Posts Tagged ‘chronic disease prevention’

Your Brain Health and Aging

Female Anatomy Brain Full

The human brain is a wonderful, complex organ, which, among other things, is responsible for our cognition and memory. Unfortunately for many, aging brings a host of unwanted changes, both physical and mental. Many people mistakenly believe that you either get dementia (or other forms of cognitive decline) as you age or you don’t—but research has found many factors can contribute to or make cognitive decline worse. The good news is that a number of these risk factors are within our control and, like so many other chronic diseases and health conditions, can be managed by making healthy lifestyle choices.

Did you know that poor oral health has been linked to chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oral Health Basics)? Researchers are currently studying whether a common bacteria associated with chronic periodontal disease could play a role in dementia. A small study at the University of Central Lancashire found products from the bacteria, Porphyromonas gingivalis, in the brains of several deceased individuals who suffered from dementia. Visiting the dentist on a routine basis, along with consistent daily brushing and flossing can help bolster oral health.

The ACL, NIH and CDC have collaborated on several wonderful resources to help you better understand certain risk factors for dementia and steps you can take to keep you and your loved ones healthy. Check out their Brain Health as You Age fact sheet and their Medicine, Brain and Your Age informational resource to learn more. Exercising, eating a diet high in fiber with lots of fruits and veggies, quitting smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce your risk of cognitive decline as well as many other chronic diseases.

Take Charge of Your Health!

Action portrait of elderly women jogging together outdoors.

Action portrait of elderly women jogging together outdoors.

Do you know what BMI means? How about how many hours of physical activity you should participate in each week? Any idea what the appropriate serving size is for meals? While the answers to these questions are only part of what it means to be healthy, they are critical to your ability to take charge of your health. Many chronic conditions that older Americans suffer from can actually be managed or prevented by making small, healthy lifestyle changes.

BMI stands for Body Mass Index and is a tool you can use to determine if your weight is generally regarded as healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, having a BMI of 25-29.9 puts you in the overweight category, and a BMI over 30 means you are obese. Waist circumference is another indicator of overall health, as excess abdominal fat can put you at increased risk for health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and more.

What is the best way to attack those extra pounds? Exercising and eating healthier are two of the most important changes you can make when it comes to controlling your health. Exercise does not have to mean putting in hours at the gym or running or doing any activity you aren’t really keen to do. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t stick with it, so choose things that make you happy. Meet with a friend and walk on your lunch break, ride your bike at the beach, take up a new interest such as yoga or spinning or barre class. Keep trying new things until you find something you truly enjoy and you won’t have any problem making time for it in your everyday life. As a rule of thumb, older adults need 2.5 hours of moderate activity and full-body muscle strengthening 2 days a week. There are 168 hours in a week, so these recommendations are completely doable! Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise program. Visit the CDC’s website for more information on incorporating a healthy balance of exercise and strength training into your life.

Now on to portion sizes. Most Americans would be shocked to know what their actual recommended serving sizes and daily caloric needs are. To test your knowledge, take this Portion Distortion quiz courtesy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Not only does it discuss portion sizes but also how much exercise you would have to do to burn the extra calories! A really easy trick for cutting hundreds of potential calories a day is to stick with water, black coffee or unsweetened tea. If your goal is to lose weight, cutting out sugary beverages (including juice! eat the whole fruit which has fiber and other nutrients that juice lacks!) can make a big dent in your daily caloric intake.

Start by making small changes to your daily routine and add (exercise, new vegetable) or subtract (fast food, Starbucks’ sugar-laden drink) something new each week. You will feel less deprived if you aren’t overhauling your entire life all at once and will be more likely to make lasting changes you can live with. Here’s to a healthier future!