Living to be 100 – the Blue Zones

Bea Boomer’s Vital Aging Project – Day 61– 5/25/15 

 

sunset on Saronic Gulf of Aegean Sea near Athens, Greece

Sunset on Saronic Gulf of Aegean Sea near Athens, Greece

I’ve been hearing and reading a lot about centenarians lately. Recently in my workplace, employees had the opportunity to watch a Ted Talk video by Dan Buettner (How to Live to be 100). Beuttner pointed out that while it’s certainly not “easy” to live to 100, there are areas of the world where it is more common to do so.  He described the blue zones – places where people commonly live to a ripe old age.  And in my current class through Ed2Go (Healthy Aging), I read that centenarians are the fastest growing demographic group in the world.

One thing that struck me as I watched the video was that in these blue zone communities, there was a sense of respect for the elders (family came first, and that meant keeping parents and grandparents close, not casting them off in nursing homes) and a strong sense of community. The centenarians in these communities had a sense of belonging and of purpose.  

Lovely grandmother with her family outside their house

After all, what’s the point of a long life if you’re stuck in a nursing home or in your own home, vulnerable and isolated?  Our American society would do itself a favor by treating their elderly with respect and compassion. As individuals, we can also enhance our aging by having a “take charge” attitude toward our health and not letting those old age stereotypes govern our lives   According to health and aging researchers, we can add over a decade of to our lives, unhindered by age-related diseases,  simply by taking the measures followed by people in the “blue zones.” 

You can read more about aging in the blue zones in the March/April 2015 edition of the Positive Aging Newsletter from the Taos Institute. 

The Taos Institute 

You can get the newsletter sent directly to your inbox 

For further reading:

7 Cultures that Celebrate Aging and Respect their Elders. 

Places that you don’t live as an older person (scary and sad) 

©Bea Boomers Wellness 2009 – 2015

Why Take Charge of your Health?

Bea Boomer’s Vital Aging Project – Day 51 – 4/29/15

Senior Woman Relaxing After Exercise

One day I was talking to one of my sisters about health changes as we grow older and she said “Yea, my health was good up until I turned fifty, then it was downhill after that.”  My sister has the same mindset my mom had:  the “oh well, bad health is inevitable when I get old.”  

Yegads, what an outlook!

My thinking is just the opposite!  I believe that we can and should be proactive about our health, not reactive.  After seeing the health problems my mom lived with, which included heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoporosis, I was determined not to age that way. So far, I haven’t.  At almost 59 years old, I don’t have any of the conditions my mom suffered with, except for high cholesterol, which is controlled by my diet, exercise and a statin drug.  

We have a wealth of healthy aging resources at our fingertips nowadays; not only on the Internet, but in public libraries, bookstores, and television channels such as Discovery Health.  Why not use it to our advantage?  We’re living longer these days – don’t know about you, but I also want to live healthier, physically and mentally.  

Here are just a few of those resources that help us take charge of our health: 

 

 

 

9 Snacks for Vital Aging

Bea Boomer’s Vital Aging Project – Day 47 – 4/20/15

  • Sunflower seeds – contain folate, a B vitamin we need to produce red blood cells and prevent anemia. They also contain tryptophan, which is good for stress management.
  • Almonds – contain monounsaturated fats and fiber and help lower cholesterol levels.
  • Blueberries – contain high levels of the antioxidant anthocyanin. May help relieve stress and even enhance our memory banks. 
  • Low-fat Greek yogurt – Add blueberries to plain yogurt (I add a little honey for sweetness) and you’ll get the goodness of berries, along with the digestive health benefits of yogurt. 
  • Light string cheese (made with 2% milk) – The Sargento brand has 50 calories in each piece. String cheese provides a nice amount of calcium and protein.  For a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, pair with with a piece of fruit or whole grain crackers.
  • Beanitos – The original is made with black beans, and are great with salsa.  They’re high in fiber and protein and contain no sugar. The other varieties and more information about beanitos can be found here
  • Edamame – Looking for something different?  Edamame (Japanese soy bean) is high in fiber and protein, low in calories and fat.  It’s a great source of calcium, iron and protein
  • Garden Lite muffins –  Found in the frozen section, they come in a variety of flavors, such as zucchini chocolate, banana chocolate chip, and blueberry oat.  Made with veggies and fruits.  Tasty, low-calorie, good source of fiber and gluten-free.  
  • Kind Healthy Grain Bars – contain a variety of healthy grains,(quinoa, oats, buckwheat) good source of fiber.  Awesome variety of flavors, including Maple Pumpkin Seeds with Sea Salt, Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate, Vanilla Blueberry, and more. 

7 Mini Health Habits

Bea Boomer’s Vital Aging Project – Day 44 – 4/13/15 

Woman lying in bed sleeping

Get a good sleep to enhance your memory banks and other brain functions.

Woman relaxing on a sofa

Want to enhance your sleep? Turn off the television or computer before bedtime and relax with soothing music or meditation CDs. 

Eat a handful of almonds a day to help reduce your cholesterol.  

Senior Woman With Adult Daughter Relaxing On Sofa At Home

A laugh a day keeps the doctor away. Well, maybe not, but laughter is a great prescription for emotional and physical health.  

Wear sunscreen to avoid looking like an alligator purse as you age and to protect yourself from skin cancer.

Senior Woman Power Walking In The Park

Find time to take a daily walk. Too cold or rainy or hot to walk outside? Try a fitness walk in front of your television.  Brisk walking for 30 minutes a day is good for your heart, and can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. 

Drink green tea for a great anti-oxidant boost. This beverage helps protect our cardiovascular and immune systems. Green tea may even help protect us against several types of cancers. 

How about you, readers?  What actions do you take to enhance your health and wellness? 

3 Health Sites for Women Only

Bea Boomer’s Vital Aging Project – Day 41 – 4/6/15

The Center for Young Women’s Health – According to its About page, the Center’s objective is to provide teen girls and young women with well-researched health information relating to both physical/emotional development and diseases/conditions. This site is also a non-commercial site; a partnership among three medical divisions of the Boston Children’s Hospital.  There are resources for both health care professionals and parents.  An example of an article from the site’s emotional health category: Anxiety

Medline Plus – Women’s Health – a website from the National Institutes of Health, produced by the National Library of Medicine.  This site provides trusted information specific to women’s unique health concerns. The site is uncluttered and easy to maneuver; it’s also updated on a regular basis.  You can sign up for women’s health updates.  An example of what you’ll find here: Osteoporosis, the Bone ThiefThe site also provides a variety of videos and fun tools, which can be found here. 

 Society for Women’s Health Research – Founded in 1990, by a group of health professionals, the site is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary of research and advocacy for women’s unique health diseases and concerns.  Resources include women’s health topics from A – Z, clinical trials, public education, and videos. There is a link describing SWHR’s advocacy issues, and how women can take action for themselves. Example of what can be found at the site: (under the Public Education link) Research on breast cancer recurrence. SWHR can be found on Facebook and Twitter.  

Grandmother with adult daughter and grandchild in park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Few of Bea’s Favorite Posts

 

c204498_s

Bea’s Wellness Project – Day 26 – 3/2/15

Bea’s daughter was in town this week-end, and they needed some “girl time,” shopping and lunching at the mall.  Which meant that writing a post for today’s wellness project fell by the wayside. 

Instead, Bea is sharing a few of her old favorite posts and hopes you enjoy them!

10 Minute Energy Boosts

Can You Hear Me Now?

Ladies, You’ve Got to Have Friends!

 

 

 

 

How to Fight Free Radicals

Bea’s Wellness Project – Day 9 – 1/23/15

In the January 21st post, Bea asked the burning question: What the heck are free radicals?  The simple answer, based on Bea’s limited knowledge, is that free radicals are evil ninjas, invading our bodies and wreaking havoc on our health and well-being.  

c726136_s

There is, of course, a scientific definition of these little pests: 

Wikipedia defines free radicals as molecules with unpaired electrons.  These electrons are lonely because they can’t find a partner at their local dating site, ElectronMingle.com.    Because these electrons are hanging out in our bodies all by their lonesome selves, they attach themselves to other molecules and damage them. (They just can’t stand rejection).  The Antioxidant Detective provides a more scientific explanation in this article

There is a scientific theory that links free radical damage in our bodies (which leads to oxidative stress) to the premature aging process. According to this theory, oxidative stress leads to the development of diseases and is harmful for our brains.  For a more scientific explanation of this theory, you can read this article from the  National Center for Biotechnology Information. 

But fear not!  We can fight back!  Like Bea, you’ve probably heard a lot about antioxidants.  They help protect our bodies from the dastardly deeds perpetrated by free radicals.  Antioxidants can be found in a variety of foods, certain vitamins and other nutritional sources, such as resveratrol and certain spices.*

We can get antioxidants through our diet – choosing to eat the Mediterranean way is one great way to do this.  

Top food and beverage sources of antioxidants include: 

  • Dark green vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli and collard greens.  Red and orange veggies such as red bell peppers, sweet potatoes, butternut and acorn squash.  They all contain phytochemicals.  
  • Blue, red, and purple fruits and berries, which also contain phytochemicals.
  • Fatty fish, because of omega-3 fatty acids – wild salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, sardines (ok, you won’t catch Bea eating sardines, but she loves salmon) 
  • Raw nuts – almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamias.  Like fish, they also contain omega-3s, along with other nutrients that can lower cholesterol and protect our brain and heart health.  
  • Red wine – which contains resveratrol, and both black and green tea, which contain flavonoids.  Both of these nutrients are free radical fighters.

*Source:  Read more about free radicals and antioxidants at the Antioxidant Detective site:  Antioxidant and Free Radicals 

For more reading:

Antioxidants and Cancer Prevention 

Why Drink Green Tea?

Related Articles:

 

The Mediterranean Diet for Vital Aging

Bea’s Wellness Project – Day 8– 1/21/15

You are what you eat, they say.  Ahh, the infamous “they,” who know all and make sure they let the rest of us know it!  In Bea’s case, she must resemble a 12-grain bagel with cream cheese on the side – since she has that for breakfast almost every day, along with a cuppa famous Tim Horton’s coffee.  (She’s gotten better about breakfast lately – she adds some protein along with berries or some other kind of fruit.  Anyway, “they,” along with a lot of health experts out there, highly recommend the Mediterranean diet.

Eating that way can reduce our risk of Alzheimer’s, and it’s a great way to enhance our heart health.  The food variety in the Mediterranean diet helps fight off **free radicals** with antioxidants and phytochemicals contained in plant-based foods, as well as the omega-3 fatty acids contained in fish.

  • Enjoy lean poultry, fish, (wild salmon, haddock, tuna, perch, snapper) and beans
  • Use vinegar and olive oil as salad dressing – choose herbs, rather than salt, to flavor it. Replace butter with olive oil.
  • Munch on (raw) nuts in moderation – nuts are a prime source of antioxidants. A 10-year study of over 85,000 women ages 35 – 59 concluded that eating nuts lowered their risk of heart disease, because they help lower bad cholesterol.*
  • Learn to love green, leafy vegetables, cruciferous veggies, sweet potatoes, and whole-grains
  • Stay hydrated with water. Drink green tea for its antioxidant properties.
  • Nosh on a wide variety of fruits, especially berries of all kinds: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, black berries.
  • Add avocado to salads, or on a sandwich instead of cheese.  Avocados have high amounts of the monounsaturated fat, oleic acid, also found in olive oil.*
  • Enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner. It contains resveratrol, which can be heart healthy. (Don’t like red wine?  Try red or purple grape juice or just eat grapes).

Enjoy further reading:

Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan

How to Follow the Mediterranean Diet

Source:

*VanTine, Julia, & Doherty, Bridget. Growing Younger – Breakthrough Age-Defying Secrets. Rodale Press.

**Question of the day:**  What the heck are free radicals, anyway?  Find out by reading Bea’s post on Friday, January 23. 

 

10 Key Strategies for Weight Management

Bea’s Wellness Project – Day 4 – 1/12/2015

The reality of losing weight and keeping it off requires a long-term (okay, a lifetime) commitment.

Bea’s motivation for making this commitment came from watching her mom suffer from heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes; then watching her sisters develop these conditions as they aged. These age-related diseases develop from unhealthy eating as well as carrying around too much extra weight.

What’s your motivation?  Do you want to lower your blood pressure or your cholesterol levels? Do you simply want to boost your energy levels or enhance your self-confidence? Are you looking to get a killer body to show your ex- just what he’s missing?

Whatever your motivation, reaching a healthy weight simply makes life more enjoyable, and adds to quality longevity. And once you make that commitment, there are common sense strategies that can help you reach your weight loss goal.

  • The first step is to set your weight loss goal.  A realistic goal is the key.  I’m sure you’ve seen all those pictures in the gossip magazines of celebrities whose bones stick out and whose faces look drawn because they’re simply too skinny.  They’re not doing their overall health any favors, either.  According to the experts, it’s a good idea to base your weight goal based on your body mass index. Bea’s done a Google search: The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has a BMI calculator you can use.  This site also provides some great healthy weight tools.
  • Pick a date to get started and annotate that date on your calendar.  Not picking a date may cause you to continue to put off your weight management plan.  Then do some advance planning: fill your fridge and cupboards with healthy food options, buy some exercise DVDs, sign up for an exercise class, go online to find a support system.
  • Don’t starve yourself: Eating too few calories is counterproductive, because it causes our metabolism to slow down. There are other health risks of eating too few calories, as described here.  The best way to decide how many calories to eat during the day is to consider how active you are in your daily life. The Free Dieting website offers a Calorie Calculator – Daily Calorie Needs.
  • Keep a food journal. We often eat mindlessly, causing us to underestimate what we eat on a daily basis. For at least a week, write down not only what you eat, but also portion sizes. This will help you track the times when you overeat. Being aware of this can help you plan to substitute healthier options at these times. (Don’t forget to count beverages)
  • Eating breakfast is crucial. But not just any breakfast. An all carbohydrate morning meal will cause your energy to lag early in the day, and won’t keep you filled up for long. Instead, include a protein, whole grains, and fruit. For example, try an egg scrambled in canola oil or a whole-wheat bread thin with berries on the side.
  • Fill your lunch and dinner plate with vegetables and fruits. They add anti-oxidants, nutrients and fiber to your meals. You can eat bigger portions of them, since they have fewer calories and fat than meats and processed foods.
  • Speaking of fiber, boost your intake in order to lose weight. Fiber helps block the absorption of calories. Try oatmeal or other high fiber cereal with breakfast, beans for lunch, and whole grains throughout your day. Skip the “white” foods such as white flour, white bread, white rice (all the high glycemic stuff that causes spikes in our blood sugar).
  • Avoid processed foods and cut back on fat intake. Processed foods have too much salt, too much sugar and too many trans-fats. To cut back on fat, choose leaner cuts of meat, low-fat cheese and yogurt, and bake food instead of frying it.
  • Drink up. Cold water, that is. Believe it or not, researchers have found that simply drinking two 8 ounce glasses of cold water can enhance your metabolism by 30%.
  • Don’t forget to sweat. Some health experts argue that cutting calories is more important for weight loss than exercising. Bea would argue that even if it’s easier to eat 100 less calories a day than to burn off those 100 calories, exercise definitely has its place in the weight management game. Exercise helps you burn fat, strengthens those muscles and bones, reduces stress, lower cholesterol, and builds self-confidence.

For additional reading:

Psychology Today talks about Cognitive Therapy for weight loss, and Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Therapy in this article

Different strategies are necessary for losing weight and maintaining weight loss

Don’t go it alone: WebMD talks about the Secret Formula of Weight Loss

Combine diet and exercise for the best weight loss

Behavior Modification Ideas for Weight Management

Visit Bea on Wednesday, January 14th, to find out how often you should weigh yourself and the best day of the week to do so. 

 

 

 

 

Weight Loss: Don’t Fall for the Hype

Bea’s Wellness Project – Day 3 – 1/9/15

c409652_s According to what Bea heard on the local news station recently, losing weight is one of our top resolutions  for a new year.  If this in one of your resolutions for 2015, do yourself a favor:  don’t fall for the hype of fad diets or diet products!  They just don’t work. Whenever you see a hyped-up advertisement for the latest craze (Raspberry ketones, coffee bean extract, cut out all carbs, cut out all fats, and on and on and on . . . ) go to an neutral, non-commercial site and get the facts.   Bea has three rules for losing weight:

  1. Strike the word DIET from your vocabulary, ladies. Ever wonder why the word “die” is included in “diet?” It’s because your body would be happy just to kick the bucket after you starve it by eating too little or worse, attempting a “cleanse” or liquid diet.  Seriously, cleanses can be dangerous.
  2. You have the right (and more importantly, you owe it to yourself and your health) to question celebrity doctors (and other celebrity endorsers) who hype diet products that will absolutely make you lose tons of weight, overnight, no less! One certain doc shall remain nameless (hint: he’s one of Oprah’s good buddies) but he’s been in the news lately for touting misleading and false diet information.
  3. Finally, if  all those diet supplements on store shelves promising weight loss heaven worked, and we spend billions of dollars on them and other diet products annually, why are close to 35 percent of Americans still obese?

But don’t take Bea’s word for it, just ask the experts:

Why do we keep Falling for Fad Diets?

6 Potential Dangers of Juice Cleanses and Liquid Diets

Staying Away From Fad Diets – Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 

Watch for Bea’s January 12th post for common sense weight management ideas.  No hype allowed.