To Get a Better Workout, Play Like a Kid

By Health & Wellness

Remember when you were a kid and you couldn’t get enough of playing kickball or tag or jumping on a trampoline with your pals? Chances are, you had to be called in for dinner or bath time, often more than once. As you got older, physical activity probably became more regimented for you, as you focused on time, distance, speed, reps or other metrics. And the fun factor probably became secondary, which is unfortunate.

Increasingly, fitness experts are recognizing the value of embracing a playful attitude toward exercising because it brings numerous mind-body benefits.

“Exercise can and should be fun—that’s how you stick with it,” says Tom Holland, an exercise physiologist in Darien, Connecticut, and author of Beat the Gym. Plus, “when it’s fun, you’re going to work out harder and longer and you’re going to enjoy it more. If you’re enjoying the workout, it lowers your perceived exertion, which helps you work harder. You can exercise with a smile on your face and actually get a better workout.”

As proof, consider this: Research has found that adults who enjoyed playing the active video game Dance Dance Revolution played it at a higher intensity and burned more calories during the activity than those who were less engaged with the activity. Another study found that when adults played an interactive video game (the PlayStation 2, Road Fury 2 game) while cycling on an ergonomic bike, they worked out harder, expended more energy, and enjoyed it more than when they did a conventional indoor-cycling session.

“Making physical activity more playful ends up meeting more of your needs than just your need for physical activity—it can bring you joy,” says Katy Bowman, a biomechanist and movement specialist in Sequim, Washington, and author of Dynamic Aging. “Play is often associated with not being aware of how much time has passed, so playful physical activity will help you get more physical activity. You’re likely to do it longer and more often.”

Indeed, research has found that getting a mood boost during exercise is associated with greater adherence to physical activity programs.

To learn how to discover your personal formula for fun and games, from AARP, CLICK HERE.

Trouble Sleeping? A Simple Breathing Exercise Could Help Break Insomnia’s Grip

By Health & Wellness

A health writer’s quest to find new ways to nod off and end the no-sleep cycle

My history with sleep is like a roller coaster — making arduous, steady climbs to stretches of adequate rest, then careening with compounding speed into long stretches of little more than four hours a night.

Early in my career, I actually took great pride in my belief that I didn’t require as much sleep as my colleagues. I could get more done in a day! I was ridiculously productive and ridiculously exhausted.

As a health journalist, I inevitably learned the truth about sleep. It is crucial, not just for productivity and accuracy, but also for overall health, brain function, mood and longevity. But about the time I started to seriously seek the sandman — purchasing a sleep mask, earplugs and Tylenol PM; determinedly going to bed and waking up at the same times on weekdays and weekends; regularly soaking up eight hours, which felt like water for a very, very dry sponge — I had kids.

With my firstborn, I went from eight regular hours to four — on a good night. It was a free fall that I didn’t even try to recover from until my youngest set her sights on her tweens.

By then, something had shifted. My old tricks, even trading Tylenol PM for something more potent, gave me no traction. Night after night, I tossed and turned for hours and often found myself wide awake at 3 in the morning.

I can thank the onset of menopause for this new twist, says Rachel Salas, M.D., a sleep expert and professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore: “Hormone changes can disrupt sleep.”

To read more about how this health reporter used breathing exercises to regain a positive sleep routine, from AARP, CLICK HERE.

Skin Care and Aging

By Health & Wellness

Your skin changes with age. It becomes thinner, loses fat, and no longer looks as plump and smooth as it once did. Your veins and bones can be seen more easily. Scratches, cuts, or bumps can take longer to heal. Years of suntanning or being out in the sunlight for a long time may lead to wrinkles, dryness, age spots, and even cancer. But there are things you can do to protect your skin and to make it feel and look better.

Dry skin and itching

Many older people suffer from dry spots on their skin, often on their lower legs, elbows, and lower arms. Dry skin patches feel rough and scaly. There are many possible reasons for dry skin, such as:Older woman with healthy aging skin

  • Not drinking enough liquids
  • Spending too much time in the sun or suntanning
  • Being in very dry air
  • Smoking
  • Feeling stress
  • Losing sweat and oil glands, which is common with age

Dry skin also can be caused by health problems, such as diabetes or kidney disease. Using too much soap, antiperspirant, or perfume and taking hot baths can make dry skin worse.

Some medicines can make skin itchy. Because older people have thinner skin, scratching can cause bleeding that may lead to infection. Talk to your doctor if your skin is very dry and itchy.

Here are some ways to help dry, itchy skin:

  • Use moisturizers, like lotions, creams, or ointments, every day.
  • Take fewer baths or showers and use milder soap. Warm water is less drying than hot water. Don’t add bath oil to your water. It can make the tub too slippery.
  • Try using a humidifier, an appliance that adds moisture to a room.

To learn about other skin care issues that occur with aging, and how to protect your skin, from the National Institute on Aging, CLICK HERE.

When Lying is a Sign of a Health Problem

By Health & Wellness

Memory is a funny thing. We all get details wrong from time to time, misremember or simply have gaps in recall. You may remember eating in a nice Italian restaurant before seeing My Fair Lady but really you ate at that restaurant before seeing Chicago. This kind of memory confusion is normal. But less commonly, because of underlying neurological issues, people will generate false memories with no intent to deceive.

The medical term for this is confabulation. Because the person believes what they’re saying, the term “honest lying” is also used to describe this phenomenon.

Two types of confabulation

Confabulation can be provoked, in response to being asked questions or for details a person can’t quite recall correctly, or spontaneous, when the misremembering is just that — unprompted. This phenomenon is different from delusions, or false beliefs.

The latter, spontaneous confabulation, is rarer, and may point to an underlying medical condition such as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome — a neurological disorder that’s caused by a lack of vitamin B1 (thiamine), most frequently from chronic and severe alcohol use. It also can be caused by a range of other conditions, from Alzheimer’s dementia and traumatic brain injury to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Even in cases where the underlying condition is already known, it can be concerning when a loved one suddenly seems be making up stories about the past.

It’s very distressing when you see someone that you love isn’t remembering things or seeing things the way that you do,” says Susan Maixner, M.D., codirector of the geriatric psychiatry program and geriatric psychiatry fellowship director at the University of Michigan. This isn’t just about missing a few details here or there when recalling a shared experience. With confabulation, a person fabricates memories — for example, to fill in holes in what they recall — and believes their version of events completely, Maixner explains.

“They have no awareness that these things didn’t happen, and they’re not trying to lie or deceive anyone,” she emphasizes. Still, the resulting confusion can leave caregivers at a loss.

To learn more about confabulation, and how to respond to ‘honest lying’ from a friend or loved one, from AARP, CLICK HERE.

How to Talk to Your Loved One About Senior Living

By Senior Resources

Asking a loved one to consider a senior living community can be a difficult conversation, even when it is the best choice for their safety and wellbeing. However, with a kind and empathetic approach, this difficult conversation can result in a better future for your loved one. By coming from a place of understanding, you can help the older adult in your life view a senior living community as the beginning of an exciting new chapter.

It isn’t easy to acknowledge you need a little extra help. This is especially true as we age. We spend decades making a home, living independently, and settling into a familiar routine. For this reason, and many others, it can be difficult for older adults to realize it might be time to consider moving to a senior living community.

In approaching a conversation about senior living, it is important to first understand the fear and apprehension that your loved one may be feeling. And beyond simply understanding, it is essential to treat your loved one as a trusted and respected voice in the decision-making process. In this blog, we will provide tips for having effective and empathetic conversations about senior living.

For more information on the best tips to talk with your loved one about senior living, from Life Care Services, CLICK HERE.

What Is the MIND Diet?

By Health & Wellness

In 2004, a team of researchers at Rush University Medical Center enlisted a group of older adults who were participating in the ongoing Rush Memory and Aging Project (MAP) for a spin-off study. MAP began in 1997 with the goal of pinpointing the factors associated with memory loss in older adults, with an emphasis on Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common type of dementia. Researchers now wanted to zero in on diet; specifically, the effects of certain foods and nutrients as a preventive measure against Alzheimer’s.

Using past research, they developed a MIND diet score partially based on the Mediterranean and DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) diets, both of which have been shown to benefit brain health. For nine years, participants agreed to keep track of what they ate and then fill out a dietary questionnaire at an annual cognitive assessment. At the end of that period, researchers found that participants with the highest MIND diet scores had a significantly slower rate of cognitive decline compared with those who had the lowest scores.

Those initial findings, which were published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, provided the basis for the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet.

What foods are allowed on the MIND diet?

Like the Mediterranean and DASH diets, the MIND eating plan is made up of plant-based foods and limits the intake of foods high in saturated fat. Unlike these diets, though, MIND specifies 10 “brain healthy” food groups to eat — among them, vegetables, berries, olive oil, nuts, whole grains and beans — and five unhealthy foods to limit (red meat, fast fried foods, pastries, cheese and other sweets).

To learn more about the MIND diet, and its many health benefits, from AARP, CLICK HERE.

8 Types of Medications That Can Make It Harder to Handle the Heat

By Health & Wellness

Temperatures are soaring in many regions of the country, putting people — especially older adults — at risk for heat-related illness, even death. And one thing that doesn’t help is if you are taking medications that interfere with your body’s ability to cool itself down.“This issue is particularly important for older people because they tend to be on more medications that alter either the body’s control of circulating blood volume and/or cardiac activity,” which can make it harder to deal with the heat, says Cecilia Sorensen, M.D., director of the Global Consortium on Climate Health and Education at Columbia University in New York City.

It’s important to pay attention to this often-overlooked side effect during heat waves, which the Environmental Protection Agency says are increasing in both intensity and frequency. But it’s not just those stifling stretches that can be dangerous. Research shows that older patients with chronic medical conditions who take heat-sensitive medications can have medication-related problems throughout the entire summer.

How do medications affect your heat tolerance?

First, it’s important to understand how your body deals with heat and works to maintain that ideal internal temperature of 98.6 degrees.

To cool off, your body has several tricks. One is perspiration (or sweat). When sweat evaporates from your skin, it cools the body.

Another is when the blood vessels underneath your skin vasodilate (widen) and bring warm blood closer to your skin, allowing the skin to release heat.

Several different medications, though, can interfere with this complex thermoregulation system by limiting the body’s ability to sweat or by reducing blood flow to the skin. Medications can also cause dehydration, and some may make the skin more sensitive to the sun, causing a rash or sunburn.

To learn about the 8 types of medications that don’t mix with heat, from AARP, CLICK HERE.

Cooked or Raw? The Best Ways to Eat 9 Healthy Veggies

By Health & Wellness

Many people assume veggies are always healthier raw; that chopping, slicing, dicing or grating them after they’ve been washed is all they need to work their nutritional magic, but that’s not always the case. In some instances, cooking releases nutrients that aren’t available from vegetables if you eat them straight from the farmers market or supermarket.

From beets (think cooked)  to tomatoes (either raw or cooked), find out how to get the most nutrients from these nine vegetables.

1. Beets

Raw or Cooked? Cooked. Low in calories and high in nutrients, cooked beets reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Benefits: Naturally occurring compounds in beets improve blood flow, help keep arteries healthy and reduce LDL cholesterol (the ‘bad’ kind). Beets also provide an impressive helping of fiber (or roughage) to help lower blood pressure and keep you feeling full longer. A bonus: Some research has found that drinking beet juice before you exercise increases endurance.

Tip: To avoid spatters of red juice everywhere when cooking beets, wear disposable gloves and an apron before you start to prep, and cover your cutting board with parchment paper before you begin slicing.

2. Carrots

Raw or Cooked? Both. Raw carrots can help lower blood pressure, and cooked carrots support a healthy immune system.

Benefits:  Both raw and cooked, carrots help keep you healthy. Raw carrots are rich in fiber, which helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and cooked carrots release carotenoids, compounds the body converts to vitamin A to help ward off infections and support a healthy immune system, notes Andres Ardisson Korat, a scientist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center at Tufts University.

Tip: If you plan to serve cooked carrots, the best way to preserve their nutrients is to steam them, which minimizes cooking time and maximizes nutrient content.

To read about the best ways to eat other healthy veggies, from AARP, CLICK HERE.

How to Stay Healthy as Summer Temps Rise

By Health & Wellness

As summer bears down, triple-digit temperatures in some parts of the country are no longer an anomaly — they’re normal.

Southern states are grappling with a relentless heat wave, with temperatures topping triple digits. These high temps have arrived much earlier in the season than normal, and millions of people are living under heat alerts.

But even in areas that don’t often see 100 degrees or above, weather is getting hotter and stickier. As temperatures rise, people need to be more careful than ever to stay cool and avoid overheating and illness, particularly as they get older, medical experts say.

“As you age you don’t notice the heat anymore,” says Charles Maddow, M.D., the director of emergency geriatrics at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in Houston. Older bodies are not as hydrated and don’t sweat as much, making it more difficult for them to cool down, he explains.

Heat is the number 1 weather-related killer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says that on average, about 618 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat every year. The National Weather Service recently forecasted heat indexes near Houston and San Antonio as high as 120 degrees.

To learn how to watch out for heatstroke and heat exhaustion, from AARP, CLICK HERE.

Osteoporosis, the Silent Disease

By Health & Wellness

Osteoporosis weakens bones to the point that they can break easily. It is called a “silent disease” because people who develop it may not notice any changes until a bone breaks — usually a bone in the hip, spine, or wrist.

Bones are made of living tissue. To keep them strong, a healthy human body breaks down old bone and replaces it with new bone. Osteoporosis develops when more bone is broken down than replaced.

The inside of a bone looks something like a honeycomb. When someone has osteoporosis, the bone, which forms the “walls” of the honeycomb, get smaller, and the spaces between the bone grow larger. The outer shell of the bone also gets thinner. All of this makes a bone weaker.

In serious cases of osteoporosis, a simple motion such as a cough or minor bump can result in a broken bone, also called a fracture. People with osteoporosis also have a harder time recovering from broken bones, which can sometimes cause pain that does not go away. Broken hip and spine bones are especially serious, as these injuries can cause older adults to lose their mobility and independence.

To learn more about how osteoporosis is diagnosed, who’s at risk and how it’s treated, from the National Institute on Aging, CLICK HERE.