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10 Tips for Healthy Aging!

Living a Healthy Lifestyle is vital for healthy aging! We
need to keep our bodies, our hearts and our minds healthy in order to live,
laugh and love longer. Here are 10 very simple yet important steps.

  1. EAT WELL.
    It is an undeniable fact that we live in a country with a plethora of
    everything. BUT a low fat diet, filled with fruits, vegetables and fiber is
    crucial.
  2. STAY
    ACTIVE – KEEP MOVING
    . Physical activity (even 30 to 40 minutes of walking)
    increases blood flow to the brain. It improves your mood and it positively
    impacts your overall well – being. Exercise is also important for brain health,
    a healthy heart rate, strength and flexibility.
  3. LEARN NEW
    THINGS
    . Challenge your brain by learning new things. Read an interesting
    book, start a foreign language, a new hobby. The more you learn, the more you
    keep your brain active and prevents its incline.
  4. GET
    ENOUGH SLEEP.
    Seven to eight hours of daily sleep are imperative for your
    overall health. Insomnia and sleep deprivation can have a negative effect on
    the immune system, on memory, concentration and thinking.
  5. STOP
    SMOKING AND LIMIT ALCOHOL
    . Smoking can increase the risk of a serious
    illness. Similarly, too much alcohol can also increase the risk of liver
    cirrhosis, it can impair judgement, alertness and potentially lead to
    accidents, crashes, falls and broken bones.
  6. STAY
    CONNECTED
    . Social interaction and an active social life are pivotal for
    brain health, cognitive stimulation and your overall mood. Humans are social
    beings and they need people around them. So invite your friends and family over
    for a dinner, a barbeque party, board games or just a “hang-out” coffee. You
    might want to organize a neighborhood event and get to know your community
    better. It will all work to your advantage and benefit your psychological and
    physical well-being.
  7. KNOW YOUR
    BLOOD PRESSURE
    . Check your blood pressure regularly and make sure that it
    is within the normal range. If at any point you feel like it is not, visit your
    doctor! Irregular blood pressure can be an indication of a heart issue which
    you would want to prevent and avoid. It can also impact cognitive function so
    GET TO IT!
  8. GET YOUR
    DOCTOR
    . It is really important to keep your doctor informed on all and any
    changes regarding your health. Get regular checkups and do not miss your
    doctor’s appointment.
  9. GET A
    MEMORY SCREENING
    . A memory screening test is a simple and safe tool that
    checks memory and other evaluation skills. It assesses memory, language skills,
    thinking ability and other intellectual functions.
  10. REDUCE
    STRESS.
    Unfortunately, we all get stressed and anxious more than a few
    times during the day. However, stress and anxiety have a very negative effect
    in our health. They can contribute to many health issues, among others, high blood
    pressure and heart disease. So aim to find active ways to reduce your stress
    since it will make you feel better!

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The 20 sec Quiz; How much do you really know?

  1. Starve a cold to get well faster.

Myth?                     Fact?

2. You are not contagious after the first few days, even if you are still sniffling.

Myth?                     Fact?

3. Bundling up in the winter will make you less likely to get sick.

Myth?                     Fact?

4. Megadose of vitamin C can stop a cold in its tracks.

Myth?                     Fact?

5. Green mucus means you have a bacterial infection.

Myth?                     Fact?

Most Americans come down with a cold several times during the year. So let’s see what’s true and what’s not, on what you know regarding a common cold.

1.MYTH. Not getting enough nutrients is never a smart idea! While fighting a cold you need to make sure that you get all the nutrients and vitamins your body needs to boost up your immune system! It might feel like you don’t have much of an appetite, so in that case just try and drink your way to them nutrients! Have yourself some nice fruit and vegetable juice, some broth, tea, water and fight that cold all the way out!

2. MYTH. While you are the most contagious when your symptoms are at their worst, at the same time, sneezing and coughing few days after that might indicate that you still have the bug.

3.MYTH. The truth is that you might get the cold during the winter regardless of how heavily you layer up. Due to the fact that during them cold days people stay indoors for a long amount of time, it is easier for the bugs to spread in closed spaces.

4.MYTH. Vitamin C does boost your immune system and it helps in preventing a cold BUT when you already have the cold, an increased amount will not stop it. It might even cause minor stomach disturbances.

5.MYTH. Mucus usually changes color as the cold progresses but that is not an indication of whether someone has caught a bacterial or a viral infection.

At the same time remember to;

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use a non-alcohol based sanitizer.
  • Move more
    since exercising has been proven to help fight off an illness.
  • Cut out stress
    since it lowers the body’s levels of white blood cells, which are the main
    fighters of your immune system!
  • Get enough sleep. While you are sleeping, your body releases a certain kind of proteins
    called cytokines, which protect you against infections and inflammations.

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The Benefits of Meditation

Meditation is defined as an action where an individual
engages in practices such as mindfulness or focusing their mind in a particular
object which aims at training their attention, awareness and achieves an
emotionally clear, calm and stable state. It has been used since 500 BCE and it
has been part of so many different religions all over the world like Judaism,
Taoism, Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism and Christianity. The Rosary for example,
is a devotion for the meditation of the mysteries of Jesus and Mary. Extensive
research and clinical studies have indicated the health benefits of meditation
in the general population and in seniors too.

Some of the benefits of meditation is the fact that it increases immune function, decreases inflammation at a cellular level and pain. To be more specific, a study conducted by the Institute of Seattle indicated that it relieves chronic back pain, something that elders often suffer from. Researchers compared cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation and pain meds. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on reframing the way in which the participants thought of pain. It tries to turn the perception of it being something horrible to something manageable. At the same time meditation was conducted in the form of a mindfulness based stress reduction session. What they concluded is that out of the 229 adult participants, 47% of the people who practiced meditation indicated a less disabling back pain. At the same time, 52 % of the CBT group reported less disabling pain after an 8-weeks period. On the other hand, only 35 % of the group who were administered a pain med experienced an improvement.

Meditation in the form of a mindfulness-based stress reduction technique focuses on both emotional and physical feelings, like pain. It helps the individual handle the way they interpret, process and react to pain. The reason behind it is that it alters activity in those regions of the brain related to attention and emotion. It has also been noted that it can improve additional types of pain such as shoulder pain, arthritis and fibromyalgia.

Surprisingly enough, research suggests that meditation plays an important role in slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s and dementia. It increases cortical thickness and grey matter, both of which are associated to decision making and memory. Thus, it slows down the aging process of the brain. It also improves mental alertness and the processing of negative emotions which are associated to Alzheimer’s and dementia (especially feelings of depression, confusion, stress and anxiety). Furthermore, it decreases the levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), which has been linked to the risk of developing dementia.

Truth is that none of us can control what happens outside,
what life throws at us. But what we do have control over is our mind. And
meditation is a medium that helps achieve all that. Not only does it help in
memory, attention, emotion regulation and self-control. Not only does it
decrease pain, depression, anxiety and stress but it also helps gain control of
our mind, of our emotions (whether physical or psychological). It improves our
well-being, holistically, from the inside out! So in case you haven’t tried it
yet, incorporating a 20 min meditation session in your daily routine could make
a big difference!

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Take Care of Your Heart; Do Not Let It Fall Apart!

February is eventually here and is designated as the American Heart Month! Unfortunately, heart diseases are the leading causes of death in the United States. According to a report published by the American Heart Association (AHA) 121.5 million adults in the U.S. have some kind of a cardiovascular disease. By heart disease we imply all those conditions that affect your heart such as impaired blood vessels, coronary artery disease, arrhythmias or congenital heart defects. The term “cardiovascular disease” is used alternatively to “heart disease” and refers to conditions related to narrowed or blocked blood vessels. Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) could lead to a heart attack, stroke or chest pain. But which are the causes leading to a cardiovascular disease?

To begin with, cholesterol (bad LDL), can ‘clog up’ the arteries that feed your heart and brain. By ‘clogging-up’ we mean the build-up of fatty plaques in your arteries (atherosclerosis). These plaques harden and narrow the inner lining of the arteries making it harder for the blood to flow by restricting normal blood flow. As the plaques build up, they form a bump on the arterial wall known as a blood clot. Blood clots are dangerous since they cause blood blockage which in turn can lead to a stroke, arterial rupture or additional heart problems. It should be noted that apart from cholesterol, smoking and high blood pressure are also leading factors for CVD.

High blood pressure is a ‘silent killer’ since it does not have any evident symptoms. At the same time, it is a risk factor for a heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure and premature cardiovascular death. Shockingly, according to the AHA, 116.4 million of U.S. adults are estimated to have hypertension and by 2035 more than 130 million adults (45.1 % of the population) are estimated to have some form of CVD.

Similarly, smoking can have detrimental consequences on heart health. According to reports, 1 in 6 males and 1 in 7 females in the U.S. are current smokers. Although tobacco use among adults seems to have decreased, e-cigarette use has increased among adolescents, which is equally worrisome. Stress, diabetes, obesity and lack of exercise are risk factors for atherosclerosis and CVD too. According to research, 80% of Americans fail to meet recommended amounts of exercise. The Federal Health and Human Services Department suggests that adults should be getting at least two hours of aerobic physical activity weekly while the children from 7 to 17 years old at least 60 minutes of moderate vigorous physical activity daily.

The good news is that all the risk factors for heart disease have the same denominator; they can be minimized and controlled. Health specialists and scientists suggest that a healthy diet, more regular exercise, abstaining from tobacco products, reducing and managing stress are vital for CDV prevention. In any case, it is important to remember that to feel good from your head to your feet, you should be keeping a healthy heart beat!

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Don’t Forget To Get Your Fiber!

Fiber is one of the most important nutrients of a diet, which often seems to be neglected. Scientists have long known and proven that eating fiber is good for your health. It helps stave off heart disease, cancer, digestive problems while at the same time it is helping control cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Most people get overwhelmed with counting calories, carbohydrates, fats, added sugars that forget to eat enough fiber. Fiber along with adequate liquid intake moves quickly and easily through your digestive track and helps it function properly. The daily intake for women is estimated between 21-25 grams while for men between 30-38 grams. According to additional studies from Mayo Clinic, it decreases obesity, heart disease, colorectal cancer, knee arthritis and type 2 diabetes.

Andrew Reynolds and his team conducted a large meta-analytic study analyzing over 180 observational studies and 50 clinical trials from the past four decades which indicated that people who included fiber in their daily diet, demonstrated a 15% to 30% reduced risk of death and chronic diseases compared to those who did not. Similarly, researchers suggested that Ugandans who ate high vegetable diets, avoided many diseases common amongst Europeans and Americans.
The good news is that it is not hard to add fiber to your daily nutrition. Any increase in dietary fiber will have better health benefits than no increase! Below we will be listing the foods with highest fiber content, per category (according to Mayo Clinic’s reviews).

Fruits; raspberries, pear, apple with skin, banana, orange
Vegetables; boiled green peas, broccoli, turnip greens, Brussel sprouts
Grains; spaghetti (whole wheat), barley, bran flakes, quinoa
Legumes, nuts, seeds; split peas, lentils, black beans, chia seeds

So next time you have breakfast add some bran flakes, some almonds, some raspberries, chia seeds and you will be ready to go!

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The “Magic” Properties of Turmeric

I am sure that you have all heard about it, cooked with it, tasted it; TURMERIC! Although you have most probably used it in its powder form,-as a spice-, it is a plant of the ginger family, whose roots we use in cooking. In Asia and India they have been using it for thousands of years as a medicine, dye and food supplement. What is so interesting about turmeric is that it contains 5% to 10% curcumin, a bright yellow chemical – “super nutrient”.

Curcumin is a super nutrient because it belongs to the group of natural phenols, which are micronutrients packed with antioxidants and many health benefits.
To begin with, its anti-inflammatory properties fight the foreign invaders in the body repairing the damage and improve the function of the endothelium (inner lining) of the blood vessels. Both of these functions lower the risk of a heart disease. Most importantly however, it boosts the brain delivered neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which is responsible for neurogenesis (the formation of new neurons and neuronal connections). As a result, it decreases the risk of a brain disease since most of them are due to neuronal degeneration. For example, decreased levels of BDNF might lead to depression and Alzheimer’s.

This non-toxic treatment however, not only prevents age-related memory decline but appears to have a variety of benefits such as significant improvement in memory, attention, depression, decision making and anxiety. A study at UCLA confirmed all these benefits and suggested that curcumin reduces the deposits of pathological proteins in our bodies and aids digestion as well. So while cooking during these festive days don’t forget to use your turmeric and enjoy your meals!

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Snack Smart And Keep Your Weight In Check!

Christmas being right around the corner makes maintaining your weight a rather tricky thing to do! Parties, dinners and celebrations you can’t really say no to BUT at the same time there are some superfoods you can be munching on to keep your weight exactly where you want it to be!

1) Bananas
Bananas are high in fiber and resistant starch, both of which help weight loss and clean up the gut.

2) Blackberries and Strawberries
These berries are fat-burning and highly anti-oxidant. Research has indicated that they have nutrients fighting heart disease and diabetes (by aiding the glucose storage process).

3) Salmon
Salmon is a fish high in omega-3-fatty acids which are vital for maintaining a normal metabolism. Additionally, evidence has linked these fatty acids to lower risk of cancer and coronary heart disease.

4) Broccoli
One of the most beneficial vegetables out there, high in fiber, a great source of Vitamin C (which decreases the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease & dementia) and Vitamin K (which inhibits arterial calcification).

5) Chia Seeds
One of the most popular superfoods, two spoons of which contain 40% of the daily fiber intake. You can add them to your pancake mix, your omelet, your salad and even make some chia pudding for breakfast.

6) Kale
Kale is one of the most nutrient dense foods in the planet! It is high on fiber, Vitamin K, Vitamin A (helps in growth, development and strengthens the immune system), Vitamin C and Vitamin E (linked to lower risk of dementia, cancer and cardiovascular disease). It is also a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, dietary minerals, iron, calcium, Potassium and Phosphorus.

7) Kiwi
An impressively rich fruit in Vitamin C and a sleeping regulating factor (helps regulate sleeping patterns).

8) Almonds
Raw almonds are rich in good fats, Vitamins, riboflavin, niacin, Vitamin E, essential minerals, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, linolenic acid and zinc. All of these nutrients control blood sugar and cholesterol levels and maintain blood pressure within the normal values.

9) Green Apples
They don’t just look and taste delicious but contain non-digestible compounds that help grow good bacteria and decrease appetite as well.

10) Dark Chocolate
Seventy to eighty-two percent dark chocolate contains insulin, ghrelin and leptin, all of which control appetite. It is also a powerful source of anti-oxidants and studies have shown that it reduces the risk of heart-attack and stroke.

It goes without saying that exercising (even if it is a walk around the neighborhood or to the park), drinking water and sleeping are very important for maintaining your weight and your general well-being! So snack smart and enjoy your Christmas holidays!

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Why Is Sleep So Important?

Sleeping consists one third of our day so there must be a reason for it! It is what keeps us alive, what keeps us healthy and surviving! Think of it this way; when you sleep, your body repairs itself, it strengthens your bones, your skin, and re-enforces your cardiovascular, endocrine, immune and nervous system. The needed daily sleep time is estimated between 7-8 hours so we will be listing some of the most important benefits of that precious time.

1)      Enhances Learning And Memory

When you sleep, then wake up and study, your brain is rested which means that it is ready to absorb any given information and stimulus like a sponge. After many ours of studying on the other hand, you need a good night sleep to allow your brain to “digest” all the information and for your memory to process it in the most effective way. That is why pulling an all-nighter is a bad idea! According to studies it decreases response time to 50%.

2)      Increases Creativity

Sleeping 7-9 hours daily and regularly has been proven to increase creative thinking. It is no coincidence that some of the greater minds, like Thomas Edison, came up with their greatest ideas after waking up or after dreaming.

3)      Benefits Your Health And Increases Life Expectancy

The “Whitehall II Study” conducted by British researchers indicated that sleep deprivation over an extended amount of time doubles the risk of death from a cardiovascular disease. It is also a risk factor for Alzheimer’s and cancer, both of which threaten life expectancy. Additionally, imbalanced sleeping affects the way the body metabolizes sugars which could potentially lead to diabetes.

What is very interesting is that sleeping is vital in maintaining one’s weight. Leptin, which is the hormone that makes you full and regulates fat storage decreases when the individual is experiencing sleep deprivation. On the contrary, ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger rises, leading to increased appetite. That’s why a good night rest is vital for your overall health and longevity.

4)      Increases Productivity

A 2017 Harvard study observed students for a month and after comparing their sleeping patterns concluded that the ones who got adequate and regular sleep had better GPA’s than the ones who didn’t. Seven to eight hours of sleep make people more productive, motivated, focused, energetic and better at time management. RAND Corporation suggested that sleep deprivation costs the U.S. economy 411 billion a year and one million lost work days. In a larger scale, it has costed nations around the world about 2 % of their GDP.

So keep your sleeping hours in check and have a great week!

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Does a Coffee a Day Keep Alzheimer’s Away?

Coffee is usually one of the first and best parts of our day! Caffeine is one of the most widely consumed substance and research has indicated that MODERATE consumption could decrease the risk for Alzheimer’s disease later in life!

In the U.S. 5.7 million Americans are living with AD and by 2050 this number is estimated to reach 14 million individuals. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and extensive research has been conducted for the disease’s early diagnosis and prevention. Hence caffeine was found to be a protective factor in AD.

According to the Canadian Study of Health and Aging (CSHA) including individuals around 65 years old who drank coffee daily, the risk for AD was decreased by 31%. An additional study suggested that drinking three to five cups of coffee daily decreased the risk of AD by 64%, which is very promising!

 

But how is it possible? It appears that caffeine blocks brain inflammation which starts a chain reaction causing brain cognitive decline and neurodegeneration, both of which are leading causes of AD.

Thus, drink your coffee away BUT always bear in mind that early and accurate diagnosis is key to a better living with the disease!

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These Holidays Write It All Down!

Christmas for most people is the best time of the year; lights everywhere, decorations, happy faces, gifts. But for many it can be a very stressful period too. Having to organize parties, the shopping and gift picking could provoke stress and anxiety. In addition, many people are either away from home, unable to see their loved ones or have lost their loved ones. These days on the other hand, being associated with family and love are reminders of all that and make them feel rather nostalgic. Either ways, it would be a good idea to write all them feelings down!

It should be noted that keeping a journal is not about passively registering life experiences. It is a rather healthy, therapeutic way to get in touch with your emotions and spill them all out. It is a way to calm yourself down for a little while, get in touch with yourself, acknowledge your thoughts and feelings, empower yourself and find your intrinsic motivation. It is a way to make sense of everything that is going on in your life; the rights and the wrongs! It is a catharsis! It will help you tap into your nostalgia, make sense of it, see how it affects you and deal with it in a productive way in order to enjoy these days.

Usually, creative processes such as writing, turn out to be useful tools to discover underlying feelings and emotions hidden in our unconscious and psyche. People nowadays, being too busy, don’t take the time to get in touch with themselves. Writing is a way that “forces” the feelings out of you since memories, life events and experiences are closely connected to emotions. James Pennebaker, a pioneer on the research regarding writing as a healing mechanism, supports that writing has helped a lot of people dealing with death, depression, anxiety or a traumatic experience.
Apart from helping us getting over an unfortunate situation, it can also help get in touch with the people around us. How many times have you written down in a Christmas card or a letter things you couldn’t express verbally, while looking the other person in the eyes? How many times have you read something that brought tears to your eyes? So writing is not JUST a therapeutic mechanism. It is a way to communicate with others and yourself. It is a way to remember, a way to forget and a way to recognize and remind yourself what is important, what really matters and what does NOT.

Thus, buy yourself a journal, find a quiet place and write to yourself. Write about what brings you joy, write about the memories and the people you cherish. Write about your routine, about what you like or dislike. Write about what stresses you out or upsets you during the holidays. Write, write, write! Then try and leave your stress, worries and nostalgic feelings to your writings and enjoy these festive days as much as possible! Be grateful for all you have, don’t get discouraged and remember that everything is possible! Fear, melancholia, nostalgia, stress are all part of the human emotionality, they are part of who we are THUS WHY THEY ARE MANAGEABLE!

Enjoy writing along with all joyful holiday moments!

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