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! 

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.

 

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

Get Your Morning Started Right

Looking ahead to the day?  Here are 4 things that you can do each morning to get your day started & give your body and mind some Oomph.

1. STRETCH before you get out of bed. Move those joints (ankles, knees, hips, wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck)  and those big muscle muscle groups ( legs, chest, back) and when you swing your legs over to finally stand up: stretch toward the sky.

2. OPEN the blinds & let daylight in.

3. DRINK a glass of cold water. Your body hasn’t had hydration for hours and the cold water will give your body both hydration & oomph. Note: we walk around dehydrated a lot of the time – our brains, lungs, heart , liver, muscles ( you name it!)need hydration, they need straight up water. Our Metabolism needs water!

4. EXERCISE a wee bit after you have water, but before you take a shower or eat breakfast. I’m not talking a full out workout , I’m talking movement & exercise. Walk up & down your driveway. Intentionally walk stairs a few times. Do some jumping jacks        (seated or standing). Dance to a favorite upbeat song.  Ride a stationary bike. 10 minutes – you’ve got it in you !

 

STAY Healthy. Be STRONG.  Get AFTER IT!

OSTEOARTHRITIS. Eat Well & Move your Joints!

Arthritis pain and stiffness can make you feel that you don’t want to move, so you find yourself sitting more and moving less. That seems like the thing to do, but it isn’t.  Our joints need movement.   When healthy joints move, the bones glide against one another little friction due to a layer of slick articular cartilage and slippery synovial fluid.  Synovial fluid provides cushion and lubrication for the joints. When a joint is at rest, cartilage absorbs some of the synovial fluid. When the joint is in use the synovial fluid is squeezed out of the cartilage; moving our joints is essential to circulate the synovial fluid.  Gently moving the joints for 10 minutes each morning will start your day off with less stiffness and can lessen pain when you continue to move throughout the day.  Even if you are sitting, you can be moving your joints.  Exercise that is joint friendly without impact to the joints is essential.  Creating a habit of 10 minutes of Ageless Grace® practice is a great way to start your day for your body and your mind.

Food What we put into our bodies matter.  Food is indeed medicine.  A basic place to start is eating more fruits, vegetables and crowding processed sugars out of your life. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition warns that processed sugars trigger the release of inflammatory messengers called cytokines. Sugar is added to many commercially prepared foods, many that you wouldn’t expect.  White flour products (bread, rolls, crackers and many cereals) are refined and lack fiber. These foods fuel the production of advanced glycation end (AGE) products that stimulate inflammation.

Beyond those basics, add more Omega-3 fatty acids to your life.  Omega-3s blunt inflammatory responses that may help lower the risk of arthritis, dementia, heart disease and depression. Prostaglandins are regulators of the immune system and the body’s inflammatory responses.  Omega-3s help weaken inflammatory responses while Omega-6 fats increase inflammatory responses.  We tend to get more Omega-6 fats in our diet due to convenience foods, and we don’t get enough Omega-3s.

Where can you find Omega-3s?  Eating more fish and seafood is an excellent way to get more Omega-3 fats. The fattier the fish, the richer it is in Omega-3s.  Best choices are: Wild Alaskan Salmon, Arctic Char, Sardines, Halibut, Mackerel, Tuna, Rainbow Trout, Cod, Anchovies, Oysters, Shrimp, Mussels and Crab.

Nuts and Seeds also have some Omega-3s. Walnuts have the greatest amount. Chia seeds, Flax seeds (ground or grind the whole seeds yourself) and Pumpkin (pepita) seeds also are good sources.  Flax seed oil, Walnut oil and Mustard oil are also rich sources. 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; try a salad made with those greens and mustard oil for an Omega-3 punch.

Vegetables and Fruit also contain Omega-3s. The richest sources are: dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, collards and broccoli rabe.  Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, Winter squash, Berries, Mangoes and Honeydew melon.  Citrus fruits due to their rich Vitamin C content, aid in collagen production which is beneficial for joint health.  In fact, read my blog post on Collagen.

Get excess weight off your joints.   If you are overweight and certainly if you are obese, getting at least 10% of your extra bodyweight off your joints will help tremendously.  Every additional pound of excess bodyweight puts approximately 4lbs of extra stress on our joints.  Less stress on your joints = less wear and tear and less pain.

In summary, rid yourself of excess weight on your joints, eat less processed sugar and commercial baked goods. Eat more vegetables and fruit especially leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables and berries. Eat more fish. Eat more walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds and pumpkin seeds. Consider taking a high-quality fish oil supplement or a vegan algae supplement.  Get movement into your life and your joints every single day.

Stay HEALTHY. Be STRONG. Get AFTER It.

 

Love for your Body, Mind & Spirit

Warmer weather is nudging its way to us and getting outside on a regular basis will be a reality that I encourage to embrace.  The simple act of walking has so many health benefits that if the pharmaceutical companies could capture all the benefits and stuff them into a capsule they’d surely do it and charge several dollars for a single capsule.

Walking doesn’t require any special training. Most folks can do I and it doesn’t take any equipment other than a decent pair of shoes.  You can walk at the park, around town, around the block in your neighborhood, around the perimeter of your parking lot at work on your lunch break, around the inside of a large store or shopping mall (just don’t stop to shop – keep on walking! – then shop).   30 minutes of exercise per days does so many good things for our bodies, minds and spirits. Start at your fitness level.  Walking at a slow pace is fine if that is where you are; challenge yourself to increase the intensity so that you are eventually walking at a pace that talking is possible, but you can’t carry on a chatty conversation with someone.

Let’s list a few things that WALKING can do for you:

  • Strengthens your BONES
  • Strengthens your HEART
  • LOWERS disease risk
  • Keeps WEIGHT in check
  • Can help prevent DEMENTIA
  • Gives you ENERGY
  • It makes you HAPPY

WHOA!  Did you just read that?

Regular walking has been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. It lowers levels of LDL (“bad” cholesterol) while increasing levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol) and keeps your blood pressure in check.   A walking habit can reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and can keep insulin resistance in check. Insulin resistance is a precursor to diabetes and plays a role in many chronic health conditions.  Active walkers have around a 20% lowered risk of developing cancer of the colon, breast and uterus.  30 minutes a day. That’s all you need to reap these benefits.

Walking uses calories – you are expending energy.  Walking is weight bearing so it stimulates and strengthens bones, increasing their density. This is especially important for women.  Post-Menopausal women are at greater risk for osteoporosis. Research shows that post-menopausal women who walk approximately 1 mile per day have higher bone density than women who don’t walk.   Walking helps maintain healthy joints and that is bad news for arthritis.  Walking strengthens and shapes your leg muscles, giving definition to calves, quads, and hamstrings and gives OOMPH to your glutes – especially if you add hills.  If you pay attention to your posture as you walk, your core muscles will get in on the benefits too.

Speed walking comes from your arms.  Hold them at a comfortable level at your waist, bent at the elbow, and swing them backwards and forwards as your walk.  Swing them faster and you’ll automatically speed up.  That movement is working the muscles of your arms, shoulders and upper back.  Using all those muscles challenges them and the more muscle we have and use, the more calories we burn, even at rest.

A brisk walk is one of the best natural energizers.  Walking boosts circulation and increases oxygen supply to every cell in our bodies, helping us to feel more alert and alive.  Think about that the next time you find yourself plopped down on the couch watching TV bemoaning that you “never have time” or are “too tired” to exercise. Get up, lace up the shoes and walk for 15 minutes. I guarantee that you will feel better.   Those 15 minutes will become 20, then 30.   Walking can clear a cluttered mind.  Walking alleviates stress and symptoms of depression.  Exercise releases “feel good” endorphins into the bloodstream, reducing stress and anxiety.

Physical activity has a protective effect on brain function and regular exercise can help us avoid brain shrinkage and preserve memory as the years pass.  Dementia affects one in 14 people over age 65 and one in 6 over age 80.   A study from Harvard a few years ago looked at walking and its many benefits.  That study found that later in life, walking becomes as much an INDICATOR of health as a PROMOTER of it.  After age 65, how fast you walk may predict how long you have to live. Researchers have found a consistent association between faster walking speed and a longer life.  Can you get your shoes on fast enough for a longer life with more memory?

In a nutshell:  Walking improves physical and mental function and it makes us feel GOOD.

Stay Healthy. Be Strong. Get After It.

Collagen. How to Get More Of It.

Anytime you are faced with a change you want to make to your health, always look to nutrition first and what you can do differently to support your body in taking care of itself.  If you don’t go to the source, you are merely putting a band-aid on something and sometimes you are working against your body if you don’t provide it with the nutrients it needs.

Collagen is an abundant protein in our bodies and it is found in our muscles, bones, skin, blood vessels, digestive system and our tendons and ligaments.  It is what gives our skin strength and elasticity and is what keeps our joints, tendons and ligaments healthier and moving with ease.  Tendons are thick bundles of collagen that connect muscle to bone and allow movement, while ligaments are flexible bundles of collagen that connect bone to bone and protect your joints.

Good collagen production can also ease the pain of osteoarthritis.  As we age, our collagen production naturally slows down.  This degenerative process is accounts for signs of aging such as wrinkles sagging skin and joint pain due to weakened or decreased cartilage.  Collagen helps our tendons ligaments and muscles heal after an injury or surgery.

Collagen is a long-chain amino acid compound of the individual amino acids proline, glycine, hydroxyproline and arginine.  Collagen accounts for 30% of protein found in the body and 70% of protein in skin.   Amino acids are the building blocks of protein.

The good news is, there are some things we can do nutritionally to help support collagen production.

First, a couple of things to stop or dramatically cut down on:  Smoking, excessive sun exposure (yes, that especially means tanning beds which are harmful in so many ways to our skin) and junk food/sugar consumption.  We need the Vitamin D benefits of real sunshine, but we don’t need to be baking ourselves.  Smoking, excessive un exposure and a diet high in added sugar speeds up the deterioration of collagen.

Secondly, the good things to add to your diet that support collagen production.  The biggies are:  Protein / Amino Acids and Vitamin C.

Vitamin C supports collagen production.  Eating fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C helps our bodies to maintain and build collagen.   The top 10 foods for Vitamin C are:  Oranges, Red Bell Peppers, Kale, Guava, Kiwi, Green Bell Peppers, Brussels sprouts, Broccoli, Strawberries & Grapefruit.

Protein from plant or animal based foods such as eggs (the protein is in the egg whites), beans, lentils, plain or lower sugar Greek or Icelandic yogurt, cottage cheese, hard cheese, quinoa, fish (canned tuna & salmon are easy options) chicken, turkey, beef, pork and to a lesser extent: nuts, seeds and higher protein vegetables.  Vegetables highest in protein are:  asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, artichoke, watercress and yellow corn.  Nuts and seeds have protein and healthy fat.  However, you cannot depend upon nuts and vegetables as your primary protein source.   Quality protein powders whether whey protein or vegan proteins such as hemp, brown rice or pea protein with added BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) can be used to supplement your diet, but I don’t recommend relying on supplements.  Real food is always best.

Collagen Peptides are another supplement you can consider for boosting your collagen production.  Choose an unflavored powder and mix it in a glass of juice, add it to a smoothie or add it to a batch of banana bread.   There are also Collagen supplements in capsule form.  One I especially like has hyaluronic acid in the formulation which is excellent for our joints, eyes and skin.

Exercise is beneficial for our overall health so it’s no surprise that exercise supports collagen production.  30 – 60 minutes of continuous exercise each day (30 minutes minimum, but building up to 60 minutes is optimal and you can do it in two 30 minute sessions).   Walking is excellent and can be done by almost anyone anywhere.  A walk around town, at the park, the parking lot at lunch, the perimeter of a large warehouse store or up and down your driveway gets the job done!  Jumping on a mini trampoline is also a good option that also has great benefits for our lymphatic system and bone density.  Bicycling, dancing, taking a group fitness class, lifting weights circuit style are all options.  Find an activity and get out there and do it!

Other foods to eat more of to support collagen health.

Red fruits & vegetables due to the lycopene they contain

Dark green vegetables are rich in lutein and vitamin C

Beans help produce hyaluronic acid which is a lubricating fluid found in skin,                                                 eyes, joints and connective tissue

Prunes & Blueberries are high in antioxidants that help neutralize free radicals before they can do damage

Omega 3 fatty acids help create an ideal environment for collagen production. You find Omega 3s in seaweed, fatty fish, walnuts, chia and flax seeds as well as cod, flax, walnut and mustard oil (can be found in Indian food stores).

Broth made from beef, chicken or fish bones is rich in collagen and can be consumed by itself or used as a base for soup.

Ensuring that we are eating nutritious foods that support collagen production is important for every single person.  If you are an older adult, or someone who is recovering from an orthopedic injury or surgery or an injury or surgery involving your skin, keeping your eye on your health relative to collagen production is essential and vitally important.  It truly isn’t that difficult to do; we just need to know what to do.

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG.  Get After It!

Eating for Arthritis

Arthritis pain and stiffness can make you feel that you don’t want to move, so you find yourself sitting more and moving less. That seems like the thing to do, but it isn’t.  Our joints need movement.   When healthy joints move, the bones glide against one another little friction due to a layer of slick articular cartilage and slippery synovial fluid.  Synovial fluid provides cushion and lubrication for the joints. When a joint is at rest, cartilage absorbs some of the synovial fluid. When the joint is in use the synovial fluid is squeezed out of the cartilage; moving our joints is essential to circulate the synovial fluid.  Gently moving the joints for 10 minutes each morning will start your day off with less stiffness and can lessen pain when you continue to move throughout the day.  Even if you are sitting, you can be moving your joints.  Exercise that is joint friendly without impact to the joints is essential and all it takes is your body, a chair and some music.  Ok, music is optional, but it gets you in the movement mood.  Ageless Grace® and chair Yoga are some suggestions.

FOOD.  What we put into our bodies matter.  Food is indeed medicine.  A basic place to start is eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains that you must cook to eat combined with crowding processed sugars out of your life. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition warns that processed sugars trigger the release of inflammatory messengers called cytokines. Sugar goes by many names so look out for any word ending in “ose” in ingredient labels.  Sugar is added to so many commercially prepared foods, many that you wouldn’t expect.  White flour products (bread, rolls, crackers and many cereals) are refined and lack fiber. These foods fuel the production of advanced glycation end (AGE) products that stimulate inflammation.

Beyond those basics, add more Omega-3 fatty acids to your life.  Omega-3s blunt inflammatory responses that may help lower the risk of arthritis, dementia, heart disease and depression. Prostaglandins are regulators of the immune system and the body’s inflammatory responses.  Omega-3s help weaken inflammatory responses while Omega-6 fats increase inflammatory responses.  When tend to get more Omega-6 fats in our diet due to convenience foods, and we don’t get enough Omega-3s.

Where can you find Omega-3s? Seaweed is the primary source – countless species of marine plants and algae that grow in the ocean as well as in rivers, lakes, and other water bodies. Fish eat seaweed so that is why the oil extracted from fatty fish is rich in Omega-3s.  That is why fish oil supplements are used to boost Omega-3 intake. If using a fish-oil supplement, look 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 front label usually highlights). Read the back of the label to get this information.

Fish oil supplements from Nordic waters are noted to be especially high quality.  Single source Cod Liver Oil is a good option.  Brands that I recommend are Carlson’s and Nordic Naturals.  A supplement is only as good as its quality and our body’s ability to absorb it.

Eating more fish and seafood is an excellent way to get more Omega-3 fats. The fattier the fish, the richer it is in Omega-3s.  Best choices are: Wild Alaskan Salmon, Arctic Char, Sardines, Halibut, Mackerel, Tuna, Rainbow Trout, Cod, Anchovies, Oysters, Shrimp, Mussels and Crab. 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.

Nuts and Seeds also have some Omega-3s. Walnuts have the greatest amount. Chia seeds, Flax seeds (ground or grind the whole seeds yourself) and Pumpkin (pepita) seeds also are good sources.  Flax seed oil, Walnut oil and Mustard oil are also rich sources. 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; try a salad made with those greens and mustard oil for an Omega-3 punch.

Vegetables and Fruit also contain Omega-3s. The richest sources are: dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, collards and broccoli rabe.  Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, Winter squash, Berries, Mangoes and Honeydew melon.

 In summary, eat less processed sugar and commercial baked goods. Eat more vegetables and fruit especially leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables and berries. Eat more fish. Eat more walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds and pumpkin seeds. Consider taking a high-quality fish oil supplement or a vegan algae supplement.  Get movement into your life and your joints every single day.

Stay HEALTHY. Be STRONG. Get AFTER It.