Healthy Aging

Ask Well: Assessing Knee Supports

A while back I had gotten lax with my walking routine and found myself quite out of shape. My husband encouraged me to accompany him for a walk one day, and I did. But he was much more ambitious than I was, and we walked so far that when I got home, my right knee was a bit sore. I went to the drugstore and looked at the various knee supports available. I chose one made of neoprene that wrapped around the knee and fastened with Velcro. I wore it for a few days and my knee gradually got better.

Because of this experience I was interested in this column in the New York Times in which Gretchen Reynolds answers the question “How effective is wearing a stabilizing knee support?”

When you say “effective,” I assume that you’re asking how well a knee support can stabilize a wobbly knee or lessen the pain of an arthritic one. The answer, based on a large body of science, is that nobody really knows.

“It’s important, however, to differentiate among the types of knee supports,” she adds. She distinguishes between braces, which include rigid materials that press against the bones of the knee and offer firm external support. Soft neoprene sleeves do not offer the same support but may increase knee stability by improving the wearer’s balance. But, Reynolds says, a 2012 study found that neoprene sleeves offered no significant improvements in balance for people with knee arthritis. There is also no evidence that knee supports worn on healthy knees prevent knee injuries.

Reynolds ends with the advice that if your knees are bothering you, don’t self-diagnose. Go to a doctor, who can diagnose your problem and determine whether a knee support will help.

The knee support I used was not really a sleeve, which is a tube, but one that I could tighten or loosen with the Velcro. I wore the support and avoided any more long walks, and my knee pain did clear up within a few days. Of course the same improvement probably would have occurred whether I had worn the brace of not, but I did think that, at least initially, it lessened my discomfort.

Here’s Why You May Be Aging Faster Than Your Friends

Alice Park discusses recent research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that examined 18 measures of aging in people in their 20s and 30s. The markers studied mirror the biological effects of aging found in older people. The study followed 954 people born in 1972 or 1973 in Dunedin, New Zealand, from age 26 to age 38. The 18 markers measured included blood pressure, lung function, cholesterol, body mass index, and inflammation. On the basis of these measurements, researchers calculated a biological age for each volunteer. They re-examined the study participants again at ages 32 and 38 to calculate the pace at which each person was aging.

Some people were biologically older and aging faster than others, despite being the same chronological age. Not only that, but the researchers showed, by giving the 20- and 30-somethings the same tests of balance and thinking skills that gerontologists give for older adults, that these aging changes were the same as those occurring later in life.

Comparing the data of those aging more quickly with those aging more slowly should suggest some ideas of how to slow down again. Such a testing program can also provide a way to test whether a specific anti-aging treatment works.

Researchers plan to re-evaluate study participants again at age 45 to see if habits such as diet, exercise, and smoking affect the rate of aging.

Exercise can improve brain function in older adults

Here is that E-word again: exercise. New research out of the University of Kansas Medical Center suggests that older adults can improve brain functioning by increasing their fitness level.

Results indicated that aerobic exercise improved brain function, and those who exercised more saw more cognitive benefits. The intensity of the exercise appeared to be more important than the duration, so it’s important to exercise as vigorously as you safely can.

As always, check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

Swindlers Target Older Women on Dating Websites

This article is painful to read but could prevent some heartache. It describes scams that people employ through online dating sites to woo potential victims out of their savings.

Older people are good targets for such scams because they often have accumulated savings over their lifetime. Older women, who outnumber older men, are particularly susceptible.

Just how serious is this problem?

How many people are snared by Internet romance fraud is unclear, but between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2014, nearly 6,000 people registered complaints of such confidence fraud with losses of $82.3 million, according to the federal Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Most of the scams involve online contacts who establish a relationship with a potential victim, then began asking for money to cover situations such as medical emergencies or having their wallet stolen abroad and needing money to travel back home. And one request follows another, often adding up to significant sums:

Victims typically lose $40,000 to $100,000, said Wendy Morgan, chief of the Public Protection Division of the Vermont Attorney General’s Office. The highest reported loss in the state was $213,000.

Read the stories in this article of how people were scammed. Knowing how the process works could help you avoid losing your life’s savings.

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