Colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon and rectum) is the second leading cancer killer among men and women in the U.S. (after lung cancer). More than 140,000 new cases of colon and rectal cancer were diagnosed in 2010 and more than 50,000 deaths were attributed to these cancers.
And yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as many as 60 percent of these deaths could have been prevented with regular screenings.
The good news is that regular screenings can save lives. The bad news is that while many in recent years have become aware of the tests to prevent or catch the disease in its early stages, the disease’s high incidence and mortality rates would indicate that many are still avoiding them.
Colorectal cancer usually starts with polyps in the colon or rectum, abnormal but benign growths that if left untreated can turn into cancer. A painless test called a colonoscopy, performed under sedation, can help find and remove the polyps. In a colonoscopy, the doctor uses a thin, flexible, lighted tube to check for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and cancer.
The recommended guidelines call for screenings to begin at age 50 and continue every 10 years – as more than 90 percent of people with colorectal cancer are first diagnosed after age 50, with 72 the average age of diagnosis. More frequent tests may be recommended for those with a history of polyps or who have a higher risk for the disease. This would include those with a family history of colorectal cancer or a genetic disposition, a condition (such as Crohn’s) that causes inflammation of the colon, and cigarette smokers. Some studies suggest that diets high in fat (especially animal fat) and low in calcium, folate and fiber may also increase the risk. Yet, the most effective way to reduce the risk is by following the guidelines and having colonoscopy screenings.
Symptoms of colorectal cancer are often not apparent. Those that are include blood in or on your stool; persistent stomach aches or cramps; constipation or diarrhea; and loss of weight.
Mental Disorders Are Not Normal Aging
Contrary to popular belief, mental disorders like anxiety, depression, cognitive impairment, mood disorders and behavioral problems, are not a normal part of aging.
Yet, psychiatric illnesses in older adults have long tended to be neglected, sometimes with tragic consequences. This is why the rate of suicide is higher than any other age group and twice the national average.
Many elderly people suffer in silence because they are unable to relate their problems to someone who understands. Access to psychiatric care has long been a problem for them. And most families and nursing homes don’t know how to care for them.
According to the American Medical Association, there are less than 2,600 board certified geriatric psychiatrists for 35 million seniors – or about one per 14,000 Americans 65 and older. Families and nursing home personnel often fail to recognize mental or emotional illness in an elderly person, which can be confused with the symptoms of multiple medical problems.
In addition to a shortage of appropriate health specialists, experts cite barriers to access, a denial of problems among the elderly, and a lack of coordination between mental health and aging networks.
It is estimated that 40 percent of older adults with medical problems also have signs of depression. It’s not surprising when you think that in addition to dealing very often with the loss of loved ones, financial concerns, feelings of neglect and loss of independence, they also must deal with the realities that their bodies are breaking down.
Depression is not just a case of being in a bad mood, but continues for more than a couple of weeks. Signs include a loss or lack of concentration, sleep, appetite, and interest. Watch out for them in your loved ones!
Keep Your Brain Active
Lifting weights can make you stronger. Now, there is every reason to believe that giving your brain a workout can also help seniors block distractions and improve concentration.
As we age, our brains change. Older adults experience changes in how they perceive information their eyes and ears gather from the environment. This is called sensory integration – a tendency to combine information from different senses – which older adults experience it more readily than younger ones. Sensory integration can make it harder to block out distracting sights and sounds when you are trying to focus on a task.
A recent study was designed to determine if eight hours of brain exercise can improve healthy older adults’ (65 – 75 years old) ability to filter out unwanted sights and sounds. Using MRI technology, visualizing blood flow and brain activity, researchers found that a growing number of activities, from crossword puzzles to Sudoku, reduced these subjects’ susceptibility to distracting stimuli and improved concentration. The training involved either a structured one-on-one mental work-out program or a group brain exercise program.
How can you improve your concentration and block out distractions? Just as you exercise your body, make time to exercise your brain. The recommendation is to set aside 15 – 20 minutes every day to complete a crossword puzzle or other brain game.
Not All Nutrients Are a Good Thing
It’s not always a case of the more nutrients you take, the better. In fact, some nutrients need to be kept to a minimum as we age. For example:
Recommended Intake: Men: 900 micrograms; Women: 700 micrograms
Vitamin A is essential for normal vision, bone growth, cell division, and proper immune function. However, if you get too much of one form of this vitamin, you could actually cause yourself harm.
We get the vitamin A we need in two main forms – as retinol, a ready-to-use form found in animal foods, and as beta-carotene, a precursor (or “provitamin”) found only in plant foods the body can convert into vitamin A. Research has shown that adults taking too much retinol on an ongoing basis have an increased risk of weaker bones and hip fractures.
A chronically high intake of retinol can also cause hypervitaminosis A, which can lead to toxic symptoms, including liver and nerve problems in addition to decreased bone density. This is not the case with beta-carotene as the body seems to be able to slow or stop the conversion of beta-carotene into vitamin A if it’s getting enough vitamin A from retinol. That’s why it seems that the best way to ensure that your body has access to plenty of vitamin A without becoming overloaded is to get most of your vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, which is plentiful in dark green and orange fruits and vegetables, such as spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, and kale, with lesser amounts coming from animal sources of retinol, such as whole milk, whole eggs, margarine, and beef liver.
Supplements of vitamin A – whether from retinol or beta-carotene – are not recommended for healthy adults. And if you take a multivitamin, choose one that provides no more than the recommended intake of vitamin A and that supplies most or all of that vitamin as beta-carotene rather than retinol.
Recommended Intake: Men and Women: 8 milligrams a day
Iron is best known for its role in the formation of healthy red blood cells, which are responsible for carrying oxygen through the blood. It is also a component of myoglobin, the compound that stores oxygen in muscle tissues.
Oxygen is essential for life, and without iron to keep those red blood cells coming, you would die. But iron also has an important job in bolstering the immune system and helping the body manufacture amino acids and convert beta-carotene to vitamin A. There are two types of iron: heme and nonheme. Heme iron is found in meat, while nonheme iron is found in plants. Nonheme iron is less well absorbed, but that can be easily remedied by eating a food rich in vitamin C with a food rich in nonheme iron, since vitamin C aids in its absorption.
While iron remains an essential nutrient, as you age your body needs less of the mineral. That’s especially true of women after menopause. The risk of continuing to bolster your iron intake as you pass 50 is that you could unknowingly be suffering from a condition known as hemochromatosis. Also known as iron overload, hemochromatosis occurs when the body gets saturated with iron and isn’t able to discard the extra amount. Untreated, it has the potential to harm every organ in your body. Symptoms can include chronic fatigue and persistent aches and pains in your joints.
Recommended Intake: Men and Women: a maximum of 1,500 milligrams a day
Although the maximum recommended intake for this mineral is 1,500 milligrams a day for middle-age and older adults (it’s less than 2,300 milligrams for younger adults), the body requires a mere 180 milligrams of sodium a day to function properly.
Limiting sodium is difficult because sodium is present in nearly all foods. Processed foods are usually loaded with sodium, so it’s easy to go overboard. Too much sodium can aggravate high blood pressure in people who are sodium-sensitive; in these individuals, the higher the sodium intake, the higher the blood pressure.
Reducing blood pressure reduces the risk of stroke, heart disease, and kidney disease. In addition, a high-sodium diet can cause your body to lose calcium from bones, increasing your risk for osteoporosis.
Recommended Intake to Maintain Your Weight: Men, lightly to moderately active: 2,000 to 2,600 calories a day; Women, lightly to moderately active: 1,600 to 1,800 calories a day
Calories are the energy your body extracts from the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in the food you eat. You need a certain number of calories for your body to function. You need more calories if you’re physically active and muscular than if you’re not. Men generally need more calories than women, and young people require more calories than older people.
If you’re 50 or more and not physically active, the extra calories will add weight and increase your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and some kinds of cancer. It takes only 100 extra calories a day to end up with an extra 10 pounds at the end of a year. The key to preventing weight gain is to balance your calorie intake with the energy you expend through physical activity. Since certain nutrients become even more important as you age, you need to make the most of your limited calories by choosing low-calorie foods loaded with nutrients.
Oral Histories: Don’t Wait Too Long
Oral history is the systematic collection of living people’s testimony about their own experiences. Historians recognize that the everyday memories of everyday people, not just the rich and famous, have historical importance.
Your stories and the stories of the people around you are unique, valuable treasures for your family and your community. You and your family can preserve unwritten family history by collecting and preserving these stories.
Many people become concerned about “doing it right,” yet getting a voice on tape or on video is the most important thing. If you are looking to record the memories of someone else, here are some tips to consider:
The most important thing to remember? Don’t procrastinate. You don’t want to wait too long.
Match the Famous Lines from Your Favorite Books
Summer, of course, is a perfect time to catch up on your reading. Here is a list of famous lines from well known books. Try to match the two.
A-9; B-6; C-2; D-8; E-5; F-10; G-4; H-7; I-3; J-1