Jenson Mak | Vitality & Healthy Ageing Blog

Dr. Jenson Mak covers the best of living a vital and healthy life at any age.

Category: Healthy Minds (Page 1 of 3)

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Health Benefits of Volunteering

As mentioned in an earlier blog, volunteering is a great way for senior citizens to remain involved and active in their communities upon retirement. Not only is giving back to the community a great way to remain involved but many volunteer opportunities also present many health benefits. When it comes to community service, the benefits go far beyond helping others, as it gives so much more for a volunteer to gain.

 

Mental Stability

There are endless opportunities for people to serve others on a level that requires minimal to no physical efforts. While these opportunities don’t benefit the body as a whole, it is just as important for older generations to continuously exercise their brain. Volunteering in educational based roles such as tutoring is a great way to maintain a healthy mental activity level. Even doing work for organizations that guide students through life’s challenges is a boost for the brain. Create the Good shared that studies at Johns Hopkins proved those who volunteer have greater mental capacities, and who would complain having more of that at an older age?

 

Physical Enhancers

With organizations that require volunteers to take physical action, there are surpluses of opportunities to gain while donating their time. There are specific events designated to running or walking for charity, which is a tremendous activity for seniors in and of itself. Additionally, philanthropic groups are always looking for a lending hand; whether it be helping to build a house, paint a mural, serve food, or run a clothing drive. All of these activities involve getting up and moving, giving volunteers a great way to get in their physical activity for the day. Living longer, decreased risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s, and fat burning are all side-effects of volunteering at an elderly age. Some even believe doctors should recommend adding volunteerism when mentioning diet and exercise and healthy means of life.

 

Feel Good

As do most physical activities, volunteering has the ability to reduce levels of stress. Many people have felt the altruism effect but are unsure as to its true value. As someone uses their free time to help others, they are releasing dopamine into their bodies, giving them a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. Those who volunteer are often less likely to suffer from depression, as they have a more comprehensive understanding of those who truly are less fortunate than them.

From boosting brain activity to physical well-being, volunteering does a world of good for the overall health of an individual. More often than not these positive reactions to giving back are seen instantaneously. There are plenty of organizations out there looking for anyone willing to share their time, finding one that is a perfect fit should never be too far out of reach.

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Get Fit at 50 to Embrace 80

Choosing to lead a healthier lifestyle, never truly has an age limit. Many people in their 20s and 30s pick-up on the trend of health awareness and begin their journey around that time in their lives. However, studies have shown that as middle-age approaches, there is a priority shift away from personal well-being. Contrary to popular belief, a person’s 40s and 50s are some of the best years to optimize one’s health and fitness.

 

One of the most important tasks someone approaching middle-aged can do is make sure they are fully aware of their health. For example, someone who may have previously smoked for many years, but eventually quit, will likely want to withstand some tests, making sure their lungs are on the road to recovery. The only person who knows exactly what their body has endured is the individual themselves and making sure no repercussions occurred due to past experiences is vital to continue ageing in a healthy way.

 

A report in the Washington Post shared physician, Andrew Weil’s advice on health aging. Weil’s approach focuses directly on the relationships, especially creating ones that encourage achieving healthy goals. For those seeking a healthier lifestyle, it is crucial to surround themselves with like-minded individuals. Finding or even starting a group with people who have an objective to keep active is a great way to hold someone accountable for continuing a healthy mindset. By maintaining social relationships with those who are willing to support and even help someone seeking a better life for themselves is very important to the overall process.

 

Unfortunately, for too many people, deciding to focus on health and fitness comes after a life-altering event. Many people look back and wish they would have changed their lifestyle prior to the incident, however they inevitably change for the better, which is the most important part. Taking preventative measures, while still having the capabilities necessary to continue living independently likely to save not only grief and aggravation but a life. Although many people believe they are well and by their own personal standards, feel fine, doing everything possible to make sure optimal health is reachable is a great way for middle-aged adults to lead their lives.

 

For those approaching their golden years, setting up for a successful transition is as easy as being in control of your own health. Having a complete awareness for every health concern is one essential aspect to formulating healthy middle-aged years. Don’t wait until it’s too late, fit at 50 is possible!

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Superfoods and Their Super Abilities

With the ever-changing trends in foods, it is sometimes hard to keep up with the latest lingo and new products. Recently, a huge focus has shifted to the incorporation of “superfoods” into every diet, but many are confused by the term and what it takes for something to be considered part of this group. Remaining knowledgeable in regards to which foods truly provide the right nutrients for our bodies to continue on a healthy path is crucial, especially when age becomes a factor.

 

What Are They?

According to Health.com, there is no medical or legal definition for a superfood. Nutritionists consider foods of this group to be powerhouses, loaded with nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. There are countless foods out there that contain all of these elements, but health professionals are encouraging people to utilize the ones with the highest levels of each. A lotl of food items have been labeled as a “superfood” and it is important to recognize why they have earned the title. Here are a few fan-favorites from each food group and the reason they are so “super”;

 

  • Blueberries: filled with fiber, vitamin C, and cancer-fighting compounds
  • Salmon: contains omega-3 fatty acids, which the body cannot produce by itself (prevents heart disease)
  • Broccoli: high levels of vitamin C and folate (helps reduce risk of certain cancers)
  • Oats: full of fiber, magnesium, and potassium, helping to boost metabolism (and in certain forms tastes delicious!)

 

Benefits of Eating Them

Experts say that eating superfoods on a regular basis can significantly improve health in more way than one. Of course, ultimately healthier bodies are an advantage to eating superfoods, but they have also been proven to prevent chronic illnesses. By consuming these foods, people are additionally prolonging their lives and giving themselves one consisting of good health. Certain superfoods mentioned above have actually helped in lowering blood pressure and other pre-existing medical conditions. The examples above just begin to scratch the surface of the benefits that come from superfoods, and by consuming at least one superfood on a daily basis (alongside an overall healthy diet), quality of life is destined for improvement.

 

Food trends are becoming a huge part of society and people are becoming more concerned about exactly what they are putting in their mouths. Certain foods have become a part of the “superfoods” group, consisting of large amounts of key nutrients needed to help improve the overall health of our bodies. Including these foods into a diet has benefits beyond belief and should be considered of high importance to those conscious about healthy living.

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Stay Fit From Home

 

Who says you need a gym membership to stay active and in good health? Many people are making the transition to using in-home techniques for working out, especially those with limited access to a fitness center. The growing trend of working out from the comfort of your own home has become easier to accomplish every day. Through various online resources and programs which bring wellness coaches right to your home, staying fit is accessible at any age.

 

The internet has become a great resource for finding useful tips when it comes to health and wellness. As the largest source of online videos, YouTube, has also become a bank for easy to follow in-home workouts. By simply using the search bar one can effortlessly find the routine that best suits their individual goals and ability levels. For example, those just starting out with their fitness training should use key terms when searching such as “low-impact” or “beginner level”, usually followed by the style of workout desired (i.e. cardio, weight training, yoga). Those with more advanced training intentions, finding a video suited for targeted areas of improvement are just as straightforward. Here is a great example of a result when “low-impact cardio for beginners” was searched. The internet has truly done wonders for those seeking different techniques to improve their workout routines, especially when it comes to those not able to leave their homes.

 

Another great system for those hoping to avoid the chaos of a gym is the utilization of in-home trainers. This concept not only includes purchasing equipment for the home but also hiring personal trainers, who come to your location and demonstrate best exercises for your fitness desires. Most personal trainers who travel to your home provide their own equipment, but purchasing personal equipment is definitely beneficial for days off from the training sessions in order to continue improving fitness! Amazon provides some high-quality pieces for reasonable prices, which would make great additions to any home fitness plan.

 

Certain circumstances may limit people from leaving their house on a daily basis to complete their exercise routines. With today’s technology advances, it has become much easier to continue achieving fitness objectives from the comfort of your own home. There are also plenty of programs and individuals willing to provide their training services at a location best suited for the fitness seeker’s needs. Getting and remaining in shape doesn’t require a gym, but a little determination and dedication can help get the fitness goals you desire!

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5 Ideas for Continuing to Work After Retirement

 

When it comes to completing a career and retiring many people are hesitant to completely give up on the idea of working. Studies have shown that keeping busy and involved in the workforce after retirement, is beneficial to overall health and prolonging of life. There are an infinite number of options for those not wanting to just golf, sit on the beach, or visit their grandkids, in order to continue working in a productive environment.

 

Previous Employer

There are a lot of people who after retirement miss their previous place of employment, and therefore seek a chance to continue working in the same or a similar field. Many times, an employer feels a mutual connection with the retiree and will offer them to remain a member of the team in a part-time position. If the positive relationship is reciprocal, there is no need for it to end, when a new role can be created for the individual looking to retire.

 

Nonprofit/Volunteer Work

Although a large portion of nonprofits seek volunteer work there are many organizations who seek part-time employees to assist on projects. Finding a cause meaningful to someone, and putting any extra time and efforts towards supporting that cause is a great way to remain sharp after finishing a career. Participating in programs such as tutoring, animal care, and fundraising are just a few opportunities requiring limited manpower for retirees.

 

Consultant Work

Doing consulting work is an ideal post-retirement situation especially for those with unique niches or experience. Money Crashers recommends such an experience, as most consultants have the flexibility to set their own hours, as well, give expert insight on an area in which they possess a vast amount knowledge. Participating as a consultant is a great way for a retiree with a specific background to decide the amount of time they want to continue to be a part of the workforce.

 

Personal Retail

Upon hearing “working in retail,” many think this means becoming a cashier or working for a department store, however, the retail industry has become more of a personal experience in recent times. With a countless number of “be your own boss” industries popping up, there are so many opportunities for a retiree to continue working, but from the comfort of their own home. With makeup companies such as Mary Kay to clothing lines like Lularoe, those who have completed their careers can continue to make an income, while having fun!

 

Hobby Related Work

Finding a job that supports a beloved hobby or interest, additionally gives those who have completed a career, a way to continue growing. Say, for example, someone enjoys crafting and creating handmade items. With websites such as Etsy, individuals can open their own unique online boutique and create a profit from doing something they are passionate about. Doing something you love and making money from it, what better way to keep busy!

 

There are a lot of people who fear the word “retirement”, as they feel life as they know it will be coming to an end. For those wanting to continue being productive and not simply wait around for the next adventure, finding work after retirement can help support a longer and healthier lifestyle. Distinguishing the right balance of ending a career and continuing to follow a passion can create a whole new chapter in life!

 

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The Best Health Apps 2017

As technology and education continues to revolutionize and empower human beings, there is no better time to focus on your personal health and fitness than now. The ease and flexibility of having a fitness app on your phone allows you more time and motivation to workout throughout the day and keep up with your health. Here are the top health apps you should have on your phone for optimal daily motivation.

 

Workout Trainer

This app is great for those looking to stay active throughout the day. If you get bored of the same, boring routine, then this app is for you. Workout trainer provides you with hundreds of workouts from strength training, to cardio, to yoga and relaxation. You get to pick what type of workout you’re feeling that day and which muscles you want to strengthen. This app will ensure that you’re staying physically active throughout the day with many different options for you to choose from. This is a great app to switch up your routine, while keeping track of your daily activity.

 

Yoga Studio

If you’re tired of driving back and forth to the yoga studio every morning, while traffic is far from allowing you to destress. Yoga Studio is the app for you. First of all, yoga should be relaxing, and there is nothing relaxing about paying a costly monthly fee for joining yoga studios each month. Yoga studio is a great app to use throughout your day. All you need is a relaxing, quiet space to turn your home into the same comfort as a yoga studio. The app offers a variety of virtual yoga classes from beginner to advanced practices. Save time and money by implementing this app into your lifestyle, and be on the road to a relaxing and stress free daily routine.

 

My Fitness Pal

Part of living a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise is planning out and monitoring your daily activity and the foods you eat. My Fitness Pal is a great app for those on the go. The app allows you to scan or enter in details about any foods you eat throughout the day. It also allows you to enter in your daily physical activity, which can be linked to other apps in your phone. The app will keep track of the nutrition of your daily foods, such as calories, carbs, sodium, etc, while tracking your physical activity. You can also set goals such as weight loss, and the app will help you with a target of calories to intake daily, and exercises to practice throughout the day.

 

Sleep Cycle

One of the biggest aspects of living a healthy lifestyle is getting a good night’s sleep. Sleep Cycle is a great app to keep track of your sleeping. It works through a motion sensor in your phone and a microphone which is able to be heard when you move around in your sleep. It also has an alarm feature that will softly wake you up, allowing you to train your body to go to sleep and wake up at a consistent routine time. The key to your daily productivity is sleep, therefore this app will allow you to start the day right.

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How Long Should Seniors Work?

Retirement is a major change of lifestyle for everyone, and it’s not easy for anyone to adjust to full retirement after a lifetime of doing useful work. While some look forward to time to pursue hobbies with no need to work every day, others are left mystified, unable to fill their days with anything but boredom after a lifetime of making worthwhile, valued contributions to their communities. And the fact of the matter is that western culture has tended to treat people as old because of their age, not because of their health or vitality. However, we are seeing that trend start to shift, thanks to an ageing global population, healthcare leading to improved health into much later in life, and the growing understanding that staying active and staying connected with others, socially, lead to longevity, vitality, and a sense of well-being.

 

USA Today says of American seniors: “the percentage of people who work and people who want to work has increased markedly in both the 65-and-older and 75-and-older groups, says Sara Rix, senior adviser for the AARP Public Policy Institute. For 2011, the participation rate for 65 and older was 17.9% compared with 10.8% in 1985. For 75 and older, the rate jumped from 4.3% in 1990 to 7.5% in 2011.”

 

Certainly, there are plenty of seniors with extensive plans for their retirement, wishing nothing more than to pursue their hobbies free from workaday demands on their time. Quite a few intend to travel extensively, particularly those with grandchildren and relatives scattered far from their home base. They should feel absolutely no shame in not working if they don’t feel the urge to, they have made their contribution and should enjoy their retirement years as they wish to.

 

The benefits of working later into life are numerous. In addition to the mental and physical health benefits that come with staying productive, an uncertainty with the global economy is almost certainly a driving factor, as the income and benefits ensure a sense of security.

 

The USNews reported on a study, the researchers asked people age 50 and older the reasons for continuing to work in their retirement years. Here are the top 10 reasons they gave:

 

  • I want to keep earning money to retire more comfortably (53 per cent).
  • I would be bored not working (31 per cent).
  • I keep working because income from other sources is not enough (18 per cent).
  • I want to feel productive, useful, helpful (18 per cent) 5. I have a job that is fun, enjoyable (15 per cent)
  • I want to interact with people (13 per cent)
  • I want to stay physically/mentally active (12 per cent)
  • I need health insurance (6 per cent)
  • I am pursuing my dream: I have a job doing what I want to (6 per cent)
  • I want to learn new things (2 per cent)

 

Those who still prefer a life of being appreciated by employers who value their many years of experience should have that option for as long as they wish. A sense of purpose is an important ingredient in a satisfying life, and there is no rule saying that this purpose can only be fulfilled by hobbies or travel. There is no specific age that should slow you down, as long as you speak with your doctor about your health regularly as you age. Seniors should work for as long as they wish to and are capable of.

 

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Antibodies May Protect Brains From Age

Recent research suggests that old blood may have a negative impact on the body by damaging organs and increasing the effects of aging. A newly developed compound shows promise in protecting against this, by preventing aging in the brains of mice.

 

Initial Studies

 

The link between blood and aging was first discovered during experiments that connected young and old mice so that circulating blood was shared between them. The older mice showed improvements, including developing healthier organs and gaining protection from age-related diseases. However, the younger mice showed signs of premature aging.

 

Experiments like this suggest that young blood has restorative properties, but something in older blood causes harm. Hanadie Yousef at Stanford University appears to have isolated a protein responsible for some of the damage caused by older blood, and developed a potential way to prevent it.

 

The VCAM1 Protein

 

Yousef discovered that a protein called VCAM1 increases in the blood as the body ages. The levels of VCAM1 are 30 percent higher in individuals over 65 compared to those under 25. Yousef tested the effects of the protein by injecting blood plasma from older mice into young mice; as expected, the young mice showed signs of aging. She then repeated the experiments using blood plasma from humans in their late 60s. Again, the young mice showed signs of premature aging after injections of older blood.

 

The effects of aging were prevented during experiments where Yousef also injected a compound to block VCAM1. Young mice given the antibody at the same time or before an injection of older blood were protected from the negative effects. Yousef hopes that this research will contribute to an understanding of the way mechanisms that cause aging work and how to reverse them in order to encourage healthy aging.

 

Surprising Results

 

Other researchers are impressed with the findings, but interested in seeing more data and replicated results. Jonathan Godbout at Ohio State University expressed cautious optimism about the work leading to a possible treatment to protect aging brains.

 

Some teams have started giving plasma donated by young people to older adults, to find out if it will impact their health or possibly lessen the effect of Alzheimer’s disease. Although this is a start, neutralizing the effects of the older blood is likely to give the best chance for success.

 

Protect Against Old Blood
Yousef says a drug to protect people from the damaging effects of old blood would be more effective than plasma injections. It would be safer, less expensive, and easier to produce on a wide scale than transfusions. She is in the process of patenting her compound and hopes to develop an effective treatment against the effects old blood on aging.

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Researchers Will Study Alzheimer’s Disease Thanks To $12.2 Million Grant

Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Pennsylvania State University have recently been awarded a grant by the National Institute of Health in order to continue studies on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. It is a five-year, $12.2 million grant, and the size of this grant make sense when you consider how many people are affected by Alzheimer’s. There are currently over five million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease. Because baby boomers are aging, that number is projected to double by 2040.

 

The research will be conducted by scientists at the Einstein Aging Study in collaboration with experts at Pennsylvania State University. In the study, senior citizens will be given smartphones on which they’ll be presented with questions testing their thinking ability. The researchers hope that the way participants answer these questions will measure the cognitive changes that precede the beginning of dementia.

 

According to Richard B. Lipton, M.D., a professor and vice chair of neurology at Einstein and Montefiore, the research will look at risk factors for cognitive decline that can be corrected, such as pain, stress, poor sleep and vascular disease. Lipton is also a co-principal investigator on the grant. He states that by finding a link between specific risk factors and cognitive decline in the study’s participants, the researchers aim to develop customized interventions that can prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s.

 

Martin J. Sliwinski, Ph.D., another co-principal investigator on the grants, stated that the subtle changes in the brain that occur before Alzheimer’s are not well understood and are difficult to track using the typical cognitive evaluations, which occur one time and in person. Sliwinski pointed out that Alzheimer’s disease is usually diagnosed after several years of cognitive decline.

 

Accurate data from the study will give insight into the disease’s natural progression and shed light on the way this varies between individuals. It will also help evaluate the effectiveness of existing treatments.

 

The participants will be 500 people over the age of 70 in the Bronx. They will be given customized smartphones which will ask them multiple times a day to record personal assessments on a number of measures. The participants will also play a number of short matching and memory games. The researchers will then be able to average multiple measurements in order to more accurately assess an individual cognitive status and individual sense of well-being. This will occur over a period of 14 days so that the researchers can track changes over time.

 

Sleep patterns and activity will also be measured by fitness trackers that participants will be required to wear. There will also be monitors to measure heart rate, and some participants will have MRIs taken of their brains to help researchers assess a number of cranial regions, including the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with memory.

 

Since 1992, Dr. Lipton has been leading the Einstein Aging Study, focusing on normal aging, mild cognitive impairment, the aging brain, Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders that cause dementia. The study involves an interdisciplinary team of neurologists, neuropathologists, neuropsychologists, neurochemists, social workers and other professionals in the healthcare field.

 

Over three decades, the study has served at a resource for Alzheimer’s disease research both nationally and globally. Thanks to the new NIH funding, investigators will be able to expand their research by collaborating with experts at Penn State and using the new mobile phone-based approach. The grant could make a huge difference in the advancement of our understanding of preclinical states of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

 

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Weight and Dementia

When it comes to weight, we all know that a physical injury, emotional turmoil, a change in metabolism with age, or a sedentary lifestyle are just some of the ways that a person can go from having a BMI (Body Mass Index) in the normal range to having one in the overweight range before we even realise it. It’s not just those who make poor choices, have issues with impulse control, or are ill-educated about nutrition that can end up packing on the pounds, it can happen to any of us.

But if we stop paying attention -or never paid attention to begin with- once you have gained the weight there are serious consequences to keeping that weight on over time. Obviously there are common side-effects like diabetes and heart disease, but now there has been a study published in the journal Neurology by the American Academy of Neurology that shows gaining and keeping the weight on may actually speed up dementia or other forms of cognitive decline.

Conducted by Dr Maxime Cournot of Toulouse University Hospital in France, more than 2,000 people between the ages of 32 and 62 sat for four different cognitive tests in 1996 and then took the tests again in 2001.

Those with a BMI of 20 (which is considered to be in the healthy range) remembered an average of 9 out of 16 words in a language test, or an average of 56% of the vocabulary. Results from participants with a BMI of 30 (in the range of obese) remembered 7 out of 16 words on average, or only 44% of the vocabulary. The majority of the participants who gained weight between the first and second rounds of tests did not show much change in cognitive function, but those who had a high BMI before the first test and kept the weight on in the years between the first and second test showed higher levels of what Dr Cournot described as “cognitive decline”.

According to the World Health Organisation, BMI is calculated by multiplying your height in meters by itself, and then dividing your weight in kilogrammes by the value calculated by doubling your height. A BMI of 18.5 or less is considered underweight. Normal ranges from 18.5 to 24.9, overweight from 25 to 29.9, and obese is BMI 30.0 and above. While there are some limitations to body mass index calculations, and the method has received some criticism, it is the still the only accessible and consistent tool in use for physicians.
While this research is new and shows correlation rather than causation, and more research needs to be conducted, there are several hypotheses put forward by Dr. Cournot as to the potential cause of these findings. One being that the hormones secreted from fats could have a damaging effect on cerebral cells, resulting in decreased brain function. She also mentioned that insulin resistance could have some connection to lessened cognitive activity. “Another explanation could be that since obesity is a widely known cardiovascular risk factor, due to the thickening and hardening of the blood vessels, that the same happens with the arteries in the brain,” she said.

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