Live Life On Your Own Terms ®

As a health predictor, how does BMI measure up?

bmi2Not very well, according to Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet, the Belgian mathematician who devised the Body Mass Index in 1832.

Quetelet himself declared that he developed it to give a snapshot of a whole population’s overall health, to help governments determine where to allocate health resources – not to measure an individual person’s health, as is all-too-common medical practice today.

Assessing a person’s overall state of health based on BMI can ignore many important health factors which vary from one person to the next: age, sex, genetics, fat mass, fat distribution, muscle mass, and bone density, to name a few. It also ignores other, important, health measurements, such as cholesterol, blood sugar, heart rate, blood pressure, inflammation levels, lifestyle, and medical history.

Now hospitals are starting to make house calls

house callsThis past August, I wrote about how COVID workarounds like remote working, telemedicine, and online grocery shopping and other services would continue to improve seniors’ lives long after the pandemic ended. Back then, I never realized that post-acute hospital care at home would be another.

But it is. It’s not yet available in Richmond, or even Virginia. But Johns Hopkins University’s had a hospital at home (HaH) model since 1994. The Mayo Clinic is pilot-testing HaH. Some Veterans Administration medical centers have implemented it, as have Presbyterian Healthcare Systems in Albuquerque, Tufts Medical Center in Boston, Adventist Health Partners in southern California, and hospitals in Australia, Canada, England and Israel. 

Who’d have thought this could be a way to stave off dementia?

dementia 2The Lancet Commission report on dementia I wrote about last week named factors that could prevent the onset of dementia or delay its progression.

One of those – protecting your head from traumatic brain injury – is so obvious it’s (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun) a no-brainer.

So, too, is a lifetime of learning, from childhood education through college, mentally demanding work, and mentally stimulating activities from crossword puzzles to playing music to travel to social contact to learning a second language.

Five more – physical activity, controlling your weight, managing blood pressure and diabetes, and limiting alcohol – are also good for your cardiovascular system, and there’s a link between dementia and your vascular system.

Two of them – stopping smoking and avoiding air pollution – may seem like a bit of a stretch, but both smoking and dirty air can put damaging air particulates into your vascular system.

Don’t fall victim to these 7 myths about dementia.

dementia myths 1A 2020 report from the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention and Care (UK) says that between now and 2050, the number of people living with dementia will more than triple, from 50 to 152 million worldwide.

In a way, that’s good news. Dementia is mainly a disease of old age, and the main cause of the increase is that more people are living longer. But old age isn’t the only cause, which brings us to our first dementia myth.

Myth #1: Only old people get dementia. There are different forms of dementia, which can strike at different ages. People with one form, called young-onset Alzheimer’s, can develop symptoms in their late 50s. Another, frontotemporal dementia, can strike as early as age 40.

Millions may be doing the right thing for the wrong reason

doing the right thingThroughout last year, thanks to rumors of vitamin D warding off coronavirus infection, many, many more Americans started taking it – enough to increase vitamin D supplement sales by 41½% compared to 2019, according to Nielsen data. 

It turns out, though, that the rumors were probably just that – rumors unsupported by any clinical data so far.

National Institutes of Health statistics show that older adults and also people who are obese (40.8% of adults age 65 to 74) have been disproportionately susceptible to the coronavirus. But vitamin D deficiency may be more of a coincidence than a connection.

“We do know that people who have lower blood levels of vitamin D tend to have a higher risk of being infected with covid,” says Professor JoAnn Manson of Harvard Medical School, “But as we say in epidemiology, ‘Correlation doesn’t prove causation.’ We don’t know for sure that the low vitamin D level is causing an increased risk…”