Copper And Iron Alert
Anyone over 50 who takes nutritional supplements may want to consider a brand without iron and copper pending further research into connections between the minerals and a range of age-related diseases.
Although essential, high levels of these trace minerals are associated with many health conditions of older adults, according to researcher George J. Brewer, emeritus professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School. Higher concentrations of copper and iron are found in those with neurodegenerative conditions, atherosclerosis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other chronic health problems.
“Subtle toxicity of copper and iron…may affect most of us as we age,” Brewer says in research published in Chemical Research in Toxicology. The human body needs only minuscule amounts—Health Canada’s Recommended Dietary Allowance is 900 micrograms of copper and eight milligrams of iron per day. But in excess, says Brewer, they contribute to oxidation, which slowly damages the mitochondria, the energy-producing centre in cells, which “may be a major cause of aging.”
At this stage a lot more research, particularly into the role of micronutrients and aging and disease processes, is necessary before regulatory agencies like Health Canada change recommendations on daily intake, says Dr. Mary L’Abbé, University of Toronto nutritional sciences department chair. Are high levels of copper and iron associated with aging a cause of health conditions—or a result of them? Only more research will tell us for sure, she says. Iron is an essential component of red blood cells and low reserves result in anemia; copper is needed for cardiovascular health and “a huge number of enzyme” reactions regulating energy production and normal brain and nervous system function.
But Brewer believes some people may want to act now. Among his suggestions are that those over 50 avoid supplements containing copper and iron and eat less red meat and shellfish.
Since many cases of trace mineral toxicity are found among heavy users of nutritional supplements, “that might be a place for people to look to see they’re not taking too much,” says L’Abbé. But she cautions “I would consider it premature” to make recommendations based on early research.
So, what is the average Joe and Jane to do? “Whether one wishes to be more aggressive is an individual choice,” says Brewer, “partly based upon how one views the risks I have described and after discussion with a doctor.”
Cushioning The Fear Of Falling
A new medical alert device automatically detects falls, allowing for emergency responders to be summoned even if the person who’s fallen is unconscious.
Although small enough to be worn as a pendant discreetly tucked under clothing, the device has sophisticated technology, including sensors to measure altitude, pressure and acceleration, that can tell the difference between the device being dropped and the user falling down.
When dropped, the device “hits the floor at a different speed than if you fall,” says David Doyle, vice-president, marketing, of Philips Consumer Healthcare Solutions, providers of Philips Lifeline Medical Alert Service, one of the partners in the Legion’s Member Benefits Package. It’s a step forward from the traditional alert device, which requires users to press a button to call for help.
The device detects a fall, but also detects recovery. “It waits 30 seconds and if in that period it senses more motion, it decides the person is OK. If the person needs help, they can press the button as they always do,” says Doyle. “But if they don’t recover and don’t press the button it alerts the response centre.” The centre first calls the user and if there’s no response, immediately sends emergency responders.
Quick response is important after a senior falls. In the case of heart attack and stroke, it can make the difference between life and death, but it’s also important to recovery from injuries and success of rehabilitation. Seniors who lie on the floor for a long time awaiting help can develop hypothermia and pneumonia, pressure ulcers or suffer muscle death. Health Canada reports about 20 per cent of injury-related deaths among seniors can be traced back to a fall. About a third of Canadians 65 or older fall each year; the economic burden is estimated at $2.8 billion a year.
Words To Fear?
Fall brings our annual dose of reality as we say farewell to cottages, beach barbecues and lazing about the pool and resume our busy schedules. What better time for a counteractive (or preventive) dose of humour?
Try tossing a few of these words into conversation and observe the reaction (unless you have catagelophobia, the fear of being ridiculed).
Genuphobia: the fear of knees (understandable, if you ever saw my father-in-law in shorts or found yourself under an elephant during a circus act).
Consecotaleophobia: The fear of chopsticks (and you thought your friends just preferred using forks for take-out).
Tarantism: An uncontrollable urge to dance. Also, the effects of the bite of a tarantula, which would also get you dancing.
Scepticemia: I once heard a nurse use this term to describe battling experts, but it could also be used by a patient to describe a doctor doubting reality of a symptom.
Now you can get back to your busy life. Myself, I’m a little tarantic and need to go find some music.
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