You may have noticed the holiday decorations are already on display in many Kansas City stores. Although it seems a bit early yet, in all reality, the holidays really aren’t that far away. And I don’t know about you, but that’s the time of year I usually start to pack on the pounds. So every year, I try to lose a little weight before the holidays so I can enjoy a few holiday treats without worrying so much about calories.

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Over the years, the rules for cancer screening tests in people who are over the age of 60 have changed as new studies have weighed early detection against screening risks. So every now and then, it’s a good idea to brush up on new updates. Here are the latest cancer screening recommendations for seniors*:

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There are currently 30 million people in the U.S. who have diabetes. And 25% of those people don’t even know they have it. Could you be one of them? If not, is there a chance you’re at risk?

Types of Diabetes and Risk Factors

There are two main types of diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes: Thought to be an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the cells that produce insulin. Risk factors for Type 1 diabetes may include:

  • Family history of Type 1 diabetes
  • Certain viruses
  • Environmental factors

Type 2 diabetes:  A condition in which your body doesn’t produce insulin or doesn’t use insulin effectively. Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes may include:

  • Obesity
  • Age (>45)
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Family history of diabetes
  • A history of gestational diabetes
  • Being African American, Native Alaskan, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian, or a Pacific Islander
  • A history of polycystic ovary syndrome.

Reducing Your Diabetes Risk

If you think you may be at risk for diabetes, talk to your Kansas City doctor. He or she may recommend you make some lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Losing weight
  • Exercising regularly (at least 30 minutes a day, five times per week)
  • Eating a healthy diet with lots of fiber and whole grains

Get Help If You Need It

If you’re having a tough time exercising or preparing healthy meals due to other health issues, you may want to get some help from a Kansas City home health agency. Your home health provider can help you with exercise and meal preparation, thus reducing your diabetes risk.

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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), is a lifelong medical problem. However, there are medical treatments, and also lifestyle changes, that can help improve your quality of life if you have COPD (e.g., chronic bronchitis, emphysema). Here are some things you can try.

  1. Avoid pollutants. COPD is most often caused by smoking cigarettes, but you can also get it from long-term exposure to secondhand smoke, air pollution, or chemical fumes. If you’re still smoking, it’s time to quit. Your Kansas City primary care physician (PCP) can help. If you work in a place where you’re exposed to chemical fumes or other types of air pollution (e.g., dust, lead, asbestos), ask your supervisor about respiratory protective equipment.
  2. See your Kansas City pulmonologist on a regular basis. If you don’t have a pulmonologist, ask your PCP for a referral. Your pulmonologist can prescribe medications that will help you breathe easier. Or adjust your medications if the ones you’re taking now aren’t working.
  3. Take your COPD medications regularly. Some COPD medications may take up to two weeks to start working, so give them time. Some people also find COPD medications challenging to use. If you don’t get the results you were hoping for after two weeks, call your pulmonologist.
  4. Go to pulmonary rehabilitation. Pulmonary rehab can help improve your breathing and your quality of life. It consists of things like:
    • Exercise training
    • Nutrition counseling
    • Education on managing your COPD
    • Breathing exercises
    • Psychological counseling
  5. Watch your weight. Being overweight can make it more difficult for you to breathe. On the other hand, severe COPD can cause you to use so much excess energy on breathing, you can’t keep the weight on. In either case, ask your doctor for help maintaining an appropriate weight.

Uncontrolled COPD can lead to other health issues like pneumonia, lung cancer, heart disease, pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the arteries to your lungs), and/or depression. So taking measures to control your COPD can decrease your risk of developing other potentially debilitating diseases.

If you’re having difficulty controlling your COPD and you need help with things like meal preparation, light housekeeping, transportation, exercising, or running errands, contact a Kansas City home health agency.

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If you’re heading toward your twilight years, there are a number of things things you can do to stay as healthy as possible as you age. And Kansas City is a great place to be; there are tons of resources that can help. Here are some tips for healthy aging in Kansas City:

Nourish your body. Your body needs certain nutrients to maintain optimal health, and the best way to get them is through the foods you eat. You need lots of fruits and vegetables, plus lean protein, low-fat dairy, and whole grains. And almost every Kansas City suburb has a farmers market each summer where you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables. The city also has several Whole Foods Markets where you can buy organic foods.

Be active. You need a combination of aerobic exercise, strength training, and mobility exercises to help you maintain balance and flexibility as you age. Go to one of the many Kansas City parks, and hit the walking trails. Or walk around your neighborhood. Buy some hand weights at a local Walmart. Do some stretching exercises. Check with your nearest Kansas City senior center to see if they have free exercise classes. Or join a Kansas City gym.

Maintain a social life. Having an active social life is important as you age. If you don’t currently have a social circle, join a book club at a Kansas City library. Participate in activities at a local senior center. Or join a Kansas City Meetup group for people over 50.

Use your brain. To help prevent Alzheimer’s or other type of dementia, keep your brain busy. Do the Kansas City Star Daily Crossword. Take a class at a local community college. Play Scrabble with friends. Check out books from a Kansas City library.

Control chronic illnesses. Chronic illnesses, such as diabetes or heart disease, can become debilitating if they’re not properly controlled. Follow your Kansas City doctor’s instructions to keep illnesses under control.

Take preventive measures. Keep up on your flu shots, colonoscopies, mammograms, PAP smears, blood pressure screenings, and blood tests as recommended by your Kansas City doctor. Your primary care physician can refer you to any specialists, if necessary.

Get help if you need it. If you’re having trouble preparing nutritious meals, bathing, grooming, dressing, and/or exercising, contact a Kansas City home health agency for help.

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The older you get, the harder it is to lose weight, especially if you’re a woman. So many Kansas City seniors turn to “fad diets” to try to take off the excess pounds. But are those diets healthy?

Fad diets promise dramatic weight loss, and may or may not work in the short term. But they’re not sustainable long term, so even if you do lose the weight, you’ll probably gain it right back.

And, as you may have already guessed, fad diets are not healthy for seniors. Here’s why:

  • Diets that restrict carbohydrates or require fasting can cause your blood sugar to drop. And if you’re taking medication to reduce your blood sugar, it could get dangerously low if your medication isn’t adjusted accordingly.
  • Some high-protein diets allow unlimited fats. Too much fat in your diet can increase your risk of heart disease.
  • Fad diets sometimes eliminate entire food groups to help you lose weight (e.g., meat, dairy, grains). If you’re not getting food from all the food groups, you may become low on nutrients that are essential for good health.

So, what can seniors do to lose weight and still stay healthy? Here are some suggestions:

  • Focus on nutrients:
    • The older you get, the less calories you need. But you also need more nutrients. So concentrate on eating more foods that are low in calories but high in nutrients. Some examples are fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meats, beans, nuts, and seeds.
    • Cut back on foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients. You don’t have to give up your favorite foods completely, but you’ll need to eat them in moderation if you want to lose weight. Examples of high-calorie, low-nutrient foods include desserts; sugary drinks; and white bread, rice, or pasta.
  • Control portions:
    • Use a smaller plate. Dinner-size plates can hold a lot of food, so using a smaller plate can help with portion control.
    • Read food labels. See how many portions are in each package and make sure you’re not eating more than one at a time.
    • Cook meals ahead of time and freeze them in one-portion containers to re-heat when you don’t feel like cooking. Use a scale or measuring cups to make sure your portions are the right size.
    • Don’t eat in front of the TV or computer. While distracted, you may end up eating more than you’d planned.
  • Get help with meal preparation. If you have a tough time preparing your own meals, enlist the help of a caregiver or Kansas City home health agency.
  • Exercise. Regular exercise can not only help you control weight, but can also help you with balance and flexibility. You’ll need to do both aerobic exercise and exercises that will strengthen your muscles. If you need assistance, try joining a Kansas City gym or local senior center.

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