In Active Seniors, blog, Heart Health, Youthful Brain by Jerry RothouseLeave a Comment


1. Achieve and keep a healthy weight. Being overweight puts a strain on the whole body. Especially stressful for the heart and all the internal organs that are forced to support excess weight. That excess weight must be carried by the spine, hips, knees ankles and feet. These are the mechanical components of our bodies that wear over time. Do not expect that they will last as long as they should if they’re carrying more weight than they’re designed for. By “designed for” I am referring to your genetic inheritance. A person who’s genetics has grown them to 6 feet 6 inches tall has a body that is designed to weigh more than a person who grows to 5 feet 6 inches tall. There’s more to it than that. A person of any height may be naturally wide shouldered and barrel chested or may be more slender. We are all individuals. There are many charts available that depict what they’ve determined is the ideal weight for women and men based on height, age and body type. These are alright for basic guidelines however your own observations will tell you a lot. Don’t be in denial. If you feel that you’re overweight you probably are. If you think you are so overweight you might be obese you very well could be. Make corrections. Don’t wait. Your health and longevity depend on it.
Being underweight has dangers as well and certainly not healthy. Talk to your doctor. Between you both you’ll determine a good target weight range. You may vary a few pounds up and a few pounds down depending upon your activities and of course what you eat and drink. Some people have a very high metabolism and burn calories faster than most others. If you’re one of those people you know you need to eat more than most others.

2. There are many schools of thought on what are the best foods. Some people thrive on a pure vegetarian diet with no animal products at all. Others are vegetarians but consume milk, cheese and eggs. Some others eat flesh foods like chicken or fish but no red meat. Others, and I’m one of them, believe in the hunter- gatherer diet also called Paleo after our Paleolithic ancestors. Regardless of which type you choose there is one thing in common. From the beginning of Homo Erectus 1.5 million to 2 million years ago through the evolution to Homo Sapiens, that’s us, about 200,000 to 300,000 years ago our species developed consuming foods as nature made them. They had no choice. That’s all there was. Then 10,000 or 15,000 years ago came agriculture which led to modern farming and all the products that people, not nature created. Mother nature does not grow donuts. The grains modern humans eat are not even close to the wild grasses they evolved from. One can search and find science to support two basic arguments. Argument 1. Our digestive system developed over about 2 million years to handle natural foods and any food products that are man made are a foreign substance that causes all kinds of problems and are basically poisoning us. Argument 2. Humans are highly adaptable, that’s why we have survived and 15,000 years is more than enough time for our systems to adjust to new food sources. Who’s right? This issue will continue to be argued from both sides but both sides are in agreement that the diabetic epidemic is a recent phenomena that did not exist 100 years ago and that the cause is manufactured food and far too much of it. Why too much? Because these manufactured foods are not able to provide that feeling that our hunger is satisfied, we’re fueled up and ready to go for hours so we just keep feeling hungry and keep eating these low nutrition high calorie real food substitutes. I’m not saying never have a slice of pizza or a scoop of ice cream. Just think about what it is you’re eating. Did humans manufacture it or did mother nature grow it.

3. Reduce harmful foods. We humans have a love for sweets. When sugar cane was refined into pure sugar there followed huge consumption of sugar. That led to huge health problems. Our love of sweets is imbedded in us because of the sweet taste of naturally growing fruit that our ancestors ate. Those fruits do not have the concentration of sugar that is so prevalent in the typical modern diet. Soda and candy are the best examples and worst offenders as they have a concentration of sugar that overwhelms our digestive system. We are not able to process it as normal food. So what to do? Does this mean you can never drink a soda? Never eat your favorite candy bar? Although I believe that would be the best decision and that you can find other and better real foods to replace them you can still indulge if you must as long as you’re able to control the quantity. Do you normally drink a soda or some other artificially sweetened beverage when you’re thirsty? Start by replacing half of them with water. Your body is about 70% water and that’s what you need a lot of. Cake, cookies, pastries, fried foods, starchy, salty, sugary snack foods are more examples of what to cut back on or eliminate entirely. There are so many delicious and nutritious foods that you can and should replace them with. Raw nuts, seeds, dried fruit are good examples. Anyone who wants to improve their health should make these adjustments.

4. Reduce alcohol consumption. This probably does not apply if you are a one beer or one glass of wine a day person. If you have a few or several drinks a day all or almost all days then you have a problem that needs to be addressed. The problem is amplified if those drinks are not beer and wine but hard liquor like bourbon, scotch, vodka etc. I have heard people say they drink more than one drink every day but don’t think it’s an issue. I have heard others say it’s possible that they’re alcoholics but they don’t think they really are. Don’t be delusional. If you think you might be an alcoholic you almost certainly are. Do you ever try to go a week without a drink? Can you? Or do you insist to yourself and others that you could if you really wanted to you just don’t feel like it. That is a classic sign of alcoholism. A good argument can be made that alcohol is the most dangerous drug and yes it is a drug. Why so dangerous? Because it’s legal and accepted as a normal social activity so people tend to not consider it to be the habit forming substance that it certainly is. Enjoy your drink but acknowledge the truth. Are you in control of alcohol or is the need for it controlling or starting to control you? Don’t commit the terrible sin of lying to your Self.

5. Drugs in general and specific. Is marijuana a drug? Some will argue that the use of it affects a person’s thoughts and behavior so it must be a drug. Others will argue that it’s a plant with medicinal qualities and therefore not a drug. Whatever the answer consumption is certainly on the rise. The potency is far higher now than ever before. The effects on the brain from long term regular use are not yet known. Common sense should tell you that if you indulge you should do so with caution. If you start your day every day with a few bong hits that’s not conducive to getting much done. Probably not good for your brain either. Inhaling smoke of any kind can’t be doing your lungs any good. There are now various marijuana edibles that are a better choice. There’s no argument about heroin, meth amphetamine, and all the other hard drugs that seem to be everywhere. No way can any of them be used moderately. If you start to use any of them you are sentencing your Self to a lifelong drug addiction and flushing your life down the drain. Don’t do it. Don’t be a loser by your own hand.

6. We all encounter stressful situations. It’s how we deal with them that determines the outcome. Are you stuck in slow moving traffic every day? That can be stressful as you’re needing to get to work on time or just the nuisance of creeping along for an hour on what could be a 15 minute cruise. Does that get you stressed out? How about other drivers who are just plain rude and inconsiderate. The people who will not let you merge into another lane, lean on their horn for no reason, cut you off dangerously? Sure, that will get you angry and frustrated as there’s nothing you can do about it except ride it out. You can let it takeover your mind and perhaps cause you to yell at the other drivers but does that really help? Be in control of your own mood and feelings. Don’t let other people or situations you have no control over take over your own mind. It’s yours not theirs so you must control it otherwise they win and you lose. There is also stress at work. Do you have a boss who lords authority over everyone? Do you feel like telling that person what you think of them and walking out? If the situation is bad enough and the job is not good enough anyway that may be the best choice. However if the job is important or necessary to keep then you must endure and not let it get to you. I know, that’s easier said than done. That boss or coworker is insecure and being them is punishment enough. Again, if you allow them to stress you out that’s what they want and they win, you lose. Much better to leave them to their own misery and do your work the way you know you should. Simply meeting the responsibilities of your work can be stressful. Be sure that you know in your own heart that you are doing the best you are able will allow you to not be stressed about it. Life itself is inevitably stressful to some degree and fortunately there is stress relief through physical and mental activities.

7. Physical activities. We modern humans are descended from people who spent their time undertaking physical activities. Our bodies evolved from the needs required for survival. The need for physical activity is hard wired into us. That’s one of the reasons it feels so good to move about and get our blood flowing. We need that. At the end of a workday one can attempt to relieve stress and unwind at a bar or outside for a run or bike ride. Which of those do you think will do you the most good? Obviously there are many types of activities to exercise the body. You might play tennis, go to a yoga class, play tag with your children – the list is endless. What’s important is to prioritize some of your time for the physical activities. It is my personal opinion that to qualify as a sport it must cause your breathing and heart rate to increase and make you sweat. Everything else is an activity. Both are good but it’s the cardio training that does the most good. Our ancient ancestors had to walk, run and sometimes sprint. They had to lift and carry things over distances and do so repeatedly. Your body is really no different than the people back then except we have access to good nutrition all the time. There’s always a huge choice of foods available to us. A person from 10,000 years ago brought to modern times and shown our grocery stores would think they were in heaven. That’s a mixed blessing for us because it can be difficult with all that food to not eat too much of it. We also have the comfort of living inside our homes. Imagine camping out for your whole life. Then there’s the medical care we have. These ancestors were very tough, resilient and resourceful and could not have survived to produce us if they did not have that physicality that came from their activities. Your body is no different only you don’t have to hike across rough terrain daily. You need to get your exercise in other ways. Surely there are some forms of exercise that you’ll enjoy so find them and do something positive for your Self.

8. Mental activities. We need to exercise our brains. You may think that you do enough mental exercise on the job. Unless your job requires learning new information you could be basically using the same information over again to fit different circumstances. Anyone who has a job that involves a lot of thinking knows that end of day feeling of exhaustion. How can you be so tired when you’re sitting in an office all day? Brainwork is tiring in its own way. As one ages there is often no attempt to learn anything new. Our brains can feel kind of full with everything they must know to conduct our day to day lives. Lots of things to remember. There are some in depth scientific studies showing that people who try throughout their lives try to keep learning whether it’s a new language, how to develop some carpentry skills, tie a fishing line, it really doesn’t matter what, tend to live longer and in old age are less likely to experience loss of mental acuity or be stricken by Alzheimer’s. Everyone at any age can find something new that interests them. We have the ability to go online and look up any subject we can think of. By doing this you are enriching your life by adding new pages in new chapters of your personal book of life.

9. Many people don’t get enough sleep and what sleep they get is not quality deep sleep. Your body, like it or not really does need 7- 8 hours a night of good deep sleep in order to recover from the day and prepare for the next. Oh sure, there are times when that’s not possible due to life’s responsibilities or perhaps a choice made stay up late to enjoy an activity even though we must roll out of bed at the same time the next morning. That’s fine on occasion but it’s the regular habits that contribute to your long term health. Getting enough sleep is more of a challenge for those who work the night shift and sleep during the day. I know that from my own experience but it can be done. Do not eat a big meal right before bed. Try to spend some time relaxing before turning out the lights. Reading something that’s kind of boring not exciting may help. Make sure the room you’re sleeping in can be blacked out of all light. If that’s not possible wear a sleep mask. Block out sound. That’s more difficult as noise can penetrate form outside. Heavy curtains can help. Earplugs if necessary. Physical exercise that gets you tired is time proven. We’ve all experienced being so tired that we drop off to sleep when our heads hit the pillow. You should experiment with different types of pillows and although you may have other things you’d prefer to spend money on a quality bed is a must. Sex is also a time proven cure for insomnia. You really should not become dependent upon sleep inducing drugs. Too many people are and they are dangerous.

10. Achieving balance in our lives requires planning. We must take care of ourselves first or we can’t take care of anything or anyone. When we’re on a plane we are instructed that if the oxygen masks are needed put your own on first before you try to help someone else. Any person with a spouse and children must first maintain their own health. How can they earn a living and provide for their family if they don’t? If you work all the overtime you can get and basically work every waking hour of the day without taking time to take care of your Self you’ll bring in more money but your health will suffer and you may do permanent damage. Where does that leave your family? The other extreme would be to work the absolute minimum to get by and use the majority of your time for pursuing your own physical training interests. Your health and fitness will be good but you’re giving up too much income and family time. That’s no good either. Plan it out. You can structure a few more work hours for the income and have a schedule of time after work for the exercise activities of your choice on some days and other days when your mate and children know you’ll be there with them. If your children are adults or you don’t have any then you have more time to distribute. If you’re of an age that you are no longer working full time it’s still good to work part time even if you don’t need the money. Work and the feeling of satisfaction that comes from work well done should never be given up. At that stage of life as a senior person you should be as active as is possible and that means physical exercise, mental exercise, work of some sort and continual interaction with other people of all ages.

8 ways to reduce stress in the workplace

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