Lifestyle Medicine – Part V Get a pet for healthy living
When my friend Michael, only in his 40’s, lost his wife to cancer, he didn’t know what to do. It was as though life had come to an end and he couldn’t get out of the depression. That was when he decided to adopt a puppy from the animal shelter. Now, after a few years, the pup has grown into an adorable dog and has become his trusted companion and protector. Every morning, Michael goes jogging along with his companion and, as he says, “With him beside me, the half hour of jogging goes quickly, no boredom. Thanks to him, I get my daily exercise. He is my life-saver and I will be lost without him.”
Pet owning and pet parenting has a lot of benefits. In fact, studies have shown that “Senior pet-owners are healthier than their ‘pet-less’ counterparts. I see many of my elderly neighbors walking their dogs along our country road and they often stop to chat with me. This has dual advantage; you get the daily exercise you need, plus improve social connections by engaging with others. The presence of a pet animal such as a dog or cat – interacting, talking or playing with them – will reduce your blood pressure and heart rate. Birds like parrots and parakeets are also wonderful family pets because of their naturally affectionate behavior and playful disposition. When I go to the local park, I see often dogs running up to fetch the Frisbee or a stick for their owner giving the latter endless entertainment and pleasure. From a physiological standpoint, this also “produces mood enhancing hormones like serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin.”
Generally, people with pets, especially dogs, tend to have wider social connections and friendship circles. Taking your pet to the vets and groomers, interacting with people at the dog park and meetings with other pet owners, are just a few ways to enhance your social circle. One day, I asked one of my elderly patients who live alone, “Don’t you feel lonely at times?” And he said, “As long as my Buster (his pet dog) is with me, I don’t have any worries. We have bonded well. My grandchildren love him. When he is around, I don’t feel anxious or tense. He is an excellent companion.” I could see the feeling of contentment in his eyes. “So, that’s why he is keeping well, in spite of his many medical problems,” I said to myself. Loneliness is often a problem for the elderly, especially in the U.S. as I wrote in my last column and, an animal companion like a dog will certainly assure that you’re never lonely. There is a non-profit organization called, “Pets for the Elderly” whose main goal is to find a suitable pet for these people to adopt and, experience the joy and positive health benefits of bonding with a loving animal friend. And ‘Pets for the Elderly’ has dog shelters in almost every state and ‘they facilitate almost 5,000 to 6,000 adoptions per year.’
Now, there are other ways pets like dogs can be useful to us. Cancer detection in humans is one. Apparently, cancers leave specific odors in a person’s body and bodily secretions, called odor signatures. And you already know, dogs have a highly developed sense of smell, and research suggests some can detect the odor signatures of many cancers like that of breast, colon and rectum, lung, prostate, breast and even melanoma by just sniffing people's skin, bodily fluids or breath! This could prove useful in the medical world. You also have heard about Border patrol/Customs officers partnering with highly trained sniffer dogs who specialize in detecting “illegal drugs, explosives, suspicious foods or even large amounts of cash.”
People ask me, “What are the best pets for an older person?” Although there is a wide variety of choices, the best pet is the one who needs less maintenance, gives you good company and raises your spirit and energy. Cats and dogs are the commonest pets in houses but could be a bird like parakeet or small animals like bunnies.
To be continued …
M.P. Ravindra Nathan, M.D., is a cardiologist and Emeritus Editor of AAPI Journal. For further reading, “Second Chance - A Sister’s Act of Love” by Dr. Nathan from Outskirts Press, can be found at www.amazon.com
Think SMALL, See BIG! FDA Approves another New Lens Implant for Cataract Surgery
The United States FDA has approved IC-8 Apthera IOL for the treatment of cataracts. With over 24 million people in the U.S. alone affected by cataracts (blurriness of vision due to the aging of the natural lens), this lens implant adds one more choice to the ever-expanding range of premium lens implant technologies that patients can select during cataract surgery.
I like to explain this lens technology with an analogy of a camera where a smaller aperture brings about a pinhole effect of what is called small aperture optics. This allows a greater depth of vision, including extended range of clear vision at distance and near.
Many cataract patients still select basic monofocal lens implants over premium lens technology for their cataract surgery due to either cost issues or lack of knowledge and sometimes even limited choices offered by certain practices. While basic monofocal lenses can provide acceptable vision outcomes in simple cases, there is always a compromise at distance or near vision.
There are many firsts to this lens technology – the first small aperture Intraocular Lens implant (IOL) to receive FDA approval; implantation with a monofocal or monofocal toric (astigmatism correcting) IOL in the fellow eye; extended depth of focus lens indicated for monovision (where one eye sees at distance and the other, up close); and non-toric IOL indicated for cataract patients with low amounts of corneal astigmatism.
As discussed in my previous columns (KhaasBaat), there are many premium lenses that also correct reading vision along with distance vision. Examples include multifocal lenses, accommodative, pseudo- accommodative, extended depth of focus, bifocal, trifocal, X wave technology including post-surgical, light adjustable lenses. Many of the presbyopia-correcting lens designs have complex optics that split, shift or stretch light to provide clear vision at more than one discrete focal point.
In contrast, this lens implant, with its proprietary small aperture technology, seamlessly provides excellent distance vision as well as clear intermediate and near vision, effectively mitigating in most cases the effects of presbyopia (reading glasses).
Now, as you can imagine, a technology that focuses only on the central rays of light that come in through the clear, central corneal portion while avoiding the peripheral cornea, may decrease the visual field of vision for that patient, which may be especially detrimental during low light conditions like nighttime driving.
Additionally, this lens should not be used in people with macular degeneration or retinal problems as once again comparing it to a camera, if the film of the camera is bad and you decrease the aperture, you are now bringing the rays of light to a damaged part of the retina (film).
I continue to share my experience with eye surgeons using advanced technology, including new generation premium lens implants where we are able to correct vision at most distances in cataract patients who may have had previous refractive surgeries (Lasik, PRK, SMILE, Radial Keratotomy, etc.) or have distorted or damaged corneas (corneal scars, irregular astigmatism), that make measurability of the lens implant less accurate. But this technology should surely include patients whose cornea is so distorted that it's nearly immeasurable, especially in cases of corneal scars, extreme keratoconus, multiple incisional radial keratotomy, Lasik, PRK or Smile complications.
Because in these cases, the ability to measure an accurate lens implant power (which depends on the measurability of the cornea) is so reduced and inaccurate that this lens implant, which enhances the pinhole effect, may be the only option for clear and sustainable vision. That is as opposed to a corneal transplant in association or staged with cataract surgery.
So, in summary, I personally feel the new lens implant technology, though another step forward in the ever-expanding choices of premium lens implant cataract surgery, becomes a powerful tool in those cases, especially where measurability is in question, while also visual clarity is impacted enough to choose to possibly compromise some visual field to gain functional vision.