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Mature Focus: July 10

Hepatitis C awareness

July 28 is World Hepatitis Day, calling attention to the estimated 300 million people around the globe who have unknowingly been infected with a form of the hepatitis virus, which attacks the liver with potentially life-threatening consequences.

Members of the Baby Boom generation, those born between 1945 and 1965, are five times more likely than other adults to have hepatitis C, often a serious and long-term form of the virus. In fact, 75% of people with hepatitis C are baby boomers – and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vast majority of them are unaware they have the disease because they don’t feel ill or have any obvious symptoms.

But over the years, undetected hepatitis C can lead to liver damage, cirrhosis and liver cancer. The reasons for its prevalence among baby boomers are unclear, but most older people who have the virus probably became infected between the 1960s and the 1980s, when transmission of hepatitis C was most common.

People who were exposed to infected medical equipment or contaminated blood before universal infection control procedures were adopted may have the virus. Sharing needles or equipment used to prepare or inject drugs, unsterile tattoo needles, or sexual contact with others who were infected could also have spread hepatitis C during that time period.

Because of its serious health threats, testing for hepatitis C – which can be done via a simple blood test – is universally recommended by the CDC for baby boomers. If the test is positive, hepatitis C can now be cured more than 95% of the time, with one of several antiviral medicines taken orally. The specific medicine prescribed depends on the subtype of the virus diagnosed. Treatment usually lasts eight to 12 weeks.

Stepping up to longer life

A recent study of older women examined the optimal number of steps per day related to living longer.

In the age of the Fitbit and other activity trackers, 10,000 steps per day is widely hailed as the goal for optimal health. But little research has been done to date examining whether a 10,000-step daily goal is the right one to help people live longer.

A recent study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital did just that, examining a group of nearly 17,000 women with a mean age of 72.

After measuring their average steps per day for a full week to determine their activity levels, the women were followed for more than four years. Researchers found that women who averaged approximately 4,400 steps per day had significantly lower mortality rates during follow-up compared with the least active women, who took approximately 2,700 steps daily.

More steps per day equated to a progressively lower risk of death in the study population as a whole, until it leveled off at about 7,500 daily steps. After that point, more steps taken did not further reduce mortality risk.

“Taking 10,000 steps a day can sound daunting,” said I-Min Lee, MBBS, Sc.D., an epidemiologist at the hospital. “Our study adds to a growing understanding of the importance of physical activity for health, clarifies the number of steps related to lower mortality and amplifies the message: Step more – even a little more is helpful.”

It is unknown whether higher stepping intensity is associated with greater health benefits, independent of steps taken per day, the authors noted. The research team’s results were presented at the recent American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting and also were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Money management-dementia connection

Problems managing finances may be an early indicator of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, Duke University researchers have found.

Problems with simple money math, such as making change or figuring tips, are extremely common with aging. But trouble managing money can also be a symptom of dementia, and may correlate with the amount of protein deposits called amyloid plaques built up in the brain, according to new Duke University research.

“There has been a misperception that financial difficulty may occur only in the late stages of dementia, but this can happen early and the changes can be subtle,” said P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, a professor of psychiatry and geriatrics at Duke and the study’s senior author.

The study included 243 adults between 55 and 90 participating in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, which included tests of financial skills along with brain scans to look for protein buildup. The testing showed that more extensive amyloid plaques were directly related to a deteriorating ability to understand basic financial concepts and complete tasks, such as calculating account balances. These declines were similar in men and women.

“Older adults hold a disproportionate share of wealth in most countries and an estimated $18 trillion in the U.S. alone,” Doraiswamy said. “Given the rise in dementia cases [expected] over the coming decades and their vulnerability to financial scams, this is an area of high priority for research.”

Most testing for early dementia and Alzheimer’s disease now focuses on memory skills, the researchers pointed out. A financial capacity assessment could be another valuable tool for doctors to track subtle changes in a person’s cognitive function over time, and could also help older adults protect their finances, they added.

The study was published in The Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease.

“Did he have work done?”

Older mens’ interest in cosmetic surgery procedures has increased fairly dramatically in recent years.

Women aren’t the only Americans over a “certain age” undergoing cosmetic surgeries and other procedures to help them look younger. A new report from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reveals that more than 1.3 million cosmetic procedures were performed on men in 2018 alone – nearly a 30% increase since 2000.

“Obviously, men don’t go through the same physical changes that women experience during pregnancy and post-pregnancy, but their lifestyle does change, which can impact their appearance,” said Dr. Alan Matarasso, the society’s president. “Men notice their body changes due to aging and parenting, and it starts to look completely different [starting] in their 30s and 40s.”

Rhinoplasty, or cosmetic nose surgery, was the most popular surgical procedure among men in 2018, with more than 52,000 procedures. Eyelid surgery ranked second, followed by liposuction, breast reduction for male gynecomastia which becomes more common with age, and hair transplantation.

Non-surgical, minimally invasive procedures are also increasing rapidly. Nearly half a million men received Botox injections last year to help relax frown lines, and more than 100,000 men had facial filler injections to reduce the signs of aging.

Matarasso said more men are seeking plastic surgery to help them both personally and professionally. As they remain in the workforce longer, men are seeking a more youthful appearance to boost their confidence while also competing with younger people on the job.

On the calendar

A Medicare Basics information session is on Saturday, July 13 from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Middendorf-Kredell Branch Library, 2750 Hwy. K in O’Fallon, in the Technology Training Room. Get general information about Medicare, followed by a group Q&A session. Attendance is free. Register online at mylibrary.org.

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A Social Security Strategies workshop, presented by Clarus Wealth Management, is on Saturday, July 13 from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Kisker Road Branch Library, 1000 Kisker Road in St. Charles. Find out how Social Security benefits are calculated, how they work, and how they are taxed. Learn multiple ways to file for benefits in order to maximize income over your lifetime, as well as general knowledge on how distribution from assets affects the taxation of benefits. The session is free. Register online at mylibary.org.

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Free bone density screenings for women are offered on Monday, July 15 from 2-4 p.m. and on Tuesday, July 23 from 6-8 p.m. at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital, 10 Hospital Drive in St. Peters, in Suite 117 of Medical Office Building 1. For more information and to register, call (636) 928-9355.

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10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s, presented by the Alzheimer’s Association, St. Louis Chapter is on Tuesday, July 16 from 6-7 p.m. at the Boone’s Trail Branch Library, 10 Fiddlecreek Ridge Road in Wentzville. Learn about typical age-related changes vs. common warning signs of Alzheimer’s, how to approach someone about memory concerns, early detection, the benefits of a diagnosis and what to expect during the diagnostic process. This free program is presented in partnership with Barnes-Jewish St. Peters and Progress West Hospitals. To register, call (636) 928-9355 or visit bjcstcharlescounty.org/Events.

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An AARP Smart Driver Course is offered on Friday, July 19 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital, 10 Hospital Drive in St. Peters, in Medical Office Building 1 [Room 108A]. This program will help tune up your driving skills, update your knowledge of the rules of the road, learn about normal age-related physical changes and ways to adjust for these changes. The cost is $15 for AARP members and $20 for non-members, payable on the day of training. Registration is available online at bjcstcharlescounty.org/Events or by calling (636) 928-9355

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Showcase on Seniors presents a free presentation, Proper Antibiotic Use, on Wednesday, Aug. 7 from 1:30-3 p.m. at the St. Peters Cultural Arts Centre, 1 St. Peters Centre Blvd. Showcase on Seniors is a unique membership program which provides education and networking opportunities for people age 60 and over who want to stay involved and informed about issues impacting their quality of life. Meetings held monthly focus on various topics of interest to seniors. The annual fee is $5. To register for membership, call (636) 916-9650.

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St. Louis Oasis presents an eight-week session, A Matter of Balance, on Thursdays beginning Aug. 8 through Sept. 26 from 1-3 p.m. at the Corporate Parkway Branch Library, 1200 Corporate Parkway in Wentzville. Learn what leads to a fall and how to keep yourself on your feet. Stretching and light movements are introduced in the third class. A workbook and light refreshments are provided. The course fee is $10. Register online at bjcstcharlescounty.org/Events.

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The 15th annual Healthy Living Senior Fair is on Saturday, Aug. 13 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the St. Charles Convention Center, 1 Convention Center Plaza in St. Charles. Sponsored by Baue, the fair will feature free health screenings and entertainment along with information and resources from more than 100 exhibitors. Admission is free.

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