Monthly Archives: July 2015

5 Must-Do Rules for Preventing Medication Mistakes

How to protect yourself in advance from drug interactions

By , Caring.com senior editor
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If 1.5 million serious medication mistakes happen every year, and 100,000 people die from them, how do you make sure you and your loved ones aren’t among the casualties? Take these five steps to make sure medication mistakes don’t happen to you.

1. Be prepared.

Make a list of prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs, and any supplements such as vitamins, minerals, or herbs that you and your family members are taking. Keep a copy in your wallet, and update it regularly.

2. Have regular medication reviews.

At least once a year, have your general practitioner or primary doctor review your list of medications to make sure there are no dangerous combinations, incorrect dosages, or medications inappropriate for your age and circumstances. Remember, as time goes by, your body changes, and a medication that was perfectly fine five years ago may not be healthy — or even necessary — today.

Another possibility, suggests Anne Meneghetti, M.D., director of Clinical Communication for Epocrates, a medication management system for doctors, is what she calls “brown-bagging it.” Load everything you or your family member is taking — including medications, vitamins and minerals, and herbal supplements — into a bag and bring it to the doctor’s office. With the actual vials and labels in front of her, the doctor will have better information.

More Medication Rules

3.Take advantage of pharmacy consults.

At the pharmacy, ask for (or accept, if it’s offered automatically) a consultation with the pharmacist. Sometimes pharmacists are easier to talk to than doctors, and they can explain whether the drug should be taken alone or with meals and what side effects you need to be alert for. Pharmacists are also highly knowledgeable about medication interactions, so if you have a chance, ask the pharmacist to review your list of medications as a safety check.

4. In the hospital, be proactive both prior to and after surgery.

Prior to surgery, ask if there’s anything you need to stop taking, and how soon before surgery you should stop. Afterward, when doctors and nurses come around to administer medication, ask them (assuming you’re conscious) to explain what drugs you’re being given and what effect they’re meant to have. If you’re not going to be conscious for a length of time and you have someone accompanying you, ask him or her to do this for you.

5. Go home prepared to follow up.

During the hospital discharge process, ask to be sent home with a list of all the medications you were given during your stay, plus those that you’ll be taking home with you. Have your regular doctor or nurse go over them with you to make sure you understand how they should be taken.

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The Power of Touch (and More)

You may already know about the power of touch to communicate with those who are losing verbal skills and possibly other senses. But did you know that your sincerity counts?

It seems that our bodies read emotions through touch with amazing specificity. A DePauw University psychologist asked blindfolded subjects to guess which of eight emotions a stranger was trying to convey simply through the use of touch: anger, fear, happiness, sadness, disgust, love, gratitude, or sympathy. The subjects understood correctly which emotion was being communicated between 50 to 78 percent of the time. (Pure chance would put the correct-guess rate at 11 percent.) So hug like you mean it.

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Drink More Water: Here’s Why

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Flashes of lucidity, depression treatments, more

The cognitive declines of Alzheimer’s disease don’t look like a straight downhill line on a graph. In fact, you may see good days and bad days, as well as surprising, out-of-nowhere flashes of lucidity.

No one knows why this happens. It’s thought that some series of images, ideas, or events must trigger the sudden sharpness. (Music, for example, often creates these moments.) Don’t spend a lot of energy trying to will them into being, and don’t be upset if they don’t happen for your loved one. Simply treasure them if and when they do occur.

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Are You Drinking Enough Water?

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Learn why the “standard” recommendation of eight glasses a day for good health doesn’t hold water.

20 Easy Ways to Boost Your Memory

Memory Boosters

20 Easy Ways to Boost Your Memory

By , Caring.com contributing editor
99% helpful
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Worried about fading brain power? If you’re older than 27, you have good reason. That’s the age when cognitive skills start to decline, according to University of Virginia research. But while some changes in thinking and memory are inevitable as we age, the good news is that lifestyle seems to be able to blunt those effects — and keep many minds working sharply well intoold age.

That’s reassuring, given headlines from the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual report showing that every 68 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s (the most common form of dementia).

Debilitating memory loss doesn’t happen to everyone, though. Learn what you can do to preserve yours.

Memory Booster #1. Take the stairs

Exercise benefits your head as much as the rest of your body, a growing number of studies indicate. Overall cardiorespiratory fitness also lowers the risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems — all known risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Theories on why that’s so range from improved blood flow to the brain to less brain shrinkage.

Experts recommend making regular aerobic workouts part of your routine. Failing that, it appears that even small efforts add up. So avoid elevators. Park at the far end of the parking lot. Start by walking around your block in the evenings, and add a few minutes more each day.

Memory Booster #2: Change your wallpaper

When doing routine things, the brain runs on autopilot. Novelty, on the other hand, literally fires up the brain as new data creates and works new neural pathways.

So shake up what you see and do every day: If your computer screen background is “invisible” to you, run a program that mixes it up every day or every hour. Take a different route home from work. Brush your teeth with your nondominant hand. Buy, borrow, or download a book that makes you think about new ideas.

Memory Booster #3. Steal some zzz’s by daylight

It’s while you’re sleeping that your brain sorts, consolidates, and stores memories accumulated during the day — that’s why eight hours at night is so valuable. But a mere six-minute nap is as valuable as a full night’s sleep to short-term recall, according to German research. And a 90-minute nap has been shown to speed up the process that helps the brain consolidate long-term memories.

Memory Booster #4. Take a mental “photograph”

Memories aren’t just stored in one spot in the brain; bits of data are processed and stored in different areas. To help make the memory of an incident last, take a “snapshot” of it while you’re in the moment, using all your senses. Look around and think about what you see. Notice colors and textures. What do you smell? If you’re eating or drinking (or kissing), what’s the taste?

This “mental camera” trick can help you hang onto a happy memory longer. But it can also help you remember where you parked your car.

Memory Booster #5. Eat less

After only 12 weeks, healthy volunteers (average age 60) who reduced their daily calories by 30 percent scored 20 percent better on memory tests, University of Munster (Germany) researchers have reported. The possible reason: decreased levels of insulin, created when the body processes food, and of the inflammation-associated molecule C-reactive protein. Both factors are linked to improved memory function.

The people in the study were cautioned not to consume fewer than 1,200 calories a day. If cutting back on your diet by nearly a third seems too daunting, focus on eating less fat, meat, and dairy products. Columbia University Medical Center researchers reported that in a long-term study of more than 1,300 participants, those with the highest adherence to a Mediterranean diet — rich in vegetables, legumes, fish, and monounsaturated oils (like olive oil) but low in fat, beef, and dairy — had the lowest risk of developing mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.

Memory Booster #6. Try a “brain-training” game — or join a “brain gym”

The science is promising, if not conclusive, as to whether so-called brain-fitness software can actually improve memory. A study in the April 2009 *Journal of the American Geriatric Society* shows that people over 65 who used a computerized cognitive training program for an hour a day, over a period of eight weeks, improved memory and attention more than a control group.

Memory Booster #7. Spend some time online

Neuroscientist Gary Small, director of the UCLA Memory & Aging Center and author of *iBrain*, says searching the Web is a bit like using a brain-training course. His researchers used MRI to measure brain activity in Web users ages 55 to 76; the net-savvy users showed twice as much brain activity, especially regarding decision making.

Memory Booster #8. Stop and sip a cuppa

Green and black teas have a protective effect on memory, possibly by influencing enzymes in the brain. The caffeine sparks concentration, too. And people who drink moderate amounts of coffee at midlife — as many as three to five cups — have lower odds of developing dementia in late life, Finnish and French researchers say.

Another benefit: Taking a coffee or tea break in your day (or three times a day) is a good opportunity for destressing.

Memory Booster #9. See a doctor if you feel depressed

Maybe it’s “just a mood.” But untreated depression is common and can impair memory. Talk therapy and/or antidepressant medication can resolve the problem. Two red flags worth mentioning to a physician: a loss of interest in things that once gave you pleasure and a persistent sense of hopelessness.

People at higher risk for depression include caregivers of older people and those who have a family history of depression.

Memory Booster #10. Take the “multi” out of your tasking

Especially when they’re trying to learn something new, people remember less well later if they were multitasking while learning, UCLA researchers have shown. If, for example, you’re studying while listening to the radio, your memory recall may be dependent on the music to help you later retrieve the information during the test — except, of course, that you can’t usually replicate the same circumstances (like music during a test).

Try to learn something new — reading a contract or directions, copying a skill — when you can give it your full concentration. Cut out distractions like the TV in the background or pausing every few seconds when you hear the “ding” of your e-mail or text-message inbox.

Memory Booster #11. Keep your blood sugar under control

If you’re diabetes-free, work to maintain a normal weight and follow a balanced diet to reduce your odds of developing the disease. If you’re a type 2 diabetic already, follow medical advice for managing blood sugar levels.

Research shows that brain functioning subtly slows as diabetics’ blood sugar rises and the blood vessels that supply the brain are damaged. This process begins well before memory problems become obvious, or even before there’s a diabetes diagnosis.

Memory Booster #12. Waggle your eyes back and forth

To help you remember something important, scan your eyes from side to side for 30 seconds. This little exercise helps unite the two hemispheres of the brain, say researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University in England. When the two hemispheres communicate well, you’re better able to retrieve certain types of memories.

Memory Booster #13. Eat your green vegetables

There’s no such thing as an “anti-Alzheimer’s diet.” But people who are deficient in folate and vitamin B12 have an increased risk of developing dementia. (The research is iffy, in comparison, on the benefits of taking so-called memory enhancers: vitamin C supplements, ginkgo biloba, and vitamin E.)

Great vegetable sources of folate include romaine lettuce, spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, mustard greens, parsley, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, and beets. For you vegetable haters, the nutrient is also abundant in lentils, calf’s liver, pinto beans, and black beans.

Memory Booster #14. Don’t ignore sleep apnea

People with sleep apnea — a condition involving blocked airways that causes people to briefly stop breathing during sleep — show declines in brain tissue that stores memory, researchers at UCLA have reported.

More than 12 million Americans have obstructive sleep apnea. If your doctor has suggested you have the condition, be vigilant about trying treatment, which can include wearing oral appliances and “masks,” losing weight, and surgery.

Memory Booster #15. Learn something new that’s a real departure for you

If you’re a sudoku fan, you might think a good way to stretch your mind would be to take up a different Japanese numbers game, like kenken or kakuro. But an even better strategy for a nimble brain is to pursue a new kind of activity using skills far different from those you’re accustomed to using.

If you ordinarily like numbers, try learning a language. If you’re an ace gardener, try painting flowers instead.

Memory Booster #16. Quit smoking

The relationship between smoking and Alzheimer’s disease is hazy. But smokers do develop the disease years earlier than nonsmokers.

In case you were looking for another good reason to quit.

Memory Booster #17. Eat some chocolate!

Every year some study extols the virtue of dark chocolate, and the effects of this wonder-food (or, at least, wonderful food) on memory have not gone ignored by researchers. In 2007, a *Journal of Neuroscience *study reported on the memory-boosting effects in rats of a plant compound called epicatechin, possibly because it fueled blood vessel growth.

In addition to cocoa, epicatechin is found in blueberries, grapes, and tea.

Memory Booster #18. Put everything in its place

While novelty is like growth hormone to the brain, your memory needs a certain amount of familiarity to keep your life functioning smoothly. Place your keys and glasses in the same place all the time. Write notes to yourself as reminders (the very act of writing will help your recall). If you want to remember your umbrella tomorrow morning, place it right at the door, so you won’t miss it.

Memory Booster #19. Don’t retire

Good news for those who can no longer afford to quit: Provided you like your work, you’re helping your brain by sticking with it as long as you can. A satisfying work life offers social stimulation and decision-making opportunities — and exercises problem-solving skills.

Next best: Volunteering, such as at a school or museum, where your training involves learning new material and the task involves interacting with others.

Memory Booster #20. Throw a party

Being around other people lowers one’s risk of developing dementia. The catch: They should be people you enjoy who make you feel engaged and stimulated. People who are physically isolated (not around people) or emotionally isolated (around people but feeling lonely nevertheless) are at higher risk for depression.

Just go easy on the alcohol at those parties. Studies on its effect on memory are mixed. Long-term, excessive drinking is clearly linked with dementia. Binge drinking also impairs short-term memory. On the other hand, for people who drink moderately (one drink a day), alcohol may have a protective effect. One study found that in people with mild cognitive impairment (mild memory loss that doesn’t necessarily advance to dementia), those who drink less than one drink a day progressed to dementia at a rate 85 percent slower than teetotalers who didn’t drink a

Diabetes

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Diabetes
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