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Published on May 24, 2019

Healthy Aging: Staying Physically and Mentally Fit

Healthy AgingIn this Fox 8 House Calls series, Cone Health experts offer tips to stay healthy as we age, including:

Healthy Aging: Help for Aching Shoulder Joints

The shoulder has the greatest mobility of all the joints in the body. As we age, the shoulders become vulnerable to problems and pain that may reduce activity. It’s estimated that there are more than 7.5 million visits for physicians’ offices for shoulder pain annually. The muscles around the shoulder must be properly balanced to provide both mobility and stability. Proper exercise is important to help prevent injury; proper rehabilitation is critical for recovery from injury.

Shoulder arthritis occurs when the cartilage starts wearing down on the ball and/or socket sides of the shoulder joint.

To minimize strain on the shoulder and maximize exercise benefit, perform “pulling” as opposed to “pushing” exercises. Pulling exercises are helpful to minimize pain from shoulder arthritis, as well as other shoulder injuries.

While you’re exercising, keep your elbows below your shoulders and modify your routine if something hurts. Tie a resistance band to a door knob or stationary object and stand to the side, holding the band with your elbow bent and at your side. Keep your elbow close to your side and bring your arm across your body. Slowly return to the start position. Repeat, but rotate your arm outward.

These exercises will help strengthen your rotator cuff muscles and other important muscles around the shoulder. They’re low impact and minimize stress on the joint. A video presentation of a complete set of shoulder exercises can be found here.

Although shoulder replacement surgery is far less common than knee or hip replacement, doctors perform approximately 50,000 shoulder replacements annually in the U.S. That number is expected to double every 7 years as the population ages and individuals stay active longer. Many factors can cause the need for shoulder replacement surgery, with osteoarthritis being the No. 1 reason. The great news is that people who have severe joint disease do not have to suffer through the pain and debilitation. If exercises don’t work for you, your doctor may recommend a shoulder surgery.

Kevin Supple, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon in Greensboro and a member of the Cone Health Medical and Dental Staff. Dr. Supple earned his medical degree at University of Southern California School of Medicine. He completed his general surgery internship and his orthopedic surgery residency at the Jackson Memorial Medical Center of the University of Miami. His specialization is arthroscopic and reconstructive surgery of the shoulder and knee, and total shoulder and reverse shoulder replacements. He is the first physician in Guilford County to receive the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery Subspecialty Certificate in Orthopedic Sports Medicine.

Healthy Aging: Importance of Fitness/Exercise as We Age

As we continue to age, regular exercise has myriad benefits, including:

  • Keeping blood pressure levels in check.
  • Keeping nervous system in check (to help prevent or control Parkinson’s disease and dementia).
  • Having stronger bones, muscles and joints, and lower risk of developing osteoporosis. It has been proven to help prevent muscle and joint injuries, and help you continue to live independently as you age.
  • Building strength and endurance, which are especially important in preventing falls. Also makes recovery much faster in the event of a fall.

Before you start an exercise program, make sure you talk to your primary care provider and/or a physical therapist, who will evaluate your strength, endurance and balance. They can also refer you to a personal trainer or group exercise class.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends individuals participate in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise 5 times a week, and at least 30 minutes of strength training exercise 2 times a week. If someone cannot tolerate exercising for 30+ minutes at a time, they can also find benefit by starting with 5-10 minutes of exercise at a time and working their way up.

Based on your fitness level, a trainer can do things like help you set an appropriate pace and show techniques for strength training. A targeted resistance training program can help those who aren’t independent possibly become independent again.

There are several resources in our community to help seniors with an exercise regimen. Many insurance companies will pay for targeted programs for seniors, like Silver Sneakers. Group exercise classes can also help, not only for motivation but to prevent injury (with an instructor or spotter). Make a plan to be consistent.

Kristen Unger, PT, DPT, is a doctor of physical therapy at Cone Health. She received her Bachelor of Science in human nutrition, foods and exercise, and a Master of Science in clinical exercise physiology/biomedical engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2010 and 2011, respectively. She received her Doctor of Physical Therapy from Elon University in 2015. Dr. Unger also founded the Rockingham County Parkinson’s Disease support group.

Healthy Aging: Don't Forget About Your Mental Health

It is estimated that 20% of people age 55 years or older experience some type of mental health concern, according to the CDC. The most common conditions include anxiety, severe cognitive impairment and mood disorders (such as depression or bipolar disorder). One of the largest reasons is because older adults often suffer the loss of loved ones as they age and depression can develop. Family, friends and caregivers should keep an eye on loved ones who’ve lost someone close to them. Monitor for changes in mood (such as crying a lot), eating and sleeping habits.

If you suffer a loss yourself, try to learn new coping skills that don’t involve medicine to engage in a healthy lifestyle. Don’t give up things you liked to do before you lost your loved one. Discuss all medicines you’re taking with your doctor, as some may have side effects that cause depression.

Seeking treatment from a licensed professional can help you understand your feelings without letting them overwhelm you. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety that are affecting your daily life, you should talk to your primary care provider or seek an evaluation from a behavioral health specialist. There are both medication and non medication options available.

Syed Arfeen, MD is an adult-gero psychiatrist at Cone Health Outpatient Behavioral Health Center, Greensboro and a member of Cone Health Medical Group. He completed medical school at Dow Medical College, his adult residency at Elmhurst Hospital, Mount Sinai New York and geriatric fellowship at NYU Medical Center. He is board certified in adult and geriatric psychiatry.

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