Protect Your Vision

Most adults start experience vision problems right around midlife. Beginning in early to mid-40s, many people start noticing they can’t see as clearly as they used to, especially at close distances.

This is actually one of the most common medical problems people between the ages of 40 and 60 encounter. It might start with needing to hold your book or phone screen farther away from your face to see the words clearly. If you already wear prescription glasses, you might find yourself taking off your glasses to look at something up close. Many older adults find they need brighter lights in their work or living spaces to see as well as they used to.

These are all signs of normal age-related changes to the eye’s ability to focus. When you reach middle age, you should see an optometrist at least once every two years to monitor any developing conditions and vision problems.

People with chronic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure are especially susceptible to eye problems. Many medications for common health problems such as high cholesterol, thyroid issues, and anxiety can also cause vision side effects.

For many seniors, eyesight problems is a serious worry. Nothing stifles independence like not being able to see, especially it your vision deteriorates when you’re already feeling weaker and more vulnerable.

Here are some tips to protect your eyesight at any age:

Go for regular exams

As we mentioned above, you should be seeing an eye doctor at least every two years, from middle age. It’s always easier to treat problems as soon as they crop up, so finding a vision problem in its earliest stages is so important.

When you get your eyesight checked regularly, your doctor can also monitor and increase your prescription as necessary.

You should also go for regular health screenings. Untreated diabetes or high blood pressure can cause severe vision problems and loss, so it’s important to keep your health in the best shape possible.

Wear sunglasses outdoors

Yes, even in the winter, and even when it’s not so sunny out. Harmful UV rays can still affect your retinas even on blustery days, and our eyes become more susceptible to them with age.

Make sure your sunglasses have 100 percent UV protection, and wear them whenever you’re outside during the day.

Pay attention to your diet

Colorful fruits and dark green vegetables are rich in antioxidants that can preserve your eye health. Some studies have shown antioxidants play a role in reducing your risk of cataracts.

Eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, can also help reduce your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness in seniors).


We already know how important exercise is for our general health, but did you know it’s also great for your eyes? Regular exercise can reduce your risk of age-related macular degeneration by up to 70 percent!

Quit smoking

If you need another reason to quit smoking, studies show that people who smoke are at much greater risk of vision problems.

Family history also has a big affect on your eyesight, and some doctors say it’s the single biggest indicator of your own eye health. However, following these tips to improve your eye health certainly won’t hurt, and it will help your overall health too!

Dry Mouth: A Minor Aging Problem That’s Not So Minor

close up of senior woman's white teethAround 20 percent of seniors experience dry mouth—a lack of saliva in the mouth. While this may sound like a minor annoyance that can be solved by drinking more, it’s not quite so simple.

Dry mouth, most often a side effect of medications, can affect not only your oral health but also the overall health of your body. Furthermore, it can seriously hit your quality of life and self-image.

In this article, we’ll discuss what causes dry mouth, how it affects your overall health, and how you can treat it.

What is Dry Mouth?

Also called xerostomia, dry mouth is most common in seniors. Saliva production drops by around 30 percent as we age, leaving a dryer environment in the mouth.

Further compounding this are the 400+ medications that can worsen a dry mouth. Saliva reduction is a side effect in drugs used for many common conditions, such as high blood pressure, incontinence, depression, etc.

Less saliva creates an acidic environment in the mouth, which is the main contributor to tooth and gum problems. That’s because plaque—a corrosive mix of bacteria and food particles—is much more likely to form in the dryer, more acidic mouth. Plaque build-up leads, in turn, to gum inflammation. This is especially true with seniors, whose gums naturally recede with age.

Gum inflammation is linked to health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. In addition, gum inflammation and disease will lead to losing teeth—which will always shorten lifespan.

Symptoms of Dry Mouth

If you are a relative to an elderly person, remember that they probably won’t be forthcoming with details about their dry mouth.

When checking on your loved one who lives alone, you need to be observant and notice all changes or symptoms. This is especially so for dry mouth, when many of the symptoms are easily noticeable.

Here are the general symptoms of an excessively dry mouth:

  • bad breath
  • splitting or cracking of the lips
  • split or sore skin at the corners of the mouth
  • dryness in the mouth
  • taste disorders
  • refusing to eat favorite foods
  • fungal infections in the mouth
  • increased need to drink water, especially at night
  • inflammation of the tongue
  • tongue ulcers
  • painful tongue
  • lipstick sticking to teeth
  • more tooth decay and plaque
  • trouble speaking
  • problems swallowing and chewing—especially dry and crumbly foods, such as crackers or cereals
  • problems with dentures
  • denture sores
  • tongue sticking to the palate
  • sticky or stringy saliva

If you notice your loved one seems to be having some of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with the dentist as soon as possible. You may want to consider using a geriatric dentist, since they will be most knowledgeable about oral health problems plaguing seniors.

How to Treat Dry Mouth

Even before you get to the dentist, there are many things you can do to reduce the dryness in your mouth.

Some easy ways to keep the mouth lubricated are:

  • Chew sugar-free gum or sucking hard sugarless candies. These can stimulate saliva production and alleviate many of the symptoms.
  • Sip water throughout the day.
  • Rinse with water several times a day.
  • Use antibacterial mouthwash at least once a day, but avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol.
  • Don’t sleep with your dentures.
  • Crunch on hard vegetables such as carrots and celery.

People with dry mouth should avoid smoking, sugary or acidic foods and drinks, dry foods, spicy foods, or extremely hot or cold drinks.

If your doctor discovers which of your medications is causing your dry mouth, he may be able to alter your dosage or prescribe an alternative that doesn’t cause these symptoms. If the underlying cause either can’t be found or can’t be changed, your doctor may prescribe a medication that stimulates saliva production.

You should also pay special attention to your dental hygiene. The American Dental Association recommends older adults should see their dentist twice a year, and adults over age 75 should go three times a year.

Dry mouth is unpleasant and unhealthy, but it is not an inevitable part of aging. If you or your loved one is suffering from dry mouth, see your dentist to treat it as soon as possible.

All about Cataract

Blurred objects.

Faded colors.

Double vision.

If you have or had a cataract, you’re probably familiar with these symptoms. You’re also in good company. More than half of all Americans experience a cataract by the time they reach 80 years old.

But what are cataracts? Despite, or maybe because of, its prevalence, many people don’t know much more about the condition other than that it affects the eyes. In this article, we bring you everything you need to know about cataracts.

What Is a Cataract?

Cataract is the clouding of the eye’s natural lens. The lens is situated behind the iris and pupil, and everything we see filters through it in a focused beam at retina. The retina receives the images and sends it along the optic nerve to the brain for interpretation.

The lens is made up of protein and water, and the protein is distributed perfectly to allow clear images and the full amount of light through to the retina.

Often, due to age or other factors, some of the proteins clump together and develop into a cataract. The cataract blocks some of the light coming through, affecting your vision. Cataracts vary in size; some are tiny areas of opacity, while others involve the entire lens and cause near-blindness.

Symptoms of Cataract

Cataracts develop very slowly, and you might not notice the symptoms at first. As the cloudiness increases, your vision will become blurry, and the glare from headlights at night will increase. You may notice colors seem less vibrant, and your night vision will deteriorate.

Treatment of Cataract

The changes in your vision will become more and more marked as the cataract develops. There is no way to slow your vision’s decline, but you can use visual aids to retain your sense of sight. Getting new glasses, increasing your home’s light, and using ant-glare sunglasses or magnifying lenses can all help you offset the cataract’s effects at first.

Eventually, your vision may get so bad that the only way to treat it is via surgery. In cataract surgery, the surgeon removes your clouded lens and replaces it with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL).

The surgery is a simple and almost painless procedure that has very successful results. Nine out of 10 people who have cataract surgery regain vision of between 20/20 and 20/40.

Risk Factors and Prevention

We don’t know for sure what causes the changes to the lens, but age is definitely a part of it.

Here are some other known risk factors:

  • Exposure to UV radiation, from sunlight and other sources
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Prolonged use of steroids
  • Statin medication, used to reduce cholesterol
  • Previous eye injury
  • Previous eye surgery
  • Being very nearsighted
  • Family history

It’s unclear whether or not you can prevent a cataract from developing. Some studies do suggest certain nutrients can reduce your risk. For example, one study found higher intake of Vitamin E and other nutrients was associated with a drastically lower risk of cataract.

Most experts agree wearing sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection can also reduce your risk.

Since cataract most likely develops from a mix of several different factors, some of which are not changeable, there’s probably not much you can do to prevent cataract completely. Fortunately, the cataract removal procedure is safe and common, and the quality and selection of artificial lenses improve every year.

If you or someone you love has a cataract, explore your options today. There’s no reason to suffer in darkness when there’s a beautiful world waiting to be seen.




Opioid Crisis Hits New Jersey Seniors

prescription pill bottles lined upAmerica is waking up to the opioid epidemic sweeping across the nation. In the last 20 years, the abuse of prescription and non-prescription opioid drugs has skyrocketed. The numbers from the CDC are shocking:

  • On average, 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.
  • Approximately 66% of drug overdose deaths in 2016 involved an opioid.
  • More than 40% of opioid overdose deaths involve prescription opioid.

President Trump announced last October that the opioid crisis is a Nationwide Public Health Emergency, and a special commission released a report with specific recommendations for battling the epidemic. The administration has already begun acting on these suggestions with a number of initiatives. Locally, hospitals and other organizations are mobilizing to solve the crisis. Saint Peter’s Healthcare System in New Brunswick formed a task force to address the epidemic.

“New Jersey is confronting a staggering public health crisis brought about by prescription opioid abuse,” said Linda Carroll, chief nursing officer at St. Peter’s Healthcare System. “This is an epidemic that knows no economic, racial or geographic limits, and it’s one we must fight with education and resources.”

The task force held a forum at the beginning of the month to educate the public and raise awareness. Another event is scheduled for next Tuesday, April 24, to discuss recovery from opioid addiction.

What are Opioid Drugs?

Opioids are natural or synthetic chemicals that relieve pain by interacting with the opioid receptors on the brain’s nerve cells. In addition to pain relief, they also produce euphoria, which makes them likely to be abused. Opioid drugs are perfectly legal and safe when prescribed by your doctor and taken for a short time according to your doctor’s instructions. Oxycodone, codeine, and morphine are just some of the legal prescription pain medications doctors prescribe to patients after surgery or in other situations. Prescriptions for opioids have increased steadily since 1999, and more and more patients become addicted to their pain meds every year. Opioids also include illegal drugs, such as heroin. If an addict loses access to his prescription medications, he’ll often turn to heroin or synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

How the Opioid Epidemic Affects Seniors

Many older adults take OxyContin, Percocet, or Vicoden to manage chronic or acute pain. Age slows the body’s metabolism and ability to absorb medicine, so seniors are more likely to become addicted to pain relief medications than younger adults. In addition, approximately 65% of seniors use at least three prescription medications. That leaves a lot of room for mistakes or forgetfulness; in fact, studies show that most older adults who abuse prescription drugs do so by accident.

Anyone who takes an opioid for a long period of time is at risk of becoming addicted, but seniors are even more susceptible because of the above reasons. It can be hard to spot drug abuse in your elderly loved one, since the symptoms are so similar to regular aging. For example, confusion, memory loss, and fatigue are common symptoms of both.

Keep track of your loved one’s prescriptions, especially if they are taking an opioid. Here are some warning signs of addiction to look out for:

  • They get a prescription for the same medicine from two different doctors.
  • They fill a prescription for the same medicine at two different pharmacies.
  • They don’t follow the prescription label’s instructions.
  • They appear more confused or forgetful than usual, or become withdrawn or angry.
  • They get defensive when you ask about it, or make excuses for why they need to take it.
  • They keep extra pills in their purse or pocket.
  • They’ve had a problem with alcohol or drug abuse in the past.

If you have reason to believe your loved one is abusing their prescription drugs, contact their doctor immediately. The doctor can evaluate the patient and determine if there is addiction and what the appropriate treatment would be. Treatment depends on the circumstances of the drug abuse, and typically includes counseling, medication, and/or lifestyle changes.


Aging Eyes: Protect Your Vision

Our eyes, along with the rest of our bodies, deteriorate as we age. Failing vision can cause depression and anxiety, loss of mobility, and increased falls. Some medical conditions—chiefly diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease—increase the risk of eye diseases.

There are multiple factors that go into protecting your eyesight. We’ve rounded up the best tips for senior eye health.

The best way to protect your eyesight is pretty simple.

Regular eye exams are the best and easiest way to prevent vision loss. With frequent screenings, your eye doctor can diagnose any disease or condition as soon as it develops. Early detection offers the best outcome when it comes to eyesight, so make sure to visit your eye doctor at least annually for a checkup.

Know your risk factors.

Certain health problems can affect your eyes. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease, it’s essential to have regular eye exams. Keep your eye doctor informed of your medical history, and make sure to update him about any new medications.

Women are more likely to have glaucoma, diseased or damaged optic nerves. They’re also more likely to lose all or part of their vision due to glaucoma. Cataract is also slightly more common among women. Aging women should make sure to have an eye exam annually after age 65.

Eat your way to good vision.

Surprisingly, good nutrition is a key component to eye health. In recent years we’ve discovered that what we eat affects everything in our bodies, and our eyes are no exception. A diet good for our eyes includes foods rich in vitamins A and C, and omega-3 fatty acids. Green leafy vegetables, salmon, and dairy products are all good options to load up on these essential antioxidants.

Avoid saturated fats and excessive alcohol, which are both detrimental to eye health.

Lifestyle plays a part as well.

Make healthy lifestyle choices to protect your eyesight. Don’t smoke, since smoking puts you at risk for medical conditions that cause eye diseases. Exercise regularly—exercise improves your blood circulation, which improves oxygen levels in your eyes. When you go out in the sun, wear sunglasses with 100% UV protection. You should also wear a hat with a brim as an extra level of protection.

Address eye injuries promptly.

If you sustain an injury to your eye, get immediate medical attention. Your eyes are valuable and you only have two of them, so you don’t want to delay treatment.

Laughter: The Best Medicine?

smiley face showing thumbs upIt’s an oft-repeated line: “Laughter is the best medicine.” But is it trite or true?  We did the research for you, and here are the results:

Laughing makes you feel good

The act of laughing stimulates the reward center of the brain. This triggers the release of chemicals, such as endorphins and dopamine, that make you feel good. These are the same chemicals that cause the “high” feeling people get from drugs. By laughing, you get a natural high with none of the awful side effects illicit street drugs would give you. Have you ever laughed so hard you forgot you were in pain? That was caused by the extra endorphins your laughing created. Endorphins promote feelings of well-being and contentment.

A good chortle can also lower stress hormones and raise your serotonin levels. Serotonin is an important brain chemical that helps fight depression, so if you’re feeling sad, find something to laugh about.

Laughing makes your body feel well, too

Laughter also relaxes the whole body, and relieves physical tension. After a hearty chuckle, your muscles can stay relaxed for up to 45 minutes. As mentioned above, it decreases your stress hormones, thereby boosting your immune system. A stronger immune system improves your protection against disease. Some studies also show that laughter reduces inflammation throughout the body.

Laughter even improves your heart function! It causes the tissue in the inner lining of blood vessels to expand, increasing your flood flow. This can help prevent heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems. As an aside, stress causes the tissue to constrict, reducing your blood flow. Another benefit is that after you laugh , you’re forced to take deep breaths. That moves more oxygen through your blood, further relaxing you.

Laughing also burns calories, and provides a light workout for your heart, lungs, and diaphragm. While you can’t forego the benefits of a proper workout, a daily giggle can burn enough calories to lose around three pounds a year.

Laughing gives you many other benefits

There are many social benefits to laughter. It helps strengthen relationships and attracts others to us. Everyone loves happy people, and laughter is the best indication of happiness. It also promotes teamwork and group bonding. Many public speakers will incorporate jokes into their speeches, in order to get their audience to bond through laughing.

Hilarity and humor helps deescalate tension in conflict situations. If two people who are in conflict can find something funny to giggle about, they can also find a peaceful resolution to the issue.

Are there any downsides to laughing?

Is laughing contraindicated for people with certain medical conditions? Can you actually die laughing?

"When you laugh, your blood vessels dilate. I'd rather dilate than early."
Photo Credit:

Not really, experts say. Dr. William Fry, professor emeritus at Standford University, has intensively studied the health benefits of laughter. He says, “The incidence of heart attacks suffered while laughing is surprisingly low.”

Of course, it’s important to avoid extremely intense or forced laughter. You want your giggling to be natural and fun, because at a certain point your body will stop producing feel-good hormones and very quickly descend into distress.

How to incorporate laughter into your medical care

Laughter can not replace medical care. But as we noted above, there is a wealth of evidence that a good giggle can help you stay healthier, heal faster, and manage pain. Here are some ways to use laughter as a health aide:

  • Hang funny quotes or comic strips in the rooms you spend the most time in. If you or your loved one are in a nursing home, hang funny signs around the room.
  • Encourage joke sharing and laughing between you and your medical providers.
  • Read good-quality joke books or comics like Garfield.
  • You can also listen to good comedy routines, especially if you can’t read due to visual impairment.
  • Watch hilarious clips online.
  • Practice smiling. Smiling has its own benefits, and also gets you warmed up to laugh.
  • Spend time with funny people who make you chuckle. Children are especially good at laughing and making us laugh.
  • Try a laughter club—where people get together just to laugh.
  • Laugh at yourself. We tend to take ourselves too seriously, which can create a lot of pressure. Laughing at yourself will allow you to be more authentic.
  • Find the funny in every situation. Especially in stressful situations, finding the funny side can relieve a lot of tension.

Have a pleasant, laughter-filled weekend!