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Health Matters

A roundup of relevant news about health, fitness and care for seniors.

Improve your health: Get some sun

Sunlight improves your healthWe all know sunlight is a key ingredient to good health, but it may have an even bigger impact than we previously thought. According to a new study from Northwestern University, basking in the sun can help you manage your weight.

An important thing to note is that this refers specifically to bright, early morning light. In the study, people who spent time in the sun between 8 a.m. and noon had a lower body mass index than those who spent time outside later in the day.

Of course, this raises some questions – how do early morning rays differ from late day rays, and why would sunshine impact your weight at all?

How to become a super ager

Super agers seem to be some kind of mythical creature – not only does their longevity exceed that of the average person, their mental and physical health also surpasses the norm for their age group.

Super agers are defined as people older than 80 with the brains and bodies of people decades younger. This elite group has fascinated researchers for years and has been the subject of many studies. Using imaging tests, researchers at Northwestern University found that Super Agers have far less age-related plaques and far more brain mass related to attention and memory than most people their age.

Exercise promotes healthy aging

Exercise for healthy agingNow that the days are longer and spring is just around the corner, many of us are probably thinking about exercising to spend more time outside—thinking being the operative word.

Exercise is important to your physical health (and often your emotional health) no matter who you are or what your age is. But the older we get, the more important exercise becomes to maintaining our health well into our golden years.

Even if you’re middle aged and can’t remember the last time you exercised, starting now can still have a major impact on your long-term health and longevity.

Seniors living alone at risk for malnutrition

Seniors and nutritionHome Instead Senior Care recently released a report about the challenges living alone poses to seniors’ nutrition. According to the report, 40 percent of seniors aged 75 and older live alone, and among them, two out of five are malnourished.  

Why? Part of the problem is that shopping, meal planning and meal preparation can be arduous tasks for aging adults. As a result, they may not shop as frequently as they should or eat as frequently as they should, and rely heavily on premade or convenience foods, which lack the nutrients they need. 

But the biggest challenge to seniors’ eating habits is a lack of shared mealtime experiences, those family dinners so often taken for granted. Although most of us acknowledge the value of family dinners for bonding, we might not think of them as important to proper nutrition.

Seniors enjoy better mental health than previous generations

Seniors enjoy better mental health than previous generations It perhaps comes as no surprise that we’re living longer than ever before. In 1900, the average life expectancy for men was only 46! Now, most men live to 79, and still others become thriving octogenarians.

The good news is that not only has life expectancy dramatically increased, our mental health has also significantly improved; according to a group of researchers from France, seniors today are experiencing delayed cognitive impairment compared to previous generations.

Between 1991 and 1997, 204 French seniors participated in tests measuring their cognitive functioning. Between 2008 and 2009, a new group of 177 seniors took these same tests. Researchers compared the data and discovered the latter group had higher overall scores.