Monday, August 22, 2016

It’s in the Blood

Regularly scheduled health screenings are important, especially as you grow older. An annual blood screening is one of the most important components for prevention of degenerative diseases. Blood tests, if the right tests are done, and done correctly, serve as a snapshot of your current health, and these tests can detect potential health problems sooner in their progression. Early detection can result in a more effective plan to manage the health concern, whether that be taking preventative measures, eliminating the concern, or adjusting your lifestyle to live with the condition. More than half the information in the average patient’s medical chart comes from diagnostic test results, including blood tests.

What I mean by “the right tests are done, and done correctly” is that there are a large variety of blood tests available. So in order to benefit from the results of a blood test, you need to be sure that your doctor is requesting the right one. Most doctors require only minimal testing for their patients, mainly to monitor the more common health concerns such as cholesterol, blood sugar levels, liver and kidney function, and blood cell count and size. However, as we grow older we need to focus on more than just the vitals to prevent potential life threatening illnesses and disease.

Men and women both need to monitor hormone imbalances, memory impairment, bone loss, weight gain or loss, and mental state. A lot of the common illnesses and diseases related to aging can be slowed down and prevented through early detection. Early detection can be accomplished through more extensive blood tests. Most tests for men and women are basically the same. However, there are certain tests that should be considered that are more gender specific.

I don’t think it’s my place to specifically breakdown each blood test that is available, including the more common ones. I’m not a physician nor a scientist, nor am I an expert in this field by any means. I can give you my recommendations based on the tests I have taken, and I can list some that I have found in my research that may be of interest to you in determining what is needed for your personal health checklist.

Ever since I turned fifty, I have had the need to pay closer attention to my hormone levels and my bone density. My family has a medical history of osteoporosis. Therefore, it is important to me and to my doctor to regularly check my levels, including bone density. Prevention is key here. Osteoporosis does not have to be a common disease for the elderly. It can be prevented or prolonged. Through additional blood tests, I have discovered that I have a thyroid issue. It appears through blood tests that the concern has been diagnosed early enough that hopefully through time I will be able to better manage my thyroid health and slow the damaging effects of this issue considerably. Look for future articles on this topic.

Here's a basic list of components to be tested for:
  • Complete Blood Count (CBC)
    • Red blood cells (RBC)
    • White blood cells (WBC)
  • Chemistry Panel
    • Cardiovascular
    • Endocrine
    • Hepatobiliary
    • Kidney
  • Hormone Levels
    • Total and Free Testosterone
    • Progesterone (Female Specific)
    • Prostate-Specific Antigen; PSA (Male Specific)
    • DHEA-S
    • Estradiol
    • Homocysteine
    • Cardio C-reactive protein (CRP)
Part of having a blood test performed correctly is being appropriately prepared for the test. Before the blood test screening, be sure to inform your doctor of any medications, supplements, and vitamins (herbs or other) that you are taking. Your doctor will inform you which items you may have to forgo for the testing purposes and which ones will not affect the blood test results. It’s best to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet in plenty of time before your scheduled blood test to get the best results. Also, do not drink alcohol or engage in any non-prescribed substances prior to the blood test. If the blood test is considered a “fasting” blood test, then it is recommended not to eat or drink anything at least 12 hours or more before the test. However, continue to drink water unless otherwise directed by your doctor.  Always check with your doctor prior to the blood test to know how to properly prepare for the most accurate results.

I hope you found this article informative and easy to understand. I hope you investigate further what the best blood tests and medical screenings are for you and include them in your healthy checklist to refer back to time and time again.

Article References:

The Lifesaving Benefits of Annual Blood Screening, by Penny Baron. May 2005. Life Extension Magazine.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Fresh, Fit, and Over 50 – A Journey to Great Health and Longevity

Growing “OLD” doesn’t have to be a “life sentence”. We can actually extend the years and make them into gratifying, energetic years by taking care of our bodies and protecting them from those very things that cause aging in the first place.

As we age, our bodies are more susceptible to a variety of illnesses and diseases, including respiratory diseases, Alzheimer’s, Osteoporosis, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, obesity, depression, more frequent accidental injuries, teeth and mouth conditions, and the list goes on – all of which are preventable! 

Arthritis, for instance, is the leading chronic condition that affects us as we age. Although wear and tear on the body’s joints is inevitable over time, there are ways to better manage and live a practically pain free lifestyle. Heart disease is another condition that is more common as we age. In fact, it is the leading cause of death, BUT it too is preventable. 

Diet and lifestyle are important parts to sustaining longevity and feeling good as we age. Properly nourish the body by incorporating minimally processed and nutrient-dense wholefoods, and hydrate the body by drinking lots of water. Treat yourself to daily low-impact cardio and stretching, and engage in strength and resistance training several times a week. This will allow you to actively improve on your flexibility, balance, and core while keeping your body in tip-top shape. Enhance your ability to move freely as you grow older so you can stay off the rocker! It can be done!

While treatment is helpful, prevention is key. Frequently get screened. Check your blood work. Understand your body and your individual risks for different diseases before they sneak up on you. The sooner you become familiar with your health, the sooner you can take control and heal your body.

Having a good mental attitude is just as important as having great physical health. A healthy mind is absolutely necessary for keeping a healthy body. The mind is the operator for the machinery. The less stress your operator is under, the smoother your machinery will perform. Take time for rest and relaxation, and minimize your stress.

You are in control of your health. By incorporating healthy lifestyle habits, self-awareness, and stress management into your everyday routines, you can significantly reduce and slowdown the otherwise inevitable consequences of aging.

I now invite you to join me on my journey to a longer and healthier life over 50.

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All About Pain

The subject of pain is very personal to me. Pain should be considered an important part of life. It’s the one trigger that lets us know that we have a problem that needs to be taken care of. Whether that means an injury, health ailment, emotional challenge, or whatever the issue may be, pain lets us know the urgency. However, the chronic condition of pain is a sign that the issue is deeper, and the effects can be more damaging to long-term quality of life if not treated properly. I personally have been challenged with chronic pain most of my adult life. It is a serious issue and a constant concern for anyone who may suffer with chronic pain.
Chronic pain may be a direct response to acute pain. Acute pain is usually the result of tissue damage, such as a broken bone, skin burn, headache, muscle cramp, sore throat, or sprained wrist or ankle. Acute pain goes away after the damage heals or if the cause of pain is removed. Pain is triggered by the nerve cells. According to Arizona Pain Specialists, the simplified answer is that when the damage occurs, it signals the nerve cells to signal the brain that there is an urgency for repair, resulting in “acute” pain. Chronic pain is the persistent trigger after the healing or repair from an acute pain trigger. This continued stimulation of the nerves causes changes and damage to the nervous system. Many times chronic pain results when the true cause of acute pain is not discovered, such as with many cases of lower back pain, chronic illnesses such as Lupus, some types of arthritis, and even cancer. Pain is the most common trigger of injury and disease, with varying ranges of intensity from a minor ache to an unbearable agonizing trigger.

One major health cause of chronic pain is inflammation. Chronic inflammation results in joint pain, fatigue, a variety of illnesses and diseases, stubborn fat, and a list of other ailments that will certainly speed up the aging process. Fortunately, most inflammation can be reduced if not removed altogether. This can be done through proper detoxification, diet, relaxation, exercise, and rest. By taking care of your overall health, you can help prevent inflammation that would otherwise result in illness and disease that may create chronic pain.  Did you know that more people visit doctors for chronic pain than any other health or medical concern? I recently read that there are more than 100 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain. That’s a “painful” statistic! Unfortunately, a lot of people who suffer from pain never actually address the root cause, so they continue to suffer, more than likely for the rest of their lives. Additionally, current medical therapies can sometimes lead to a host of negative side effects, including nutrient depletion and addiction, especially if the root cause is not determined.
I personally have suffered from chronic back pain since I was about 16-17 years old. I suffered an injury, which basically caused damage to my lower back. Throughout the years I have tried practically every type of therapy and prescription remedy available. In addition to the lower back injury, I suffered from Osteoarthritis. I was actually scheduled for lower back surgery in 2006. Fortunately, the specialist advised me against it. He told me that I may or may not find relief, as a chronic condition like mine can continue as I age, especially since I suffered from Osteoarthritis. It could have been financially devastating if I had gone through with the expensive surgery, only to have temporary relief. Furthermore, not all people who do the surgeries have positive results. In fact, I have known several people who have done more than one back surgery, and they still suffer from chronic back pain. In some cases, the surgery resulted in more damage. Surgery is a serious step for chronic back pain. Be sure to check out all options available to you before making a decision to do so.

Did you know that according to the American Chiropractic Association, about 80% of the world’s population will experience back problems at some time in their lives? Back pain is one of the leading causes of disability. More reason to take care of your health, strengthen your core, and eliminate as much stress and inflammation as possible!

Although I still have pain, I have learned how to manage my pain. Sometimes I feel completely free of it. I have found this freedom through improving my lifestyle and overall health. It does get more challenging as I age, but I am always working towards feeling good, youthful, and pain free!

Learning to Live Pain Free through Lifestyle Changes

Over time I will be sharing different ways to manage chronic pain and suggesting lifestyle changes that could help potentially eliminate the pain altogether. Remember the Health Checklist I posted previously? The checklist is a good place to start to address chronic pain and begin the healing process. One of the main keys to healthy living and longevity is monitoring your health over time through scheduled check-ups and screenings, as mentioned in the Health Checklist.   Keeping yourself healthy also means reducing or eliminating as much chronic pain as possible. Remember that chronic pain is a trigger that tells you there is something wrong, and constant inflammation may result in chronic pain. Work towards finding the root cause of your pain, then create a healthy program to begin the healing process. To your health!

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Friday, July 29, 2016

A Personal Health Checklist - A Key to Healthy Living

One of the key actions I’m taking to live a healthy, long life, especially as I grow “older”, is getting regular medical check-ups, including specific health screenings and tests. Regular check-ups allow for early detection of a potential health issue. Early detection results in prevention and faster, more successful, healing if need be.

A good way to keep track of your health check-ups is to create your own personal health checklist. The checklist can be simple, but needs to be thorough. Your personal health checklist should include dates of when you were checked, what you were checked for, and what the results were. You can break it down by standard tests, and then add a section for specific tests catered to your own personal health needs. It’s a great tool, as it not only serves as a record of your health, but as a reminder of when you need to have a scheduled physical with your doctor. You and your doctor can decide from there what your needs are and how frequently you should get specific screenings done. I personally have been getting regular check-ups about every six months.

I’ve researched this topic and have found a variety of suggested and recommended actions to take to include on the checklist, as well as looked at my own personal checklists over the past few years. I strongly urge you to talk to your medical professional when putting together your own personal checklist to ensure that you have the best advice possible. You are more than welcome to use my recommended items for your checklist that I have included below. Keep in mind, that I’m basing these recommendations on MY research and own personal discovery, but by no means is this the best assessment for YOU to use for YOUR own needs. I do feel that this is a very important step in staying healthy and aging gracefully.

  • For both Men and Women over 50, I recommend the following screenings and tests:
    • Blood pressure Screening – Every time you go to the doctor you should be checked for blood pressure. If you don’t go to the doctor often, then have this check at least every two years, if not sooner.
    • Cholesterol and Heart Disease Screening – You should be screened at least every five years, if not sooner depending upon your current health and family health history. My doctor actually checks me at least every 6 to 12 months.
    • Colonoscopy Screenings and Colon Cancer – As long as you do not have a family history of colon cancer, or have current health issues, then every 10 years will work.
    • Osteoporosis Screening and Bone Density – The frequency of this screening depends on your health history and ongoing health as you age.
    • Eye Health Screening and Glaucoma – I personally recommend this screening every one to two years depending upon your current and historical health.
    • Teeth Screening, Gum Disease, and Mouth Cancers – Get regular check-ups as needed. The frequency of check-ups and screenings will depend on your dental professional’s recommendations.
    • Skin Screening and Skin Cancers – A good rule of thumb is to have your skin checked whenever you see suspicious moles, rashes, or other skin conditions that are not normal for you. Also, take preventive measure to protect your skin as much as possible. Sun damage and unnecessary radiation can result in skin cancer, which usually results in death from the spread of cancer to your other organs and tissues if not caught early.
    • Lung Cancer Screening – I mainly recommend this screening for those individuals who have a history of heavy smoking, are currently smoking, or have been exposed to long-term secondhand smoke. Those in an industry that involves inhalable, and potentially carcinogenic, particulates should also be screened.
    • Blood Screening – I recommend getting your blood work done more frequently: at least every 6 to 12 months, or more frequently if there are drastic changes in your health. Blood screenings should include your overall lipid panels, blood cell counts, blood sugar levels, and any other important factors that can be measured in the blood to help with prevention. The older we get, the more important it is to also have our hormone levels checked, such as those produced by and affect our thyroid.  Hormones are also measured within the blood.
    • Immunizations – The older we get, the more susceptible we are to getting communicable diseases and illnesses. Being vaccinated for whooping cough, hepatitis A and B, and tetanus are all important for prevention. If you haven’t been vaccinated for these already, I recommend checking with your medical professional to determine what is best and how often you should renew your vaccinations. As for the flu shot, I think it’s more important for those individuals who work or live closely with individuals with weakened immune systems (HIV/AIDS, Cancer, etc.) or work within the medical field to do so. I’m not totally in agreement with just getting them every year because the media says “it’s flu season” and that we should do it. I won’t! The flu shot is more of a gamble due to the constant evolution of the virus each year. Those individuals that do suffer from HIV/AIDS, Cancer, and other severe illnesses cannot get vaccinations because their immune systems are compromised and the vaccine could prove harmful. . It’s important for these people to avoid other people with flus, colds, and other bacterial and viral infections at all costs, which is why we should still continue to get vaccinated for most preventable diseases.
  • Screenings specific to Women over 50 – I recommend having a pelvic exam and pap smear at least every two years or sooner, depending upon your health history. I recommend more frequent self-breast examinations. Breast cancer is one of the faster evolving cancers, thus early detection and prevention is the key function of breast examinations. Mammograms can be a useful screening method; however, I side more with caution due to the frequent exposure to radiation. 
  • Screenings specific to Men over 50 – I recommend prostate and testicular cancer screenings at least annually, especially if there is a family history for this. 

I cannot stress enough the importance of checking with your medical professional to create the best health checklist for yourself. Prevention and early detection is the key function of this checklist, and the key to longevity.

In addition to tracking this information on your personal health checklist, you should track your weight, eating habits, medication and supplementation intake, and your lifestyle. All of this information will be extremely beneficial to living a happy and healthy life, especially as you grow older.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Exercise Is More Important Than Ever After 50

As we grow older, exercise becomes more important than ever. Regular exercise helps boost energy, strengthen bones and muscles, with flexibility, mobility, and balance, and prevent injury. Exercise helps to maintain a healthy weight by increasing metabolism and burning more calories. The impact that exercise has on the body is tremendous, especially as we age. When the body is in shape and running at optimum, immune function improves, which helps reverse chronic illness and disease. Exercise helps improve digestive function heart health, and bone density. It’s also great for managing stress, improving brain function, memory, and mood, which can also help reduce chronic pain. Exercise is one of the key ingredients to slowing down the aging process, and improving overall health. Happy, healthy longevity is the result!

There is no real excuse not to exercise at any age. It’s true that certain limitations, such as physical disabilities, can alter the type of exercise or the frequency. But even with these circumstances, exercise is still a key ingredient to healing and health. Exercise is not limited to the gym or track either. There are numerous ways to get physical movement into your daily routine. Exercises can be done from a chair, the bed, on the floor, standing up, in the tub, in the car - the possibilities are endless. The idea is to consistently get the body moving and breathing on a daily basis. You don’t have to be a gym rat, yogi, or super athlete to benefit from exercise.

Me doing Leg Press, April 2016

Remember the five essential elements for living? Oxygen was the first element. Exercise is one of the key activities to increasing oxygen. Plus, exercise can be fun! Start out slow, but keep challenging yourself to do more and push yourself, being careful not to injure yourself in the process. The more you exercise and push yourself to improve, the better your results, and the better you will look and feel!

My 53-year old husband doing Squats, April 2016

Some of the best physical activities for people over 50 to participate in are yoga, swimming, dancing, walking, and my new favorite - weight lifting. Weight lifting is something that I can do with my husband; it’s easy to set goals where I can measure the improvements. I still enjoy the other activities I mentioned, but weight lifting for me is my new “longevity key”!

When choosing an exercise activity, it’s important that they include opportunities for improved flexibility and mobility, non-strenuous cardio for better breathing and endurance, as well as movements that can build strength in both the bones and muscles. Most of all, the activity should be safe and fun so that you stay with it and make it a part of your regular routine.

Me doing Chest Press, April 2016

Here is a short list of helpful websites on the topic of exercising over the age of 50. I hope you take the time to read through some of the great information that is available, and use this article to inspire you to start your own personal exercise regime, if you haven’t already. “So let’s get moving!”

My husband doing Flat Bench Chest Press, April 2016

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Sunday, July 17, 2016

The 5 Essentials to Living

The value of life can be easily determined by five basic necessities for survival: water, oxygen, food, shelter, and sleep. If these essential needs are not properly met, it can greatly affect your health, well-being, and overall quality of life.

Oxygen is one of the most basic and necessary elements for life. Good quality air can provide the body with the oxygen needed to maintain the brain and cells. Avoid areas with smoke and other air pollutants. Surround yourself with fresh air every chance possible.

In addition to oxygen, water is most essential for living. A healthy human body could barely survive 3 to 4 days without water. Without water the body will dehydrate, and blood supply will greatly reduce and thicken. As blood thickens, it’s harder for oxygen to be carried to the brain. Water is also needed to help cleanse and replenish the cells, help carry nutrients to the various parts of the body, and so forth. Our bodies are made of mostly water – about 70%. A chronically dehydrated body greatly impairs its ability for a quality life.

The human body needs quality food to sustain. The body can actually survive for several days, or even weeks, without food. It's able to do this since it will use the reserves of fat in the body, and then eventually the glycogen reserves in the liver and the proteins in the muscles. However, the quality of these reserves for survival are dependent on the overall health and balance of the body. Food is essential. Not just any kind of food, but nutritious food. Food that includes the micro and macro nutrients needed for the body to heal, grow, and thrive. These nutrients from the food consumed impact your skin, bones, muscles, organs, brain function, sex drive, nervous system, and every essential part of the body’s ability to function.

Shelter or protection from the elements is also essential to life. Protecting your body from over exposure to the outside elements such as bad weather, extreme temperatures, poor air quality, too much sun rays, impure water, dangerous people, animals, and drugs, and stressful environments in general all fall under protecting yourself with proper shelter.

And lastly, sleep. Although sleep requirements truly vary from person to person, sleep deprivation can cause a myriad of problems, so the more sleep or restful sleep one receives, the better off your health will be. Sleep can be a challenging need for those over 50, or who have stressful lifestyles. However, just remember, without enough sleep brain function is impaired greatly, which can affect many other important body functions necessary to thrive. So check with your medical professional to determine the right amount of hours for restful sleep you need on a regular basis. Personally, from what I’ve researched, be sure to get at least 6 to 7 hours of restful sleep, if not more. Naps can also be effective throughout the day. We can learn from the animal kingdom just how beneficial naps are.

Taking proper care to maintain these 5 essentials to living is what we need to focus on in order to live physically healthy, quality lives. The quality of these things greatly impacts the aging process. Healthy living results in graceful aging, and longevity. An unhealthy body will age poorly, suffering from disease, organ failure, and early death. Take time to consciously manage these 5 essentials daily – it’s your life!

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