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Mature Focus: April 3

Tai chi to prevent falls

Exercise has been proven to help prevent falls among older adults by keeping them steadier on their feet. But which type of exercise is best? A recent trial published in JAMA Internal Medicine showed that tai chi, an ancient Chinese practice that involves a flowing series of movements, is superior to other types of exercise when it comes to better balance and fall prevention. 

A recent trial comparing different types of exercise found that tai chi is best for preventing falls.

Researchers randomly divided into three groups nearly 700 adults with an average age of 78 who had reported past falls or mobility problems. The first group did tai chi only; the second did stretching exercises only; and the third combined aerobics, strength training, and balance and flexibility exercises.

All three groups did these activities twice a week for an hour. After a six-month trial, seniors in the tai chi group had experienced 58 percent fewer falls than those in the stretching group, and 31 percent fewer falls than those in the combined exercise group.

The type of tai chi used in the trial was tailored to older adults at risk for falling. It adds to a growing body of evidence pointing to tai chi’s effectiveness for improving balance. Prior research also has shown that the practice can provide many additional benefits for seniors as well – it can boost strength, increase flexibility, improve range of motion, and sharpen reflexes.

Fitter, faster, stronger

It may soon be possible for seniors to take a pill to help increase the size and strength of their muscles, enabling them to remain strong and fit far longer.

A new drug shows promise in repairing and building muscle to help seniors stay fit longer.

Researchers from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have developed a drug they claim significantly increases muscle size, strength and metabolic state in aged mice, according to a study recently published in Biochemical Pharmacology.

The researchers found that old mice treated with the drug after a muscle injury had more functional muscle stem cells actively repairing their damaged muscle. Their muscle fiber size doubled, and their muscle strength also increased by 70 percent compared with a placebo group. In addition, the blood chemistry of the drug-treated and untreated mice was similar, suggesting that it produced no adverse effects, the researchers said.

“There are no treatments currently available to delay, arrest or reverse age-related muscle degeneration,” said senior author Harshini Neelakantan, a UTMB research scientist. “These initial results support the development of an innovative drug treatment that has the potential to help the elderly to become fitter, faster and stronger, thus enabling them to live more active and independent lives as they age.”

Understanding AFib

Oftentimes, seeking to improve your health starts at your core – your heart. One common condition to be aware of is atrial fibrillation [AFib], which is a quivering or irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.

Currently impacting up to 6.1 million Americans, AFib is projected to double by 2030, according to the American Heart Association. One in three individuals is at risk for developing AFib over the course of his or her lifetime, and the likelihood of developing the condition increases by almost 40 percent after the age of 55.

The average person living with AFib has a five-fold increase of experiencing a stroke than someone with a regular heartbeat. However, proper diagnosis and treatment can help reduce the chances of associated heart health complications, including stroke.

The first step toward managing AFib and preventing serious health complications is gaining knowledge about the condition. The experts at the American Heart Association are working to elevate awareness with these facts:

AFib can be the result of damage to the heart’s electrical system from other conditions such as longstanding, uncontrolled high blood pressure, obesity, smoking and heart disease.

Some common symptoms include dizziness, weakness, faintness or confusion; fatigue when exercising; sweating and chest pain or pressure. However, nearly 80 percent of people who report having AFib note they did not experience symptoms, which can lead to the condition being overlooked or confused with other conditions, such as anxiety.

People over age 50, those with high blood pressure or other forms of heart disease and those with a family history of the condition are at highest risk and should discuss their medical history with their doctors.

To learn more and to access AFib tools and resources, visit heart.org/AFib.

On the calendar

Showcase on Seniors presents a monthly program for older adults, Spring into Exercise, on Wednesday, April 10 from 1:30-3 p.m. at the St. Peters Cultural Arts Centre, 1 St. Peters Centre Blvd. in St. Peters. Showcase on Seniors is a unique membership program that provides education and networking opportunities for men and women, 60 years of age and older, who want to stay involved and informed about issues impacting their quality of life. A one-time annual registration fee of $5 is required for first-time participants. To register, visit bjcstcharlescounty.org/Events or call (636) 397-6903.

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St. Louis Oasis offers an Acute Bleeding Control course on Wednesday, April 10 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at McClay Branch Library, 2760 McClay Road in St. Charles. When a bleeding incident occurs, bystanders trained in acute bleeding control [ABC] are uniquely positioned to save lives through the use of tourniquets and hemostatic dressings. This free course focuses on safe ways to stop bleeding for those who are taking blood thinners. To register, call (636) 928-9355.

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The Celebrating Art for Senior Engagement festival [CASEfest] is April 18-28 in venues across the St. Louis area. More than 50 events, including lectures, art shows, performances, theater and classes will take place during the 10-day event. CASEfest offers opportunities for senior involvement in the arts and encourages increased quality of life experiences. The majority of events are free, but some may have a cost or require pre-registration. Information about individual events is available online at maturityanditsmuse.org/calendar/.  

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An AARP Smart Driver Course is offered on Friday, April 26 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital, 6 Jungermann Circle in St. Peters, in Room 108A of Medical Office Building 1.  This program will help tune up your driving skills, update your knowledge of the rules of the road and adjust to normal age-related physical changes. The cost is $15 for AARP members and $20 for non-members. Register by calling (636) 928-9355.

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A Money Smart Month presentation, Social Security – Optimize Your Options and Taxation, is offered on Monday, April 29 from 6-7:30 p.m. at Kathryn Linneman Library Branch, 2323 Elm St. in St. Charles, in Meeting Room A. Money Smart Month is a public education campaign to help consumers better manage their personal finances through free, non-commercial education. The presenter is Jeremy D. North of investment and retirement advisory firm 360IRA. To register, visit mylibrary.org and click on Classes and Events.

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Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital offers a “Freezing Gait” Boot Camp for people with Parkinson disease on Mondays, June 3 through July 8, from 10 a.m.-noon at Barnes Jewish St. Peters Hosital, 6 Jungermann Circle in St. Peters, in Suite 117 of the Healthwise Center. Freezing is a temporary, involuntary inability to move caused by Parkinson’s; boot camp participants will learn and practice strategies for overcoming a freezing episode, from expert physical and occupational therapists. Spouses or caregivers are also encouraged to attend. The sessions are free, but space is limited; early registration is recommended by visiting bjcstcharlescounty.org/Events [please register the patient only].

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