Out With the Old: Why It’s Important for Seniors to Get Moving

Author: Maryann Vicari, UMC Physical Therapist

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How do we age well and gracefully? This question has been on the mind of human beings for ages. We have all been searching, to some extent, for the fountain of youth or a way to slow down the aging process. Unfortunately, that fountain has yet to be discovered, and no scientist has come up with a formula that will keep time from aging the body.

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Nevertheless, there is some good news. We, as humans, can improve our aging process and increase the number of “healthy” years by doing something that humans have been doing for centuries – MOVE! That’s right, moving the body is one of the best ways to age well and to help reduce the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and obesity, which are a few of the main causes of death and poor aging among older adults.

Evidence has shown that regular physical activity is safe for healthy and even frail older adults (ages 65 and older). 

This physical activity can range from low intensity walking to more vigorous sports and resistance exercises, depending on the individual’s preference and physical ability.  Basically, for older adults, some form of physical activity is better than nothing at all or a predominantly sedentary lifestyle.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), older adults need at least 2.5 hours of moderate intensity aerobic activity (think brisk walking) every week, which is about 30 minutes a day, and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hip, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

This may sound like a lot, but please do not be discouraged; you don’t have to start here.  If you have never worked out before or have been inactive for some time, you can safely work your way up to this point by joining a local wellness center or YMCA.  There, you can find trained professionals that can help you work towards your goal of achieving a healthy and physically active lifestyle.  As always, you should consult your physician before beginning any sort of exercise routine, especially if this is new to you or if you have a pre-existing heart or metabolic disease, such as diabetes and hypertension.

To make an appointment for a consultation with one of our primary care physicians, click here.

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Keep this in mind: If you want to improve your health or if you want to maintain the level of health you have for years to come, your best bet is get or stay as active as you can.  The more active you are as you age the less likely you will be to develop debilitating diseases, which can only work as catalysts to age you beyond your years.

So, get out there and move your bones!

 

References:

https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/older_adults/index.htm

McPhee, J., et al.  Physical activity in older age: perspectives for healthy aging and frailty.  Biogerontology. (2016). 17: 567 – 580.

Safe and…Sound: Tips for Voice Conservation During Mardi Gras

Author: Kevin Hemenger, UMC Speech Pathologist

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Most of us take our voice for granted—it’s there when we need it, and we don’t think much about it. But when your voice isn’t working right, it can cause serious problems, like one of these vocal disorders. It is important to take care of your vocal health just like you take care of other aspects of your health.

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You have two vocal cords located in your throat a little below the jawline (behind the Adam’s apple in men). The vocal cords are made of very delicate tissue that vibrates to produce voice. They stretch and contract at the same time to produce all of the different sounds and pitches that we use while talking and singing.

If the vocal cords are overused, they can become inflamed and swollen, so they don’t vibrate as well, causing the voice to sound hoarse. With repeated or frequent overuse, the vocal cords can be injured. Depending on the injury, this can require speech therapy or surgery.

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It’s easy to get carried away at parades, sporting events, concerts, and other festive occasions and overuse your voice. In these situations, you should avoid yelling above your typical conversational level.

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Tips for Saving Your Voice

  • Try clapping, waving, or whistling instead.
  • A “noisemaker” is also a good way to express your excitement.
  • If you know someone riding in a parade, make a sign to get their attention—it’s easier for the rider to spot you that way too!

It’s important to drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids. 

Your vocal cords are very susceptible to dehydration. Be sure to have water or juice with you on the parade route and drink plenty of these throughout the day.

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If you do overuse your voice and find that you are hoarse the next day, rest your voice as much as possible and drink plenty of fluids. Typically, a one-time voice overuse will take care of itself in a couple of days.

If your voice is hoarse for more than a month with no improvement, then you should consider making an appointment with an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) physician, who will take a look at your vocal cords and may refer you to Speech Therapy.

To make an appointment with an ENT at UMC, please call (504) 702-5700. Our ENT Clinic is located on the 3rd floor of the Ambulatory Care Building (ACB) in Zone C.

Stay safe and SOUND this Mardi Gras Season!

The ABC’s of Antibiotics

Author: Jennifer Lambert, PharmD, MPA, UMCNO Clinical Pharmacist

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What are Antibiotics?

Antibiotics are types of medicine that help stop infections caused by bacteria. How they do this is by (1) killing the bacteria or (2) keeping the bacteria from reproducing.

The word antibiotic, itself, means “against life.”

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Did You Know?

An estimated 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths occur each year in the US due to antibiotic resistant infections.1 Antibiotics are drugs used to treat bacterial infections, not viral infections. Using antibiotics the wrong way can lead to antibiotic-resistant infections that cause illness or death. This is why healthcare providers are being more careful when prescribing antibiotics.

  • When not used correctly, antibiotics can be harmful to your health.
  • Antibiotics can cure most bacterial infections. Antibiotics cannot cure viral illnesses.
  • Antibiotics cause one out of five Emergency Department visits for drug-related side effects.
  • It is estimated that more than half of antibiotics are unnecessarily prescribed.1
  • Antibiotics can lead to severe forms of diarrhea that can be life- threatening, especially in elderly patients.
  • When you are sick, antibiotics are not always the answer

Antibiotics: The Alphabet Letter by Letter

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A (Ask)

  • “Are these antibiotics necessary?” and “What can I do to feel better?”

B (Bacteria)

  • Antibiotics do not kill viruses. They only kill bacteria.

C (Complete the Course)

  • Take all of your antibiotics exactly as prescribed (even if you are feeling better).

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How Can You Help Prevent Antibiotic Resistance?

  • Take antibiotics exactly as your healthcare provider instructs.
  • Only take antibiotics prescribed for you.
  • Do not save antibiotics for the next illness or share them with others.
  • Do not pressure your healthcare provider for antibiotics.

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Do You Need an Antibiotic?

Illness Virus Bacteria
Colds NO
Flu NO
Whooping cough YES
Strep throat YES
Most ear aches NO
Bronchitis NO
Pneumonia YES

What Can You Do to Help Yourself Feel Better if You Have a Viral Illness?

Pain relievers, fever reducers, decongestants, saline nasal spray or drops, warm compresses, liquids, and rest may be the best things to help you feel better. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist what symptom relief is best for you.

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Prescriptions for antibiotics can be filled and picked up at the Walgreens Pharmacy at UMC.

 

If you are in need of a healthcare provider, click here.

 

Citations:

1 CDC. Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013. 16 September 2013. 32.

Drink, Be Merry, But Be Very Careful!

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It’s common for adults to enjoy a glass of wine, beer or eggnog with their meals during the holiday season; but no matter the time of year, it’s always important that you don’t overdo it, especially as an older adult.

As you age, you become more sensitive to alcohol’s effects. After age 65, your lean body mass and water content decrease, and your metabolism slows down. This means that alcohol stays in your system longer, making the amount of alcohol in your blood higher than it would have been when you were younger.

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Even without the influence of alcohol, older adults are more likely to have hearing and vision problems and slower reaction times. This puts them at higher risk for falls, fractures, and automobile accidents, and that risk only increases when tied to drinking.

Some medical conditions in people older than age 65, and the medicines used to treat them, can worsen with alcohol’s effects, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and ulcers.

Medicines taken by older adults, as compared to those taken by younger folks, are more likely to have serious interactions with alcohol and drugs according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The same holds true even if they’re not taken at the same time. Why? Because the drug may still be in your blood when you have a drink.

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Heavy alcohol use—at any age— can lead to other health problems.

So, what’s a safe amount?

The NIAAA recommends that people older than age 65 who are healthy and do not take any medicines, have no more than 7 drinks a week, an average of 1 standard drink each day and no more than 3 drinks on any 1 day. One drink is 12 ounces of beer, ale, or wine cooler; 8 ounces of malt liquor; 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled liquor.

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How to Cut Down

If you want to limit your drinking starting with this holiday season, try these steps from the National Institutes of Health:

  1. Write down your reasons for cutting back. These might include wanting to improve your health or sleep better. Other reasons may be to improve relationships and to stay independent.
  2. Track your drinking habits for at least 1 week. Write down when and how much you drink every day.
  3. Set a drinking goal. You may decide to cut down to 1 drink a day or not to drink at all. Write your goal on a piece of paper and put it where you will see it every day.

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As they say, “Eat, drink and be merry!” But most importantly, be smart and be careful when consuming alcohol.

Season’s Grievings

Author: Sonia Malhotra, MD, MS, FAAP, and Director of Palliative Medicine and Supportive Care at University Medical Center New Orleans

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The Holiday Season is one full of celebration, joy and gathering for so many.  But for many individuals, especially those living with a serious illness, the Holiday Season can seem like more of a burden than a joy. Coordinating appointments, making sure there are enough supplies to last through days when pharmacies and stores are closed, and contacting healthcare providers are only some of the challenges those living with a serious illness have to face.

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Additionally, the Holidays often bring about stressors, anxiety and grief over the inability to travel and the loss of other abilities, the diagnosis of a serious illness, and often the loss of loved ones.

Palliative Medicine is the interdisciplinary care of patients with serious illness such as cancer, blood disorders, heart disease, neurologic disease, liver and kidney disease and advanced lung disease to name a few.

It provides this level of care in 4 areas:

  1. Pain and Symptom Management, including managing symptoms that affect the quality of life
  2. Communication about Healthcare Decisions, Plans of Care and Coordination of Care
  3. Emotional & Spiritual Support for Patients and their Caretakers
  4. Hospice, End-of-Life Decision Making and Support, and Bereavement Services

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November marked the celebration of National Hospice & Palliative Medicine month. 

However, each month in the life of our patients LIVING with serious illness brings awareness of the challenges and struggles we need to celebrate. Serious illness and Palliative Medicine are NOT about end-of-life care. Rather, Palliative Medicine and its care of the seriously ill focuses on finding ways to ensure that our patients and their caretakers are LIVING with the best quality of life they possibly can.2017-NationalHospiceMonth_Logo

So how can patients and their families survive this Holiday season with a Serious Illness?

  1. Establish Priorities: Choose the Holiday traditions and activities that have the most meaning to you. Create and prioritize activities based on your state of mind and energy level.
  2. Depend on Loved Ones to Fill In: This can be especially tough for those who like to do things independently. However, it is important to be realistic about what you will have energy to do. Ask for assistance, take assistance when it is given and be clear about your own limits.
  3. Plan Ahead: This is especially important if you have dietary restrictions while undergoing treatments. Talk to your healthcare team about rescheduling treatments that may leave you feeling under-energized during important family gatherings or traditions.
  4. Be Selective with Your Time: Do things and be with the people who energize you, not those who deplete you. Don’t feel the pressure to fulfill obligations, do the things that matter the most
  5. Acknowledge and Share Your Feelings: It is okay to feel sad, anxious and even angry. Give yourself the permission to have these feelings and share them with trusted loved ones and healthcare professionals. Use support groups and online communities as often or as little as you need.

The Holidays can be a stressful time for those living with a serious illness and those caring for a loved one with a serious illness. Keep in mind that nurturing yourself and allowing others to nurture you will help in the celebration and reflection of these times.

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Give It Your Heart and Sole

Experts have known for a while that certain healthy habits are essential to good heart health. Even simple changes can reduce your risk for heart disease – and lifestyle changes have even been shown to help reverse damage in people already diagnosed with a heart condition.

Heart disease is this country’s No.1 killer, but according to the American Heart Association New Orleans, many deaths from heart disease can be prevented each year by adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle.

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Find time to exercise

Doing some form of exercise – whether it’s working out at the gym, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or starting a walking program – can improve heart health, according to the AHA. Walking at least 30 minutes of day can help lower your blood pressure, improve your cholesterol profile and help you reduce your risk of coronary heart disease. A recent eight-year study of 13,000 people found that those who walked 30 minutes a day had a significantly lower risk of premature death than those who rarely exercised

Thousands of people will be taking this critical message to heart, and making a commitment to leading a heart healthy life at Saturday’s AHA New Orleans Walk in Champion’s Square.

At this annual event, participants join with others and generate a renewed commitment to heart-healthy living through walking.

In addition to a commitment to daily exercise, other lifestyle changes can reduce the risk factors for heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

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Eat a healthy diet

A healthy diet is one of the best weapons to fight heart disease, according the AHA. Foods consumed can affect risk factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Eating fatty foods plays a part in the buildup of fat in your arteries, which can lead to blocked arteries of your heart and to the risk of a heart attack. A healthy diet consisting of lean proteins, vegetables, fruit and whole grains can help improve heart health. If you’re overweight, set weight-loss goals. Even losing a small percentage of your body weight reduces your risk for heart disease.

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If you smoke, stop.

The American Heart Association (AHA) says diseases caused by smoking kill more than 440,000 people in the U.S. each year. One out of every five smoking-related deaths is caused by heart disease.

Smoking causes an instant and long-term rise in blood pressure, increases heart rate, reduces blood flow from the heart, damages blood vessels and doubles the risk of stroke.

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Top 3 Recommendations for a Healthier Heart

  • Find time to exercise: Brisk walking for as little as 30 minutes a day has proven health benefits, such as providing increased energy and circulation, as well as reduced risk of heart disease.
  • Eat a healthy diet: Eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fish, poultry, and nuts. Cut back on sugary foods like soda and on red meat. In general, stay away from foods high in salt, cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans-fat.
  • If you smoke, stop: Smoking can seriously damage blood vessels and increase your risk for heart disease.

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Tips for sticking with your heart healthy lifestyle changes:

  • Start small. Make promises that you can keep. Rather than trying to go the gym every day, aim go three times a week and add more walking each day. Instead of overhauling your entire diet, try replacing sugary treats with healthier options, like fruit.
  • Take a gradual approach. Making lifestyle changes may take time. Don’t expect miracles overnight. Try replacing one unhealthy behavior at a time.
  • Don’t go it alone. Talking about your resolutions and finding support can help you reach your goals. Try forming a group or take a class with others who have common goals. Having support and being able to talk about your struggles can make sticking to your plan less overwhelming.

You Are What You Eat: Lifestyle Tips for Managing Your Cholesterol

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Author: Rosetta Danigole, Lead Dietitian at University Medical Center New Orleans

September is National Cholesterol Education Month, a good time to consider food and lifestyle choices that benefit your health and prevent illness like heart disease.

For a long time, dietary cholesterol was considered a risk factor for heart disease. More recent recommendations suggest foods high in dietary cholesterol and low in saturated fats – foods like eggs, shellfish and liver – are acceptable and not of as great a concern as once thought in increasing cholesterol levels for most of the population. Keep in mind, however, that saturated fats – those fats found in animal products and solid fats, such as red meat and butter – are still considered to raise cholesterol levels.

Nutrition is an emerging science and dietary recommendations may change, but there are some tried and true guidelines:

A healthy dietary pattern is higher in vegetables, fruits and whole grains, low or nonfat dairy, seafood, legumes and nuts.

It is moderate in alcohol and lower in red and processed meat and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains.

More studies show it is not only about the cholesterol numbers.  It’s about the inflammatory process associated with disease.

In order to reduce inflammation and reduce the damage caused by oxidative stress and the negative effects of so-called “bad cholesterol,” here are some dietary tips:

  • Fruits and vegetables: At least 4 to 5 cups a day.
    • Nutrition Staff Tip: Try to make it 3 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit for reduced sugar and calories.
  • Fish (preferably oily fish, like salmon): At least two 3.5-ounce servings a week.
    • Nutrition Staff Tip: While eating tilapia, for instance, is a good choice, the oily fish has more benefits — try it twice per week.
  • Fiber-rich whole grains: At least three 1-ounce servings a day.
    • Nutrition Staff Tip: Breakfast is a great time to get this one in. Try oatmeal instead of grits this month — but go easy on the brown sugar.
  • Nuts, legumes and seeds: At least 4 servings a week, opting for unsalted varieties whenever possible
    • Nutrition Staff Tip: Keep this as your snack daily — you only need a small handful. Portion it out when you get home and make 4-5 small bags per week so you won’t forget!

Other dietary measures:

  • Sodium: Less than 1,500 mg a day.
    • Remember: One teaspoon of salt contains 2,400 mg if sodium per day. Processed food is packed with sodium, so avoid processed foods and the salt shaker. Read labels!
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages: Excessive sugar is very inflammatory.  Avoid if at all possible. Drink water and herbal tea instead. Natural sweeteners such as Stevia seem to be a good choice.
  • Processed meats: Most people should try to avoid this altogether.  We suggest peanut butter, fresh tuna and chicken salad sandwiches with olive oil mayonnaise, and grilled chicken sandwiches to name some options. Also, there are other options such as bean burgers and hummus burgers if you want to try something new and vegetarian.
  • Saturated fat: The American Heart Association continues to recommend no more than 7% of your fat intake come from saturated fats. Trans fats have been of special concern over the last few years. Read your labels and be aware that anything that is a commercially baked good has the potential of some trans fats.

NOTE: Having a cholesterol level that is very low also has potential negative effects and may increase risk of dementia, autoimmune disorders and infections.

Try not to focus on the numbers. Focus on healthy lifestyles, healthy diet and exercise. Epidemiological data reveals that cardiovascular disease occurs within people who have low, normal and high cholesterol.  The implication from this is that total cholesterol is not the only marker for the assessment of cardiovascular risk.

 

Breast Cancer: Survivorship Begins at Diagnosis

Support Group

Delia Young, RN
Nurse Navigator

UMC Cancer Center

Each year, 1 in 8 women in the United States will hear the devastating news that they have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Cancer is frightening for anyone. For women faced with breast cancer, the diagnosis is wrapped in a tangle of emotions and questions:

How will I get through this? Will it impact my family? Will it affect my relationships? Will I survive?

Steps to Survivorship

Every woman’s breast cancer journey is unique, but this holds true for all:

Survivorship begins at diagnosis.

From the start, it’s important to consider not only the immediate actions and treatments available, but also a complete plan that encompasses the entire breast cancer journey.

In UMC’s Cancer Center, we work to assist our patients with plans of care to help them navigate through treatment, providing a start- and endpoint and a way to see themselves outside of treatment.

One of the vital steps in survivorship is identifying support systems, whether it’s family members or close friends. Cancer treatments are long and exhausting, and many people need help coping with the process. At the UMC Cancer Center, we advise most patients to join a support group. Research indicates that people who belong to a support group are better able to cope with the stress of their disease. These groups can help patents see how people in similar situations are managing their care and experiences. Support groups can also be empowering because patients can assist someone else along their journey.

>> SUPPORT GROUP – Team Survivors: Breast Edition

Breast cancer survivors and their families are invited to join us for UMC’s supportive care program, Team Survivors: Breast Edition, every first Thursday of the month. Every month, we provide the opportunity to learn, share and discuss the different topics that affect breast cancer survivors. Our next group meeting will be on Monday, September 7, from 12-1 p.m. in the UMC Cancer Center Conference Room.

To RSVP, contact me – Delia Young, at (504) 702-3725 or Delia.Young@LCMChealth.org.

Life Beyond Breast Cancer

It doesn’t stop there. Once treatment has been completed, it’s also important that patients learn what to expect next – whether it’s prolonged side effect management post-treatment or overcoming social barriers to get reacclimated with their normal life routines.

Managing emotional, spiritual and physical health is essential. This includes healthy lifestyle promotions through diet, exercise, and mind and body relaxation techniques.

Another essential element is to give patients guidance on who they should follow up with and ensure they are set up with primary care providers for normal health maintenance screenings and surveillance.

All of these things provide a layer of support that helps to make breast cancer a little less scary.

A diagnosis isn’t the end.

There is life beyond this diagnosis and many avenues that lead to survivorship from breast cancer or any cancer.

>> FREE SEMINAR: A UMC Town Hall on Breast Health and Cancer

Please join us on September 16 for a FREE Town Hall on Breast Health & Cancer, taking place from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the UMC Cancer Center. Come to this FREE event to discover the comprehensive services that UMC provides for breast health, meet experts in the field of breast health, learn about the latest diagnostic and treatment options, hear stories of survivorship and gain insights on the role that diet, exercise and nutrition play and much more!

Click here to register.