Engineering Easier Eating and Drinking for Cognitive Decline
Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia affect more than thinking and memory; as cognitive decline progresses, patients may struggle to eat and drink. Both the visual recognition of food and the motor skills needed to consume it can become barriers to proper nourishment. One designer, after seeing her own grandmother struggle with her food, set out to assist. Sha Yao scoured available research and field-tested a line of bowls, spoons, and cups, which feature bright, contrasting colors and precisely engineered shapes.
The resulting tableware prototypes, dubbed ‘Eatwell,’ placed first in the 2013-2014 Stanford Design Challenge. Since that time, Yao has been pursuing resources to make Eatwell a reality for patients worldwide, and press has been growing as that goal reaches completion. The project was funded by more than 1,000 contributors via an Indiegogo campaign, and an update on the fundraising site reports that Eatwell is on track to begin shipping pre-orders by late September.
A Different Approach to Nourishment at the End of Life
Throughout every stage of life, nutrition is an important consideration. Some individuals need to adhere to special diets, whether because of a food allergy or a chronic illness such as diabetes or heart disease. The logic is simple: better diet should translate to better health, and thus prolong life.
However, there comes a point near the end of life when prolonging it may no longer be attainable. (This prior entry in our Recommended Reading series touches eloquently on the subject.) If the long-term benefits of nourishment are no longer a factor, author Susan R. Dolan argues, then we might instead follow our loved one’s lead regarding food at the end of life — whether that means choosing not to eat, or indulging in a formerly forbidden delicacy. The article includes some important considerations about safe feeding methods for loved ones who may experience difficulty chewing and swallowing.
(This Is How You Feed A Dying Person; Huffington Post)
New Findings Shake Up Established Blood Pressure Targets
Here’s landmark news for those who always go for extra credit. Researchers wanted to study current target guidelines for blood pressure (a systolic value — or ‘top number’ — no higher than 140, or 150 for seniors), in order to see whether aiming for an even lower number could improve outcomes. Compared with the patient group assigned to work toward the current guideline, the group working toward 120 as their target number had significantly lower risks for heart disease, stroke, and death. The early results were so conclusive that the study was concluded a year earlier than planned; publication of the complete findings is expected in the next few months, and possible changes to the current guidelines are anticipated. This New York Times article consults numerous experts to examine the issue from all angles.
- Getting less than 6 hours of sleep per day? You’re 4 times as likely to develop a cold after exposure to the virus. (Short Sleepers May Catch More Colds; NYT Well blog)
- Your amount of sleep — and the quality of that shuteye — can also affect heart health, even from an early age. According to this study, the sweet spot may be getting ‘good’ sleep in the 7-hour range. (Good Quality Sleep May Build Healthy Hearts; NPR)
- Smoking not only makes your health worse — if you have a chronic condition, it can make your disease worse, too. A study of patients with type 2 diabetes highlighted the higher risks of complications found in subjects who smoked. (Smoking worsens diabetes complications, but quitting may help; Reuters)
- The human gastrointestinal tract is like its own ecosystem, composed of all kinds of bacteria. A recent study of these microbes in fruit flies found that with age, certain changes always preceded death and were accurate predictors; what’s more, treatment with antibiotics worked to repair these changes and extend life span. (Keeping gut bacteria in balance could help delay age-related diseases, UCLA study finds; MNT)
- Aspirin: It’s not just for headaches — and heart attack prevention — anymore. (Scientists turn to aspirin to turbo-charge cancer immunotherapy; Reuters)
- In our recommended book for September, Dr. Atul Gawande described how the human life span is increasing, but our gained later years are not necessarily healthy years. Here’s an overview of a recent global study that puts this claim in numeric terms. (Check Out Life Spans Around The World – And Likely Years Of Ill Health; NPR)
- Remember, September is National Immunization Awareness Month. This article gets into the types of vaccinations that are particularly important for senior health. (Immunizations For Senior Citizens; Inside Elder Care)