Jenson Mak | Vitality & Healthy Ageing Blog

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

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Jenson Mak Running Habits

3 Running Habits to Break (Or Avoid If You’re Just Starting)

As I continue my journey of discovery in the running world community I have begun to understand how the exercise treats our bodies. Many people are born with the body types to run long distances while many have to work their way to feeling comfortable while running. There have been many lessons that I have already learned about myself during my training and continue to find habits that are often hard to break. Here are some of the more common running habits to break or avoid if you are able.

 

  • Starting Out Harsh
    • Those who are new or returning to running after an injury often test themselves by seeing how far and long they are able to go. This is a common practice and is one that should be avoided at all costs. Having not exercised at an excruciating extend allows your muscles to take a break and relax. If you push your body too hard, you risk a new or reoccurring injury down the line. I highlighted the Couch to 5K app in my last blog. This app can be a great tool for new and injured runners to experiment with in the beginning.

 

 

  • Sleep
    • Getting a full night sleep is one of the most important thing a runner can do for their bodies. Runners who chose to complete their workout at night often find themselves with bursts of energy afterward. This can lead to lack of sleep and staying up later. Your full body is working during a run and giving it the rest it deserves is extremely important. Try running earlier in the day or forcing yourself to unwind through meditation after a late night run.

 

 

  • Form
    • This one often gets forgotten about but the way you run has a major impact on the way your body handles the pressure. First, you should never be looking down at your feet while you run. Keeping your head straight forward helps oxygen properly flow. Additionally swinging your arms in front of you and clenching your fists can make for more work on your body.

 

These three habits are ones that many runners encounter during their time partaking in the exercise. There are many more aspects of running that may be hurting the your body but we can save those for another day. Keep in mind these habits and try to break the next time you hit the road.

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Coconut Oil Craze

Over the years we have seen various amounts of trends in regards to health, wellness, and beauty. Most often, these trends have little to do with one another and require their own regiment. However, a recent product has becoming growing in popularity and it happens to help people in more than one aspect of their well-being. Coconut oil has been around for many years as a cooking alternative but many people didn’t realize how truly beneficial the natural oil is for our overall health.

 

Skin and Hair Care

Using coconut oil as a skin care product is one of the more recently discovered benefits of the item. People use the oil as a substitute for moisturizer. As a natural oil there is a low probability that the coconut oil will cause any adverse effects on the skin. The oil has been known to help with wrinkle prevention and smoothing, a great factor to consider for those wanting to focus on healthy ageing. The antioxidants in the oil help to prevent any degenerative diseases which are often caused by premature ageing. In addition to the benefits coconut oil provides for the skin, it is also highly rated as a hair care product. The oil assists in restoring damages to hair while also giving it a shiny factor.

 

Health Benefits

From its origins of popularity, coconut oil has mostly been used in cooking situations. While your external appearance is heightened by the oil, your insides will also be thanking you for providing it with coconut oil. There are many different reasons why coconut oil is something to include in your recipes but one of the most important is its help in maintaining a healthy diet. In women, particularly, coconut oil has been known to reduce abdominal obesity. The fatty acids within coconut oil help to lose and maintain weight at a healthy level. Some of the other acids that are found in coconut oil have proven their ability to strengthen our immune systems. The fewer calories in coconut oil has made it an essential part of athletes and fitness fans everyday life.

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Best and Worst Food For Ageing: Part 2

Food is one of the most important aspects of our lives. Without it, we don’t survive. If you’ve already ready the first installment of this blog, great, you are already on track to keeping yourself youthful. For those new to the blog, welcome! In hopes of shedding light onto the importance of healthy ageing, this blog gives insight into the best and worst foods in support of the ageing process. This blog will focus on some of the liquids and drinks that most affect the aging process. Take a look at a few of the best and worst contenders.

 

Drink Sparingly

 

Alcohol

While drinking red wine in moderation may prove to be heart healthy, overconsumption of alcohol can hinder a graceful ageing process. Consuming more than one “standard” drink a day, can leave lasting effects on your skin and the rest of your body. Alcohol is an inducer of rosacea, which eventually vanishes. However, over time, multiple rosacea episodes can lead to permanent enlargement of the blood vessels allowing thread veins to show up on the skin. Those who frequently consume alcohol are likely to notice their skin drying and dehydrating more frequently. Many of these beverages contain high levels of sugar which damage the collagen in the skin, causing rapid ageing for many.

 

Soda

It is common knowledge that soda is not the best choice when it comes to a healthy drink. The artificial sweeteners and sugar levels are damaging to the inside and outside of the human body. A study conducted at UCSF showed that daily soda intake can age your cells up to two years at a time. This statistic shows that soda consumption almost as damaging to ageing as smoking does. Not only do the harmful chemicals in soda break down collagen, it also causes damage internally, leading to higher risks of heart attacks and diabetes. A great way to still get the soda bubbly effect is to mix sparkling water with a pure juice!

 

Drink Up!

 

Green Tea

One of nature’s greatest gifts is the benefits that many of the plants provide. Tea, is one of the healthiest drinks out there. There are many reasons people should switch from coffee to tea, one of the being its ability to help the ageing process. Green tea, in particular, is an excellent, natural anti-inflammatory. The polyphenols in green tea, help to fight off any cell damage the body is entailing. Other teas, such a white tea, have proven their anti-ageing abilities by slowing down the breakdown of collagen and elastin. This gives the skin a better chance at remaining wrinkle-free and not swollen.

 

Soymilk

While normal milk definitely has its anti-ageing qualities, soy milk flourishes when it comes to keeping you youthful looking. Soy milk contains isoflavones, which contains skin-firming collagen. Researchers believe that the isoflavones also prevent wrinkles. A study showed that subjects exposed to UV lighting after consuming isoflavones possessed smoother skin than those without consumption. Soy milk becomes yet another great resource to prevent that inevitable breakdown of collagen!

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Top 5 Healthy Food Substitutions

It’s never too late (or too early) to start adjusting your diet towards becoming healthier for the sake of your body. If you typically don’t spend your time experimenting with foods in the kitchen, then you won’t know about the healthy substitutes that you can use in your cooking. By substituting these simple, everyday foods, for ingredients that typically make your meals unhealthy, you can enjoy all the foods you love while contributing to the overall health of your body, and longevity of life!

 

Black Beans

When thinking about luscious cakes, brownies, and sweet treats, black beans are the last thing that would come to mind, right? However, if you’re looking to cut calories and carbs, while still enjoying your sweet desserts, black beans are the way to go. The legumes are considered one of the healthiest foods for your body, as they are packed with protein and fiber. Substituting black beans for flour in your baking dishes will allow you to maximize your nutrition without noticing a taste difference. Wherever a recipe calls for a cup of flour, use a cup of black beans, well drained and mashed.

 

Olive Oil

The ever so popular mediterranean diet has caused many to switch their diets for optimal health, and olive oil plays a key part. Olives are one of the oldest food sources known to mankind, including one of the healthiest. Olives are filled with OMega-3 fatty acids that your body needs to function properly. Instead of using the typical vegetable oil, opt it for olive oil. It is also great for making dressings or cooking dishes (although its health benefits are optimized when unheated).

 

Greek Yogurt

You’ve heard about the health craze all over. Greek yogurt is not going anywhere thanks to its high nutritional benefits. Greek yogurt is packed with high protein, and less sugar, sodium, and fat compared to regular yogurt. Greek yogurt is also great for substitutes. Instead of using mayo or sour cream in your daily cooking, plain greek yogurt will make your meals much more nutritious without a taste difference. It’s also great for making dressings, desserts, and baking because of its thick and creamy texture.

 

Wine

Wine is also considered part of the mediterranean diet. Known as the Drink of the Gods, the ancient drink comes with more health benefits than any other alcoholic drink out there. For one, many studies have shown that wine can play a role in preventing depression and anti-aging due to the high amount of antioxidants made with the drink (with moderate consumption). It’s also a great drink to sip when out at the bar with friends or relaxing at home, as wine is significantly lower in calories compared to sugary and sweet cocktails.

 

Applesauce, Dates & Cinnamon

There’s nothing evil about sugar, spice, and everything nice in those beautiful iced cupcakes and luscious chocolate cakes, right? Wrong. Many experts have found that sugar can actually become as addictive to humans as some drugs. Sugar is responsible for obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases, as it converts to fat in our bodies. The new guidelines show that men and women should not consume more than 6-9 teaspoons of sugar per day. The key is to stay away from as much added sugar as you can, however, it is still possible to enjoy sweet treats. One old fashioned trick is to substitute applesauce in recipes that call for sugar. This also allows your item to become more moist. Another trick is to add dates to recipes that call for sugar. Dates are naturally sweet, so you won’t notice the taste difference. Cinnamon is also a great spice to substitute sugar for. Recent studies have found that cinnamon has amazing health benefits that could positively impact your health. Try adding cinnamon to your coffee or oatmeal instead of sugar!

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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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5 Health Benefits of Yoga

Yoga and meditation have been studied and practiced for thousands of years. The primary idea of yoga is to find peace and happiness between yourself and your body in the outside world. Even if you consider yourself happy, the practice gives you a boost in your life through the way that you think. Yoga is a great way to enhance your health and wellness, and is an excellent practice for those looking to age well. The practice fights against stressors and allows you to find peace within your mind, while strengthening your physical body as well. Through consistent yoga practice, you can increase your health through these benefits

 

Mental Health

Yoga has a great positive effect on various mental health diseases. Yoga allows you to become one with yourself through practice, ultimately decreasing negative thoughts. The brain is able to relax and focus on one thing only: the practice. Studies have shown that consistent yoga practice has had a positive impact on patients fighting mental health struggles. It is one of the most positive homeopathic medicines available for mental diseases.

 

Muscle Strength

Yoga also comes with the benefits of a daily workout. If you’re looking to build up muscle strength, yoga is a great practice. Because you are using your own body weight, you aren’t pressured of dealing with free weights, which could be harmful if not practiced correctly. When using your own body weight, you have the ability to build the strength you need naturally through practice.

 

Increased Flexibility

Your body’s flexibility is very important when it comes to working out. When your muscles aren’t stretched before and after a workout, you risk the chance of developing an injury. Yoga allows you to increase your flexibility and loosen your muscles. Through practice, you’ll see a great difference in your typical workouts and exercises.

 

Better Breathing

Because you are focusing on your breath and your body during yoga, you practice the art of better breathing. Breathing allows you to calm your body down and receive the oxygen it needs to circulate through your blood in your body. During yoga practice, your body practices circulation and increases the functions of your organs as you practice breathing techniques.

 

Sleep Better

Yoga is also great for those who have problems with sleeping. As yoga calms the body down through the practice of breathing and mindfulness, you’ll feel more at peace and calm after your practice. As your body is relaxed, you will be able to sleep better at night, which is essential for your health and daily function.

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How Nutrition Impacts Age

A new study – Nutritional Considerations for Health Aging and Reduction in Age-Related Chronic Diseases – featured in Advances in Nutrition found that improving nutritional education within the healthcare system may promote healthier aging and reduce the financial burden of the aging population.

 

It is estimated that by the year 2050, almost 400 million people will be 80 years or older. This estimate is almost three times higher than in 2013. According to the published report, a growing number of this population will be susceptible to a concept known as nutritional frailty – a condition in older adults involving the sudden loss of weight and strength that increases the chance of experiencing disability. The growing number of obese older adults is also vulnerable to nutritional frailty and its associated diseases such as sarcopenia, mental decline, and infectious diseases.

 

The study determined that a specific model describing the various factors that influence food choices needs to be established to increase the understanding behind older adults and their food intake and meal quality. Recently, a new model was designed to monitor food intake in older adults in addition to the inclusion of randomised clinical studies. This model will help determine the specific nutritional requirements and biomarkers needed to further understand the impact of increasing age on areas such as necessary protein intake and muscle turnover. The study’s finding will also help establish new BMI guidelines tailored to the aging population.

 

According to Gilles Bergeron, the executive director at The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science at the New York Academy of Sciences, “A nutritional assessment model that takes into consideration the effect of aging on muscle mass, weight loss and nutrient absorption is crucial to overall wellness in our elderly population,”. He continues, “However, nutrition recommendations are usually based on that of a typical healthy adult, and fail to consider the effect of aging on muscle mass, weight loss, and nutrient absorption and utilisation..”
Simin Nikbin Meydani, director of the Nutritional Immunology Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, agrees with Bergeron’s views on the need for personalised nutrition recommendations stating, “much greater emphasis needs to be placed on prioritising research that will fill the knowledge gaps and provide the kind of data needed by health and nutrition experts if we’re going to address this problem,”. She adds, “There also needs to be more education about on-going nutritional needs for those involved with elder-care — not only in a clinical setting, but also for family members who are responsible for aging adults.”

 

Simin Nikbin Meydani, director of the Nutritional Immunology Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, agrees with Bergeron’s views on the need for personalized nutrition recommendations stating, “much greater emphasis needs to be placed on prioritizing research that will fill the knowledge gaps and provide the kind of data needed by health and nutrition experts if we’re going to address this problem,”. She adds, “There also needs to be more education about on-going nutritional needs for those involved with elder-care — not only in a clinical setting, but also for family members who are responsible for aging adults.”

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Age in Your Own Home

As our aging population continues to increase, many people prefer to live out their retired years in their own homes. There is a lot to be said for the comforts of home. This may not be practical for some. For those who are independent and capable, aging at home might be a good option with a few modifications for better safety.

 

Johns Hopkins University conducted a study of the risks and possibilities for aging in place. The study assessed the capabilities of older adults as related to daily activities, such as bathing, dressing, and meeting nutritional needs. An evaluation of problem areas in homes was done, and the services of a handyman were used to make the suggested improvements needed. It was determined that a few affordable modifications could make a big difference.

 

Minimising falls was one of the most important measures taken. This can be accomplished by adding grab bars at showers, tubs, and toilets. Installing handrails inside and outside the home also helps. Adding night lighting or dimmable lights is another simple modification.

 

Other areas of improvement might include changing batteries in smoke and CO detectors, putting in a taller toilet, adding non-slip mats to bathrooms and other wet areas, and adjusting water heater temperatures to prevent scalding. Getting rid of throw rugs is one of the safest things that can be done that doesn’t cost anything. Most of these simple modifications can be accomplished for less than $500.

 

If aging in place is something you or your loved one prefers, it makes very good sense to have an in-home assessment of your capabilities. There are trained professional who specialise in senior and special needs living. Many of these are Occupational Therapists. Once an assessment is completed, you should consult with a licensed contractor or handyman to give you advice and a cost estimate for making upgrades.

 

It is a good idea to get to know a reliable handyman who can keep up with the minor maintenance needs of your or your loved one’s home. Even if you just need light bulbs changed, having a good relationship with someone you trust will make things so much easier.

 

You can ask for information on in-home safety assessments from your healthcare provider, your local senior centre, or from AARP and its affiliates. Here is a home safety checklist to help you get started with the process. It is best to do this before a fall happens.

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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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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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