Tuesday, May 29, 2018

How Gut Bacteria Affect Your Brain and Body

Most of us have a vague understanding of how the microbes in our guts can affect our health.  We may eat yogurt to keep things running smoothly and some of us even understand that probiotics in yogurt and other foods are especially important after we have had a course of antibiotics, so we can restore the good bacteria in our gut.  However, researchers are discovering that healthy gut microbes are more important than they initially understood.  In fact, maintaining good bacteria in your system can protect you from many health problems.

This week, we have a guest post from Jennifer Chin who has studied microorganisms in our digestive track and how wasabi and other healthy foods can provide your body with the important probiotics and prebiotics it needs in order to function at its best.  As the author of this blog, I especially appreciated how much scientific research she included in her helpful guest post.

Understanding the Importance of Your Gut Microbiome

Meet Your Microbiome: Your Gut and Your Health

Why Your Gut Needs Daily Attention

Think you're browsing the web alone right now? Think again. The human body contains around 100 trillion cells, though only one in ten of these is truly human. The remainder are made up of microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Individually, these microorganisms are called ‘microbiota,’ and collectively they’re known as your ‘microbiome'.

And, as you’re about to see, your microbiome has a substantial impact on your physical and mental health.

The vast and diverse microbiota that call our bodies home can be found on the skin, in our intimate parts, in our mouths, and, most of all, in our guts, where they feast on a constant supply of nutrients. In total, our microbiome weighs around two kilograms and is highly specific to each individual. As more and more scientific findings come to light, the medical community is beginning to recognize the human digestive system as a universe unto itself.

The Basic Microbiome Functions & Components

Our microbiota carry out important functions within our bodies. The most well-known include producing vitamins K and B, and aiding the digestive process, especially with the breakdown of certain foods the small intestine finds problematic on its own. Our microbiota also help us fight nasty microorganisms and prevent them from becoming pathogenic, or capable of causing disease, thus maintaining intestinal integrity and healthy intestinal mucosa.


In other words, our immune system very much depends on the barrier that our microbiome form inside us.

Photo credit:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gut_flora#/media/File:EscherichiaColi_NIAID.jpg
These microscopic colonizers keep us healthy

Meeting the Microbes: Bacteria, Yeast, & Viruses

Our guts contain the largest number of bacteria and widest variety of species. It’s estimated that around 4,000 to 5,000 species of bacteria live in the human gut. Some of these bacteria are neutral, meaning they take up space but don’t do anything in particular to boost health. Some are negative, and some are absolutely imperative for good health.

Fungi, particularly yeast, are also in abundance in the human gut. The Candida species (responsible for causing vaginal and oral thrush) can quickly become pathogenic in immunocompromised individuals.

The gut is also home to different viruses, especially bacterial ones that are responsible for colonizing various bodily sites. These viruses have been linked to some diseases, but more often than not, they live quite peacefully in little bacterial communities.

The Microbiome’s Impact on Physical Health

While our microbiome may seem small, it can indeed have a mighty impact on our health. According to a new studypublished by JCI Insight, gut flora could be blamed for arthritis and joint pain among obese people. Osteoarthritis is a side effect of obesity that plagues 31 million people in the United States. Previously thought to be a natural consequence of excessive stress on joints, the condition is now understood to be linked to bacteria in the gut.

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical center have identified dietand the direct effect it has on gut healthas a key driving force behind the debilitating disease. They found that lean mice had far less harmful bacteria in their guts than obese ones and that this bacteria was causing inflammation that lead to rapid joint deterioration. When the mice were supplied with prebiotic supplements, the negative symptoms were rapidly reversed and the joints of the obese mice quickly became indistinguishable from the lean mice—even though the mice did not shed weight!

Poor Gut Health Could Cause Heart Attacks

The curious relationship between the gut microbiome and atherosclerosis has recently been unearthed by researchers at Western University. Atherosclerosis is a condition that’s measured by the amount of plaque in the carotid arteries, and it is one of the leading causes of heart attack and stroke. A study found that patients with unexplained atherosclerosis (meaning that they did not present as high-risk) had higher levels of toxic metabolites produced by intestinal bacteria.

The study indicated that human gut flora played a pivotal role in an individual’s risk for developing atherosclerosis. This research is now paving the way for new dietary treatment options for patients at risk of developing the disease.  

Gut Health and Crohn’s Disease

Poor gut health has also been linked to several autoimmune diseases, such as Crohn’s disease. Penn Medicine researchers have identified a single bacterial enzyme called ‘urease’ that’s responsible for an imbalance in gut flora leading to the painful inflammatory bowel. They discovered that wiping out a large portion of bacteria in the gut microbiome, then reintroducing a good bacteria that lacks urease, was effective in treating Crohn’s.

While the link between the enzyme and Crohn's disease is still not fully understood, the study reinforces the strong link between healthy gut flora and physiological health.

The Link Between Gut and Brain

Psychobiotics is a revolutionary new science that aims to examine the relationship between the bacteria in our gut and our mental health. Scientists now believe that our microbiome could be responsible for various psychological conditions, such as anxiety and depression.

Photo credit:   https://pixabay.com/en/mental-health-brain-training-mind-2313426/
Good Gut Health Makes For a Healthy Mind

Researchers have discovered that the gut regulates the brain’s fear processor. This is because the amygdalathe part of our brain responsible for fear responses receives key signals from the gut. When examining mice, scientists found more acute reactions to fear in mice that lacked a healthy microbiome.

The Gut Impacts Psychiatric Disorders

But fear responses are not the only psychological reactions the gut controls. The bidirectional communication between the gut and the brain has also been associated with neuropsychiatric disorders, such as depressive disorder, schizophrenia, and autisticdisorders. Other studies have linked the gut microbiome to neurologic disordersincluding Alzheimer’s, MS, and ALS. Gut microorganisms are even capable of producing neuroactive substances like serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for making us feel happiness.

As the effect our microbiome has on our psychological health becomes more apparent, researchers hope to develop some experimental treatments for anxiety, such as dietary intervention through probiotics. Some experts have suggested "psychomicrobiotics" as a novel way to treat psychiatric disorders.

How to Nurture Gut Microbiome


The good news is that, while each of our diverse mini-universes of gut microbiota may be vastly different, there are certain steps we can take to ensure our gut is nurtured and able to thrive. Given the way in which our microbiome is linked to physiological and psychological wellness, it’s important to examine the ways in which we can influence it. 

 Photo credit:  https://pxhere.com/en/photo/922773
Yoghurt & Oats Are a Great Source Of Probiotics And Prebiotics

Eat A Diverse Diet

A varied diet, consisting of fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, and antioxidants, can have a huge impact on your gut flora, in a very short amount of time. A poor, undiversified diet is the number one contributing factor in an unhealthy gut. Eating the same foods all the time leads to a lack of diversity within the gut bacteria because the diet is what provides the bacteria with the nutrients needed to grow and thrive.

Modern, western diets consist of high amounts of processed carbohydrates, fats, and sugars, all of which help bad bacteria to thrive while doing nothing for the good bacteria. Without a healthy population of diverse bacteria, the bad kinds can more easily become pathogenic. So instead of opting for convenience food or relying on the same foods all the time, change up what you eat, and opt for real foods.

Consume More Probiotics

While probiotics are a bit of a buzzword at the moment, with moms even buying specialized options for children, there’s a good reason for this trend. Consuming more probiotics can help increase the abundance of healthy bacteria in the gut. Fermented foods such as kimchi, yogurt, kefir, tempeh, and kombucha are all great sources of probiotics.

Add Some Prebiotics


Adding prebiotics to your diet is also a fantastic way of boosting the beneficial gut bugs. Prebiotics contain lots of fiber, which passes through the body undigested but helps promote growth for the microbiota. Good sources of prebiotics include bananas, asparagus, lentils, oats, and nuts.

How Our Gut Bacteria Got Here


As important as it is to consider what we can do to help our gut microbiome to thrive, it's equally crucial to be aware of the patterns and cultural norms which got our bodies off-track, to begin with.

Unhealthy Lifestyle & Dietary Choices

Poor lifestyle choices – such as drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, not getting enough sleep, skimping on fruits and vegetables, and a lack of exercise – have been shown to have a negative effect on gut health. As repetitive as the advice may seem, a conventionally healthy lifestyle that includes a good diet with added pro- and prebiotics, exercise, and sleep, is the best route to a diverse microbiome, which in turn means an abundance of health and happiness.

Fewer Natural Births

The womb provides a sterile environment for babies to develop. During birth, they come into contact with a whole host of beneficial bacteria, from the birthing canal, which then forms their unique microbiome. Babies born via cesarean are not exposed to their mother’s microflora and are often at a higher risk of developing autoimmune diseases and asthma later on.

Due to this, babies delivered via C-section today are often given a vaginal swab, to ensure they’re given the same protection as babies birthed vaginally. Healthy microbiome development in infancy also depends on babies receiving their mother’s colostrum through breastfeeding, a secretion rich in natural antibodies.

Obsessive Cleanliness

It also appears that our modern obsession with cleanliness is actually working against our health. Antibacterial agents and other harmful chemicals found in soaps and detergents are having an adverse effect on our gut microbiome. One study even linked overt cleanliness with an increase in autism.

To this end, perhaps letting children dig around outside is more beneficial than previously thought. Instead of keeping our kids in plastic bubbles, or automatically scrubbing them down at the first appearance of dirt, the old saying that “a little dirt never hurt” seems to prove a positive parenting motto. 

Antibiotic Overuse


One of the biggest destroyers of our microbiome is antibiotics. Antibiotics eradicate the pathogens that make us ill. Although they are completely necessary at times, general antibiotic prescriptions often aren’t even related to the offending strain, thus offering no health benefits, while bringing on a serious decline in gut flora. That is why experts are strongly urging doctors to curb extraneous prescriptions and to only suggest antibiotics for serious illnesses. The fewer and less diverse bacteria we have, the sicker we become, as individuals and as a society.

Only the Beginning


As the complex relationship between gut flora and health is slowly uncovered, we may be on the way to discovering another great hope in preventative medicine. These discoveries draw stark parallels with the complex consequences of the human genome project.

Unlike our genes, however, we can easily influence our microbiome, and we must learn to care for the microscopic colonizers which so drastically impact our physical and mental health. When considering your daily health and wellness regimen, be sure to also incorporate steps to keep your gut microbiome functioning at its best. After all, your body—and your mind—depend on it.

About the Author:

Bio:  Jennifer Chin is the Community Manager at Your Wasabi in Abbotsford, BC. Our goal is to provide anyone, anywhere, with 100% genuine wasabi for their health.

All of our wasabi is grown, dried, and processed on our farm in British Columbia, which is family owned and operated, and always will be. Find out more about Your Wasabi and how you can discover the hidden health benefits of wasabi here:  yourwasabi.com
If you are interested in learning more about dealing with common medical problems as you age, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire, financial planning and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.
You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Medical Marijuana Pros and Cons

One issue which interests many Baby Boomers is whether or not they should try medical marijuana.  The decision is further complicated by the fact that its general use is illegal under federal law, but legal for either medicinal or recreational use in at least 29 states.  Currently, there is a great deal of confusion and uncertainty about the use of medical marijuana.  What do you need to know?

Medical Uses of Marijuana

Despite the federal ban on most uses of medical marijuana, the FDA has approved two medications which contain cannabinoid chemicals from marijuana in pill form.  These drugs are droabinol and nabilone.  They contain THC and treat the nausea often associated with chemotherapy.  They can also be used to increase the appetite of patients who have lost extreme amounts of weight due to AIDS.

Researchers are also studying the benefit of both of the two main cannabinoids, THC and CBD, to see if they can help the following conditions:

HIV/AIDS
Inflammation
Pain
Seizures
Substance abuse disorders
Mental disorders
Multiple Sclerosis (MS), which causes the eventual loss of muscle control

Anecdoctal Benefits of Medical Marijuana

Although researchers are still investigating whether or not medical marijuana will be beneficial for all the illnesses on the above list, many patients have personal stories about how medical marijuana has worked for them.  In states which allow it, some physicians have even built a practice around helping patients choose the best product for them to try.

Among my own friends, one 75 year-old woman I know had a cap replaced on a tooth.  The next day, she woke up with excruciating pain in her jaw.  She went to see her general practitioner who said it appeared that the nerves in her jaw had been injured during the dental procedure.  The doctor prescribed a medication for her.  After a week, she realized it was not helping.  She could barely eat or speak.  She returned to the dentist who offered to remove the cap and redo his work.  That terrified my friend who was concerned the dentist would only make things worse.  She then went to a doctor who specialized in prescribing medical marijuana here in California, where it is legal.  That doctor recommended lozenges containing CBD and instructed her to suck on one three times a day, while keeping the lozenge as close to the area around the tooth as possible. Two days later, the pain was gone and has not returned.

An 80 year-old man I know has multiple myeloma, a very painful type of cancer.   He had reached the point where he could not sit up in a chair without having his head hang down near his knees.  One evening we saw him and he was sitting up straight.  I immediately asked what had changed.  He said he was now taking a drop of a liquid infused with THC under his tongue twice a day, and it had dramatically lessened his pain.  It has not cured his cancer, of course, but it is making his life more bearable.  Because THC is the component which can make you high, he is not allowed to drive.  However, because of his pain and weakness from his cancer, he had not been driving anyway.

Medical Marijuana and Cancer

There is some evidence that medical marijuana could eventually be used in the treatment of certain cancers.  Some researchers have discovered that extracts from whole-plant marijuana can slow the growth of cancer cells in one type of brain cancer, but so far it has only been tested in rodents.

When THC and CBD extracts are combined with radiation, it has made the radiation more effective at killing cancer in mice.  Obviously, much more research needs to be done, including future clinical trials in humans, to see if the rodent tests will extend to animals.

Why Isn't Medical Marijuana FDA Approved?

The FDA requires all medications prove their benefit by submitting to rigorous clinical trials involving hundreds or thousands of human subjects.  While some trials are currently underway, it could be many years before they have met all the requirements to get FDA approval.  During the process, as with most medications, researchers could also discover some risks, dangerous drug interactions, or situations in which marijuana is contraindicated or could do more harm than good.

Another concern is that people who are weak because of their age or illness could be more sensitive to the harmful effects of the medication.  That will need to be determined in the human trials on a large number of people with various medical conditions.

Should You Try Medical Marijuana?

If you wish to give medical marijuana a try, it would be wise to do so under the advice of an experienced physician, as the people mentioned above did.  You want to be sure you are taking the right product for your condition.  Growing your own and assuming it will work for any condition which ails you is not a smart medical decision.

You should also determine whether or not it is legal in your state.  You do not want to get into legal trouble.

In addition, you will need to find out whether the product you are using contains CBD or THC.  If it contains CBD, it will not make you high and you can continue to drive.  If it contains THC, you should not drive or use dangerous machinery, because you could get hurt or injure someone else.

Finally, you will want your doctor to continue to see you and evaluate your condition to decide if the medical marijuana is helping or whether you should try a different prescription medication.

If you are interested in learning more about common medical problems as you age, or other topics of interest to retirees such are financial planning, Social Security, Medicare and where to retire, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.


You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit:  morguefile.com

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Americans Retiring in Vietnam

During the 1960s and 1970s, when many Baby Boomers were engaged in fighting a war in Vietnam, it is unlikely that most of them ever considered the possibility they would be returning in 50 or 60 years to retire to a tropical, beachside community in that country.  However, that is exactly what has been quietly happening over the past few years.  Where do they live in the country, and what is the appeal?

The Beautiful Bay at Nha Trang

While some people have moved to modern cities such as Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City, one of the more popular locations for American ex-patriots is Nha Trang.  Today it is a gorgeous seaside resort town along the edge of one of the most beautiful bays in the world.  The beach is 5.6 miles long and features jogging trails, paved footpaths, sculpture parks and lovely landscaping.

Modern Facilities

If you are remembering the Vietnam of the 1960s and early 1970s, then you will be stunned by how much has changed over the past five decades.  For example, the beach at Nha Trang is lined with modern high-rise hotels and resorts, spas, seafood restaurants and casual bars and cafes.  The photo below shows a modern Sheraton Hotel and Spa in Nha Trang.

There are major supermarkets where you can shop for a variety of food items, including some which are imported, as well as traditional neighborhood markets for local food.

Speaking of food, French-style baguettes are baked fresh daily in virtually every village in Vietnam. Street vendors sell them stuffed with omelettes or pate for less than one American dollar.  In addition, you can find Italian restaurants, pizza, Texas BBQ, neighborhood bars and other American favorites in Nha Trang.  There is no reason to change your lifestyle dramatically, even while living thousands of miles away.

Americans have vacationed there for so many years, that most of the locals speak English well, and they are friendly towards Americans.

Moderate Climate

Another pleasing feature in this part of Vietnam is the climate.  The average year-around temperature is 79 F.  It is rare for the highs to fall below 68 F or the highs to be above 90 F.  It is a little cooler in the winter (November through February) and warmer in the summer, although the sea breezes keep you comfortable.

Modern Hospitals and Health Facilities are Available

The top hospitals in Vietnam are in Ho Chi Minh City, about an hour flight from Nha Trang, but new facilities have also recently opened in this beachside community.  The staff at the local hospital even speaks English.

Affordable Cost of Living

According to "International Living Magazine," a couple can live in a nice, Western-style house or apartment near the beach, have a housekeeper once or twice a week, eat out every day, and go to a spa once in a while for about $850 a month.  That is well within the means of millions of Americans on Social Security!

What You Should Know Before Moving Overseas

Readers will find other helpful articles in this blog about moving abroad.  There are a few things you should know.  You can have your Social Security deposited directly into bank accounts in most countries around the world, and as many as 600,000 American retirees are living abroad.

You cannot use your Medicare in foreign countries.  Some countries allow you to buy into their national health insurance plan.  Others have such affordable healthcare that retirees find they can pay out-of-pocket.  Some retirees continue to subscribe to Medicare, which they can use when they return to the U.S. to visit family and friends.  You may wish to speak with your insurance agent to explore a variety of choices.

We strongly suggest that whenever you are overseas, you should follow the State Department website and watch for warnings and alerts which could affect you.  Things can change, even after you move abroad, so you want to stay informed.

Crime is another problem which could be a concern for retirees in Vietnam.  My manicurist is Vietnamese and immigrated to the United States in 2011.  She said they moved to the United States because they were robbed several times in Vietnam.  I asked if she wanted to go back someday, but she told me she no longer knows anyone there and has no desire to return.  The high crime rate should be taken into consideration and weighed against the beauty and low cost-of-living in the country.

Before moving to a foreign country, we always recommend you visit the area on vacation and speak to a local attorney, real estate agent, and CPA, so you know if you will be allowed to purchase property, work in your new country, and any other tax or legal issues which could affect you.

If you are interested in learning more about where you should retire in the US and abroad, financial planning, common medical problems as you age, Social Security and Medicare, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credits:  Google Images - panoramio.com and justgola.com

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Stay Safe and Enjoy Facebook

Many older Americans enjoy Facebook as an easy way to stay in touch with rarely seen friends and family members.  For some shut-ins or people who are ill, it may the only way they can easily stay in touch with the outside world. However, the well-publicized scandals regarding fake news and the misuse of personal information have caused many people to wonder if they should avoid the site.  According to AARP, recent upgrades made by Facebook have reduced some of the problems.  By taking a few actions on your own, you can protect yourself on Facebook and continue to enjoy staying in touch with family and friends at the same time.

Upgrades Made by Facebook

If you are a regular user of Facebook, you may have noticed a decrease in the number of questionable news stories on the site.  They have made a concerted effort to eliminate so-called "news sites" which were known to share fake news stories in the past.  They have also supplemented their computer screening systems with more real human beings who review items shared on the site, and the company has made it easier for users to report phony stories.

In addition, Facebook recently announced they will be rolling out one centralized page which will allow users to control their privacy and security settings.  Until they do, the information below will help you protect your privacy yourself. 

How To Protect Yourself on Facebook

In addition to the increased security measures taken by Facebook administrators, most users will find it helpful to take a few simple steps to protect their private information, minimize conflict with others on the site, and make it easier to focus on the Facebook posts which interest them the most.  Below are a some of the actions you should consider:

1.  At the top of your Facebook page you will see a question mark in a dark circle.  Click on it.  About halfway down the pop-up menu you will see "Privacy Checkup."  Click on it and a new box will open up.  Make sure you choose "only me" or "friends" for everything.  You should not choose "public" for any of your settings.  While you are there, remove any unfamiliar apps which you do not want accessing your information.

2.  Avoid Facebook games and apps.  Yes, many of these games are fun.  However, you are safer if you download games separately to your tablet, phone or other device and play only games which are not connected to Facebook.  You especially want to avoid any games which ask for access to your name, email address and the names of your friends.  In the Privacy Checkup, you can click the X next to any apps you want to remove.

3.  Next, click on the down arrow to the right of the question mark.  On the left hand side of the page which opens up, you will see a column of choices including privacy, apps and websites, and ads.  Click on each of those items and see if you want to make changes in this area.  For example, under ads you can decide whether or not to allow Facebook to show you ads based on your computer activities when you are NOT on Facebook.  Go through all your choices in this section and make sure you are protecting your privacy as much as possible.

4.  Avoid questionnaires on Facebook.  They may seem like harmless fun, but they are often attempts to get your personal information, potential passwords, or the answers to security questions by asking you when and where you were born, your middle name, the names of your pets, the names of schools you attended, your favorite flavor of ice cream, etc.  You should avoid answering these questions unnecessarily on any site.

How to Control Who Sees Your Facebook Posts

You can also control which of your friends see what you post.  If you are simply wishing everyone Happy New Year, you may want all your Facebook friends to see your post.  However, if you are making a comment about a politician or other controversial subject, there may be some Facebook friends who you would prefer NOT to see your posts.

In this case, when you write the post, make sure you choose who can see your post.  You can choose that it can only be seen by you, by the public, by your friends, by friends of friends or you can choose "Facebook friends except for ...."  When you make this last choice (my personal favorite), you can choose which friends cannot see each post.  You remain Facebook friends with the people who are not seeing all your posts, but they cannot see your posts when you choose this option.

I have also sent messages to the Facebook staff requesting that they make this an option when you leave a comment on a controversial news item.  I hope they will make this additional option available to us in the future, so we can control which of our friends can see our comments.

When you control who can see your posts, you are much less likely to get into conflict with friends who may disagree with some of the things you post.

What If You See Posts You Dislike?

Are you seeing news stories or other posts which you find upsetting?  You can also put a stop to those.  Whenever you see a post you do not like, you can click on the three dots in the top right-hand corner of the post and choose what action you would like to take. For example, you can choose to unfollow that person or site. This is a good choice if it is a news site, for example, which posts controversial stories which upset you. However, if you do not want to do anything that drastic, you can also choose to hide the post, snooze the source of the post for 30 days, or give feedback on the post and report it. The last one is an especially good choice if you believe the source of the post is spreading fake news or posts which are inappropriate in some way.  Facebook administrators will then investigate the organization which created the post and determine if they are breaking any Facebook rules. 

How to Find Interesting Posts

One beneficial way to use Facebook is to follow organizations which interest you.  These organizations will post articles which you may find helpful.  You can search for these organizations by using the search bar at the top of your Facebook page.  When you find sites you want to follow, click on the Follow button in their page. For example, I follow the Facebook pages for the city where I live, neighboring cities, politicians whom I support, my county commissioner, several major local and national news organizations and several health organizations.  Because of this, Facebook has become an easy place for me to stay informed about topics of interest to me.  Depending on your interests, you can find sites which provide recipes, gardening tips, art, and information about any chronic illnesses you may have, as well as thousands of other topics.

If you follow the above suggestions, you will soon find that Facebook is enjoyable once again and, at the same time, you will keep your personal information safe.  In addition, you will also discover that you are having fewer disagreements with your friends on Facebook.  Now that is a win-win way to use Facebook!

If you are looking for more helpful articles about how to protect your health and safety, where to retire, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo taken by author; all rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Hearing Loss Increases Dementia Risk Dramatically

As we age, many of us find it a bit more difficult to hear.  We may turn our televisions up, set the radio in our car a little louder and smile politely when someone says something which we cannot quite hear.  Unfortunately, ignoring our hearing loss can dramatically increase the likelihood that we will develop dementia.

Causes of Hearing Loss

There are a number of reasons why your hearing may decline as you age.  It could be hereditary.  You may have spent years in an occupation where you were exposed to loud noise.  It is possible you damaged your hearing by occasionally attending loud concerts or clubs where the music was quite loud.

Whatever the reason, at first you may only lose the ability to hear high pitched sounds.  Then, you may notice it is more difficult for you to participate in a conversation at a noisy restaurant.  When you first notice it, you may tell yourself that what you are experiencing is normal.  If you also develop tinnitus, or ringing in the ear, you may feel compelled to see a doctor.  Otherwise, you may suffer in silence for years.

Dangerous Consequences of Hearing Loss

Many people are surprised to discover that hearing loss can actually cause more problems than we realize.  Johns Hopkins followed 639 adults for almost 12 years and discovered that people with mild hearing loss had double the dementia risk; those with moderate hearing loss had triple the risk; and those with severe hearing impairment were "five times more likely to develop dementia."

You may want to go back and re-read that last paragraph.  Even those with MILD hearing loss have double the risk of developing dementia.  The worse your hearing loss, the higher your risk of dementia.  This should be a wake-up call to anyone who chooses to ignore their hearing problems.

In addition, they discovered that people with hearing loss were more likely to experience problems with walking and they fell more often.  This can contribute to other serious health issues

Why Does Hearing Loss Contribute to Dementia?

According to the research from Johns Hopkins, there seems to be two factors which contribute to the increased dementia and other problems.  The first reason, according to their site, is that "brain scans show us that hearing loss may contribute to a faster rate of atrophy in the brain."  The other reason is that it can cause social isolation.  As we have reported in the past in this blog, social interaction is a very important tool in preventing or slowing down the development of dementia.  If your hearing loss causes you to avoid social situations, the lack of interaction could gradually cause you to develop dementia.

Can Hearing Aids Make a Difference?

The researchers at Johns Hopkins are in the process of studying whether the use of hearing aids can reduce the risk of dementia.  However, they said "there is no downside to using hearing aids."  They benefit the majority of people who use them and they make it easier for you to stay engaged with your friends and family.

Researchers in France also studied a group of 94 people between the ages of 65 and 85 who had profound deafness in at least one ear.  They gave them cochlear implants along with auditory rehabilitation twice a week.  Impressively, over 80 percent of the people with the lowest cognitive scores showed marked improvement after one year.  In fact, the improvement was almost twice that seen with any of the current medications which have been approved by the FDA for treating Alzheimers. 

It appears that improving your hearing can significantly reduce your risk of dementia, even after you have already begun to develop it!

Hearing Loss is Very Common

Approximately 27 million Americans over the age of 50 have some hearing loss, yet only about one in seven uses a hearing aid.  There is no reason why people should not give them a try.  Today's hearing aids are small (as you can see in the above photo) and are often unnoticeable; they can improve your relationships with the people you love; and most people adjust well to them after the breaking-in period.  It takes a little time for your central auditory system and brain to adjust to one, so it is important that you not give up too soon.  After that, they can be life-changing.

Hearing Aids Can be Expensive

Health insurance usually does not cover the cost of hearing aids and the average price is about $1,675 per ear.   The expense is a major reason why many people do not get them.  However, prices for hearing aids are expected to drop over the next few years, which could mean that more people will try them.  If more people begin to use them, it could be one way we might reduce the number of people who develop dementia in the future, and reduce the extremely high cost of treating dementia patients in coming decades.  Hopefully, if insurance companies see that providing hearing aids to their subscribers will save them money in the long run, the insurance companies will begin to cover more of the cost.

If you are interested in learning more about common health issues in retirement, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire, financial planning and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.


You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com


Resources:

hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/the-hidden-risks-of-hearing-loss

aarp.org/health/brain-health/info-07-2013/hearing-loss-linked-to-dementia.html