FOR YOUR HEALTH: Connecting The Community To Fight An Epidemic

Too many kids take breath-taking risks by vaping—but they can be helped.

by Marcella Bianco

(NAPSI)—According to recent research by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2 million middle- and high-school students use e-cigarettes. With the study conducted fully during the COVID-19 pandemic, this places U.S. youth in a pandemic and an epidemic.

Nicotine hurts the developing brain and this addiction can lead to others. What’s more, vaping increases a person’s chance of experiencing complications from upper respiratory illnesses, and some researchers believe a relationship exists between vaping and serious respiratory impacts, such as those from COVID-19. While a network of solutions is required to overcome this epidemic, there are actions people can each take today.

Families play a critical role in influencing a child’s decision-making. Parents and guardians can help keep their kids healthy by having thoughtful, factual conversations about the dangers of vaping. For assistance getting started, parents and guardians can turn to no-cost digital tools from Be Vape Free—a nationwide initiative, built around the evidence-based CATCH My Breath program, that provides standards-aligned e-cigarette prevention resources for educators teaching grades 5-12 and families. Be Vape Free was created in partnership with the CVS Health Foundation, CATCH Global Foundation, and Discovery Education.

The parent toolkit is designed to give parents, guardians, educators, and community members the opportunity to learn more about the vaping epidemic, gauge a child’s risk of trying e-cigarettes and find the best strategy to talk to kids about the dangers of e-cigarettes. Chock-full of facts and research, these resources have just about everything families need to empower students to live a healthy life. With the toolkit, families can answer key questions related to vaping including:

• What is vaping?

• Why do teens vape?

• What do vapes look like?

• What are in vapes?

• What are the effects of vaping?

• What are signs of vaping?

With this informational foundation, parents and guardians can connect with their kids to initiate conversations about the dangers of e-cigarettes based on facts. Together—one conversation, one day, and one student at a time—we can end the vaping epidemic by arming young people with the tools they need to make healthy, smart decisions, and impart lessons that last a lifetime.

Ms Bianco is the National Program Director for the CATCH My Breath youth e-cigarette prevention program. She has 18 years of experience working in tobacco prevention and control with government and non-profit organizations. 

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Monitor Your Sleep And Easily Detect Sleep Apnea With AI Technology

Built with industry-leading AI technology, Mintal Tracker is able to detect sleep apnea—no wearable devices needed.

(NAPSI)—Roughly 20 percent of U.S. adults have sleep apnea, and as many as 90 percent of those cases go undiagnosed. The condition occurs when people stop breathing periodically throughout the night, potentially leading to severe health issues.

Conventional methods for diagnosing sleep apnea can get expensive and are known to be uncomfortable, requiring medical professionals to administer tests at a doctor’s clinic or hospital or needing the patient to purchase at-home monitoring devices.

With this knowledge, Mintal—a wellness-focused technology brand—developed Mintal Tracker (available to download for free on iOS and Android), an AI-driven sleep analysis app that doesn’t require any hardware or external devices to generate thorough sleep reports and detect warning signs for sleep apnea.

Detect Sleep Apnea From Home, Free

Leveraging industry-leading AI technology, the Mintal R&D team developed a sophisticated deep learning model that can maintain high accuracy with low hardware performance and storage requirements. Mintal Tracker can analyze your sleep sounds in real time, accurately identifying when you snore and/or display signs of OSAHS (Obstructive Sleep Apnea/Hypopnea Syndrome) to generate analysis reports in seconds and enable you to quickly understand your sleep habits.

Setup is easy; you just need to place your phone by your bed, and the app will record and analyze your sleep sounds throughout the night. Through testing, the app was found to be highly accurate in diagnosing moderate to severe sleep apnea, offering a starting point for further medical diagnosis. As such, users call this app “life saving”:

• “An excellent app. Did not expect the level of diagnosis provided. I was really impressed. I will be recommending this app to family and friends. I will also make sure my PCP is aware this app exist. Thank you for a very useful and possibly life saving app.”—Phillip M**, 12/05/2021, Google Play
• “This app help me see that I have issues when I sleep, especially with snoring, that I may have sleep apnea. This is a great app to have if you worry about why you are still tired when you wake up, you may not be getting a good quality of sleep.”—Nay N**, 12/06/2021, App Store
• “I love this because it is the alarm that has worked for me. It really knows when to wake me so I’m less moody… My sleep has only improved in all this time.”—Foran E** 12/23/2021, Google Play

After a night of sleep tracking, the app generates a summarized sleep report highlighting key metrics including how long and how frequently you snored and sleep talked, your risk of apnea and provides sleep cycle analysis and personalized sleep tips, which gives you or your doctor a whole picture of your sleep conditions. Moreover, you can listen to your snoring, dream talking and environment noises in the report.

Finally, Mintal Tracker goes beyond sleep tracking and sleep apnea detection—the app offers users hundreds of soothing sounds, anxiety relief exercises, a sleep encyclopedia and personalized advice for developing healthier sleep habits.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Three Tips To Help Seniors Kickstart A Spring Fitness Routine

Exercising with a partner can help you both get fit and have fun.

(NAPSI)—Spring is here, and with it comes warmer weather, longer daylight hours, and for many, a desire to spring into new activities, including exercise. If you’re ready to kickstart a new fitness routine, here are three tips to help you get started.

1. Find What Motivates You 

Are you itching to get out into the sunshine for a walk? Are you eager to set up some friendly competition on the tennis or pickle-ball court? With warmer weather, there are so many outdoor options. But, if there’s still too much “brrr” in the air for you or if you’re motivated by more structured exercise options, such as strength training or cardio classes, there are many online workouts you can enjoy in the comfort of your home. For example, the Silver&Fit® Healthy Aging and Exercise program offers 54 free Facebook Live or YouTube classes each week. Thousands of people participate in these beginner, intermediate, and advanced dance, yoga, tai chi, cardio, strength, and flexibility classes.

If you’ve got a hankering to get back to the gym for the rowing, cycling, running, weight training, or stair stepper machines that most gyms offer, now is a great time to take the leap. Being around others who are working out can be motivating. If you aren’t a gym member but want to find one, look into the affordable, subsidized gym memberships available to Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement members. Thousands of top-name gyms, fitness centers, YMCAs, and boutique fitness clubs across the country belong to fitness networks that honor Medicare memberships. Call your Medicare Advantage plan directly to learn what fitness programs they offer and what gyms near you participate.

2. Set Your Goals

Are you ready to kick spring off with a goal to gain more muscle, lose a few pounds or improve your flexibility and balance? Setting a goal and finding a workout that supports it is a key to success. For greater flexibility and balance, try yoga or tai chi, for example. To build muscle, you could alternate between strength training classes and free weights. To get started, write down a few simple goals and cross them off your list as you achieve them. Don’t be afraid to start small. Try 10 minutes of a video workout, walk on a treadmill for 15 minutes or do 10 bicep curls with light weights. Achieving small successes improves your motivation and your fitness level. As you progress, increase your workout intensity.

3. Join Forces with a Workout Partner

Kickstarting something new can be easier and more fun with a friend or accountability partner. Set a regular time to take a walk or jog together. Join a tennis group or meet a friend at the gym. Ask your gym about working with a personal trainer who can help you plan an exercise routine. Some programs even offer members healthy aging coaching, so you can connect with a personal health coach via phone sessions. Your health coach can help you plan and achieve various health goals.

Always remember to consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine and to discuss what types of exercises are safest for you.

Whether you want to work out at home, get fit at the gym or attend online classes, there are many types of fitness programs that can help you kick start your spring fitness routine.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Vaccines Continue To Be Essential To Our Safety

Protect yourself and your family from COVID with a vaccine.

By We Can Do This COVID-19 Public Education Campaign

 (NAPSI)—After a few weeks without rain, most people don’t throw out their umbrella. Just because someone has driven thousands of accident-free miles, that doesn’t mean seatbelts should be abandoned. Similarly, health officials encourage people to think about such prevention measures as wearing masks in the same way that we think about our umbrellas. People shouldn’t stop taking steps to protect themselves and others from COVID-19, even if there is a lull in cases.

“COVID changes over time, and what we know about the virus causing it has expanded, providing effective tools for preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths,” said Dr. David Banach, associate professor of medicine at UConn School of Medicine and hospital epidemiologist at UConn Health/John Dempsey Hospital. “It is vital that we continue to layer prevention strategies based on local COVID transmission rates coupled with individualized measures for high-risk populations to reduce the impact of the virus on individuals and the larger community.”

The most effective ways to prevent COVID are simple and widely available to all Americans.

Stay up to date on vaccines. Vaccines and boosters protect people from the worst outcomes of COVID and help reduce the spread of the virus in communities, further reducing risks for the most vulnerable populations. Boosters provide extra protection. Like seatbelts prevent injuries in accidents, vaccines are highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death from COVID, but they don’t work if you don’t use them. Vaccination is the best way to slow the spread of COVID and prevent hospitalizations and deaths. COVID vaccines are available to anyone age 5 and older in the United States.

Wear a mask. After vaccines, wearing a mask is one of the most effective ways to help reduce the spread of COVID. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a mask in public indoor spaces, especially in areas where community transmission is high. A mask should fit closely on the face, covering the nose and mouth, without any gaps along the edges or around the nose. Masks are still required on most methods of public transportation.

Keep your distance. If you are not up to date on COVID vaccines, stay at least six feet away from other people, especially if you are at higher risk of getting very sick with COVID. In areas where community levels are high, it is best to avoid crowded places where it is difficult to stay distanced from others who may not be vaccinated. When spending time with people who don’t live with you, outdoors is the safer choice. Holding gatherings outdoors decreases the chance of COVID exposure.

Layering these proven prevention strategies in line with your personal health risk and current community levels of COVID transmission, is the best way to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Don’t throw away that umbrella, keep wearing a seatbelt, and stay current on COVID vaccines even when cases are lower in your community.

For accurate, science-based information about vaccines, visit www.vaccines.gov.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Nine Questions To Ask Your Ophthalmologist

It’s smart to see your way clear to getting regular eye exams.

(NAPSI)—If you’re like most people, this is a familiar scene: You’re nearing the end of your appointment with your physician, and they ask, “Do you have any questions?” You want to take advantage of the short amount of time you have with the one person who can decipher tests and explain medical issues specific to you, but you blank.

Getting the most out of your regular eye exam depends on asking good questions. Not sure where to begin? Here’s a list of smart questions to ask your ophthalmologist at your next eye exam:

Am I at risk for eye disease? There are several risk factors for eye disease, including family history, ethnicity, age and so on. Take the time with your ophthalmologist to identify your own eye health risks.

Can my other health issues affect my eyes? Several systemic diseases, including high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, can affect eyesight. Your ophthalmologist is the best person to discuss how your medical history can lead to potential eye disease.

Why is this test being done? During a routine eye exam, your ophthalmologist will run tests to screen for eye diseases and visual impairment. This can include checking how your pupil responds to light, measuring your eye pressure to screen for diseases such as glaucoma or dilating your eye to check the health of your retina.

Would you have this procedure yourself? Some eye surgeries are urgently required to protect your vision but others are optional, such as laser eye surgery or just one of a range of treatment options for your condition. An ophthalmologist will be able to help you decide if you are a good candidate for surgery, walk you through the latest data, and discuss potential risks.

Is this normal? Dealing with dry eyes? Noticing new floaters in your vision? Share these symptoms with your ophthalmologist. They can determine whether this is a normal part of aging or a sign of eye disease.

I can’t see well while reading or driving. What should I do? Usually, declining vision means you just need new glasses. But in some cases, there are alternatives to glasses that can improve your quality of life. If you’re having a difficult time enjoying your favorite hobbies and activities, ask your ophthalmologist if you’re a good candidate for newer vision correction options.

Will COVID-19 affect my eyes? Your ophthalmologist is your best resource for the latest information on diseases related to the eye, including eye-related symptoms linked to COVID-19. If you’re recovering from COVID-19, you may have concerns about how your eye health could be affected.

Should I buy blue light-blocking glasses? What about eye vitamins? There are lots of myths out there about eyes and vision. Before buying blue light-blocking glasses or other over-the-counter products that are advertised to save your sight, get the facts straight from your ophthalmologist.

My eyesight seems fine. Do I really need to come back? Your ophthalmologist can tell you how often you should be seen based on your age, risk factors and overall health.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends all adults get a comprehensive eye exam by age 40 and every year or two after age 65, even if your vision seems fine. That’s because leading causes of blindness can begin without any noticeable symptoms. An ophthalmologist—a physician who specializes in medical and surgical eye care—can help save your vision before it’s too late.

EyeCare America Can Help

If the cost of an eye exam is a concern, the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeCare America program may be able to help. This national public service program provides eye care through volunteer ophthalmologists for eligible seniors 65 and older and those at increased risk for eye disease.

Learn More

For further information regarding EyeCare America and to see if you or someone you care for qualifies, visit www.aao.org/eyecare-america.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Do You Know Your OQ? Time To Promote Your Healthier Future

Just as you may know your IQ or EQ—cognitive and emotional intelligence—it’s wise to know your OQ or oral health quotient and the links between oral health and overall health.

(NAPSI)—The most common disease in the world is right under your nose—here’s what you can do.

The Problem

Right now nearly half the world’s population is suffering from oral diseases like cavities and gum disease. This global crisis has major health consequences, since oral health is connected to your overall well-being. Beyond mouth pain and tooth loss, oral diseases are linked to heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, among other conditions. In addition to your physical health, oral health can impact mental health and emotional well-being. Research shows childhood cavities lead to worry, anxiety, sadness and embarrassment in both kids and their parents.

The Answer

Fortunately, oral diseases such as cavities and gum disease are largely preventable. If you Know Your OQ™—your oral health quotient—you’ll learn the simple steps for taking care of your mouth, the signs and symptoms for oral diseases, and where to go to seek help, and in doing so, take care of the rest of you.

Just as you might know your IQ or EQ, Colgate-Palmolive wants you to Know Your OQ™. You can go to KnowYourOQ.com and take a free, interactive assessment to determine your oral health quotient on a scale from 1 to 10. After just two to three minutes, you’ll understand how oral health is the gateway to your overall health and well-being and be on your way to a healthier future. Once you know your OQ score, you can share the quiz and your oral health knowledge with your friends and family to promote healthier communities.

At KnowYourOQ.com, you can also find tips for improving your oral health, gain a better understanding of oral diseases, learn preventive strategies, and discover opportunities to seek professional help.

A healthier future starts with a healthy mouth. Here are some quick tips to boost your oral health quotient and help prevent cavities, gum disease, and bad breath:

1.Brush your teeth at least twice daily for two minutes with a fluoride-based toothpaste to prevent cavities. Night-time brushing is especially essential for an impactful oral care routine.

2.Brush properly using circular motions, and at a 45 degree angle to the gum-line, to remove plaque (bacteria) on all tooth surfaces. You can use powered and connected technologies to help guide you for the most effective tooth brushing. Unremoved plaque can harden, leading to calculus buildup and gingivitis (early gum disease) which can progress to more advanced forms of the disease such as periodontitis, if not addressed. Once plaque hardens to calculus, professional removal is necessary to scrape it off of the tooth surface.

3.Floss your teeth at least once daily to clean in between your teeth, use mouthwash as needed, and remember to brush your tongue, too.

4.See a dentist twice a year and whenever you have tooth troubles. Many oral diseases do not have obvious signs or symptoms so regular checkups are essential to detect and prevent diseases from progressing.

Experts Step In

To address the global oral health crisis, Colgate-Palmolive, the worldwide leader in oral care with a brand, Colgate, in more homes than any other, launched Know Your OQ™—a comprehensive public health initiative and educational campaign—to teach people about the links between oral health and their physical health and mental wellbeing. The company understands that education is the first step for driving action and making an impact, and is empowering people to understand why it’s so important to take care of your mouth.

“Research has consistently shown that oral health is a window to overall health, yet oral health literacy is very low,” said Maria Ryan, DDS, PhD, Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer at Colgate-Palmolive. “That’s why we’re on a mission to help people increase their oral health knowledge. If we all understand the importance of oral health and embrace simple, proven preventative strategies, we can help decrease risk for oral diseases and empower people worldwide to join in the fight against oral diseases that impact overall health and well being.”

Oral health is often overlooked, even though an estimated 3.5 billion people currently suffer from oral diseases—and these diseases don’t just cause a pain in your mouth. Studies have found that oral diseases are linked to diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes, as well as other health conditions such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, respiratory diseases, and adverse pregnancy outcomes. What’s more, childhood cavities cause children to miss up to three days of school per year, requiring their parents to lose the same amount of time at work.

Learn More

To test your OQ, go to www.KnowYourOQ.com. The website also provides helpful information for consumers to improve their oral health and educational resources for healthcare professionals.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Long COVID Upends Lives, Even In The Young And Healthy

Young, strong, and healthy, Rob Smith didn’t think he had to ­worry about COVID. He did—and it changed his life forever.

by We Can Do This COVID-19
Public Education Campaign

(NAPSI)—Running was Rob Smith’s passion. He ran every day, ate healthy foods, and had good sleep habits. Because of his healthy lifestyle, Smith believed that it was very unlikely COVID-19 would have a serious effect on his health. In September 2020, at the age of 22, Smith contracted the virus, and his life changed forever.

“I used to run 5 or 6 miles a day. Now, when I walk up a flight of stairs, I’m gasping for air,” said Smith, who misses his daily exercise. “It feels like my brain is clouded, and I can’t think straight. It’s surreal.”

Smith is not alone. Though many healthy young people who contract COVID have mild symptoms and recover quickly, others experience a wide range of new, returning or ongoing health problems that can persist for months. This condition is referred to as long COVID. As scientists work to learn more about long COVID, many mysteries remain.

“COVID is extremely unpredictable,” said Ann Marie Pettis, immediate past president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology in Rochester, NY. “It is impossible to know who will recover readily, who will experience severe life-threatening illness, or who will have long COVID haunt them for months or even longer. Staying up to date on vaccines is the best way to prevent the devastating consequences of long COVID.”

Symptoms of long COVID can vary. Many, like Smith, report shortness of breath and difficulty with memory and thinking, often described as “brain fog.” Other common symptoms of long COVID include fatigue, pain, fast or irregular heartbeat, loss of taste and smell, memory problems, mood changes, and hair loss.

Katelyn Van Dyke, an athletic 20-year-old, contracted COVID in November 2020. Two months later she began to experience severe symptoms of long COVID. Van Dyke began having trouble remembering things, and she struggled to breathe with simple activity.

“I was a varsity soccer player in high school, and now I get winded just from walking,” Van Dyke said. “I can’t remember things. It’s unbearable.”

It is common for people with long COVID to have breathing issues, a possible indication of lung damage. COVID can damage organs including the lungs, heart, and brain. Symptoms can last many months after COVID illness.

Recent studies have also found serious increases in the risk for many kinds of cardiovascular disease in COVID survivors, including for people who were not hospitalized for COVID. Cardiovascular risks can be significantly higher for people who have had COVID regardless of their age, race, sex, or other cardiovascular risk factors.

Three weeks after getting COVID, dancer Isaiah Smith began experiencing chest pains.

“I used to be able to dance all day,” said Smith, who is 26. “But now just getting up gives me chest pain. And I can’t comprehend words at times. This has honestly been a very scary journey. I’m telling my long COVID story because I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.”

The risk of contracting long COVID is real—especially for those who have not been vaccinated and boosted. Remaining up to date on vaccinations provides the best protection against severe illness and long COVID.

Learn More

For accurate, science-based information about vaccines, visit www.vaccines.gov.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Gym Or No Gym? Finding Your Ideal Exercise Routine

The immersive JRNY digital fitness platform features hundreds of workouts.

(NAPSI)—They say old habits die hard, but for a lot of people the last two years have proven otherwise. The COVID-19 pandemic fueled a seismic shift in the way people view physical and mental health—and lately, many have had a chance to reflect on old habits and routines.

If you’re looking to improve your physical or mental health, there may be no better tool than exercise. It offers numerous benefits including lower blood pressure, improved bone health and reduced risk of diseases. Moving your body stimulates different parts of your brain to release feel-good chemicals including serotonin, endorphins and dopamine, leading to a cascade effect of better sleep, sharper thinking, reduced stress and enhanced mood.

With the mass adoption of hybrid work models that let you swap your morning commutes with a sweat session or moment of mindfulness, the reopening of gyms and fitness centers and spring right around the corner, now’s a good time to replace your old, tired routines.

Tom Holland, exercise physiologist and Bowflex fitness advisor, says it’s an exciting moment in fitness and a great time for people to begin thinking about what their exercise routine might look like, with so many options available including working out at home, outside or at the gym.

Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

• Take up a new at-home routine: At-home workouts are the new normal for many and can be just as effective as a workout done at a gym—not to mention easier to fit into a busy routine. Fitness apps such as the JRNY digital fitness platform (https://www.bowflex.com/jrny.html)—which offers a range of classes including strength, stretching, yoga and Pilates—can be great tools to take the guesswork out of trying a new exercise.

“At-home fitness equipment is better than ever before and you no longer need a gym membership to get in a great workout,” says Holland. “With new digital technologies such as wearables and connected machines, you can get the kind of customized, comprehensive fitness plans that were once reserved for professional athletes.”

Versatile home equipment such as the Bowflex VeloCore Bike 22” (https://www.bowflex.com/bikes/velocore/100914.html) are great for getting in a cardio session without the need to go to a gym. With the JRNY app on the VeloCore bike, you can tour new cities, participate in trainer-led rides or catch up on your favorite shows on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max and Disney+.

Sweat the small stuff: Even small amounts of exercise can be beneficial. If you’re at a desk or sitting still most of the day, try standing up at frequent intervals throughout the day, going for walks or doing short workouts such as jumping jacks or squats. This can help counter the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle, which is especially important in the work-from-home era.

• Get outside: There’s a strong link between time spent outdoors and physiological benefits, including reduced stress and mental fatigue and improved mood.

“Consider taking a daily walk or picking up an outdoor hobby to ensure you’re getting enough time outside,” suggests Holland. “Pets can be a great reason to get outside more frequently, so if you’ve ever thought about getting a dog, maybe now is the time!”

• Take up a family or group activity: Exercise doesn’t have to be a solo activity. In fact, it can be a great opportunity to spend some quality time with friends and family. Recreational sports such as pickleball are easy to learn and can be accessible fun for the whole family, no matter the age or ability level.

“Pickleball is a new activity I’ve discovered and one my whole family has been enjoying,” Holland adds. “If you’re thinking about giving it a try but are concerned about your fitness level, I recommend exercises like bodyweight squats, skaters and jumping jacks as a warm-up to get your body in pickleball-playing shape.”

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Building paths to better kidney care

Create a kidney care plan that fits your lifestyle, mobility, health status, and dietary needs.

(NAPSI)—For the 37 million adults in the United States living with chronic kidney disease (CKD), research offers promising insights into ways to improve and prolong kidney health. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is using innovative research to change the way we understand, treat and prevent kidney disease. Future research discoveries may allow doctors to provide targeted treatment plans that better suit the individual and improve health outcomes.

NIDDK’s Kidney Precision Medicine Project (KPMP) is one example of research that is helping to gain a deeper understanding of the causes and types of kidney disease. CKD was thought to be one disease with one cause and one treatment. Today, we understand that CKD has many causes and there are many potential treatment paths. KPMP aims to transform the future of kidney care by collecting kidney tissue samples from people across all races, ages, and walks of life. With knowledge gained from studying the samples, one of the goals of KPMP is that health care professionals will be able to provide treatments and prevention approaches best matched to each individual, building paths to better kidney care.

“Precision medicine research is key to finding new ways to improve the health of people with kidney diseases,” says NIDDK Director Griffin P. Rodgers, MD. “As researchers work toward developing more and better treatment options, there are steps people with, or at risk for, kidney disease can take today to build their own path to better kidney care.”

Three ways you can build your path to better kidney care are to be an active participant in your care, follow your care plan and build a kidney-healthy lifestyle.

Being an active participant in your care means working with your health care team to create a kidney care plan that fits your lifestyle, mobility, health status and dietary needs. Ask questions, identify healthy habits you can stick to, and talk with your team if adjustments are needed.

Following your care plan means taking medicines as prescribed and attending your medical appointments. Also, consider getting vaccines recommended by your doctor and do your best to follow a kidney-healthy lifestyle.

A kidney-healthy lifestyle includes making physical activity part of your routine, maintaining a healthy weight, choosing a healthy meal plan, quitting smoking, reducing alcohol and getting enough sleep. Each of these areas can be personalized to help meet your needs and health goals.

For example, physical activity is beneficial for both your physical and mental health. Aim for at least 30 minutes of activity each day. If you can’t fit in 30 minutes at once, try 15 minutes twice a day, or 10 minutes three times a day. Find activities that fit your environment, budget, and mobility. Go for a walk with a friend, ride a bike, look for free or low-cost fitness classes offered in your community or follow along with a workout video from your own home. You don’t have to make changes all at once! Even gradual progress can help you protect your kidneys and slow the progression of kidney disease.

For more information on building your path to better kidney care, visit the NIDDK website at www.niddk.nih.gov. To find out more about KPMP research, visit www.kpmp.org/about-kpmp.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Smoking Speeds Cognitive Decline in Seniors

If you’re a senior who smokes but is otherwise healthy, scientists warn that your cigarettes are just as bad for brain health as having type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

If you’re a senior who smokes but is otherwise healthy, scientists warn that your cigarettes are just as bad for brain health as having type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
The detrimental effects of smoking on overall health are well-documented, but new research suggests that seniors who light up well into their sixties may be tampering with their brain health and cognition.

Research has already suggested that high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes are known risk factors for cognitive decline. A study published in December 2020 in the journal Cureus, for example, found that treating hypertension might decrease risk of dementia, while research published in January 2017 in Diabetologia warned that type 2 diabetes not just increases risk of dementia but causes its onset at a younger age. Past studies have even estimated that type 2 diabetes increases risk of dementia by 50 percent.
“The question we had is whether smoking compounded these other risk factors or are people who smoke at an elevated risk regardless of other health concerns,” says study senior author Neal Parikh, MD, a vascular neurologist and assistant professor at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.

For his study, Dr. Parikh looked at the health data of 3,244 people from 2011 to 2014 who took part in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a large-scale, ongoing national health database managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) since the early 1960s.

The average age of study participants was 69; 77 percent of the group had hypertension while 24 percent had type 2 diabetes, confirmed via medication usage, self-reported health, blood pressure readings, and blood tests. Twenty-three percent of participants were smokers; this was identified by cotinine levels, a byproduct of nicotine that remains in the blood, measured in blood tests.

The participants completed a digit symbol substitution test, which is a popular evaluation tool researchers use to measure IQ, working memory, processing speed, and attention span. It’s especially useful in helping researchers assess changes to people’s cognition.

Turns out, participants with higher cotinine levels scored “significantly worse” on the testing compared with nonsmokers. The higher their cotinine levels were, the lower they scored too. And overall, smokers’ poor performance was comparable to their counterparts who had type 2 diabetes or hypertension.

“The association between smoking and cognitive impairment doesn’t depend on having other risk factors. You’re still at the same risk,” Parikh says.

If participants had either condition, and were smokers, they didn’t score any worse with two or more of these risk factors.

The results surprised Parikh, who thought smoking would exacerbate cognitive decline in people already grappling with chronic disease. Instead, he says the findings suggest that smoking is a standalone marker for cognitive decline.

He says seniors who smoke but are otherwise healthy should think twice before lighting up, for the sake of their brain health — and their autonomy.

Parikh notes an important caveat to his research: The participants were all living in the community, either on their own or with their families. The outcomes may be different if he included seniors living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

A knowledge summary from the World Health Organization (WHO) (PDF) estimated that 14 percent of all dementia cases can be attributed to smoking.

A review of 37 studies published in March 2015 in PLoS One found that smokers were at a 30 to 40 percent increased risk of dementia. And the more smokers lit up, the greater their risk. Previous research also suggests that people who are 75 and older who identify as current smokers perform more poorly on cognitive tests and appear to encounter memory loss faster than their peers who don’t smoke. Quitting as soon as possible can decrease dementia risk too, according to a paper published in February 2020 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

“The single best thing a smoker can do for their overall health is to stop smoking. Unfortunately, many people do not understand that there is a relationship between smoking and dementia,” he says.

“Because the subtle early symptoms of cognitive decline can take a long time to develop, it is important to identify risk factors in middle-aged people that might predispose a person to develop dementia. Smoking is clearly one. Smokers should begin to think about stopping smoking as soon as possible.”

Parikh presented his findings at the American Stroke Association’s 22nd International Stroke Conference (February 9 to 11), in New Orleans.