from sunlight.