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DALLAS–Music is something many of us can relate to—it helps us reminisce, express ourselves, and it can provide comfort and a much-needed distraction. For these reasons and more, music therapy is an integral piece for those navigating life’s final passage and for their grieving family members.

Jennefer Dixon is a music therapist for Faith Presbyterian Hospice (FPH), and she witnesses the benefits of music therapy every day. She visits patients in their homes Monday through Friday, patients at the T. Boone Pickens Hospice and Palliative Care Center on Wednesdays, and she provides the music during Faith Kids and Camp Faith. Each situation is unique, and her techniques vary to accommodate the needs of patients and/or loved ones.

“Music therapy is the use of music and musical activities to care for patients and their families who are experiencing physical or emotional setbacks,” said Dixon. “I visit many of my patients in their homes. One patient really enjoys when I play older songs like ‘Clementine’ and ‘Home on the Range’ because her husband used to sing them to her, and they would sing them in the car with their kids when traveling on family road trips. The songs help her reminisce and recall happy moments she shared with her family. Another woman is a retired music teacher who sang in the opera. She lost her speech and ability to communicate—but listening to music still brings her a lot of joy. She lights up when I come to visit, and I’ve noticed certain songs like ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ really enhance her mood.”

Full article at Senior Living News

For decades, scientists have known that Alzheimer’s disease is accompanied by the buildup of clumps of amyloid protein between brain cells. Could these plaques be causing the disease?

That’s been a prevailing theory driving Alzheimer’s research for years. But a new study suggests the strategy could be wrong.

Researchers reporting Dec. 30 in the journal Neurology have found that early declines in memory and thinking seen in Alzheimer’s patients tend to occur before amyloid plaques begin to appear in the brain, not after.

Full article at US News

Two mornings a week, a van arrives at the Escondido, Calif., home of Mario Perez and takes him to a new senior center in this northern San Diego County town, where he eats a hot lunch, plays cards and gets physical therapy to help restore the balance he lost after breaking both legs in a fall.

If he wants, he can shower, get his hair cut or have his teeth cleaned. Those twice-weekly visits are the highlights of the week for Perez, a 65-year-old retired mechanic who has diabetes and is legally blind.

“The people here are very human, very nice,” he said. “I’m gonna’ ask for three days a week.”

Full story at News-Medical

An unhealthy diet is one of the leading risk factors for poor health, accounting for up to 45 percent of all deaths from cardiometabolic diseases (CMD), such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. But the national economic burden of unhealthy diet habits remains unknown. A new study by investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in collaboration with investigators at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, analyzed the impact of 10 dietary factors — including consumption of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, processed meats and more — and estimated the annual CMD costs of suboptimal diet habits. The team concludes that suboptimal diet costs approximately $300 per person, or $50 billion nationally, accounting for 18 percent of all heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes costs in the country. The team’s findings are published in PLOS Medicine.

“There is a lot to be gained in terms of reducing risk and cost associated with heart disease, stroke and diabetes by making relatively simple changes to one’s diet,” said corresponding author Thomas Gaziano, MD, MSc, of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Brigham. “Our study indicates that the foods we purchase at the grocery store can have a big impact. I was surprised to see a reduction of as much as 20 percent of the costs associated with these cardiometabolic diseases.”

Full story at Science Daily

Scientists recently discovered an unexpected role for a protein they associate with premature aging. They showed that it is a master regulator of cellular senescence and argue its loss leads to normal aging.

Aging is an inevitable part of our lives. But an increasingly aging population poses public health challenges.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of people in the United States aged 65 years and older will reach around 71 million in the next 10 years.

But what actually happens when we age? Scientists are working on a number of theories.

Full story at Medical News Today

A leukemia drug may have cleared another hurdle as a potential treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

But critics say it’s still not clear whether the drug, nilotinib (brand name Tasigna), is truly safe or effective for this use.

In a study of 75 people with Parkinson’s, nilotinib appeared to improve quality of life and boost the chemical dopamine, a team from Georgetown University Medical Center reported Monday in JAMA Neurology.

“We are seeing signals that this may be a potential treatment for our Parkinson’s disease patients,” says Dr. Fernando Pagan, director of the medical center’s movement disorders program.

Full story at NPR

Do you feel like you know why you’re here?

The answer to that question could determine how you feel day-to-day.

If you’ve found meaning in your life, you’re more likely to be both physically and mentally healthy, a new study reports.

On the other hand, people restlessly searching for meaning in their life are more likely to have worse mental well-being, with their struggle to find purpose negatively affecting their mood, social relationships, psychological health, and ability to think and reason.

“We found presence of meaning was associated with better physical functioning and better mental functioning,” said senior study author Dr. Dilip Jeste. He is senior associate dean for the Center for Healthy Aging at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine.

Full story at US News

Despite media stories about a “loneliness epidemic” plaguing the elderly, two new studies find that they feel no more lonely than their peers from past generations.

The studies — one in the United States, one in the Netherlands — reached the same basic conclusion: Yes, people tend to feel more lonely after age 75 or so. But today’s older adults are no more likely to feel isolated or lacking in companionship than previous generations.

In fact, the Dutch study found, older people may now be somewhat less lonely because they tend to have more self-confidence and feelings of control over their lives.

Full story at US News

Taking a baby aspirin every day to prevent a heart attack or stroke should no longer be recommended to patients who haven’t already experienced one of these events.

That’s according to a new study published in Family Practice.

Nearly one-quarter of Americans over the age of 40 have reported taking aspirin daily even if they don’t have a history of heart disease or stroke.

That’s a problem, says study author University of Georgia researcher Mark Ebell.

As a physician and epidemiologist at UGA’s College of Public Health, Ebell’s work evaluates the evidence underpinning clinical practice and health behaviors. The current recommendation for taking aspirin as the primary form of heart attack or stroke prevention is limited to adults aged 50 to 69 who have an increased cardiovascular risk.

Full story at Science Daily

Anne Firmender, 74, was working with her psychologist to come up with a list of her positive attributes.

“I cook for others,” said Ms. Firmender.

“It’s giving,” encouraged the psychologist, Dimitris Kiosses.

“Good kids,” continued Ms. Firmender, who has four grown children and four grandchildren.

“And great mother,” added Dr. Kiosses. Ms. Firmender smiled.

Dr. Kiosses typed up the list and handed a printout to Ms. Firmender to take home. “When you’re feeling down and hard on yourself, you can remind yourself of your strengths,” he told her.

Full story at New York Times