Shoulder Injury (Rotator Cuff Tears)

By Jeannette Franks, PhD

Sometimes I wish I could take my body in for repairs just like I take my car to a mechanic to get new parts. "New battery or headlights-no problem!" But while wecanreplace more and more parts of the human body, some areas are less amenable to repairs and yet more subject to breakdown, particularly the knees and shoulders. Rotator cuff tears are one of the most common injuries in older people.

My own shoulder injury happened while hiking uphill on a rugged trail, fully-loaded with a heavy backpack. I grabbed a tree to keep from falling when I slipped, and although I broke my fall, my shoulder has not worked well since. It can happen to older people of all levels of fitness.


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Hearing Loss and Seniors

Hearing Loss Defined

Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting older adults. Roughly one-third of Americans 65 to 74 years of age and 47% of those 75 and older have hearing loss.

People with hearing loss find it difficult to talk with friends and family. They may also have trouble understanding a doctor's advice, responding to warnings, and hearing doorbells and alarms.

Hearing loss comes in many forms. It can range from a mild loss in which a person misses certain high-pitched sounds, such as the voices of women and children, to a total loss of hearing. It can be hereditary or it can result from disease, trauma, certain medications, or long-term exposure to loud noise.

There are two general categories of hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear or the auditory nerve. This type of hearing loss is permanent.


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Foot Health Information

Medicine and health awareness have progressed so rapidly since 1900 that life expectancy of the average American has increased by about 30 years. Older persons have become an increasingly significant proportion of our total population-and their numbers are growing rapidly. In 1900, for example, there were three million Americans aged 65 or older. In the year 2000, older people outnumber children for the first time in history. 

If older people are to live useful, satisfying lives, they must be able to move about. Mobility is a vital ingredient of the independence that is cherished by our aging population, and foot ailments make it difficult or impossible for them to work or to participate in social activities. 

According to the US National Center for Health Statistics, impairment of the lower extremities is a leading cause of activity limitation in older people. As if foot problems weren't enough of a nuisance, they can also lead to knee, hip, and lower back pain that undermine mobility just as effectively. The NCHS says one-fourth of all nursing home patients cannot walk at all and another one-sixth can walk only with assistance.


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Arthritis Information

"Arthritis" is not just a word doctors use when they talk about painful, stiff joints. In fact, there are many kinds of arthritis, each with different symptoms and treatments. Most types of arthritis are chronic. That means they can go on for a long period of time. 

Arthritis can attack joints in almost any part of the body. Some forms of arthritis cause changes you can see and feel-swelling, warmth, and redness in your joints. In some the pain and swelling last only a short time, but are very bad. Other types cause less troublesome symptoms, but still slowly damage your joints.


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Recovery from a Stroke

For Pedro Antaran, an 83-year-old Seattle resident, the stroke came in the morning, with little warning. After waking up to make coffee, he noticed that his right leg felt different than usual. "I felt that my leg was heavy, and I could not lift it," he recalls. "I thought in my mind that maybe this was a stroke." He asked his wife to call 911-and soon afterward was at the hospital.

Antaran's fast reaction helped ensure an early intervention to the stroke, which in turn has aided his remarkably short recovery from stroke. He still suffers from some minimal neurological effects (he sometimes has difficulty recalling the name of objects, for instance). But less than four months after his stroke, Antaran is already living at home, walking without a cane, and traveling throughout Seattle by bus.

Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control. Commonly caused by a blood clot, a stroke is a vascular accident to the brain, where the brain is deprived of adequate blood flow and oxygen. Without early intervention, the lack of blood flow and oxygen results in cell death within the brain. Depending on which area of brain tissue is affected, a stroke can have serious effects on speech, cognitive abilities, and basic motor skills.

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