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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