Author Archives: LifeFone

The Benefits Of Being Outside

With the weather steadily improving as we move further and further away from the cold winter, a “breath of fresh air” and stroll outside are surely in the cards for both you and your loved ones. While a “breath of fresh air” might just be an expression, the benefits of being outside are, in fact, very real.

One of the best advantages of heading outdoors, even for a short amount of time, is the benefit of soaking up some sunshine.  Sun exposure generates vitamin D, which is necessary for a healthy brain, bones and muscles, according to Dr. Michael Raab a geriatrician in Fort Myers, Florida.  Actually, some doctors prescribe sunlight as a source of vitamin D, instead of taking a supplement.  Research has shown vitamin D improves cognitive function and mood.

Somewhat similar to improved health due to increased levels of Vitamin D, spending time in the outdoors has also been directly linked to an improved immune system. According to a study at Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School, women who spent six hours in the woods over a time span of two days showed an increase in virus- and tumor- fighting white blood cells subsequently. This boost even lasted for a minimum of seven days. Hence, seniors should try to spend more time outdoors in order to reap these fantastic health benefits.

Additionally, being outside provides mental and emotional benefits.  Heading to the great outdoors, the mental and emotional benefits are great.  It gives your loved one the ability to socialize with new people, also many outdoor activities allows them to interact with children and animals. Such activities can give people an extra spring in their step, and rejuvenate their emotions, according to Christina Chartrand, vice president of training and staff development for Senior Helpers, a nationwide in-home care company.

“Nature is fuel for the soul. Often when we feel depleted we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature.” Richard Ryan, lead author and professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.

As the weather gets warmer and brighter, you and your loved one should of course use your best judgement when it comes to being outdoors, always taking into consideration their mobility and other health concerns.  While the benefits and positive effects being outside will have on your loved one, you will also enjoy the benefits as well.

Exercise For Better Brain Health

We all know that exercise is great for our muscles, our bones, joints, how we look, and how we feel.  However, what about exercise for better brain health? It’s true. You may not believe it but the stakes of not exercising are higher than you might have thought.brain health

Most folks don’t get enough exercise, and we have a plethora of excuses.  Too tired, no time, too expensive, no motivation, and sadly, 25% of us say we are simply okay with being sedentary.

Does this sound familiar? If so, you’re far from alone. Most of us, age 40-plus, are not logging the recommended 2.5 hours per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity that’s good for us, and importantly, our brains. Staying active is key to maintaining our brain health. Getting regular exercise can even change our brain structure and improve its functioning.

Interestingly, a thirty-minute cardio session pumps extra blood to your brain, to deliver the oxygen and nutrients it needs to perform at its best ability. Cardio will also flood the parts of the brain with chemicals, including serotonin, the famed mood booster; dopamine, which affects learning and attention; and norepinephrine, which influences attention, perception, motivation, and arousal. This exercise-induced chemical cocktail has a powerful impact. “By elevating neurotransmitters in the brain, it helps us focus, feel better, and release tension,” says, John Ratey, Ph.D., a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

New research has found that this kind of exercise may even cause permanent structural changes to the brain itself. People who participate in purposeful exercise show beneficial changes in brain structure and function. People who lead a physically active lifestyle have a lower risk of cognitive decline.

By exercising regularly, all that rushing of blood and hormones primes your brain to grow. In one study, researchers scanned the brains of people who exercised for one hour per day, three days a week, for a duration of six months. They discovered an increase in the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory and learning. Working out literally bulked up the study participants’ brains, allowing them to perform better at tasks that require concentration and recall.

As we age, maintaining and improving our brain health can help us stay in our own homes longer. Having the ability to stay independent longer also helps maintain a sense of self-worth. The best part?  You can begin an exercise program today.  There’s no real reason to wait!

 

Five Walking Benefits For Senior Citizens

Use it or lose it.  This is the word from doctors recently when talking to senior citizens about their bodies.  The good news is, seniors needn’t think they have to sign up for 10K races, high-impact aerobics, or heavy weight training. Instead, walking benefits them by keeping them physically strong and agile.  Adding a simple 35-minute walk a day is all it takes.

According to Dr. Michael Pratt, the acting chief for the Physical Activity and Heath Branch in the Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, walking is a tremendously good activity for senior citizens. It’s cheap, simple, and almost anybody can do it.  Walking has a number of health benefits for everyone.  For seniors especially, it helps them maintain mobility and their independence.

Walking BenefitsFive benefits of walking:

1) Improves circulation: Women who walked 30 minutes a day reduced their risk of stroke by 20 percent – by 40 percent when they stepped up the pace, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

2) Strengthens your bones: It can stop the loss of bone mass for those with osteoporosis, according to Michael A. Schwartz, MD, of Plancher Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in New York.

3) It supports your joints: Since our joints don’t get any blood supply, they rely on synovial or joint fluid that circulates as we move, which carries oxygen to them. Without walking, joints are deprived of life-giving fluid, which can speed deterioration.

4) It lightens the mood: Walking releases natural pain­killing endorphins to the body – this is just one of the emotional benefits of exercise.

5) It helps you do more, longer.  Since walking helps circulation, keeps the bones strong and healthy, and lightens your mood, the body stays healthy longer, increasing the ability to be more active as we age.

With that being said, when is a good time to start a walking program?  Now! Perhaps they can’t begin with 30 minutes, however, they can start somewhere.  Walking benefits the body in so many ways, so go out and enjoy your walk.  Even when the weather isn’t the greatest, lacing up your shoes and heading to a mall is a perfect way to keep moving.

Eight Ways To Have A Positive Outlook On Life

positive outlookWe have all heard these  quotes about having a
positive outlook on life.

“Look on the sunny side of life.”

“Turn your face toward the sun, and the shadows will fall behind you.”

“Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.”

“See the glass as half-full, not half-empty.”

These quotes, and more like them, are often heard from folks that are called ‘cockeyed optimists’. However, researchers are finding that thoughts like these can do far more than raise one’s spirits.  They may improve health and extend life.

Accordingly, there is no longer any doubt that what happens in our brain does influence what happens in the body. Studies show an indisputable link between having a positive outlook and health benefits like lower blood pressure, healthier blood sugar levels, better weight control, and less heart disease. Even when faced with an incurable disease, a positive outlook can change ones’ quality of life.

Dr Wendy Schlessel Harpham, an author of several books for people facing cancer, including Happiness in a Storm, was a practicing internist when she learned she had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system, 27 years ago. “Fostering positive emotions helped make my life the best it could be,” Harpham said. “They made the tough times easier, even though they didn’t make any difference in my cancer cells.”

New research is demonstrating that people can learn skills that help them experience more positive emotions when faced with the severe stress of a life-threatening illness.

Here are eight ways to have a positive outlook on life, and improve your overall health

  • Recognize a positive event each day.
  • Savor that event and log it in a journal or tell someone about it.
  • Start a daily gratitude journal.
  • List a personal strength and note how you used it.
  • Set an attainable goal and note your progress.
  • Report a relatively minor stress and list ways to refocus on the event positively.
  • Recognize and practice small acts of kindness daily.
  • Practice mindfulness, focusing on the here and now rather than the past or future.

Even if you practice only a few of these, you are sure to end the day on a happier note.

Facts for Seniors

As the face of the Senior Citizen changes, it is helpful to understand facts about the Senior Citizen in your life. The following are some facts that may help you better understand your loved one.

11.3 million is the number of seniors 65 and older are engaging in exercise of one form or another. Exercise walking is by far the most popular sports activity for seniors (and for younger adults), followed by exercising with equipment, net fishing, camping, golf and swimming.

As the oldest baby boomers become senior citizens in 2011, the percentage of people 65 and older is projected to grow faster than any other age group. In fact, 26 states are projected to double their 65+ populations between 2000 and 2030.

About one third of the elder population over the age of 65 falls each year, and the risk of falls increases proportionately with age. At 80 years, over half of seniors fall annually.  About half (53%) of the older adults who are discharged for fall-related hip fractures will experience another fall within six months.

Only 3.6% of people over 65 years old are in nursing homes. Elderly men arefacts for seniors likely to live with a spouse while elderly women are more likely to live alone.

By age 75, about 1 in 3 men and 1 in 2 women don’t get ANY physical activity. You can keep seniors fit by hosting a dance class at your local senior center!

According to the data compiled by the Social Security Administration, a man reaching age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 84.3. A woman turning age 65 today can expect to live 86.6.

The ratio of women to men over 65 years old is 100 to 76. The ratio of women to men over 85 years old is 100 to 49.

5 million is the number of seniors age 65 and older who have jobs.

78 percent – Percentage of householders age 65 and older who own a motor vehicle.

These are just a few facts on being a senior citizen, and perhaps they will help you, the caregiver understand their needs and give you a bit of insight into their world.

 

How to Overcome Stress as a Caregiver

Being a caregiver to a loved one who has a chronic medical condition is never an easy task.  Though it has its rewards, the everyday challenges can easily build up, and become increasingly stressful.  Even the most resilient person can succumb to the overwhelming burden of the duties of caregiving.

Caregiving offers many rewards, and simply being there for someone in need is a core value.  Being called upon repeatedly fosters extra pressure, and can drag you down.  With your own busy schedule, work, children, a spouse, you already have enough to balance when adding in the care of someone else.  You may find yourself wondering where do I find time for myself?

Here are some tips that can help save time and reduce stress.

When dealing with medical issues, tackle the small ones first.  Call and confirm doctor appointments and make sure (if necessary) that any test results are in, so as to avoid two trips out.

Use respite care, neighbors or other family members to allow yourself time for just you.

Find ways to reduce your stress and give yourself much needed self-love.

If you find you can’t get away, make yourself a cup of tea, and read a book, even if it’s for a simple twenty minutes.  Being able to allow your body to simply rest goes a long way towards helping you feel better.

With the help of others, take the time to go for a walk in the park, or to your favorite coffee shop, the library, ways that you can clear your mind of the daily tasks at hand.

Make a list.  When someone else asks, how can we help, having a tangible list goes far.  Simple things like picking up prescriptions,

stopping at the store for the items you forgot, or taking a load or two of laundry and preparing a meal goes a long way in giving yourself a break from that simple chore.
It’s smart to be alert to compounded stressors that can lead to a breakdown in your own health, and lead to caregiver distress. Here are some signs that you need some relief:

  • If you find yourself becoming agitated with your loved one
  • Simple things that used to bring you pleasure, no longer do so.
  • Over anxious thoughts and feelings
  • Beginning to feel depressed

As a caregiver, it’s important to make sure your health is optimal.  It’s important to know the warning signs, and seek help.  Your loved one is counting on you.  Taking time for self-care is as important for them as it is for you.

 

Heart Month is February

The American Heart Association wants to help everyone live longer, healthier lives so they can enjoy all of life’s precious moments. And we know that starts with taking care of your health. American Heart Month, a federally designated event, is a great way to remind Americans to focus on their hearts and encourage them to get their families, friends and communities involved. Together, we can build a culture where making the healthy choice is the easy choice.  Why? Because Life is Why. Loneliness & Heart Disease

African American men, primarily those who live in the southeast region of the U.S., are at the highest risk for heart disease.

However, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and for women.  Americans of all backgrounds can be at risk to suffer from heart disease and stroke.

With February being the month of Valentine’s Day, what better way to show your loved ones how much you care for them by taking care of your heart?

If you live alone, or you have a family member that lives alone, one of the best ways to give yourself peace of mind would be to invest in a Medical Alert System from Lifefone.  With just a push of a button, you or your loved one, can have emergency help at the door within minutes. Detecting and getting immediate help is the best way to lessen the impact of a heart attack or stroke has on your system.

Other ways to minimize your risk of heart disease is regular exercise.  No matter what your stage of life, exercise keeps your blood flowing, keeps it oxygenated, and keeps the heart pumping.  Whether you can get out and walk, ride a bike, lift weights, canoe, hike, or, if you are home bound, movement of any kind will help reduce your risk of heart-related disease.

If you are a smoker, today is the best day to quit.  Talk to your doctor about getting help with that.  Not only is it good for your heart, it’s good for your lungs and your brain.

Keep regularly scheduled doctors’ appointments, especially if you have any heart issues, and take your medications if you are on them.

Along with all the above, eating healthy is preventative medicine.  Choose fresh vegetables over salty snacks. Choose fish over red meat a couple of times a week.  Oatmeal over cold cereal.  Small changes can have a big impact.

February – heart month all the way around, keep yours healthy.