Healthy Aging > aging well

Catching Up on the Health Headlines

By Sheryl Kraft

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Now that the summer is coming to a close, many of us feel that it's time for a fresh start, a feeling that is sometimes reserved for the beginning of the new year. 

If you're among the many who are ready to get back on track with your health, or if the lazy days of summer have kept you from staying current with the latest health news, here are some recent happenings:

1. How Low Can You Go?

No, I'm not talking about the " and those memorable lyrics of Chubby Checker's. We may not still be singing his song (although now it's stuck in my head!), but those words have new meaning: Our blood pressure may need to go lower. Just when you thought your blood pressure was something to brag about comes a major study that was ended more than a year early because the data that had accumulated was so overwhelming—so convincing that federal health officials announced that they had "potentially lifesaving information."

The risk of heart attacks, heart failure and strokes was reduced by a third and the risk of death reduced by a quarter in the study participants who were assigned to reach a systolic blood pressure (the top number) goal below 120. Since nearly one in three adults in this country has high blood pressure, the study is sure to shake up a lot of people.

Not too long ago we thought we were good with a systolic number of 140 or lower. However, as Dr. David Reboussin, the principal investigator for the study's coordinating center, told the New York Times, people with high blood pressure should not panic and do not need to rush to their doctors to ask to have their medications changed. Stay tuned for some updated guidelines, which are being discussed by the committee.

2. Get Your Sleep

Your grandmother was right. And so was your mother. They weren't saying "Go to bed already!" just to get rid of you; they really had good intentions. Getting enough sleep does help you catch fewer colds. New research confirms that it keeps your immune system in good working order. When study subjects had a cold virus sprayed into their noses to see if they developed colds, the 45 percent who slept less than five hours came down with cold symptoms compared with just 17 percent who slept at least 7 hours most nights.

That's one study I wouldn't volunteer to sign up for. 

3. Replacing Joints Carries Higher Risk of Heart Attack

No, I'm not talking medical marijuana here. I'm talking knees and hips, which are aging along with us. Eventually some parts just wear out. If medications, exercise, physical therapy, injections, weight loss, creams, ointments and nutritional supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin don't do the trick, you may have no choice but to replace the offending joint. Important to know is that in a new study of about 20,000 people who went through those surgeries, it was found that their chance of a heart attack was higher in the month after the surgery. The risk didn't last much beyond that month, though. What did persist for several years after the surgery was the risk of blood clots, which can be dangerous if they break off and travel to your heart or brain.

4. Brain Freeze

It's not just what happens when you eat ice cream too fast. A 23-year-old woman with a highly aggressive type of brain cancer had her dying wish fulfilled: to have her brain cryogenically frozen in the hopes of having her mind resurrected by neuroscience in the future.  While some people declared the idea crazy or preposterous, who knows what science will be capable of decades or centuries from now? After all, many things that were once science fiction are now science facts. For instance, who would ever think that a ? Or that ?

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Comments

You know, there is a head transplant being planned by an Italian doctor. It may not be so far fetched, either. Someone's body is broken but they're sharp, and want a chance at a new body. Watching with interest to see what happens....

This is such important health news for everyone. Scary about the knee/hip replacement figures with heart attacks. When my mom had her knee done it was standing room only in the waiting room, and then some. I wonder what the percentage was there...

Thanks for keeping us abreast of such useful information, Sheryl.

I've made a lot of beneficial changes in the last year. Sleep is the one I can't seem to get right. In all honesty it will probably have to wait until my youngest son graduates from high school in 3 years.

I had no idea about the risks of joint replacement. I'll start taking better care of my knees right away!

I didn't know that about the hip and knee replacements. My husband has had a hip and both knees replace in the span of 12 months. Thanks football.

Wow, that's a lot of surgeries in a short span of time! Hope your husband is doing okay.

I had no idea replacing joints can raise your heart attack risk. Very interesting and important! Thank you, Sheryl! Good stuff for one and all to know. (Especially us aging folks!)

Very important information for everyone! Stress testing too is so important. Overall, our stress levels need to drop as well. Thanks for sharing this. I'll be sure to share it too!

Agreed - way too much stress in our lives...and that leads to so many health problems, unfortunately.

My blood pressure has always been pretty low, so knock on wood it stays that way! The whole sleep thing does worry me because I just don't sleep very well any more - and I'm always tired!

Good thing about your blood pressure...sorry about the sleep thing, Lois.

We are so frustrated and stressed in our life that we just ignore our health and because of that we face many problems. This is our responsibly to understand and took care of our health, so guys be active, do exercises and small morning walk.
There is one more thing you can do is to learn First Aid Techniques and this is important.

I always find that when I am getting sick if I can sleep a lot, I have a better chance of beating it off, so I completely believe the study about sleep and the immune system. Kind of scary about the joint replacement study. Thanks for providing such a good roundup!

Agree with you on both points, Brette.

Thanks for recapping these. So much changes so quickly in health-related news.

The blood pressure news, in particular, is fascinating. Not to brag, but I've always been proud of my blood pressure -- currently, 112/72.

That is something you have my permission to brag about...providing you tell me your secret :)

I have been following the news about blood pressure and I always need more sleep!

Science is really amazing when you get right down to it. I'm so hopeful for all the new treatments coming up for various ailments. As for blood pressure, I had my yearly checkup today and my BP was 107/63! Oh, and I also somehow managed to lose 10 lbs. since my checkup last year. I'm still riding that high. :-)

Wow, Jane, low blood pressure and less pounds - that has to make you very happy! Congrats on the good health news.

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