Aging and Caregiving in the News

Related topics: Health & Wellness, Senior Life, Safety

Information, updates and interesting tidbits about healthy aging, senior care and family caregiving from across the country and around the world.

New Information for Older Drivers and Their Families
The National Institutes of Health has just created a new online resource for older drivers and families who are seeking information on an often sensitive topic: Is it still safe to drive? Developed by the National Institute on Aging and the US Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Older Drivers topic offers up-to-date information on how aging may affect driving, including physical changes, safety issues and ways older drivers can cope when driving skills change. Information about refresher courses, vehicle safety, regulations that affect older drivers and alternative means of transportation is also provided. See the NIH Senior Health "Older Drivers" page for more. 

Can Laughter Lower Our Blood Pressure?

Humor has been shown to benefit our health in many ways—emotionally, physically and intellectually. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recently reported on two studies that show a particular benefit: It would appear that having a good laugh can help lower our blood pressure.  In the first study, test subjects watched a comedy film while the movement of blood through their carotid arteries was measured. Researcher Jan Sugawara reported that more blood moved through the subjects' arteries when they were watching the funny movie. Sugawara said, "Laughing is likely not the complete solution to a healthy heart, but it appears to contribute to positive effects." In a second study, subjects who also watched a funny movie experienced improved vascular function as evidenced by increased dilation of blood vessels—and the effect lasted for 24 hours. The ACSM encourages all patients to talk to their healthcare provider about an overall activity program.

The Five-Second Rule: True or False?

You probably learned it when you were a kid: If you drop food on the floor, you have five seconds to pick it up before it is contaminated. What do infection specialists have to say about this? Dr. Jorge Parada, medical director of the infection prevention and control program at Chicago's Loyola University Health System, says, "A dropped item is immediately contaminated and can't really be sanitized." Parada says that the chance of picking up dangerous microbes that could make us sick depends on what was dropped and where it was dropped. "If you rinse off a dropped hot dog you will probably greatly reduce the amount of contamination, but there will still be some amount of unwanted and potentially nonbeneficial bacteria on that hot dog," said Parada. "But what if you have a more sensitive system, or you pick up bacteria with a lower infectious dose? Then, you are rolling the dice with your health or that of your loved one." For people who are at greater risk of foodborne illness, including seniors, it's better to be safe than sorry. Parada says, "When it comes to folklore, the 'five-second rule' should be replaced with 'When in doubt, throw it out.'"