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Health Tips for Seniors, from Local Experts

By Nancy Kennedy

John Porta, Community LIFE Bedford
Let There Be Light!
At Community Life Bedford, an all-inclusive day program for older adults, Activities Coordinator John Porta understands that winter is tough for participants, and every day he and the entire staff work hard to counteract that. One advantage at the Bedford center is the environment: it’s brightly lit, spacious and open. Many research studies have confirmed that this type of environment can have a strongly positive impact on the people within it. “Light affects mood; light is energizing. In winter, we definitely see more people who are ‘down’ and some whose chronic pain seems to worsen in winter.” One solution, he says, is light – open the curtains, turn on the lights, and don’t sit in the darkness. Also, try to increase your movement and activity, which can reduce pain and elevate mood. “Having fun, laughing with others, moving your body and music– these things distract us from pain, anxiety and sadness.”

Thomas Tambouratzis, MD
Internal and Geriatric Medicine, Washington Health System
“There are a number of things you can do to lose weight including exercising more and improving your diet. A large portion of our diet contains gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. When possible, choose whole grain over whole wheat to help lower your risk for many diseases. Read Michael Pollen’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food. Also, check out Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis and Grain Brain written by Dr. David Perlmutter. These books talk about how a lot of our wheat supply has been genetically modified and has more gluten in it. Watch your flour and sugar intake as well. Reducing sugar from your diet has tremendous benefits.

Call 724-229-7570 to make an appointment with Dr. Tambouratzis

Michael Nathanson, MD
Jefferson Cardiology Associates
Exercise, eat healthy and get a puppy
A major risk factor for heart disease is a sedentary lifestyle. Those who get no regular exercise are at risk for heart disease, but fortunately changing this does not require a major alteration. It only takes a modest amount of exercise to have a significant effect: the AHA recommends a 20-30 minute walk, five times a week. Most people are capable of that. Those who make modest changes actually gain the greatest benefit. Women need to be aware that heart disease is a greater risk to them than cancer. Most heart disease is preventable, as it is mostly due to risk factors that can be modified. You have a lot of control over your heart health. The same is not true for most other diseases. There are many ways to improve your heart health; one that I recommend, in addition to exercise and healthy eating, is getting a puppy. Pet ownership is associated with reduction of risk.

To contact Jefferson Cardiology Associates, visit www.jeffersoncardiology.com or call (412) 469-1500.

Amanda Michael, D.O.
St. Clair Hospital
Get your vaccines! Do it for yourself; do it for your loved ones too.
Dr. Michael, an infectious disease specialist at St. Clair Hospital, says that vaccinations are an important form of self-care as well as a way of caring for family, co-workers and community. For those who have chronic conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, vaccinations are especially important, as these conditions, even when well-managed, make one more vulnerable to complications. Vaccines are safe, effective and available. Talk to your PCP about your vaccination history. Current CDC recommendations are that adults receive an annual flu vaccine. In addition, all adults should get Td/Tdap (tetanus-diphtheria, tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis) if they are unvaccinated or if their vaccine history is unknown; Td boosters are recommended every ten years and sometimes in the event of a wound. Beyond those, individual needs are determined by age, lifestyle, existing health conditions, previous vaccination history and travel habits. Every year, the CDC updates their recommendations at www.cdc.gov.

Jim Guffey
Calling All Volunteers!
CheckMates, a program of AgeWell Pittsburgh, connects seniors with a friendly weekly phone call from a volunteer. The beauty of CheckMates is that the friendship goes both ways. Both caller and call recipient enjoy the conversations with each other. The phone can also be a literal lifeline when you sense trouble, like a recent fall or mention of a utility shutoff notice. To be the recipient of a weekly call, you need to be age 60 or over and a resident of Allegheny County. More than 200 calls per week are made to seniors in Allegheny County, from JCC locations and at South Hills Interfaith Movement, thanks to support from United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s Open Your Heart to a Senior Program and Jefferson Regional Foundation. CheckMates can use more volunteers – give us a call!

For more information, visit www.shimcares.org
 
Melissa Mattucci Lindberg
Community and recreation Center, Upper St. Clair
Pickleball – a Sport Perfect for Pittsburgh?
Pickleball is a relatively new sport that is growing quickly in popularity among all ages, according to Melissa Mattucci Lindberg, M.S., Marketing /Membership Services Supervisor for the C&RC. It’s becoming popular among boomer and senior populations because it can be very leisurely, but it can be very intense, too. Pickleball is a combination of tennis, badminton, ping pong and racquet ball, played indoors in a basketball court. Pickleball is played with a paddle, like an oversize ping pong paddle and a ball with holes in it, similar to a whiffle ball. It’s like playing badminton or tennis where you hit the ball back and forth over a net. The C&RC offers three different options for pickleball play.

For more information, visit www.twpusc.crc

Derek O’Donnell, MD
Scott Christie EyeCare
“Give your eyes a birthday gift”
With each new birthday, vision screenings become an increasingly important part of taking care of your eyes. But Doctor O’Donnell offers this friendly advice as well: stop smoking and start eating right. Embrace a diet rich in vitamins C and E, nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids, to benefit your entire body, especially your eyes. According to the CDC, smoking increases the likelihood of developing dry eye and certain types of macular degeneration. Conversely, eating leafy green vegetables, carrots and sweet potatoes, strawberries and oranges and salmon and other cold-water fish can help reduce those odds. Also on the must-do list: wearing 100-percent UV protective sunglasses when outdoors and safety glasses when playing sports or working on home repair and gardening projects. People in their 50s and 60s are active and working, and we want to make sure they’re able to continue that healthy lifestyle for as long as possible. And that means taking good care of your eyes.

Scott & Christie Eyecare Associates Cranberry 412-782-0400 | Fox Chapel 724-772-5420

UPMC Senior Care Assessment Centers
Do You Need a Geriatrician?
A geriatrician is a physician who specializes in the care of older adults, either as a consultant or by serving as a PCP. They perform geriatric assessments to identify health problems, including mental health and memory problems, chronic conditions, sleep, balance problems and bladder control issues. An assessment includes an evaluation of cognition (thinking), memory, depression screening, gait (walking) and balance, medication review and the need for assistance or long term care. Once the problems have been identified, treatment strategies and a plan of care are developed and monitored.

To learn more, visit www.upmc.com/Services/behavioral-health/Pages/geriatrics.aspx

The 24-Hour Friendship Line: 800-971-0016
A Double Whammy: Winter’s Isolation + the COVID Pandemic
It’s easy to feel lonely and isolated during the winter months, and the restrictions created by the COVID pandemic have made this even more of a challenge. Reach out to others in whatever ways you can, and consider calling the Friendship Line, a 24-hour, national crisis phone line specifically for older adults age 60 and over, and for adults with disabilities. It was started by the Institute on Aging, based in San Francisco, to address the problem of isolation and loneliness that many older adults experience, especially in the winter months. Older adults who are feeling sad, anxious, depressed or suicidal can call and talk to trained counselors. The Friendship Line offers a “warmline” for emotional support and connection, plus grief support, crisis intervention and suicide prevention.

To learn more, visit www.ioaging.org

Be aware of the symptoms of depression: oversleeping, change in appetite, lethargy and irritability, feelings of hopelessness and changes in hygiene and personal care. Physical symptoms of chronic conditions may worsen in winter. If you see signs of depression in an older adult, it’s important to talk about it with the person and to seek help from their PCP.



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