Selecting a non-medical or medical home care provider for a loved one is an important decision. You want your loved one to have the absolute best care possible, and you want to trust that the care provider you select is reliable, focused on safety, and provides the highest quality of care available.
With so many options available, it can be difficult to make a selection, and you may feel like you have a relatively short amount of time to make such an important decision.
Before you make any decisions, however, you need to know whether your loved one needs non-medical home care or medical home care.
While the concept of medical home care might seem fairly straightforward, you might be wondering, “What is non-medical home care?” Knowing the differences between both types of care will help ensure that your loved one receives exactly the right level of care at the right time, a crucial factor for recovery and quality of life.
It’s especially important to understand the difference because choosing the wrong type of home care could have serious consequences, including:
Increased risk of emergency room visits and hospitalizations
Deteriorating quality of life
Loss of independence
Loneliness, boredom, and depression
Caregivers without the appropriate training or skills can put your loved one at risk
This article will provide you with an understanding of the following:
Medical and non-medical home care
How they are similar and how they are different
What types of services are available
How to determine whether a service might be covered by insurance or Medicare
The benefits of each type of service
Strategies for selecting the right home care provider for your loved one
What Is Medical Home Care?
When people think about home care, they usually imagine medical home care, in which a nurse or rehabilitation professional comes to a person’s home to provide skilled nursing or therapy services.
Medical home care, also called “home health care” or “skilled medical care” is typically provided following hospitalization for a serious injury or illness.
The goal is to allow the person to continue to recover and rehabilitate in the comfort, safety, and familiarity of their own home instead of in a hospital, skilled nursing facility, or rehabilitation facility which are much more expensive, and may also unnecessarily expose the person to infection, or may contribute to depression or delirium.
Medical home care professionals are specifically trained to provide home care services, and medical home care is just as effective as the care found in a hospital or nursing home.
Medical home care includes a variety of different types of medical services, including but not limited to:
Nutritional feeding therapy
Wound care and pressure sore prevention
Medical monitoring following serious illnesses and injuries
Rehabilitative therapy, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy
Education for patients, family caregivers, and loved ones about conditions and treatments
Light housekeeping activities, such as cleaning, dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, and laundry
Assistance with running errands or going to appointments
Respite care for family caregivers
How Are Non-Medical Home Care and Medical Home Care Similar?
Both types of home care are intended to provide the right level of support to the right person at the right time.
Often, non-medical home care and medical home care are provided simultaneously to ensure that the person receiving services can maintain their independence and feel supported while they recover or rehabilitate.
Medical and non-medical home care share many of the same goals as well, with a strong focus on safety, well-being, healing, comfort, quality of life, and aging in place.
How Are Non-Medical Home Care and Medical Home Care Different?
In addition to the key difference of medical services not being provided with non-medical home care, there are other significant differences as well.
Medicare Coverage: One important difference is that medical home care is fully covered by Medicare Part A and Part B, covered by Medicare Advantage plans, and may be covered by private medical insurance, depending on the policy. Because medical services are not provided with non-medical home care, non-medical home care is not covered by Medicare and private medical insurance plans. However, non-medical home care may be covered by long-term care insurance, depending on the policy. People receiving services may also choose to pay privately for services.
Length of Care: Another important difference is in how long the services are intended to be provided. Medical home care is intended to be temporary, and services will be reduced as the person meets their recovery and rehabilitation goals. On the other hand, non-medical home care usually provides long-term support, offering flexibility and customization as the person’s needs change.
What are the benefits of home care?
According to a survey run by McKinsey and Company, hundreds of billions of dollars in care services are expected to move to home care by 2025.
Why is this?
Care within the home setting has many benefits for the people receiving it, including:
Better quality of life
More holistic patient- and family-centered care
Greater opportunities for customization to the person’s needs
Greater affordability, especially compared to hospital stays and skilled nursing facilities
How Much Do Medical and Non-Medical Home Care Cost?
The cost for both types of home care can vary greatly depending on the person’s needs, the types of services they are receiving, how frequently they are receiving these services, and a number of other factors.
Medical home care (skilled nursing and therapy services) is fully covered by Medicare, which means a person with Medicare Part A and Part B will have no out-of-pocket costs for their care.
Non-medical home care is typically paid for out of pocket, with costs generally starting around $26/hour, depending on the state you live in, the services being provided, and the number of individuals in the home who need support services.
According to Aging.com, the most expensive states for non-medical home care are North Dakota, Alaska, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Rhode Island while the least expensive are Louisiana, West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi.
In some cases, non-medical home care may include overnight care to provide assistance with transferring or toileting or to prevent a person with dementia from wandering and injuring themself.
How to Find Non-Medical and Medical Home Care
If your loved one is transitioning to medical home care following hospitalization, the hospital may provide a referral to a home care organization they work with.
Non-medical care providers may also be licensed to provide medical on skilled home care. Keeping services under one company facilitates better care coordination and communication.
Patients have the right to select the health care provider of their choice. Medical facilities are required to offer choices. In Florida, Medicare-certified home health agency quality and patient satisfaction ratings can be found at medicare.gov.
When you pay out of pocket for your medical home care—or you are deciding on a non-medical home care provider, you will have a much wider range of options. If your loved one is being discharged from a hospital, you can discuss these options and ask for recommendations during discharge planning.
If your loved one was not in the hospital, you may want to check with their primary care provider for a recommendation.
And if these options are not available, an internet search will provide you with a wealth of options; just be sure to check the Agency for Healthcare Administration website to verify that providers are licensed, accredited, and qualified to provide the type of support needed.
Now that you have a better understanding of medical and non-medical home care, you are better equipped to assist your loved one in finding precisely the right type of care to meet their needs.
Whether your loved one is on the road to recovery and needs skilled medical care to help them regain their independence or they need long-term support, companionship, and assistance with daily living, you can confidently discuss options and make a selection that will help your loved one stay safe and healthy and maintain a good quality of life.
A Care Connection is an AHCA Licensed Nurse Registry. A Care Connection Home Health is a Medicare-certified home health agency licensed by AHCA and accredited by the Joint Commission.
Companion/Homemaker companies are not permitted to provide hands-on personal care services.
Diabetes and cholesterol are two conditions that often go hand-in-hand. High cholesterol can be a cause of diabetes and vice versa. That’s why it’s so important to control both conditions through diet. There are certain foods to avoid if you have high cholesterol or diabetes, or both.
In this article, we will talk about what is diabetes, what is cholesterol, and foods to avoid if you have high cholesterol and diabetes.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition where the body does not produce enough insulin or does not properly use the insulin it produces. Insulin allows the body to utilize sugar, starches, and other food for the energy needed daily.
There are three main types of diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
With type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin.
People who have type 1 diabetes should take insulin injections every day to stay alive. Failure to do so can lead to a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis, which can be fatal if left untreated.
The cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown. It is believed to be an autoimmune disorder, which means the body’s immune system destroys the body’s insulin-producing cells found in the pancreas.
Type 2 Diabetes
In type 2 diabetes, the body does not produce or use insulin properly.
People with type 2 diabetes can improve their condition by losing weight, exercising, and following a healthy diet. Some people with type 2 diabetes also need to take insulin injections.
The cause of type 2 diabetes is also unknown, but it is believed to be the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Obesity and lack of exercise are two of the most important risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes.
Some women have high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. This condition is called gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes normally goes away once the baby is born, but women who have had it are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
Gestational diabetes is caused by hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. These changes can lead to insulin resistance, which is when the body does not use insulin properly.
The symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are often the same. They include:
Sores that do not heal
Slow-healing cuts and bruises
Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
A doctor can diagnose diabetes by doing a blood test called a fasting blood sugar test or a hemoglobin A1c test. This type of test measures the level of sugar in your blood once you have fasted in a span of at least eight hours. The test measures your blood sugar level for the previous two to three months.
There is no cure for diabetes, but it can be managed. People with type 1 diabetes are required to take daily insulin injections in order to stay alive.
People with type 2 diabetes can improve their condition by losing weight, exercising, and following a healthy diet. Some people with type 2 diabetes also need to take insulin injections.
Gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born, but women who have had it are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a type of fat found in your blood. Your body needs cholesterol to make hormones and build cell walls, but excessive amounts of cholesterol can lead to heart disease.
There are two types of cholesterol. One is the “good” cholesterol, called HDL, which helps remove the “bad” cholesterol from your blood. The other is LDL, the “bad” cholesterol that may build up in your body’s arteries and cause blockages.
High cholesterol doesn’t usually cause any symptoms, so you might not know you have it. A simple blood test can tell you if your cholesterol levels are high. Once you know your numbers, you and your doctor can work together to make lifestyle changes and, if necessary, start cholesterol-lowering medication.
Aside from a healthy diet, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight are also important in managing cholesterol and diabetes.
It’s also important to visit your doctor regularly to monitor your cholesterol and blood sugar levels and make sure you are doing everything you can to manage your condition. You should take a proactive approach to your health, ensuring that you are doing everything you can to stay healthy and avoid complications.
If your LDL cholesterol is 100 mg/dL or more, it’s time to take action. Even if your LDL cholesterol is lower than 100, you may still be at risk for heart disease and stroke. That’s why it’s important to know your numbers and talk to your doctor about your risk.
Your total cholesterol level is the sum of your LDL, HDL, and a type of cholesterol called triglycerides. Triglycerides are the main form of fat in food and are also found in your blood.
Your cholesterol levels are affected by the following factors:
Diet is one of the most important things you can control. Eating foods that are low in saturated and trans fats can help lower your LDL cholesterol.
Animal products such as butter, red meat, and cheese contain saturated fats. Processed foods such as crackers, cookies, and cakes often contain trans fats.
You can also raise your HDL cholesterol by eating foods that contain soluble fiber, such as oatmeal and beans. Soluble fiber can also help lower your LDL cholesterol.
Exercising and Losing Weight
Exercise is another important way to raise your HDL cholesterol and lower your LDL cholesterol. Even 30 minutes of moderate exercise — like walking — most days of the week can make a significant difference. If you have heart disease or are at risk for it, your doctor may recommend more strenuous exercise.
Losing weight can also help lower your LDL cholesterol and raise your HDL cholesterol. Even a small weight loss of 10 to 20 pounds can make a difference. If these lifestyle changes aren’t enough, your doctor may advise you to take medication to help lower your cholesterol. The most common type of medication is statin.
Top 8 Foods to Avoid If You Have High Cholesterol and Diabetes
Trans fats are even worse for your cholesterol levels than saturated fats. Trans fats can be found in foods like margarine, vegetable shortening, and some types of cooking oil. They can also be found in many processed foods, so make sure to check the labels before you buy anything.
2. Foods High in Saturated Fats
Saturated fats can raise your LDL cholesterol and make it harder for your body to process insulin. Foods high in saturated fat include red meat, whole milk, butter, cheese, and ice cream. Make sure to avoid foods that are fried or foods that have been processed with hydrogenated oils.
3. Eggs, Shrimp, Lobster
Cholesterol is a type of fat found in foods like eggs, shrimp, and lobster. Too much cholesterol can increase your LDL cholesterol levels and make it harder for your body to process insulin. Make sure to check with your doctor before you eat foods high in cholesterol.
Eating too much sugar can raise your blood sugar levels and make it harder for your body to process insulin. Foods high in sugar include candy, cookies, cake, and soda. You should also avoid foods that have a lot of added sugar, such as some breakfast cereals and fruit juices.
Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure, which can be dangerous for people with diabetes. Foods high in salt include processed foods, canned soup, and fast food. Make sure to check the labels on foods before you buy them, and try to avoid foods that have more than 2% of their daily value for sodium.
6. Foods With Refined Carbohydrates
Refined carbohydrates are foods that have been processed and had fiber and other nutrients removed. Examples of refined carbohydrates include white bread, white rice, and pasta made with white flour. These foods can raise your blood sugar levels quickly, so it’s best to avoid them if you have diabetes.
Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood sugar levels and make it harder for your body to process insulin. If you have diabetes, it’s important to talk to your doctor about how much alcohol is safe for you to drink. Most of the time, it’s best to avoid alcohol altogether.
8. Coffee, Tea, Soda
Caffeine can raise your blood pressure and make it harder for your body to process insulin. Foods and drinks that are high in caffeine include coffee, tea, energy drinks, and soda. If you have diabetes, it’s important to talk to your doctor about how much caffeine is safe for you to consume.
By avoiding these foods, you can help keep your cholesterol and blood sugar levels under control. This will help you stay healthy and avoid complications from high cholesterol or diabetes.
What Are the Best Foods to Eat if You Have High Cholesterol?
The best foods for high cholesterol are foods that are low in saturated and trans fats, as well as foods that are high in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and plant sterols. Foods to eat include:
Having high cholesterol and diabetes can be difficult to manage, but making small changes in your diet can make a big difference. Avoiding foods that are high in cholesterol and sugar can help you keep your levels under control.
By following a healthy diet and exercising regularly, you can live a long and healthy life even with these conditions.
Heart disease is the top cause of death for both women and men in the U.S. Meanwhile, the amount of people globally who’ve been diagnosed with diabetes is continuing to grow year after year. So how does diabetes affect the heart? What do these two facts have to do with each other?
It’s simple: if you have diabetes, your chances of having heart disease double.
Moreover, you’re more likely than a non-diabetic to get heart disease at a younger age. That heart disease risk only grows the longer you have diabetes. People with diabetes also have greater chances of having particular risk factors for heart disease, like high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
This doesn’t mean, however, that, as a person with diabetes, you can’t still protect the health of your heart. Managing your blood sugar levels is certainly a major part of it, but it’s not all you can do; there are actually many proactive steps you can take to lower your risk of heart disease as someone with diabetes.
By understanding how diabetes affects the heart, you can start making small but significant changes to certain lifestyle habits that both lower your risk of heart disease and help better manage your diabetes.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic health condition affecting the body’s ability to produce or effectively utilize insulin to transform food into energy. When the body breaks down food, it releases glucose, or sugar, into the bloodstream. The pancreas, then, produces insulin and releases it into the bloodstream to transport that blood sugar into the various cells of the body to use as energy.
When diabetes interferes with the body’s ability to properly make or use insulin, cells cease to respond to insulin causing an excess of blood sugar to remain in the bloodstream. This can lead to severe medical concerns over time, like kidney disease, vision loss, and–yes–heart disease.
Around 30 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, eight million of whom have yet to be diagnosed with the condition. What’s more, 86 million more Americans present signs of prediabetes.
What Is Heart Disease?
Heart disease is a term for a variety of problems affecting the heart. Similarly, the term cardiovascular disease is just a broader and more generalized term that includes heart disease but also refers to other related medical problems and conditions like blood vessel disease and stroke.
While heart failure is certainly serious, it does not mean your heart has ceased beating; rather, it means the heart is unable to pump blood sufficiently well. As a result, your legs can start swelling and your lungs can start building up fluid.
This, in turn, can make it more difficult to breathe. Typically, heart failure worsens over time; however, with early diagnosis and prompt and proper treatment, you can alleviate some of the symptoms of heart failure and halt or impede the condition from worsening any further.
People who have diabetes also have a greater likelihood of having heart disease and heart failure.
How Does Diabetes Affect the Heart?
High blood sugar from diabetes can harm your blood vessels and the nerves controlling your heart. As time goes on, this can result in heart disease.
Adult diabetics have almost twice the likelihood of developing heart disease or having a stroke as adult non-diabetics.
Diabetics are also prone to developing heart disease at younger ages than non-diabetics. Meanwhile, cardiovascular disease is responsible for two of every three deaths in those with type 2 diabetes.
A diabetic’s heart muscle does not heal as fast or fully after a heart attack as the heart muscle of a non-diabetic person. The danger of complications like heart failure is also notably higher in people with diabetes than in those without it.
What Causes Heart Disease in People With Diabetes?
Diabetes can cause the heart muscle to stiffen, and it can damage blood vessels. Ultimately, this can result in difficulties like retaining fluid and potential heart failure.
Diabetics have a greater likelihood of having other conditions in addition to diabetes that increase heart disease risk even further.
Some of these primary conditions caused by, associated with, or co-occurring with diabetes that are also risk factors for heart disease include:
High blood pressure – High blood pressure raises the force with which blood flows through your arteries, posing a risk of damaging arterial walls.
High LDL – Too much of this type of cholesterol commonly known as “bad cholesterol” can cause plaque to develop on already damaged arterial walls.
High triglycerides / Low HDL – Medical experts now widely believe that too much of this kind of fat in the blood along with low levels of HDL cholesterol, or what’s commonly called “good cholesterol” can be a risk factor for the hardening of the arteries.
Having any one of these conditions along with diabetes elevates your risk of developing heart disease; having more than one of these conditions and diabetes only exacerbates that risk all the more.
Because there are no noticeable symptoms of these conditions, the only way you can find out if you have any of them is by making sure your doctor regularly tests your cholesterol and triglyceride levels and either having your doctor check your blood pressure or getting an at-home blood pressure monitor and checking it periodically yourself.
Diabetes and Coronary Artery Disease
The most common type of cardiovascular disease is coronary artery disease. It results from plaque buildup in the blood vessels supplying blood and oxygen to the blood, known as coronary arteries.
When this happens, it interferes with the proper flow of blood to and from the heart. Specifically, plaque is composed of deposits of cholesterol that narrow the arteries and reduce blood flow, a process known as atherosclerosis or, more commonly, hardening of the arteries. When the blood flow to the brain reduces, the result can be a stroke.
Those with diabetes have greater chances of acquiring premature accelerated coronary artery disease. Compared to non-diabetic patients, the arterial walls of diabetics have greater fatty deposits and start hardening sooner and without much warning.
This makes treatment for the condition challenging and can lead it to progress quicker than it otherwise, ordinarily might. As a result, diabetics have greater chances of recurring heart attacks and heart muscle tissue scarring. These, in turn, increase the danger of sudden cardiac death.
You can also experience hardening of the arteries in other places in the body. One of the first indications that someone with diabetes is suffering from cardiovascular disease, in fact, is the hardening of the arteries in the feet and legs, known as peripheral arterial disease, or PAD.
Other Risk Factors for Heart Disease?
Many lifestyle factors also increase one’s risk of heart disease, whether you have diabetes or not. For that matter, these lifestyle factors increase the risk of the above-named conditions that also pose heart disease risk factors.
Being obese or overweight
Getting insufficient physical activity
A diet high in trans fats, saturated fats, salt (sodium), and cholesterol
Smoking or using smokeless tobacco products like snuff, dip or chewing tobacco
Excessive alcohol consumption
How to Lower the Risk of Heart Disease
The fortunate news for people with diabetes is that the very same actions you take to manage your diabetes help reduce your odds of developing heart disease or having a stroke as well.
As such, the lifestyle changes listed below can both help reduce your heart disease risk (or, if you already have heart disease, keep it from advancing) and aid you in managing your diabetes.
Eat a healthy and balanced diet – This includes more fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains and lean proteins, and fewer sweets, fast foods, trans fats, and processed foods. Drink more water and less alcohol and sugary beverages.
Make efforts to achieve your healthy weight – If you’re not sure what your exact healthy weight is, ask your physician.
Get more active – Physical activity doesn’t just help with your weight; it also helps your body to make better use of insulin and reduces your risk of heart disease.
Manage your stress – Stress can lead to unhealthy habits and behaviors; practice deep breathing and other relaxation exercises and seek support from trusted family and friends and/or a professional mental health counselor.
Keep tabs on your numbers – In addition to monitoring your blood sugar, also track your blood pressure and cholesterol levels (both good and bad.)
While early detection is one of the best ways to defend yourself from the threats of heart disease, late detection can be detrimental. This is particularly dangerous for people with diabetes who may not notice the chest discomfort or pain that often alerts people to a problem with their heart due to the nerve damage diabetes can cause.
This can mean a person with diabetes does not have their heart disease diagnosed until it’s already advanced to the point at which their treatment options are fewer. The lack of adequate warning signs can also lead to what’s known as a “silent heart attack.”
How to Treat Heart Disease If You Have Diabetes
Treatment for both heart disease and diabetes generally includes taking medications to keep the conditions and their respective symptoms under control. Among the medications your doctor prescribes may include those to help regulate your blood pressure, blood sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels.
Finding the right treatment options for you can help reduce what side effects you may experience from treatment and make it easier for you to comply with and adhere to your treatment protocols.
In addition to medical treatment interventions, the same steps you can take to help prevent and reduce the risk of heart disease can also help to control both illnesses.
What is National Diabetes Heart Connection Day?
Thanks to a U.S. senate resolution that passed with a unanimous vote, November 9, has been declared National Diabetes Heart Health Awareness Day.
On this day, first recognized in 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services, in cooperation with heart health and diabetes care experts around the country, ramps up efforts to educate the public on the symptoms, treatment, and risks of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, including how does diabetes affect the heart.
In addition to raising awareness, medical experts and government officials work to coordinate efforts to encourage federally funded efforts, including actions and education, to address cardiovascular disease and diabetes both individually and in regard to their comorbidity.
Manage Your Diabetes, Protect Your Heart
When examining the question: “How does diabetes affect your heart?”, the answer reveals a web of interconnections in which protecting and caring for one helps you protect and care for the other.
Managing your diabetes helps you prevent heart disease, and taking steps to protect your heart from heart disease helps you to manage your diabetes. By the same token, a failure to take care of your heart health or manage your diabetes can lead to problems with both.
While diabetes and heart disease are both chronic and incurable conditions, new scientific advances and therapeutic options available can help reduce the danger of you developing heart issues.
With the right guidance and assistance from your cardiovascular and diabetes care teams and experts, you can proceed with living a healthy and productive life unimpeded by heart disease or diabetes.
Sometimes, you can smell the smoke of cigarettes hours, days, or even years after snubbing them out. This happens especially if someone smoked regularly in a room for prolonged periods of time. This is called thirdhand smoke.
Even though you aren’t directly inhaling any smoke, this lingering presence can still be harmful to your health.
Too many people willingly expose themselves to thirdhand smoke without understanding the risks it can pose.
So what is thirdhand smoke? What dangers does it pose? How can you keep yourself and your loved ones safe?
We’ll cover this and more below.
What Is Thirdhand Smoke?
Thirdhand smoke is the combination of tobacco smoke particles and gasses that stay in the air and on surfaces long after someone extinguishes a cigarette.
This residue sticks to walls, hair, clothes, carpets, and just about anything else it comes into contact with. Over time, these toxins can build up to dangerous levels, especially in enclosed spaces like homes and cars.
People with persistent lung disease and seniors are also at a higher risk of health issues related to thirdhand smoke.
Though most people are aware of the dangers of first and secondhand smoke exposure, thirdhand smoke is still relatively unknown. However, that is changing.
There are a number of organizations working to raise awareness about the dangers of thirdhand smoke and ways to protect yourself from it. The goal is to educate as many people as possible about the risks of thirdhand smoke exposure so that they can take steps to protect themselves and their families.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched a public education campaign called “Tips from Former Smokers,” which features real-life stories from people who have been affected by tobacco use. The CDC also provides resources for smoking cessation and protecting others from secondhand and thirdhand smoke exposure.
In addition, a number of state and local governments have passed laws restricting smoking in public places, which protects non-smokers from exposure to thirdhand smoke.
What Is the Difference Between Second Hand Smoke and Thirdhand Smoke?
It’s commonly known that the smoke exhaled by smokers or produced by the lit end of a cigarette can be harmful to others. If someone inhales the smoke from another’s cigarette, this is called “secondhand smoke”. It poses the same health risks as smoking directly. This type of smoke can linger in the air for hours, exposing non-smokers to its harmful chemicals.
While many believe secondhand smoke to be a mild threat at most, it causes more than 41,000 adult deaths and 400 infant deaths each year. This is because it contains 7,000+ chemicals, at least 70 of which are known to be carcinogenic.
Thirdhand smoke, however, is the residue left behind by tobacco smoke that clings to surfaces like walls, hair, clothes, and carpets. This residue contains the same harmful chemicals as secondhand smoke, and they can be inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or accidentally ingested.
The bottom line is that you should avoid both types of smoke as they can be dangerous to your health. Whether you smoke or not, it’s important to be aware of the risks and take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your family
Unfortunately, 22% of infants and children in the United States live in homes where there is regular exposure to thirdhand smoke, putting them at increased risk of developing respiratory infections. Infants, children, and the elderly are at heightened risk of developing respiratory problems due to thirdhand smoke exposure.
Thirdhand smoke has also been linked to other health risks, such as:
Blood clots: Thirdhand smoke exposure can damage platelets for developing babies, which can lead to serious health problems like heart attacks and strokes.
Slow wound healing: People who are exposed to thirdhand smoke have a prolonged and more difficult time healing from wounds.
There is mounting evidence that thirdhand smoke is especially dangerous in elderly care facilities; even if caregivers smoke outside the facility, the residue from tobacco can come inside on their clothing, hair, and skin, exposing patients to harmful toxins.
It’s also worth noting that thirdhand smoke is tough to remove. Even if you air out your home or car, and wash your clothes, the residue from tobacco smoke may still be present
Sometimes, the only way to truly get rid of it is to repaint walls or replace contaminated materials, like carpeting, upholstery, and drapes. This can be extremely costly, not to mention time-consuming.
How Can You Protect Yourself?
Thirdhand smoke exposure still happens even when you don’t smoke. So how do you protect yourself from it?
Avoid places where people smoke: Including hotels, bars, and vehicles where you have no control over whether or not people smoke.
Don’t allow smoking in your home or car: This is especially important if you have young children or elderly family members who are more susceptible to the harmful effects of thirdhand smoke.
Choose non-smoking restaurants: When dining out, choose non-smoking establishments or, if available, sit in the non-smoking section.
Wash and disinfect your hands and clothes: If you’ve been in a place where people smoke, be sure to wash your hands and clothes to remove any residue that might still be on them.
Deep clean your carpets and upholstery: Use a deep-cleaning method, like steam cleaning, to remove thirdhand smoke from carpets and upholstery. You can also hire a professional cleaning service to thoroughly clean and disinfect your home.
Seek medical attention if you experience health problems: If you start feeling sick after exposure to thirdhand smoke, see a doctor immediately.
While there is no way to completely protect yourself from thirdhand smoke, following these tips can reduce your exposure.
So, there you have it: everything you need to know about thirdhand smoke. This is important information to know so you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family.
Although research into the risks associated with thirdhand smoke is still ongoing, it is abundantly clear that it’s dangerous.
Knowing the harmful effects of thirdhand smoke allows you to take steps to protect yourself and your family.
In this article, you will learn what causes balance issues, particularly in older adults, some of the most common balance issues older adults face, how to recognize when someone has balance issues and what to do about them to avoid falls, and the dangers they pose to health and safety.
Understanding Balance Issues
How you walk changes as you age. Your gait, stride, and other mobility factors can be affected by an array of both medical and lifestyle factors. After 50 years of age, balance issues can worsen when going from sitting to standing, walking around, or moving the head up and down or side-to-side.
If you experience balance issues that start negatively impacting your life, contact your doctor immediately.
What Is the Vestibular System?
The vestibular system, or the organ of balance, is a sensory system that provides the brain with information about spatial orientation, motion, and head position. It plays a pivotal role in motor functions that enable the body to maintain balance and posture and stabilize the body and head during movement. It is therefore an essential system for maintaining equilibrium and normal movement.
The ear is an intricate system of cartilage and bone. The vestibular system is located in the inner ear and is composed of three semicircular canals and two organs all filled with fluid.
Each of the semicircular canals is involved with a different motion of the head:
Moving up and down
Turning left and right
Tilting side to side
The two organs, or otolith organs, are similarly involved with the sense of acceleration and deceleration.
As you move, the fluid in the semicircular canals and otolith organs changes position. Lining the inner walls of these canals and organs are tiny hairs that act as sensors, detecting these movements of fluid over them.
These sensors then relay that information over nerves to the brain, thereby helping produce your sense of balance.
How Does the Vestibular System Affect Balance?
When the brain receives signals from the sensors in the ear, it processes that information, then relays it to the muscles, joints, eyes, and other organs that use it to understand the position your body is in.
By communicating the same information to all the involved body parts, the brain maintains a sense of balance. However, when certain circumstances send contradictory messages through the vestibular system to the brain (such as while sitting still in an airplane in rapid motion), it can throw off your sense of balance.
What Causes Balance Issues in Older Adults?
Your ability to stay steady on your feet can become compromised by a range of factors, including:
Weakened muscles – Particularly core muscles.
Inner ear issues – The labyrinth is the part of the inner ear responsible for balance; when it gets inflamed, causing a condition known as labyrinthitis, imbalance and vertigo can result. (labyrinthitis can also be caused by certain infections and ear diseases.)
Certain medications – If you discover any balance issues while taking any medications, inform your doctor right away; you may be able to safely reduce the dosage you’re taking, a different medication may be available for you to take instead or the doctor may have suggestions to offer of ways to reduce those undesired effects. Such medications include antidepressants, tranquilizers, sedatives, anti-seizure drugs, and blood pressure medications that could cause your blood pressure to drop too low.
An illness, injury, chronic medical condition, or disorder – Such as stroke, heart disease, diabetes, or issues involving your nerves, vision, blood vessels, or thyroid.
Alcohol – When there’s alcohol in the bloodstream, it can affect how the inner ear works, possibly leading to dizziness and other balance issues.
Each of these potential answers to what causes balance issues in older adults increases in likelihood as you grow older, thereby increasing your risk of falling due to one of these causes as you age.
Some balance issues develop slowly and progressively over time, while others happen suddenly and seemingly without cause.
What Are the Symptoms of Balance Issues?
As you lose your balance, there are a variety of related symptoms you may experience, such as nausea, dizziness, or unsteadiness. How you feel while losing your balance could differ significantly from how someone else feels when it happens to them.
Some people describe feeling like they’re spinning despite that they’re actually standing still (otherwise known as vertigo, a type of vestibular balance disorder); others say it feels like they’re floating. Upon losing your balance, whatever symptoms you may feel could last from several minutes to several days.
Other symptoms of possible balance issues include:
Falling or feeling like you are about to fall
Staggering as you attempt to walk
Feeling faint or lightheaded
Changes in blood pressure or heart rate
Feeling anxious, afraid, or panicked
Nausea or vomiting
Symptoms may be intermittent and only last for short periods or they may be chronic and lasting, ultimately leading to possible depression or fatigue.
Speak with your doctor if you notice you’re having any of these symptoms, as any one of them can increase your risk of falling, tripping, and experiencing an injury. It can interfere with your life and give you anxiety.
Symptoms Demanding Emergency Attention
Certain symptoms of possible balance issues could constitute an emergency requiring immediate medical attention, including:
Sudden, debilitating headache
Tightness or pain in the chest
Numbness in the arms, legs, or face
Rapid or irregular heartbeat
Trouble catching your breath
Sudden differences in speech patterns
Disorientation or confusion
Common Balance Problems
There are many different types of balance problems an older adult might experience. Below are several of the most common. If you or an older adult you know experiences any of these symptoms or conditions, seek medical aid immediately.
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
Most common in people over the age of 60, BPPV is a disturbance of the inner ear that could be due to an ear infection, head injury, or simply the process of aging, among other possible causes. It is marked by extreme vertigo while moving the head. It can even happen when rolling over in bed.
A common sign of this disease is a feeling of “fullness” in the ear. Other symptoms may include vertigo, tinnitus (or a ringing in the ears), and periodic, intermittent loss of hearing.
Labyrinthitis is an inner ear condition marked by inflammation and infection. It can often be traced to a case of flu.
Vestibular Balance Disorders
These are problems associated with the sensors in the inner ear that detect the position of the fluid in the ear canals and report this information to the brain in order to help establish a sense of balance.
Various chronic conditions can lead to balance issues. For instance, eye problems can make it harder to maintain your balance.
In addition, long-term medical conditions affecting the nervous system–such as Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease–can also impair balance. Heart problems, arthritis, and certain medicines older adults may take for a chronic illness can contribute to unsteadiness as well.
Ramsay Hunt Syndrome
Shingles is a skin condition produced by a virus to which older adults may be more vulnerable.
When the shingles virus affects facial nerves close to the ear, it causes a condition called Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. Among the symptoms of this syndrome is vertigo accompanied by hearing loss and ear pain.
Why Do Balance Issues Affect Older Adults?
Losing balance can be a symptom of some other health conditions, many of which occur more commonly as a person’s body changes with age. Any of the health conditions that follow could lead to balance issues.
Sudden changes in blood pressure
Low iron levels
Low blood sugar
Are There Any Treatments for Balance Issues
You can help alleviate some balance disorders with exercises involving moving the body and head in particular ways. A physical therapist or other healthcare professionals who understand what causes balance issues in older adults and how they relate to other bodily systems can help you devise the exercise program that can best address your balance issues.
For example, to treat balance problems occurring due to high blood pressure, eat less sodium (salt,) exercise, and maintain a healthy weight. To treat those caused by low blood pressure, drink more water, avoid alcohol and be particularly cognizant of your body movement and posture (like avoiding standing up too fast.)
Before making any changes in your activity level or diet, consult your physician first.
How to Identify Balance Issues
By answering a few pertinent questions, you can help determine whether or not a balance issue exists, specifically:
Do you feel like you’re moving even though you know you’re actually sitting still or standing?
Do you feel dizzy or like the room is spinning around you, even if only periodically and briefly?
Do you get blurry vision?
Do you feel unsteady?
Do you feel like you’re falling?
Do you lose your balance and fall?
If your answer to any of these questions was yes, then you may want to discuss with your doctor whether you have any balance issues or risk factors for balance issues and, if so, what to do about it.
How to Cope With Balance Issues
You may not always be able to completely relieve a balance issue, in which case you have to cope with it. With the help of a vestibular rehabilitation therapist, you can devise a customized treatment plan.
To prevent falls, start by closely examining the older adult’s home environment. Is the home an older one with more than one set of stairs and/or poor lighting? Follow these guidelines to make corrections as necessary in order to reduce the risk of falls.
Discuss with your doctor all the potential side effects and interactions of the medications you’re taking.
Use night lights, secure carpeting to the floors, and install grab bars in the bathroom.
When standing, do it slowly to avoid getting dizzy.
Perform balance and strength exercises.
Regularly have your hearing and vision checked.
If you require greater stability, use a walker or cane.
Balance issues can result from a number of different factors, many of which are more common among older adults.
If you believe you may have issues with your balance or have concerns that another condition or symptom you’re experiencing may lead to problems with your balance, call your doctor to set up a visit as soon as possible.
You may be referred to an otolaryngologist, a doctor specially trained in problems involving the neck, head, ear, nose, and throat.