In our Tafta blog, we write about anything and everything to do with active ageing, and promoting a life worth living, regardless of age
Insomnia … asthma and hayfever … excruciating back pain – just some of the symptoms many of us put up with every day because we assume we’re stressed, getting old or that pollen season is here.
And yet the cause could be something as simple as sleeping on a bed that’s past it’s ‘best before’ date.
Once we’ve invested in a bed, most of us don’t give it another thought. Years and years go by and even the best quality mattress begins to deteriorate. Ideally, a mattress needs to be replaced every eight to ten years, depending on your weight. Obviously heavier people cause a mattress to sag more quickly. And that leads to all sorts of health problems.
Back ache is one of the most common symptoms. As your mattress starts to sag, it loses its ability to support your body correctly. If your spine is poorly aligned during the 6 – 8 hours you’re asleep every night, your body is going to feel stiff and sore when you wake up. You may also suffer from disturbed sleep as you toss and turn, trying to find a more comfortable position.
Chronic fatigue and poor mental health
Suffering from a bad night’s sleep once in a while won’t kill you. But if this becomes a regular occurrence, you not only deprive your body of the time it needs to repair and restore itself, you’ll suffer from drowsiness and impaired mental ability, leading to poor judgment and even mood swings. Your mattress could be making you mentally ill as well as physically uncomfortable!
Older mattresses also have a larger collection of dust mites – as many as 10 million, feeding off your dead skin cells and body oils that collect over time. Although these microscopic bugs are invisible to the naked eye and don’t bite, if you suffer from allergies or asthma, you may notice your sneezing, runny nose, tight chest and watery, itchy eyes getting worse and worse. Waking up congested or stuffy is a common symptom of a dust mite invasion. Although vacuuming your mattress and washing bedlinen once a week in very hot water helps keep dust mites in check, the long term solution is a brand new mattress.
Mould and mildew
We humans don’t only shed skin cells – on hot nights, sweat soaks through the sheets and collects in the mattress. Over the time, this can cause mould and mildew to grown in the mattress and the result can be more allergic reactions – from a tight chest to skin rashes.
A good night of rest is one of the best things you can do for your health. You owe it to yourself to invest in a new mattress regularly.
[September 13, 2019]
Occasionally experiencing difficulty remembering things is normal, especially as we age. However, serious memory loss, confusion and other major changes in the way our minds work may be a sign of Alzheimer’s Disease, a type of dementia. Because the disease is baffling and affects people at random, there is a lot of confusion about Alzheimer’s, what causes it, what treatment is available and the long term prognosis. We separate the facts from the myths:
Only old people get Alzheimer’s
While most people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease are 65 years or older, around 5 % are in their 40s or 50s. Early-onset Alzheimer’s may be more aggressive and patients may deteriorate more rapidly than those diagnosed later in life. Younger people with the disease are also more likely to be mis-diagnosed, with their symptoms being attributed to stress, menopause, or depression.
Alzheimer’s symptoms are just a normal part of ageing
Some memory loss is natural as we age, but memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s is more serious. In the early stages, patients may forget important dates or events, or ask the same question over and over. As the disease progresses, they become more disoriented and confused. They may not be capable of caring for themselves, or finding their way back home if they go out. They may also become aggressive or even violent as a result of the confusion, fear, and frustration that Alzheimer’s causes. In the later stages, people with Alzheimer’s may lose the ability to eat and talk.
If someone can remember incidents from their childhood in detail, they don’t have Alzheimer’s.
Patients in the early stages of the disease may have clear recollections of people and events from their childhood, but be unable to remember something that happened 20 minutes ago. That’s because the disease typically begins in the part of the brain where new experiences or memories are stored. Sadly, even those lasting, long-term memories will also fade over time.
Alzheimer’s Disease is preventable.
Alzheimer’s cannot be prevented in those with the specific genetic mutation linked to the disease. However, regular exercise, a healthy diet and not smoking can support brain health. Several studies have also shown that maintaining social contacts and staying mentally active may strengthen connections between the nerve cells and the brain and help lower the risk of cognitive decline.
With the correct treatment, Alzheimer’s can be cured, or at least prevented from getting worse.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that cannot be cured. Some drugs (cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine) may help treat the cognitive symptoms (memory loss, confusion, and problems with thinking and reasoning). Supplements such as vitamins E, B, and C, gingko biloba, folate, and selenium have been tested but results have been inconclusive.
Alzheimer’s Disease is caused by exposure to aluminium pots and pans, antacids, antiperspirants, aspartame (an artificial sweetener) or flu shots.
Numerous studies have been conducted to find out if these products have any effect on cognitive function, and so far there is no evidence to support any of these theories. A 2001 report in the Canadian Medical Journal suggested that older adults who received vaccinations for flu and other diseases actually had a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s. They also avoided the very real risks of flu which can be dangerous for the elderly.
Head injuries cause Alzheimer’s.
Some research has shown that moderate to severe traumatic brain injury can increase the risk of an individual developing Alzheimer’s disease, even years after the initial injury. However, not everyone who experiences severe head trauma will develop Alzheimer’s, and more research is needed to understand the possible link.
If your parent developed Alzheimer’s, you will too.
Unfortunately, research has shown that those with a first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child) with the disease have a higher risk of developing it themselves. If your parent had early-onset Alzheimer’s and you have the specific genetic mutation for the early-onset type, you will definitely develop the disease. A deterministic gene is one that directly causes a disease, while risk genes are those that increase the likelihood of developing a disease, but it is not guaranteed.
[September 11, 2019]
The worst thing about elder abuse is not that it happens. But that it’s so easy to get away with.
You can punch, slap or kick a frail old person … steal from them … deprive them of food, water or medication … shout at them or mock them … or leave them for sitting on the toilet for hours – and, more often than not, they won’t tell anyone what you did.
Because they’re afraid.
Just like children and animals, vulnerable elders are helpless against those who attack or prey on them. Often, the abuser is a family member – a child or grandchild – on whom the old person is completely dependent. To complain is to risk further abuse, isolation to prevent any further communication with people who might help, or even abandonment.
Old people bruise easily and, because they’re often unsteady on their feet, are more prone to bumping into walls and doorways. So cuts, bruises and broken bones, can easily be explained away. If the old person tries to tell an outsider what really happened, the abuser can claim they’re confused or suffering from dementia.
So it’s hardly surprising that there are no hard statistics available. And yet, we know it happens – and it’s getting worse.
“Elder abuse is often described as a silent epidemic, not just here in South Africa, but around the world,” explains Tafta CEO, Femada Shamam. According to the World Health Organisation, more than one in 10 older adults may experience some type of abuse, but only one in five cases or fewer are reported.
Abuse can be physical (hurting the old person or neglecting their basic human needs), emotional (humiliating, isolating, intimidating or ignoring them), financial, or sexual.
This year, Tafta is launching the Purple Hearts Campaign, encouraging others to ‘Do the Right Thing’ and report suspected abuse to the Chief Social Worker at the nearest Social Development office or police station. Elder abuse is a crime – and those who attack vulnerable elders need to understand that it will not be tolerated.
[June 9, 2019]
Old age ain’t for sissies, they say. Just think of all the health issues and ailments you might have to deal with as you get older: arthritis, stiffness and joint pain, osteoporosis, failing eyesight and hearing, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and Alzheimers!
But what if the food choices you make now could reduce the risk of developing these conditions? Whilst a healthy diet may not be able to prevent disease entirely, certain foods are power packed with nutrients that have the power to fight common ailments.
Who knew eating a banana could help lower your blood pressure? It’s because they’re packed with potassium, which helps your kidneys get rid of salt through your urine. People who consume plenty of potassium have up to a 27% lower risk of heart disease, and eating bananas 4-6 times a week reduces your risk of developing kidney disease by 50%.
But bananas are not only healthy and easy to digest – they’re also extremely affordable, and one of the most convenient snack foods around. Simply peel and eat. It doesn’t get much easier than that! Caution: avoid ripe bananas if you have Diabetes.
No, it’s not full of bad fat that will send your cholesterol levels soaring. Just the opposite in fact. Pure peanut butter (avoid the brands with added sugar and oil) is a relatively cheap source of protein and contains only 20% carbs. Although it is high in fat, half of those fats are healthy monounsaturated fat, like those found in olive oil. Peanut butter also contains linoleic acid, an essential omega-6 fatty acid abundant in most vegetable oils.
Eating peanut butter causes a very low rise in blood sugar and is a perfect option for people with type 2 diabetes. In fact, one study showed that women who ate peanut butter 5 times a week or more were at a 21% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes (source).
The health benefits of eating garlic are legendary. These include: lowering blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels … stimulating digestion, relieving heartburn and intestinal problems … and providing protection against neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimers.
Add anti-nausea properties – useful for controlling morning sickness or the effects of chemotherapy – and anti-inflammatory properties, which help reduce arthritic, muscle and joint pain, and you’ll see why consuming plenty of garlic is beneficial regardless of your age.
Good news: your chocolate habit might actually be good for you! That’s because dark chocolate is full of antioxidants, that may help prevent heart attacks, lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of stroke. Some studies recommend eating up to 100 grams a day – an entire small slab!
Milk and yoghurt
These are excellent sources of calcium, which helps prevent osteoporosis and brittle bones. If you’re concerned about weight gain, opt for low fat or skim milk varieties. Since our bodies need Vitamin D to absorb calcium, dairy needs to be eaten with foods rich in Vitamin D, such as egg yolk, salmon, tuna or mushrooms.
Another super food, beetroot comes with a powerhouse of health benefits. Low in calories, yet high in valuable vitamins and minerals, beets contain traces of almost all the vitamins and minerals your body needs. Beetroot contains a high concentration of nitrates, which have a blood pressure-lowering effect. This may lead to a reduced risk of heart attacks and stroke, as well as helping to improve mental and cognitive function.
Although more research is needed, one study found that beetroot extract, which is high in betalain pigments, reduced the growth of prostate and breast cancer cells.
Asparagus is full of disease fighting nutrients. Lycopene, for example, can protect against prostate cancer. Vitamin A boosts the immune system and eye health, while the fibre in the vegetable helps reduce cholesterol and contributes to a healthy heart.
[May 20, 2019]
Do you have an elderly friend or relative who’s taking on the challenge of ‘the ultimate human race’ on 9 June 2019? Someone from your running club, perhaps? Or even yourself!
With our commitment to active ageing, Tafta is looking to be inspired by the grandest of the Grandmasters (age 60+) who’s ready to take on the world’s largest and oldest ultra marathon this year. We’d love to find out more about their journey, and the ‘secret’ to staying fit enough to complete the grueling 87 km up run from Durban to Pietermaritzburg.
Nothing epitomises the concept of active ageing quite like Comrades legend, Wally Hayward, who passed away in April 2006. In his prime in the 50s, Wally won the marathon five times.
In 1988, at the age of 79, he completed the race in a time of 9 hours 34 minutes, beating half the finishers! The following year Wally was back for his final Comrades, and still holds the record for the oldest person to have completed the race.
What an inspiration!
Tafta promotes the concept of active ageing, both in the community and within our residences, by providing a number of programmes and activities designed to engage and inspire elders – physically, mentally and socially. Older people who are active, stimulated and involved in the community enjoy a better quality of life and suffer fewer age related illnesses.
We thought it would be a real eye opener to our residents, and many younger people in the community, if we could identify, and follow the progress of the most senior Comrades runner this year.
So please help us find the next Wally Hayward, by sharing this post and get tagging. Let’s all get inspired by active ageing!
[May 9, 2019]