The Best Of…Healthy Attitude, Lifestyle Are Likely Keys to Living Past 100

Published October 29, 2001, Pawtucket Times 

             Just a couple of days past her birthday on July 18, 2001, Henrietta Bruce, who was officially recognized as Rhode Island’s oldest woman, passed away at the ripe old age of 110.  Born in Barbados, West Indies in 1891, Bruce, one of 10 children, would later move to New Jersey and finally to the Ocean State. Ultimately she married in 1921, had a son who lived into his 80s, and in later life because very active in the Evangelical Convenant Church in East Providence.

           “She was cognitive right up to her 110th birthday,” says Judy Riendeau, activity coordinator at Bay Tower Nursing Center, in Providence, fondly remembering Bruce’s ‘sassy personality.”  As to her longevity, Bruce did not attribute it to good nutrition, regular exercise or genetics, Rindeau notes.  When asked how she lived so long, the nursing facility resident would respond “Only by the grace of God.”

           According to the year 2000 U.S. Census report released last month, there is a rapid growth among America’s centenarians.  Bruce was one of 50,45 persons age 100 and over last year, and their ranks increased about 35 percent from a decade ago, said Lisa Hetzel, statistician at the U.S. Census Bureau. As to Rhode Island, Hetzel notes that today there are 278 centenarians, up 43 percent from 1990.

           Why are more people living past age 100?  According to writer John F. Lauerman, who with Drs. Thomas Perls and Margery Silver of the New England Centenarian Study at the Harvard Medical School Division on Aging, co-authored the book, “Living to 100,” a pcture is emerging of the typical centenarian.

            Lauerman, the health care writer for the Springfield Union-News, says that people in the oldest age group tend to remain physically and mentally healthy as well as emotionally stable.  Most importantly, centenarians tend to come from families in which long lives are common.

            In “Living to 100,” based on Perls and Silver’s New England Centenarian Study, Lauerman notes that a good attitude is one key to living longer. “Centenarians rarely consider their age as a limitation,” he says, noting that they take advantage of the opportunity for longevity afforded to them by their genes.

           Certain genes may be key to whether a person reaches age 100 and over, “but don’t thwart them,” warns Lauerman.  Good health practices are key to maximizing your life, he says.

           In addition, exercise resistance training, is an important factor for maintaining strength and muscle, notes Lauerman.  It can also can reduce your risk for heart, disease and increase your sense of well-being, he adds.

          Lauerman also recommends that you keep your mind active and investigate new challenges.  Take advantage of new opportunities like second careers, volunteering, learning to play musical instrucments, writing or even traveling, he urges.  Humor, meditation and low-impact exercise like the Chinese discipline of tai chi may also help get rid of stress.

          As to nutrition, increase your portions of vegetables and fruits, minimize meat, saturated and hydrogenated fats, and sweets.  Also, eat  moderately and supplement your diet with the antioxidants vitamin E (400-800 international units (IU daily) and selenium (100-200 micrograms daily).

         Making these changes doesn’t necessarily guarantee becoming a centenarian, Lauerman says, but they will allow you to llive longer and healthier, which is what centenarians do.  Research reveals that one of the most interesting things about centenarians is that most of the unhealthy portion of their lives is packed into the last few years, he adds, noting that they seldom spend many years in an unhealthy state before death.

         Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues. This article was published in the October 29, 2001 issue of the Pawtucket Times.

The Best of…Lifestyle Change is Effective Way to Fight Cancer

Published October 22, 2001

           Although cancer deaths in Rhode Island are among the highest in the nation, we ultimately do have control to reduce the incidence of this devastating disease, say state health experts.

           According to John Fulton, associate director of the Rhode Island’s Department of Health, cancer-related deaths last year in the Ocean State topped 2,500.  With its urban setting, Rhode Island’s listing as one of the top 10 states for cancer death was not a surprising to Fulton.  In an urban setting, he says a person’s lifestyle might include an unbalanced diet, little physical exercise, use of tobacco and a heavier use of alcohol, all contributing factors to the state having the higher incidence of cancer.

          Seniors can take more control of their health and well-being to reduce the probability of being afflicted with cancer.  By just avoiding many of the high-risk factors for cancer and by living a healthier lifestyle, or through early detection by screening and treatment, Rhode Islanders of all ages can stave off or successfully survive cancer’s devastating effects, says Fulton.

          He recommends all older persons schedule a check up every year with their primary care physician. Balanced diets are important, too, he says especially with meals including large portions of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Don’t forget regular physical activity, such as walking for at least 20 to 30 minutes.  At annual checkups, always ask your physician if it’s time for your mammogram, pap test, or sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.  Finally, do not use any type of tobacco because it causes at least four out of 10 cancers in Rhode Island.

           Being diagnosed with cancer does not always translate into a death sentence, says Dr. Arvin S. Glicksman, who serves as the executive director of the Rhode Island Cancer Council.  The private nonprofit group, funded by the Rhode Island General Assembly, serves as an information and referral source for those needing cancer-related information, along with providing educational programming to the public and health care professionals.

         “Breast cancer incidence is much higher for women age 65 and over than for younger women,” he states. “While 80 percent of women of all ages get      mammograms, less than 50 percent of those age 65 and over have regular mammograms.”

         “When detected earl breast cancer is over 90 percent curable,” Glicksman says.  But somehow older woman do not avail themselves of this important test, even with Medicare paying  for the annual mammograms in women age 65 and over and with 45 mammography centers located throughout the state, he adds.

       According to Dr. Glicksman, colorectal cancer kills more men and women in Rhode Island than either breast cancer or prostate cancer.  Again, preventative screening is important because even if early cancer has already developed , it is 90 percent curable too, if caught early,” he adds.

       “With testing we do for cervix cancer and colon rectum cancer we can actually detect the problems before the cells become cancerous,” Dr. Glicksman says.  “In these cancers we are actually preventing the cancer before it even starts by removing precancerous lesions.”

          Meanwhile, only a few of the 39 municipalities in Rhode Island have created Cancer Task Forces to bring cancer-related educational, screening programs and activities to their residents.

          “The City of Pawtucket has the most well-developed program,” Glicksman says.  Recognizing the important of early preventative screenings, he notes that the city allowed all full-time employees up to four hours of paid time away from work for one preventative cancer screening appointment performed by a licensed physician.  Those requiring additional time for cancer screenings are allowed to use their sick time for this purpose.

         No miraculous wonder drugs or startling medical techniques are necessary to combat cancer, Dr. Glicksman states.  The cancer care rate can rise to more than 75 percent by using the medical techniques, treatments and medications now available, combined with early prevention screenings and lifestyle changes.

        Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based  freelance writer covering aging, health care and medical issues. The article was published in the October 22, 2001 issue of the Pawtucket Times.  He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

The Best Of…Invest Wisely With Hard-Earned Income

Published October 8, 2001, Pawtucket Times

             With the news of the latest Federal Reserve rate cuts, stocks soared with investors showing new optimism in the stock market.  The Dow Jones industrial average has spiraled up above 9,000 for the first time since the horrific terrorist attack more than three weeks ago.  With this latest rally on Wall Street, elderly investors might be more easily influenced by scam artists to invest their hard-earned income in buying stocks, bonds, and other securities.

             According to the state’s Securities Division of the Department of Business Regulation (DBR), charged with investigating financial scams, its staff has examined hundreds of complaints filed against stockbrokers and investment advisors.

           Some complaints can be resolved quickly, others are more complicated to tackle and take more time to resolve,states David Briden, DBR’s chief securities examiner.  For instance last April DBR entered a consent order against Alpha Telecom, Inc. and ATC, Inc.

             These two companies promoted the sale of pay telephone investments to Rhode Island residents.  State regulators noted that the  high risks of this investment were not fully disclosed to the 50 Rhode Islanders, some of them elderly, who had invested approximately $960,000.  Under the terms of the order the two companies paid a penalty of $50,000 to the state.  This represented the largest administrative penalty in a pay telephone case nationwide.

           Additionally, Alpha Telecom, Inc. and ATC, Inc. were ordered to offer a full refund to the Rhode Island investors.  DBR went to Superior Court to enforce the terms of the consent order.

          In August 2001 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced that the U.S. District Court of Oregon granted a temporary restraining order and froze the assets of the two companies.  Meanwhile, in that month these companies had filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.  At press time, the investors are still waiting for their money to be returned.

           So how can you protect yourself against financial scams?   Don’t get reeled in by a “cold call,” touting an investment that is guaranteed to make you lots of money, warns Briden.  Especially if you have never dealt with the caller, “simply tell them you are not interested and hang up,” he says.

           “Always get written information before making any investment decision,” Briden says.  Even meet with the broker at his or her office so you get to know them and to see the firm, he suggests.

           There’s a problem if the caller can’t produce written material. According to Briden, the old adage there is no free lunch really applies to making investments, too. Don’t be conned into making a quick investment decision when high pressure sales tactics are used, Briden says, adding that any investor should “Beware of any promise made that the investment will result in quick profits or extremely high returns.  Be concerned if your told ‘Act on it now or it will be too late,” he says.

           Meanwhile, a check can be a receipt of your investment. “Never invest cash,” Briden adds, stressing that a person should never send a check to someone at a firm you know nothing about.

            Become an educated investor when considering the investment of your money. “It is important that you understand the costs (commissions, fees and penalties) to the investment,” Briden says.  “Always find out the risk involved in your investment.  Never make an assumption that the investment is federally insured or guaranteed.”

              If you suspect that you have been a victim of investment fraud, contact the State of Rhode island, Department of Business Regulation Securities Division, Suite 232, 233 Richmond Street, Providence, RI 02903, or call (401) 222-3048.

            Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer who writes about aging, health care and medical issues.