Letter From the Editor:
January ended on a high note with the success of the fourth webinar in our Healthy Longevity Series featuring Dr. Gary Small. For those of you who were unable to attend or would like to view the presentation again, you can find it on the Webinar Series page
of our website. In observance Heart Month, we will be sharing information about cardiac rehabilitation and post-stoke care on our blog
and social media sites
, so stay tuned.
In this issue, I’m excited to share information specific to healthy longevity and preventative behaviors. First, we’ll look into the genetic and lifestyle factors that enable some people to live to 100 and beyond. Some of these lifestyle factors may surprise you! Next, we’ll examine brain health and what you can do to lower your risk for developing Alzheimer’s and other dementias; research continues to show that certain practices such as exercising regularly and eating healthful foods can have a positive impact on the brain. Then, looking ahead to Heart Month, I will share four foods that promote healthy blood pressure.
Lastly, I would like to acknowledge Phil Davis from Home Care Assistance of Columbus for being selected for this month’s Caregiver Spotlight. We are excited to honor him for his outstanding commitment to providing the highest level of care to his clients.
Will You Live to 100?
Research shows that both genetics and lifestyle factors contribute to our health and longevity. However, there are so-called “slow agers” who seem to be genetically predisposed to live to 100 even when adopting unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking. New research suggests that about one in 10,000 people seem to be part of this guaranteed centenarian group and there are several factors that may suggest whether or not you may be among them!
- You have long-lived relatives. This one makes sense—if your first-tier relatives are living past 90 then you likely have longevity genes in your family. According to the New England Centenarian Study conducted at the Boston University School of medicine, at least half centenarians have a parent, sibling or grandparents who also displayed remarkable longevity living to 90+.
- You have a strong social support system. Numerous studies have shown that loneliness has real, negative health consequences, while maintaining social connectedness supports healthy longevity. People who are active in their communities, volunteer, and maintain connections with family, friends, coworkers or religious groups tend to live longer than those who do not.
- You’re not a big worrier. Moderate worriers, those who tend to take fewer risks, have a 50% decreased risk of death in any given year compared to chronic worriers.
- You can walk fast and far. Looking at gait speed of about 35,000 individuals ages 65 and older, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that as speed increased by 0.1 meters per second, risk of death decreased by 12 percent. In addition, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found a correlation between walking distance ability and morbidity where adults ages 70 to 79 who were able to walk a quarter mile or more were less likely to suffer disability and illness and more likely to live for another six years.
- You’re a woman. Though researchers are not completely sure of the reasons why—the potentially protective role of menstruation and higher rates of suicide among men are some of the theories—women seem to have an advantage in longevity. Males fear not! The survival gap is narrowing and male centenarians are, on average, healthier than their female counterparts.
- You’ve had a child after age 35 (and are a woman). The New England Centenarian Study found that women who naturally conceive and bear children after age 40 are four times more likely to live to 100 than women who do not. The theory is that women who are able to give birth in their late 30s or 40s likely have reproductive systems (and thus, bodies) that are aging slowly.
- You are a healthy weight. A 2011 study conducted by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that a group of long-lived adults, ages 95 to 112, were much less likely to be obese than a comparison group born at the same time that had been studied in the 1970s (when still alive). Other studies have replicated these findings.
- You have long telomeres. Telomeres are “caps” of sorts that protect the ends of chromosomes. As cells divide, the telomeres shorten until they reach a point where division is no longer possible. This process called senescence manifests as the changes we see in aging. Evidence suggests that the longer your telomeres, the slower you’re aging. In some cases, centenarians have an overactive version of the enzyme that rebuilds telomeres so longevity again goes back to genes. However, other studies suggest that not smoking, avoiding chronic stress, and maintaining a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help preserve telomere length.
- You’re upbeat and positive. Longitudinal studies conducted at the Stanford Center on Longevity suggest that those who live longer tend to experience more positive emotions than negative ones. Director Laura Carstensen suggests that feeling positive and satisfied with your life means you experience less stress and thus do not experience the negative health benefits that come along with high stress levels.
What is your secret to living longer?
Keep Your Brain Fit in Five Easy Steps
Your risk for developing dementia isn’t just luck of the draw. More and more research shows that lifestyle changes play a more significant role in overall health than genetics. Do you want to keep your brain as healthy as possible? Consider adopting some of these behaviors proven to keep your brain fit into old age:
We know the physical benefits of exercise and more research is showing the cognitive and psychological benefits as well. In fact, higher levels of physical activity can lower dementia risk by 30 to 40 percent. Don’t have time for the gym? Don’t worry! Even as little as 15 minutes of exercise a day, three days a week can help maintain brain health.
Chronic stress can impair memory and brain functioning. Meditation has been
shown to reduce stress hormones and increase gray matter in the brain. A higher volume of gray matter—an important nerve tissue found in the brain—is associated with higher cognitive function in older adults. Studies show that gray matter plays an important part in memory, muscle control, and sensory perception. Lighting a candle, closing your eyes and focusing attention on your breath may be the single easiest way to protect against Alzheimer’s
3) Eat Well
Eating a balanced diet of fish, fruit, vegetables, and nuts can lower your risk of developing dementia. Research shows that older people who eat these foods maintain higher levels of cognitive ability. Don’t worry about picking up produce from the farmer’s market, bottled fruit or vegetable juice works too.
Maintaining a strong social network has been shown to reduce dementia risk. The emotional support and mental stimulation that friends provide helps keep the brain active and healthy. Researchers at University of Michigan found that after just 10 minutes of conversation, subjects did better on a short-term memory test. Make time to connect with family and friends every day.
5) Take Vitamins
A vitamin deficiency—especially vitamin B12—can increase your risk of dementia. Many older adults don’t get enough nutrients from food. Adding the correct vitamin regimen can help keep the brain healthy into old age.
Lower Your Blood Pressure With These Four Foods
Are you worried about your blood pressure and how it’s affecting your health? Maintaining healthy blood pressure helps prevent heart attack and stroke, but a new study found that 50% of people taking medication to fight hypertension still don’t actually have control of their blood pressure. Luckily, we’ve made a list of four delicious ways you can promote a healthy heart:
1. Cranberry Juice
The American Heart Association has found that a daily glass of this fruit juice can lower blood pressure. The secret is the abundance of antioxidants found in the berries. Just make sure you drink the unsweetened variety to avoid spikes in blood sugar levels.
2. Pomegranate Seeds
Researchers at Penn State have found that eating a serving of pomegranate seeds before exercising can help keep your blood pressure at a healthy level, allowing you to exercise harder and longer. As an added bonus, this fruit is packed with antioxidants.
3. Hot Cocoa
A recent study found that eating three tablespoons of cocoa powder a day can lower your blood pressure by two to three points; flavanols, a compound found in cocoa, help blood circulation in your blood vessels. There’s nothing quite like a mug of hot cocoa to combat the cold winter weather and promote heart health too!
A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that consuming legumes could lower one’s systolic blood pressure number by 4.5 points. In addition, beans can lower your risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Caregiver of the Month Spotlight: Phil Davis
This month’s Caregiver Spotlight honors Phil Davis of Home Care Assistance of Columbus; his ability to balance his own life with his caregiving responsibilities has been inspirational and something many employees strive to achieve.
In October 2011, Phil started working with our client, Dick, an 84-year-old with Parkinson’s and dementia. He began working as a companion three days a week, giving Dick a friend and his wife the much-needed support she deserved. Their friendship has been building ever since.
In December, Phil began reporting that Dick was having more and more trouble with basic ambulation as he maneuvered around his two story house. Although Phil is a single dad with three sons, he makes himself available so that he can take care of Dick when his wife has the most trouble helping him — primarily mornings and bedtime. Not only is he always there when needed, but he even takes extra shifts on the weekends. He take’s Dick to his doctor’s appointments in the afternoon and returns each evening to help Dick get upstairs, into his pajamas and into bed.
Phil is now helping Dick learn Spanish. They also play cards together and enjoy lively conversations about what they have watched on the History Channel each day. With a daily exercise routine thrown in, the time spent together is filled with activity that promotes Dick’s physical mobility and mental acuity and gives his wife time to herself. Phil has helped maintain the couple’s quality of life by making it possible for Dick to continue living at home.
A great communicator, Phil keeps the office team fully apprised of what’s happening, calling, emailing and meeting with his care manager as needed so they can discuss ideas and coordinate the best care plan for Dick.
This kind of personalized care, companionship, consistency and flexibility are what sets Home Care Assistance of Columbus apart. Phil exemplifies the professionalism that our caregivers customarily demonstrate, but his flexibility and tenacity place him in the ranks of the ‘Above-and-Beyond’ category.
Thank you Phil, for your compassion and your willingness to do whatever it takes to ensure the proper care is delivered to your client consistently!