Health experts are talking about…
…more arthritis diagnoses among working-age adults. Not only are more Americans developing arthritis, they’re doing so at younger ages, states a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Between 2013 and 2015, 54.4 million (22.7 percent, or more than one in five) American adults were diagnosed with this condition, a leading cause of disability. Fifty-nine percent of those diagnosed were younger than 65. Incidence is increasing, and by 2040, arthritis will affect an estimated 78.4 million adults in the United States.
Almost half of those in the CDC analysis say their conditions are severe enough to limit basic activities like holding a cup or lifting a grocery bag, a nearly 20 percent increase from 2002. One-third of adults over age 45 with arthritis report problems with kneeling, stooping or bending. More than 20 percent have trouble walking more than three blocks.
There are more than 100 types of arthritis, a catchall term for joint pain or joint disease, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Osteoarthritis is the most common, but millions more suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus or fibromyalgia, together costing the health system approximately $81 billion a year. Almost all knee and hip replacements (99 percent) are due to arthritis pain and disability.
Arthritis is more common among those who also suffer from obesity, heart disease or diabetes. Having arthritis in addition to any one of these diseases increases the likelihood of inactivity, according to researchers. People may be afraid that exercising will worsen their arthritis pain or aggravate their other health conditions. However, experts say that appropriate physical activity can actually help reduce arthritis-related pain, improve flexibility, strength and endurance.
…why staying hydrated is important. Adults in their 70s, 80s and 90s often don’t drink enough fluids, due to age-related physical and biological changes that reduce the sensation of thirst. This may lead to serious health problems, including kidney and heart trouble. People in their 50s and 60s should be vigilant about drinking enough water too, since the thirst sensation also declines among these age groups, increasing risk of dehydration and related problems.
Adult bodies are made up of 60 percent water, which is vital to ensuring that organs and systems function at peak efficiency. At around age 45, our bodies begin holding in less water as we lose muscle mass. By age 65, our bodies are only about 50 percent water.
Adults also tend to take more medications as they age, which can cause fluid loss, although they don’t always realize it, says Julian Seifter, MD, a kidney specialist and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. Warning signs of dehydration include dark-colored urine, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, dry mouth, headache, disorientation or weakness.
Recommendations on optimal daily water intake vary, depending on a person’s health, diet, body size, activity level and location. While our bodies absorb some water through eating food and by drinking coffee, tea or other beverages, the American Academy of Family Practitioners (AAFP) recommends that most people drink approximately one and a half liters of water daily for good health. That’s about 50 ounces, or six to eight glasses. The Institute of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine suggests consuming an average of a little more than two and a half liters (91 ounces) of total water each day, including hydration from all beverages and food. Other experts say 30 to 50 ounces, or four to six glasses, is enough. Men need slightly more fluid than women, and everyone needs more after vigorous exercise or in very hot weather.
Doctors advise limiting sugary drinks and sodas and using sports drinks sparingly after strenuous exercise. One 20-ounce bottle of a sports drink contains 34 to 50 grams of added sugar; that’s as much as nine teaspoons. Although sports drinks can help athletes retain fluids during intense workouts, plain water is sufficient for most people, most of the time.
By the time you realize you’re thirsty, your body is already slightly dehydrated. Drinking water throughout the day improves kidney function and intestinal comfort and reduces urinary tract infections.
AAFP suggests that you
- carry a refillable bottle to save money and to help avoid plastic bottles ending up in landfills
- drink water before, during and after workouts
- drink water if you think you’re hungry (often it’s thirst, not hunger, that’s signaling your body)
- drink on a schedule if you have trouble remembering to do so during the day—every hour, or with meals and snacks.
…lifesaving benefits of early skin cancer detection. Every hour, one person in the United States dies from melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. As the weather gets warmer and people spend more time outdoors, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) is emphasizing the need for prevention and early detection of melanoma.
Melanoma rates in the United States doubled from 1982 to 2011, with non-Hispanic white men over age 50 having the greatest risk of developing the disease. It’s three times more common in men age 80 and older than in women of the same age of any background, according to the American Cancer Society. More than 87,000 cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed in the United States this year, and nearly 10,000 people will die from the disease.
While melanoma comprises less than1 percent of skin cancer cases (basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common), it is responsible for the majority of fatalities. Most melanomas are caused by exposure to the sun or UV radiation from tanning beds. When this cancer is caught early, the five-year survival rate is about 98 percent. Survival drops to 62 percent once the disease reaches the lymph nodes. The risk of developing melanoma doubles for anyone who has had more than five severe (or blistering) sunburns, according to the AAD.
Anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of skin color. While it’s most common among non-Hispanic whites, one in five Americans of all backgrounds will develop skin cancer in his or her lifetime. Late-stage melanoma diagnoses are more common among minority patients; 52 percent of non-Hispanic black patients and 26 percent of Hispanic patients receive a late-stage diagnosis compared with 16 percent of non-Hispanic white patients.
Dermatologists recommend performing regular skin self-exams to check for new spots or changes in the size, shape or color of an existing mole, one of the warning signs of melanoma. Visit a dermatologist annually and get checked right away if you notice any changes, growth or bleeding. And use a sun block with an SPF of 30 every time you go outside, even on cloudy days.
…insufficient long term care for aging baby boomers. The United States may not be adequately prepared for the wave of older baby boomers who will need some type of long term care in the coming decades. The Population Reference Bureau (PRB) predicts that nursing home residency will increase to 2.3 million in 2030 from 1.3 million in 2010.
The authors of a PRB report tracking demographic trends in the United States point to several reasons for this projected surge in institutional care. High divorce rates, greater geographic distance from adult children, and fewer children overall among boomers may reduce availability of family caregivers in the future. Additionally, incidence of Alzheimer’s disease is projected to nearly triple, from five million in 2012 to fourteen million in 2050, adding to the need for more elder care.
But analysts say there won’t be enough nursing home beds for all who will need them. The number of nursing home beds decreased by 9 percent between 2000 and 2009; from 2007 to 2011, construction of new facilities dropped by a third. Many facilities dating from the 1960s and 1970s have closed. Potential builders of new facilities are nervous about profit margins, citing cuts in federal Medicare payments and difficulty in obtaining private construction financing.
Medicaid pays for about 60 percent of all nursing home care. To help lower costs and increase availability of services, states are experimenting with using Medicaid dollars to pay for home and community-based care instead. The report notes that as demographics continue to shift, policymakers must develop additional creative solutions to meet the long term care needs of the coming age wave.
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The Silver Century Foundation promotes a positive view of aging. The Foundation challenges entrenched and harmful stereotypes, encourages dialogue between generations, advocates planning for the second half of life, and raises awareness to educate and inspire everyone to live long, healthy, empowered lives.
"It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment; in these qualities old age is usually not poorer, but is even richer."
Cicero (106-43 BC)