Out With the Old: Why It’s Important for Seniors to Get Moving

Author: Maryann Vicari, UMC Physical Therapist

iStock-804385102 (3).jpg

How do we age well and gracefully? This question has been on the mind of human beings for ages. We have all been searching, to some extent, for the fountain of youth or a way to slow down the aging process. Unfortunately, that fountain has yet to be discovered, and no scientist has come up with a formula that will keep time from aging the body.

iStock-639800288.jpg

Nevertheless, there is some good news. We, as humans, can improve our aging process and increase the number of “healthy” years by doing something that humans have been doing for centuries – MOVE! That’s right, moving the body is one of the best ways to age well and to help reduce the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and obesity, which are a few of the main causes of death and poor aging among older adults.

Evidence has shown that regular physical activity is safe for healthy and even frail older adults (ages 65 and older). 

This physical activity can range from low intensity walking to more vigorous sports and resistance exercises, depending on the individual’s preference and physical ability.  Basically, for older adults, some form of physical activity is better than nothing at all or a predominantly sedentary lifestyle.

iStock-859670168.jpg

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), older adults need at least 2.5 hours of moderate intensity aerobic activity (think brisk walking) every week, which is about 30 minutes a day, and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hip, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

This may sound like a lot, but please do not be discouraged; you don’t have to start here.  If you have never worked out before or have been inactive for some time, you can safely work your way up to this point by joining a local wellness center or YMCA.  There, you can find trained professionals that can help you work towards your goal of achieving a healthy and physically active lifestyle.  As always, you should consult your physician before beginning any sort of exercise routine, especially if this is new to you or if you have a pre-existing heart or metabolic disease, such as diabetes and hypertension.

To make an appointment for a consultation with one of our primary care physicians, click here.

iStock-898430846.jpg

Keep this in mind: If you want to improve your health or if you want to maintain the level of health you have for years to come, your best bet is get or stay as active as you can.  The more active you are as you age the less likely you will be to develop debilitating diseases, which can only work as catalysts to age you beyond your years.

So, get out there and move your bones!

 

References:

https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/older_adults/index.htm

McPhee, J., et al.  Physical activity in older age: perspectives for healthy aging and frailty.  Biogerontology. (2016). 17: 567 – 580.

Tell It to My Heart: The Effects of Emotions on the Heart

iStock-901678548.jpg

Since ancient times, the heart has been a symbol of our emotions. But, scientists have uncovered a physical link between emotions and heart health.

iStock-658443072 (1).jpg

What the Research Shows

Science suggests an association among stress, depression, and heart disease. Several studies strongly suggest that certain psychosocial factors such as grief, depression, and job loss contribute to heart attack and cardiac arrest. Stress may affect risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure. Stress may also affect behaviors that increase risk such as smoking, overeating, drinking too much alcohol, and physical inactivity. Managing and treating these conditions is important to reduce your overall health risk.

Our primary care physicians are trained in doing just that.

iStock-629840910.jpg

Stress and Your Heart

Emotional stress causes a negative chain reaction within your body. If you’re angry, anxious, tense, frustrated, frightened, or depressed, your body’s natural response is to release stress hormones. These hormones include cortisol and adrenaline. They prepare your body to deal with stress. They cause your heart to beat more rapidly and your blood vessels to narrow to help push blood to the center of the body. The hormones also increase your blood pressure. This “fight or flight” response is thought to date back to prehistoric times, when we needed an extra burst of adrenaline to escape predators.

After your stress subsides, your blood pressure and heart rate should return to normal. If you’re continually stressed out though, your body doesn’t have a chance to recover. This may lead to damage of your artery walls.

Although it is not clear that stress alone causes high blood pressure or heart disease, it does pose an indirect risk and also has a negative effect on your general wellness.

iStock-170122405.jpg

Stress and Your Reactions

You can manage stress in both healthy and unhealthy ways. Unfortunately, many people deal with stress by smoking, drinking too much, and overeating. All of these unhealthy habits can contribute to heart disease. But using healthy ways to keep your stress under control allows you to better protect yourself against heart disease. Try these ideas:

  • Exercise. When you are anxious and tense, exercise is a great way to burn off all that excess energy and stress. Go for a walk, a bike ride, or a swim, or go to the gym for your favorite class. Plan to exercise for 30 to 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity, 4 to 5 days a week to relieve stress and improve your heart health.
  • Breathe deeply. Yoga is not only good for your body, but for your mind, too. The meditative, deep breathing done in yoga is calming and relieves stress, especially if you do it regularly.
  • Take a break. When your stress level rises, take a few minutes to escape your surroundings. Spend a few quiet moments alone, read a short story, or listen to your favorite music. Cultivate gratitude. Make a list of what you’re grateful for in your life to focus on the positives.
  • Get together with friends. Social media is no substitute for being with people you love. Create some weekly rituals with your friends. If they live far away, try volunteering or joining a local group of people with similar interests to yours. Research suggests that people with frequent social connections enjoy better protection against high blood pressure.

iStock-643324996.jpg

Research is ongoing to look more closely at the link between emotional health and heart health. But the existing evidence is consistent enough to prove that you should take its potential effects on your heart seriously. Exercise regularly and keep your emotional health in check, and you’ll build a stronger buffer against heart disease.

To learn more about Heart and Vascular Services at UMC, click here.

 

Safe and…Sound: Tips for Voice Conservation During Mardi Gras

Author: Kevin Hemenger, UMC Speech Pathologist

Fotolia_39740539_Subscription_Monthly_M-795x530.jpg

Most of us take our voice for granted—it’s there when we need it, and we don’t think much about it. But when your voice isn’t working right, it can cause serious problems, like one of these vocal disorders. It is important to take care of your vocal health just like you take care of other aspects of your health.

iStock-485924093.jpg

You have two vocal cords located in your throat a little below the jawline (behind the Adam’s apple in men). The vocal cords are made of very delicate tissue that vibrates to produce voice. They stretch and contract at the same time to produce all of the different sounds and pitches that we use while talking and singing.

If the vocal cords are overused, they can become inflamed and swollen, so they don’t vibrate as well, causing the voice to sound hoarse. With repeated or frequent overuse, the vocal cords can be injured. Depending on the injury, this can require speech therapy or surgery.

iStock-504036189.jpg

It’s easy to get carried away at parades, sporting events, concerts, and other festive occasions and overuse your voice. In these situations, you should avoid yelling above your typical conversational level.

800.jpeg

Tips for Saving Your Voice

  • Try clapping, waving, or whistling instead.
  • A “noisemaker” is also a good way to express your excitement.
  • If you know someone riding in a parade, make a sign to get their attention—it’s easier for the rider to spot you that way too!

It’s important to drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids. 

Your vocal cords are very susceptible to dehydration. Be sure to have water or juice with you on the parade route and drink plenty of these throughout the day.

iStock-658408422.jpg

If you do overuse your voice and find that you are hoarse the next day, rest your voice as much as possible and drink plenty of fluids. Typically, a one-time voice overuse will take care of itself in a couple of days.

If your voice is hoarse for more than a month with no improvement, then you should consider making an appointment with an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) physician, who will take a look at your vocal cords and may refer you to Speech Therapy.

To make an appointment with an ENT at UMC, please call (504) 702-5700. Our ENT Clinic is located on the 3rd floor of the Ambulatory Care Building (ACB) in Zone C.

Stay safe and SOUND this Mardi Gras Season!