The ultimate treasure we all can agree on is a human life, and we are always looking for ways to make our life and the life of our loved ones long, healthy and fulfilled.
We try to watch what we eat, we go to the gyms to stay fit, we reduce the number of glasses of wine we get each week, we hope our genetics will help where our lifestyle fails to be up to par. However, more and more research is pointing toward a different factor that will ultimately define how long we will live, how healthy we will stay, and how happy we will feel. Can you guess?
Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a researcher at Brigham Young University, ran an extensive study that involved tens of thousands of middle-aged men and women to understand what reduced their chances of dying the most. Then she ranked top predictors strongly associated with longevity. It turned out that health-related factors like being lean vs. overweight, exercising or not, etc. are important but they didn’t make it to the top of the list.
Top 2 strongest predictors involved interaction with other people: close relationships that support you in bad times, and – surprisingly – daily social interactions, both personal and casual, like the corner store owner you get your snack from, or the woman walking her dog on your street every day. But here is the key – it only counts if it’s a face-to-face contact, so frequent texting with your loved ones will not be a good substitute. But “simply making eye contact with somebody, shaking hands, giving somebody a high-five”, as Susan Pinker states in her well-known TED talk about longevity, is enough to increase your trust and lower your stress. It even triggers a release of dopamine, a body’s natural high that can reduce pain!
Modern society leaves little opportunity for seniors to stay socially connected, especially if they are home bound. So, what if you do not live close to your elderly parents and cannot see them often enough? You can give them a gift of that essential social interaction via regular visits by a caregiver while you are away. Call us at North Oakland Caregivers to discuss your situation, we can help.
National Health Education week will be officially celebrated third week of October, and we are jumping at the opportunity to contribute! Our expertise lies in the area of senior home care, so, it is only fitting that we will focus on helping you be knowledgeable in the area of healthy aging.
So, what can you do OR what can you do for your senior family member or friend to make aging as healthy as possible? In addition to your physician’s recommendations* related to your specific situation ask yourself “Am I being mindful of these 5 things?”:
- Keep mentally and physically active: Remember the old saying “use it or lose it”! Simple things like regular reading, doing puzzles or playing games help keep the mind working. Likewise, regular physical activity to increase flexibility, strength and stamina are an invaluable bonus – it’s proven to help you live a longer and better quality life.
- Eat healthy foods: A strong connection between a healthy diet and a healthy body has been established long ago. While every person has their own dietary needs, there are some established heroes like vegetables and omega-3 fats that among other benefits help you keep your heart healthy and reduce inflammation. So, keep a list of your favorite dishes that include lots of veggies, fish and olive oil handy and use it often.
- Establish a healthy sleep pattern: Sleep has more health benefits than most people realize. Lack of sleep can cause depression, irritability, increased fall risk, and memory problems. Make sure you go to bed at the same time to help your body switch to a rest mode easier. Take a walk after dinner and avoid watching TV if you want to fall asleep faster.
- Reduce Stress: It is estimated that more than 90% of illness is either caused or complicated by stress. Long-term stress can damage brain cells and lead to depression. Stress may also cause memory loss, fatigue, and decreased ability to fight off and recover from infection. So, make sure you listen to your body and slow down if needed, take a minute or two to breathe deeply, find time in your day to meditate.
- Interact with others! Studies consistently show that individuals with the highest level of involvement in social relationships are more likely to live longer. But what if you find yourself in a socially limited situation? This is an area where North Oakland Caregivers has been helping seniors in their home OR residing in nursing homes via companionship. Our caregivers provide support by visiting, taking you to a movie or just staying in and having a friendly conversation.
These are just a few of the many things that may only take a SHORT part of the day, but may enhance your chances for a LONG healthy aging future. Why not start incorporating them into your routine?
* Always check with your physician before changing anything in your diet or activities of daily living or lifestyle.