Hearing issues can have an impact on quality of life
Nearly 40 million adults in the U.S. have less-than-optimal hearing, and 28.8 million of them could benefit from using hearing aids. Unfortunately, fewer than 30 percent have ever used them.
If you’re part of that crowd, you are risking both your quality of life and your brain function.
–A study in the Journal of Personality found that unaddressed hearing loss triggers personality changes: You may become more withdrawn and less outgoing. Research shows that a shrinking social base undermines both longevity and happiness.
–A six-year study out of Johns Hopkins found that participants (ages 75-84) with hearing loss had a measurable cognitive decline that was 32 to 41 percent faster than folks without hearing loss.
So if you’re cranking up the volume on the TV, asking folks to repeat what they say or just dropping out of conversations you cannot hear, get your hearing tested. It’ll improve your health, happiness and cognition. If you need help affording hearing aids, check the Hearing Loss Association of America (www.hearingloss.org). Tip: Less-expensive hearing aids through your smartphone are on the horizon.
Over 80 percent of Americans contend with LBP at some point, often from arthritis, heavy use at work, doing sports, or following an accident. So what’s been the go-to solution? First a NSAID or other anti-inflammatories, then a scan and opioids. They are the treatments that Medicare/insurers push.
Well, that’s about to change — we hope. New clinical practice guidelines from the American College of Physicians recommend that doctors move away from scans and prescribing drugs, and embrace nonmedicine based treatments for LBP, including yoga, mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy. Why? According to a Canadian review, for 95 percent of LBP patients medical interventions are no more effective than placebo! This echoes a study from 2016 in the Annals of Internal Medicine that found that massage, tai chi, yoga, physical therapy and acupuncture were effective therapies.
So if you’re knocked off your feet with LBP, ask your doc about nonmedicine-based treatments. If the pain lasts more than six weeks, then you should be referred to a specialist and get an MRI. We bet Medicare/insurers also will embrace this effective, cost-saving approach! (LBP costs the U.S. over $100 billion annually; two-thirds of that in lost productivity and decreased wages!)
Q: Yesterday I didn’t have high blood pressure; now, even though my numbers haven’t changed, my doc says I have prehypertension, whatever that is! What’s going on? — Greg F., Chicago
A: The American Heart Association is catching up with our recommendation (first published in our books in the 1990s) that defined high blood pressure as anything above 130/80 mmHg. After a very careful review of old and current research, the AHA lowered its definition of stage 1 hypertension from 140/90 to 130/80. It also has recommended a plant-based diet. Bravo!
But there’s more…
–Normal BP is now considered less than 120 over less than 80!
–Prehypertension is 120-129 over 80 or less.
–Stage 2 hypertension is 140 or higher over 90 or higher.
–Hypertensive crisis is 180 and/or 120 or higher.
If you’re in Stage 1 or 2, talk to your doc about taking anti-hypertensive medication and making lifestyle changes, including more physical activity, less animal protein and more stress management! In Stage 1 you may be able to reduce your blood pressure to below 130/80 and keep it there with lifestyle changes, but work with your doc and the meds first, then decide together how to move forward. Never stop HBP meds abruptly!
Lifestyle changes you should embrace include:
–Shedding just nine pounds (if you’re overweight). That could lower systolic pressure (the top number) by 4.5 mmHg and diastolic pressure (the bottom number) by 3 mmHg.
–Adopting the DASH or a Mediterranean diet that emphasizes fresh produce and elimination of processed foods and red meats. Also, cut sodium consumption and limit alcohol to two drinks daily for men, one daily for women. FYI: Cutting salt intake by 3 grams for a few weeks could lower systolic BP by 5-7 mmHg and diastolic by about half that.
–Taking potassium supplements (they relax blood vessels), unless you have kidney disease, or take meds that block potassium secretion. Ask your doc!
–Getting 10,000 steps daily and two to three strength-building sessions weekly. That can lower your systolic number by 5-8 mmHg.