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Posts Tagged ‘elderly’


I recently had the pleasure of visiting my healthy 95-year-old aunt Grace, and then I thought about my 97-year-old neighbor Vic, and it made me realize just how amazing the human body is to keep functioning for so many years. I am awestruck by this body of ours that began with just two microscopic cells coming together and developing into a complex living organism made up of some 75 trillion cells, many of which have specialized to perform amazing functions, making us the incredible beings that we are.

I’d like to share with you some interesting statistics about the human body.

Let’s take an 84-year-old person, for example. This person:

– Has a heart that beats 100,000 times daily — 35 million beats a year and more than 3 billion beats in a lifetime.

– Has a heart that has pumped over 48 million gallons of blood in a lifetime, which is enough to fill more than 2,000 average-sized in-ground swimming pools.

– Has lungs that breathe 23,000 times daily, producing 2,600 gallons of air or almost 80 million gallons per year. That’s enough in a lifetime to fill about 160 full-sized hot-air balloons.

– Has two kidneys that produce 1½ quarts of urine a day, or more than 10,000 gallons per lifetime. Those same kidneys have processed a quart of blood per minute: 423 gallons per day, and 13 million gallons per lifetime.

– Has consumed and processed 3½ pounds of food a day, equating to more than 53 tons of food since birth.

– Has produced almost 10,000 gallons of saliva in a lifetime.

Other interesting facts about our bodies

Our bodies are composed of 50 to 100 trillion cells, and 300 million cells die and are replaced every minute. Fifteen million blood cells die every second.

We have more than 650 muscles; the largest is the gluteus maximus (buttock), and the smallest, the stapedius in the middle ear.

We have 206 bones. The largest, at an average of 18 inches, is the femur (thigh bone), and the smallest, just one-tenth of an inch, is the stapes, again in the middle ear.

We have about 20 square feet of skin, with 35,000 dead skin cells coming off the body daily, which means our entire skin is replaced once a month. We shed 40 pounds of skin during an average lifetime.

We have 60,000 miles of blood vessels, which would wrap around the world more than twice.

Our noses can detect 50,000 scents.

We blink 6 million times a year.

There are roughly 20,000 diseases that affect the human body, and there are more than 600,000 physicians representing 150 medical specialties to deal with human health and disease.

Take good care of that amazing body of yours.

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Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a term for loss of memory and other mental abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life. It is caused by physical changes in the brain.

First described in the early 1900s by Dr. Alois Alzheimer, it is a progressive, irreversible brain disorder that causes severe memory loss and difficulty thinking and eventually robs a person of the ability to perform even the simplest of tasks.

More than 5 million people in the U.S. live with Alzheimer’s disease, and it is the seventh leading cause of death. It afflicts one in eight people age 65 and older and one in two people older than 85. Few families are untouched by this disease.

Our brains, like all organs in our bodies, change as we age. Slower thinking and some memory loss occur in all of us the longer we live. Serious memory loss, confusion and inability to perform simple tasks are not normal, but reflect a more severe deterioration of our brain cells, of which there are more than 100 billion in the average adult brain.

The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is unknown, but it is thought to be associated with genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors.

Abnormal structures called plaques and tangles have been identified in and around brain cells in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. They are thought to block communication between cells and lead to their destruction. Unlike other cells in our body, brain cells regenerate very slowly, if at all, allowing the continued progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Various stages of Alzheimer’s disease have been identified and described as follows:

• Early: Increasing memory problems

• Mild: Increasing memory loss, with problems such as getting lost, trouble handling money and paying bills, repetition of questions and poor judgment

• Moderate: Difficulty recognizing family and friends, inability to learn new things, and trouble with tasks such as getting dressed

• Severe: Inability to communicate and complete dependence on others for care

Although there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease, several drugs have been approved for the treatment of its symptoms. These drugs help maintain memory, thinking and some behavioral skills, but they don’t change the disease process and may help for only a few months to a few years.

Be proactive to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease:

• Keep your cholesterol level normal or below.

• Boost your vitamin D level by sun exposure, appropriate foods or vitamin supplements.

• Exercise your brain by playing cards or working crossword puzzles.

• Maintain social contact with friends or relatives.

• Keep physically active.

Those who are close to someone with Alzheimer’s disease understand the tremendous toll it takes emotionally, physically and financially. Caregivers can be helped by a support network of family and friends. Organized support groups, such as the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org), are also available and can offer much-needed advice for those caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.

Much research is being done throughout the scientific community to develop a successful treatment and, ultimately, a cure.

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Falls In The Elderly

Falls are the leading cause of injury related emergency room visits in persons over 65 years of age.  The risk of falling increases with age and is greater for women than men. Falls are the leading cause of death from injury among the elderly.  Almost 10,000 deaths in older Americans are associated with falls every year. The most significant consequence of falling is the loss of independence. After a serious fall, an elderly person often suffers a decline in normal activities of daily living and is often permanently placed in an assisted living facility or in a nursing home.

Hip fractures are a frequent consequence of falls and occur to more than 250,000 elderly people at a health care cost of approximately10 billion dollars each year. Twenty five percent of those who sustain a hip fracture require life-long nursing home care. Other injuries from a fall include head injuries, lacerations, severe bruising and fractures of arms or legs.

Risk factors of falls and preventative measures are as follows:

Impaired vision:

  • Have regular vision checkups.
  • Add contrasting colored strips on the edges of first and last steps to identify change of level.

Lack of physical activity:

  • Exercise regularly to maintain muscle tone and strength.

Osteoporosis:

  • Work with your doctor to diagnosis and treat osteoporosis (thinning of the bones).

Medications:

  • Prescription pain medicine, sedatives, and anti depressant drugs are the biggest medication culprits in causing falls.
  • Beware of alcohol interacting with drugs.
  • Know the common side effects of your medications.

Home hazards:

  • Avoid throw rugs.
  • Reduce clutter.
  • Maintain adequate lighting.
  • Install grab bars around tub and toilet.
  • Keep commonly used items in easy reach.
  • Avoid using floor polish or wax to prevent slipping.
  • Remove caster wheels from furniture.
  • Use night lights.
  • Avoid steps stools and ladders.

I would love to start a campaign to have our society remove all concrete parking bumpers in parking lots.  They are accidents waiting to happen. The elderly tend to fall face first onto the pavement as I have witnessed all too many times in my practice. Please be extremely careful when walking to and from your car to avoid tripping over these bumper hazards.

As we age, we all need to move around more carefully and slow things down a bit to prevent falls and to help us enjoy a longer, healthier, and independent life.

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