Many doctors encourage seniors to use brain fitness games to help deal with dementia, Alzheimer's and other cognitive diseases, says SeniorLiving.org. While research remains inconclusive, there appears to be a correlation between brain games and brain health. The website says brain games that may help seniors include: Memory games, such as Match and Simon. Word games, such as word searches and Scrabble. Electronic games, such as Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune and Family Feud. Board games, such as Chess and Checkers. Interactive Wii and X-Box games. Trivia games, such as Trivial Pursuit.
Best Exercises for Brain Health There's a lot you can learn from your elders, starting with the results of a multi-year study of exercise and brain health in seniors. Researchers from Columbia University and the University of Miami compared results of two sets of brain scans and tests measuring memory and thinking skills in 876 seniors. The tests were done five years apart. The researchers found a greater mental decline for those who reported low-activity exercises, such as light walking and yoga, compared to those with high-activity levels and exercises like running and cardio workouts. The difference was equal to 10 years of brain aging, and that was after considering other factors that can influence brain health, such as excess weight, high blood pressure, smoking and drinking, according to the findings published in the journal Neurology. Researchers are also learning about the brain benefits of cardio exercise from lab studies -- those done on animals. One study found that sustained aerobic activity -- such as daily jogging for several miles at a moderate pace -- can encourage the growth of new brain cells, even later in life. Research into which specific cardio activities are best for each of the sexes is ongoing, so there's still more to learn. In the future, the goal is to learn more about how to individualize exercise for brain health. This isn't to say that other types of exercise aren't important parts of an overall fitness regimen. Strength training helps you stay independent, while yoga, other flexibility exercises and balance work help prevent dangerous falls and keep you limber. It may be hard to begin an exercise program if you've never been active, but it starts with your mindset: Don't think of exercise as a necessary evil, but rather as something positive you do for yourself because of all the things it gives back.
Today's teens are better at using birth control when they first become sexually active, but many unexpected pregnancies still occur, new research finds. Teens who didn't use birth control during their first month of sexual activity faced nearly a fourfold increase in the risk of an unwanted pregnancy within three months, the study found. Women between the ages of 18 and 24 see the highest rates of unintended pregnancy, according to background information in the study. Unintended pregnancies are also more common in Hispanic and black women, as well as in women in lower-income groups, the researchers said. Unplanned pregnancies are associated with delayed pregnancy care, premature birth and low birth weight. Lowering the rates of unintended pregnancy rates is a national public health priority, the researchers added. The average age at which female teens began having sex -- 17 -- didn't really change over the years. But the use of birth control did improve. The initiation of contraception before the first sexual experience rose from less than 10 percent in the 1970s to more than 25 percent in the 2000s. The rate of birth control initiation during the first sexual experience was about 40 percent. The most common method used was the male condom, the study said. Rates of timely birth control use (within the first month of sexual activity) were highest in white women, at around 85 percent. Hispanic women saw the most dramatic increase in early contraceptive use -- from 38 percent in the 1970s to 72 percent in 2010-2014. White women were the only racial group to see an increase in the use of what the researchers called "effective" contraception -- from 21 percent to a peak of 40 percent in the 2000s. Effective birth control methods were those with lower rates of pregnancy, including the IUD, hormonal implants, sterilization, and birth control pills and patches. Income also mattered. Those in the two highest groups were more likely to have timely use of effective methods of birth control. But women in the lowest income group saw a drop in the use of effective methods from 24 to 20 percent during the survey period. While the study wasn't designed to tease out the reasons for improved used of contraception around sexual debut, she suspects that increased access to birth control methods, such as condoms, as well as more education and awareness, likely played a role. She said pediatricians and parents can help by making sure teens are educated and have access to birth control methods. The study was published online Jan. 15 in Pediatrics.
Nearly half of U.S. workplaces now offer wellness programs, a new study finds. The larger the workplace, the more likely it was to have a wellness program, the survey revealed. Health promotion programs were offered by 39 percent of workplaces with 10 to 24 employees, 60% of workplaces with 50 to 99 employees, and 92 percent of workplaces with 500 or more employees, the report said. But the survey also found that many workplace programs focused only on certain areas of health and wellness, rather than taking a comprehensive approach. Nearly one-third of workplaces offered some type of program to address physical activity, fitness or inactivity. About one-fifth offered programs to help employees quit tobacco use, and about 17 percent had weight management/obesity programs, according to the study published April 22 in the American Journal of Health Promotion. Three factors were independent predictors of having a comprehensive health promotion program: having at least one person assigned to be responsible for the program; a budget; and several years of experience with health promotion programming. The survey is the most recent national poll of workplace health promotion programs, and the first of its kind in 13 years, the researchers said.
Starting in the late 1980s, stroke rates among older Americans began to fall -- and the decline shows no signs of stopping, a new study finds. The researchers found that between 1987 and 2017, the rate of stroke incidence among Americans aged 65 and older dropped by one-third per decade. The pattern has been steady, with no leveling off in recent years. It's not completely clear why, according to researchers. Over time, fewer older adults in the study were smokers, which is a major risk factor for stroke. On the other hand, some other risk factors -- such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes -- became more common. The findings are based on data from a long-running heart health study that began in 1987. At the outset, it recruited almost 15,800 adults aged 45 to 64 from communities in four U.S. states. A previous study found that the stroke rate among the participants fell between 1987 and 2011 -- a decline seen only among people aged 65 and older. The new analysis, published online Sept. 30 in JAMA Neurology, shows that the trend continued between 2011 and 2017. Over 30 years, researchers found, there were 1,028 strokes among participants aged 65 and older. The incidence dropped by 32 percent over time. In more recent years, many more older adults were on medication for high blood pressure or high cholesterol, versus the late 1980s. But risk factor control did not fully explain why the stroke rate dropped so much. Other factors not measured in the study -- including exercise, salt intake and overall diet -- might be involved. But while the latest findings are good news, there are also more sobering stroke statistics, Goldstein said. Although strokes are most common among people aged 65 and older, they strike younger adults, too, and the incidence of stroke among younger people has been inching up in recent years. Some of the warning signs include a drooping or numbness on one side of the face; arm weakness or numbness; slurred speech; sudden confusion or difficulty seeing or walking; or, as researchers described it, "the worst headache of your life." Their advice: "Don't delay getting help. Time saved is brain saved."
Living a healthy lifestyle can impact both your lifespan and quality of life, says the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. But regardless of your age, the NIDDK emphasizes that it is never too late to be good to your mind and body. The agency encourages older adults to:
- Eat breakfast every day.
- Select high-fiber foods.
- Have three daily servings of vitamin D-fortified low-fat or fat-free dairy.
- Drink plenty of water or water-based fluids.
- Fit physical activity into your life.
- Stay connected with family, friends and your community.
Fatigue in Older Adults For older adults, being tired here and there may be common, says the National Institute on Aging. Illness, medication, emotional distress, poor sleep habits, alcohol and junk food are some of the many possible causes of fatigue. To feel less tired, the agency suggests that older adults:
- Keep a fatigue diary to find patterns.
- Exercise moderately and regularly.
- Avoid naps of more than 30 minutes.
- Ask for help if you feel swamped.
- Stop smoking.