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? 

7 Mini Heart Healthy Eating Swaps

Bea Boomer’s Vital Aging Project – Day 42 – 4/8/15

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  • Enjoying a bowl of tomato soup?  Add black beans for added fiber.
  • For a tasty salad, skip the iceberg lettuce and use a colorful blend of greens – add chickpeas and a variety of veggies.  You can also use the chickpeas to make hummus.  Enjoy it with baby carrots, cucumber slices, celery, zucchini sticks, red or   orange peppers . . . 
  • Love crusty bread? Instead of buttering it, blend olive oil with dried Italian seasoning and minced garlic (or garlic powder) and dip your bread in this mixture. 
  • For a heart-healthy breakfast, try regular or steel-cut oatmeal instead of the instant options.  Add blueberries (or other types of berries), walnuts or almonds, apples with  a tablespoonful of honey. Top with soymilk.  
  • When eating out, choose broiled salmon, lake trout, or whitefish instead of a steak.  The omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish can help us reduce heart attacks and other heart conditions. 
  • For a quick snack, choose a handful of almonds to help lower your cholesterol levels.  
  • To healthify your tacos, skip the ground beef.  Try a soft taco made with whole grain tortillas, ground turkey, brown rice, and seasoned black beans.  Top with avocado slices.

Bea would love to hear about your own heart-healthy food swap ideas.  Drop me a line!

For further reading:

Heart Disease and Young Women

Quick heart-healthy meal recipes

©Bea Boomers Wellness 2009-2015

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brain Awareness Week (March 16 – 22)

 

Bea Boomer’s Wellness Project – Day 33 – 3/18/15

I recently saw the movie, Still Alice. In the movie, Julianne Moore plays Alice, a woman who struggles with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. In her case, it was familial; she carried the gene for AD. This neurological disease has also been linked to diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, along with other modifiable risk factors.  In a recent bulletin, the AARP pointed out that the cases and costs of AD continue to rise, with no end in sight.*

Since then, I’ve been thinking about my brain.  Or should I say, I’ve been thinking about my brain’s health. I’ve written posts about the aging brain in years past. In my blog, past articles  have taken a lighthearted approach. But in truth, losing my brain functions is one of those things I do take seriously, and is the thing I fear most about aging

Which brings me to Brain Awareness Week, a worldwide initiative which was started by the Dana Foundation 20 years ago. This foundation provides information about the brain to the public, and also helps advance brain health research in a variety of ways. This provides us with the opportunity to learn about the strides that scientists are making to protect our brain health. Brain Awareness Week is just the start; according to the Scientific American website, the Dana Foundation continues brain awareness activities year-round. 

How to get involved with Brain Awareness Week: Check out the Society for Neuroscience Brain Awareness Campaign.  

I’ve recently joined to become an advocate of Alzheimer’s research – please join me.  We can make a difference! You can become a chamption at ActionAlz

You can follow the Alzheimer’s Association on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/actionalz

I’ve found some interesting reading about the brain: 

  • This article from The Human Memory website, describes the three major parts of the brain. This website has some interesting reading and includes articles about the different types of memory, memory disorders, types of memory, etc. 
  • The Amen Clinic talks about super foods for the brain.
  • Brain Healthy Recipes from BrainHQ at the Posit Science website

Source: 

*Reid, T.R. Where’s the War on Alzheimer’s? AARP Bulletin.  January – February 2015.  

©Bea Boomers Wellness 2009-2015

How to Fight Belly Fat

Bea Boomer’s Wellness Project – Day 27 – 3/4/15

Want to fight that muffin top?  While some excess weight around the abdoment may not be dangerous, visceral (or deep) fat surrounds our internal organs and causes a higher risk of metabolic syndrome, which can lead to diabetes.  Other dangers of visceral fat include heart disease and stroke.  

And here’s a surprising fact from WebMD:  even thin people can have deep fat deposits, particularly if they don’t get enough exercise.*

How to fight back:

  • Eat high fiber foodsNatural sources of fiber include:  apples with the skin, pears with the skin, black beans (and of course, other varieties as well), popcorn, barley, whole wheat bread, etc.  (Just be sure to add fiber to your diet gradually and drink plenty of water to go with it).  
  • Avoid processed and “white foods,” along with bad fats.  
  • Get that cardio exercise – Start a moderate aerobic workout plan, such as 30 minutes of brisk walking 5 or more days each week.  If you’re already active, or want faster results, jog or do other types of vigorous exercises.  
  • Strength train – Experts point out that aerobic exercise is not enough to fight belly fat.   Strength training helps build muscle, and that can boost your metabolism and help you burn off more fat.  
  • Find ways to get a good night’s sleep – Lack of sleep has been linked to abdominal fat gain
  • Finally, learn to manage stress. Studies have shown that uncontrolled stress can also lead to additional belly fat, along with 
  • Studies have shown that high levels of uncontrolled stress can also lead to more belly fat as well as a higher risk of metabolic syndrome.

This slideshow from Everyday Health talks about ways that menopausal women can fight belly fat.

For Further Reading: 

Is there “One Trick” to Losing Belly Fat? (Sorry, but the answer is “No”)

The Truth about Belly Fat

How and Why To Lose Belly Fat

Source:

* Collins, S. The Truth About Belly Fat. WebMD. Reviewed March 20, 2014

Sleep Thief Solutions

Bea Boomer’s Wellness Project – Day 23 – 2/25/15

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What Bea has found on and off the Internet about getting a better sleep:

For those of you who have kids, remember when they were small and you established a bedtime routine for them?  You can do the same for yourself.  Turn of the computer or television for 45 minutes to an hour before bedtime.  Warning: Don’t watch the nightly news!  When Bea does this, all the bad news leaves her tossing and turning. Take a nice warm bath. Sit on a comfortable chair and read a book.   

 Both caffeine and alcohol aren’t good for a sound sleep.  Bea has tried a glass of wine before bedtime; however, experts warn against this.  They point out that you might fall asleep more quickly, but you are more likely to wake up in a few hours, or sleep less soundly. 

Around an hour before bedtime have a snack that contains both protein and carbs.  For example, whole wheat bread with peanut butter or whole wheat pita bread with hummus.  Another suggestion I read about in Good Housekeeping magazine is to have a bowl of cornflakes and milk. The cereal enhances our tryptophan levels  (an amino acid that helps us sleep) and increases serotonin in our brain. The milk contains melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep

No clock-watching, please!  Another thing Bea has been guilty of when she wakes up in the middle of the night; peeking at the clock, which makes her more anxious.  “OMG!  There’s only an hour and a half before the alarm goes off!” 

Try meditation!  As Bea mentioned before in her post about the benefits of meditationresearchers have discovered that mindful meditation leads to better quality sleep for chronic insomnia sufferers.  By meditating, you may be able to turn off that mind chatter that goes on at night when you’re trying to get some shuteye.  

Bea started a new bedtime routine (only in the last few days) after talking to a co-worker who swears by this method; she also let Bea borrow some essential oils and an oil diffuser.   

About 30 minutes before bed, she drags herself away from Facebook and her new favorite game, Word Crack, and turns off her laptop.  She uses an essential oil called Tranquil (containing lavender and other oils) on her temples and the back of her neck.  She lies down on a couch and puts in her Ipod earphones, relaxing and listening to one or two of the guided meditation tracks from an album she downloaded. She just breathes deeply and allows the music into her mind. Before getting into bed, she adds water and a few drops of another essential oil, called Slumber into the diffuser, plugs it in, and lets it do its sleepy time magic.  Sure, it sounds complicated, but if it helps Bea get the slumber she needs, she’s up for it. So far, it seems to be working – which means that her daytime hours are much more pleasant! 

What method(s) or routine do you use to get quality sleep?  Bea would love to get your input.

For additional reading:

You can find some “out of the ordinary” better sleep tips in this article from the Pick the Brain website.

How to Treat Insomnia Naturally

 Foods High in Tryptophan

Melatonin Overview by WebMD

 

 

Insomnia: Sleep Thief

 

 

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Bea’s Wellness Project – Day 22 – 2/23/15

You know as well as Bea does that a lack of sleep simply sucks. During perimenopause, along with all those other fun things such as night sweats and hot flashes, insomnia reared its ugly head and made her life very, very unpleasant. Now menopausal (yikes), Bea still suffers from sleepless nights and they wreak havoc on the daylight hours. 

This lack of sleep makes her grumpy, fuzzy-brained and isn’t too good for her looks. There’s nothing more annoying than have one of her bright-eyed co-workers starting a conversation with “Boy, you look tired!”  Especially if that statement is made every day.

Bea knows she isn’t suffering alone – According to the researchers who study this stuff, at least 40% of Americans don’t get the 7 hours of quality sleep they need to function well (Aschwanden). Many of these insomnia sufferers are women.  (Can we create a silk purse out of a sow’s ear?  Maybe we should all get together and start the Middle of the Night Club, since misery loves company). 

For those of you who suffer with insomnia like Bea does, you already know that lack of sleep can lead to crabbiness, inability to focus/concentrate, forgetfulness, lack of energy, just to name a few annoyances.

Chronic insomnia, unfortunately, ends up causing more than just minor disturbances in our lives.

  • Lack of sleep can cause problems with the functioning of our brains. It affects our brain’s plasticity, by weakening our brain’s ability to make connections between brain cells.  This decreases our learning ability.  (Evans & Burghardt)
  • Lack of sleep makes us more susceptible to viruses and infections by weakening our immune system (Evans & Burghardt)
  • In many studies, sleep deprivation has been linked to memory loss and even Alzheimer’s disease (Aschwanden)
  • Lack of sleep has been linked to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and even earlier death.  
  • One very recent study has even shown that it can make our brain smaller. Now THAT sounds weird. You can read more in this article from the CNN website.

Bea has been trying to find things that will help her sleep better.  In her next post (Wednesday, February 25th) she’ll let you know what she’s found out – by the way, ladies, do you have any “sleep better” suggestions?  What’s worked for you? 

For Further Reading:

Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep

Interested in visuals?

Check out this cool infographic to see what sleep deprivation does to our brain

Resources: 

Evans, S. PhD, & Burghardt, P., PhD. Brain Fit for Life A User’s Guide to Life Long Brain Health and Fitness. 2008. River Point Publications: Milan, MI

Aschwanden, Christie. Counting Sleep. Prevention Magazine November 2014. 

 

 

 

 

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.  

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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:

 

Why Generation X Women (and Boomers) Should Weight Train

Bea’s Wellness Project – Day 7– 1/19/15

When Bea was 47, her doctor told her she had osteopenia, a pre-cursor to osteoporosis (a not-so-fun inheritance from her mom) and put her on Actonel and calcium supplements. Being the drama queen she is, Bea kept picturing her bones getting weaker and more brittle until they dissolved into dust. The answer to her dilemma was weight training. She figured she’d give it a whirl, and see if what the experts said was true: that we can strengthen our bones by lifting weights. She added weight training to other weight-bearing exercises: brisk walking and jogging.

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Now in her late fifties, she continues this exercise routine, using weights that range from 3 to 10 pounds. She alternates the weight lifting with her favorite aerobic activities: power walking, running, or Tae Bo. Bea no longer has to take Actonel – her bone density tests have shown that her bones are back! Well, they never actually went anywhere – they’re just stronger and denser. How cool is that?

Bea has also been able to maintain a reasonable weight for her age and height; she weighs around 130 and has a 21.6 BMI. Not bad for someone who’ll be 58 years old this year.

What are some of the other ways that our bodies benefit from strength training? 

  • Strength training adds to our muscle mass, which in turn enhances our metabolism.
  • Strength training can help burn fat – studies have shown that training with weights can be great for reducing stomach fat.
  • Strength training makes us stronger, more flexible, and increases our sense of balance.
  • Strength training reduces arthritis and back pain.
  • Strength training helps control blood sugar in people with Type II diabetes.
  • Strength training can help us sleep better.
  • Strength training, along with other kinds of exercise, boosts self-confidence!
  • Strength training can boost our brain function. A recent study at Georgia Tech University found that lifting weights can boost our memory. You can read more about that benefit here.

Keep in mind that you should check with your primary care doctor if you decide to undertake a strength training program. He or she may advise you to limit yourself to certain types of exercise programs, depending on your current physical condition.

For further reading:

You may want to read this article from The Women’s Heart Foundation which talks about techniques and provides a “how-to” for several weight training exercises.

Risks for osteoporosis

What is osteopenia

Ladies, Don’t be Afraid of Weight Training

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Fight Back against S.A.D.

Bea’s Wellness Project – Day 2 – 1/7/15

 

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Bea gets S.A.D. every year. It usually starts early in November, when the days dim their lights sooner, and nights seem endless.  The summer sun becomes a distant memory.  S.A.D., of course, is Seasonal Affective Disorder, and many of us are affected by it during these dreary winter months.

This year, however, instead of wallowing in her misery, Bea has made a serious effort to combat this winter depression. This effort lifted her spirits and made a big difference in her outlook.

Do you battle S.A.D. during the winter months? Here’s how Bea fights back:

  • Walking outside whenever possible to breathe in the fresh air. Even just 10 minutes can be invigorating.
  •  When it’s just too cold out there, she does aerobic exercise or strength training with fitness DVDs in her living room.
  • Drinking water regularly to fight off lethargy and avoiding sugary foods and simple carbs.
  • Being productive really helps her feel better – cleaning the house can be satisfying. De-cluttering her home office space is another activity that, believe it or not, enhances her serenity.
  • Starting a long-overdue project for those dark winter nights.
  • Making an effort to be social: calling a friend on the phone, planning a night out with the “girls.” This year, she joined an online book club; then went to the movies with some of her new reading buddies.
  • Bea needs a good night’s sleep to stave off depression, and this has become more difficult as she’s aged. To help enhance her sleep quality, she gets off the computer at least an hour before bedtime. She’ll get comfy on an easy chair, put on her earphones and listen to meditation music while reading a good book. This helps her unwind from her day.

If these ideas don’t work for you, check out some additional tips from health experts:

How to Cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder – Definition

6 Depression Traps to Avoid