Estate Planning Blog Articles

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Am I Getting Sufficient Protein as I Age?

Most people in the U.S. eat enough protein (including people who follow plant-based diets).  However, food insecurity could mean a lack of protein. Older adults might also be at risk for not getting enough protein because the need increases as people age.

VeryWell Health’s recent article entitled “How Much Protein Everyone Needs per Day” discusses some of the signs and symptoms of too little protein:

  • Increased appetite, which could lead to eating excess calories that are less nutritious.
  • Increased risk of infections from the ability of the immune system to fight off infections. People who don’t get enough protein may be more likely to get sick.
  • Increased risk of fractures: Vitamin D, calcium and protein are important in building healthy bones. People who don’t take in enough protein may be at risk of breaking a bone more easily.
  • Liver disease, where fat can accumulate in the liver and lead to scarring or poor function.
  • Loss of lean body mass: In adults, a low protein intake could cause a loss of muscle mass.
  • Problems with hair, skin and nails: Multiple issues with skin and nails can occur due to a lack of protein.
  • Swelling (edema): a chronic lack of protein could lead to fluid buildup, which starts in the feet and can extend to other body parts over time.

Sarcopenia is a condition that may occur in older people who lose too much muscle mass. Inactivity and a lack of nutrients can contribute to this problem.

The article says that examples of plant-based protein sources that contain about 7 g of protein include:

  • 2 ounces cooked beans, peas, or lentils (such as Bayo, black, brown, fava, garbanzo, kidney, lima, mung, navy, pigeon, pink, pinto, or soy, or white beans, or black-eyed peas or split peas, and red, brown, and green lentils)
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
  • 4 ounces of nuts or seeds
  • 2 ounces of tofu
  • 1 ounce cooked tempeh
  • 1 falafel patty (2.5-inch, 4 ounces)
  • 6 tablespoons hummus

If you want to increase your daily protein, you can do so in many ways. The first step may be understanding which foods contain protein, especially plant-based sources. Then, eat fewer foods that are low in protein and focus on foods with a higher protein content. Here are some ideas to increase daily protein intake:

  • Focus on adding a protein source to every meal during the day.
  • Consider adding nut butter, which could be eaten with whole-grain bread, fruit, or a smoothie.
  • Add raw nuts to yogurt, salads, or oatmeal.
  • Add protein powder to a smoothie, yogurt, dairy or nondairy milk, or vegetable or fruit juice.
  • Lean jerked meat low in additives can make a high-protein snack.
  • Edamame (soybeans) are high in protein and can be eaten alone or with a salad or stir-fry dish.
  • Add tuna, salmon, sardines, or other canned fish to crackers, salads, or sandwiches.
  • Choose whole grains, such as quinoa, couscous, or wild rice.
  • Add more protein to breakfast with eggs, cheese, or non-dairy milk.
  • Try roasted chickpeas or dipping vegetables in hummus for a snack.

Reference: VeryWell Health (Sep. 21, 2023) “How Much Protein Everyone Needs per Day”

Should I Consume Olive Oil Every Day?

A study presented at NUTRITION 2023, the annual meeting of the American Society of Nutrition, looked at how olive oil intake and dementia-related death could potentially be connected. Prevention’s recent article, “Olive Oil Linked to Lower Risk of Dying From Dementia, Study Shows,” reports that researchers looked at data from more than 90,000 Americans—60,582 women and 31,801 men. The study took place over 30 years in which 4,749 participants died from dementia.

Researchers found that participants who consumed more than ½ a tbsp of olive oil each day had a 28% lower risk of dying from dementia than individuals who never or rarely consumed olive oil. They also saw that switching 5 g (or about 1 tsp) a day of margarine or mayonnaise for olive oil was linked to an 8–14% lower risk of dementia-related death.

The study noted that those who died of dementia were more likely to be APOe4 carriers, a gene that increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. However, they said the results were still consistent after adjusting for the genetic risk factors.

These findings suggest that olive oil may have beneficial properties for brain health and may play a part in lowering the risk of dementia-related death.

With its antioxidants and powerful anti-inflammatory compounds, olive oil has many health-protective benefits. Generally, olive oil may help reduce the risk of heart disease, boosting gut health, protecting brain health, and improving health parameters, like A1C levels associated with type 2 diabetes.

Diets like the Mediterranean diet that are rich in unsaturated fats have been found to have cardiovascular health benefits. Plus, studies have found that this diet plays a role in reducing the risk of cognitive decline in individuals at risk of dementia.

“Because olive oil is a source of unsaturated fat and a major component of the Mediterranean diet, incorporating olive oil into a healthy lifestyle may provide additional cardiovascular and brain health benefits,” the article explained.

Compared with rarely or never enjoying olive oil, having more than 1½ tsp of olive oil a day may be linked with a 25% reduced risk of fatal dementia. So, keep a small bottle of extra-virgin olive oil on the table so it’s available for drizzling onto your meals for its various health-protective benefits.

Reference: Prevention (July 29, 2023) “Olive Oil Linked to Lower Risk of Dying From Dementia, Study Shows”

What Is Hypertensive Chronic Kidney Disease and Glomerulonephritis?

Unlike an acute kidney injury (AKI), where the loss of kidney function may be reversible, chronic kidney disease is “progressive.” That means it gets worse over time. The damage to your kidneys causes scars and is permanent. Among the diseases that can cause CKD are diabetes, hypertension, glomerulonephritis and polycystic kidney disease. This post looks at glomerulonephritis.

Very Well Health’s recent article, “Causes and Risk Factors of Chronic Kidney Disease,” explains that glomerulonephritis is a group of diseases that cause inflammation of the glomeruli and nephrons. Glomerulonephritis usually affects both kidneys and can happen alone or as part of another disease.

While it’s often hard to pinpoint what triggered the inflammatory response, the causes can be broadly broken down as follows:

  • Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a group of diseases that cause the selective scarring of glomeruli
  • Autoimmune disorders, which either damage the kidneys directly (IgA nephropathy or granulomatosis with polyangiitis) or trigger whole-body inflammation that indirectly damages the kidneys (such as with lupus); and
  • Inherited disorders like polycystic kidney disease, which causes the formation of cysts in the kidneys; Alport syndrome, which damages the blood vessels of the kidneys; or Goodpasture syndrome, which damages kidney membranes.

In some cases, the cause of glomerulonephritis is never found. There are also other, less common causes of CKD in adults and children. They include the following:

  • Heavy metal poisoning, including lead poisoning;
  • Hemolytic-uremic syndrome, in which ruptured red blood cells block renal filters (occurs exclusively in children);
  • Hepatitis B and hepatitis C, both of which are associated with glomerulonephritis and renal vascular inflammation;
  • Interstitial nephritis, inflammation of the kidney tubules often related to the long-term use of analgesics or antibiotics;
  • Pyelonephritis, a bacterial infection of the kidneys;
  • Prolonged urinary tract obstruction, including an enlarged prostate, kidney stones and certain cancers;
  • Recurrent kidney infections; and
  • Reflux nephropathy, the backing-up of urine into the bladder.

In addition to known causes, CKD can often be idiopathic, meaning the cause can’t be found.

Reference: Very Well Health (July 25, 2021) “Causes and Risk Factors of Chronic Kidney Disease”

Will Living by the Golden Arches Give Me a Stroke?

We all know that fast food isn’t good for your health.

However, according to recent research, simply living near a cluster of fast-food restaurants has now been linked to a higher risk of having a stroke.

Money Talks News’ recent article entitled, “Living Near This Type of Restaurant May Boost Stroke Risk,” reports that the study found that people who are 50 and older and live near a so-called “food swamp” — where there is a high density of fast-food and junk-food options — had a 13% higher risk of stroke than people who lived in neighborhoods with more healthful options.

The study findings haven’t been published but will be presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2023.

In arriving at their findings, the researchers looked at data from the Health and Retirement Study, an ongoing study conducted at the University of Michigan that features participants from across the U.S.

This data was then matched against U.S. Department of Agriculture data about food environments to create a retail food environment index.

The index shows the ratio of unhealthy food retailers (convenience stores and fast-food restaurants) to healthy food retailers (grocery stores and farmers’ markets) in a given neighborhood.

The researchers found that most of the nearly 18,000 participants in the study lived in neighborhoods with about six times as many unhealthy food options as healthy options.

In a summary of the researchers’ findings, Dr. Dixon Yang, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, said, “An unhealthy diet negatively impacts blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol levels that increases the risk of stroke. Independent of one’s own demographics or socioeconomic status, living in a neighborhood with an abundance of poor food choices may be an important factor to consider for many people.”

Reference: Money Talks News (March 25, 2023) “Living Near This Type of Restaurant May Boost Stroke Risk”

letter of instruction

Should You Include a Letter of Instruction with Your Estate Plan?

A letter of instruction, or LOI, is a good addition to the documents included in your estate plan. It’s commonly used to express advice, wishes and practical information to help the people who will be taking care of your affairs, if you become incapacitated or die. According to this recent article “Letter of instruction in elder law estate plan can help with managing important information” from the Times Herald-Record, there are many different ways an LOI can help.

In our digital world, you might want to use your LOI to record website names, usernames and passwords for social media accounts, online accounts and other digital assets. This helps loved ones who you want to have access to your online life.

If you have minor children who are beneficiaries, the LOI is a good way to share your priorities to the trustee on your wishes for the funds left for their care. It is common to leave money in trust for HEMS—for “Health, Education, Maintenance and Support.” However, you may want to be more specific, both about how money is to be spent and to share your thoughts about the path you’d like their lives to take in your absence.

Art collectors or anyone who owns valuable items, like musical instruments, antiques or collectibles may use the LOI as an inventory that will be greatly appreciated by your executor. By providing a carefully created list of the items and any details, you’ll increase the likelihood that the collections will be considered by a potential purchaser. This would also be a good place to include any resources about the collections that you know of, but your heirs may not, like appraisers.

Animal lovers can use an LOI to share personalities, likes, dislikes and behavioral quirks of beloved pets, so their new caregivers will be better prepared. In most states, a pet trust can be created to name a caregiver and a trustee for funds that are designated for the pet’s care. The caregiver and the trustee may be the same person, or they may be two different individuals.

For families who have a special needs member, an LOI is a useful means of sharing important information about the person and is often referred to as a “Letter of Intent.” It works in tandem with a Special Needs Trust, which is created to leave assets to a person who receives government benefits without putting means-tested benefits in jeopardy. If there is no Special Needs Trust and the person receives an inheritance, they could lose access to their benefits.

Some of the information in a Letter of Intent includes information on the nature of the disability, daily routines, medications, fears, preferred activities and anything that would help a caregiver provide better care, if the primary caregiver dies.

The LOI can also be used to provide basic information, like where important documents are kept, who should be notified in case of death or incapacity, which bills should be paid, what home maintenance tasks need to be taken care of and who provides the services, etc. It is a useful document to help those you leave behind to adjust to their new responsibilities and care for loved ones.

Reference: Times Herald-Record (Sep. 8, 2020) “Letter of instruction in elder law estate plan can help with managing important information”

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