Aging and Caregiving in the News

Related topics: Alzheimer's Disease, Seniors and the Internet, Heart Health, Senior Lifestyles

Information, updates and interesting tidbits from across the country and around the world.

In this issue:

  • A Super Bowl Sunday warning
  • Negative attitudes about aging are bad for the brain
  • Diagnosing yourself online

Sad sports fans

Could a Super Bowl Loss Break Your Heart—Literally?

Last year, a family in Spokane, WA cited the Seattle Seahawks’ loss in Super Bowl XLIX as the cause of their loved one's death by heart attack. While the obituary was somewhat tongue in cheek, there may be some truth to the idea that having your team lose the big game can stress your heart. Dr. Robert A. Kloner of the Keck School of Medicine at University of California Los Angeles reported an increase in cardiac deaths after a Super Bowl loss, versus a decrease when the home team won. Both men and women were affected, and older fans had a 22 percent increase in cardiovascular deaths. Dr. Kloner's advice for doctors: "Physicians and patients should be aware that stressful games might elicit an emotional response that could trigger a cardiac event. Stress reduction programs or certain medications might be appropriate in individual cases." So remember—keep your cool on Super Bowl Sunday, especially if your favorite team is on the field!

Ageism Linked to Alzheimer's Disease

For years, researcher Becca Levy of the Yale School of Public Health has cautioned us about the pernicious nature of ageism—not only for seniors, but for everyone. Levy previously reported that young people with negative attitudes about aging are less likely to enjoy good health when they reach their own senior years, and even live an average of 7.5 fewer years than those who had positive attitudes about seniors. In December 2015, Levy released a new study that should cause all of us to examine anew our attitudes about aging. Using both brain imaging and autopsy findings, Levy and her team found a link between ageism and Alzheimer's disease. The brains of people who decades earlier had expressed negative opinions about aging showed more of the harmful changes associated with dementia. Said Levy, "We believe it is the stress generated by the negative beliefs about aging that individuals sometimes internalize from society that can result in pathological brain changes." But there's hope for today's ageists, she added. "Although the findings are concerning, it is encouraging to realize that these negative beliefs about aging can be mitigated and positive beliefs about aging can be reinforced, so that the adverse impact is not inevitable."

How Well Do Seniors Locate Online Health Information?

What's the first thing you do if you notice a twinge in your tummy or a strange rash on your arm? If it doesn't seem like an emergency requiring immediate attention, many Americans today—young people and seniors alike—research their symptoms online before calling the doctor. These searches can be complicated, according to the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. Reports Prof. Joseph Sharit of the University of Miami, "This type of sustained online information-seeking can be more cognitively taxing for users than simple search tasks because one must find, filter, comprehend, and integrate health information that is often distributed across multiple sources." Sharit's research team found that most older adults do a pretty good job at these searches; they take a little longer than younger adults, but their results are just as good. On the other hand, Sharit says, "Consideration should be given to new ways of supporting consumers of health information, especially older adults, who are susceptible to normal age-related declines in cognitive abilities." Sharit's study was published in the Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making.  

Source: IlluminAge Communication Partners; copyright 2016 IlluminAge