Eating Disorders and Older Adults

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is celebrated every year to raise awareness and provide resources for those who are suffering or know someone who is suffering from an eating disorder.  Eating disorders affect close to 8% of people in the United States and they have the highest mortality rate of any mental health disorder. Here are some things you should know about eating disorders:

What are eating disorders?

Eating disorders are serious and life-threatening illnesses that affect eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder are some of the most common eating disorders. Though they are often associated with teenagers, they can also affect older adults.

What causes eating disorders?

Researchers have found that eating disorders are caused by genetic, biological, behavioral, psychological, and social factors. Eating disorders are commonly triggered by stress. Stressors for older adults can include significant life changes such as empty nest, retirement, loss of a loved one, illnesses, disabilities, aging, etc.

What are the signs and symptoms of eating disorders?

Those suffering from an eating disorder may experience a significant change in weight during a short period of time. They may also change their behavior and ask to eat alone or leave the room right after eating. They may use laxatives, diet pills, or diuretics. It is important to note that not everyone suffering from an eating disorder will display signs or experience symptoms.

How do eating disorders affect the body?

Eating disorders can have serious consequences including brittle hair and nails, dry and yellowish skin, low blood pressure, thinning of the bones, brain damage, organ failure, and even death.

How are eating disorders treated?

Eating disorder treatment options can include psychological and nutritional counseling as well as medical and psychiatric monitoring.

If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, talk to a healthcare professional or call the National Eating Disorders Association at (800) 931-2237 for support.


6 Steps to a Healthier Heart

Your heart is one of the most important organs in your body. Celebrate World Heart Day by promising to live a healthier life.  Here are 6 steps you can take to reduce your risk of heart disease:

Stay Away From Cigarettes

Cigarette smoke can contaminate your blood with more than 7,000 chemicals.  These chemicals can damage your heart and blood vessels which can lead to cardiovascular disease.  Additionally, cigarette smoke can cause plaque to build up in the arteries which can affect blood flow and create blood clots that can lead to a heart attack, stroke, or death.

If you’re a smoker, it is never too late to quit.  Visit to learn more about the benefits of quitting and for tools and tips on how to quit.

Limit Your Alcohol Intake

Drinking alcohol can raise your triglyceride levels and blood pressure.  It can also lead to heart failure and stroke.  According to the American Heart Association, men should limit themselves to one or two drinks per day while women should limit themselves to one drink per day.  A drink is considered 12 oz. of beer, 4 oz. of wine, 1.5 oz of 80-proof spirits, or 1 oz. of 100-proof spirits.

Click here to learn more about alcohol and heart health.

Eat Healthy

Stay away from processed foods and eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.  Eat whole grains and choose food that is low in fat, sodium, cholesterol, and sugar.  Make sure to drink plenty of water!

Learn more about healthy eating at

Exercise Regularly

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week.  Physical activity reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.  Adults who exercise regularly have lower blood pressure and better blood lipid profiles.

Check out the current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans here.

Manage Your Stress

When you’re stressed, your body releases adrenaline which increases your heart rate and blood pressure.  Constant stress can result in physical pain and affect you emotionally.  It may prevent you from getting enough sleep and may result in unhealthy coping mechanisms like overeating, drinking, and smoking.  Click here to learn how to identify and effectively manage your stress.

Get Enough Sleep

Sleep doesn’t just allow you to rest.  It also allows your blood pressure to decrease and may help control your blood sugar.  Not getting enough sleep may affect the part of your brain that controls hunger which can cause you to overeat.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults need to sleep for at least 7 hours each night.  Click here for some tips to get better sleep.

Talk to your doctor to before making any lifestyle changes and make sure to ask if you’re at risk for heart disease.



Though they are highly addictive, opioids are commonly prescribed to older adults suffering from chronic pain and physical illness. Here are some things you should know when discussing treatment options with your physician:

What are opioids?

Opioids are drugs used to treat moderate to severe pain. Common prescription opioids include: oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and methadone. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid approved to relieve severe pain. However, some fentanyl is illegally made and distributed. Heroin is an illegal opioid.

What is the opioid epidemic?

Opioids were prescribed at an increased rate in the late 1990s after pharmaceutical companies affirmed they were not addictive. This resulted in the misuse of prescription and non-prescription opioids. It later became clear that opioids were highly addictive. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency in 2017. Approximately 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.

How are older adults affected?

Older adults are more likely to suffer from chronic pain and physical illnesses making them more susceptible to the addictive properties of prescription opioids.

How can opioid misuse be prevented?

  • Never take opioids in greater amounts or frequency than prescribed
  • Don’t sell or share opioids
  • Store opioids in a safe place, where others can’t access them
  • Properly dispose of unused opioids – click here to learn how.

What is an opioid overdose?

An opioid overdose occurs when opioids are taken in greater amounts than prescribed. Signs of an overdose can include:

  • Constricted pupils
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Labored breathing
  • Choking or gurgling sounds
  • Limp body
  • Pale, blue or cold skin

An overdose is dangerous and can be fatal.

Can an opioid overdose be reversed?

When used right away, naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose. It can restore normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped. Learn more about naloxone and where to find it here.

How is opioid addiction treated?

Opioid addiction treatments include medicine and behavioral therapy. If you or someone you know needs help for substance abuse, talk to your doctor or call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).



Organ Donation: Things to Consider

National Donate Life Month (NDLM) was established in 2003 as a way celebrate those who have saved lives by becoming organ, eye, and tissue donors. Celebrated each April, NDLM, encourages Americans to give the gift of life. You can save up to eight lives by becoming an organ donor. Lifesaving organs include heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, kidneys, and intestines. Here are some things to consider when deciding whether or not to become an organ donor:


  • As of January 2019, there were more than 113,000 people on the United States transplant waiting list.
  • Another person is added to the waiting list every 10 minutes.
  • 20 people waiting for a transplant die each day.


  • There is no age limit to become an organ donor. In fact, one third of organ donors in 2018 were over the age of 50.
  • Everyone, regardless of medical history, can register to become an organ donor. Transplant teams determine if organ donation is possible at the time of death.
  • Most major religions in the U.S. support organ donation. Read more about religion and organ donation here.
  • There is no cost associated with organ, eye, or tissue donation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can be donated?

  • Organs: kidneys, liver, lungs, heart, pancreas, and intestines
  • Eyes: corneas and sclera
  • Tissues: heart valves, skin, bone, and tendons

How are donors and recipients matched?

  • The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) operates a database of U.S. patients waiting for a transplant. There are many factors considered when matching the donor’s organs to potential recipients. These factors include, but are not limited to: blood type, body size, severity of patient’s medical condition, distance between the donor’s hospital and the patient’s hospital, and the patient’s waiting time. Read more about the matching process here.

How do I register?