'Corona glossary' offers advice for safeguarding seniors this winter

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With COVID-19 cases now on the upsurge in Japan, how does one assess one's risk of contracting the disease? Shukan Bunshun (Dec 17) compiled these tips, in an article titled "A Corona Glossary for People from Age 60 Onwards." 

The point Bunshun hopes to make is by no means academic. On Dec 3, the Osaka prefectural government announced a state of emergency. This was in reaction to 93 deaths of people over the age of 50 between Oct 10 and Nov 29. Of these, 90% were aged 70 or over. And what's more, over 80% of those occupying hospital beds with severe cases were over 70. It was enough for Osaka Gov Hirofumi Yoshimura to request the Japan Self Defense Force to dispatch extra nurses to the prefecture's overburdened hospitals. 

Compared with the second wave of the pandemic, which infected higher numbers of younger people, the current third wave is hitting those aged 60 and above especially hard. Bunshun's "glossary" begins by noting that advanced age is a risk category in itself. As opposed to percentages of people below 50 showing severe symptoms of just 0.3%, this figure rises to 8.5% from 50 to 60 years. For deaths, the percentage of only 0.06 for those below 50, the number rises to 5.7% above 60.  

In addition, says Dr Yoshikazu Muto, an infectious disease expert at the Tousei General Hospital in Seto, Aichi Prefecture, anyone with a BMI (Body Mass Index) of over 30 is at higher risk. 

"Diabetics undergoing treatment who have their blood sugar under control should be okay, but it's dangerous for those who have been putting off treatment," said Muto, adding, "The risk for diabetics is three to four times that of healthy persons." 

The top three at risk among people with other chronic diseases are coronary patients (with 30% chance of dying); those with renal insufficiency (28%); and those with cerebral circulatory issues (27%).  

Based on current statistics, being male in itself presents greater risks: their deaths, compared with females, is 4.7 times higher for males older than 60 and 2.7 times higher for males over 70. 

There are a number of reasons why this may be so, including a higher percentage of males who smoke. More recently, theories have also surfaced to the effect that male hormones facilitate spread of the coronavirus in the body. 

"Men with thinning hair or male pattern baldness brought on by higher amounts of male hormone are believed to be at greater risk to the coronavirus," says medical journalist Yutaka Morita. 

Another high risk factor raised by medics is poor physical condition due to lack of exercise. Hiroyuki Kikuchi, a lecturer at Tokyo Dental University, told Shukan Bunshun, "Sedentary behavior leads to deterioration of muscle mass, and such people tire easily. As they don't pay enough attention to their diet, their body weight declines and doing anything becomes too troublesome. They eventually become physically frail."  

If this decline is not remedied, such individuals also become more vulnerable to dementia. Loss of 2-3 kilograms in body weight over a six-month period is a clear warning sign. 

Another warning sign, says, Dr Noritoshi Fukushima of Tokyo Medical University is a slowdown in walking gait. "One of the points on the self-check sheet is the inability to make it across the street before the light turns red," he said. 

Yoshio Otani, who heads the Otani Clinic in Ikebukuro, urged people to move about more. "Let's  take a stroll for just 15 or 30 minutes a day. Pick a sunny place and walk. Vitamin D from the sunlight will strengthen your bones and boost resistance to infection. And it will help prevent obesity, diabetes, problems with cholesterol and others." 

As for the approaching year-end and New Year period, Dr Yoshihiro Takayama of the Okinawa Chubu Hospital advises that family members should exercise extra precautions to avoid infections, beginning from two weeks before the gathering is planned. "It's better to not meet up with anyone outside the family for meals and so on," he advises. "From 10 days beforehand, confirm that no one has shown any cold symptoms. If they have, it's better to postpone." 

While in the presence of older people, the aforementioned Dr Muto added these recommendations: "Wear masks even indoors, and maintain a safe distance during meals. Let seniors be the first ones to use the bath. Don't share bedrooms. And it's also effective to change towels each time after each use."

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

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It would be more readable if it was written like a listed glossary. Clear point by point

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