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Doctor Lee's Blog

Musings from The Doctor of Fitness: Fitness Trainer, Nutrition Expert, & Sports Medicine Physician

The purpose of this blog is to write informally for anyone who is interested in fitness, strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, sports medicine, and breaking fitness and nutrition news. If you'd like to reach me directly, you can contact me here. Feel free to take a look at my professional bio and my not-so-professional bio.

Senior Health Series: Exercise

on Tuesday, 22 October 2019. Posted in Doctor of Fitness

When seniors plan their retirement, exercise probably isn’t at the top of their list of things to do. After all, your golden years are supposed to be a time to kick back and relax. However with age working against them, exercise becomes even more critical in a person’s later years.

There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to do the things you once did. For seniors, exercise can not only help them stay active and enjoy a higher quality of life, it can also prevent the onset of chronic disease and lower their chances of injury.

So what types of exercises work best for seniors? Pretty much anything they want, within certain limitations. These guides from Silver Sneakers and from Healthline provide some pretty good examples.

Regular exercise is important for everybody, but seniors face some unique challenges. After we hit our 40’s, our body’s muscle mass declines— as much as 5 percent per decade. Loss of muscle mass leads to complications like degenerative joints and makes us more susceptible to damage from falls.

Healthy body, healthy mind, goes the saying. It’s true for seniors as well. Research has shown that seniors who regularly exercise have a reduced risk of dementia. Even a brisk walk two or three times a week can reduce the chances of dementia by as much as 35 percent.

While a senior can certainly take the initiative and create an exercise program of their own, there are also plenty of resources available to help. For example, the National Council on Aging has a program called the Center for Healthy Aging that connects community organizations to quality exercise programs around the country. It also has valuable information about nutrition and behavioral health.

Great living starts with a healthy lifestyle, and that’s true whether you’re eight or eighty. Check these resources out, but more importantly get out and get some exercise!

Senior Health Series: The Impact of Limited Income

on Tuesday, 15 October 2019. Posted in Doctor of Fitness

They say that money doesn’t buy happiness, but plenty of people wouldn’t mind giving it a try. There’s no doubt that having a thin wallet can be tough sometimes, and it doesn’t get any better when you get older. It fact, it becomes more challenging. In addition to increased medical needs, seniors often deal with a fixed income when the price of everything around them keeps going up, up, up.

Fortunately, there are some resources available to help. One of the first steps to access these resources is often through a senior’s local center on aging. While they may not be able to solve all of a senior’s problems, the center can usually point them in the right direction and help them navigate the often complex network of state and local assistance.

If they haven’t already, seniors should consider enrolling in Medicare as soon as possible. Contrary to what many believe, enrollment in Medicare isn’t always automatic. This article by the Motley Fool website details some things seniors should know about the program.

In addition to Medicare, seniors may be eligible for a wide variety of other programs including housing assistance, income tax preparation and more. How do you find out about these services? Again, your local council on aging is a great place to start. Another way is the Eldercare Locator. It’s a website run through the U.S. government’s Administration on Aging, and it helps seniors locate the necessary resources in their local community. Topics covered include everything from medical insurance questions to transportation and support services.

Getting old can be tough. If you’re a senior having trouble making ends meet or have a family member dealing with these issues, give these resources a try.

Senior Health Series: The First Signs of Dementia

on Tuesday, 08 October 2019. Posted in Doctor of Fitness

Ever forgotten your cell phone or couldn’t remember where you parked? You might be having a ‘senior moment’ even though you’re decades away from receiving your first social security check. It may be a joke when you’re younger, but for a senior it may be no laughing matter. At what point does it become more than simple forgetfulness and the start of something more sinister like dementia? If you’re a caregiver or have an elderly relative, here are some things to look for:

Memory loss. While simple forgetfulness is not a sign of dementia, the frequent inability to recall recently learned information such as dates, names or appointment times may point to something more.

Inability to Problem Solve. A senior is suddenly befuddled by simple problems they used to solve effortlessly a few years prior.

Confusion about time or place. Dementia can dull the sense of the passing of time. A senior may not fully be aware of where they are or when they got there.

Sudden mood changes. A senior suffering from dementia may experience wild swings in mood for no apparent reason.

Withdrawal. Because their condition makes it difficult for them to process and to react to new information, seniors suffering from dementia may become withdrawn and sullen.

Unrealistic goals. A senior may lose the ability to understand what is fair and reasonable. For example, they may buy too much or buy things they don’t need. They may become obsessive about keeping broken objects.

It’s important to remember that dementia is NOT a natural part of aging. It’s a disease. And while there is no known cure for dementia, a doctor’s help can help ease the symptoms and let a senior enjoy a higher quality of life during their remaining years.

Senior Health Series: Alcohol and Drug Addiction

on Tuesday, 01 October 2019. Posted in Doctor of Fitness

Most people don’t see anything wrong with going out once in a while and having a few drinks. If they did, thousands of bars, pubs and other establishments would be out of business. Seniors are no exception here. However, millions of people also suffer from alcohol related problems, and unfortunately seniors are no exception there either.

Alcoholism doesn’t stop once you reach a certain age. Statistics show that more than one in ten hospital admissions of elderly patients are because of alcohol related problems. That’s a lot, and with seniors making up an increasing percentage of the population, those raw numbers are likely to climb.

When they drink heavily, seniors are especially at risk. They typically have less muscle mass to absorb alcohol, meaning it stays in their bloodstream longer and takes longer to get rid of. It also makes them more prone to falling, which in a senior’s case can cause serious injury. Drinking alcohol in excess can dramatically increase blood pressure and lead to heart attack, stroke and blurred vision. Add in the fact that many of the medications a senior might take don’t react well with alcohol and you literally have a prescription for disaster.

Like Alzheimer’s, gluten sensitivity or even the common cold, alcoholism is a disease and should be treated. The treatments options may include out-patient therapy, in-patient rehab or outside organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous.

It may be tempting to regard a senior and say: “they’ve earned the right to make their own decisions.” However intervention may be necessary. Remember you’re never too old to fall into bad habits, just as you’re never too old to start living a healthy lifestyle.

Senior Health Series: Nutrition and Hydration

on Tuesday, 24 September 2019. Posted in Doctor of Fitness

It’s no secret that the needs of your body change as you get older. Let's take a look at some of those changes, starting with the most basic requirements: food and water.

We all need to eat and drink, of course. Those needs don’t change. What changes are the amounts we need to eat and drink.

Fewer Calories. With less physical activity, less overall muscle mass and a slower metabolism, senior adults require fewer raw calories. If they keep the same diet as they’ve always had, they may experience an unhealthy weight gain.

The same amount of nutrients. While they may require fewer calories, seniors still need the same amount of nutrients. Therefore they should seek out nutrient-rich foods such as leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, fish, and lean meat for protein and iron. Don’t forget ‘brain’ foods either. Research had shown that a diet rich in fatty omega-3 acids, such as those found in salmon, and folic acid, as contained in spinach, can help stave off the onset of Alzheimer’s.

Plenty of water. When it comes to staying hydrated, many seniors report not feeling as thirsty as they used to. Age doesn’t change the body’s need for water, so it’s important for these seniors to set reminders so they remember to keep their fluid intake up. For example, they may need to keep a bottle of water near their favorite chair or take one with them when they go out. Foods such as watermelon and cucumbers also have high water content and make an excellent addition to any senior’s diet.

A healthy diet can help seniors stay active and productive throughout their lives. For more information you can visit the National Council on Aging or check other online resources like Healthline.

Senior Health Series: Look In On Your Neighbor

on Tuesday, 17 September 2019. Posted in Doctor of Fitness

As people grow older they often lose touch with family and friends, and find themselves more and more isolated. In fact, they may have little contact with anyone beyond the occasional conversation with a store clerk. This type of isolation is not only sad, it’s also dangerous.

If you have elderly neighbors, make it a point to look in on them on a regular basis. It’s often when we’re the most isolated that we need the greatest amount of help. Older people often have an established routine. They may go to the local McDonald’s every morning at 9am or check their mail every day at noon. When you check in on your neighbor, you learn to recognize those routines and you’ll get a good sense of when something’s amiss. That’s a great time to do a simple wellness check.

This check-in need not be anything fancy. You don’t have to spend your entire day with them and swap life stories. Simply go and knock on their door to see if all is well, or if they need anything. Find out if they have anyone they can call on if they need help. If you need to follow-up, you can check with your local county agency on aging. Another great resource is the National Council on Aging.

Take a moment to check in on your neighbor. It only takes a few minutes of your time, but it can make a big difference in an elderly person’s life.

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