Aging Gracefully Blog

Archive for May, 2013

Continuing the Conversation on Breast Health

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Angelina Jolie made headlines with her brave announcement of having a preventive double mastectomy to preserve her health. Studies show that exercise can also help prevent breast cancer, lower a chance of recurrence and serve as a form of treatment during recovery.

How much exercise do you need to protect against breast cancer?

Nearly 30 studies have shown that women who exercise at moderate to vigorous levels for three or more hours per week reduce their risk of getting breast cancer by 30-40%. Other studies show that two and a half hours of exercise a week could lower a breast cancer patient's risk of recurrence by 40 percent.

Walking is one of the most accessible and effective means of exercise, available to all of us. If you can't manage 30 minutes of continuous walking five days of the week (for the recommended two and a half hours total), then break it up into brief 10 or 15 minute sessions to accumulate the 30 minutes. Small doses of exercise done consistently over time have a dramatic pay off in health benefits.

What types of exercise can you do during/after breast cancer treatment?

Stretching on a daily basis keeps freedom of movement in the arm and shoulder joints, and combats the natural tendency of scar tissue to contract. It will also help improve your posture by restoring the alignment of the torso and counteracting the natural tendency to slump as a protective action. Use deep breathing to advance into a stretch: when you feel any pain or restriction, hold the position, take three deep breaths and try to relax deeper into the stretch. If pain continues, stop.

Strength training prevents muscle atrophy and decline that comes from disuse. It can help relieve back pain and neck stiffness. To begin your program, use light free weights to strengthen the muscles around the surgical site: the back, shoulders and arms. Be sure to do the exercises on both sides of your body. As you progress, incorporate exercises to work your lower body and core for full-body conditioning. Consult with a certified exercise professional regarding proper weight training techniques. Monitor your arm for discomfort and stop if you experience swelling or feelings of heaviness, pain or heat.

Of course this information should not take the place of guidance from your own physician or other medical professional. Always consult with your doctor before beginning an exercise program or becoming much more physically active.

May is Osteoporosis Awareness Month: Answers to Your Bone Health IQ Test

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

How did you do on the Bone Health IQ Test in last week's blog? If it raised your awareness of your personal risk for developing osteoporosis, you get a gold star! Here are the answers to the questions:

1. Primary risk factors for osteoporosis include gender and age.

True: Being female and of older age are two top risk factors.

2. Osteoporosis is an inevitable part of the aging process. All women in their 80s have this disease.

False: While it true that osteoporosis becomes more common with age, it is not true that every older person gets it. About half of women in their 80s have it.

3. Prolonged low estrogen levels – such as those seen in young women who exercise or diet excessively and in postmenopausal women – may cause irreversible bone loss.

True: In women, the sex hormone estrogen protects bones. Low estrogen at an early age is just as damaging to the bones as low estrogen after menopause. You may never be able to recoup the lost bone.

4) Sedentary individuals in general have less bone mass than exercising individuals.

True: People who are bedridden, are inactive or do not exercise are at high risk for osteoporosis.

5. It’s normal to lose height with age, so don't be alarmed if you're shrinking.

False: Loss of height of more than one inch is cause for concern. Vertebral fractures can cause height loss and when there is no pain, you may not be aware that you have them.

6. Thin women with small frames are less likely to develop fractures from osteoporosis because their bones are not stressed by excess weight.

False: Small, thin bones are more fragile and vulnerable to fracture.

7. Peak bone mass, which is achieved by age 30, is a significant determinant for risk of fracture over the lifetime.

True: Peak bone mass is the point at which you have the greatest amount of bone you'll ever have. From this time on, you begin to lose bone very gradually. More "bone in the bank" means better protection once bone loss begins.

8. You should have a bone density test if you are 50 or older and have broken a bone in a minor injury.

True: You can't feel your bones growing weaker. Often, breaking a bone is the first clue that you have osteoporosis.

9. Calcium and appropriate exercise are both important for bone health. If you are calcium deficient, you can compensate by exercising harder.

False: Calcium and exercise have an additive effect on bone. Exercise stimulates new bone growth and calcium mineralizes the new bone.

10. If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, you should immediately begin doing vigorous exercise, pushing yourself to your point of tolerance.

False: If you’ve been diagnosed, you want to protect the spine and avoid falls. Switch to low impact activities (walking, elliptical, cross country ski, etc.) and lift lighter weights with higher repetitions. Balance training is important for fall prevention.

Continue the Conversation on Breast Health on Dr. Radio

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

LISTEN LIVE: Joan Pagano on Rehabilitative Medicine Show with host Dr. Jonathan Whiteson

DATE: Monday, May 20
TIME: 7-8 am ET
LOCATION: Sirius XM Radio Channel.81

CALL-IN NUMBER: 877-NYU-DOCS

Angelina Jolie made headlines with her brave announcement of having a preventive double mastectomy to preserve her health. Studies show that exercise can also help prevent breast cancer, lower a chance of recurrence and serve as a form of treatment during recovery.

Tune in to hear Joan Pagano's live interview on exercise and breast cancer. Get answers to your questions from a seasoned fitness professional with 20 years experience working with breast cancer survivors.

  • How much exercise do you need to protect against breast cancer?
  • What types of exercise can you do during/after breast cancer treatment?
  • Safety guidelines for stretching and strengthening after a mastectomy/reconstruction.

Call in with questions/comments: 877-NYU-DOCS

May is Osteoporosis Awareness Month: What’s Your Bone Health IQ?

Monday, May 13th, 2013

A study conducted by the National Osteoporosis Foundation revealed that most women over the age of 45 fail to recognize their personal risk for developing osteoporosis, the disease of "porous bones." Even though the majority of women have at least two risk factors for the disease by this age, they do not perceive themselves to be personally at risk.

In order to bridge the gap between perception and reality, take this True/False quiz to boost your bone health IQ. The answers will appear next week in this blog.

  1. Primary risk factors for osteoporosis include gender and age.
  2. Osteoporosis is an inevitable part of the aging process. All women in their 80s have this disease.
  3. Prolonged low estrogen levels – such as those seen in young women who exercise or diet excessively and in postmenopausal women – may cause irreversible bone loss.
  4. Sedentary individuals in general have less bone mass than exercising individuals.
  5. It’s normal to lose height with age, so don't be alarmed if you're shrinking.
  6. Thin women with small frames are less likely to develop fractures from osteoporosis because their bones are not stressed by excess weight.
  7. Peak bone mass, which is achieved by age 30, is a significant determinant for risk of fracture over the lifetime.
  8. You should have a bone density test if you are 50 or older and have broken a bone in a minor injury.
  9. Calcium and appropriate exercise are both important for bone health. If you are calcium deficient, you can compensate by exercising harder.
  10. If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, you should immediately begin doing vigorous exercise, pushing yourself to your point of tolerance.

Tune in next week for the answers!

 

Refresh Your Memory and Your Mental Focus with Exercise

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Recent studies offer encouraging news for those of us afraid of losing our mental edge with age.

Research shows that exercise – any exercise – has a profound effect on overall cognitive function. Beyond merely stemming memory loss, exercise targets different aspects of cognition to improve recall.

One study recruited women ages 70 to 80 who had mild cognitive impairment, making memory and thinking more muddled than would be expected at a given age. Seniors with this condition develop Alzheimer's disease at higher rates than normal. The women were divided into groups assigned to walking, weight lifting and stretching. After six months, the women who stretched scored worse on memory tests; but the women who exercised in both of the other two groups scored better. While the different types of exercise may have different effects in the brain, they both cause improvement in memory.

Another study examined the effect of exercise on patients with heart failure, because those patients are at high risk of memory loss and other thinking skills. Since the heart is not pumping enough blood to the body, the brain is not getting enough either. A cardiac rehab program that incorporated exercise reversed memory loss.

Finally, for those of us whose brains are simply fried by environmental stresses there's more good news from a study that looked at the cognitive impact of green spaces. A simple walk in the park refreshes the brain by providing relief from constant noise and hectic nerve-wracking demands of city living. The human brain's ability to stay calm and focused is limited and can be overwhelmed with external stimulation, causing it to become distracted, forgetful and mentally flighty. Natural environments engage the brain with effortless attention, allowing for reflection.

To stay mentally sharp, schedule time out for a walk in the park! It's productive therapy for your best thinking.