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.

Create Happiness in your Senior Years

Happiness in seniorsWe are all aware of the truths that seem to point to loneliness and depression in Senior Citizens, and how, as family members and caregivers we should be on the lookout for indicators that our loved ones may be struggling.

However, a growing shift has made itself apparent in our time as more and more senior citizens are choosing to live their ‘golden years’ out in experiences.  Happiness is more strongly associated with meaningful experiences than the accumulation of possessions. The iconic American Dream to own a home, have 2.5 children, a nice car, and a sizeable nest egg appeals for inherent reasons, but the ability to continue to make memories with either a spouse, family members, or friends is a growing trend in the lives of many seniors today.

Experiences can be as simple as taking the grandchildren to the beach, or traveling to an unexplored (for them) location.  If your loved one has the ability to get out on their own, let them.  Try not to be concerned about their ability to drive ‘that far’ on their own.  Perhaps they want to experience something new.  While the natural response is to say, not at your age, allow them the ability to do that thing, and perhaps even go with them.

One study shows that when people perceived they had less time left, they found greater happiness in ordinary experiences than younger individuals who perceived they had significant amounts of time ahead of them and who found greater happiness in the extraordinary.

The truth is, the older we get, we do gain more wisdom. We have learned that life experience gives you perspective. You know the downs don’t last, and the ups don’t last.   As a result, experiences, or those things that make us happy, begin to shift also.

Encourage them to go out and live life, and perhaps any loneliness or depression you were seeing will begin to disappear.  Being active at any age, and especially in seniors, is proven to have a positive effect on our mood and our health.

Let them enjoy the moment, and enjoy it with them.

 

Blue Light Can Disrupt Your Sleep

We all know how important it is to protect our eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays; but what about the harmful effects of blue light rays?

Before the advent of artificial lighting, days were spent with the rising and setting of the sun, and evenings were spent in relative darkness. Now, in much of the world, evenings are spent with illumination from other sources, and we pretty much take them for granted.

In its natural form, your body uses blue light from the sun to regulate your natural sleep and wake cycles.  This is known as your circadian rhythm.  Blue light also helps boost alertness, heighten reaction times, elevate moods, and increase the feeling of well-being. Artificial sources of blue light include your electronic devices, digital screens, your TV, computer, tablet, and smart phones.  Also, LED lighting and fluorescent lighting give off blue light.blue_light_from_electronics

While there are many benefits of blue light, as mentioned, helps boost your energy, regulates your natural sleep/wake cycles, there are some very real harmful effects.

Being exposed to blue light at night, can actually reduce the levels of melatonin in your system, thereby disrupting your circadian cycle, or sleep cycle.

Study after study has linked working the night shift and exposure to light at night to several types of cancer (breast, prostate), diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It’s not exactly clear why nighttime light exposure seems to be so bad for us.

While light of any kind can suppress the secretion of melatonin, blue light at night does so more powerfully. Harvard researchers and their colleagues conducted an experiment comparing the effects of 6.5 hours of exposure to blue light to exposure to green light of comparable brightness. The blue light suppressed melatonin for about twice as long as the green light and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much (3 hours vs. 1.5 hours).

When our sleep patterns are disrupted, without realizing it, our day follows.  We wake more tired, less likely to eat properly, which leaves us in a depressed state, not wanting to be as active as normal.  All of these situations can add up to an overall feeling of not being ‘with it’.

Turning off the lights in your home, not having a television or computer in your room, will all lead to a better, more healthful nights’ rest.  Having a medical alert system available is also another way to rest assured that your health is a priority to others as well.

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.

Don’t Let Life Get In The Way Of Good Health

The biggest problem with exercise and starting on a fitness or health regimen is that it takes commitment.  While you may be committed to establishing a healthy life-style by eating healthier or beginning an exercise program, there always seems to be something that gets in the way, and you just don’t make it happen.Good Health

Something always comes up.  The party that you went to last weekend de-rails the better food options.  It doesn’t have to, but it does. The walk you were going to go on at the park was sidelined because it snowed.  Your aunt called, and needed a ride to the grocery store, as you were lacing up your sneakers. Life got in the way.

Sadly, in today’s economy, sometimes making healthier food options can come down to the wallet.  Eating a healthier diet is more expensive in the short term, but, the overall health benefits has the potential of cutting down on medical expenses.

Shopping at a local fruit stand in the summer months and watching for sales at your local grocer can help you find healthier eating options.  Planning your meals and pre-cooking them is also a great help. For instance, you can get a pound of Brussel sprouts, a sweet potato or two, a couple of carrots, and roast them all at the same time.  That way you have a nice variety of vegetables that are already prepared and ready to toss into a salad, have with your evening meal, or even add to an egg for breakfast.

Exercise is another place where we can make excuses, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  A one mile walk takes less than a half-hour, yet helps to control your blood pressure, builds strength, and boosts your moods.

While it’s easy to come up with reasons to allow ‘life’ to get in the way of good health, it is equally as easy, but takes effort to build a healthy lifestyle to good health.