Category Archives: Longevity News

Heart Healthy: Tips for Maintaining a Strong Heart

Preventing heart disease in the elderly

Cardiovascular disease is the largest cause of death across the world, and on World Heart Day on September 29, many people around the world work to promote heart disease awareness, risks, prevention measures, and more. In honor of World Heart Day, here are tips for maintaining a healthy heart as you age:

  • Start with your grocery list. Preventing heart disease starts with a healthy diet that limits saturated fats, salt, and foods containing high cholesterol. To ensure that you’re eating a balanced diet, revamp your grocery list to include more colorful fruits and vegetables, nuts, high-fiber foods, and frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. Permanently cross off items like high fat dairy or meat and butter, and keep your alcohol intake low.
  • Be active. Although the days of running an easy five miles may be over, you can still be active as you age by taking regular walks, biking, hiking, swimming, or attending aerobics classes. Check with a doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases your risk for heart disease; to that end, eating well and staying active are essential to maintaining a healthy weight and reducing your risk for heart disease.
  • Get regular check-ups. Go to the doctor regularly to monitor your health and anything that could affect your heart, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes. If necessary, take medication to help control these issues.
  • Get enough sleep. Research shows a correlation between sleep and increased risk of coronary heart disease, especially when people are sleeping less than five hours per night. Try to sleep between 7-8 hours per night; to ensure that you can fall asleep easily, limit caffeine intake and stop consumption by 2pm. You should also keep a regular sleep schedule, exercise in the morning or mid-day, and avoid electronics within an hour of bedtime.
  • Minimize stress and keep your heart happy. Stress can exacerbate many heart disease risks. Find ways to relieve your stress, whether it’s going for a walk, socializing with family and friends, or attending church or volunteering regularly. In that same vein, research has shown that gratitude, laughter, and forging social connections can be healthy for your heart.

Heart disease may be widespread, but you can take measures to prevent heart disease in yourself and in your aging parents. By following these heart healthy guidelines, you and your parents can age comfortably at home for years to come.

Five Ways to Plan for Aging at Home

Five steps to help you plan for aging at home

According to a 2010 survey by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), nearly 75% of respondents (all of whom were aged 45 and older) strongly agreed with the statement “what I’d really like to do is stay in my current residence for as long as possible.” But in order for your loved ones to age at home comfortably, planning ahead is a must. Here are five steps to plan for your parents aging at home:

1. Have a frank talk with your parents. Although it may be uncomfortable, take time to sit down with your parents and have an open, honest discussion about how they want to approach aging. Being on the same page will make the planning process easier, and it will help you avoid uncertainty and even tougher decisions later on. Make sure you cover topics such as whether your parents have a will, what they would like to do if they can’t live on their own, who their doctors are and how to reach them, and how much money they can allocate to aging comfortably. The hardest part is broaching the subject, but doing so will make both you and your parents feel better afterwards.

2.  Evaluate the home. Is your parents’ home currently safe for aging at home? For example, are all bedrooms and bathrooms on an upper level of the house? Are countertops at normal height, or are they lowered so that someone in a wheelchair can reach them? Are all areas of the house well-lit? Are hallways and doorways wide enough for power wheelchairs and walkers? Refer to our Blueprint for a Wheelchair Accessible Home for recommended dimensions for doorways, hallways, and even kitchen table specs.

Examining the house with a fine-tooth comb will make planning for aging at home a much more manageable job. For help with the planning and home modification process, consider enlisting the help of a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS), a home builder who’s specially trained to analyze a homeowner’s needs and plan for modifications that are both functional and attractive.
 
3. Consider your support system and the surrounding community. Will you be assuming primary care for your aging parents, or do you have siblings and other family members nearby who are able to pitch in? Does your family belong to a religious center or other community program that will help with meals, transportation, and other caregiving? Are your parents’ doctors and pharmacies nearby? While you may initially be confident in your ability to care for your parents single-handedly, having others to rely on will help you fight stress if other areas of your life (such as your job or your own family) start to require more time and attention.
 
Your aging parents will also benefit from being part of a local community, whether it’s a book club or a light aerobics class at a nearby YMCA. Choosing to age at home shouldn’t mean that they’re isolated, and helping facilitate social interactions will help improve your parents’ morale.
 
4. Make a budget. Having a financial plan for aging at home can diffuse stress and conflicts before they even start to arise. Outline a realistic plan for how much home modifications, in-home care, and more will cost, and stick to the budget so that everyone involved is comfortable with the amount of money being spent on aging at home. Make sure to check and see if your parents are eligible for any benefits; while Medicare doesn’t cover many aging at home modifications, some programs may be able to help in different areas.
 
5. Purchase any aging at home devices and make home modifications. From stair lifts to bathtub lifts, mobility scooters to portable ramps, there are aging at home products to help with anything you may need so that your parents can age at home comfortably. Also, making home modifications before you actually need them- for example, installing a stair lift before your parent is unable to move between floors- will ensure that you’re prepared for your parents’ future.
Above all, make sure to maintain an open dialogue between you and your parents to facilitate the aging at home process. While it’s an uncomfortable topic to discuss, planning ahead will reassure both you and your parents, and you’ll all feel more prepared for the future by planning smartly. If you have further questions, call us today and we’ll help you devise a strategy for helping your parents age at home comfortably.

Increased Disease Risks of Aging in a Nursing Home

When your parents begin to age, you and your family are faced with the difficult decision of whether to help your parents age in a nursing home or in the comfort of their own home. While you will consider factors such as cost, comfort, socializing, and more, you will also want to consider disease risk,

increased disease risk in nursing homes

As our bodies age, we become more susceptible to getting sick because our immune system changes and doesn’t function as well. Your immune system becomes slower to respond, and the healing process also slows down significantly. Thanks to these changes, you become more likely to get sick as you age. You can decrease age-related disease risks by getting vaccinated, exercising, eating healthy foods, and not smoking or drinking.

For your aging parents, it becomes even more important for them to have a clean home that will lower their risk of getting sick. In their or your home, it’s easy to make cleanliness and frequent hand-washing a habit among caretakers and visitors.

However, in a nursing home, you don’t have as much control over the environment, which can increase your loved one’s chances of getting sick. A New York Times article found that the percentage of nursing homes cited for deficiencies in “hand hygiene” has been rising recently, with inspectors finding deficiencies in close to 12% of nursing homes in 2009. While most facilities understand the importance of hand washing, it’s difficult to ensure that the staff and caretakers are adhering to high cleanliness standards.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, one third of all deaths in seniors over 65 results from infectious diseases, with the leading infections including bacterial pneumonia and influenza. Community settings such as nursing homes increase exposure to the disease, while influenza (the “flu”) is easily transmitted by coughing and sneezing, making the risk of infection especially high in closed environments like nursing homes.

Aging at home is one of the best ways to prevent your loved one from contracting a dangerous infectious disease. Caregivers should learn about the most common infections and their symptoms, while also making sure that everyone in the household washes their hands frequently. Visitors should not come if they are sick or getting over an illness, and children especially should be helped with frequent hand-washing. By taking these kinds of preventative measures, you can greatly decrease the chances that your aging parents will contract an infectious disease.

Earth Day 2014: How the Environment Impacts Aging

elderly couple nature

 

On Earth Day, we take a moment to consider how our actions impact the Earth; however, it’s also important to take note of how the environment can affect aging.

The Environmental Protection Agency states that its mission is “to protect human health and safeguard the natural environment,” going on to clarify that this means focusing effort on older Americans because the older population will grow to over 70 million by 2030, and aging bodies have been exposed to more environmental contaminants over time and are more susceptible to environmental hazards. According to the EPA, some common environmental hazards that impact the health of older Americans are climate change, lead, mercury, ozone gas, particle pollution, pesticides, temperature extremes, and water contaminants.

Medical research has also found that environmental factors play a role in most Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease cases. Exposure to toxic chemicals and other environmental pollutants can change biochemical pathways that affect the risk of developing these diseases and other chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

The Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging resource dives deeper into environmental risk factors in developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. They found that exposure to environmental chemicals and infectious materials interact with other lifestyle factors such as nutrition, physical activity, social interaction, education, socioeconomic factors, and active intellectual stimulation.  The research also notes that, with specific regards to brain disease, many environmental chemicals increase oxidative stress (which is when the body is unable to counteract or detoxify the harmful effects of free radicals) and inflame the brain, increasing the risk of neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration. Environmental chemicals (such as lead and other heavy metals, organic pollutants, and pesticides) can also strike earlier in life by altering brain development, which increases the risk of later developing a brain disease. Finally, recent evidence suggests that air pollution affects brain inflammation and the risk of a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s.

On a more uplifting note, there are ways to improve the environment and thus, our population’s chances at healthy aging. Because humans and the environment are so interconnected, living a healthy lifestyle means living well for yourself and for the environment. A healthy individual helps improve the environment, and vice versa. Humans can buy organic and chemical-free products, choose to purchase local and sustainable food, use clean, renewable energy, and decrease fossil fuel consumption. Making small changes in your lifestyle will benefit both the environment and your health, allowing you to age at home in a healthy manner.

Keys to a Longer Life

elderly couple

 

Want to live longer? Recent longevity studies have uncovered some characteristics and behaviors of longer lives. The average American life expectancy is currently 78.7 years, and what’s more, longevity studies have shown that there are certain healthy behaviors and personality traits that can help you achieve that long, full lifespan.

Personality and Positivity

One longevity study used the NEO Five-Factor Personality Inventory (in which the five factors are neuroticism, extroversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness) to explore whether participants (with a mean age of 75) had particular traits in common. The study found that both men and women scored low on the neuroticism scale and high on the extroversion scale; both personality traits may have health benefits, because someone with low neuroticism tendencies will be able to manage stressful situations while an extrovert may also experience greater perceived well-being and vitality. Another study found that conscientiousness is also strongly correlated with a longer life, speculating that this was because conscientious people are more health-conscious and take better care of themselves.

Other personal characteristics associated with a longer life include being optimistic, being quick to laugh, and simply being happy. Optimists are resistant and resilient in the face of stress, and laughter reduces stress, improves natural killer cell activity, and lowers cortisol. And finally, although we don’t know exactly why happiness correlates with longevity, we can guess that it’s because happy people have something to live for.

Social Life

Social connections become especially important as we age, because as we encounter health problems, we need friends, family, and neighbors’ support and help with things like doctor appointments or grocery shopping. On the flip side, social isolation is often correlated with health problems like obesity, inactivity, and smoking.

Healthy Lifestyle

Healthy habits can also predict a long lifespan. Exercise has been proven to add several years to one’s life. Cooking and eating habits can also have an effect on lifespan. One study found that people who cook up to five times a week were 47% more likely to still be alive after ten years (with participants all over age 65). There are several foods proven to benefit different parts of the body as well: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and dark chocolate help the heart; blueberries, fish, low-salt foods, and coffee keep the brain sharp; and dark green leafy vegetables and tofu maintain strong bones. Moreover, the social connections developed through communal eating tie back to lifestyles associated with a longer life.

 

With the keys to living longer in your hands, it’s also important to consider how and where you want to age. Home Access Products can help with your aging at home needs to ensure that you are completely prepared to live your long life in the comfort of your own home.