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Health Matters

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

Take care of your brain

Brain healthA brain-healthy lifestyle is essential to aging well. Mental acuity allows us to remain independent and enjoy a higher quality of life. To help promote the brain health of older adults in 2015, Eldercare Locator put out a brochure with tips for maintaining cognitive functioning. It draws on the research and recommendations of the Administration for Community Living, the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The brochure, “Brain Health: You Can Make a Difference,” offers the following tips to maintain optimal brain health:

Tips on overcoming the winter doldrums

Winter bluesIt’s very common to feel blue during the winter months with the often depressing backdrop of overcast skies, limited sun and shorter days. For seniors with limited mobility, the poor weather conditions might cause them to become increasingly homebound and feel isolated. Thankfully, there are several things you can do to reduce your risk of falling into a seasonal slump.

Friends and social activities are a huge help in lifting the mood, so setting a weekly get together is a smart idea. If you no longer drive, take advantage of public transportation to visit loved ones or participate in community events. Or you might invite friends and family to your home.

It’s also important to eat a healthy diet and continue to exercise, though often it can be hard to find the desire to do so when it’s cold outside. But staying active will reduce the risk of falling into a slump and keep your body healthy. 

Diabetes Awareness Month

Before November comes to a close, we want to acknowledge Diabetes Awareness Month, observed every November. Diabetes largely impacts older adults – roughly 26 percent of Americans 65 and older have diabetes while roughly 50 percent have pre-diabetes. Diabetes is among the leading causes of disability and death in the United States. It can also increase the risk for additional health problems, including blindness, nerve damage, kidney disease and even Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Learning how to prevent or effectively manage diabetes is an important step to promoting your health.

Tips to aging well and living a more satisfying life

A resident from the Greek island of Ikaria—a seemingly magical place in the north Aegean Sea where cancer and disease are rare and people live to ripe, old ages—is offering tips on living longer in her new cookbook, “Ikaria: Lessons on Food, Life, and Longevity from the Greek Island Where People Forget to Die.”

The 99-square mile island has been the subject of much research and was even featured in a New York Times profile in 2012, featuring the story of an Ikarian man who left the island, only to return years later after a cancer diagnosis. He had been given less than a year to live, but found that his health returned once he moved back to his native island.

Reduce chronic inflammation through volunteering

Not only does volunteering allow you to give back, recent research has also linked it to reduced levels of inflammation. Researchers believe, among other things, that such productive activities can benefit older adults’ health because they provide meaningful social roles, which positively impact the volunteer’s well-being.

The study, published in The Gerontologist, looked at four different productive activities—employment, volunteering, attending meetings and caregiving—and how they might play a role in reducing chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been linked to the risk of heart attack and stroke, emphasizing the importance of keeping inflammation levels low.