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Nutritional Boost for the Elderly Body, Mind and Soul

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As we age, our bodies begin to change drastically. Our metabolism begins to slow, our limbs aren’t as fast moving as they once were, things we once enjoyed now seem like a nuisance. The thought of exercise and diet can be intimidating, overwhelming, even troublesome. The truth is, you are capable of so much more. Just because you’ve sprouted a few gray hairs does not mean that your body is ready to throw in the towel. A healthy lifestyle means something different for everyone, but the rewards are the same and it is never too late to start. Here are some ways to ease the body, relax the mind, and to live a healthy, happy and fulfilling life.

Find Your Happiness through Laughter

Have you ever heard the saying, “Laughter is the best medicine?” It’s true, laughter actually improve emotional and physical health. As we age, we go through a number of major life changes. It starts with a new job; before you know it, your kids are leaving home and starting families of their own, and then retirement hits. Our purpose is forgotten and we get complacent. It is important to dedicate time into finding what makes you genuinely happy. There is no right or wrong answer; your happiness may be connecting with a family member to picking up cake decorating. No matter where your happiness lies, the important thing is finding enjoyment while doing it. The positive health benefits brought on by laughter may not cure a disease, but what it does do is:

  1. Reduces Stress, Anxiety and Depression

When we laugh the body is stimulated, oxygen-rich air is flowing, the lungs are performing and blood is circulating. Your heart rate begins to fire up and when the body comes back down, the muscles are relaxed, dopamine levels increase and endorphins are released. Physical tension begins to ease and muscles remained relaxed for up to 45, leaving you feeling great even long after you stop laughing.

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  1. A Healthy Heart

The vessels that surround your heart can perform more efficiently, protecting the heart from cardiovascular health issues such as heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, and heart failure.

  1. Boosts the Immune System

As stress hormones begin to reduce, the body lets off antibodies that fight off infection making you less susceptible to viruses and disease.

  1. Natural Pain Killer

When you laugh, the brain lets off a chemical that not only makes you feel good, but actually eases pain. Known as endorphins,

  1. Laughter as Exercise

When you are in a deep belly chuckle, your abdominal muscles are going to work. And much like any other exercise, your heart rate begins to increase and then slow again.  When it drops, it steadies at an even lower rate than before, sending a sense of calm throughout the body. Who knew burning calories would be so fun and relaxing.

A Rich Body and Mind

Unfortunately, as we get older, our bodies just don’t perform like they once did. This doesn’t mean you will be cramped in a wheelchair for the rest of your life either. Not all illnesses are reversible but with proper diet and exercise, the changes will bring renewed vitality to your life. Not all exercises have to be strenuous workout sessions and alike, not all diets have to count calories to see health improvements. Here are a few tips to staying healthy are your own pace:

  1. Move

It doesn’t matter if you are gardening or participating in this Tuesday’s spinning class; moving is physical activity and some activity is better than no activity. Engaging in even the mildest form of exercise will drastically improve overall health. Staying inactive will result in poor balance and coordination, weak hips, and muscle loss, resulting in many dangerous falls and stumbles. No matter your level of intensity, physical activity remains an important role in the aging process. It can prevent or delay disease, enhance your mood, and gives your immune system a boost.  Individuals already suffering from disease can also benefit from daily activity. Illnesses such as heart disease, arthritis, and high blood pressure greatly benefit, just to name a few.  Here are some non-impact exercises, even for the frail and fragile.

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1. The Power of Walking

 Walking is the most accessible form of exercise. Don’t want to deal with the hussle and bussle at the gym? You don’t need any equipment so no costly gym membership is necessary. Who doesn’t like free. Even better than free, the health benefits are the best part. Walking promotes brain tissue, preventing mental illnesses, even dementia. It strengthens muscles to build and maintain mobility and independence. Mentally, It is very important for elderly people to feel independent but it is even more important to maintain that independence.

2. Grocery Shopping

Don’t discredit a hard day’s worth of work at the local market. Pushing that cart around can be quite a good workout. It also offers built in support with the cart acting as a walker. If that doesn’t do it for you, try pushing a lawn mower. Find what fits your fitness level and get moving.

3. Volunteer

Are you passionate about a certain cause or like just love animals? Donating your time to a positive cause is not only healthy physically, but mentally too. Aside from the feel good nature of helping out, it promotes overall wellness. Psychologically, it helps you feel good about present life, while gaining optimism for what the future holds. Social well-being brings light to one’s life purpose, feeling important and needed. People rate their life and well-being by their environment and how others around them are doing. This is known as cognitive well-being and how one interacts with others and the happiness or disappoint that it brings about.

Brain Food

While you are at the grocery store getting in your daily physical activity, make sure you are putting the right foods into your cart. Much like working out, maintaining a proper diet reduces the chances of certain disease or illnesses. Unfortunately, there is no miracle food that will answer to all of your dietary needs. Whether it be allergies or recommendations of your doctor, the nutritional requirements of our bodies vary from person to person. Establishing a diet might take some practice, even some trial and error.  Incorporating the following foods are a good start to keeping the brain and therefore body’s, wheels properly turning.

  1. Caffeine

Over time, caffeine has developed somewhat of a bad rap. Yes, if you are drinking red bull or getting a quad shot in the blondie brew at Starbucks, you are most likely taking in well over the suggested intake of caffeine per day. Too much of anything is a bad thing. You should always consult your doctor first, but moderate intake of caffeine can most definitely have it’s benefits.

Immediately, you will see a difference in cognitive functionings (e.g.alertness and responding to your surroundings). It can help prevent diseases such as dementia or prolong the effects of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson.

  1. Quality Protein

There is a difference between taking in protein and making sure you are taking in quality protein. Processed meats are foods like bacon, beef jerky, corned beef, hot dogs and salami, meats that have been heavily preserved by salting, smoking, or canning. Bringing on more health problems than it’s worth, processed meats are linked to chronic diseases including pulmonary disease (i.e the trapping of air in the lungs and a persistent cough),  high blood pressure, and numerous cancers. Opt for more protein high in omega 3’s like salmon, nuts or seeds.  Eggs or egg whites, organic and skinless chicken and turkey breast, beans and greek yogurt are also excellent options.

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  1. Vegetables

Dark, leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables pack the most punch nutritionally. For example, broccoli provides vitamins A, C and K as well as potassium and folate. As mentioned before, there is no one food that heals all, but leafy greens stands as the number one food for improving health and you can eat it every day; no, you should eat it every day. Plant based foods offer vitamins, minerals, and fiber while fighting off diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and potentially cancer.

  1. Antioxidants

Your body has natural occurring free radicals floating about. Free radicals are atoms that have never been paired with an electron. When those free radicals come into contact with oxygen, it can be detrimental or even fatal to your health. Free radicals are especially prominent in the older aged. That is where antioxidants come in and save the day (or you), by stopping this interaction from occurring before any important molecules are harmed in the process.

Blueberries are an excellent source of antioxidants. Standing not only as a healthy option, but blueberries are easily accessible. Aside from promoting a healthy heart by lowering cholesterol, blueberries are packed full of nutrients including fiber, potassium, folate, vitamins C, K and B6. Blueberries are known to improve memory loss or at least act as a  preventative measure for dementia and like diseases; just a few reasons blueberries stand to be one of the healthiest foods in the world.

There are other antioxidants other than blueberries that provide similar health benefits. Other berries, especially those containing a darker skin (e.g. raspberries and blackberries), cherries, certain nuts or beans, and even dark chocolate are all considered exceptional sources. Considering our bodies don’t produce enough antioxidants as is and trying to counteract the damage that free radicals may have already caused, eating a fare share of antioxidants will help the body to physically and mentally perform.

  1. Whole Grains

Whole Grains provide the brain with energy; the brain needs energy to provide the body with energy. That energy comes from glucose or otherwise known as, simple sugar. You can think of it as your healthy “sugar rush.” Loaded with so many of the needed supplements mentioned previously, it’s no wonder whole grains stands to be so beneficial to overall health and wellbeing.

Whole grains contain plant-based protein, minerals (magnesium, zinc and iron), vitamin B, antioxidants, and fiber. It helps fight against bowel cancer which although colon cancer is one of the more preventable cancers, it so often goes undetected, making it one of the deadliest cancers. Whole grains offer many benefits to the heart. The lowering of blood pressure, cholesterol and insulin levels all contribute to the prevention of heart disease. Certain whole grains such as brown rice, barley, oatmeal, or popcorn can help manage weight and how that weight is distributed throughout the body. It more specifically helps with belly fat. Overweight or not, belly fat leads to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Due to gluten intolerance and certain allergies to wheat, some whole grains don’t offer the same nutritional value for all. For those fighting celiac disease or intolerance’s, there are many more whole grain options still available to you. Instead, try more ancient grains such as spelt or kamut. Regardless of allergies or intolerance’s, grains like Kamut stand tall to any grain, making it an outstanding supply of whole grains. This ancient wheat is twice the size of modern day wheats resulting in more lipids, proteins, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. It is no wonder it was said to be found in King Tut’s tomb, earning its nickname “King Tut’s Wheat.”

Conclusion

It is never too late to really start living your life. Regular diet and physical activity will inevitably promote mental and physical health and overall well-being. It is understanding how this lifestyle change will contribute to your overall health that will hopefully make you opt to grab a handful of blueberries to snack on instead of those potato chips. Pick up an old hobby, attend a yoga class, take a cooking course or make new friends. As long as you are consistently working towards a healthier lifestyle, the rest will happen naturally. The mental and emotional clarity will help you connect with your body. With a little patience and persistence your body will let you know its needs.

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