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Healthy Aging Archive


Answers to common questions about shingles

Shingles is a painful condition caused by the varicella-zoster virus. People typically encounter this virus, which causes chickenpox, in childhood. The virus stays dormant in the body, sometimes for decades, and may re-emerge as shingles. The best way to prevent shingles is by getting vaccinated. People should get the vaccine even if they’ve had shingles in the past, because it is possible to get shingles more than once. Maintaining healthy habits, such as eating right, getting enough sleep, and managing stress, may also help to prevent shingles by keeping the immune system working well.

Could cataract surgery bring brain benefits?

A 2021 study found that people who underwent cataract surgery (a procedure replace the lens of the eye) appeared to have a lower risk of developing dementia than those who had cataracts but did not undergo surgery.

High levels of proteins may explain how exercise boosts the brain

A 2022 study examined the brains of older adults after they died, and found that those who had stayed the most active late in life had higher amounts of synaptic proteins. These proteins improve the connections between the brain’s nerve cells.

Even light physical activity may help prevent dementia

Past research shows that exercise may help to prevent dementia. A new study found that this may be true even for people who only do light daily activity, such as errands or housework. People who got only a little exercise still had a lower risk of dementia than those who were inactive. The risk reduction, however, was not as large as that seen in people who exercised more. Adding small daily bouts of activity may still make a difference when it comes to brain health.

Laughing with friends linked to lower risk of disability

An observational study published in the February 2022 issue of Preventive Medicine suggests that laughing with friends is associated with a 30% reduced risk of developing functional disability—problems performing essential everyday activities.

Bracing for incontinence

Among US women ages 60 or older, the prevalence of urge incontinence (a sudden, unprovoked need to urinate) and stress incontinence (leaking urine with physical activity or pressure on the bladder) appeared to increase between 2005 and 2018. Treatments for urge incontinence include lifestyle modifications (such as avoiding caffeinated drinks or scheduling bathroom breaks), pelvic floor exercises, medications, and Botox injections. Treatments for stress incontinence include pelvic floor exercises, weight loss, vaginal pessaries, bulking agent injections, and bladder sling surgery.

Get back your social life to boost thinking, memory, and health

Staying socially active is associated with cognitive benefits and may play a role in longevity, stress reduction, and controlling mood. If a person has been out of touch with friends for a long time, one way to restart contact is to send a brief message asking how they’re doing or recalling a shared activity. If the person reciprocates, the next step might be to suggest a meeting, ask to get together, or schedule a catch-up phone call or video chat.

Staving off heart problems in your 80s and beyond

For people in their 80s and beyond, the advice for preventing and treating heart disease is similar to that for young people, especially with respect to staying physically active. But octogenarians may need to adjust their medication regimens. Low-dose aspirin is not recommended after age 70, and doses of anti-clotting medications may need to be reduced. Some people may also need to dial back their blood pressure medications if they experience side effects such as dizziness.

Stay active as you age to extend your health span

According to the "active grandparent" hypothesis, humans evolved to be physically active throughout life. That frequent movement helps ward off chronic disease (including heart disease) and promotes longevity. While hunter-gatherers had to be active to survive, they also had a natural instinct to avoid unnecessary activity to preserve energy when food was scarce. Modern humans don’t need to expend physical effort to meet their basic needs for food and survival. Instead, they must exercise (defined as discretionary activity for the sake of health) to stay healthy and live a long life.

How can I reduce lasting menopausal symptoms?

Menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats can last for years after menstrual periods stop. Strategies such as wearing layered clothing that can be removed easily, keeping a small fan nearby, and sleeping in a cool room can help manage symptoms.

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