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Can You Prevent the 5 Common Medication Problems in Aging?

Can You Prevent the 5 Common Medication Problems in Aging?

Did you know that as you get older, your body changes in such a way that you will likely experience more medication side effects? In fact, one in six adults over the age of 65 will likely experience a harmful reaction to a medication. That is why it is important to try to organize your medications appropriately to reduce the risk of serious injury. It is also important to understand what medications you are taking and eliminate duplicate medications if possible.

As people age, the number of prescription drugs they take increases dramatically. According to the Huffington Post, seniors between the ages of 65 and 69 take an average of 15 prescription drugs per year, while those between the ages of 80 and 84 take an average of 18 prescription drugs per year. Even those as young as 45, take an average of four different prescription drugs per day. The problem with taking multiple medications is that each prescription medication has specific side effects, and, when taken together, those side effects can be significantly exacerbated.

Drug interactions and other prescription drug-related issues can be very serious—some of the most common medication problems among the elderly include the following:

  1. Problems with balance and cognitive abilities. Many prescription drugs can lead to balance issues, most particularly those prescribed for depression and nerve pain. Sleep aids, sedatives, and tranquilizers can also cause balance issues in the elderly, increasing the chances of a serious fall. These prescription drugs can also result in confusion and other cognitive issues.
  2. Memory problems—Benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety medications, such as Valium, Xanax, Ativan, etc.) are not only habit-forming, they have been associated with memory problems and even the development of dementia. Some non-benzodiazepine drugs, such as Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata, (usually prescribed as a sedative or for sleep) have also been associated with impaired thinking and balance, memory issues and dementia.
  3. Higher Alzheimer’s risk—Those taking a group of drugs known as anticholinergics, can have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. Over-the-counter sleep aids as well as some other drugs such as Benadryl, Nyquil, Tylenol PM, Ditropan (for overactive bladder), medications for vertigo and motion sickness, (Meclizine, Antivert and Phenergan), muscle relaxants, such as Flexeril, and older antidepressants such as Elavil, all fall under the anticholinergic umbrella.
  4. Problems with persistent symptoms despite prescription drug treatment. Many doctors will start an elderly person on a drug for a specific symptom, then neglect to follow up with the person to determine whether the drug was effective. This means the elderly person may continue taking the drug—usually at a significant expense—even though it is not having the desired result.
  5. Drug interactions can be deadly. Today’s physicians can get so busy they simply do not take the time to determine whether the prescription drugs taken by an elderly person can be interacting with one another. Warfarin, a commonly-used blood thinner can interact with many other drugs, antibiotics, and even some foods.

How Organizing Your Medications Can Prevent Injury

If you are currently taking many different medications, it is important that you make a comprehensive list of all medications, including “natural” supplements and OTC drugs, then look each one up to determine the possible side effects and potential interactions with other drugs.

It is also important to organize your medications to prevent accidentally overdosing or combining the wrong medications. Purchasing a pill organizer like the Sagely Pill Organizer is one of the best ways you can do this. Medications can be stored in compartments according to days of the week, as well as times of the day. Once you have your organizational system in place, set a schedule for when you will take your medications. If you need a reminder, consider downloading the Sagely pill organizer app (iTunes, Google Play) or setting your phone to alert you when it is time to take your medications. Remember to keep your pill organizer out of the way of children and in a safe but accessible location.

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Supplements to Help Fight Colds and Flu This Winter

Supplements to Help Fight Colds and Flu This Winter

Did you know that in the United States there are more than 1 billion colds and upper respiratory infections every single year? In addition, up to 25% of the population will suffer the flu, resulting in 200,000 hospitalizations.

As most of us know, winter time can bring an overabundance of germs to your front door, despite your best efforts. In fact, adults generally get 2-4 colds a year, with the majority of those occurring in the winter months. If you are older, have a chronic condition (such as heart disease, asthma, lung disease or blood disorders), or have a compromised immune system, getting a flu shot can be a good way of avoiding the flu.

There are three flu pandemics recorded in the 20th century—the 1918 Spanish flu, the 1957 Asian flu, and the 1968 Hong Kong flu. In the 21st century, there has been only one flu pandemic thus far—the 2009 H1N1 flu, also known as the swine flu. Although a case of the flu is generally mild and self-limiting, it can result in hospitalization in some instances.

Getting Help with Supplements

The good news is that there are several easy-to-find, relatively inexpensive supplements which can either help prevent colds and flu or ease your symptoms once you have succumbed to a virus. These supplements include:

  • Vitamin C—although vitamin C will not prevent colds, as claimed by some, it can reduce the duration of a cold, as well as the severity of the symptoms. Some research indicates that higher doses of vitamin C (2,000-8,000 mg) taken once a cold sets in, may be able to significantly reduce the duration of the cold by up to 20%.
  • Zinc has shown even more promise than vitamin C in reducing a cold’s duration, when the zinc is taken within 24 hours of the onset of the first cold symptom. Zinc also strengthens the overall immune system, although it is important to note that some who take higher doses of zinc have noted nausea and changes in taste and smell perceptions.
  • Elderberry has recently come to the forefront as a natural treatment for flu symptoms. Scientifically speaking, a handful of human trials have concluded that elderberry does decrease flu symptoms, however more research is needed. As a side note, if you grow your own elderberry, take care to look up preparation guidelines, as parts of elderberry can be toxic when not properly prepared.
  • An herb known as Pelargonium sidoides has shown significant promise in reducing cold and flu symptoms, as it can help stop bacteria from attaching to the lungs and throat. Pelargonium sidoides has not been shown to be effective as a preventative measure. Once you have a cold, however, it can reduce the severity and duration of the symptoms.
  • Echinacea has recently gained considerable popularity for its ability to reduce the duration of colds and flu, and one clinical trial found the use of Echinacea also showed some promise in preventing colds and flu.
  • American Ginseng – studies have shown that American Ginseng can reduce the number of colds by 25% and can reduce the duration by as much as 6 days. Be careful, however, because the side effects can include insomnia or headaches. It is best to take this supplement earlier in the day to avoid having difficulty sleeping.

If you want to stay well this winter, you might want to consult your doctor and look into one or more of the above supplements.

But What About Natural Foods?

While supplements are a wonderful way to boost your immune system and reduce the severity of colds and flus, including a few important foods into your diet can make a difference as well. Some of the best foods that can help fight cold and flus are:

  • Fruits and vegetables – it’s no secret that fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet, but did you know that they can also boost your levels of cold and flu-fighting nutrients?
  • Garlic – this fragrant food actually boosts immune properties and can help you avoid colds in the winter time.
  • Chicken Soup – studies have shown that chicken soup can actually be a remedy for the common cold – in addition to tasting delicious.
  • Fish Oil – Omega 3, in particular, can increase white blood cell activity, which can help you when you are sick.
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10 Ways to Stay Active this Winter

When it is cold outside, it can be difficult to keep yourself active and healthy. After all, it is incredibly tempting to curl up in front of the fireplace with some hot chocolate or crawl back under the covers and go back to sleep. While either of those things is not inherently bad, they won’t help you stay active and fit during the winter months. Before you dismiss wintertime outdoor activities out of hand, remember that there really are some advantages to working out in the colder months, such as:

  • You do not have to deal with the heat and humidity of summer.
  • Cold weather can actually invigorate you.
  • You can work out longer in cold weather than in extremely hot or humid weather.
  • You can get your daily dose of Vitamin D from sunlight if the sun is not hidden behind clouds.
  • You can actually boost your immune system by spending even a few minutes a day outside.

Staying Active in the Winter is Easier Than You Think

Staying active in the winter may take a little bit of planning, but it is easier than you think. It’s also extremely important for your overall health and well-being and can even ward off seasonal depression. Consider the following ways to keep yourself active during the winter months:

  1. Try a New Sport – Give a winter sport a try—think cross-country skiing, snowboarding, or ice-skating.
  2. Go For a Walk – A brisk winter walk will burn calories and leave you invigorated for hours afterward.
  3. Play with Your Kids – If you have children, simply go outside and play with them. Make snow angels, go sledding, or go for a walk in the woods.
  4. Join a Gym – If going outside to exercise is simply more than you can handle, consider joining (and actually going to) a gym, or walking with winter-weather avoiders in a local mall.
  5. Exercise Indoors – If you are not going out your front door under any circumstances, think about a new, fun, workout video. A yoga routine or a fun dance routine will get you off the couch and moving.
  6. Clean Up – If you are stuck indoors, consider getting a jump on spring cleaning—it will give you more time to spend outdoors when spring arrives. Cleaning out kitchen cabinets and closets can give you a real sense of satisfaction while keeping you active.
  7. Volunteer – If you cannot think of a good reason to leave the house for yourself, think about doing some volunteer work that will help others. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or hospital.
  8. Take the Stairs – If you live in an apartment or condo building with stairs, walk up and down the stairs for a great high-intensity cardio and leg workout. Even if you live in a two-story home, you can make multiple trips up and down the staircase on a daily basis, improving your fitness level.
  9. Join a New Team – Think about joining a bowling league or other recreational team sport. It can be much easier to engage in a physical activity when it is also a social event.
  10. Dance Party – Dance off the winter-time blue by turning up the volume on your radio and dancing around your home while you are cooking dinner or doing other tasks that require “wait” time.

Staying Active Doesn’t Mean Breaking a Sweat

As you can see from some of the activities listed above, staying active in the winter doesn’t always mean breaking a sweat. Sometimes it just means getting outside and staying engaged. Volunteering with an organization is a great way to stay active even if you are battling an injury or are not physically able to exercise. Joining a new club or a team is also a great way to stay active. Plus, getting out of your house and staying social is important for your mood and mental status.

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How to Keep a Healthy Winter Home

It’s that time of year when temperatures drop and windows and doors close out the cold air for the season while we warm up inside. But keeping the outdoors out for too long can lead to lots of potential health issues indoors so it’s especially important to keep your home healthy during the cool winter months ahead. Here’s how:

Let the outdoors in. We know it’s chilly but try to open up your doors and windows on a regular, consistent basis throughout the season to allow fresh, clean air to circulate through your home and help clean out germs, dust and irritants. Pick a sunny time of day when the family is out and about and throw on a parka if you need to while you throw those windows open to give your interior a much-needed breath of fresh air.

Keep that air healthy. Once you do let in some good, clean air, keep it healthy with a humidifier that ensures moisture levels are optimal to protect your skin and senses from the harsh winter cold. Beauty bonus: Maintaining an adequate humidity level in your home can help with the appearance of fines and wrinkles! But proceed with caution: the EPA recommends you keep your humidifier levels at 50 percent to make sure things don’t get TOO humid, which can become a breeding ground for mold and dust mites.

Test, detect and protect. Use the start of the new season as an annual reminder to check on your home detection devices (smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors) and to test for harmful gases like radon that can seep in through foundation cracks without warning. Take an afternoon to check all your devices and run a few important tests to ensure your home is safe while you buckle down in it for the season.

A sweep is as lucky…as lucky can be. If you’re like us, you love a roaring fire during the cool winter months and it’s important to keep your chimney safe and clean to avoid accident or injury. If you use it often, have it cleaned every year before the temperature drops too low to make sure there is no build-up or debris in there that can spark and start an unwanted blaze.

Leave home improvements on your to-do list. Winter isn’t a great time to paint a room, caulk a bathroom or re-tile a backsplash. All the chemicals and fumes from common home improvement jobs won’t have anywhere to circulate and clear out if the home is insulated for the season so sit back, relax and save your major home improvement projects for the spring. That fireplace is calling your name, after all.

Wishing you and yours a healthy, happy holiday season.

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Hard Pill To Swallow – Why You Shouldn’t Take Vitamins on an Empty Stomach

We know that taking medication on an empty stomach is often a bad idea, thanks to the warning labels that heed us to proceed with caution…and a full belly. But did you know that vitamins and supplements can often come with the same unsettling side effect?

Multivitamin labels often advise – albeit in more subtle ways – that you should also take them on a full stomach or with food to avoid effects of nausea and stomach upset. Copper and iron are common culprits when it comes to stomach sensitivities and vitamins with high acidic properties such as Vitamin C and Vitamin B can cause problems as well. Some multivitamins are also so high in seemingly innocuous vitamins like A and E that those elevated doses can also lead to nausea when taken on an empty stomach.

In addition to combatting tummy troubles, taking vitamins with food can help maximize the effects of your daily dose. Your body’s ability to absorb various nutrients elevates – sometimes up to 70 percent! –  when they are taken with food. By increasing the amount of stomach acid in the digestion process, popping a pill with food lets the acid break down the compounds of the vitamins to make the nutrients easier – and faster – to absorb into your system. Consider it an express lane to good health AND a happy tummy.

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10 Facts You Need to Know About Turmeric

It may seem odd to call a supplement “trendy” but turmeric is definitely having a moment right now, and we can certainly see why. This powerful powder-like spice has become a favorite among health and wellness advocates around the world and we’re here to tell you more. Here are 10 facts to know about everyone’s favorite spice (of the month, at least):

  • Turmeric is a spice that comes from the turmeric plant that grows wild in the forests of south and southeast Asia and is commonly used in Asian food, curry or to flavor things like mustards, butters or cheeses.
  • But it’s not just turmeric’s flavor that makes it stand out, it’s its color as well. The spice contains a vibrant yellow-colored chemical called curcumin, which is also often used to color foods and cosmetics.
  • Turmeric is considered auspicious and holy in India and is often used for wedding and religious ceremonies there.
  • Turmeric has been found effective in treating, among other things, arthritis, heartburn, joint pain, stomach pain, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, stomach bloating, loss of appetite, jaundice, liver problems, and more. Studies on turmeric intake now also point to its potential for improving cognitive function, blood sugar balance, and kidney function, as well as lessening the degree of severity associated with certain forms of arthritis.
  • You don’t need much of it to reap potential benefits – as little as 1200-1800mg per day in supplement form is beneficial and 1-3g per day of dried, powdered turmeric (the spice you commonly find at the grocery store) can work wonders!
  • Dried turmeric powder should kept in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark and dry place. Fresh turmeric rhizome (root, now more widely available in grocery and specialty stores) should be kept in the refrigerator.
  • Strength in spices! Turmeric used in combination with black pepper, which contains piperine, improves turmeric absorbability throughout the entire body.
  • Tea-time is a key time! Turmeric tea has become wildly popular for its spicy, warm, earthy flavor and is often referred to as “Liquid Gold.” We like this simple recipe for a perfect cup.
  • Turmeric is an excellent source of both iron and manganese. It is also a good source of vitamin B6, dietary fiber, copper, and potassium. Phytonutrients in turmeric include curcumin, demethoxycurcumin, tumerones, and tumenorols.
  • The first “r” is silent so pronounce it “too-meh-rick” when you go to stock up at the store.
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5 Healthy Halloween Treats – No Tricks Included!

We are just weeks away from Halloween and since we know there are lots of sugar-filled days (and nights!) on your horizon, we thought we’d share some of our favorite healthy Halloween treats now so you can sneak some in in the meantime. Perfect for parties, after-school snacks or just a fun seasonal treat, we think you’ll find these guilt-free picks are great for you and your little ghouls:

Photo Credit: Growing Up Bilingual

Day of the Dead Skull Fruit Pizza – put a seasonal spin on your usual fruit salad with this Day of the Dead inspired fruit pizza. A homemade sugar cookie crust is topped with fresh, colorful fruit for a lighter spin on your usual sweet treats.

Photo Credit: Everyday Jenny

Shredded Chicken & Rice Stuffed Peppers – turn your peppers into party-worthy pumpkins packed with shredded chicken, rice and diced tomatoes. A healthy, hearty treat to make up for all those candy bowls.

Photo Credit: One Little Project

Cheese & Pretzel Broomsticks – we love these simple, protein-packed broomstick snacks made from string cheese, pretzel sticks and chives. So easy and so cute!

Photo Credit: Non-Toy Gifts

Frankenstein Apples – speaking of simple, these Frankenstein apples are a two-minute treat that will wow your little ones. Simply tie up some green apples in small cellophane bags, decorate the bag with a Frankenstein face and tie them up!

Photo Credit: Fork & Beans

Halloween Yogurt Bark – yogurt bark is always a snack favorite around here and this googly-eyed twist on it is perfect for the spook-filled weeks ahead. Get your littles in the kitchen to help you decorate so they can see (no pun intended) that the holiday can be just as fun when it’s not candy-filled.

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5 Signs of Nutritional Deficiencies – And How to Combat Them!

We all know that a healthy, balanced diet is key to a nutritionally sound life, but sometimes, despite our best efforts in the kitchen, our busy lives can take a beating when it comes to the nutrients our bodies need. Here are five signs (that you might be missing!) that you may need to re-evaluate your routines to get everything running in top shape:

1) Leg cramps – if your calves are always aching and it’s not directly tied to your fitness routine, you may have a magnesium deficiency you need to look into. Magnesium helps keep blood pressure normal, bones strong, and heart rhythm steady and most Americans aren’t getting enough of it in their diet. Whole foods like green, leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, peas and soybeans, and whole-grain cereals can be an excellent source of the much-needed mineral and a supplement (aim for 350 mg/day, max) can be great, too.

2) White spots on nails – if you miss your weekly manicure and see white spots developing on your nail beds, you could be snoozing on your zinc intake. Low zinc levels can also cause bumpy ridges to develop on your nails. Zinc keeps the immune system strong, fights infection and helps heal wounds so it’s a key component to a healthy body.

3) Bleeding gums – Vitamin C gets a lot of buzz but almost 1/3 of Americans aren’t consuming enough of it! Bleeding gums can be a telltale sign you need to up your Vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that fights free radicals in the body. Citrus is a great place to start but strawberries, bell peppers and broccoli are other good sources and a boost from a daily supplement  (recommended 75 mg per day for women, 90 mg per day for men) is always helpful, especially this time of year.

4) Constipation – if you’re having trouble in the regularity department, take a look at your potassiumconsumption. Potassium is super important for muscle strength, nerve function and building a strong cardiovascular system and though it’s easy enough to find in many of your favorite foods (avocado, bananas, melon and more), if you’re ingesting too much sodium at the same time, you’re excreting all the benefits of your recommended 4,700 mg of potassium per day. So watch your diet and your intake to make sure you balance everything – and we mean everything – out.

5) Eye twitching – the odd shaky eye can be a sign of fatigue, stress or too much caffeine but if twitching is a regular occurrence, you may want to assess your Vitamin B12 levels. B12 helps maintain healthy nerve and red blood cell function and too little can cause shaky movements, muscle weakness and spasticity…i.e. that annoying twitch that is ruining your day. It’s easy to fall behind on your B12 needs so add a multivitamin daily to keep your eyes – and your health – in check.

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Why You Need to Spring Clean Your Medicine Cabinet!

Got Drugs? April 30th is National Take Back Day, a day to bring awareness to proper disposal of prescription medications. Did you know…

“2.8 million pounds of prescription medications go unused by US Consumers.” ~King Pharmaceuticals, Inc

Prescription drugs can be lifesavers for many people with medical conditions. But, there often comes a time when you have unused medications around the house. This can be due to changes in your prescription, the medication being out of date, or you no longer needing them. Rather than leave them laying around, it is important to properly dispose of them.

Why Dispose of Unused Medications?

Besides causing excess clutter in your pillbox, pill organizer, or medicine cabinet, unused medication can lead to accidental exposure by a child or family member, and could also encourage the misuse of certain drugs. Don’t take the risk.

It is tempting to flush medications down the toilet or dispose of them in the trash, but that is not the way to go. Medications can be taken out of the trash and misused. Some have suggested mixing the drugs with coffee grounds or kitty litter and then throwing in the trash, but this does not prevent them from being taken out and cleaned up. This is especially dangerous for desirable controlled substances such as OxyContin and highly addictive drugs.

Improper Disposal Can Harm Children and Pets

“Each year in the United States, more than 1 million poison exposures among children younger than six years of age are reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.” ~UpToDate

Human medications are also one of the leading causes of pet poisoning and usually happen due to throwing meds in the trash. This also puts curious children at risk. Crushing pills to throw them away is risky too for the handler and anyone that could be exposed.

Properly dispose of your medications today. It doesn’t take long.

How To Properly Dispose of Your Medication

A great way to get rid of unwanted medications is through a local take-back program. You can check with your community center or law enforcement centers to see when a program is taking place.

“Medicine take-back programs are a good way to safely dispose of most types of unneeded medicines. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) periodically hosts National Prescription Drug Take-Back events where collection sites are set up in communities nationwide for safe disposal of prescription drugs.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration can also help you find a collection center to properly dispose of prescription medications. You can use the Controlled Substance Public Disposal Locations search to find your most convenient location. You simply put in your zip code or city and state, the distance you are willing to travel, and click search.

Use the DEA’s Search Feature Here

If you do not obtain a location close to you, you may also try contacting local pharmacies or nursing homes to see how they are disposing of medications. Mail-back programs are another option if you do not have a local take-back program.

April 30th is National Take Back Day dedicated to awareness of proper disposal for unused medications. Learn more and find out how you can participate through the DEA Here.

Make the extra effort to dispose of your medications properly and rest knowing that you have not put anyone at risk. You will be protecting the environment too.

“Returning your unwanted medicines to a take-back program is the safest and most environmentally protective way to dispose of unused medication.”

Be sure to save the poison helpline number in case of an emergency.

Poison Help at 1-800-222-1222 is free to callers and is answered by clinicians who have been specially trained in toxicology and poison prevention. The line is answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is a resource for the public and healthcare practitioners alike.

Join the initiative and share this post to bring awareness to this important issue.