I Wish I Knew Then, What I Know Now

I love that line from the Rod Stewart and the Faces song: “I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger.”

If I could go back and talk to my twenty year old self, knowing what I know now, I’d plant some seeds in her head about her future health and wellness by giving her some tips.  (And believe you me, she needed ’em!)
  • Get your ZZZZ’s, girl – I was burning the candle at both ends in those days. Not really thinking that even 20 year olds need a good nights sleep!

  • And by the way, drink milk more often than Coca-Cola – your body needs the calcium to help prevent bone loss later in life.  Don’t like milk?  Broccoli and almonds are just a couple of the non-dairy sources of calcium. 

  • Please cut out those tacos and burritos that you eat as midnight snacks!  My cholesterol level was at 240 when I was 23, can you believe it?  Sure, I had a family history of high cholesterol, but those trips to Taco Bell® sure didn’t help.

  • Quit worrying so much about your hair, clothes, looks, mistakes, etc., etc., etc. Believe it or not, self-consciousness will wane as you get older and your self-confidence will grow.  The best is yet to come. 

  • Oh, and if you want to maintain your friendships (and your social wellness) you might want to curb your desire to give your opinion on everything! It’s so easy to be judgmental when you’re twenty and know it all, isn’t it? As I got older, I realized it’s better to have long, strong friendships than it is to have the last word in every discussion.  Friends are great for your health and wellness! 

  • Finally, twenty-year-old self, face your fears!  Have the guts to go for it and do what you want to do with your life.  Don’t let other people’s expectations steer your choices. If you do, you’ll regret it later. 

Life is an awesome ride, Ms. Twenty.  Just hold on and enjoy it!

Hey readers, what tips would you give your younger self about health and wellness? 

My Gratitude Journal for Thanksgiving 2010

I’m very grateful that I don’t have a loved one serving our country in Iraq or Afghanistan – and I”m also grateful that there are those people who are willing to risk their lives to protect our freedoms. I am grateful for those parents, spouses, and children who have the strength to watch their loved ones go to war, time and time again, and keep the faith that they will come back alive and whole. 

Despite our country’s problems, I’m grateful and proud to be an American.

I am very grateful I won’t be going to bed hungry tonight, as so many other Americans will.



I’m so grateful that I can read – millions of our fellow Americans can’t.

I am very grateful to know that while I cannot always choose my circumstances, I always have the power to choose my attitude. 


And oh yeah, I’m grateful I’m not living in India as a rat killer. This is an actual job in Mumbai, India. Seeking out and killing rats. And guess what? If the rat killer doesn’t meet his quota, he doesn’t get paid. Makes my job and even the possibility of future wage cuts look pretty good.

 
You can read more about that lousy job here: Killing rats in Mumbai, a job to die for.

 
And on a lighter note:
I’m so grateful to God for my health, my husband and daughter (U of M student and writer extraordinaire), my middle class life, my home, my ability to laugh at myself, my age, and for my very favorite Christmas song of all time:
Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  What are you grateful for this season? 

You can say thanks online:

  • At Thanksometer, you can thank someone for a nice gesture, and read other people’s storys of thankfulness
  • At GraceinSmallThings, a way to help take notice of the positive things that happen every day.
  • If you have a Facebook account, you can go to http://www.facebook.com/aogp.org to join the Attitude of Gratitude project. 

The Alzheimer’s Project – A Tribute

Gregg Segal, a photographer, created the Alzheimer’s Project, as a tribute to people living with Alzheimer’s   This tribute provides a glimpse of the person they once were, and the lives they once had, long before they were stricken with this memory-robbing disease.

You can view the video and photo gallery at the AARP website here.

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R-E-S-P-E-C-T Your Body And MInd!

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, wowed us in 1967 with her version of Respect, a song originally written by Otis Redding two years earlier. Otis may have written the song, but Aretha made it her own.  She demanded respect from her man, and she made sure she got it!

We all want respect from other people, especially the ones we love, and it’s important for our well-being to get that respect.  But it’s even more important to respect ourselves, and to me, that means respecting our bodies and our minds. After all, they just want their “propers.”  For all they do for us, I figure they deserve as much!

Rejuevenate by getting enough sleep to fill your individual needs. Why do we need sleep?  WiseGeek says that sleep restores the mind and body

Eat well for both your body and mind.  Yep, there are ways to feed your brain that also help maintain your physical health.

Socialize. It’s good for you, according to this Michigan Daily article, which talks about a study showing that friendly social conversation actually stimulates your brain processes. 

Pursue emotional wellness, by dealing with stress in constructive ways. EHealth MD talks about managing stress using the TARP method

Exercise your body in a variety of ways. Cardio exercises, strength training, interval training, Yoga, Pilates,  Zumba, kickboxing.  The list of fitness options is endless, and even for us who are 50+, there are usually modified versions. 

Cultivate those brain cells. Learning is a lifelong process and working our brain is just as important as working our body! Try these “15 Ways to Cultivate Lifelong Learning” from the LifeHack blog.

Try something new to keep yourself excited about life, especially as you age. Remember the Bucket List movie?  Seems to me that we should all have one of those! 

How about you?  Got any ideas about how we can respect our bodies? 

Don’t Know Much About: Alzheimer’s Disease

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and over 5 million people in our country suffer from this disease, a number that continues to grow. I’m sure that some of you readers out there have a relative with this heartbreaking condition, or know someone whose family member is affected by it.

My friend’s mother suffered from Alzheimer’s for several years before she died, robbing her of her memories and stealing her away, little by little, from her family.  During the time that her mom was in a nursing home, my friend gave me a calendar – each month portrayed the artwork of a man who suffered from Alzheimer’s.  As the months progressed, the quality of the artwork clearly deteriorated.  The calendar provided a sobering picture of how this disease can affect people’s abilities.

While I knew that age and a family history of the disease are two of the risk factors, I only recently discovered that African-Americans and Latinos are at a higher risk for Alzheimer’s than Caucasians, and often don’t get diagnosed until the symptoms have advanced. Early diagnosis can help people get the medical care they need, and enhance their quality of life. So for these groups of people in particular, raising awareness is vital.

We can learn more about this disease from websites such as the Alzheimer’s Association.  The site provides some basic facts about this progressive brain disease here.   The Alzheimer’s Association has a goal:  To rid our lives of this devastating disease, and to help people who are affected by it by raising people’s awareness of the disease, advancing research, and fundraising. Some of the links within the site include:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease – what it is, risk factors, warning signs, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
  • Living with Alzheimer’s – care providers, financial matters, legal issues, and so on.
  • We Can Help – Local chapters, care finder, 24/7 helpline, support groups, and more.

I don’t know about you, but my mind is one thing that I’d like to keep strong and healthy for as long as I can during my lifetime.  The HelpGuide website points out ways that we can keep our minds strong and prevent or delay Alzheimer’s: 

  • Exercise regularly – fitness is good for both body and mind
  • Eat a diet that’s brain-healthy
  • An active mind is a healthy mind, so keep on learning
  • Don’t skimp on sleep
  • Learn to relax and deal with stress
  • Protect your brain For more specific steps relating to these strategies, check out this article by HelpGuide experts.  By the way, please hug a family caregiver this month!  They are the true heroes of our societyFurther Reading:
    WebMD has an Alzheimer’s Disease Health Center, which is another good resource for learning about this disease.

    The Everyday Health website has some informative articles, including one that talks about how to communicate with someone who has the disease. and an article that asks the question: “Can lifestyle changes help prevent Alzheimer’s?”

    The Alzheimer’s Association talks about the 10 warning signs of this disease.

    This article from USA Today talks more about the role of race and culture in Alzheimer’s disease.

Old Man Winter Rears His Ugly Head

So when I left work the other day, the sun was nowhere to be found, grayish clouds hung low and cottony in the sky, and the wind blew through my coat. Then, while I was driving home, I saw some suspicious looking white flaky things on my windshield.  “Yikes!” I screeched.  “Snowflakes!”

Winter is creeping up on us. Arrghhhh. 

????????????????Can you tell I’m not a winter person? I don’t know about you, but I tend to get gloomy when the weather gets cold and the skies remain that same shade of gray for days on end.  Michigan winters last too long for my taste. 

When I hear old Chuck Gaidica from Detroit’s Channel 4 nightly news blather on about the “wind chill factor,” I pull my snuggie over my head and think to myself, “Hmmm, I think my throat’s a little scratchy! Maybe I’ll just call in sick in the morning.”  Like a bear, I simply feel like hibernating the winter away in a cave somewhere. 

One thing I do to beat the winter blahs is exercise.  I’ve been exercising in my living room for years.  It reminds me of those women’s only aerobic classes of the eighties – how cool was it to wear those color-coordinated leotards and tights, then complete my outfit with a cute sweatband and, I kid you not, leg warmers! Think Jane Fonda.  Nowadays, it’s just sweatpants and a tee shirt – who in the heck do I have to impress? 

I borrow exercise DVDs from our local library, use my cable company’s “On Demand” fitness channel, or go to the Exercise TV store to check out new DVDs from my favorite fitness experts.   And exercise definitely helps me if my day at work has been particularly stressful.  I also read that regular exercise may reduce upper respiratory infections.

Other ways I lift the gloom:

  • Watch a funny movie – three of my favorite oldies but goodies are The Blues Brothers, The Jerk, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. 

  • Count my blessings.  Yep, it sounds corny.  But it really works for me.  I have a job – a neighbor or relative may not.  I have my health; I know people suffering from cancer. I have a car, and I see people standing on the street corner every day, waiting for a bus. I can pay my utility bills.  Every winter I hear about people whose heat has been turned off because they simply can’t pay their bill. Did you know you can show your gratitude online?  Check out Graceinsmallthings.com, a site that challenges us to “find joy in small things.”  As I like to say: “Life is short – be happy now.” 

  • Get together with my girlfriends – there are times we get together and just laugh about one thing after another.  Friendships are good for us, and as I get older, I tend to appreciate my friends more and more. I can’t believe they’ve stuck by me all these years. . .  . 

  • Finally, when all else fails, I go for the comfort food.   You can boost your mood with certain types of foods, as described at WebMD.  And comfort food can be healthy food, as shown at the Eating Well website.  

 How to you ward off the winter  blues?  Or are you a fan of “Old Man Winter?”

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Creative Aging – A Pro-Aging Resource

What is getting old all about? Is it something to be feared? Many of us seem to think so. We try to hide our faces’ character and life lines (aka, wrinkles) with Botox® and face lifts. We worship youth, and fail to appreciate the wisdom that comes with age.

Aging does have its pitfalls, of course. There are age-related illnesses and conditions, memory lapses, failing hearing and eyesight . . . But some of these things can be prevented, or at least delayed, by taking active charge of our physical and mental health. And by concentrating on the negative, we simply blind ourselves to the beauty and possibilities of pro-active aging – aging with grace and dignity.

So I’m not buying into the “aging is awful” myth. And the Creative Aging website, one of many pro-aging sites out there on the Web, isn’t buying into it either!

The National Center for Creative Aging has a mission: Helping people gain an understanding of how creativity and healthy aging work together.

To do this, Creative Aging developed three initiatives that bring arts programs to older people:

  • Civic Engagement, involving volunteering and other social wellness activities
  • Health and Wellness, using creativity to develop the mind and body
  • Lifelong Learning, to engage the mind and keep it active

Being involved in our communities, and developing our minds through creative expression and lifelong learning helps us be pro-active and lead purposeful lives.  A recent study indicates that having a purpose may lead to a longer life; even if it doesn’t, I’m willing to bet that it leads to a more enjoyable and meaningful life. 

The Capture your Creativity link, found under NCCA’s Resource section, is a guide for those of us who want to find a program to develop our creativity.  This resource also includes a “Best Practice Programs,” organizations that  focus on NCCA’s three initiatives. 

NCCA has partnered with Martek Biosciences (a company involved in brain health research) in the “Beautiful Minds” campaign – which is simply about older adults who are keeping their minds beautiful and healthy through positive action. 

You can meet some awesome people at the Beautiful Minds website – people who are embracing age, not living in fear of it.  I’d like to follow in their footsteps as I continue on my life’s journey. 

How about you?  What are you doing in your life to age with vigor and purpose?  Do you have a creative outlet that keeps your mind in gear? 

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Hug a Caregiver Today

Family caregivers really are the unsung heroes of our society, don’t you think?  There are the wives or husbands who take care of a chronically ill spouse, adult children who take ailing parents into their homes, parents who care for children living with physical or mental disabilities.  These caregivers face daily stresses that most of us can’t even imagine.

In today’s world, much is made of overpaid athletes who play a game for a living.  Much is made of “celebrities” who star in so-called reality shows or who are in and out of rehab every other month.  Much is made of self-indulgent executives for whom millions a year just isn’t enough. 

Maybe someone should produce a show about caregivers and what they go through to survive their daily lives. 

Now that’s reality. 

A couple of months ago I read about two caregivers’ stories in the Detroit Free Press.  One, titled “Edge of Adversity,” written by Brent Snavely, talked about Elaine Bannon and her husband Chuck, both engineers working for Ford.   

In 2006, her husband was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Elaine Bannon had a demanding job as the chief engineer of the Ford Edge, and also took care of her husband as his life deteriorated from this disease. He died in April of 2009.

Elaine believes that working on the Edge helped her maintain her emotional sanity during that extremely difficult period of their lives. Granted, she was able to afford caretaking help during the day while she worked.  However, she also managed to balance her work life and the emotional burden of caring for her spouse after her long workday was over. 

Elaine Bannon’s story can be found here:
Chief engineer behind Ford Edge found balance in work and caring for dying husband.

Chuck Barney wrote another article, “From Spouse to Dedicated Caretaker.”  Barney points out that when one spouse becomes disabled or ill, there is a tremendous  “physical, emotional, and financial” toll on that marriage and on other family members.  What was once a partnership now becomes a lonely place, with one partner taking on more and more onto their own shoulders. 

The Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) provides some troubling statistics about family caregivers, and discusses the  impact on their physical, mental and emotional health.  The FCA is an advocate for caregivers and is an excellent resource.  Resources at the FCA include:

  • Public Policy and Research
  • Caregiving Information and Advice
  • Newsletters
  • Support Groups

 Another great resource that deserves recognition and support is the National Family Caregivers Association.
Click here to sign a petition to support the “Family Caregiver Postage Stamp,” to honor family caregivers in the U.S. 

November is the month that we recognize and honor family caregivers.  Do you know someone who is taking care of a loved one?   Please, take some time to ease their burden in some way.  And remind them that help and resources are out there for them. 

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Who’s John Montagu?

John Montagu was born today, November 3rd, way back in the 1700’s. Now, why is this important to you, here today in the 21st century?

Simply because Montagu, also known as the Earl of Sandwich, invented one of our very favorite lunch foods – you guessed it, the sandwich.

John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, by Johann ...Image via Wikipedia
Love that hair style, don’t you?  How’d he do that? ?
Now, when I was a kid, I loved a good bologna sandwich, with mustard, on Bunny bread (still sold today, and even has a  Facebook page).   In the sixties, when we’d take a car trip “up north,” that is, to the upper peninsula of Michigan, we’d stop at a rest area to sit at a picnic table and chow down on bologna sandwiches, chips, and cans of pop.  Back then, there weren’t a dozen fast food restaurants at every exit!  
Nowadays, I don’t eat much white bread, opting for whole grain varieties instead.  (Hey, I need my fiber!) As for bologna, well, it’s not that good for me and my cholesterol levels.  But I still love a good sandwich – how about you? 
So thanks, John Montagu.  We sandwich-lovers salute you. 
Want some healthy sandwich options?  Check out Health.com’s 13 Simple Sandwich and Wrap Recipes.

At the Best Health website, the Avocado and Chicken Club sandwich sounds good, though I’d probably skip the pumpkin seeds.
 
Healthy sandwich options for kids.