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Loneliness

Winter in the northern states can be isolating, increasing loneliness and depression.  The holiday season often highlights feelings of loneliness.  Today, 17% of Americans over 65 live alone, and an estimated 8.8% of seniors are chronically lonely.   The sad fact is that loneliness can cause health problems and affect quality of life. Health Factors of Loneliness According to an article in Forbes, persistent loneliness may be a bigger health risk than smoking, obesity, exercise or nutrition.   A few years ago, researchers at Brigham Young University found that social isolation increases your risk of death by 30%.  There are 3 main factors contributing to this outcome. Psychologically, loneliness and social isolation are often associated with depression, anxiety, dementia, substance abuse, and an increased risk of suicide. Practically, human beings have a better chance of surviving in social and family groups than in isolation. If you have an accident or a sudden health event, there may not be anyone around to help. You could be showing signs of decline or disease that no one is round to notice.  Self-maintenance and healthy hygiene habits are something lonely people are less likely to engage in without some sort of encouragement from others.  Lonely people tend to eat worse, get less exercise, and not sleep as well. Physically, loneliness itself appears to be something that negatively impacts the body, from hardening your arteries to depressing your immune system to deterioration of your brain. Loneliness can raise blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol.  This makes your heart muscle work harder and causes damage to blood vessels.  Obesity and low levels of immunity...

Keys for Aging Slowly

Aging Slowly Key One: The best thing you can do to slow down aging is to move every day. Yes, every day! The old use it or lose it mantra is absolutely on target. Our bodies are made for activity. Exercise does not need to be strenuous to be beneficial. Moderate activity such as walking and swimming have low likelihood of injury. This means your body is getting an anti-aging boost doing something you are more likely to turn into a healthy habit. Aerobic exercise can change your blood chemistry to make it more anti-inflammatory. This is good news for those with pain from arthritis. Regular exercise can actually reduce that pain. Strength training helps to keep the muscles and bones strong. As we age, muscle and bone loss accelerate with every decade unless we intervene. You don’t need to join a gym or purchase fancy equipment. Free weights, elastic bands and even your own body can be used to improve strength, stability and balance. Aging Slowly Key Two: The next most important key for aging slowly is to eat well. That means focus on vegetables and fruit for half of your daily intake. Whole grains and meat/fish/poultry each get a quarter of the plate. Avoid highly processed pre-packaged foods and make as many home-cooked meals as you can. Replace sugary drinks with water and a slice of fruit. Avoid solid fats and fast food places. Trade out white rice & bread for brown rice and whole grains. Stop eating before you feel “full”. Limit alcohol to 1-2 drinks per day. Lose the excess weight. Not only does carrying around...

STROKE PREVENTION

The incidence of stroke increases with age, but up to 80% of strokes are preventable! While about one-third of stroke victims recover completely, the rest may have to deal with some long-term disability. There is no cure for stroke, but there are steps you can take to help prevent having one, or at least minimize the damage. A stroke occurs when there is a blockage in or a rupture of a blood vessel that cuts off blood flow to the brain. Stroke can happen to anyone, at any age, and at any time. What happens after a stroke depends on how much of the brain was damaged and where in the brain the stroke occurred.   Strokes can be treated with clot-busting drugs and medical devices, but seconds count! The faster the treatment, the more likely one is to recover without permanent damage. Learn the signs of stroke to help you act FAST. The signs are Face drooping, Arm weakness, & Speech difficulty. If these signs are present, it’s Time to call 911! While some risk factors for stroke are beyond your control (age, race & heredity), there are things you can do to reduce your risk. At the top of the list are maintaining a healthy weight, keeping alcohol use moderate and not smoking.   Being overweight can cause high blood pressure and increase the risk of diabetes. Both high blood pressure and diabetes are risk factors for stroke.   If you enjoy having a drink in the evening, consider drinking red wine. The resveratrol in red wine has been shown to help protect both the brain and...

3 Tips for Better Eye Health

Older adults are more sensitive to eye problems as they age.  Following the three simple tips below can help seniors improve eye health & protect themselves from vision loss. Since we rely on our vision for even the most basic tasks, losing the ability to see the world around us can be frightening. As we age, it’s easy to believe deteriorating health is just part of life. But often we can slow down or even stop that process if we work to prevent common health problems. Here are three tips to fight poor vision and maintain healthy eyes no matter what your age! Tip # 1: Add fruits, nuts, and vegetables to main dishes. Vegetables to add: Bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots, corn, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and all dark green, leafy vegetables. Fruits to add: Grapefruit, strawberries, oranges, lemons, berries, cantaloupe Nuts/seeds to add: Sunflower seeds, almonds, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts. Why these items? The foods listed above offer valuable nutrients that contribute to eye health. While most vegetables are high in vitamin A, citrus fruits contain a good amount of vitamin C.  Nuts contribute essential fatty acids, which are also important for eye health. These foods can easily be incorporated into any diet. Cut up bell peppers, carrots, and brussel sprouts to add to a salad with dark green romaine. Grab a handful of nuts or seeds for a snack. Add some of these food items to your weekly grocery list to always have fresh food on hand. Tip #2: Choose the right vitamins & supplements No one wants to swallow dozens of pills every morning. However, vitamins and...