Aging and Caregiving in the News

Related topics: Health & Wellness, Alzheimer's Disease, Brain Health, Safety

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

In this issue:

  • The anti-aging skin product that really works
  • Living with Lewy body dementia
  • Older brains are color-smart!

Does Sunscreen Really Protect Against Aging of the Skin?

Dermatologists have long recommended that people protect their skin with sunscreen when they are outdoors—not only to avoid skin cancer, but also to protect against premature aging of the skin. A groundbreaking new study from Australia's University of Queensland, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, provides even more evidence that sunscreen slows the aging of skin. Says Professor Adele Green, "This has been one of those beauty tips you often hear quoted, but for the first time we can back it up with science: protecting yourself from skin cancer by using sunscreen regularly has the added bonus of keeping you looking younger."

Prof. Green's team performed a four-and-a-half-year comparative study of 900 test subjects, half of whom regularly wore SPF 15+ sunscreen. The researchers documented the changes in participants' skin over those years, and found that the group that applied sunscreen most days had 24 percent less skin aging than those who seldom or never used sunscreen. Says Prof. Green, "Along with seeking shade and wearing clothing cover, sunscreen is a mainstay of sun protection. It prevents sunburn in the short term and skin cancer in the long-term."

Americans spend billions each year on anti-aging products. It seems that an ordinary bottle of sunscreen from your local drugstore might be the real "miracle."

New Resource for Families Living with Lewy Body Dementia

Over a million Americans are living with Lewy body dementia, which is second only to Alzheimer's among the diseases that cause a progressive decline in brain function.  Yet many people are unfamiliar with this condition. Lewy body dementia (LBD) is caused by abnormal deposits of a protein in the brain, leading to problems with thinking, movement, behavior and mood.  As researchers seek better ways to treat LBD, people with the disease and their families struggle day-to-day to get an accurate diagnosis, find the best treatment, and manage at home. 

The National Institute on Aging recently released an updated version of their free booklet for patients, families and professionals who are dealing with the challenges of LBD. The 44-page booklet provides an overview of the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of the disease, and offers advice and resources for people who have just been diagnosed, as well as for families who are struggling to keep their loved one safe and are coping with challenging personality changes. A key message of the booklet: "As someone who is caring for a person with LBD, you will take on many different responsibilities over time. You do not have to face these responsibilities alone."

You can download the booklet from the NIA website, or order a free print copy.

Another Smart Strategy of the Older Brain

As we grow older, our eyes aren't as good as they were. But when it comes to color vision, our brains seem to make do with less input, according to research that appeared in the journal PLoS ONE.  

Certain age-related changes in our vision are inevitable. One of these changes is a loss of sensitivity in the cone receptors of the eye. The cones are cells in the retina that perceive color. Over time, the cones lose their sensitivity—yet most seniors continue to perceive color with as much accuracy as younger people. What accounts for this surprising fact? Researchers from University of Liverpool report that the brain compensates for the lower level of input from the eyes, effectively recalibrating so that our experience of color remains the same.  To a lesser extent, our brains also compensate for changes in the lens of the eye. Says researcher Sophie Wuerger, "We found that color vision remains fairly constant across the lifespan, despite the known age-related yellowing of the lens. This suggests that the visual brain recalibrates itself as we get older."

Source: IlluminAge Communication Partners; copyright 2014 IlluminAge.