Massage & Stretch Your Feet

Our feet are our foundation.  We stand on them, they carry us around from place to place, and if our feet hurt, everything hurts – or so it seems.  Each foot is made up of bones, joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments, all of which work together to provide support, balance and mobility.  A foot out of alignment results in discomfort and pain to the foot, ankle, knee, hip and back.   What can we do to give our feet some extra love and attention?

EPSOM SALT SOAK

Soaking your feet for 10-15 minutes in a warm water with Epsom Salts will help soothe your tired feet and relax your muscles.  Magnesium is the relaxation mineral and Epsom Salt is magnesium sulfate.

POINT YOUR TOES

Lift one foot and roll it downward until the toes are pointed toward the ground; hold for 10 seconds then flex your foot; hold for 10 seconds. Repeat using the other foot. This exercise will help stretch out all the small muscles that are on the bottom of your feet, which can help relieve aching and improve blood circulation.

SPREAD YOUR TOES

Spread your toes apart as wide as you can; hold them spread apart for 5 seconds.

SQUEEZE YOUR TOES

Interlace left fingers with right toes (as if holding hands with your foot). Squeeze fingers and toes together and hold for 10 seconds, then stretch wide for 10 seconds. This helps relax, stretch and align your toes.  If this is difficult for you to do you can use toe separators such as a product called “Yoga Toes”. A product such as Yoga Toes might be beneficial for you if you have chronic foot pain, bunions, hammertoe or plantar fascitis. 

ROLL YOUR ANKLES & “Pump the Gas”

Rotate each ankle by doing circles with your ankles, rolling your ankles clockwise for a few rotations, then rolling them counterclockwise for a few rotations. Pump your ankles/feet up and down as if pumping the gas in your car.  “Pumping the Gas” is a good exercise to improve circulation and is something you can do whenever you’ve been sitting for a while such as in a car or a chair.  It is also good to do before you stand up to walk when getting out of bed.

MASSAGE YOUR FEET

Using gentle pressure, start with your toes, using your thumb to massage them in circular motions then move to the arch under your foot and gradually work your way down to the heel, applying pressure with your fingers and palm of your hand. Use lotion to allow your hand to move smoothly over your foot.  Squeeze the back of your calf and massage up and down while pointing and flexing your foot. End with long, upward strokes from the top of your feet to your knees paying attention to the front of your leg and the back of your calves.

Roll a tennis or golf ball back and forth from your toes to your heels. If you are having pain and inflammation in your feet, you can use a frozen juice can for some cold therapy with your massage.

TOE LIFTS

Sit in a chair and place a small towel on the floor. Lift the towel with your toes. Most likely you can lift it with your big toe—for a challenge try lifting it with your little toes.  Progress the exercise by using a marble or a dice instead of a towel.

TOWEL CURLS

Place a small towel on the floor and curl it toward you using only your toes.

Did you do those stretches are you read through this post?  I hope you did.  It felt pretty darn good didn’t it?  If we get in the habit of doing those stretches every day, we will have happier feet and if our feet our happier, then we are happier.  That’s a Win-Win!

STAY Healthy. Be STRONG. Get AFTER It!

CABBAGE is King

I see you!  You snurled up your nose.  Stop it – do you want your face to freeze up like that?  Seriously – I used to do the same thing.  The only way I had experienced cabbage was either drenched in mayonnaise in coleslaw or mushy-smelly cooked cabbage from my grandmother and my elementary school cafeteria.  No Thanks – I pass.  Then something awesome happened not too long ago.  I threw some in a hot cast iron skillet with some olive oil, some chopped jalapenos, a dash of garlic, pepper & salt and it was MAGIC in my bowl.   Yep.  I quickly stir fried it up. No yucky smell.  No mush.  Crisp-tender. Pure awesomeness.  Come to find out – the smell comes from overcooking; which the cafeteria ladies and my granny always did.  Since that time I’ve mixed it all up and the options are only limited by your imagination and what you have lying about in your fridge. Peppers. Ground beef. Smoked Sausage. Chicken. Spinach. Onions. Sriracha sauce. Whatever strikes your fancy and sounds good to you!

You may be thinking, but Jen!  It’s boring and how can it be good for you since it is so plain? As it turns out, it is a nutritional powerhouse.  An inexpensive nutritional powerhouse.

In the world of vegetables, the brassica family is true royalty.  The reigning king of the brood – which includes broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and chard, is the Cabbage.   The cabbage family is royalty due to its nutritional benefits and cancer-fighting ability.  Oh yea – it is also one of the lowest-calorie foods on the planet.

  • Phytonutrients
    • indoles (alter estrogen metabolism in a way that is likely to reduce the risk of cancer)
    • dithiolethiones
    • isothiocynates
    • sulforaphane (a particularly potent phytonutrient that can aid in “disarming” damaging free radicals and help fight carcinogens)
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin K
  • beta-carotene
  • a wee bit of the eye-healthy carotenoids – lutein & zeaxanthin
  • FIBER (4g per cup of cooked; 2g per cup raw)

Cabbage is indeed a nutritional powerhouse.  It is versatile, delicious (especially with spices to Oomph it up), low-calorie, and high fiber.  On top of all that it has powerful phytonutrients that can help kick bad stuff to the curb (Mother Nature’s food IS medicine).

Grab yourself a skillet, a bit of oil, some spices, some random stuff from your fridge and make yourself some Royal food – Cabbage.  It’s King – who knew?  And that is healthy eating.   Eating healthy means you are eating food that has nutrients and supports health and keeps us thriving, not just surviving.

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG. Get After It!

Note:  Many members of the cabbage family contain goitrogens, naturally occurring substances that may interfere with thyroid function. People with hypothyroidism may be wise to consume moderately & confer with a registered dietician

 

Blackberry Oatmeal Muffins

Love muffins, but want something healthier with fiber, some protein and less sugar?  I’ve got you covered.  Give these a try!

Grab a bowl and a spoon & whip up a batch; can use any berry such as blackberry, raspberry, blueberry or mulberry.

1 cup all-purpose flour (or use ½ cup whole wheat & ½ cup all purpose)

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1 TB baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 cup blackberries (cut in halves or thirds)

1 egg

5 oz container plain or vanilla Greek or Icelandic yogurt

Handful of chopped walnuts

GENTLY mix until blended together. Spoon into 12 muffin tins lined with foil baking cup liners.

Bake at 350 for approximately 20 minute +/- depending on your oven.

Stay HEALTHY. Be STRONG.  Get AFTER IT. 

 

Exercise As We Age

In my last blog, I shared with you the importance of nutrition, particularly protein, to support our functional strength as we age.   Maintaining good functional strength is important to a goal of being able to Age in Place, which is the ability to live in your own home and community safely, independently and comfortably.

Age related loss of muscle mass and function is called sarcopenia. Muscle is key to motion. As we age, significant changes in muscle mass and quality take place. After about age 50, muscle mass decreases at an annual rate of 1–2%. The decline in muscle strength is even higher, amounting to 1.5% per year between ages 50 and 60 and 3% per year thereafter.  Of those 65 and older, 16 to 18 percent of women and eight to 10 percent of men in the United States cannot lift ten pounds, bend forward to pick something up off the ground or kneel to the floor. After the age of 75, this increases to 66 percent of women and 28 percent of men being unable to lift more than ten pounds.

 Muscle strength is strongly correlated to physical independence and fall prevention. Loss of muscle mass and strength is related to functional impairment and an increased risk for a fall. Leg strength, particularly the ability to rise from a chair, has been found to be a major predictor of frailty and mortality. Leg strength and walking gait speed are two variables predicting fall risk. Additionally, muscular endurance necessary to maintain balance under multi-task conditions such as cooking, gardening or recreational activities, and the importance of muscular power in reactive balance such as slipping on ice or tripping over a curb are important fall risk factors in older adults.

What makes the biggest difference in our skeletal muscle mass and strength?  Exercise.  Specifically, weight bearing and resistance-based exercise which also improve our bone density and decrease our risk of osteoporosis.   Weight bearing exercise are activities that force you to work against gravity. Examples are walking, hiking, climbing stairs, playing tennis or golf (walk don’t ride a cart!), and dancing.   Exercise such as riding a bicycle is a weight supportive exercise.  The bicycle supports our weight.  While bicycling isn’t weight bearing exercise, we are using our largest skeletal muscles to power the bicycle.

Resistance-based exercise is also known as strength training.  Strength training is any exercise that causes the muscles to contract against an external resistance. Resistance-based exercises increase strength, mass and endurance depending on how the exercises are performed.  The external resistance can be dumbbells, rubber exercise tubing or flat loop bands, your own bodyweight or any object that causes the muscle to contract. There are three movements of any resistance-based exercise:  concentric, isometric and eccentric.  Knowing how to utilize these movements properly, how much weight-resistance is used, the tempo of the exercise, and using proper technique to avoid injury and maximize effectiveness relative to your specific goals.  Training techniques differ for strength gains, muscle mass and muscle endurance.  For functional health, older adults need to focus on strength, muscle mass and muscular endurance.  While most everyone can implement a walking program into their life without any type of special training or guidance, I highly recommend guidance from a qualified therapist or a trainer who specializes in senior fitness. SilverSneakers® is a good source for exercise modalities for senior adults.   They have a website and a Facebook page where free information is provided to anyone and if you are a member (available through many Medicare Advantage Plans) you can attend SilverSneakers® classes for free or minimal cost if you are not a member.  I personally lead two SilverSneakers® classes every week.  An online resource I recommend is ElderGym.com  that provides quality information and free senior workout programs that can be performed at home, outdoors or in a gym.

Stay Healthy. Be Strong. Get After It.

Nutrition As We Age

In my last blog post I shared with you the obstacles that can get in the way of our Aging In Place, which is the ability to live in your own home and community safely, independently and comfortably.

  • Poor Eyesight and/or Hearing
  • Reduced Muscle Mass/ Less Strength
  • Diminished endurance and stamina
  • Increased risk of accidents due to bone fragility, poor balance, loss of strength
  • Decreased mobility and agility
  • Decreased flexibility

Exercise, Nutrition, Hydration, Social interaction and Mental stimulation are areas to focus on and are things that we can do, right now.    I’m going to talk about Nutrition today and how it relates to keeping us functionally strong (able to do everyday activities) and how proper nutrition supports muscle mass and bone density which goes hand in hand with being functionally strong.   Having more strength, more muscle mass and stronger bones decreases our risk of accidents and better ensures that we can do the basic activities of daily living.

Age related loss of skeletal muscle mass and function is called sarcopenia.  Throughout childhood and until about the age of 30, muscles grow larger and stronger. In those who are physically inactive, muscle mass declines between three and eight percent each decade after the age of 30 and increases to five and 10 percent each decade after age 50.  After age 50, those who are inactive can experience a 15 percent loss of strength per decade. Of those 65 and older, 16 to 18 percent of women and eight to 10 percent of men in the United States cannot lift ten pounds, bend forward to pick something up off the ground or kneel to the floor. After the age of 75, this increases to 66 percent of women and 28 percent of men being unable to lift more than ten pounds.

Muscle strength is strongly correlated to physical independence and fall prevention. Loss of muscle mass and strength is related to functional impairment and an increased risk for a fall. Leg strength, particularly the ability to rise from a chair, has been found to be a major predictor of frailty and mortality. Leg strength and walking gait speed are two variables predicting fall risk. Additionally, muscular endurance necessary to maintain balance under multi-task conditions such as cooking, gardening or recreational activities, and the importance of muscular power in reactive balance such as slipping on ice or tripping over a curb are important fall risk factors in older adults.

Nutrition and resistance-based exercise are vitally important to minimize sarcopenia and the loss of function as a result.  They go together.  I will talk about exercise in my next column.  We must fuel our bodies with the nutrients it needs to keep us thriving and performing.  This is especially true as we get older since. We simply don’t have time to recover and rebound from poor choices.

What do our bodies need?  Food with nutrients: vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, phytonutrients, omega 3 fatty acids, and fiber.  These are substances that our bodies need to thrive, not just survive.  We find these nutrients in vegetables, fruit, unbroken whole grains, healthy fat from whole food sources and lean protein (animal &/or plant-based).  We should base our diet (the way we eat) on these whole foods. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is an across-the-board great dietary habit to get into since produce is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. The more colorful the better; Think dark green, orange, purple, yellow and red.

Protein. Calcium. Vitamin D.   We need to especially focus on these 3 things since they support healthy, dense bones and muscle mass.   Older adults need more protein than they are likely eating; if your diet is too low in protein, then the rate of muscle mass loss accelerates because you are not giving your body the building blocks needed to maintain or build muscle mass.

Protein is present in every cell of the body and is needed to perform a variety of functions from muscle repair to immune function to fluid balance.  Our bodies don’t store or manufacture the protein we need, so we must get it from the food we eat. Older adults have an increased need for protein to improve bone health, strength, function and muscle mass – all of which decline with age. In general, older adults need between 1 – 1.5 g per 1 kg of body weight.  To keep it simple: 100 lbs. of bodyweight = 50 – 75 grams of protein.  Protein is found in a variety of animal and plant-based foods; ensuring you are getting in a good amount of protein isn’t difficult, but you do need to keep your eye on the ball.   Aim to have protein with each meal and snack.  Where to find it?

  • Plain Greek or Icelandic Yogurt, 1 cup   20g
  • Flavored Greek Yogurt, 1 cup                   13 g
  • Cottage Cheese, 1 cup                                 20 g
  • 1 oz.  hard cheese                                          7 g
  • Large egg                                                         6 g
  • Chicken Breast 3 oz                                      30g
  • Turkey Breast, 3 oz                                       30g
  • Ground Beef. 3 oz                                          30g
  • Steak, 3 oz                                                       30g
  • Pork Chop 3 oz                                               30g
  • Fish, 4 oz                                                         30g
  • Shrimp. 4 oz                                                   30g
  • Lobster tail, small                                         20g
  • Scallop, 1 average                                           3g
  • Canned Tuna, 4 oz                                        30g
  • Canned Salmon, 4 oz                                    25g
  • Beans & Lentils, 4 oz                                   13-18g
  • Vegetables        All vegetables have protein, but they are not as rich of a protein source as animal-based protein, beans or lentils.  Asparagus, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Artichoke, Watercress, yellow corn are the top 7 vegetables highest in protein.    1 large spear of asparagus or broccoli has ½ g of protein on average; therefore 10 spears will have 5 g of protein.

Set a goal of paying attention to your protein intake ensuring you are eating protein with every meal and snack. Ask yourself: “What am I going to eat with my protein”?  Challenge yourself to always think protein first when planning your meals and snacks.

Stay Healthy. Be Strong. Get After It.

Aging In Place

Is having the ability to live in your own home and community safely, independently and comfortably something you desire for yourself?  Personally, this is a primary goal of mine and I’m passionate about coaching others on how to maintain their health and functional strength to the greatest extent possible as they, inevitably, grow older.  Aging in Place is the ability to live in your own home for as long as you can and it is something that you work on starting right now, no matter your current age.

What are some obstacles to Aging in Place?  What are some reasons that individuals must leave their homes for Assisted Living or Long-Term Care facilities?

  • Poor Eyesight and/or Hearing
  • Reduced Muscle Mass/ Less Strength
  • Diminished endurance and stamina
  • Increased risk of accidents due to bone fragility, poor balance, loss of strength
  • Decreased mobility and agility
  • Decreased flexibility

The above-listed obstacles compromise our ability to perform Basic Activities of Daily Living.

  • Ability to move (walk) from one place to another as you go through daily routines
  • Getting in and out of bed
  • Getting in and out of a chair
  • Showering/ Bathing
  • Toileting
  • Personal hygiene.  Oral, skin and hair care.
  • Getting dressed
  • Preparing meals including cleaning up after meals; shopping for groceries
  • Self-Feeding

In order to successfully and safely live independently, we must have the functional capacity to perform the Basic Activities of Daily Living.   What can we be doing now to help ensure that we can be as functionally strong as possible as we age no matter what age we are currently?  Obviously, the sooner we start the better off we will be, but it is never too late to work on these things: 

  • Improve and Maintain your overall Functional Strength and Muscle Mass
  • Improve your Flexibility, Mobility, Balance and Coordination
  • Maintain and Improve your Cognitive Health 
  • Improve your Cardiovascular Fitness 

Exercise, Nutrition, Hydration, Social interaction and Mental stimulation are areas to focus on and are things that we can do, right now.   Watch for my upcoming blog posts  for real-life, realistic things you can start implementing to help yourself live a happier, healthier and more independent life.  There are many things in life that we cannot control. However, there are many things that we can.  Let’s focus on those.   

Stay Healthy. Be Strong. Get After It. 

How CHERRIES can impact your Health

Cherries. They are beautiful.  They are cheery little morsels that are sweet, but also tart.  Have you ever thought about how a handful of cherries per day could be a dose of medicine that you are missing out on?

As Hippocrates said: “Let food by thy medicine and let medicine by thy food”. 

Cherries are loaded with antioxidants.  Tart cherries have properties that are different, and often more potent, than sweet cherries.  Sweet cherries can be a delicious lower glycemic load snack (important for diabetics and others with insulin resistance), but when it comes to supplementing your diet with cherry juice, make it tart!

Tart cherries have long been used as a natural pain killer and are particularly effective against gout. Scientists believe that compounds in the cherries called anthocyanins are responsible for the effect. Cherries have been shown to lower levels of uric acid in the blood which is one of the most common causes of gout pain. Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis triggered by high levels of uric acid in the blood.  Look for tart cherry juice at the grocery or health food store (Knudsen is a common brand) and get in the habit of having a small glass each day. Tart cherry juice is, well you know: Tart. It is straight up juice, no added sugar or other ingredients.  I like it chilled and I drink it from a juice glass. I’ve been working with a gentleman for a few years now as his health coach and he hasn’t had a flare up of gout since he added tart cherry juice to his daily routine.

Anthocyanins from cherries are also highly anti-inflammatoryConsuming them on a regular basis may help lower the risk for heart attack, stroke and even colon cancer.

In addition to cherries, foods that are rich in anthocyanins include blueberries, blackberries, purple carrots and pomegranate juice.  The richer the color of the fruit or vegetable, the greater likelihood it’s loaded with the health-giving compounds.

Osteoarthritis and Muscle Pain.  These are ailments that I struggle with and I’m betting many of you reading this also feel the same pain.    A cup and a half of tart cherries or one cup of tart cherry juice daily can reduce joint pain of osteoarthritis and muscle inflammation and soreness.

What are some other benefits of adding cherries, specifically tart cherries and tart cherry juice to your diet?

  • Can help you sleep better. Drink cherry juice 30 minutes after waking and 30 minutes before your evening meal to boost melatonin. Cherries are a good source of melatonin and have also been found to help with jet lag.  There is a higher level of melatonin in tart cherries compared to sweet cherries.
  • The Alzheimer’s Association includes cherries as one of the memory boosting foods because they are rich in antioxidants.
  • May reduce the risk of stroke. Tart cherries provide cardiovascular benefits. The anthocyanins may activate PPAR which regulates genes involved in fat and glucose metabolism and thus, reduce risk factors for high cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Improve the aging of our skin. Cherries and their high antioxidant level help the body fight the aging process.
  • Help regulate heart rate and blood pressure. The phytosterols in cherries help reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol levels.

I don’t know about you, but that is a lot to Cheer about. Why don’t you head out to find yourself a jar of tart cherry juice and put it in your fridge to chill.

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG.  Get After It.

 

I share my thoughts with you to provide information and food for thought aka pondering. Pondering which will lead to more reading, education and Eureka! moments. However, please don’t take it as medical advice. It isn’t. If you have a medical condition, or suspect you have one, always seek care from a licensed medical professional. That way — it’s all BAMtastic! 

Does GOUT got you down?

Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis triggered by high levels of uric acid in the blood.  Gout causes swollen, red, hot and stiff joints. Normally, uric acid dissolves in the blood. It passes through the kidneys and out of the body in urine. But sometimes uric acid can build up and form needle-like crystals. When they form in your joints, it is very painful. The crystals can also cause kidney stones.   Often, gout first attacks your big toe. It can also attack ankles, heels, knees, wrists, fingers, and elbows. At first, gout attacks usually get better in days. Eventually, attacks last longer and happen more often.

You are more likely to get gout if you:

  • Are a man
  • Have family member with gout
  • Are overweight
  • Have had gastric bypass surgery
  • Drink alcohol and beer
  • Eat too many foods rich in purines *
    •  Purines are in our body’s tissues and some foods are high in purines such as  organ meats, red meat, wild game and some seafood

Overall nutrition-diet goals for Gout:

  • Achieve a healthier weight and good eating habits
  • Avoid some, but not all, foods with purines
  • Include foods that can control uric acid levels

As Hippocrates said: “Let food by thy medicine and let medicine by thy food”. 

Nutrition recommendations for Gout sufferers:

  • Drink plenty of water as your “go to” beverage
  • Avoid organ meats and wild game, which have high purine levels and contribute to high levels of uric acid
  • Limit serving sizes of beef, lamb, pork and processed meats
  • Moderate your intake of higher purine seafood such as anchovies, shellfish, sardines and tuna
  • Avoid alcohol during gout attacks and limit alcohol, especially beer, between attacks
  • Avoid foods and beverages sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup. This means soda, sweetened cereals, bakery goods and candies.  High-fructose corn syrup is present is many commercial food products so learn to read labels.
  • Limit consumption of naturally sweet fruit juices
  • Cut back on saturated fats from red meat, fatty poultry, processed meats and high-fat dairy products
  • Eat More lower sugar fruits, vegetables and whole grains which provide complex carbohydrates. Berries are lower sugar fruits with fiber and citrus fruits are another good choice.
  • Vitamin C. Vitamin C may lower uric acid levels.  You can add Vitamin C to your diet with citrus fruits and you may want to talk to your doctor about adding a 500 milligram Vitamin C supplement.
  • Some research suggests that drinking caffeinated coffee in moderation may be associated with a reduced risk of gout.
  • Cherries and Tart Cherry Juice. Tart cherries have long been used as a natural pain killer and are particularly effective against gout. Tart cherries and sweet cherries are different.  Cherries have been shown to lower levels of uric acid in the blood which is one of the most common causes of gout pain.  Look for tart cherry juice at the grocery or health food store (Knudsen is a common brand) and get in the habit of having a small glass each day. Tart cherry juice is, well you know: It is straight up juice, no added sugar or other ingredients.

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG.  Get After It.

 

I share my thoughts with you to provide information and food for thought aka pondering. Pondering which will lead to more reading, education and Eureka! moments. However, please don’t take it as medical advice. It isn’t. If you have a medical condition, or suspect you have one, always seek care from a licensed medical professional. That way — it’s all BAMtastic! 

 

Music, Movement & Joy

Music.  It makes us happy or it makes us cry – depends on the song and what emotion it evokes.  Music connects us to memories.  We sing if we hear a song even if we are not good singers. We tap our toes, snap our fingers, we move our arms, legs,  heads, or our entire bodies.  I’d be surprised if we consciously make a decision to do any of those things – we just do it.  The music moves us.

So why was I so surprised a few weeks ago when something truly WOW happened?  The best way I can describe it:  Pure Joy.   It made my day, week, month, maybe my year.  It is leading me on new path. What happened?

I lead senior adult fitness classes. I work with older adults to improve their cardiovascular system, functional strength, balance, core strength  – it’s what I do.  I’m passionate about helping others stay healthy, strong and independent as they age.  Music is always part of the workout because music makes us happy, encourages us to move and it sets the tempo, the mood.   The training I’ve done, the fitness classes I’ve led have always been with active adults in a studio setting  – they come to me.  Until recently.  An opportunity crossed my path recently to lead a Saturday morning class in an Assisted Living facility and my intent was to lead a “structured” class which is “how things are done”.  I quickly discovered that that isn’t the case when you are working with much older adults  and/or adults that have varying degrees of dementia. So I do what I do:  I winged it – made it up as I went along – I let the music guide me.

I’d been with these awesome ladies for about a month.  Participation was low.  It was “exercise” class and most folks stayed in their rooms because you know:  Exercise.  The few who were participating were marginally participating; others were with me physically in the room, but not mentally.  The morning that “it” happened, after 15 minutes of a “no go” morning, I told them we’d play “Name That Tune”.  They name it, I’d play it.  Someone asked for Elvis.  I played Elvis. Toes were tapping.  More Elvis.  More toe tapping and fingers keeping beat against chair arms.  Doris Day “Everyone Loves a Lover” got fingers snapping.  Ladies were leaving their rooms with their walkers to come see “where that music was coming from” and then their toes were tapping, hands moving, big smiles on faces.  Chubby Checker and his Twist was next and before I knew it  –  it was game on.  A 90 year old typically in a fog of dementia got up and was dancing, eyes closed.  Someone got up to dance with her, then another.  Another reached her hand out to me and told me she wanted to dance.  As we were dancing, I looked up and saw staff watching in awe taking pictures, taking video and shouting encouragement.  Out of the corner of my eye, I see a very frail 97 year old moving her feet trying to get up – her aide comes to assist her and asked “Miss Margie, are you wanting to dance?  Margie told her “I am going to dance!” so with the help of her walker and her aide helping support her, she danced.  We danced for two hours.  They wore me out.   I played old gospel songs and they sang every single word.  I was asked for “one more fast one”  so Jerry Lee Lewis saw us dancing to the dining room for lunch.   I sat and had a very good conversation with a lady who typically is not able to have a steady conversation. She had been awakened and it was pretty darn awesome sauce.

Since that day, I’ve been reading up on how music can affect the memory and how individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can benefit from music. It doesn’t have to be formal programs of music therapy and anyone with time, energy and passion can make a difference in someone’s life.  I’ve watched the documentary “Alive Inside”  and have signed up for training with Music and Memory and have decided to get involved with elders in my community on a volunteer basis.   In my small way, I want to make a difference.  Music. We can all bring some music to folks can’t we?  All of us together can make a big difference.

For more information and a big dose of WOW head over to Music and Memory as a starting place.

Stay Healthy. Be Strong. Get After It.

 

Chamayne – Why She Runs

This is a guest blog from my friend, Chamayne Metcalfe Johnson.  Chamayne and I graduated from high school together in 1981 and are 55 this year.  Age 55 may not be the same as it was for our mothers, but the years tick on for all of us.  One thing that is  different for us is that we are better equipped to change up our habits so that we can be stronger and healthier as we age.  This is Chamayne’s story.

I did indeed have a very special birthday this year. I ran my first 5K race — at age 55.  I placed 5th in my age group and only started running 3 months ago.

Here’s the story: After steadfastly refusing for years, um…decades, when asked by friends, I started running on August 22, 2018. Well, maybe more like shuffle-jogging at times but still…

I had never run in my entire life. And I do mean never. In high school and into my 20’s, I was what most people might consider to be fairly fit and “athletic.” However, there’s a big difference in being “athletic” and being an athlete. I was not an athlete. I never participated in organized sports teams, never had a coach making me run, and therefore, I.NEVER.RAN. EV-ER. And in my 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, well….enough said.

But then…

For the last two summers, for some unknown reason, I’d wake up and see the sun shining, hear the birds singing, and have a real urge to hop out of bed, go out the back door, and actually run. I never did it, but something was just there — a nudging, an itch, a restlessness.

I ran into a teaching friend a couple of weeks into school who made changes to his lifestyle for the sake of his health and because of his loved ones, so that he’d be here for them. He told me that every day, he looks in the mirror, points at himself, and says, “You will NOT be a sorry ass!” For some reason, that hit me hard. It began to motivate even the stubborn no-I’m-never-gonna-run me. It resonated and stuck with me.

The final piece of the puzzle, the determining factor, the catalyst… Kenny. My sweet husband has coal miner’s pneumoconiosis…black lung disease.  He is also a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor. He’d give anything to have his health back, to breathe easily. He’d love to be able to inhale our beautiful mountain air deeply and exhale fully until his scarred belly is concave. He’d love to run. He can’t, but by golly….I can.  And so I am.

All of those things just came together in God’s perfect timing and I made my mind up to start one day after school. I’m doing it. Running. I’m more tortoise than hare, but I am a runner now. I love it. I’ve fallen for it hook, line, and sinker. I’ll probably never be fast but then that’s not my goal anyway.

My goal is not to waste the health that God has so graciously bestowed upon me. I’ve been so very blessed with strong legs, healthy lungs, a heart that’s still beating, and eyes and ears that can gaze upon the majesty of nature and hear the beauty of birdsong as I run.

My goal is to be healthy, to be here for my loved ones. My husband needs me, my mother needs me, my son needs me. I’m doing it for me, for them, and for those who can’t.

I’m doing it for my mother, who due to ulcerative colitis, grief, and other concerns, is in very poor health and begs me to do whatever I must to stay healthy, maintain good balance, prevent falls, and promote strong muscles and bones.

I’m doing it for my mom’s lifelong best friend who’s had two total knee replacements.

I’m doing it for Mamaw, who, before her death, was crippled and confined to a wheelchair by degenerative osteoporosis.

I’m doing it for my brother, Britt, who died by suicide. I think of him often as I run here on the farm.

I’m doing it for Daddy and Pappy who died of heart disease.

I’m doing it for Papaw, Memmy, and my cousin Karen, who each died from stroke complications.

I’m doing it to set a good example for my and Kenny’s kids and grandkids.

I’m doing it to encourage others, especially anyone who’s never run before, anyone in their 40’s, 50’s, or 60’s…anyone who’s never really been active and thinks it’s too late. It’s not! No matter your age, young or old, teenager or grandparent, you CAN make a change. If I can do it, you can do it.

When I first started, Wednesday, August 22, 2018, I didn’t even know if I COULD run. I truly didn’t know if it was possible at 54 years, 11 months, and 6 days old. I have beginning cataracts, damaged cervical vertebrae from a car accident, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, scoliosis curvature from childhood, arthritic-like joints at times, and numerous kidney stones just waiting to be jarred about and send me to the ER again. Not to mention, zero cardiovascular stamina.

I solicited the help of my friend Erica. She and another friend started back in January, asked me to join them, and I practically laughed in their faces as I categorically refused, saying, “This ole gal don’t run!” Oh, but I ate those words, incorrect grammar and all, and now needed advice on apps and some “coaching.”

I started the Fitness22 5K app, an eight-week program. You run 3 times per week, building up run time. You always start each run with 5 minutes walking to warm up and end with 5 minutes walking to cool down. Between warm up and cool down, you alternate run time with walk time. For instance, Week 1 Day 1 is: 1 minute run/1.5 minute walk, 6 times. That’s it. Sounds doable, right?

Guess what? I thought I’d DIE trying to run ONE MINUTE. Yes, 60 seconds! It was awful, even with 1.5 minutes walking in between. But I stuck it out. I did the next day and next day and the next day, week after week. If I couldn’t finish one of the training runs, I’d repeat it again until I could accomplish it before moving on to the next level. At the end of the 5K app, you’ve built up to running 35 minutes non-stop with no walking in between. (I’ve actually worked up to 53 minutes and over 3 miles a few times.)

So, I started running literally 60 seconds at a time, gasping for breath like a galloping horse, and today, I completed a 5K, running the whole way, never walking one step and never stopping one time.

I can’t wait to do it again.       ~  Chamayne

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the “good” types of fat that blunt inflammatory responses. They may help lower the risk of heart disease, depression, dementia, and arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients; like all other essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, they are used routinely by the body in critical metabolic functions. In the case of omega-3 fats, they are incorporated into cell membranes and are a major construction material for a large family of hormones known as prostaglandins.   Prostaglandins are, among other things, regulators of the immune system and the body’s inflammatory responses. Some classes of fat, including most omega-6 fats, are used to construct prostaglandins that accentuate inflammatory responses. The prostaglandins manufactured from omega-3s tend to help weaken such responses, and this is why fish oil is often called “anti-inflammatory” because it leads to the manufacture of hormones that blunt inflammatory responses.

Where can you find them?

 FISH & SEAFOOD

  • Salmon (Wild Alaskan Salmon is best)
  • Arctic Char
  • Sardines
  • Halibut
  • Mackerel
  • Tuna
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Anchovies
  • Oysters
  • Shrimp
  • Mussels
  • Crab
  • Cod

Those are the fish and seafood that are highest in Omega 3s.  However, eating any variety of fish that lived in the sea or rivers and lakes that are abundant with a variety of algae will reward you with some Omega 3s.

FISH OIL SUPPLEMENTS

You are looking for at least 500 mg of EPA and DPA per dosage, not the total amount of Omega 3 fish oil used to make the product (which is what the label usually highlights)Fish oil supplements from Nordic waters are noted to be especially high quality.  Single source Cod Liver Oil is also an option. Brands that I recommend:   Carlson’s and Nordic Naturals

SEA PLANTS 

“Seaweed” is the common name for countless species of marine plants and algae that grow in the ocean as well as in rivers, lakes, and other water bodies.

  •  Kelp
  • Kombu
  • Wakame
  • Dulse
  • Nori

NUTS and SEEDS

  • Walnuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds (ground or grind the whole seeds yourself)
  • Pumpkin (pepita) seeds

OILS

  • Cod Liver oil
  • Flax Seed oil
  • Walnut oil
  • Mustard oil [can be found in Indian food stores]

 Try mustard oil in salads instead of olive oil; dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale have Omega 3s

VEGETABLES & FRUIT

Dark leafy greens

  •  Spinach
  •  Kale
  • Collards
  • Broccoli rabe

Cruciferous vegetables

  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels Sprouts

Winter Squash

Berries

  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  •  Blueberries
  • Mangoes

Honeydew Melon

SPICES & HERBS

Virtually all herbs and spices have a great Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio; the ones with highest Omega 3s:

  • Oregano
  • Marjoram
  • Tarragon
  • Cloves

Cortisol & Lowering Your Stress Levels

Cortisol is a stress-induced chemical that is produced by the adrenal glands. This “stress hormone” helps regulate blood pressure and the immune system during a sudden crisis, whether a physical attack or an emotional setback. This helps you to tap into your energy reserves and increases your ability to fight off infection.  The trouble is, relentless stress can keep this survival mechanism churning in high gear, subverting the hormone’s good intentions. Chronically high cortisol levels can cause sleep problems, a depressed immune response, blood sugar abnormalities, and weight gain (especially in the abdominal area).  When cortisol spikes, it tells the body to eat something with a lot of calories—a great survival tactic if you need energy to flee a predator but not if you’re fretting over how to pay bills. You don’t have to “feel” stressed out for your body to be stressed.

Fortunately, an antidote to the body’s fight-or-flight mode has evolved:  the relaxation response.  Here are some things to manage stress that can reduce your cortisol levels and get your body (and your mind & spirit) chilled out.

  • Breathing / Mindfulness Meditation
    • Check out the CALM app or Deepak Chopra’s Meditations
  • Sleep
    • Take a Nap
    • Go to bed earlier
    • Improve sleep hygiene practices
  • Laugh
    • Hang out with a funny friend
    • Comedy – watch a movie; head out to a comedy club
    • Read or listen to a “mindlessly” funny book and escape the world for a while
  • Book a Massage

In addition to keeping cortisol under control, massage sessions reduce stress by promoting production of dopamine and serotonin

  • Cut back or eliminate sugary and heavy-duty caffeinated beverages such as energy drinks

These beverages spike cortisol levels almost immediately

  • Reduce the amount of processed foods in your diet
    • White bread and pasta; candy, cookies, snack cakes, etc.

Processed flour & sugary carbs (usually found together) cause a spike in cortisol & increase blood sugar levels which makes you feel anxious

  • Make sure you are drinking enough water

Just a half-liter of dehydration can raise cortisol levels. Stress can cause dehydration, and dehydration can cause stress. If your urine is darker colored, it’s probably a sign that you’re not drinking enough water. Adequately-hydrated individuals have urine that is light, almost water-like, in appearance.

  • Add more Omega 3 fatty acids into your diet
  • Brew up some black tea

The “cup that cheers” has deep associations with comfort and calm—just think of how the English revere their late-afternoon teatime. As it turns out, science confirms the connection: When volunteers at University College London were given a stressful task, the cortisol levels of those who were regular black-tea drinkers fell by 47% within an hour of completing the assignment. Study author Andrew Steptoe, PhD, suspects that naturally occurring chemicals such as polyphenols and flavonoids may be responsible for tea’s calming effects.

  • Low Intensity / Relaxing Exercise
    • Yoga. Pilates. Tai Chi.
  • Listen to Relaxing Music
  • Sit down with a Coloring book and Crayons
  • Head outside and spend some time with Nature
    • Stretch out and relax in a field of daisies and just enjoy the sun and gentle breeze on your face
    • Lie in a hammock under the stars
    • Grab some binoculars and head out for some bird watching