Aging in Place, Home Living Trends

As they continue to age, an optimal choice for seniors looking to optimize their quality of life is to age in place. In fact, a 2014 AARP survey revealed that 87 percent of adults over the age of 65 preferred this option. Although health and physical capability are two big factors associated with  aging at home, one factor that’s often forgotten is the livability of the home seniors are located in.

Modern homes are not always equipped to accommodate aging citizens. It’s not an easy choice to relocate, nor achieve a complete home remodel, especially when costs are high. However, the environment can be adapted to suit the needs and caution of older citizens with minimal modifications. The emergence of different technologies has also allowed aging in place to be more secure, and enables seniors to stay connected to family, as well as maintain medicinal schedules and any other health habits. Here are some of the home living trends to better maximize a seniors ability to age at home.

Home Living Trends

Home Access

First thing’s first- is the entrance to the home well lit? Though not many would consider it, making sure the entrance to the home accommodates seniors is something to think about when aging in place. Good lighting is essential for when night falls, and any mats that could cause a stumble should be removed. Also, a threshold entrance could warrant falls, so modifying to a level entrance would be more beneficial to prevent any trips or stumbles.

Widen Doorways/ Hallways

In order to accommodate a scooter or wheelchair should the need arise, wider doors and hallways are essential for a home to fully accommodate seniors. Recommended hallway width is 48” and door width 36”.

Go Fall-Proof

One in four American seniors fall every year. Because falls are a leading cause in accidents for seniors, a fall-proof home will make for a happy aging in place with little worry. To do this, install slip-proof flooring and/or get rid of threshold bath/shower entry. Also, other small modifications include getting rid of area rugs or running cables on the floor that could lead to tripping.

Steps, Stairs, and Everything in Between

Steps and stairs in the home can trigger falls if not accommodated properly for older citizens. So if living in a two-story home, make sure the stairs are well lit by installing light switches on both ends. Also, replace any worn out carpeting and make sure no nails are sticking out of the stair steps. And the most beneficial step in modifying the home: make sure handrails are installed. This can be critical in preventing any falls!

Get Connected

As newer technologies emerge, there are now apps beneficial for folks looking to age in place. Some apps are useful for emergencies and medication woes. For instance, Medisafe Pill Reminder reminds seniors when to take their pills and when it’s time for a prescription to be refilled. This app is also useful to track weight, pulse, temperature, blood glucose levels, and blood pressure.

Then there’s the Red Panic Button app, which lets seniors open the app and tap the red button that appears in the middle of the screen in case of a fall or other emergency. This immediately sends a text message and email with your GPS location in a Google Maps link to all of your emergency contacts.

In Conclusion

As seniors continue to age, many don’t see a reason to leave the comforts of their home and prefer to age in place. Modern advancements such as apps enable family members to stay close with these older citizens, and a few home modifications can ensure well-being and ease worry. Many seniors and their families are unsure where to start, or what programs are available to educate and support aging in place. Contact Community Home Health Care at 845-425-6555 to learn more today. Our care providers will be happy to assist.  

 

The Importance of Companionship for Senior Mental Health

It’s inevitable that as people age, they also become more isolated. A 2016 Merck Manual study found that about 30% of 46 million seniors not living in a nursing home live alone. The consequences of isolation on senior mental health can be tragic, ranging from extreme loneliness to a further decline of health. It’s crucial then, for seniors to seek out companionship.

However, the answer is not necessarily to move to a senior facility. In spite of the prospect of crippling loneliness, many seniors strongly hold on to their independence.  The Merck study also found that about 90% of those seniors who live alone insist on doing so.

How can we then help these fiercely independent but also isolated seniors? There are several possible solutions.

 

Why are Seniors Alone?

There are many reasons that lead seniors to spend their days alone. Adult children may move away or are simply too busy with their own families to visit often. Even seniors with family caregivers may feel alone if their family caregiver works during the day.

There is also the sad fact that friends and spouses may have passed away. Deteriorating health is another factor, as it can mean losing the ability to drive or go for walks. Embarrassment is another consideration, as seniors with poorly functioning facilities (such as bladder control) may worry about experiencing an incident in public.

 

Consequences of Isolation

Loneliness is obviously the biggest result of isolation, but this can, in turn, lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, or a risk of depression.

There is also a decline in health and an increased rate of mortality for seniors who live alone. This may be due to unchecked symptoms and a lack of a social network that would advise medical attention. Seniors who live alone may also neglect or forget to take their medication, or have trouble with certain medical treatments.

Social skills also deteriorate among seniors who are frequently alone. Many of us have heard of the “grumpy old man” stereotype. They have trouble interacting with people when given the opportunity, which in turn leads others to back away, causing more loneliness.

 

In-Home Caregivers as Companions

As mentioned earlier, many seniors value their independence so much that they’re willing to endure isolation. Therefore, relocating them to a nursing facility is not the solution. As long as he or she is able to safely live alone (i.e. no chance of falling or passing out), seniors should ideally live at home where they feel comfortable and secure.

A suitable compromise then would be to hire an in-home caregiver who can provide companionship (and if necessary, some medical assistance) to the senior. This will allow the senior to maintain his or her independence while not feeling lonely and isolated.

In-home caregivers provide physical and mental benefits for seniors. They can help seniors with physical therapy, exercises, or simply taking walks with them. In-home caregivers can even take them on small field trips such to the movies, lunch, or to the mall. They can play mind-stimulating games with seniors such as chess or cards, or assist them with their hobbies.

In-home caregivers can also monitor medication, doctor’s appointments, and the senior’s overall well-being. They can even cook for them, do light housework, and assist in personal care. And of course, in-home caregivers are simply someone to talk to.

Even if your senior has a family caregiver, an in-home caregiver can be a helpful asset. Interacting with a different person is mentally stimulating and can alleviate boredom, for both the senior and family caregiver. An in-home caregiver is also beneficial for the primary caregiver because it allows him or her to take a break and do other things, like work full time, engage in personal outings, or tend to their families.

 

Additional Remedies for Isolation

There are other ways for seniors to combat isolation. Be sure to take into consideration their physical or mental health, as some of these suggestions may not be ideal for someone with say, dementia or debilitating arthritis.

Volunteer

If the senior is still relatively able-bodied, he or she can take on a volunteer role. Even if it’s only once a week, volunteering for a certain cause gets him or her out of the house and interacting with others.

Adopt a Pet

Animals don’t talk, but they certainly provide companionship and unconditional love. Caring for a pet would also give a senior a sense of purpose and stimulate their minds. Just make sure not to get a pet that would be difficult to care for, such as a large dog.

Schedule Regular Meetings with Friends

It’s crucial for seniors who live alone to maintain contact with nearby friends. Encourage them to meet up for coffee or lunch at least once a week, or even visit each other’s homes.

Meet Other People who Share Your Hobby

Coloring, painting, knitting, playing board games, assembling puzzles—there are countless hobbies that seniors can enjoy with others. Local community centers may have clubs that cater to your senior’s hobby.

Use Video Telephony to Keep in Touch

Your senior can communicate with faraway loved ones via Skype, FaceTime, or some other form of video telephony. Seeing their loved ones on a screen can be more satisfying than simply speaking on the phone with them, and can help alleviate some loneliness. You may first need to teach your elderly loved one how to use the technology, so don’t use an overly complicated program. It may lead to frustration and reluctance to use it.

 

If you have a special senior in your life that needs companionship, we at Community Home Health Care can help. Our staff of highly trained in-home caregivers includes home health aides, personal care aides, and registered nurses. We are here to provide personal and medical assistance, but most importantly—friendship. Please visit our website, call us at (845) 425-6555, or drop by our facility and we will be happy to answer any of your questions.

 

Why Some Seniors Lose Their Hearing and How You Can Prevent it

As seniors get older, it’s not uncommon for them to lose their hearing.

A grandmother who used to share whispered secrets with a grandchild may now struggle to hear shouts from across the house. A grandfather who used to be an avid talker may now feel isolated from discussions he can’t make out.

While hearing loss is a common side effect of aging, it’s not the rule for every senior. With proper care and prevention tactics, there are plenty of things you can do to prevent hearing loss and maintain your hearing well into your golden years.

Read on to learn more.

Why Hearing Loss Happens in Seniors

Today, about 8.5% of seniors ages 55-64 are experiencing some degree of hearing loss. By the time seniors reach the age of 75 or older, that number has risen to 50%.

With these numbers in mind, it’s clear that hearing loss is a widespread problem that affects many people. But what causes it?

The truth is that there are dozens of reasons for hearing loss and that very few people lose their hearing for the same reason.

For starters, age is a factor in hearing loss. As you age, the microscopic hairs in the ear (which are required for helping the brain make sense of sound waves) get damaged or die off completely, making it more difficult for seniors to convert sound waves into discernable sounds.

This type of hearing loss is known as presbycusis, and it is, unfortunately, permanent. Once the hairs in the ear have become damaged, they cannot grow back, and seniors must turn to mechanical hearing aids and the like.

Aside from age-related hearing loss, there is also hearing loss associated with things like medications, high blood pressure, tumors in the brain or inner ear, strokes, viruses, punctured eardrums, or even a simple buildup of earwax. In some cases, people who have worked in loud industries (such as music or factories) may experience hearing loss that results because of damage to the eardrum.

The Effects of Hearing Loss

For people who haven’t experienced hearing loss, the effects of the condition may seem as simple as not being able to hear friends or acquaintances or requiring people around you to speak louder.

If you’re currently suffering from hearing loss, though, you know that the effects can be much more pronounced than that. For many people, hearing loss results in a pronounced feeling of isolation and exclusion.

While the world around you continues to move, as usual, you’ve lost your ability to participate as you once did simply because you can’t hear like you once did. The effects can be devastating.

In some cases, the effects of hearing loss can go far beyond the physical and start to affect seniors on a mental and emotional basis. According to one 2014 study, approximately 12% of seniors affected by hearing loss experience depression ranging from moderate to severe.

In addition to being linked to an increased risk of depression, hearing loss can also wreak havoc on a senior’s cognitive function. According to a JAMA Internal Medicine study published in 2012, hearing loss can decrease cognitive function by as much as 41% in some seniors.

These things can be detrimental to your health and, as such, it’s critical to ensure that you’re taking proactive steps to prevent hearing loss. 

How to Prevent Hearing Loss

We’ve all heard the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and nowhere does it ring truer than with hearing. While hearing is difficult to restore once it’s been lost, it’s relatively simple to maintain. With this in mind, here are some of the primary ways seniors can protect their hearing both now and in the future: 

1. Wear ear protection.

Upwards of ten million Americans have already done irreversible damage to their hearing as a result of loud noises. With this in mind, it’s clear that protecting your ears from loud noises is essential. Because of this, it’s wise to wear ear muffs at loud concerns, insert ear plugs before running chainsaws or other loud machinery, and be careful about how loud the music you play in headphones is. These are small steps, but they can serve to safeguard your hearing in the years to come.

2. Be careful with medications.

Some medications can have dire effects on hearing, and many people assume this is normal when it’s not. If you’ve noticed that a medicine you recently started taking is affecting your hearing negatively, see your doctor. There may be an alternate treatment you can adopt to protect your hearing and your health.

3. Get frequent check-ups.

While many people forgo annual hearing screenings, attending them allows you to catch dangerous hearing loss issues before they become permanent. Be sure to see your doctor about any new or worsening hearing symptoms as you age.
While these tips may seem simple, they can go a long way toward preventing the damage caused by hearing loss and ensuring that you remain happy, healthy, and alert well into their senior years. What’s more, these easy prevention tips can also contribute to ensuring that you never have to suffer the cognitive and mental challenges caused by pronounced hearing loss. 

How to Treat Hearing Loss

If you’ve already suffered irreversible hearing loss, don’t fret. Because hearing loss is so common, it has many well-researched treatment options. For example, people suffering from hearing loss may find a hearing aid helpful for day-to-day life. Hearing aids are beneficial for seniors with various levels of hearing loss and are available in a wide selection of sizes, options, and styles.

While many people are concerned about how wearing a hearing aid will make them look, today’s models are small and low-profile, so you’re the only one who knows you’re wearing one.

If a hearing aid isn’t a fit for your unique situation, you can also explore surgical treatment options, including cochlear implants, which are meant to treat severe hearing loss by making sounds louder and helping seniors decipher the noises around them.

Beyond surgery, there are also many non-invasive and non-mechanical options available. These range from sign language to lip reading, and can serve to help you feel more interactive and included in your daily life. 

Hearing Loss Doesn’t Have to be a Reality for All Seniors  

Hearing loss affects millions of Americans, and it can have devastating repercussions for mental and emotional well-being. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be the status quo. By understanding the common causes of hearing loss and taking proactive steps to prevent it, you can protect your hearing throughout the aging process.

While some hearing loss is hereditary and can’t be prevented entirely, these smart steps can help you reduce environmental risk factors and ensure that you’re doing what you can to keep your hearing in tip-top shape.

Although many people assume that hearing loss is an intrinsic portion of old age, this doesn’t have to be the case, and people who understand the causes of hearing loss and know how to prevent them are better equipped to stay sharp and alert throughout their golden years. 

Why Dignity is a Crucial Element in the Best Dementia Care

Getting older: it’s something many people fear.

Often perceived as a lonely, painful, and vulnerable time in the human lifespan, the realities of aging are unpleasant, and the fact of the matter is that dignity can be difficult to maintain.

Luckily, a handful of world-class dementia care services are changing that.

While nobody can stop the aging process, care professionals who understand that dignity can and must be maintained during dementia care are going a long way toward improving the face of dementia care for everyone who accesses it. Read on to learn more.

Why Maintaining Dignity is Crucial to Clients and Patients Alike

Dementia is a challenging disease, and when a friend or loved one is suffering from dementia, many people find that they have an incredibly hard time accepting the change in the person they used to know so well. In many cases, dementia causes a woman who has been gentle and soft-spoken all of her life to lash out in angry outbursts or a man who has always treasured his family as his most valuable asset to forget his son or daughter’s face. These things can be heartbreaking for family members.

While there is no real way to alleviate the difficulties of dementia, or to make the disease simply “go away,” friends and relatives of affected people often find the condition easier to deal with if a level of dignity is maintained throughout. In addition to helping loved ones remember that even a person with severe Alzheimer’s is an adult, maintaining dignity can also assist in overall acceptance and coping.

While maintaining dignity is essential for friends and family members, it’s critical for the senior suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia. While many people mistakenly believe that people suffering from dementia are not “in there,” many are very sensitive and can easily have their feelings hurt by being undermined, condescended, or talked over. Because of this, organizations that want to streamline a more manageable dementia experience do everything in their power to maintain dignity for both the senior and his or her family members and friends.

How to Help a Senior Maintain his or her Dignity

While there are many ways to help a person affected by dementia maintain his or her dignity, the following approaches are commonly used by dementia care facilities for whom dignity is paramount:

Avoid condescension:

Again, seniors affected by dementia are adults, and they are very sensitive to being treated as anything less than such. Because of this, it’s critical for all caregivers to understand how damaging condescension can be, and how best to avoid it. This typically involves referring to things like diapers and toilets by more dignified names (underwear rather than diaper, for instance). Avoiding condescension with seniors can also mean avoiding the adoption of a parental tone and ensuring that, as much as is possible, you’re speaking to the senior the way you would have talked to him or her before dementia took hold.

Help the senior succeed:

People affected by dementia often know that they’re not the same as they used to be. They may struggle for words, work to remember a familiar person’s name or face, or lose their train of thought in the middle of a story or sentence. In these situations, one of the best and most humane things you can do is help the senior succeed by asking leading questions and ensuring that you’re prepared to fill in important details that the senior may miss. An example may include saying something like, “Mom, say hi to Linda, Charlie’s wife. You met her at the family reunion last year,” when company arrives rather than, “Mom, Linda is here.”

Don’t be afraid to tell white lies:

While we’re told all of our lives that we shouldn’t lie, sometimes dementia and Alzheimer’s necessitate the occasional use of a half-truth or a white lie. In some situations, it is vastly better (for both the senior and the caregiver) to tell a half-truth than it is to tell the truth and wound the senior’s feelings or sense of dignity.

Treat the senior as normally as possible:

In many cases, a senior who is affected by dementia quickly becomes a shut-in because friends and family are no longer sure how to deal with the person’s new way of being without making themselves or others uncomfortable. Unfortunately, this only wounds the senior in the long run and makes it harder to deal with the dementia adequately. With this in mind, caregivers must be sure to continue efforts to get the senior out and about and enjoy occasional get-togethers. Keep in mind that, while seniors affected by dementia or Alzheimer’s do have special needs and requirements (Take care to ensure any outing you attend will not overwhelm the senior, for example, and that all other parties on the outing are prepared for the increased needs of the senior), people who plan accordingly for social outings and gatherings can help the affected senior maintain a sense of dignity and engagement despite a dementia diagnosis.

How a Lack of Dignity Affects Seniors

While it’s understandable that many people are confused about how best to deal with dementia and its related symptoms, caregivers who miss the mark and cost a senior his or her dignity are ultimately harming the senior’s health and well-being. While pride may seem like a surface-level thing, it has profound and lasting repercussions on a senior’s health, wellbeing, and happiness.

In many cases, a senior who has lost his or her sense of dignity and autonomy will also suffer from decreased self-esteem and confidence, and declining relationships with loved ones. In some cases, this may lead to deep periods of depression, and even suicidal thoughts and tendencies.

Because of this, it’s essential that caregivers do everything in their power to help seniors maintain their dignity in the face of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. In addition to benefiting the senior in the short-term, this approach also helps to ensure that the senior will remain happy, healthy, and fulfilled as he or she navigates the complicated waters of dementia.

Dignity is Possible in Dementia Care

While many people assume that dementia necessitates a loss of dignity, this does not have to be the case. In many situations, people affected by dementia find that the upkeep of dignity is possible, just so long as they have skilled caregivers to help facilitate it.

As an adult ages and slips into the grips of dementia, figuring out how to maintain that person’s dignity can be difficult. Luckily, though, it’s far from impossible. By ensuring family and professional caregivers never condescend the person, that charitable white lies are used generously, that the senior is set up for success as much as possible, and that outings and social gatherings don’t stop just because of a dementia diagnosis, it’s easy for caregivers to help their loved ones survive and thrive in the midst of a dementia diagnosis.

Programs and Services Available to Older Americans

While most Americans are familiar with social service benefits for older Americans, there are many programs and services that fall outside this umbrella. Designed to make life easier and more enjoyable for seniors, while also protecting fundamental rights and access, these programs work wonders to uplift and support seniors throughout the country.

12 Programs All Seniors Should be Aware of

Throughout the country, the following services and programs are available to seniors who seek them:

1. Adult Day Care

Adult Day Care programs exist in virtually every part of the nation. Designed to act as a form of “in-between” care for seniors who are bored, lonely, or suffering from cognitive decline, Adult Day Care provides day care for at-risk or disabled adults.

Ideal for families who work and cannot be with a senior throughout the day, and do not have live-in help, Adult Day Care facilities often offer pick-up services and fun activities like craft classes, community time, and meal prep. Your local senior center or nursing home should be able to provide you with information about prominent Adult Day Care facilities in your area.

2. The National Senior Citizens Law Center

While nobody wants to deal with legal complications, especially as they age, the National Senior Citizens Law Center (NSCLC) has a long history of advocating on the behalf of low-income, disabled, and elderly Americans. Dedicated to promoting independence and ensuring well-being, this resource can help seniors get the benefits they deserve, or resolve legal disputes during their golden years.

3. AARP

While most people have heard of AARP, few understand what it does. A nonprofit organization, AARP addresses the needs, concerns, and interests of people who are 50 years old or older. The company’s website offers helpful information and a resource guide for concerns ranging from economic security, work, retirement, long-term care, independence, and wellness.

4. American Society on Aging

The American Society on Aging is a nonprofit organization that works to improve the health and wellbeing of older adults and their loved ones. The website offers a resource list of local programs, and a wide selection of resources for aging-related topics and concerns.

5. Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association is a reputable health organization dedicated to supporting seniors and their families who are coping with Alzheimer’s. Committed to eliminating Alzheimer’s disease through high-quality research and support, The AA is a valuable resource for anyone who is struggling to understand, cope with, or find resources surrounding Alzheimer’s.

6. The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse

The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, or INPEA, is on a mission to do away with elder abuse in homes, nursing facilities, and hospice care. Dedicated to helping society understand and address elder abuse, INEPA also provides a series of resources and programs for people who are experiencing or have experienced elder abuse.

7. Family Caregiver Alliance

The Family Caregiver Alliance, or FCA, Is a community-based nonprofit organization dedicated to helping families and loved ones who provide caregiving services to their loved ones. Offering programs at the local, national, and state level, FCA is dedicated to supporting and uplifting caregivers and their clients.

8. Local Benefits Counseling

If you’re confused about the benefits available to you as a senior, look for local benefits counseling in your area. Dedicated to helping seniors understand what type of help is available to them, benefits counseling is offered through local Offices for the Aging, and area designed to answer questions about everything from medical and life insurance to food stamps.

9. Free Denture Installations

Dentures can be prohibitively expensive, which prevents many people from getting them. Fortunately, many state dental associations offer free or low-cost denture programs designed to facilitate denture installation for low-income seniors.

Dental colleges may also offer similar services, so don’t hesitate to ask around in your local area.

10. Elderly Pharmaceutical Assistance Program

The Elderly Pharmaceutical Assistance Program, or EPIC, is available in New York and 22 other states, including Colorado, Delaware, Connecticut, Illinois, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Maine, Montana, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Vermont, Rhode Island, Washington State, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or Wisconsin.

Designed to help seniors access the prescription medications they need to stay healthy and comfortable, this program helps eligible seniors access free or low-cost prescriptions.

11. Free Cell Phones

If a senior falls or has an accident at home, a cell phone can suddenly be a life-saving device. Luckily, LifeLine knows this. A government program designed to outfit low-income Americans with cell phones that will keep them safe, help them get jobs, or make it easier to access needed services, LifeLine outfits seniors with a free or discounted phone – either in the form of a cell phone or landline.

12. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Once known as Food Stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program helps low-income individuals and seniors access healthy, nutritious food. While each state has different income and eligibility requirements, you can generally apply for the program through a local Office for the Aging. Benefits vary depending on the size of your family, but can be substantial.

Bonus: Discounted Hearing Aids

Hearing aids can be some of the most expensive pieces of equipment in a senior’s life. Luckily, organizations like the local Lion’s Club offer programs that provide free or low-cost hearing aids to seniors in need. This can be a critical service for seniors who are feeling isolated or lonely because of advanced hearing loss.

Get to Know Your Local Resources

Beyond the resources listed here, most local communities offer a wide assortment of assistance and outreach programs for seniors. To learn more about them, visit your local senior center or inquire with a home health or aged care agency, as they are typically familiar with what’s available in a given community or area. These organizations may also be able to match needy seniors with local or grassroots organizations that provide needed services and programs.

14 Foods to Help You Lower Blood Pressure Naturally

If you’ve ever thought about eating your way to wellness, high blood pressure is a great place to begin. As is true with so many ailments, high blood pressure is directly related to diet and can be treated through adding healthy, nutrient-dense foods to the daily program.

If you have high blood pressure and are looking for smart ways to combat it naturally, here are fifteen foods you’ll want to add to your diet today.

1. Low-Fat Dairy 

Low-fat dairy has been shown to reduce the risk of hypertension and help you maintain a healthy weight. Chock-full of protein, low-fat dairy products like yogurt and milk give you the calcium and peptides you need to remain healthy, fit, and within a normal blood pressure range. What’s more, the calcium in low-fat dairy products will help you enjoy healthy, strong bones as you age.

2. Flaxseed

Flaxseed is ideal for reducing your systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels when consumed over a six-month period. One 2013 study, which was published in the journal Hypertension found that even people who took blood pressure medications benefited from the addition of Flaxseed to their daily diets. This is largely because flaxseed contains four heart-healthy components: peptides, fiber, alpha linolenic acid, and lignans.

Confused about how to eat flaxseed? Add it to homemade breads, cereal, and yogurt for a fiber-packed punch of good heart health.

3. Dark Chocolate

While most people believe staying away from chocolate is critical for good health, recent studies have shown that dark chocolate rich in flavanols can reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure in people with pre-hypertension symptoms, or existing hypertension.

In fact, most people are shocked to learn how pronounced the heart-protective benefits of chocolate can truly be. According to one Harvard study, people who consumed dark chocolate products that were at least 50-70% cocoa saw lowered blood pressure, particularly if they were already suffering from hypertension. 

For best results, add one small square of dark chocolate to your daily diet, in the form of an afternoon pick-me-up or post-dinner treat.

4. Olive Oil

While olive oil is a fat, it’s a very healthy fat that has the potential to reduce blood pressure rates. According to a 2012 study published in the American Journal of Hypertension, olive oil not only decreases blood pressure, but can improve the function of the heart tissues in people suffering from mild hypertension.

With this in mind, add olive oil to your daily diet, either in the form of a cooking oil or as a drizzle across salads, bread, or hummus.

5. Pistachios

Pistachios are a heart-healthy food that are also a tasty snack. Studies have shown that people who eat one or two servings of pistachio nuts once a day for four weeks experience dramatic reductions in systolic blood pressure.

For best results, look for unsalted pistachios, available at your local whole foods or health store.

6. Pomegranate

Pomegranate is a superfood that can also help lower blood pressure and keep it within a healthy range. While similar fruit juices, like grape juice, have shown heart-protective benefits, pomegranate juice is much more powerful in much lower quantities.

For example, one clinical trial revealed that consuming just 2 ounces of pomegranate juice each day helped to lower high blood pressure and reduce cholesterol. Part of the reasons pomegranate juice is so valuable for this is that its flavonoids make it a powerful antioxidant and that it works as an anti-inflammatory compound which can help improve the cholesterol profiles.

7. Fish

Fatty fish varieties, like salmon, have been shown to reduce diastolic blood pressure by providing a heart-healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids. Researchers recommend consuming salmon at least three times a week to enjoy its heart-healthy benefits. Leaner fish like cod have not been shown to have the same heart-protective perks, although varieties like anchovies and sardines are a good stand-in.

8. Whole Grains

Whole grains are a critical part of any heart-healthy diet. Capable of lowering systolic blood pressure and improving cholesterol profiles, whole grains are an essential building block in a healthy lifestyle. What’s more, since they offer fiber and protein, they can help you maintain a healthy weight for years to come. For best results, eat three servings of whole grains each day.

9. White Beans

A single serving of white beans provides 30% of the magnesium, 13% of the calcium, and 24% of the potassium you need in your daily diet. For best results, toss them into side dishes, entrees, and soups. Don’t forget to keep them healthy by opting for low-sodium or no-salt-added varieties.

10. Kiwi

Kiwi contains more vitamin C than an orange, and is fantastic for keeping your heart healthy and maintaining positive blood pressure. Find this tasty little treat in grocery stores, and eat it on its own, or sliced up on top of Greek yogurt, alongside some granola.

11. Bananas

Bananas are a rich source of potassium, and are the ideal snack for anyone looking to reduce their blood pressure. In addition to helping your body keep sodium levels in check, bananas also reduce stress hormones and provide a helpful dose of bone-strengthening calcium in your daily diet.

12. Kale

Kale, raw or cooked, is a power-packed vegetable filled with calcium, magnesium, and potassium – all of which play critical roles in keeping your heart healthy. For best results, throw a handful of shredded, de-veined kale into a smoothie, stir-fry, or spaghetti sauce for a boost of nutritious goodness in your daily life.

13. Broccoli

Broccoli is a tasty vegetable that offers powerful cancer-fighting benefits for people who eat it. Find frozen varieties in the grocery store and toss them into side dishes or steam a whole head as a vegetable side for an entrée.

14. Sweet potato

Sweet potato (with the skin left on) is a great source of magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Use these tasty root vegetables in place of normal potatoes, or throw them into smoothies or side dishes for an added boost of nutrients.

Eating Your Way to a Healthy Heart

If you’ve ever wanted to eat your way to heart health, the process starts here. By incorporating these delicious and heart-healthy options into your daily life, you can enjoy a more varied diet and a boost in health all at once.

Prevent High Blood Pressure Using these 5 Daily Practices

Right now, about 75 million Americans – roughly 29% of the adult population – have high blood pressure. Left untreated, high blood pressure is a dangerous condition that can lead to heart attacks, arrhythmias, and more. Luckily, there are steps you can take to prevent high blood pressure, and they don’t involve overhauling your life or habits.
By adding five simple, daily practices to your schedule, you can combat high blood pressure and enjoy good health for years to come.

Read on.

What is High Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the force your blood exerts against artery walls as it circulates through the heart and body. Typically, blood pressure gets higher or lower throughout the day, depending on circumstances, stress, activity level, and diet. While occasional spikes are normal, blood pressure can quickly become dangerous if it rises above normal levels and stays there for a long time.

Who is at Risk for High Blood Pressure?

The risk factors for high blood pressure are numerous, and include the following:

Race. High blood pressure disproportionately affects African Americans, and tends to develop at earlier ages in the black community than it does in other races. Complications like stroke and heart attack are also more common in African Americans.

Age. The risk of high blood pressure increases with age. High blood pressure is more common in men after the age of about 45. Women, on the other hand, tend to develop high blood pressure after reaching age 65 or older.

Genetics. If you have a family history of high blood pressure, you’ll be more at risk for the condition than someone with no family history of the condition.

Body Composition. People who are overweight or obese are at increased risk of high blood pressure. This is because the heart needs to work harder to supply an overweight or obese body with oxygen and nutrients, and this increases the pressure of the blood on artery walls.

Tobacco Use. Tobacco use is a large factor in high blood pressure risk. While smoking or chewing tobacco creates a temporary boost in blood pressure, it also damages the arterial lining, and causes them to narrow, which increases blood pressure.

High Levels of Sodium or low Levels of Potassium in a Diet. People who eat lots of sodium and not enough potassium are at increased risk of high blood pressure. Sodium causes the body to retain fluid, while potassium helps balance sodium levels.

Alcohol Abuse. People who abuse alcohol or simply drink too much are at risk for high blood pressure. Heavy drinking damages the heart and can affect the blood pressure over time.

How to Prevent High Blood Pressure with Five Daily Tips

If you have a family history of high blood pressure, or you just want to prevent it from befalling you, bring these five lifestyle changes into your daily routine:

1. Consume a Balanced Diet

Diet is one of the largest factors in blood pressure levels. The more balanced your diet is, the less likely it is that you’ll suffer from high blood pressure any time soon. For best results, eat a diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, lean protein, and low-fat dairy products. Aim to limit foods that are high in sugar, trans fat, cholesterol, and saturated fat, as these can spike blood pressure or lead to new hypertension problems in people who have never had them before.

2. Cut Your Salt Intake

While many doctors recommend salting food to taste, people who are very at risk for high blood pressure may need to reduce their salt intake to control blood pressure. Generally, experts recommend that you consume fewer than 2,300 milligrams of salt each day, although that number may be lower if you already have high blood pressure and don’t want it to get any higher.

Remember that sodium isn’t just present in table salt. Instead, it’s present in packaged foods and fast foods, which can blow your daily sodium intake levels out of the water.

Talk to your doctor about where your sodium intake should lie, and find creative ways to cut salt from your diet, if need be. Common solutions include switching to unsalted butter and looking for low-sodium varieties of common condiments, like soy sauce.

3. Exercise Routinely

Exercise is a smart way to keep your blood pressure low. If you already have high blood pressure, regular exercise will help reduce it. If you don’t have existing high blood pressure problems, daily exercise can help prevent it from happening.

In addition to keeping your blood pressure in check, regular exercise also keeps your weight at a healthy level and reduces stress, all of which are ideal for a healthy heart and good blood pressure. Most doctors recommend getting at least 30 minutes of cardio each day, and using strength training and flexibility exercises to supplement and enhance your ongoing fitness regimen.

4. Stop Drinking, or Limit Alcohol Intake

While drinking alcohol in moderation isn’t harmful to your overall health (in fact, it may even have some health benefits), it can lead to high blood pressure and other complications if you start drinking outside the normal range. For women, one drink per day is considered “normal,” while that number rises to two drinks per day for men.

While you may enjoy having a few glasses of wine with dinner, cutting that number to a single moderate tumbler will help your heart stay healthy and resist artery damage both now and in the future.

5. Manage Stress

Stress is one of the biggest culprits in hypertension. Here’s why: people who are stressed experience temporary perks in blood pressure levels. In some cases, stress can also trigger conditions that can damage health, including overeating, binge drinking, and smoking, all of which boost blood pressure.

With this in mind, develop a plan for monitoring and managing your stress levels. Common practices include yoga, meditation, breathing, and regular activity, all of which have been shown to reduce stress levels in adults.

Lower Blood Pressure Starts Here

While the battle against high blood pressure can feel impossible, these five simple, daily changes can help your blood pressure stay in a healthy range and stave off many of the complications involved with hypertension or high blood pressure.

At the end of the day, good health comes down to a series of small lifestyle changes, and these five tips are a great place to start.

 

 

 

 

What Is Stress? And What You Can Do To Control It

Whether it manifests as a tightening in your chest, a quickened heart rate, or a feeling of imposing doom, stress is a common feeling, and it affects virtually everyone at one point or another.

Known to scientists as a highly subjective phenomenon, stress has a starring role in the everyday lives of most people. Related to dozens of troubling chronic conditions, from heart disease to diabetes and depression, stress is bad for your health and wellbeing.

That said, though, it’s unavoidable, which means that stress is something everyone must learn to cope with at some point or another. Today, we’re going to talk about stress: what it is, and how to deal with it, and where to seek help if you need it. Read on.

What Is Stress?


There is no single, linear definition of stress. This is because stress is a highly individualized experience that varies from person to person. The dictionary defines stress as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”

For most people, stress can strike at any time and can be related to everything from finances to jobs to personal relationships.

What To Know About Stress

Part of the process of overcoming stress is understanding it. Here are five things to know about stress and how it manifests for different people.

1. Stress Affects Everyone

While everyone handles stress differently, the feeling is universal. Although some individuals cope with stress more efficiently or deal with it less outwardly than others, this does not mean stress is not present. Some of the most common stressors in life are money, work, family, responsibilities, and change.

2. Stress Can Be A Good Thing

While stress is often associated with negative feelings or emotions, it bears mentioning that stress can be a good thing. In some cases, stress related to things like a job or financial security can inspire people to work harder or perform better.

This, in turn, can improve the quality of a person’s life and create positive change. Beyond that, some people just cope with stress differently, turning what could be a negative experience for some into a positive experience or a learning opportunity.

3. Stress Is Dangerous For Your Health

While everyone experiences stress from time to time, chronic stress can put your health at risk. Stress is directly related to chronic conditions like cancer, diabetes, obesity, and depression. As such, individuals experiencing intense or chronic levels of stress need to find ways to cope with the emotions so that it does not begin to impact their daily lives or their health.

4. Stress Can Be Managed

So, everyone experiences stress, and it can be damaging to your health. Where does that leave you? Luckily, stress is a manageable emotion, and people who learn to cope with the feeling effectively can limit the impact it has on their lives and well-being.

5. Some Stress Requires Professional Help

In some cases, the lines between normal stress and serious anxiety or depression can become blurry. As such, it’s smart to know that some stress, particularly the kind that is ongoing, difficult to resolve, or distressing, may require the help of an expert.

This is not something to be ashamed of.  In fact, seeking professional help for undue or ongoing stress can contribute to improving the quality of your life and making you a happier and healthier person.

How To Cope With Stress

There are dozens of ways to handle stress. No matter where your stress is coming from, or how bad it may be, you can use a series of simple coping methods to limit its impact on your life. Here are a few of the most popular:

Stay Healthy

It’s impossible to cope adequately with stress if your body and mind are not healthy. As such, one of the best ways to prevent stress from becoming overwhelming and to deal with it efficiently when it does is to stay healthy. This means eating well, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, and making time for physical activity each day. When your body is healthy, it’s easier for your mind to be healthy, as well.

Take A Break


If your stress comes from a daily environment, like a job for a home setting, it can be imperative just to take a break when you need it. Even if the stress you experience in this environment isn’t overwhelming, anything that is pervasive will eventually impact your health. With this in mind, make time for yourself each day. If your stress comes from the workplace, for example, make an effort to get away for half an hour or 60 minutes each day at lunch. During this time, read a book, talk to a favorite friend on the phone, or take a walk. These small breaks will help you cope with stress more efficiently.

Talk To Someone


If you’re finding your stress excessively difficult to manage, it might be time to consider talking to someone. Start by calling a trusted friend or loved one, and then search out support groups for stress and anxiety. If that doesn’t work, you may consider enlisting professional help to teach you how to help with your stress.

Stress No More


Let’s face it: stress is a fact of life. No matter who you are, where you live, or what you do, stress will affect you. In some cases, though, stress can become overwhelming or harmful, and people who want to maintain their happiness and health and avoid the devastating chronic conditions caused by stress need to learn to cope with it efficiently.

By understanding your largest stressors (whether they revolve around money, family, relationships, or work) and developing functional ways to address them, avoid them, or cope with them when they pop up, you can improve your response to stress and live a happier, healthier life, starting today.

10 Stretches To Help You Stay Limber And Agile As You Age

One of the biggest dangers of aging is a loss of mobility and strength. In fact, a 2013 study published in the Journal Clinical Interventions In Aging, found that strength and muscle mass decrease by between 30-50% as people go from the ages of 30 to 80. What’s more, people lose muscle at a rate of about 12-15% per decade after the age of 50.

Luckily, there are proactive steps you can take to stay healthy and limber as you age.

Staying Flexible Is Possible

Lots of people believe that it’s impossible to stay flexible as you age. Fortunately, this is not true. While it’s true that muscles atrophy and bones change as you get older, staying flexible at any age is as simple as incorporating just a few minutes of stretching into your everyday routine. In addition to helping you feel better, improving flexibility can also improve balance, decrease back pain, alleviate fatigue, and even help you feel clearer and sharper mentally.

10 Stretches To Practice As You Age

Ready to reap the benefits of flexibility in your life? Here are ten stretches to try as you age.

1. Front Hip Stretch

The front of the hip can get surprisingly tight, especially for people who sit all day long. To stretch it out and restore mobility to the area, try the front hip stretch. Here’s how it works:
Begin by sitting on a fitness ball.

From there, straighten your right leg out behind you and stabilize your weight by pressing your toes into the floor and raising your right heel.

Rest your hands on your left knee and use your arms to push your upper body backward gently. You should feel the stretch across the front of your right hip. Switch sides and hold for between 15 and 30 seconds.

2. Standard Chest Stretch

Like the hips, the chest gets tight from extended sitting. To stretch it out and improve your posture at the same time, start standing in an erect position. From there, clasp your hands behind your low back and gently raise your arms as far as you can. Keep your head held high, your shoulders back, and your chest lifted. Hold the pose for 10 seconds.

3. Standard Shoulder Stretch

If your shoulders are tight from exercise or sleeping awkwardly, loosen them up with the stretch. Start standing in an upright, erect position. From there, cross your right arm directly over your chest and hook your left forearm around your elbow. Use the leverage to gently pull the right arm into your chest, stretching the right shoulder. Hold the stretch for between 10 and 15 seconds before switching sides.

4. Side Body Stretch

Even if you don’t think about the muscles that run down your ribs and into your hips, they’re critical for posture and overall comfort. To keep them limber start by standing with your feet hip-width apart.

From there, place your left hand on your left hip and raise your right arm to the sky. Gently bend to the left, using your left arm to support your weight. Make a “C” shape with your body, stretching your right side body for 10 to 15 seconds before switching sides.

5. Neck And Shoulder Stretch

To stretch your neck and shoulders, move your arms in front of you with your elbows touching, and your hands pointed towards the sky, palms facing you. From there, place the palms of your hands on top of your head and use your arms to gently drop your chin to your chest and exert mild downward pressure on the top of your head.

You should feel the stretch in your neck and shoulders. Be sure that you’re not using too much pressure, or you risk injury.

6. The Toe Touch

Allow your back the opportunity to get long and loose by doing a simple toe touch. To start the stretch, stand with your feet hip-width apart. From there hinge at the hips and extend your arms down toward your toes, keeping as flat a back as possible the entire time.
When you reach the point of maximum extension, you can grab opposite elbows and dangle like a ragdoll to take the stretch further.

7. The Hula Hoop Stretch

The hula hoop stretch is a great one for anybody who sits for long periods of the day or occasionally uses a wheelchair to get around. Designed to increase mobility and loosen tension in the hips, the hula hoop stretch is perfect for seniors of all ages.

To start, stand with your feet together and your hands on your waist. From there, begin to circle your hips slowly, as if you were keeping a hula hoop in the air. Keep your back straight, head high, and chest lifted.

8. Triceps Stretch

The triceps stretch is ideal for anyone who feels tension in their arms. To start, stand with your feet hip-width apart and your chest up. From there, take your right arm and reach it over your shoulder, with your elbow pointing toward the sky, and your palm touching the back of your right shoulder.
Then, take your left hand to the ceiling and place your fingers on your right elbow. Exert gentle tension to deepen the stretch. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds before switching sides.

9. The Hand Stretch

The hand stretch is ideal for seniors who write, type, or draw often, or those who have arthritis in their hands or fingers. To do the stretch, start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. From there clasp your hands together in front of you. Once you’ve done that, turn your hands out so that the palms are facing away from you and the fingers are still interlocked. Gently push out, so you feel the stretch in the backs of your fingers and hands.

10. The Low Back Stretch

Perfect for anyone who wants to stretch their low back but isn’t quite ready to commit to a full downward dog, the low back stretch helps extend the muscles of your back. You’ll need a chair or table for the stretch.

To get started, stand with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms hanging loosely at your side. From there, bend your knees gently to prevent overextension, and begin to hinge forward at the hips.

Extend your arms in front of you and reach them toward the chair or table. At the full extension of the stretch, your back should be flat, and your hand should be on the chair or table, with a straight line from your arms to your hips and your hips to your ankles. Lean your weight back gently to extend the stretch.

Greater Flexibility Starts Here

Even if you’re not planning on taking up yoga anytime soon, these simple, at-home stretches are ideal for helping you stay limber, comfortable, and flexible throughout your golden years. They’re also ideal for anyone who wants to prevent injury, stay strong, and enjoy a higher quality of life during the aging process.

Fall Prevention: 12 Steps to Prevent Falls | & what to do if you or someone else does fall

For seniors, one of the biggest dangers in daily life is simple: falling.

While falling may sound like it’s no big deal, it can be disastrous or even deadly for seniors.

Today, 1 out of every four seniors falls at least once a year, but few tell their doctors or loved ones. It gets even worse than that, though.

Each year, 2.8 million people over the age of 65 are treated in emergency rooms around the country for injuries stemming from falls and more than 800,000 seniors are hospitalized each year because of a fall-related injury. Falls currently rank as the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in older adults and cost upward of $31 billion annually.

These are shocking statistics, and they make it clear that falling is a dangerous reality that affects thousands of seniors in the place they should be the safest: their own homes.

Luckily, there are proactive steps seniors, caregivers, and family members can take to prevent falls, and address them properly if they do happen.

Read on and learn some proven methods to ensure fall prevention.

12 Simple Ways to Prevent Falls in Seniors

Fall prevention is simple, and it can go a long way toward protecting the health and well-being of seniors everywhere. Get started with these 12 easy steps:

1. Make a doctor’s appointment

While falling has many causes, ranging from loss of balance and vision to weakness, falling can also be caused by medications, especially sedatives or antidepressants. With this in mind, the first step to preventing falls is to see your doctor about the medications you’re taking and the potential side effects of each drug.

In many cases, the doctor will be able to prescribe a medication with a lower fall risk or one that is less likely to interact with the other medications you currently take.

2. Get active on a daily basis

Balance and strength are both a “use it or lose it” thing, and seniors who give up physical activity often don’t have the stability or muscle definition to keep themselves from falling. Unfortunately, many seniors assume that staying active is impossible as an older person, and they give up things like walking, running, or yoga because of it.

Luckily, the activity you choose doesn’t have to be high-impact to unleash its benefits. Tai chi is a great option for activity, as is swimming. In fact, it doesn’t matter what you do, just so long as you do something every day to improve your coordination, strength, balance, and flexibility.

3. Wear sturdy, balanced footwear daily  

Certain types of shoes, like flimsy flip-flops or high heels, increase the risk of falling. With this in mind, ensure that the shoes you choose to wear are going to help your balance rather than harm it. For the best possible stability, choose sturdy, well-fitted shoes with non-skid soles.

4. Remove tripping hazards from your home

Sometimes, things in the home can increase the risk of falling and injuring yourself. Things like extension cords, plant stands, and loose rugs can trip you when you least expect it, while spilled liquids can create a dangerous situation.

With this in mind, remove tripping hazards from your home and remain vigilant about identifying and removing things that increase your fall risk in the future.

5. Keep your living space light and bright

Most of us have had the experience of stubbing our toe while getting out of bed in the dark, and it turns out that a dark or dimly lit environment can create a fall hazard for seniors, as well. Because of this, it’s critical to keep all living spaces well-lit. This allows you to spot fall hazards before they trip you up.

For some simple fixes around your home, add a nightlight to bedrooms and other key areas, and add lamps to dark or dim corners of the home.

6. Eat a healthy, well-rounded diet

Diet affects virtually everything we do, and getting around is no different. To ensure that you’re as healthy and balanced as possible, be sure that your diet contains adequate levels of nutrients.

While this may seem unrelated to falling, people who eat healthy diets are stronger and more able to complete everyday activities.

7. Stay hydrated

Dehydration can cause dizziness and fatigue, both of which increase your fall risk. With this in mind, ensure that you’re drinking adequate water every day, and pay attention to your hydration levels and how you’re feeling.

If you notice you’re thirsty, drink up! It will help you stay healthier, and decrease your fall risk, as well.

8. Consider using an assistive device

If you’re recovering from an injury, struggling with balance, or simply not as strong as you once were, an assistive device like a walker or a cane can work wonders in helping you get around. In addition to helping you balance, these simple tools can also help you navigate uneven terrain safely.

9. Install railings around the home

In areas where falls are common, like stairs and bathrooms, it’s smart to install railings to help you keep or regain your balance. These railings are especially useful in unideal circumstances, such as when the bathroom floor is wet, or the exterior steps are coated in ice.

10. Keep ice and snow at bay

Winter creates an environment that’s ripe for falls. Between the ice and the snow of the colder months, there are dozens of dangers that face seniors during the chilliest days of the year. To keep these things at bay, ensure that you’re taking proactive steps, like sprinkling de-icer on dangerous patches and keeping all walks clear of snow.

11. Always tie your shoelaces

While it sounds simple, one common cause of household falls is untied shoes. It doesn’t matter if you’re just walking to the dresser or the mailbox – you should always tie your shoelaces. A simple way to prevent falls, this tiny step can help you stay safe and upright.

12. Arrange the home to allow a clear pathway for movement

You’re more likely to fall if you’re navigating around furniture and accessories in the home, so it’s in your best interest to remove these things to create clear, uncluttered pathways.

What to do if you Fall

Even if you take all of the above steps, it’s impossible to guarantee that you won’t ever fall. With that in mind, here are some steps you should take if you do happen to suffer a fall:

  • Get up properly

If you fall, get up the right way by lying on your side, bending your top leg, and propping yourself up on an elbow. From there, use your upper body to pull yourself to the closest sturdy object (a dining table or banister, for example) and use this to help pull yourself up. Stand slowly, turn and sit down, and take a moment to rest before you stand up again.

  • Call for help

If you fall and you cannot get up, call for help. If you can reach a phone, dial 9-1-1. If you cannot reach a phone, call for help verbally, or make noise to attract a passerby’s attention.

  • See a doctor

Any time you fall, you should see a doctor. Even if the fall seemed minor, complications like fractures can fly under the radar for quite some time, and it’s important to consult your healthcare professional to make sure everything is okay.

While falling is a scary prospect, these 12 preventative steps can help you avoid it as much as possible, to stay healthy, safe, and strong throughout your senior years.