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Start Weight Training Now for Healthy Old Age

Monday , May 31 , 2021

Start Weight Training Now for Healthy Old Age

Hippocrates said, “That which is used develops; that which is not wastes away.”

As adults steadily move towards old age, it becomes progressively more important to maintain health and fitness through various exercises. More and more, research shows that strength training exercises, in particular, can help maintain health and fitness later in life.

On the flip side, if efforts are not made, the age-related loss of muscle mass can become a slippery slope from which it’s hard to recover.

Why is strength training so necessary for healthy aging? And does that mean other exercises, like walking and stretching, can be ignored? Keep reading to find out!

Why do we lose muscle as we age?

Research from Duke University has found that simple strength-related activities (such as standing up from a chair or balancing on one leg) often become more difficult as early as your 50s.  But why is that?

Often, it’s simply because people become more sedentary as they age – whether it’s due to health issues, physical limitations, or fatigue. In addition, as we grow older:

  • Hormone levels change
  • Protein requirements alter
  • And motor neurons die

Altogether, this can lead to a condition known as Sarcopenia, or the age-related loss of muscle mass. The word means flesh loss – from the Greek’ sarx’ (or flesh) and ‘penia’ (or loss).

This loss of muscle can affect posture, stability, and balance. It is one reason older adults fall so often, but older adults can fix it through regular exercise and strength training.

Sarcopenia can begin to affect adults as young as 30 years old, but it’s not until around 50 that the effects become very noticeable. At that point, muscle mass typically decreases about 30% during the next two decades. Then, even more dramatic losses begin after the age of 80.

It is important to note that age-related muscle loss can vary significantly from person to person.

Those that were active in their younger years are far more likely to stay fit as they get older – that’s why most experts suggest adults start weight training well before they reach middle age.

Signs of Sarcopenia

Often, the signs of Sarcopenia can be vague. Symptoms such as feeling physically weaker or suffering from frequent falls might be attributed to old age or other health issues. However, if you or a loved one experiences one or more of these signs and can’t explain why you should talk to a health professional:

  • Diminished muscle strength
  • Feeling physically weaker over time
  • Having more difficulty lifting common objects
  • Poor handgrip strength
  • Difficulty walking or rising from a seated position
  • Becoming exhausted quickly and having difficulty carrying out daily tasks
  • Unexplained weight loss

Fighting age-related muscle loss

The only way to stay ahead of the aging process is by staying active and fit.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, older people who lift weights can slow or even reverse the age-related loss of muscle mass. In fact, they can actually GAIN strength and better mobility, mental sharpness, and better metabolic health.

Experts say that a combination of aerobic exercise, strength training, and balance work is the key to preventing or reversing the condition, with a particular emphasis on the strength training portion.

A typical weight training program might include:

  • 8 to 10 exercises that target all the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulder, and arms)
  • Sets of 12 to 15 reps, performed at an effort of about 5 to 7 on a 10-point scale
  • 2 to 3 workouts per week

Of course, it is best to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. Once you’ve been given the go-ahead, a qualified personal trainer can help set up a sequence of exercises tailored to your abilities and can monitor you for safety and technique.

And remember: All of the exercises in the world won’t help if you don’t eat appropriately! So always try to get lots of protein (shoot for 30 grams per meal), check your vitamin D levels, and eat your Omega 3s.

Posted in: Aging, Health

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National Senior Health & Fitness Day

Monday , May 24 , 2021

National Senior Health & Fitness Day

On the last Wednesday of May each year, thousands of older adults put on their sneakers and celebrate National Senior Health & Fitness Day. At ComForCare, we encourage all adults aged 65+ to make exercise a part of their daily routine!

Seniors benefit in many ways from exercise, including stress reduction and stronger muscles and joints. Even better? “Exercise” doesn’t have to be a 60-minute aerobics class or a 5-mile run. There are countless types of physical activity, and most can be modified to fit physical limitations.

Keep reading for more information on the advantages of exercise for seniors and a few fun ways you can get moving.

Benefits of Exercise for Older Adults

As an older adult, exercise can help you in many ways. Countless studies show that it improves both physical and mental health, which helps us maintain independence as we age. Below are six of the best benefits for aging adults:

Prevent Disease

Exercise improves overall immune function, which is important for seniors as their immune systems are sometimes compromised. Even light physical activity, such as walking, can improve digestive function, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

As we age, our metabolism naturally slows down, and maintaining a healthy weight can be challenging. Regular exercise helps boost your metabolism and build muscle mass, helping your body to burn more calories.

Decreased Risk of Falls

Exercise improves your strength, balance, flexibility, and mobility, which in turn can reduce your risk of falls. Strength training can also help alleviate symptoms of conditions such as arthritis and chronic joint pain.

Improved Cognitive Function

Studies show that regular physical activity can lower the risk of cognitive decline and memory loss, no matter when you begin a routine. In addition, exercise can also help slow the progressions of brain disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Better Sleep

Quality sleep is vital for your overall health, especially as you get older. Regular activity can help you fall asleep faster, sleep more soundly, and wake feeling more refreshed.

Improved Mental Health

Regular exercise can boost endorphins and reduce the effects of stress, anxiety, and depression. Physical activity can also provide an increase in confidence, leading to better self-esteem and more social interaction.

Easy Exercises for Seniors

Want to get started, but not sure what to try? Whether you’re a total beginner or an exercise pro, these activities can help boost your physical and mental health:

Walking. Walking is the perfect way to get started with an exercise routine. It requires no special equipment, can be done anywhere at any time, and you can move at your own pace.

Water aerobics. Many gyms and fitness centers offer senior-focused water aerobics classes. Working out in the water reduces stress on the body’s joints while still providing strength and cardio fitness.

Tai chi. This martial arts-inspired system can increase balance, stability, and flexibility in older adults. Practiced regularly, it can also help reduce pain in those suffering from conditions such as Fibromyalgia or osteoarthritis.

Yoga. Yoga combines a series of poses with breathing and can be adapted to suit many different fitness levels. It is known to improve strength, flexibility, and balance.

Senior fitness classes. Many senior living communities and gyms/fitness centers offer classes tailored to meet the needs of older adults. Exercising with others can not only help improve fitness but can be fun and provide a new way to socialize.

Getting Started

Getting active is one of the best decisions you can make for your overall health as you age but proceed with caution (especially if you’re a newbie). Get medical clearance from your doctor, consider any health concerns, and listen to your body. Now get out there and have fun!

Posted in: Aging

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The Surprising Link Between Dementia and Music

Monday , May 10 , 2021

The Surprising Link Between Dementia and Music

Alzheimer’s Disease is a neurological disorder in which the death of brain cells causes memory loss and cognitive decline. Typically, symptoms start mild and get progressively worse over time. Eventually, Alzheimer’s patients will have difficulty remembering recent events or recognizing people they know, and their ability to reason will fade.

If this sounds stressful to you, it’s because it is. Those who have Alzheimer’s – and other forms of dementia – often experience severe anxiety and disorientation. But new research shows that listening to music may help.

5.7 Million Americans Live with Alzheimer’s Disease

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.7 million people in the United States live with Alzheimer’s Disease – about one in every six women and one in every ten men over 55. That number is expected to increase to 14 million diagnosed cases by 2050.

The first signs of the Disease often include:

  • Memory loss.
  • Poor judgment.
  • Taking longer than usual to complete daily tasks.
  • Losing or misplacing things.

Alzheimer’s progresses differently for each person, but ultimately everyone will have trouble with day-to-day decision making, self-care, and the use of language. Mood and personality changes are widespread, as are anxiety and aggression.

These changes aren’t just difficult for the patient but also for the people around them. Both caregivers and healthcare professionals are constantly trying to develop strategies to prevent or relieve the emotional distress experienced by their loved ones and patients.

One way of alleviating Alzheimer’s-related anxiety has consistently stood out as promising: Listening to music.

Can Music Help Someone with Alzheimer’s?

A 2017 study from The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease looked at individuals with subjective cognitive decline and found that “music listening can significantly enhance both subjective memory function and objective cognitive performance in adults with SCD, and may offer promise for improving outcomes in this population.”

A more recent study from scientists at the University of Utah Health music can “tap into the salience network of the brain that is still relatively functioning.” 

The brain’s salience network is a collection of brain regions that select which stimuli are deserving of our attention. It contributes to many different functions, including communication, social behavior, and self-awareness.

According to study co-author Dr. Jeff Anderson, the team was interested in seeing how music might stimulate undamaged regions of this and other brain networks. Over three weeks, they assisted participants (17 people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease) in finding and selecting songs known and meaningful to them.

Using this information, the team created personalized playlists, which they loaded onto portable media players and instructed the participants and their caregivers on how to use them. The effects, they say, were astounding.

Music Stimulated Brain Activity

When the scientists performed MRI scans of the participants’ brains while listening to music from their playlists, they found that individual brain networks were stimulated. In addition, communication between separate networks was greater.

The affected areas of the brain included the visual network, salience network, and executive network.

“This is objective evidence from brain imaging,” says senior study author Dr. Norman Foster, “that shows personally meaningful music is an alternative route for communicating with patients who have Alzheimer’s disease.”

“Language and visual memory pathways are damaged early as the disease progresses,” he notes, “but personalized music programs can activate the brain, especially for patients who are losing contact with their environment.”

The Future of Music Therapy

Many people believe that music holds the key to stopping – or even reversing – Alzheimer’s-related cognitive decline. Still, despite the encouraging results of the University of Utah study, researchers warn against wishful thinking.

This particular study had a small pool of participants and unreplicated results. In addition, researchers were unable to track how long the positive effects of music listening could last.

Bottom line? More research is needed.

Using Music to Connect with Your Loved Ones

Even if we don’t know if or how we will use music to treat Alzheimer’s in the future, we know that it helps calm those who suffer. Listening to or singing songs can provide many emotional benefits to Alzheimer’s patients and those with other forms of dementia.

If you’d like to use music to help a loved one who has Alzheimer’s, consider these tips from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Think about your loved one’s preferences. What kind of music does your loved one enjoy? What music evokes memories of happy times in his or her life? Involve family and friends by asking them to suggest songs or make playlists.
  • Set the mood.To calm your loved one during mealtime or a morning hygiene routine, play music or sing a soothing song. When you’d like to boost your loved one’s mood, use more upbeat or faster-paced music.
  • Avoid overstimulation. When playing music, eliminate competing noises. Turn off the TV. Shut the door. Set the volume based on your loved one’s hearing ability.
  • Encourage movement. Help your loved one to clap along or tap his or her feet to the beat. If possible, consider dancing with your loved one.
  • Sing along. Singing along to music together with your loved one can boost the mood and enhance your relationship.
  • Pay attention to your loved one’s response. If your loved one seems to enjoy particular songs, play them often. If your loved one reacts negatively to a specific song or type of music, choose something else.

Keep in mind that music may have no effect because each Alzheimer’s patient is different. Still, it’s worth it to try!

Posted in: Dementia

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