February is American Heart Month- What are you doing to care for your heart?

February is American Heart MonthFebruary is American Heart Month and I just celebrated by taking a brisk walk.  It’s important to show some love to your heart since Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is the number one killer for men and women in the U.S. and is a leading cause of disability.  CVDs including heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure can be prevented by healthy habits like diet and exercise and not smoking.  The CDC offers some great tips to improving heart health, check out their website for expanded information- remember each step in the right direction is a step closer to a healthy heart!

1. Work with your health care team- make sure you are seeing your doctor at least once a year for regular check-ups.  Even if you are feeling great, they can check for things that may otherwise go unnoticed (like diabetes and high blood pressure).

2. Check your blood pressure and cholesterol- I have to keep reminding my kids that the blood pressure machines at the drug store aren’t toys to play on while we wait!  High blood pressure typically has no symptoms, so check it regularly.  A blood test for cholesterol is recommended every five years.

3. Eat a healthy diet and keep a healthy weight- An apple a day….  Adults should be eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, foods low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium and high in fiber.  If you need help planning meals, selecting the right foods, physical activity ideas and exercise trackers, ChooseMyPlate.gov is a terrific resource.

4. Exercise.  Often.- You don’t have to run out and join a gym.  It’s easy to get your blood moving doing daily activities like taking the stairs, raking the yard, or parking at the far end of the parking lot.  The Surgeon General recommends that adults should have at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.  That’s less than 25 minutes per day to show some love to your heart.

5. Don’t smoke and limit alcohol-  If you smoke, quit.  Talk to your doctor about strategies and medications that can help you with the addiction.   Alcohol overuse can increase blood pressure.  Men should limit alcohol intake to two drinks per day and women to one.

6. Manage diabetes and take your heart medication- Work closely with your health care team to ensure your diabetes is being managed the best way possible.  If you are taking heart related medications, make sure you are taking the right dose and follow directions for the medication correctly.  If you are having any side-effects or concerns about the medication, bring this to the attention of your health care team right away.

If these recommendations seem overwhelming, take it one step at a time.  Ask friends and family to support you and share your goals with them.   For more inspiration, check out these Hearty Healthy Pins.

Prescription Drugs And Other Chemicals Found In Great Lakes

father daughter imageThe Huffington Post published an article today highlighting a study by the School of Freshwater Sciences (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee).  That study aptly titled “Pharmaceuticals and personal care products found in the Great Lakes above concentrations of environmental concern” reported that PPCP’s (pharmaceutical and personal care products) were evident in much higher concentrations than previously thought.

The authors report that “The environmental risk of PPCPs in large lake systems, such as the Great Lakes, has been questioned due to high dilution; however, the concentrations found in this study, and their corresponding risk quotient, indicate a significant threat by PPCPs to the health of the Great Lakes, particularly near shore organisms.”

Interesting to note that the most commonly detected PPCPs in Lake Michigan were metformin, caffeine, sulfamethoxazole, and triclosan.  The list of other PPCP’s found in the Great Lakes contained many additional pharmaceutical type medications like Acetaminophen, Codeine and Ciprofloxacin.  What can you do today?  Learn how to properly dispose of expired medications in the home.  Think before you flush these drugs down the toilet.  The damage we’re doing is only going to get worse if we don’t take action today.

This study should cause concern AND create awareness for environmental issues that may result from exposure to these chemicals in our water and/or sediment.  It’s high time we start talking about measures to protect our planet folks, it’s the only one we have!

Photo: freedigitalphotos.net

Product Review: Video Care- Family Communication Made Simple

family communication made easy with Video CareMany of today’s seniors living at home don’t have a son or daughter next door.  The interaction with immediate family may be limited to phone calls, occasional visits, and holiday gatherings.  Video Care has developed a personal communication tool with a unique approach to solving the long-distance caregiver gap by combining complex technology with a simple, elder friendly interface.

Video Care brings face-to-face companionship and interaction to the elderly through a touch screen system that requires no mouse, keyboard or computer skills to operate.  A touch of the screen opens a two way video screen with a family member, caregiver or friend.

Video Care was kind enough to send me one of their systems to check out and see exactly how easy it would be for a senior with little or no computer skills.  I was very impressed with the simplicity of the unit and ease to set it up.  In addition to using two-way-video, loved ones can also share instant photos, videos and music.  Video Care also offers a nifty senior app if you want to share videos and photos directly from your smartphone.   The system can also be set up for medication, appointment, and activities of daily living reminders. Loved ones will be notified if the user does not respond to the reminders.

video care can be used to share photos

Video Care can be used to remind users to take their medication.

 

For professional caregivers, Video Care allows remote visits without the cost and time of driving to the home.  Clients can be checked on several times a day for a fraction of the cost of a typical home care visit.  Geriatric care managers could also use Video Care to check in with caregivers already in the home as a quality assurance tool, or as a problem solving option (in the case of any unusual behavior or symptoms).   Video Care is currently being used by in-home care agencies and geriatric care managers as a value-add to their current client base (I think this is a fantastic idea by the way).

I had the opportunity to speak with David Trescot, Co-Founder and CEO of Video Care.  One of my favorite stories he told me about Video Care users was about a daughter and her elderly mother who turn on Video Care every morning and use it as a “window” into each other’s homes.  They chat, have breakfast together, and go about their day with the two-way video all day long.  They’re able to participate in each other’s lives, and the daughter has peace of mind each morning when she sees her mother appear on the screen.

The other aspect I love about Video Care is that it can be used along the continuum of care for a loved one.  Video Care can operate from any location that has internet access (wireless works too).  I imagine the transition into assisted living or a skilled nursing facility could be greatly eased with daily check-ins and support from family and friends, even if they live on the other side of the world.

I look forward to following Video Care and others that will follow in the exploding telehealth and aging-in-place space.

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CDC Says Middle Aged Women Overdose Rates Are Way Up

CDC LogoA new study by the CDC indicates that death rates related to prescription drug overdose have skyrocketed 400% among women (compared to 250% among men).  The 11 year CDC study entitled “Vital Signs: Overdoses of Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers and Other Drugs Among Women – United States, 1999-2010″ showed that between 1999 and 2010, the rates of prescription drug overdose has grown precipitously, but especially among the women in the study.

 “Although more men die from drug overdoses than women, the percentage increase in deaths since 1999 is greater among women. More women have died each year from drug overdoses than from motor vehicle–related injuries since 2007.” – CDC Report; “Vital Signs: Overdoses of Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers and Other Drugs Among Women – United States, 1999-2010″

Healthcare providers are more focused than ever on prescription drug monitoring programs to track patients, the scripts themselves AND to monitor physicians that prescribe these drugs.  Nobody doubts the benefits of pain management in (or outside) the home, but the overdose rates are alarming.  In their conclusion, the authors state that “Public health interventions to reduce prescription drug overdose must strike a balance between reducing misuse and abuse and safeguarding legitimate access to treatment.” Easier said than done, but shining a light on this issue is really the first step.  Step 2 is figuring out how to manage the changes necessary to prevent overdoses and death.

 See below for your state’s (age-adjusted) death rates among women during 2009-2010 (courtesy of CDC).

Prescription death rates by state

How To Dispose Of Expired Medications In The Home

Photo of prescription drugsChances are you’re sitting on some old, expired, or never-used medications in your cabinet or drawer.  You know the drawer I’m talking about… It’s the one in the bathroom where all this stuff seems to accumulate.  Every time I open that drawer up I say to myself, “I’ve got to organize this drawer one of these days…” Then I close it up for another 60 days or so, and the cycle repeats itself!

If you’re a responsible adult (and I know you are) you should be aware of the right way to dispose of your old or expired medications in the home.  The FDA has guidelines for this incredible accumulation of beta blockers, ACE Inhibitors, anti-inflammatory meds, ibuprofen, that expire in our drawers or medicine cabinets.

How big of an issue is this you ask?  Well, just know that you’re not alone in your hoarding of expired meds… On April 27th the government sponsored a “National Take-Back Initiative” at 5,829 locations around the country.  During this single event, more than 742,497  pounds (or 371 tons) of prescription medications were recovered and properly disposed of.  We’re talking big-time pill poundage folks!  The DEA has sponsored 5 previous Take-Back Initiatives and all combined, more than 2.8 million pounds (1,409 tons) of medications have been removed as a potential threat to consumers.

Expiration dates do matter when it comes to the medications in your cabinet or drawer.  If your medicine has expired, the chemical composition of that drug may have changed leading to a weaker effect, stronger effect or no effect at all.  The FDA has put together a consumer alert video noting the importance of expiration dates (see below).

There’s been a bit of controversy regarding flushing certain medications down the toilet when disposing of them.  Some environmental organizations note that trace amounts of certain chemical may leach into organic material or appear back into our water supply.  Regardless, if you cannot get rid of your expired drugs at a DEA sponsored Take-Back event, the FDA recommends flushing certain drugs down the toilet (or down the drain).  This list is part of a risk mitigation strategy which balances the risk of (access to) these  drugs in the home, with environmental concerns.  Right or wrong, they’ve concluded that some drugs are flush-worthy (thank you Elaine Benes).

For those drugs that aren’t on the flush-list, the FDA offers these suggestions for drug disposal in the home: “Mix medicines (do NOT crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds.  Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag and throw the container in your household trash.  Before throwing out your empty pill bottle or other empty medicine packaging, remember to scratch out all information on the prescription label to make it unreadable.” 

The best scenario for drug disposal is to take your unused medications to a National Take-Back Initiative event.  You can follow upcoming events by visiting the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s website for information on National Prescription Drug Take-Back Events.