• December 12, 2017 /  Basics, Miscelleaneous

    The Benefits of Dance for Seniors

    Many health organizations recommend seniors remain physically active to avoid or postpone health issues ranging from cognitive decline to cardiovascular disease. Dancing is an excellent option that many older ones love. The health benefits range from improving your physical health to creating strong social connections that increase your sense of happiness and well-being.

    If you’d like to get started, try checking local community centers and retirement homes for free or inexpensive dance classes aimed at senior citizens. Enrolling in one of these age-specific programs ensures the moves will be appropriate for individual strength levels. Additionally, they provide great opportunities for socialization with other seniors.

    Here are 5 key benefits, and the science that supports them.

    1. Reduce depression: While depression is a serious illness that must be treated by a doctor, you can still do everything within your power to boost your mood. A group of Australian researchers found that men and women with mood disorders who participated in a two-week tango instruction program felt less depressed, and experienced significant reductions in their levels of stress, anxiety and insomnia.
    2. Improve strength: Even just a few weeks of dance classes can improve your strength, according to a study published in the journal Gerontology. The study authors noted that dance was a safe and feasible exercise program for most older adults. They also noted the high adherence rate of the program—over 92 percent of the seniors who started ended up completing the eight-week salsa dancing regimen.
    3. Alleviate stiffness: A Saint Louis University (SLU) study recently concluded that after engaging in a 12-week, low-impact dance program, participants with an average age of 80 years old were able to decrease the amount of pain medication they were taking by 39 percent. They were also able to move around more easily—a key determinant in remaining independent. “Walking just a little more rapidly can make enough of a difference for a person to get across the street more quickly or get to the bathroom faster, which keeps them functional and independent,” says study author Jean Krampe, Ph.D., assistant professor of nursing at SLU. Any medication changes should be discussed with your primary care physician.
    4. Defend against dementia: When compared to other leisure activities (e.g. playing golf, doing crosswords, reading, cycling, etc.) dancing actually appears to offer the best chance of helping stave off dementia. According to a 21-year study led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, aging adults who danced regularly had a 76 percent reduced risk for developing dementia. Experts theorize that dancing is beneficial for our brains because it combines cardiovascular exercise with split-second decision-making that taxes our neural network, forcing it to create new pathways.
    5. A realistic goal: Parkinson’s disease, dementia, cancer, arthritis, asthma, and heart disease: What do all of these conditions have in common? They don’t prohibit you from dancing. Research into using dance as a therapy for each of these ailments has unearthed a host of advantages, with very few risks. However, it’s important to always be sure and check with a doctor before embarking on a rigorous dancing regime, especially for those with pre-existing health conditions.

    So, what are you waiting for? Call up a friend to join you, and enjoy an hour or two dancing your cares away!

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  • December 1, 2017 /  Basics

    How Seniors Can Stay Safe in the Winter
    Cold weather can be a bother for anyone, but for seniors it can be dangerous. They are particularly vulnerable to complications from winter weather, with the flu and falls on the top of the list. It’s important to be aware of the many hazards winter can bring. Here’s what to do, and not to do, to stay safe!

    DO:

    Do prevent falls in icy conditions

    Preventing falls is critical. Keep driveways, porches, ramps and sidewalks clear of snow and ice. Put down salt to melt the ice and to provide extra stability. Also, be sure to wear rubber-soled boots or shoes. In addition, add non-skid pads to your shoes, as well as new treads on canes and walkers. You can ask friends, family, or caregivers for help with any of these.

    Do clear the driveway regularly

    Enlist the help of a neighbor or hire a local service that will plow and shovel on a regular basis. Also, if possible, invest in a good snow blower. Manual snow shoveling is strenuous, time-consuming and sometimes dangerous work. Many seniors will prefer to ask someone else for help with this task.

    Do make sure that your house is well heated

    Before the start of winter, you should make sure the furnace or gas heaters have been serviced. Change the filter on the furnace. Make sure the propane tank is full. Use only modern space heaters. Keep them away from flammable objects, such as clothes, blankets or curtains. Also, have extra blankets, sweaters and slippers within easy reach of your bed, couch, or wherever you spend the most time.

    Do prepare for the worst-case scenario

    One bad snowstorm can cause a great deal of havoc. Be prepared for the worst-case scenario, like losing power for a week or more. If there is a generator for the house, make sure it is serviced. If not, have one installed that is powerful enough to run a few lights and essential appliances during a power outage. Stock up on water, batteries, candles and canned food. Always keep a disaster kit handy.

    Do stock up on medical supplies

    Health conditions, such as incontinence, multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s Disease, don’t take snow days. Traveling during storms to purchase needed medical supplies can be dangerous. In some weather conditions driving is impossible. Purchase home medical products online. You can choose from an array of products for every kind of health condition. No matter the weather, the products arrive in a fast and timely way. In some cases, they arrive the same day.

    DON’T:

    Don’t shovel alone

    Never shovel snow alone. The combination of colder temperatures and physical exertion increases the workload on the heart. Even walking through heavy, wet snow or snowdrifts puts a huge strain on the heart. Shoveling also increases the chance of a fall, injuries and muscle strains. Ask for help. If you’re active enough to manage it, be sure you still have someone who can come help out, and can be there should you need them.

    Don’t leave the house without properly dressing for the cold

    Winter storms can leave motorists stranded. Individuals with compromised health are more sensitive to the cold and need extra layers for warmth. Make sure that you are well dressed in case of an accident before heading out. Also, make sure you have a windproof coat, hat, gloves and waterproof boots – even for short trips. It’s also a good idea to leave extra winter clothing, snacks and water in the car at all times.

    Don’t forget to hydrate

    Seniors and those who are sick are more prone to wintertime dehydration. The air is drier and they tend to feel less thirsty. Nevertheless, it’s vital to keep hydrated. Fill a pitcher each morning to serve as a reminder to yourself to drink eight glasses of water. Add lemon slices or juice to flavor the water. This makes it easier to drink.

    Don’t overlook the importance of car maintenance

    In the winter we tend to drive less. For this reason, too often we let car maintenance slide. Keep your car – if you still drive – running well. Make sure the tires are in good shape and can handle winter conditions. Also, make sure the antifreeze and windshield wiper fluids are full. Keep the gas tank above half-full at all times. Otherwise, condensation can build up in a near-empty gas tank in sub-freezing temperatures. This causes the fuel line to freeze-up. A reliable car is crucial during the cold months, especially in case of a medical emergency.

    With these simple steps, and some help from loved ones, you can enjoy this wonderful time of the year to its fullest!

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  • October 25, 2017 /  Basics

    7 Ways We Can Keep Our Home Safe

    It’s a fact of life that as we age, our safety concerns increase. Physical changes associated with aging may raise new issues in your home, so it’s important to create a safe environment for independent living. And it’s never too early to start! It’s better to make these adjustments now so you don’t have to worry about them a decade down the line.  Fortunately, there are many ways to make your home environment much safer.

    1. Fire Safety

    While smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers are essential safety equipment in every home, placing these items in easy-to-access locations is especially important in the home of a senior citizen. Impaired hearing may make it difficult to hear an alarm sounding in another part of the house, so it’s important to place carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors in frequently used spaces such as bedrooms, bathrooms, the kitchen, and the living room. Likewise, impaired mobility may make it more difficult to get to a fire extinguisher quickly for small fires, so store several in easy-to-reach places such as in a kitchen cupboard, in the bedroom, in the bathroom, and in the living room. If possible, make smoke detectors part of a monitored alarm system, which decreases fire department response time.

    2. Safer Bathrooms

    Showers can be slick, making them dangerous for those with limited mobility or poor eyesight. There are multiple ways to increase the safety of baths and showers.

    • Grab bars help with stability, and can prevent slips and falls. Likewise, a grab bar installed near the entrance to a tub or shower will give you something to hold onto when stepping over the edge of the tub. Install grab bars at arm height, as well as one at about waist height. You can also install a grab bar next to the toilet so you can pull yourself up and safely lower yourself.
    • Rubber mats or decals render tile less slippery, minimizing the risk of slipping and falling.
    • Shower seats give you a place to safely sit during a shower. These improve safety by allowing you to sit if you feel dizzy or tired. Choose a sturdy seat that affixes firmly to the floor of the tub or shower.
    • Walk-in tubs and showers eliminate the risk associated with the high-step into the bath tub/shower that is a fall hazard.
    • Taller toilets make it easier to get up and down. Many major manufacturers make toilets with higher seats, which can improve safety for those with mobility impairments.

    3. Monitored Alarm Systems

    Along with a monitored fire alarm system, you’ll be safer with monitored burglar alarms, as well as a personal emergency response and home safety alert system. Choose monitored alarm systems that have easily accessible panic buttons. These systems provide easy ways for you to call for help if you’re injured, sick, or unable to get to a telephone.

    4. More Lighting

    Inadequate lighting may cause accidents. Make sure all high-traffic areas (such as the living room and bedroom) have bright, easily accessible lighting. Install automated and safety lighting inside and outside of the house. Outside, install motion activated safety lights, which can provide visibility after dark and may discourage intruders, as well. Inside, install an automated lighting system so you can easily access and turn on lights without having to cross a room to find a light switch.

    5. Safer Stairs

    Indoor and outdoor stairs may also create hazards. Take the following precautions to make stairs safer.

    • Outside, install non-skid strips on steps and porches to provide extra traction when they are wet.
    • Tighten all handrails and banisters to provide a sturdy support for ascending and descending stairs. If stairs do not have a handrail, install one at slightly lower than elbow height.
    • Remove runners from stairways, which can be a tripping hazard.
    • Indoors on wooden stairs, install non-skid strips.
    • Install ramps if you use a walker or wheelchair.

    6. Outdoor Safety

    Outdoor areas have a number of safety hazards that need to be secured to keep you safe.

    • Trim trees, plants, and hedges so they don’t infringe on walkways.
    • Maintain adequate outdoor lighting. Consider installing pathway lighting to help improve nighttime visibility.
    • Fix cracked, broken, or displaced pavers and tiles, which can be tripping hazards.
    • Level rough patches of lawn that may have bumps or holes that can be tripping hazards.
    • Install non-skid decking, or use materials on decks to keep it safer in wet weather.
    • Fix broken steps and loose or uneven boards on decks and porches.
    • Tighten handrails and deck rails so they are secure to grip.
    • Keep sidewalks clear of debris that could cause trips and falls.

    7. Bedroom

    Make bedrooms safer with several bedroom upgrades.

    • Install sturdy bed rails to assist with getting in and out of bed.
    • Place a phone next to the bed and post emergency phone numbers where they are easy to see.
    • Create some kind of emergency escape in case of fire, such as a window safety slide.
    • Adjust bed height so it is not too difficult to get in or out of. Medical professionals suggest a safe bed height is at knee level or lower. An adjustable bed can also increase safety, making it safer for you to get in and out of bed.
    • Use a firm mattress on the bed, which makes it easier to get off the bed.
    • Place lighting controls next to the bed and just inside the door so you don’t have to cross the room in the dark.
    • Install a night-light or small lamp in en-suite bathrooms so it’s easier to find the way in the dark.

    While we may not have the ability to stop ourselves aging (or stop the physical declines associated), we can make large changes to our home environment to accommodate them. By taking steps to improve your surrounding environment, you can greatly increase your health, safety, and longevity!

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  • October 16, 2017 /  Basics, Dementia

    Reduce Your Dementia Risk With Exercise

    In our last article, we discussed what proactive steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Today we’re going to go into further detail on one such step: regular exercise.

    Many older adults find that with age fitness is more difficult to maintain. You may face chronic pain, fatigue, or illnesses that limit your physical abilities. Additionally, if you’re isolated from friends and family you might lack the motivation to exercise on your own. There’s still plenty you can do, however! Let’s learn why exercise plays such an important role in reducing one’s risk for these serious diseases, and how you can incorporate it into your own life.

    Scientific Evidence

    What scientific evidence is there to support this claim? As one reference, we can look at a study done by neuroscientist Art Kramer. He scanned the brains of 120 older adults, half of whom started a program of moderate aerobic exercise — just 45 minutes, three days a week, mostly walking. After a year, the MRI scans showed that for the aerobic group, the volume of their brains actually increased.

    What’s more, individuals in the control group lost about 1.5 percent of their brain volume, adding up to a 3.5 percent difference between individuals who took part in aerobic exercise and those who did not. Further tests showed that increased brain volume translated into better memory.

    This isn’t an isolated case. Bryan James is an epidemiologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago. He conducted a study in which he looked at a different measure of activity — something he calls “life space.” He added up how often people got out of their bedroom, went out of their house, traveled out of their neighborhood or out of town. “The people who never left their home — even though they didn’t seem to have any cognitive problems when we started following them — were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease over five years,” James says.

    Why exactly does this happen? Increased aerobic capacity has benefits for the metabolism and physiological function of the brain. A protein known as brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) is known to be important in the development, survival, and plasticity of nerve cells called neurons. It’s also important in protecting against neuro-degeneration that’s associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and other forms of dementia.

    Regular aerobic exercise boosts the level of BDNF by 2-3 times, and clearly the more often you exercise, the more prolonged the effect. We all deal with stress and fear in our everyday life, requiring our brains to constantly adapt. Since exercise has been shown to help us do this, it may well explain how it can be effective in reducing the risk of depression, anxiety, and dementia.

    What You Can Do

    As mentioned, this blog has covered the topic of fitness in the past. There are 3 common threads among them: start with easy, gentle exercises until you know your personal limits; reach out to family and friends for support, or look for a group to join; and have fun! By finding activities you really enjoy doing, you ensure that you continue to do them with regularity.

    For more, check out our past articles regarding fitness and overall wellness:

    4 Ways to Stay Active as a Senior

    How To Exercise When You Have Arthritis

    Five Wellness Tips for Seniors

    Speaking of Exercise

    Does this mean that you can 100% prevent dementia? Sadly, no. There are a myriad of factors that influence someone’s risk. However, you can play an active role in your own future health, and do a great deal of good for your brain!

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  • September 11, 2017 /  Basics

    The Importance of Dental Care for Seniors

    You might be surprised to learn how much your dental health says about your physical well-being. Periodontal disease is a precursor for some pretty serious medical conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. The healthier our mouths are, the healthier our bodies will be. And fortunately, it’s not that hard to care for them!

    Risks and Dangers

    The aging process begins to affect oral health and puts seniors at higher risk for several common oral health problems such as:

    • Dry Mouth. Dry mouth is a condition where the mouth stops making necessary amounts of saliva. It’s a common side effect of many medications, cancer treatments, and dehydration. More than being a nuisance, decreased saliva production puts seniors at a higher risk for developing gingivitis, tooth decay, and mouth infections such as thrush. The dentist may recommend specialized mouthwashes or the implementation of a humidifier to help keep the mouth moist.
    • Root Decay. Typically, gums begin to recede with age, and as a result of gum disease. This will eventually leave the higher parts of the tooth, which are the lower portions of the roots, exposed and vulnerable to acids and other substances that lead to their decay. If dental roots are damaged beyond repair, it leads to dental extractions.
    • Gum Disease. Also called periodontal disease or gingivitis, gum disease is most commonly caused by an accumulation of plaque on the teeth and along the gum lines. This hard substance allows bacteria to grow, causing inflammation (gingivitis) that leads to gum disease – the leading cause of tooth loss. Other common causes include smoking, use of dentures, poor diet, and certain diseases.
    • Tooth Loss. As mentioned above, gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss. Losing your natural teeth is a serious business. While dentures may seem synonymous with old age, they are also synonymous with poor diet and a deterioration of the gum tissue and jawbone. Dentures are typically uncomfortable and make it difficult for seniors to eat well, which leads to malnourishment, a compromised immune system, and susceptibility to other medical conditions. The longer you can keep your own healthy teeth, the better!
    • Uneven jawbone. Your teeth, gums, and jaw have a very close relationship. When the teeth go missing or are extracted, the gums and jawbone begin to diminish, which can lead to misshapen jaws. If you break or lose a tooth, get to the dentist immediately to determine the best solution. Implants or well-fitting bridges and dentures will help to slow down receding gums and jaws.
    • Denture-induced stomatitis. Dentures must be cleaned, maintained, and fitted on a regular basis or they can contribute to disease of the mouth. Denture-induced stomatitis can occur with poorly fitting dentures, poor oral hygiene, or an accumulation of a fungus called Candida albicans, which causes the gums to become inflamed and potentially infected.
    • Thrush. This is the same condition that can affect babies and young children. It is a symptom of a compromised immune system and is the result of a build-up of the aforementioned fungus.

    What You Can Do

    We all know brushing and flossing twice a day is important for oral health. But there’s more to maintaining dental care than that. Here are expert tips from the American Dental Association that are good guidelines to follow:

    • Brush twice a day with a toothbrush with soft bristles and fluoride-containing toothpaste
    • Use an electric toothbrush
    • Clean between your teeth once a day with floss or another inter-dental cleaner
    • Rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash once or twice a day
    • If you wear full or partial dentures, remember to clean them on a daily basis – Take your dentures out of your mouth for at least four hours every day, and know that it’s best to remove them at night
    • Quit smoking – Besides putting you at greater risk for lung and other cancers, smoking increases problems with gum disease, tooth decay and tooth loss
    • Visit the dentist on a regular schedule for a complete dental check-up, cleaning and oral exams
    • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes dairy and high-fiber foods

    Seniors in general are the most likely to stop seeing the dentist, especially in cases where dental insurance is no longer covered by a retirement health plan. The good news is that most dentists offer special rates for seniors and those who do not have dental insurance. They are often willing to work with you on payment plans. Seniors can also apply for CareCredit, which can be used like a credit card for dental and other health services.

    Schedule your next dental checkup today, because dental care for seniors is crucial to overall health!

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  • July 10, 2017 /  Basics

    How Older Ones Can Stay Safe in the Summer

    The summer is now here in full force and in most areas of the country there are times that it gets dangerously hot. The fact is, older ones are more susceptible to its ill effects. As you get older, your sweat glands are less active, and make it harder for your body to eliminate heat. Even seniors as young as their 60s still have a higher risk in the heat, especially if they have any chronic health conditions.

    There are 4 basic, vital steps that everyone should take to protect themselves. Be sure to talk to your doctor about your concerns as well, and see what advice they have for you.

    1. Sun Protection: First and foremost, you need to protect yourself before you even step outside. And that means more than applying sunscreen! You should absolutely wear it, though, any time you go out. Even when in the shade, or when it doesn’t seem too sunny, you should still apply it. You’d be surprised how much exposure you get even at those times!

    The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using “broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher”. This level of SPF filters out about 97 perfect on the sun’s UV radiation. Broad-spectrum ensures that you’re protected from both UVA and UVB rays.

    But it doesn’t stop there. Sunscreen can only do so much. You need to protect yourself additionally by wearing broad-rimmed hats and sunglasses. Choose loose-fitting clothing made from a breathable fabric such as cotton, and choose lighter colors. Avoid prolonged exposure from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the hottest part of the day.

    2. Keep Hydrated: Most adults need about two quarts (64 ounces) of fluids every day, but that amount increases with heat and humidity and can change based on various medications. Drink plenty of cool water throughout the day, and avoid alcohol and caffeine, which will actually dehydrate you.

    If you struggle to drink enough water, remember that you can get extra hydration by eating water-rich foods such as cucumbers and watermelon. You can also purchase flavored waters, drink a half-and-half mixture of fruit juice and water, and include plenty of ice in your usual favorite beverage. But in the end, these need to be an accompaniment to a consistent intake of water throughout your day.

    3. Cool Down: What steps can you take to stay cool throughout the day? If you feel very hot and uncomfortable, try a cool shower, or sit with your feet in a basin of cold water. Keep your AC at a reasonable temperature. If you’re out and about, be sure to have air-conditioned places around you – this includes coffee shops, libraries, stores, and the like. This is a great way to get mild exercise, too. Some seniors enjoy walking around malls in the early morning, especially if they have a friend to join them.

    4. Watch for Signs of Heat Stroke: Even if you follow all of these steps, as a senior you’re more prone to experience heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Part of the reason for this is that older ones have a harder time, on average, monitoring and adjusting to big changes in temperature. As the CDC points out, “People aged 65 years or older are less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature.”

    According to the Mayo Clinic, heat stroke symptoms include:

    • High body temperature. A body temperature of 104 F (40 C) or higher is the main sign of heatstroke.
    • Altered mental state or behavior. Confusion, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, seizures and coma can all result from heatstroke.
    • Alteration in sweating. In heatstroke brought on by hot weather, your skin will feel hot and dry to the touch. However, in heatstroke brought on by strenuous exercise, your skin may feel moist.
    • Nausea and vomiting. You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.
    • Flushed skin. Your skin may turn red as your body temperature increases.
    • Rapid breathing. Your breathing may become rapid and shallow.
    • Racing heart rate. Your pulse may significantly increase because heat stress places a tremendous burden on your heart to help cool your body.
    • Headache. Your head may throb.

    If you experience any of these symptoms, seek immediate help. Call 911 and if you have any family or friends nearby, alert them to your situation, so they can stay with you until professional help arrives. In the meantime, some quick steps you can take include getting indoors or into the shade, removing excess or heavy clothing, and using a hand-held fan with a water mister.

    By following these guidelines, you can be sure to have a healthy, enjoyable summer!

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  • June 26, 2017 /  Basics

    Tips for Seniors Who Want to Stop Smoking

    Are you a senior who smokes? You’re not alone. People of all ages struggle to quit, and know that there are risks to continuing to do it. However, older smokers are at greater risks because they have usually smoked longer (an average of 40 years), tend to be heavier smokers, and are more likely to suffer from smoking-related illnesses. It can become an ingrained part of their life that they can’t imagine giving up.

    You are most likely well aware of the increase in lung cancer due to smoking. What you may not know is smoking also dramatically increases the users risk of numerous other illnesses such as coronary heart disease, stroke and lower respiratory tract infections – all leading causes of death in those over 50 years of age.

    What would be the benefits go quitting? Here are just a few. Be sure to consult your doctor before embarking on major health changes.

    • Prolong your life
    • Reduce your risk of disease (including heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, lung cancer, throat cancer, emphysema, ulcers, gum disease and other conditions.)
    • Feel healthier (After quitting, you won’t cough as much, have as many sore throats and you will increase your stamina.)
    • Look better (Quitting can help you prevent face wrinkles, get rid of stained teeth and improve your skin.)
    • Improve your sense of taste and smell
    • Save money, which is especially important for older adults on a fixed income

    But how can you quit? You might be overwhelmed by the thought. Here are a few suggestions. See if a few of them appeal to you.

    • Pick a date on the calendar to stop smoking, and share your goal with family/friends for moral support.
    • List your personal reasons for quitting, and keep that list in view.
    • Stop smoking in certain situations (such as after dinner, or before bed) while you work your way towards quitting completely
    • Keep busy doing things that make it hard to smoke, like working in the yard and exercising.
    • Fight the urge by going places where smoking isn’t allowed, and by staying around people who don’t smoke.
    • Avoid situations that tempt you to smoke, like drinking coffee or alcohol.
    • Find a substitute to reach for instead of a cigarette. Try a sugar-free hard candy or chew sugar-free gum.
    • Remind yourself that you’re likely to feel better if you stop smoking.
    • Ask your health care provider about using nicotine gum or patches. Some people find these aids helpful.
    • Join a smoking cessation support group or program.

    Don’t throw in the towel if you smoke a cigarette. It doesn’t mean you failed! Seventy-five percent of people who quit subsequently relapse. Most smokers quit three times before they are successful! There’s no one way to quit that works for everyone. You must be ready emotionally and mentally. You must also want to quit smoking for yourself, and not to please your friends or family. Plan ahead.

    How can you keep yourself encouraged on the road to quitting?

    • Don’t carry a lighter, matches or cigarettes with you.
    • Ask other smokers to not smoke in your presence.
    • Don’t focus on what you are missing. Think about the healthier way of life you are gaining.
    • Keep yourself busy with healthy activities such as walking, seeing friends for lunch, and gardening.
    • Don’t substitute food or sugar-based products for cigarettes. Eat low-calorie, healthy foods (such as carrot or celery sticks, sugar-free hard candies) or chew gum when the urge to smoke strikes so you can avoid weight gain.
    • It is best to drink plenty of fluids, but to limit alcoholic and caffeinated beverages. They can trigger urges to smoke.
    • Reward yourself for these milestones. You deserve it!
    • Quitting becomes easier after the first few days.

    Withdrawal symptoms, such as feeling irritable, hungry, coughing often, getting headaches or having difficulty concentrating occur because the body is used to nicotine, the active addicting agent within cigarettes. These symptoms occur because the body is adjusting to the lack of nicotine. The withdrawal symptoms are only temporary. They are strongest when one is first quitting but will go away within 10 to 14 days. It is good to remember that withdrawal symptoms are easier to treat than the major diseases that smoking can cause.

    Don’t be discouraged if you have a relapse. Keep trying! Before embarking on any sort of health, exercise, or lifestyle changes, it’s important you speak to your doctor. Talk to your doctor about your desire to quit smoking beforehand, so that they can guide you.

    For more information, visit http://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/about-smoking/facts-figures/smoking-and-older-adults.html

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  • June 13, 2017 /  Basics, Miscelleaneous

    6 Essential Tips for Managing Arthritis

    Living with arthritis isn’t easy. For many seniors, it can be an unpleasant addition to other health problems. As you lose your ability to do simple things like using a can opener, typing, or writing, your frustration will likely increase. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicate that approximately 50 million people in the United States are living with some form of arthritis, making this crippling disease the country’s most common form of disability.

    If you are handicapped by any form of arthritis, you know the limitations the disease imposes on your ability to work, move, and generally feel comfortable, and you are probably willing to try anything that might improve your quality of life. There are definitely things you can do to lessen the pain and possibly increase your mobility. Here are six ways you can self-manage an arthritis diagnosis and improve your quality of life.

    1. Diet – It can start as simple as the food you put into your mouth. Most of us try to eat a healthy diet, but for those with arthritis and other difficult health problems, it is essential. You need to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs to function at its highest level. Packaged foods and frozen dinners can lack the proper nutrition required. But with age you might find your desire or ability to cook lessens. You can start by looking up recipes designed to be simple and healthy. You can also look into a food service such as Meals on Wheels, who can provide what you need and bring it right to your doorstep.
    2. Exercise – This is something I discussed in detail in the past. Read the post, “How to Exercise When You Have Arthritis” for more! In general, your aim is to keep moving, whether in large or small ways. Always consult your doctor before embarking on a fitness regime. However, you can start by focusing on doing just a little, but doing it often. You can walk around your neighborhood in the morning, garden in the afternoon, and swim in the evening, as an example. Your muscles support your joints, so strengthening them can greatly reduce pain. Your doctor may have other suggestions.
    3. Rest – Make sure to get 7-9 hours sleep per night. A study published in the journal Arthritis Care and Research 2015 found that people who didn’t get sufficient sleep had increased levels of osteoarthritis knee pain. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, have a bath (a tip discussed next), and practice relaxation techniques if you find getting to sleep is difficult. Short naps, as long as they aren’t too close to evening time, can refresh you as well.
    4. Take a bath – Yes, really! This simple tip can have a multitude of benefits. Soaking in warm water makes your joints looser by reducing the force of gravity that’s compressing them. This offers 360-degree support for your sore limbs. It’ll decrease swelling and inflammation, and increase circulation. Be sure to go warm, but not too hot. Epsom salts are a great addition to your bath, which actually increase your magnesium – a mineral important for bone health. Be wary if you have diabetes, as it can stimulate insulin release. Ask your doctor first.
    5. Joint care – It’s important to look after your joints so as not to risk further damage. How can you reduce the stress on your joints while carrying out everyday tasks? Use larger, stronger joints as levers – for example, take the pressure of opening a heavy door on your shoulder rather than on your hand. You can also use several joints to spread the weight of an object – for example, use both hands to carry your shopping or distribute the weight evenly in a shoulder bag or rucksack.

    Arthritis pain should not be a reason why you stop enjoying your everyday life. These are just a few options when it comes to self-care. Consult with your doctor for more ideas on what you can do from home.

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  • January 9, 2017 /  Basics, Miscelleaneous

    What Can Seniors Do to Prevent Falls?
    What’s the first you think of after you’ve had a fall? Most people would simply assume that they’re having some problems with eyesight or balance, hence impairing their ability to coordinate movement. Some also assume that they’ve had nothing more than a moment of clumsiness. These are not impossible conclusions. They do make perfect sense, but it is important to know that there can be other underlying reasons for the fall.

    Dr. Farrin Manian is a clinician educator and the principal investigator of a Massachusetts General Hospital study regarding infections and falls in the elderly.

    The study involved 161 patients who were treated in the Massachusetts General Hospital emergency room for a fall. All 161 of these patients were later also diagnosed with an underlying infection. Of these, 44.1 percent had a urinary tract infection, 39.8 percent had a bloodstream infection, 23 percent had a respiratory infection and 5.6 percent had an infection of the heart valve.

    Initially, experts did not suspect an underlying infection in more than 40 percent of the patients. This may be due to the fact that many of these patients only had one, or even none, of common signs of an infection (such as a rapid heart rate, an abnormal white blood cell count, and fever). As such, it is apparent that it is highly likely for the underlying infection to be missed if you don’t consider all the factors that led up to your fall.

    Now you may be wondering how exactly an infection could lead to a fall. There may not seem like there is an obvious link between the two, but the explanation is rather simple! According to researchers involved in the Massachusetts General Hospital study, infections can lower blood pressure. This will result in feelings of lightheadedness and dizziness, which then increase the person’s risk of falling. This effect is worsened in elderly persons because illnesses can also increase confusion in older people, especially in the cases of those who are also suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s.

    According to Dr. Manian, he was inspired to conduct the study because he had realized, over the years, that some of the more serious infections he had treated were in people who had come to the hospital because they had had a fall.

    According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 2.5 million elderly persons end up in American emergency rooms each year as a result of falls. Of these 2.5 million, less than a third require hospitalization consequentially. The death rate of these falls has also increased between the years 2004 and 2013, from 41 deaths per year for every 100, 000 people to 57 deaths every year for the same number of people.

    With such a large number of cases of elderly falls every year, it is important to be informed that there could be a huge range of causes behind the falling – it might not be a bout of clumsiness or failing eyesight.

    Of course, it is important to maintain your regular health checkups to ensure that no infections or other health problems go unnoticed. However, if you have already had a fall, it is essential that you don’t jump straight to conclusions and assume that it was due to clumsiness, eyesight problems, confusion, or other reasons. It is important that you consider all possibilities, and get a full health checkup conducted if possible, so as to detect any underlying health problems.

    By staying aware of the health of your complete body and mind, you can control your risk for serious falls!

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  • October 31, 2016 /  Basics

    4 Ways to Stay Active as a SeniorIt’s important for people of all ages to get regular physical activity. Countless studies have shown its positive effects on physical, mental, and emotional health. However, as you age, you might face concerns about injury. You might also wonder what sorts of activities are feasible for you. But staying fit doesn’t need to mean hours at the gym lifting weights! The important thing is to be moving around as much as possible, and to reduce the time you’re sitting.

    A study in 2012 found that those who sat for more than 8 hours a day increase their chances of developing type 2 diabetes by almost 90%! At the same time, a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine showed that those who simply fidgeted while sitting reduced their risk of all-cause mortality. Clearly, it takes less effort than you’d think to stay healthy. The key is to put the effort in and find what works for you! Remember to ask your doctor before embarking on any fitness regime.

    Here are four ways that you can stay active!

    Choose Active Hobbies

    A fun and simple way to stay active is by pursuing specific hobbies. You’ll want to choose ones that get you moving – even if it’s just in your backyard! Gardening is a great choice that many seniors like. Moving from kneeling, sitting, and standing is important for your bones and muscles to keep their strength. Working with your hands promotes brain and physical coordination.

    The best part is, you can make it as comfortable as you like, and go at your own pace. You can buy a kneeling pad to ease some pressure off your knees. You can take a rest as often as you like. Even 5 minutes is great for you! The fresh air will do wonders for your mood as well.

    Other options include knitting, needlework, painting, and scrapbooking. When you think of fitness, these might not come to mind. But the fact is that you’re moving your body, no matter how small the movements are, while engaging the brain. Open your mind to the possibilities!

    Gentle, Low-Risk Exercise

    Yoga, Pilates, Tai chi, and swimming are popular among seniors. They carry little risk of serious injury, and are easy to do in groups, with friends, or at home alone. They’re an excellent option for those who are new to exercise or have concerns about safety.

    • Yoga includes breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, and is widely practiced for health and relaxation.
    • Pilates is designed to improve physical strength, flexibility, and posture. It also enhances mental awareness.
    • Tai chi is actually a martial art, however it focuses on alleviating stress and anxiety through slow and carefully controlled movements. Tai chi is often practiced in an outdoor setting, and can be quite invigorating!
    • Swimming is a low-impact exercise, with little risk of injury. It’s gentle on your joints while improving muscle tone.

    Use a Buddy System

    Choose a friend or family member to be your buddy and go on walks or other activities with you. It could be your neighbor, your best friend, or even your spouse.  You hold each other accountable, and it’s easier to stay committed that way. They’ll provide you with companionship and encouragement. In turn, you’ll do the same for them.

    Perhaps you can arrange to go on monthly hikes. If possible, it’s highly beneficial to find someone to walk with on a daily basis. Your buddy can even join you in your active hobbies, as discussed above. You can garden or knit together, for example, while enjoying each other’s company. You don’t need to do it alone!

    Senior Group Fitness Classes

    Group classes are like the buddy system, except on a larger scale! They bring a lot of fun and excitement to what might otherwise be considered tedious.  You might be surprised at how many there are specifically for seniors!

    These classes can be found in health clubs, local gyms, recreation departments, YMCAs, community wellness programs, and more. They can utilize anything from basic exercises using handheld weights, to yoga, to cardio. Silver Sneakers (https://www.silversneakers.com) is a popular program, and that’s provided at no cost! AARP and the ICAA have also teamed up to provide a service that’ll help you search for the right program: http://www.icaa.cc/facilitylocator/facilitylocator.asp

    Whatever you choose, the point is to be proactive about your fitness level. Only you and your doctor can decide what type is right for you. However, at any stage in your life there are things you can do to stay healthy and active!

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