The U.S. suicide rate has jumped 35 percent in the past two decades, health officials reported recently. From 1999 to 2018, the suicide rate rose from 10.5 to 14 per 100,000, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers found the rate of suicide rose by about 1 percent a year from 1999 to 2006, then increased to 2 percent a year from 2006 through 2018. The report also shows that men are more likely to die by suicide than women, and people in rural areas are at greater risk than their urban counterparts. While the suicide rate rose for both men and women, it soared 55 percent among females compared with a 28 percent climb among males. Still, men are nearly four times more likely to take their own lives, researchers reported. In 2018, the male suicide rate was nearly 23 per 100,000, and for females it was slightly more than 6 per 100,000. The highest suicide rate among women was among those 45 to 64 years old. Among males, the rate was highest for those 75 and over. Researchers believe some of these suicides are what have been called deaths of despair -- including deaths due to drug and alcohol abuse. Many of these deaths of despair occur in rural areas where there are fewer economic opportunities. Poverty breeds hopelessness, loneliness and depression, all emotions that increase the risk for suicide, Singer said. The report noted some good news in the last few years of the study period. "After years of increase, the suicide rates for several demographic groups, including females aged 45 and over and males aged 45 to 64, have stabilized," researchers said. But suicide rates continued to increase for males and females aged 10 to 44, and men 65 and over, she said. In 2018, men and women in rural areas were more likely to die by suicide than city dwellers, the researchers found. Among males, for example, the rates ranged from 18 in cities to 31 in the most rural counties (per 100,000). For the study, CDC researchers used data from the U.S. National Vital Statistics System. The numbers beg the question, "Why?" There's no easy answer, researchers echoed. There is concern that job losses and isolation related to current COVID-19 stay-at-home orders might result in a spike in suicides. On the other hand, being in lockdown with family might also be protective, researchers said. It's important to recognize signs of impending suicide. For more on suicide, see the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.
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.
THE CHANGE OF weather patterns and the start of flowers blooming can cause havoc on many people who suffer allergies. These allergies can be caused by hay, pollen or contaminants in the air. Allergy sufferers dread this season because of the consistent symptoms that happen year after year. The typical watery and itchy eyes to the constant sniffle and sneezing. To deal with allergies and these symptoms, it is recommended is to maintain that healthy diet by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. Exposing our bodies to more natural foods can help combat allergies because our body will be better equipped to naturally detect and fend off these allergens. While allergies are unpleasant and annoying, they are not normally life threatening, unless there is a severe reaction called anaphylactic shock. Fighting allergies If there is one rule for coping with all types of allergies, it is “If something irritates you, avoid it.” That is often easier said than done, but avoiding allergens avoids allergic reaction and all the accompanying symptoms. Of course, before you can avoid something, you must find out what are you allergic to. There is a range of tests, from skin to blood tests, that your doctor can perform in order to help you find out what triggers your allergy symptoms. It can be very difficult to know exactly what you are allergic to, so it is often necessary to do a bit of detective work yourself. If you suspect that you are allergic to some food, start writing in fine details exactly what you are eating, and eliminating one by one potential allergens. Once you know that you are allergic to peanuts, for example, it is a matter of avoiding anything that contains peanuts, and your problems are solved. Allergens and treatments The most difficult allergies to treat are the ones that are difficult to avoid, and they are the most common as well. Allergies to pollen, dust mites, mold spores, animal dander and insect stings often require some drastic measures, such as changes in geographic location, home, furniture, even giving up loved pet. There are several types of medications available, and their job is to help with the symptoms. Some of them are available over-the-counter and other by prescription. They can be antihistamines, steroids, decongestants and combinations. Be careful with antihistamines, some of them will make you drowsy and can make work and driving impossible. Decongestants may raise your blood pressure, so if you have glaucoma or high blood pressure, stay away from decongestants. Allergy shots gradually decrease sensitivity to allergens, and are the only long-term solution, but the treatment takes a long time and requires persistence. They are the best solution for people with severe allergies. Common sense solutions Many people are allergic to their own homes, mostly due to the presence of dust mites, mold spores and pet dander. Regular cleaning is the first rule for them. There are very effective mattress and pillow covers that prevent contact with dust mites and avoid allergic reaction. Lower humidity at home also helps getting rid of dust mites. Get a dehumidifier and change the filter regularly. Get rid of carpets and curtains or clean them regularly. Try using non-toxic cleaners, because some cleaners make problems worse. Allergies to insects can be avoided by wearing long sleeves and pants and wearing insect repellents. Bee allergy is one of the most common causes of very serious and potentially deadly anaphylactic shock. People allergic to pollen should consult online pollen information databases and avoid their morning jog on the worst days. This type of allergy is often linked to plant pollen and some people are forced to relocate to areas without that trigger.
STRESS CAN BE found in myriad forms, but the effects might create lasting damage to your body. Whether it’s positive stress (like planning a wedding) or negative stress (such as getting laid off), everyone has felt the effects of stress at one point in their lives. Stress often manifests as physical symptoms, such as fatigue, headaches and muscle tension and can even lead to serious health issues, such as cardiovascular disease. According to multiple studies, 77 percent of American report they experience physical symptoms as a result of stress. Additionally, 33 percent feel they are living with extreme stress and 48 percent blame stress for negatively impacting their personal and professional lives. April is National Stress Awareness Month, and while stress is unavoidable for most people, there are many ways to help prevent and manage it. Look at these seven tips for preventing and managing stress in your life. Eating a diet full of fresh, whole foods helps the body combat stress naturally. It also might be wise to avoid stimulants like caffeine, alcohol and nicotine that can amplify stress, interfere with sleep and worsen the effects stress has on the body. Getting the recommended amount of exercise lowers blood pressure and provides a healthy outlet to relieve stress. Rhythmic exercise such as walking, jogging and swimming has proven to be especially effective. Aim for 20 minutes of moderate activity, five days a week. Allowing the heart rate to increase will help reduce a level of stress. There is a reason sleep deprivation is a form of torture. Not getting a proper amount of sleep makes it difficult to deal with stressful situations and can increase anxiety and depression. To establish a healthy sleeping routine, try turning off all electronics prior to going to bed and try to establish a calming nighttime ritual, such as reading or meditating. This ritual will signal your mind to relax and prepare for a restful night’s sleep. There is a reason that eating healthy, exercising and getting enough sleep are recommended to help reduce stress. These habits are the cornerstone to a happy, healthy life and their impact on stress is no different. But if they do not work for you, try these tips instead: Learn how to relax Relaxing while stressed is no easy task. It is important to find what works best for you and what fits into your lifestyle. The easier it is to do, the more likely you are to stick with it. Meditation and deep breathing are great ways to feel more relaxed and are also easy to do just about anywhere. If you are looking for a good way to get started, try the 4-7-8 deep breathing technique. Inhale for four seconds, hold the breath for seven seconds, exhale for eight seconds. Continue for as long as you need to feel relaxed. Put your feelings on paper Have thoughts running through your head on repeat? Try writing them out. Getting the thoughts out of your mind and onto paper will signal your brain that the thought is safe, and it no longer needs to hold onto it. Be proactive You are your own best advocate. If you are feeling overloaded and worn down, look at everything that is going on in your life and see if some things can take a backseat until you feel up to tackling them. Make a list of situations that could cause potential stress and then figure out which situations you can avoid or improve to manage the outcome. In a word, simplify. Talk about your problems Sometimes talking through a problem is all you need to work through a stressful situation. Confiding in a trusted friend or family member can go a long way in combating stress. A licensed professional can also provide helpful tools to help you positively process through stressful scenarios. Do something you enjoy Always wanted to take a cooking class? Considering an herb garden? Learning new skills and taking the time to do something you love creates an outlet to relieve stress. Don’t be intimidated by the prospect of picking up something new – it can be as small as playing a game of Solitaire. Just make sure it’s something you enjoy. Smile It might feel silly, but simply smiling can help improve your mood. Laughing is also a great way to beat stress and is clinically proven to be good for your health. Take some time for a laugh break – watch a funny show/movie or find a funny video online and enjoy the instant mood lift.
DRINKING TOO MUCH alcohol increases people’s risk of injuries, violence, drowning, liver disease, and some types of cancer. The good news? We can all take steps to help prevent alcohol misuse or abuse. Spread the word about strategies for preventing alcohol misuse or abuse and encourage communities, families, and individuals to get involved. How can Alcohol Awareness Month make a difference? We can use this month to raise awareness about alcohol abuse and take action to prevent it — both at home and in the community. Here are just a few ideas:
- Encourage friends or family members to make small changes, like keeping track of their drinking and setting drinking limits.
- Share tips with parents to help them talk with their kids about the risks of alcohol use.
- Ask doctors and nurses to talk to their patients about the benefits of drinking less or quitting.
HOW MANY STEPS did you get in last month? Did you know that the average person walks between 5,000 to 7,000 steps per day? Rain, snow or shine, people walk, job, race along without thinking about how it affects their feet. They bear our weight every day and even endure more stress when we run, jog or jump. We shove them into shoes that may be too tight or too worn out, with heels that are too high. Feet are marvelous miracles of engineering. They have 33 joints, 19 muscles, 107 ligaments and 26 bones – fully one-quarter of the total bones in the body. Good foot care is essential to keeping our feet healthy and active. To celebrate April as Foot Health Awareness Month, and to keep your feet in good running condition, here are some tips to keep those feet healthy:
- Keep them clean. Wash feet in warm, soapy water and dry thoroughly, especially between the toes.
- Keep them moisturized. Apply a rich foot cream or lotion to keep skin smooth and supple. Avoid the areas between the toes.
- Keep them dry to help avoid fungal infections. Always put on clean socks and change them during the day if they become damp. Alternate your shoes to air them out. Choose breathable materials like leather and canvas.
- Check daily. Inspect your feet. Look for any changes like a blister, bruise, cut, nail problem, crack or sore. Be alert to red, sensitive pressure points that may indicate poorly-fitting shoes. Those with diabetes must be extra-cautious in their daily foot examination.
- Trim your nails carefully. Always use a toenail clipper and cut straight across – don’t round the corners – to avoid an ingrown toenail.
- Smooth calluses and corns. Use a pumice stone to smooth out these areas. If you have diabetes, please come see us for this type of foot care.
- Assess your footwear. Are your shoes or boots tight? Is there ample room in the toe box so that you can wiggle your toes? Is the tread on the bottom wearing evenly? This could cause balance issues. If you see any problems, it’s time to go shoe shopping.
- Just like your muscles need a rest day in your workout routine, so do your feet. If you’ve been walking, running or even just standing more, your feet can get sore. Make sure you take the time to put your feet up and relax when you need to. You can simply prop your feet up on a cushion, or you can go a little more lux and pamper yourself with a foot soak.