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Weekly Tips & Insights

Trending topics in senior health

Our nurses and aides work with many seniors each month, and continual questions about current health topics arise in conversations. Recent topics include:

- The new Shingrix vaccine

- High blood pressure reduction

- Medication safety requirements

- Osteoporosis developments

Let’s take a closer look at each of these topics to understand what’s the latest and how seniors can improve their health.

Shingrix Vaccine

General Overview:

There have been some new developments in the world of shingles vaccinations. In October 2017, the CDC made the announcement that a new vaccine (Shingrix) would be replacing their previously recommended vaccination (Zostavax) for the prevention of the shingles virus.

What’s the Latest:

Since the announcement by the CDC and the license approval by the Food and Drug Administration, several studies (including 16,600 people) have shown Shingrix is far more effective at preventing the shingles virus. Furthermore, a new study has been released that indicates the body’s immune system reacts to Shingrix in a way that “makes it 90 percent effective at protecting against the virus.”

What to Do Next:

A healthy adult 50 and over should check with their doctor to see if they’re healthy enough to get the Shingrix vaccine. (It's not recommended for people with compromised immune systems.)

People that have already received the Zostavax vaccine can get Shingrix. It’s actually encouraged by most health practitioners.

It’s important to note that Shingrix is given in two doses that are spaced out at least six months apart.

For more information about Shingrix, call VNA at 314.918.7171.

High Blood Pressure Reduction

General Overview:

According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 103 million adults living in the U.S. have high blood pressure. And, high sodium and salt intake have been one of the main contributors to high pressure and hypertension.

What’s the Latest:

Previous studies have concluded that a diet high in fruits and vegetables offset the effects of high sodium on blood pressure, but recent studies have determined that fruits and vegetables are only a part of the solution.

What to Do Next:

In addition to increasing fruit and vegetable intake, older adults can do the following to reduce blood pressure:

  1. Try and eat fresh (processed foods are high in sodium).

  2. Eat home-prepared foods (control salt usage by cooking at home).

  3. Choose low sodium dairy and proteins.

  4. Ask for low sodium options when eating out.

Medication Safety Requirements

General Overview:

Between 60 and 70 percent of Americans are taking at least one prescription medication, and more than 50 percent take two. People 65 and older account for one-third of medication users. So, medication safety practices are important and proper information can reduce misuse-type accidents.

What’s the Latest:

Prescription and over-the-counter medication misuse is on the rise, and there has never been a greater need for better training and oversight. Seniors, or their caregiver(s), must ask questions to health professionals to be properly informed, and a daily consumption routine should be in place.

Below is a list of what seniors and their caregiver(s) can do to limit medication misuse.

What to Do Next:

Pharmacists can answer questions about medications and provide necessary details about new prescriptions. Here are some general medication safety tips:

  • Inform the pharmacist about all prescription and non-prescription medications used, including over-the-counter, herbal, vitamin, and dietary supplements.

  • Tell the pharmacist about any allergies.

  • Ask the pharmacist for the patient information sheet explaining new medication. Ask questions if unsure.

  • Look at the labels carefully when receiving a new medication. If there is information that is unclear, ask the pharmacist.

  • Look at medication label and contents to see if it's a refill. If the medication looks different from existing medicine, tell the pharmacist immediately.

  • Count capsules provided and make sure the number matches the amount indicated on the label – this is especially important with controlled substances such as pain pills.

Osteoporosis Developments

General Overview:

Over 53 million people in the U.S. have osteoporosis or are at-risk of developing it later in life. Although it can occur in people of any age, it’s most common in older adults and more frequently seen in women.

Osteoporosis leaves bones porous and weak. People with osteoporosis are at high-risk of fracturing or breaking bones more so than people with healthy bones. In fact, a woman’s risk of breaking a hip due to osteoporosis is equal to her risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancers combined. And, a man 50 or older is more likely to break a bone due to osteoporosis than he is to get prostate cancer.

What’s the Latest:

Researchers in a recent study have discovered that a higher intake of dairy foods such as milk, yogurt, and cheese is beneficial for vertebral spine strength for men. Unfortunately, there were no benefits seen for women. Still, women can focus on preventing osteoporosis through practicing bone health methods in daily living. Adding calcium to diet, exercising, and kicking bad habits, like alcohol or smoking, can improve bone health.

What to Do Next:

There are a variety of factors that put seniors at-risk for developing osteoporosis. It is important to talk with a healthcare provider about risk factors and develop a plan to protect aging bone health. Below are some common risk factors that indicate a possibility of developing osteoporosis.

Uncontrollable risk factors include:

• Being over age 50

• Being female

• Menopause

• A family history of osteoporosis

• Low body weight/being small and thin

• Broken bones or height loss

How the VNA can help:

Our team provides wellness education or health screenings on several of the issues discussed to organizational workforces in St. Louis. For more information about VNA’s corporate wellness services or vaccination program, please call Tonya Stacy, Director of FLU and Wellness Services at 314.918.7171 or




Heart disease:

Medication safety:


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