Category Archives: Elderly health

Exercise Your Brain

Exercise Your BrainDid you know that your brain needs exercise?  While our brains are not muscles, we still need to keep them active. The fact is, as we get older, the birth of new brain cells slows, and our brain tissue actually shrinks. This can make it harder to perform mental tasks. However, the fact is, just as our muscles need regular exercise to keep in shape, it’s important to ‘work out’ the brain also.

There are many ways to keep your brain healthy.  One of the most important steps is eating a healthy diet.  Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits helps to reduce the likelihood of the loss of cognitive skills and onset of dementia.

Exercise is another great way to keep your brain sharp.  Getting a daily dose of physical exercise increases the blood flow to the brain, therefore enriching it with much needed oxygen.  The brain soaks up 20% of the oxygen in your body.

Exercise also fights anxiety and depression. Depression slows the brains ability to process information, making it more difficult to process information, and causes real memory problems.

Regular physical exercise also helps to reduce the impact of insulin on the brain. When brain cells are flooded by glucose, it can adversely affect memory and thinking.

Perhaps you can’t exercise physically, but you still want your brain to be sharp. One way to do that is to learn a new skill.  Maybe take up a painting class, or join a reading club.  A reading club will teach you to process what you are reading in a different way since you’ll be interacting with others about what you’ve read.

Simple ways to keep your brain ‘moving’ would also be with puzzle books.  Crossword books, number-oriented games, and other sources are great tools to keep your brain moving. There is also a number of on-line resources for games and cognitive skill building, and keeping exercises.

Keeping our brains sharp is not a one-time thing.  Just like our physical bodies, it’s a habit you do every day, and it’s important to do it simply for yourself.

Everyday Household Health Dangers

Not to be alarmist, but there are dangers that lurk in your household that you aren’t even likely aware of – we weren’t! Consider this: you watch what you eat, you drink filtered water, you are diligent in the use of your seatbelt and you exercise daily.

Here are a few items that you probably have in your house that you may want to rethink:

  1. A pizza box. Because many of these boxes are greaseproof, they may contain PFCs. pizza boxPerfluorinated compounds have been associated with adverse health impacts such as thyroid, obesity, cancer and high cholesterol. PFCs are also found in carpet cleaning compounds, many take-out boxes and furniture. Toss that pizza box into the outside trash.
  2. Scented candles will help you unwind and de-stress, but some of those candles contain unhealthy chemical compounds. If you find your eyes and throat are irritated it could be because of the compounds in the candles. The mere fact of burning a candle can also lead to particle pollution in your home.
  3. Many items from the “dollar stores” come in packaging that has questionable chemicals including phthalates, lead or polyvinyl chloride plastics. If you purchase items from there, remove the packaging, toss it out into an outside garbage container and thoroughly wash your hands. Children are most at risk from illness from these chemicals.
  4. Antibacterial soaps sound like a good idea. The risks associated with using these soaps too frequently means that your body will have a harder time fighting off bacteria because your body may develop an increased antimicrobial resistance. Additionally, if the antibacterial soap contains triclocarban it can lead to unwanted hormonal implications as they can impact your thyroid.

Being aware of what is in your home can help you lead a healthier, happier life! If you care for an elderly person, it may be wise to look through their cupboards and junk drawers to be sure they aren’t saving things that could be causing them health issues!

The Benefits Of Pets For Seniors

It’s no secret that pets can enhance our lives. Yes, they do require work and care and veterinarian visits, but the benefits they provide, including companionship, are beyond measure. For as much as we love our pets, did you know they can be helpful for people as they age? Your aging loved ones may benefit from pet ownership, as long as you’re aware of the care they will need – both your parents and the pets.Benefits of pets for seniors

When seniors adopt pets, measures must be put into place for the care of the pets when your aging loved ones can no longer properly take care of them. That is a conversation that needs to be held up front, before the pet comes into the home. You also need to determine what type of pet is best for your parents. Cats require less care than a dog, but a dog will help assure your parents are up and mobile. Taking the dog for a walk is an ideal way to stay agile and even involved in the community and that can stave off loneliness.

What are some other ways in which the seniors in your life can benefit from animal companionship? Here are a few:

  • Physical activity. As mentioned, owning a pet means they will be involved in regular physical activity. Dogs need to be walked. Cats need to be played with. Even fish and reptiles will require some level of interaction and activity.
  • Companionship benefits. Having a pet in the house will mean your loved one will never be alone. If you don’t live close by, it is important that they have a companion as depression can set in when loneliness sets in. The loss of a spouse and a dwindling circle of friends can lead to isolation and that can, in turn, lead to a whole host of health issues.
  • Physical health benefits. It’s been shown that the mere act of petting an animal can help lower blood pressure. It’s also been shown that caring for a pet can not only lower your blood pressure, but improve cholesterol levels and provide better heart health.
  • Weight loss. While having a pet may not lead to weight loss, it may help with weight control, especially if they have a dog. Dogs require physical activity and regular walks and that means your loved one will be physically active as well.
  • Physical connection. If your loved ones live alone they may be bereft of the physical connection of a hug or other human touch. Being able to wrap their arms around their pet can help alleviate that physical craving for human touch.

The positive impact that pets have on our lives cannot be denied, but they do need to be adopted with care with provisions made for their care when your aging loved ones can no longer take on the responsibility.

The Link Between Loneliness And Heart Disease

Loneliness is something that many seniors in our society face. The loss of a spouse, immediate family moving away and loss of friends leads to loneliness and isolation. Loneliness can also lead to depression, but did you know it can also lead to heart disease? As caregivers it’s Loneliness & Heart Diseaseimportant that we talk with our aging loved ones and find ways for them to remain engaged and involved as a way to stave off loneliness.

Social isolation impacts your health – whether young or old – and can cause to high blood pressure, weight gain, cognitive decline, and in some cases, heart disease or stroke. University of York researchers discovered that those who are isolated and who feel lonely have close to a 30 percent higher risk of heart disease and more than 30 percent higher risk of having a stroke. Close to 200,000 adults were surveyed and followed for the study.

There are many reasons that individuals feel lonely and may even isolate themselves. There are also many reasons why that isolation can lead to poor health and even poor diets, poor sleep habits and lack of exercise. It was even found that those who were lonely are less likely to see a doctor when they don’t feel well and are also less likely to take their medications as prescribed.

Being alone can also lead to more alone time because it can sometimes feed upon itself. If your aging loved ones begin cancelling appointments or afternoons out with friends or if they are no longer involved in activities they once loved you may want to intervene. Talk with them to uncover the reasons why they are no longer involved and what you can do to help. Being widowed can lead to individuals shutting themselves away because they don’t want to feel like a “third wheel.” Help your loved one find places to make new friends, consider church groups, senior centers or other local resources that may be available.

Caregivers who don’t live locally may want to invest in a simple to use computer for their parents to help them keep in contact. Gift them with an easy to use computer and show them how to log in and accept video calls from you. Being able to talk via video allows them interaction with friends and family that live far away and it also allows the caregiver a way to see whether Mom and Dad are looking healthy. A video chat is also a great way for grandparents to stay in touch with grandchildren.

What can you do to help assure your aging loved ones are healthy, involved and not isolated? Talk with friends and family and put together a plan today!

Living to 100

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 50,000 people in the United States were 100 years or age or older! It is further expected that the number of people over 100 years old will reach 110,000 by 2037 and those over 80 will reach six million by that same year.

So what is the secret?

Centenarians (folks who reach 100 or older) say that exercise, healthy eating and a good night’s sleep help!  Here are a few other suggestions that may help you live a longer, fuller life.

  • Eat, Pray and Exercise!   More than 80% of centenarians say they eat nutritiously balanced meals almost daily compared to 68% of boomers. Furthermore, these folks said that they pray, meditate or have some sort of “spiritual” activity and more than half of each group claims to exercise almost every day!  Your chances of reaching the age of 100 increases if you eat lots of fruits and vegetables, regular  exercise (5 days a week) and reducing stress, according to a Danish study.  The healthier you are, the better you feel. The better you feel, the longer you live.
  • Laugh.  Centenarians laugh or giggle nearly every day! Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster to bring your mind and body back into balance.
  • Socialize.  The majority of baby boomers and centenarians say that they talk to or communicate with friends and family nearly every day. Additionally, reading, crossword puzzles, games keep your brain challenged and more healthy.
  • Sleep. A good solid night of sleep helps to repair many cells in the body, and potentially add two years to your lifespan.
  • Relax.  Centenarians work at a job or hobby far less than boomers but the key is to relax and enjoy “down-time”.
  • Groom yourself. Centenarians maintain good oral health as well as continuing the habit of daily bathing or showering. Aging or less activity outside the home should not be good reasons for poor grooming habits.

Take good care of yourself and live a good long life!

 

 

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It’s Allergy Season

Spring has sprung and that means so has allergy season.  About 35 million Americans experience the ill effects of occasional allergies; pollen is the greatest spring allergy trigger in most people.

Pollen is made up of small grains that are discharged into the air by trees, grasses, and weeds, with a specific end goal to pollinate different plants. At the point when pollen gets into the nose of somebody with allergies, it triggers their symptoms. The pollen grains appear as though they are intruders to the body, which discharges antibodies to assault them. Once the antibodies are fighting back against the allergens, histamines are discharged into the blood and this triggers regular side effects. Nothing has been discovered that will eliminate pollen from getting into the body, however, luckily, there are approaches that may help once side effects are felt.

 

Therapeutic Treatment: A specialist can propose both prescription and over-the-counter medicine. For some individuals, over-the-counter cures work fine and dandy. Antihistamines can help bring down the levels of histamine in the body to lessen wheezing, sneezing, and tingling. Decongestants can clear out the nasal paths and decrease swelling. For some individuals, nasal sprays work speedier than decongestants to clear nasal entries. There is even a nasal spray that can help block the arrival of new histamines into the body. Also, the utilization of eye drops during symptoms helps to calm bothersome, watery eyes. In the event that over-the-counter prescription isn’t living up to expectations, a specialist can help with next steps; for example, prescribe prescription drug or anaphylaxis shots.

 

Natural Therapies: There are many natural cures that may help relieve symptoms. According to a Swiss study indicated that the herb butterbur, a European bush, is a common antihistamine. Quercetin, a flavonoid found in onions, pieces of fruit, and dark tea has incendiary properties and has likewise been indicated to block histamines. Needle therapy is an alternate non-medicinal treatment that gives individuals enduring help from allergen side effects. Remember, “natural” does not always mean safe so it’s always best to check with a specialist first.

 

Family Habits: There are likewise many safety measures that individuals can take in their every day lives to help them maintain distance from allergen triggers. Pollen can travel for miles and the higher the pollen release; the more a susceptible person may suffer. Check the day by day pollen numbers before going out by going to the Pollen & Mold Counts page on the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s site.

 

Attempt to stay inside in the mornings, when pollen numbers frequently top out. Remember to keep entryways and windows shut as much as possible in the spring to keep the pollen out. If conditions become too severe in the home it may be worth the cost to install an air purifier. Keep all home air ducts clean, tidy all bookshelves, vents, and different spots where dust and pollen may gather. Finally, vacuum at least twice a week to gather any pollen trapped in the floor coverings. Keep mind that while vacuuming and cleaning, it is smart to wear a mask so none of the dust and pollen that gets kicked up will be breathed in.

 

Ultimately, avoiding pollen and dust completely is not realistic, especially during certain seasons of the year. Learning to avoid areas and days when the pollen is at it peak is the best route to stay clear and uncongested. Also, consulting your doctor on the best treatment when symptoms do occur will help you stay prepared and feeling your best.

 

Sources

 

Webmd: Allergies Health Center – http://www.webmd.com/

 

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAI) – http://www.aaaai.org/home.aspx

 

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Alzheimer’s Disease: Get A Good Night’s Sleep

Sleep is important for many aspects of our health and wellbeing. When we sleep our bodies and our minds are given the ability to slow down and repair itself. Eating healthy and exercising regularly help your brain function at its highest level and can help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. A recent study at John Hopkins School of Public Health recently found that older adults (70-years-old or older) who slept short periods of time had higher levels of a brain plaque that has been linked to Alzheimer’s.

The study isn’t saying that if you don’t get good sleep that you’re going to develop Alzheimer’s, but it does appear to indicate a link between restless nights and its progression.

Adam Spira, PhD, a researcher in the study was quoted as saying, “These findings are important in part because sleep disturbances can be treated in older people. To the degree that poor sleep promotes the development of Alzheimer’s disease, treatments for poor sleep or efforts to maintain healthy sleep patterns may help prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer disease,”

While sleep may not stop Alzheimer’s, seeing the connection between “poor sleep and increased amyloid in the brain is a sign of Alzheimer’s disease.” The study will move forward and try to determine whether addressing and correcting poor sleep habits may reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s.

What can you do to get a good night’s sleep? Here are some tips:
• Get some exercise every day. Taking a walk, working in the garden or even doing housework – anything that can get your heart rate elevated – is good for both body and mind. Exercise can also lead to a better night’s sleep.
• Keep caffeine and alcohol intake at a minimum. Caffeine, while a great pick-me-up in the morning will disrupt sleep if you drink it later in the day or in the evening. Alcohol may make you sleepy but will likely lead to wakeful periods in the middle of the night.
• Get into a bedtime routine that involves yawning, stretching and simple relaxation. Take about a half an hour to 45-minutes prior to bedtime and practice relaxation techniques. Did you know that yawning and stretching can also lead to a better night’s sleep? It can. Try this. Fake a yawn and while you’re doing that reach your arms above your head for a stretch. If you do this three more times, you will likely trigger a real yawn and a deep muscle stretch and this will help to relax you and lead to a better night’s rest.
• Make certain your bedroom is restful. Keep the room dark and cool. Keep electronics, televisions and radios out of the room or turned off when you’re falling asleep. If you feel you need noise to get a good night’s rest, try a sleep machine.
• Take a warm bath or a warm shower as part of your bedtime ritual. Once you’ve begun your bedtime ritual resist the urge to watch television, walk the dog, or raid the refrigerator. Get yourself into a mindset of “this ritual is leading toward a more relaxing sleep.”

Whether you can slow or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s with a good night’s slumber, getting a restful sleep will benefit your body in many ways; do what you can to make certain you’re making the most of the night time hours.

Stay Healthy Naturally

Nobody enjoys catching a cold or coming down with the flu. The symptoms are miserable and an illness usually means that the patient has to miss work or school as a result. But there are steps that you can take to protect yourself naturally from cold and flu germs throughout the year so you can stay healthy and on top of your game.

Eat a healthy diet all year long and if you really want to boost your immune system and stave off those nasty germs, increase your intake of green tea. Green tea contains an antioxidant which reduces the risk of illnesses. Add some fresh garlic to your diet as the sulfur compounds will kill virus germs. Ginger contains antiviral compounds so steep it in tea to help keep flu and cold germs away.

Wash your hands frequently, especially if you are around people who are sniffling and sneezing. Your hands are usually your first point of contact with viruses so make sure you wash them with soap and water foregoing antibacterial washes. They do little to kill virus germs on your hands.

Try to keep your hands away from your face especially your eyes, nose and mouth. If you have germs on your hands and touch these parts of your face, the germs will have a quick entry point. If you are sharing a phone with others, wipe it down frequently. Do not share cups or utensils.

Use a humidifier in your home to keep your nasal passages from drying out. Change the water daily.

Get plenty of exercise throughout the year to boost your immune system which will fight germs naturally. If you feel a cold or flu symptoms creeping up on you, pop some zinc lozenges or use some zinc nasal gel as both have been known to reduce the length of cold and flu.

Doing these things doesn’t guarantee you will miss cold and flu season but they are certain steps to help fight off germs.

 

Related articles:

http://www.thestar.com.my/Lifestyle/Family/Features/2013/07/19/Go-organic-one-step-at-a-time.aspx

 

The Importance Of Drinking Enough Water

Doctors have found that dehydration is one of the most common fluid and electrolyte disturbances among the elderly. Water is crucial to all bodily processes from carrying hormones, disease fighting cells, nutrients and antibodies throughout the body as well as flushing toxins and waste products from the body, ingesting enough is critical to good health. Individuals over age 65, however, find that their thirst diminishes and because of that they don’t drink enough. Not drinking enough water can lead to diseases and disorders including kidney stones, hypertension, circulation disorders and common indigestion problems and, as a caregiver, you can see how important it is that your aging relatives are getting enough water in their diets.

If your parents live in an arid part of the country or are living in a warmer climate, drinking water helps address the fluids that may be lost due to sweating. Dehydration can lead to lightheadedness and that could precipitate a trip or fall accident.

Here are five reasons why caregivers need to make certain their aging relatives are getting enough water:

  1. Drinking water can help control caloric intake and may lead to either weight loss or maintaining current weight levels. Dieters know that drinking water takes the edge off of hunger and makes them eat less.
  2. Because your body is made up of 60% water, its functions are enhanced by drinking enough water. Water also helps keep your skin firm and looking better. If you’re dehydrated your skin looks dry and more wrinkled.
  3. Your muscles get fatigued if there is a lack of water in your body. If there is not enough fluid and the electrolytes are out of line, muscles suffer as a result.
  4. Your kidneys need adequate water to perform their function of transporting waste out of your cells. Blood urea nitrogen is a toxin within the body and this is a water soluble toxin that can be flushed out of your body by drinking water. You can tell if you’re not drinking enough water by the color of your urine – if it is light colored you are drinking enough, if is dark and/or has an odor you need to increase your water intake.
  5. As we age and sometimes move around less, we tend to eat a diet that may not be as high in fiber as it once was and this, coupled with a lack of water can lead to constipation. Staying hydrated can address this.

How can you get enough water in your diet?

If you don’t see yourself, or see your aging relatives drinking water throughout the day, here are tips to get more water in their diet without having to necessarily always rely on a glass of water:

  • Eat fruits and vegetables that are high in water content. Watermelon is one of those fruits. Eating fruits and vegetables will also lead to a better overall diet and health profile.
  • Make certain you drink a glass of water with every meal. Avoid alcohol or caffeinated drinks as they are dehydrating. Drink water or low sugar juices.
  • If you keep a glass of water or a water bottle close at hand then you will always have a readily available source of water to keep yourself hydrated.

As a caregiver, it is important to make certain that your parents or aging loved ones are ingesting enough fluids. Encourage that when you visit and when you check in on them.

Seniors Benefit From Flu Shot Vaccinations

Getting a flu shot may not be a high priority when it comes to the tasks on a To-Do list for many individuals. Those aged 65 or older, though should make it a top priority annually. The number of influenza-related hospitalizations and deaths soars in seniors aged 65 or older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The reason for this is that our immune systems weaken as we age and this makes seniors more susceptible to the ravages of the flu.

It’s wise to get the flu shot early as many areas of the country can actually run short of the vaccine later in the season. Many people are afraid to get the flu vaccine but here are a few tips that help dispel the myths that surround the reasons some seniors refuse to get a flu shot:

  • I’ve already missed the window for getting the shot, or catching the flu. This is untrue because as the CDC explains that it takes about two weeks following the vaccination to develop immunity so even if it gets a little later in the season.
  • If I get the flu shot I’ll get the flu. Many people believe that getting a flu shot gives them the flu. The reality is that the virus in the flu shot are “dead” viruses and therefore cannot “give” you the flu. Some individuals do experience redness or swelling where the shot was given and may even experience a low grade fever or slight aches; while this is not typical, it does happen.
  • I’ve already had the flu, I can’t get it again. This is not true because the flu that shows up every season is of a different strain. Having the flu doesn’t provide you immunity from catching it again.
  • If I get the flu I’ll just get my doctor to prescribe antibiotics. This won’t work because antibiotics target bacteria-driven illnesses but the flu is a viral infection. Antibiotics are ineffective against viral infections.
  • If I avoid the public, I’ll be safe. Many people think that the flu is spread through contact with coughing, sneezing people. This is true, but it’s also true that the virus can survive on surfaces for hours, sometimes days, and the most common way the virus is spread is through surface contact. Frequent hand washing is crucial to protecting yourself from catching the flu.

The flu shot is especially crucial for those seniors that are aging in place. A bout of the flu can mean you’re too ill to drive yourself to a doctor’s visit or stock up on groceries. Side effects from the flu are dehydration and that can lead to dizziness and slips or falls. Talk with your family or caregivers if you start to feel ill and if possible, have your home equipped with a medical alert device as these devices could literally be a lifesaver if you fall ill.

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