3 posts categorized "Pfizer Lunch & Learn"

March 9, 2015

An Ounce of Prevention: The Truth About Alzheimer's and Dementia

Accessing healthcare is complicated for many people, but LGBT older adults face a specific set of concerns and challenges. For example, according to SAGE’s new report, Out & Visible, 40% of LGBT people in their 60’s and 70’s say their healthcare providers don’t know their sexual orientations—which can lead to poorer health outcomes.

SAGE and Pfizer recently collaborated to help improve the health of LGBT older people with a series of “Lunch and Learn” events. Our most recent event featured Matt Kudish of the New York City Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. Read the interview and check out our fact sheet to learn more!

2.27.15 Matt Kudish Alz.
Matt Kudish addresses the crowd at SAGE

 

Thanks for taking the time to help educate SAGE participants, Matt! It seems like there are some serious misconceptions about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Can you help clarify the difference between the two, for starters? 

Dementia is actually not a disease. Dementia is an umbrella term that talks about a group of symptoms. It's a term used to describe a state of mind where a person is experiencing changes in their memory, thinking, behavior and physical functioning. There are approximately 100 causes of dementia.  Alzheimer's disease is one cause of dementia. Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain that causes brain cells to die. The death of the brain cells it what causes the dementia. So the two are clearly related, but they're not at all the same thing. If someone has Alzheimer's disease, they are experiencing dementia. But if someone is experiencing dementia, the cause may be Alzheimer's or it could be roughly 99 other things. 

At what age do we begin to see more instances of dementia and Alzheimer’s? Or does the onset of these conditions usually happen at different ages? 

The greatest risk factor for developing Alzheimer's is aging, so as we age our risk increases. Today, it is estimated that 1 out of every 9 people over the age of 65 is living with Alzheimer. For every decade after 65 the prevalence doubles, so that when we talk about people 85 and over, we're talking about 1 out of every 3 people living with Alzheimer's. Those figures, however, can lead people to think that Alzheimer's disease is just what happens as we get older.  That could not be further from the truth.   Yes, the disease tends to affect older adults more than younger adults, but Alzheimer's is a disease.  It is not normal aging. If one out of three over the age of 85 have Alzheimer's, 2 out of 3 do not.   

There are cases of younger-onset Alzheimer's, which is when the disease affects someone younger than 65. In some very rare cases the cause is genetics, but genetic Alzheimer's represents only about 1% of people with the disease. It is extremely rare. 

How are LGBT people impacted by, or more vulnerable to, these diseases in particular? Is there a gender disparity in instances of these disease?

In terms of prevalence, being LGBT has no bearing on risk. Frankly, everyone is at risk. If you have a brain, you're at risk for developing Alzheimer's disease.  

We do see more women with the disease than men.   We believe this is largely because women live longer than men.

There are some ethnic groups that are at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's. African Americans and Latinos are twice as likely and one and a half times as likely, respectively, than Caucasians to develop the disease. We believe this is due to the increased risk among these groups of other health issues such as diabetes and hypertension, which also increase ones risk for Alzheimer's. It's important to realize, though, that an increase in risk is not deterministic, meaning that just because your risk is increased does not mean you will develop the disease.        

What are some simple, more manageable preventative measures you might recommend?

Much more research needs to take place in the area of prevention. Currently there is nothing we can do that will, with certainty, prevent the disease. There are things, however, that can reduce one's risk. Heart health is brain health. Anything that is good for the heart is also good for the brain, we should exercise, eat right, and not smoke. It's also important that we keep our brains active and engaged, and challenge ourselves to learn new things. And I mean really challenge yourself! If you speak three languages, don't learn a fourth. Maybe you'll want to learn to play an instrument. Challenging our brains allows new pathways for information to be created which can be helpful.  

Are there any exciting new treatments or findings about these diseases that we should be aware of?

This is an enormous area of research right now, both in the US and across the world. There are many potentially exciting things being looked at. 

The diagnostics have evolved significantly over the last few years, and that's very helpful to the research. Scientists are now starting to look at pre-symptomatic individuals who are likely to develop the disease and exploring what, if any, existing interventions may play a preventive role.  We are learning more and more every day about the disease, and its underlying cause. 

It's important that we become good consumers of information. Be discerning with what you hear and read about foods and supplements. Make sure that the evidence supports your choices so that you are making informed choices. There's a lot of misinformation among the good information and it's important that we pay attention to make sure we know the difference.   

-- Posted by Kira Garcia

November 26, 2014

An Ounce of Prevention: Getting Smart About Heart Health

6thingscardiovascular-1 copyAccessing healthcare is complicated for many people, but LGBT older adults face a specific set of concerns and challenges. For example, according to SAGE’s new report, Out & Visible, 40% of LGBT people in their 60’s and 70’s say their healthcare providers don’t know their sexual orientations—which can lead to poorer health outcomes.

SAGE and Pfizer are collaborating to help improve the health of LGBT older people with a series of “Lunch and Learn” events at the SAGE Center. A recent event focused on Cardiovascular Disease—the number one cause of death in our country. After the event, we chatted with presenter Robbins Gottlock, a family medicine physician who treats both adults and children. Read the interview, and check out our online fact sheet, to learn more!

Thanks for taking the time to talk and to share your wisdom with SAGE, Robbins! What are some of the misconceptions about cardiovascular disease?
Because cardiovascular disease can be a silent killer, many people don’t take it as seriously as they should. And when they finally do take it seriously, they fear it’s too late. I’m here to say it’s never too late. Anyone can make immediate meaningful reductions to their risk of cardiovascular disease. Seize the moment and stop smoking, start exercising, and lose weight. Treat your blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol. Check with your doctor about other positive changes you can make.

At what age do we begin to see more instances of cardiovascular disease?
Cardiovascular disease starts even in adolescence with trace cholesterol buildup in the arteries. The amount of damage increases over time and is proportional to a person’s risk factors including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, smoking, alcohol and drug use, and depression. Some people with multiple risk factors start showing signs and symptoms of cardiovascular disease at a very early age such as their forties. The average person might have problematic cardiovascular disease in their sixties. Ultimately, cardiovascular disease is the top killer of people in our country.

How are LGBT people impacted by, or more vulnerable to, these diseases in particular?
Unfortunately, as LGBT people, we have higher rates of smoking, alcohol and substance use, obesity, and depression. These lifestyle factors predispose us to cardiovascular disease. Moreover, as a group that has suffered from ongoing discrimination, we haven’t traditionally had as much access to healthcare.

Let’s say you have a patient who’s finding it hard to take the steps needed to help prevent these diseases—what are some simple, more manageable preventative measures you might recommend?
Weight loss is very important but not always very easy. However, even losing 5-10% of a person’s body weight can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Therefore, I’d encourage people to take simple steps now to lose weight—go for a daily walk around the block or cut out one unhealthy snack a day. Beyond losing weight, make sure you are up to date with routine screenings for high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and cholesterol.

Are there any exciting new treatments or findings about these diseases that we should be aware of?
Last year new guidelines were released that help patients and their doctors quantify a person’s risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. The guidelines suggest when and how to treat people to reduce their risk. Speak with your doctor about how these guidelines can apply to you.

Thank you Robbins! This has been so educational.

 

--Posted by Kira Garcia

October 23, 2014

An Ounce of Prevention: Why Adult Vaccinations Are Important

AdultVaccinations_flyer-1Accessing healthcare is complicated for many people, but LGBT older adults face a specific set of concerns and challenges. For example, according to SAGE’s new report, Out & Visible, 40% of LGBT people in their 60’s and 70’s say their healthcare providers don’t know their sexual orientations—which can lead to poorer health outcomes.

SAGE and Pfizer are collaborating to help improve the health of LGBT older people with a series of “Lunch and Learn” events at the SAGE Center. Our debut event focused on Adult Vaccinations—a critical component to staying healthy. After the event, we chatted with presenter Chris Nguyen, Pharm.D., a pharmacist with Duane Reade specializing in assisting HIV and Hepatitis C patients. Read the interview, and check out our online fact sheet, to learn more!

Thanks for taking the time to talk, Chris! Your presentation prompted a lot of great questions, which was so encouraging. Can we start by talking about why adult vaccinations aren’t as commonly understood as those given to children, and what we can do to change that?

Well, I think we don’t talk about it much in the media because it’s not sensational—Ebola is more sensational! If you are a doctor you’re mostly talking about vaccines to people in the risk groups. It should have more coverage than it does.

Some people don’t believe in vaccinations—there are misconceptions. Your personal belief can be rooted in fact or misconception, so actually convincing the patient is a factor as well.

Big pharmacies help get the word out and they get the communities involved, but even so we need more education along with the promotion -- besides the flu shot because that happens every year. Pharmacists can educate individual patients on the vaccines appropriate for them.

You outlined four key reasons why adult vaccinations are critical, in your presentation. Can you share them?

Well, first, vaccines help prevent morbidity associated with the disease. In some cases these diseases can actually be fatal.

Second, to prevent outbreaks. We don’t have measles and mumps epidemics anymore because we have vaccines. Meningitis is a great example of this, especially among men who have sex with men.

 

Third, it costs much less to prevent a disease than to treat it.

Fourth, to protect the people around you and not just you. If you don’t believe in vaccines, think about the people you love.

Most people are aware of the flu shot, but what are some lesser-known important vaccines?

The meningitis vaccine is an important one recommended to certain populations, particularly men who have sex with men. But one of the most important that’s recommended across the board is the pneumonia vaccine. A new recommendation was released last month which says that people 65+, irregardless of your immune function status or chronic health conditions, should get both available types of vaccine for this disease—Prevnar and Pneumovax.

People who are under 65 and not immunocompromised but have chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or are smokers, should get just one type of the vaccine for pneumonia—the pneumovax.

What are some special considerations for LGBT older people in terms of getting vaccinated?

As you get older, your immune system will wane. As an LGBT person, you may be at higher risk for some things. For sexually active MSM, the Hepatitis A & B vaccines would be good, as well as the vaccine for meningitis.

LGBT older people have to deal with certain social issues, too, which may reduce adequate access to care, which makes them more vulnerable.