Senior Nation: Coping with Stress by Kim Huff

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The body deals with stress by using the flight or fight response. When the body senses something stressful, hormones are released that initiate physiological responses known as the stress response. Long term activation of the stress response decreases the efficiency of the immune system and increases the risk of physical and cognitive diseases.

Lifestyle changes associated with age can create stressful challenges such as:

    • Coping with medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and arthritis, chronic pain, cancer or Alzheimer’s disease
    • Physical and cognitive changes associated with aging that limit functional mobility and intellectual processes respectively
    • Retirement is a time of relaxation, however changes in lifestyle and financial status can initiate stress that can carry over into long term stress.
    • Becoming a caretaker for a friend, neighbor, or loved one or losing a friend or loved one

Signs of short term or chronic stress include:

      • Worry, anxiety, or panic attacks
      • Sadness or depression
      • Feeling pressured, hurried, helpless or overwhelmed
      • Irritability and moodiness
      • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
      • Stomach problems, headaches, chest pain, asthma, skin rashes
      • Problems sleeping
      • Drinking too much alcohol, smoking, or misusing drugs
        Changes in eating habits

The following are suggestions for managing stress:

        • Give back to the community by volunteering to enhance self-esteem and reduce stress.
        • Participate in regular exercise, eat right, and maintain a healthy weight.
        • Refer to problems as “challenges” that can be overcome instead of adopting a feeling helplessness
        • Spend time with friends and family. Social relations help with adjusting to changes such as retiring, moving, and losing loved ones.
        • Learn and use relaxation techniques and meditation.
        • Make use of support and education groups, as well as respite care, which provides time off for caregivers.

For more information on the stress response and coping with stress go to the American Psychological Association’s website apa.org or consult a medical professional.

Kimberly Huff is the fitness director at Heron Point of Chestertown

Senior Nation: Springtime is the Perfect Time to Eat Right by Kimberly Huff

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The National Institute on Aging recommends older adults follow the USDA Dietary Guidelines which emphasizes a variety fruits and vegetables, focusing on dark green, red and orange vegetables, whole grains, seafood and fat free dairy products.

Unfortunately, older adults are often faced with many barriers to heathy eating. Age-related changes result in diminished sense of smell and taste, difficulties with chewing and swallowing, digestive disorders and other chronic conditions which can influence eating habits. One of the most concerning change is the loss of appetite which results in decreased hunger and increased satiety (feeling full). This if often referred to as “anorexia of aging”.

Medications may also represent a barrier to healthy eating. Medications can alter taste perception which decreases interest in eating. Medications may also have interactions with foods, have diet altering side effects, impair digestion and absorption of nutrients.

Lifestyle factors such as changes in physical activity, changes in cognitive function, economic status and social isolation can also have a negative impact on dietary choices. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration provides the following recommendations to help older adults overcome barriers to
healthy eating:

• Shopping on a budget: buy foods on sale – buy store brands – use coupons
• Options for people with difficulties with chewing, swallowing or digestion: fruit juices, soft canned fruits, vegetable juices, creamed or mashed cooked vegetables, ground meat, eggs, milk, yogurt, cooked cereals and rice
• Unable to shop – requesting assistance from family members or friends or use a delivery service
• Unable to cook: buy low sodium, pre-package meals
• Limitations with taste or smell: use herbs and spices to flavor food
• Decrease interest in eating: sharing meals with family and friends
• Check with Health Care Professional to see if medications may be affecting eating habits

Kimberly Huff is the Fitness Director of Heron Point in Chestertown MD.

Senior Nation Fitness: Time to Take Care of Your Heart

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February isScreen Shot 2017-02-14 at 8.12.13 AMand a great time to take care of your heart. The heart beats approximately 100,000 times a day to pump blood through the 60,000 miles of blood vessels. Just like other parts of the body the cardiovascular system is made stronger and more efficient with healthy behaviors like exercise and healthy eating and is negatively affected by unhealthy lifestyle choices like a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and poor eating habits. Just like the rest of the body the cardiovascular system experiences age related changes resulting in less efficient blood flow and greater risk of cardiovascular disease. The National Institute on Aging reported that 40% of all deaths in people between 65 and 74 are related to heart disease and 60% of deaths in people over 85 are related to heart disease

Although age related changes account for some of the risk of heart disease, lifestyle also plays an important role. The World Health Organization says that modifiable risk factors such as unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and smoking account for 80% of diagnosed cardiovascular disease. Other risk factors that can be modified by lifestyle choices include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and obesity.

The good news is that cardiovascular disease can be prevented and existing cardiovascular disease can be managed by participating in regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and healthy diet, avoiding smoking, and lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Exercise has been proven to play a vital role in the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease.

The American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommend that all people participate in 150 min of moderate intensity physical activity a week, to decrease risk of cardiovascular disease. This would include activities that increase heart rate and blood flow such as walking, jogging, swimming or riding a bike. ACSM also recommends that anyone not accustomed to regular exercise or experiencing symptoms that might be related to cardiovascular disease (dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain) consult a medical professional prior to beginning an exercise program.

Kimberly Huff, MS, CSCS
Fitness Director
Heron Point of Chestertown

Senior Nation Fitness: Staying Balanced in the New Year – Part Three

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There are many systems in the body that work together to maintain balance. There are medical conditions and environmental conditions that challenge the body’s ability to maintain balance and increase the risk of falling. The good news is, there are simple things that can be done to improve balance and decrease the risk of falling:

Using night lights and eliminating trip hazards will reduce the risk of falling in the dark.

Being aware of obstacles and changes in surfaces inside and outside of the home, such as curbs, walking across grass or going from carpet to tile flooring. This is especially important when carrying grocery bags, laundry baskets or boxes.

Participate in vision screenings. Wearing proper glasses can improve vision and decrease the risk of falling. Bifocals can make it difficult to walk on uneven surfaces or climb stairs, remove glasses if possible.

Discuss all medical conditions and medications with physicians to determine if they increase the risk of falling. Also discuss symptoms that can increase risk of falling such as dizziness, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, fatigue, numbness in the feet, and joint or muscular pain.

There may be simple solutions that will improve functional mobility and decrease the risk of falling.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults 65 and over participate in an exercise program that includes balance exercises a minimum of twice a week. Balance exercises should challenge static (stationary) and dynamic (moving) balance. Standing on one foot for 10 to 30 sec will challenge static balance. Marching in place or alternating tapping your heel on a step for 20 or 30 sec will challenge dynamic balance.

Exercises that strengthen the legs and torso and stretching exercises will also improve posture, allow for more stable movements and reduce the risk of falling. A certified fitness professional will be able to provide specific recommendations to improve or maintain balance. A Physical Therapist could also provide recommendations to improve balance if medical conditions are increasing the risk of falling or if balance concerns are limiting mobility.

 

Kimberly Huff, MS
Fitness Director
Heron Point of Chestertown

 

Senior Nation Fitness: Staying Balanced in the New Year

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Staying Balanced and Fall Free in the New Year Falls are the leading cause of injury related death among adults 65 and over. Most reports lead people to believe that falling is a normal part of the aging process. Although the risk of falling may increase with age, most falls are not age related and can possibly be prevented. There are several fall related risk factors that have been identified. These risk factors can be significantly reduced by making simple lifestyle modifications:

Home Safety: Removing or securing area rugs will eliminate the risk of slipping and falling on the rug. Installing sturdy grab bars in the bathrooms, night lights in dark hallways and removing clutter from walkways and stairs are easy changes that can be made in the home to reduce the risk of falling.

Community Safety: Falling hazards in the community are a little more difficult to change than those in the home. However, being aware of the potential risk of a fall can greatly reduce the chance of falling. Avoid walking on uneven surfaces (dirt or grass) that may not provide stable footing. Pay attention when walking on surfaces that may present obstacles such as uneven pavements, stepping on or off a curb or stepping over a parking lot bumper.

Medical Conditions: Medical conditions (heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis) and especially conditions that influence vision, inner ear and other sensory systems that influence balance can increase the risk of falling. Understanding the influence that a condition can have on the risk of falling and taking necessary precautions will decrease the chance of falling. Medications: Taking more than four medications increases the risk of falling. This risk may be reduced by discussing medications with a medical professional.

Functional Ability: Lack of muscular strength and flexibly can increase the risk of falling. Participating in balance exercises in addition to strengthening and stretching exercises will increase mobility and decrease the risk of falling. This is part 1 of a 3-part series on balance and fall prevention.

Kimberly Huff is the Fitness Director at Heron Point of Chestertown.