It’s time to BREAKDOWN these BAME BARRIERS

Dr Gaggandeep Singh Alg is currently a Consultant (AUC) Physician and Geriatrician working at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, UK. He is active in charity work supporting the most vulnerable in society and has an interest in equality and diversity. Twitter Handle @DrGSAlg

How often do we hear about the rapidly growing population of older people? Yes, we hear about it almost every day. But who are these older patients? Where are they originally from? What is their cultural and religious background? No one seems to be talking about that!

In the last 8 years while doing charity work in my free time I have noticed a growth in the older population from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups. Older people from BAME backgrounds suffer from the same illnesses our other patients suffer from. However, in my experience they do not always know when and how to seek help. They have cultural, religious and language barriers which may prevent them from accessing health care services. Through the charity work I have seen many over 65 year olds living with signs and symptoms of various diseases, who have not been able to access the services we have built and provide! Continue reading

The Great Balancing Act – perspectives from older people on falls risk

Dr Kristy Robson is a Lecturer in Podiatry at Charles Sturt University, a regional university in Australia. In this blog she shares a recent Age and Ageing publication that explores the behavioural decisions older people make when they knowingly and unknowingly undertake activities or tasks that pose a risk of falling. She tweets @KristyRobson2

Fall related injuries in older people constitute a significant public health issue in Australia and internationally. Falling represents the leading cause of unintentional injury in this population with approximately one third of older adults falling each year. Effective management of falls in older populations has proven to be challenging. Despite the substantial focus on falls prevention by the Australian government over the last decade the age standardised hospital admission rates attributed to falls continue to increase. The complexity of managing falls risk in the diverse populations found within Australia, coupled with an ageing population and finite resources, drives the need to better understand factors that can influence falling from the perspective of the older person. Continue reading

When low blood pressure is too low in old age

Sven Streit is a general practitioner at the Institute of Primary Health Care (BIHAM) in Bern (CH) and PhD Candidate at Leiden University Medical Center (NL). In this blog, he introduces the results of his PhD in a recent Age & Ageing paper on blood pressure, mortality risk and cognitive decline in a population-based cohort of oldest-old (all 85 years) in Leiden. He tweets @Sven_Streit

With increasing age, blood pressure rises as a consequence of arterial stiffness. It has been debated whether or not to it is beneficial to treat hypertension in old age, especially in >75-year-olds when they have multimorbidity, polypharmacy or frailty. Large hypertension trials showed that lowering blood pressure in over 60-year-olds is beneficial and lowers the risk for myocardial infarction, stroke and all-cause mortality, even in >80-year-olds. However, these trials lack generalizability and typically excluded patients with multimorbidity and frailty. At the same time, observational studies raise concerns about lowering blood pressure too much, since there are several cohort studies showing a reverse association between low blood pressure and increased mortality and accelerated cognitive decline starting from age >75-year-olds. Continue reading

Frequent drinkers unravelled

Beth Bareham, NIHR SPCR  doctoral fellow at Newcastle University Institute of Health and Society and Institute for Ageing (@bkateb1) She co-authored the Age and Ageing Paper Drinking in later life: a systematic review and thematic synthesis of qualitative studies exploring older people’s perceptions and experiences with Professor Eileen Kaner @EileenKaner, Liam Spencer @LiamPSpencer and Professor Barbara Hanratty @BarbaraHanratty.

Within the United Kingdom, older people experience more alcohol-related hospitalisations and deaths than any other age group. Risky drinking amongst  older people is not just confined to the United Kingdom. Potentially harmful patterns of drinking are common amongst older age groups across the globe. Older people are not only at risk because they drink more often, but also because quantities of alcohol that may have been safer earlier in life have the potential to damage an older person’s health if, like most, they have medical conditions or take medications. However, moderate drinking in older age has been linked with some health benefits, and drinking may also have a positive impact on their social lives. The impact of alcohol on older people is complex, and many different factors can influence their choices. To modify riskier drinking in later life and support people to live longer, healthier lives, it’s vital that we understand these complexities.  Continue reading

‘How low to go?’ Top transatlantic research journals debate antihypertensive treatment in older people

The scientific journal of the British Geriatrics Society, Age and Ageing, and the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society have launched a joint initiative, publishing two articles debating the relative benefits and risks of treating hypertension in older people.

It is widely recognised that raised blood pressure is probably the single most important treatable risk factor for cardiovascular disease in later life. The evidence that older people can benefit from antihypertensive drugs has accumulated with a succession of randomised controlled trials over the past 35 years. These trials have shown reduced risk of stroke and myocardial infarction, as well as decreased total mortality. However, despite the extensive evidence that is now available, questions remain about who to treat and on optimal blood pressure targets. Consequently practice varies widely and many clinicians are uncertain about what best to recommend for their older patients. Continue reading

The ‘Geriatrician’s Salute’: emerging evidence on deprescribing

Professor Sarah Hilmer works as a geriatrician and clinical pharmacologist at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, and conjoint professor of geriatric pharmacology at Sydney University, Australia.  Dr Danijela Gnjidic is a pharmacologist who is a NHMRC Dementia Leadership Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Pharmacy Practice at Sydney University, Australia. 

One of the most reversible causes of a geriatric syndrome in our older patients is an adverse drug event.  Approximately 1 in 5 hospital admissions amongst older people are due to adverse drug reactions and during their time in hospital 1 in 6 older people experience an adverse drug reaction.  Consequently, comprehensive medication review is an integral part of the practice of geriatric medicine.

The process of a health professional withdrawing medicines for which the current risk may outweigh the benefit in their patient has been given a variety of names including the ‘geriatrician’s salute’ and increasingly ‘deprescribing’.  Continue reading

Asking the Big Questions in Dublin’s Fair City – Part 2

Mary Ni Lochlainn is an Academic Clinical Fellow in Geriatric Medicine. She works at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

In the world of Alzheimer’s research we heard from Professor Michael Rowan, who focused on amyloid and ageing. Sleep and mood disorders can pre-date dementia diagnoses, and we see circadian rhythm disturbances in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Is there a window of opportunity here for preventative interventions? Alzheimer’s is a disease of abnormal protein aggregation – both amyloid and tau. Protein clearance tends to happen at night. Can we draw connections here? Prof Rowan explained that a recent New England Journal of Medicine paper showed 30% of patients didn’t have any amyloid even though they had been diagnosed with AD and enrolled in a trial. So what does this mean? Do these patients have another dementia? It cannot be denied that a blood or cerebrospinal fluid test would be very helpful in this diagnostic process. Continue reading

Asking the Big Questions in Dublin’s Fair City – Part 1

Mary Ni Lochlainn is an Academic Clinical Fellow in Geriatric Medicine. She works at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

This February marked the first, hopefully of many, Biogerontology for Clinicians International Conference, held at the state-of-the-art Mercer Institute of Successful Ageing (MISA) at St. James’ Hospital, Dublin. Hosted by the inimitable Professor Rose Anne Kenny, of Trinity College Dublin, and staff of The Irish Longitudinal Study of Ageing (TILDA), the programme boasted twelve expert speakers across a day and a half, with the aim of putting recent advances in biology in context with the pathology of ageing. The idea was to bring together leaders in ageing from various backgrounds, to ‘generate meaningful collaborative, translational approaches with significant potential strategic value to service users.’ And it certainly achieved those aims. Continue reading

“Doc, I read on the Internet that probiotics might help me. Is it true?”

Patrick Alexander Wachholz  is a Geriatrician, Research associate at Botucatu Medical School, São Paulo State University (UNESP). His paper Effectiveness of probiotics on the occurrence of infections in older people: systematic review and meta-analysis was recently published in Age and Ageing journal.

In 2001, an international Joint Expert Consultation of sci­entists working on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) defined probiotics as “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host”.

Probiotics are intended to have health benefits, and in some countries we can find a huge variety of products sold as probiotics including foods (such as yogurt and fermented milk), dietary supplements, and products that aren’t used orally, such as skin or vaginal creams. Continue reading

Can a National Frailty Education Programme be a driver of culture change in healthcare?

Dr Diarmuid O’Shea is a Consultant Geriatrician at St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, and Deirdre Lang is the Director of Nursing, National Clinical Programme for Older People, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and Health Services Executive

We all know that population ageing is occurring rapidly. Between 2015 and 2030 the number of people in the world aged 60 years or over is projected to grow by an extraordinary 56%. By 2050, the global population of older people is projected to more than double its size (United Nations, 2015). In Ireland, the population 65 years and over is projected to increase by between 58 and 63 per cent from 2015 to 2030. The older old population (i.e. those aged 80 years of age and over) is set to rise even more dramatically, by between 85 per cent and 94 per cent in this time period (ESRI 2017). Continue reading