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Posts tagged ‘Family’

15 Tips For Living To 100

15 Tips For Living To 100

Living to 100 is not rare anymore. In fact, a local billboard forecasts, “The  first person to live to 150 has already been born.”

I don’t know if or when people will live to be 150, but I do know that living  to be 100 is something that we can strive for. In fact, the number of 100 year  olds in the United States has roughly  doubled in the past 20 years to around 72,000 and is projected to at least  double again by 2020, making it the fastest growing demographic in America.  According to the 2010 census data, about 1 in 4,400 Americans lives to age  100.

Since we all get older every year, it raises an important question, “What  should I be doing if I want to continue my annual renewal and stay healthy so I  can continue to enjoy the journey.”

In general, your genes will neither kill you nor save you.  Our genes  dictate only about 10% of how long we live. People with “terrible” genes can  make lifestyle changes and improve their odds significantly, and people with “designer” genes can run them in into the ground. So a lot of it has to do with  what you do with what you have.

So how do we protect the 35 trillion cells that we call our body to make them  last for a century? In his book Blue  Zones, Dan Buettner has explored lifestyle changes that increase longevity.  I’ve incorporated his views and expanded on them to include my own. Here are my  personal thoughts on how to live the longest, healthiest and happiest life.

  • Start planning for longevity today. If you wanted to have  an adequate retirement savings account, you probably would start saving early.  The same is true with your health. Start implementing the things we’re going to  discuss below today.
  • Eat healthy. This is very confusing today because it seems  what is healthy keeps changing. But the basics are pretty consistent: avoid junk  food; limit prepared foods (restaurant and take out), sugary drinks and sodas;  eat lots of fruits and vegetables. If possible, eat organically grown fruits and  vegetables to minimize exposure to pesticide. If you haven’t heart about the  clean 15 and dirty dozen (12 highest pesticide laden fruits and vegetables), click  here.
  • Control your weight. It’s really simple; the fatter your  body, the harder your heart has to work to supply it with blood and the harder  your knees have to work to keep it moving. Some simple tips include don’t go  back for seconds (keep the food off the table and on a serving counter so people  have to physically get up to grab another spoonful), keep only healthy snacks in  the house or with you at work, chew your food at least 30 times per bite and put  your fork or sandwich down between bites so your meal will take longer and your  stomach will have time to tell your brain you are getting full. This will allow  you to stop eating before you overeat.
  • Don’t add salt to your food. Salt  is a growing health problem in the United States and is contributing to high  blood pressure and heart disease. There is so much salt already in the food we  eat that adding extra salt is unhealthy.
  • Take a multivitamin and fish oil daily. (Leesa recommends Chews4Health!
  • Maintain Family Units. In today’s fractured world, many  families live far away from each other. Yet in places such as Sardinia, Italy  where there are ten times the centenarians as in the United States, families  typically live together in units that include the grandparents. They call it the  grandmother affect. Interestingly, in a recent study of killer  whales reported in Science, in which the grandmother whale survived and  continued to live with the pod, the effect on her adult male offspring was a 14  times greater likelihood of his survival one year beyond the loss of his  mother.
  • Eat on A Smaller Plate. People in Okinawa, Japan use plates  about the size of a salad plate.  They live seven good years longer than  the average American and have 1/5 the rate of breast and colon cancer and 1/6  the rate of heart disease. Centenarians stop eating with they are 80% full.
  • Remain Active. It’s not about running in the Boston  Marathon. It’s about staying active and moving. Hardwire some type of physical  activity into every week of your life. Walk in nature, take the stairs, do yoga  or tai chi, garden. Do this at least two to three times per week. I do  resistance training with a personal trainer twice a week and walk almost every  other day.
  • Stay Connected. People live longer who have ongoing social  interactions, who are able to share their happiness and sorrow and who have  companionship. This does not mean chat rooms and Facebook. It means sitting in  the room with real people. Volunteering, participating and sharing are life  extenders.
  • Have a purpose. People who have a reason to wake up in the  morning live longer, healthier, happier lives. What’s yours? If an answer  doesn’t pop into your head, search for one. It could be playing with your  grandchildren, gardening, adult education, volunteering at your favorite charity  or school, or any of a thousand other reasons. Find yours. According to Dan  Buettner it’s worth about 7 years of life expectancy.
  • Have a day of rest. Having one day a week where all you do  is relax, abstain from work and any stress related activity, and/or pray has  been shown to increase longevity. Even God rested on the seventh day. There is a  reason that is part of every major religion. Enjoy this Free  relaxing instrumental music while you rest and relax.
  • Remain Spiritual: People who are part of a faith based  community who pray at least 4 times per month live between 4 and 14 extra  years.
  • Choose friends wisely. People tend to become who they hang  out with. The Framingham  Study showed that if your 3 best friends are obese, you are 50% more likely  to become obese. Friends with healthy habits increase your chance of remaining  healthy.
  • Smile More: People who are happier and have a more positive  attitude live longer. Happiness lowers stress, strengths your immune system and  keep the tips of your chromosomes, called telomeres,  longer, preventing cancer and disease.

By Mache Seibel

Dr. Mache Seibel

Health expert and guest speaker Dr. Mache Seibel addresses consumers’  critical needs from weight  control to HRT, menopause  and beyond. He served on the Harvard Medical School faculty for 19 years and is  a pioneer in many areas of women’s health. He works with companies and  organizations to bring exciting educational content to consumers. Visit his  award-winning website DoctorSeibel.com  to sign up for his  free monthly newsletter.

3 Myths to Dispel About the Brain

What if we could improve our memory, reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and keep our brains young with just a few simple mindfulness techniques?

Deepak Chopra recently appeared on the Dr. Oz show discussing memory and the brain. With the recent release of his new book, Super Brain, co-authored by Harvard neuroscientist Rudy Tanzi, there has been a lot in the air about the connection between the mind, aging and brain health. Deepak and Rudy discuss some key themes from the book, including memory, love, and sleep, on The Chopra Well series, SUPER BRAIN.

As it turns out, we have more of a say in the strength and resilience of our brains than we may have thought. Here are three myths to dispel before we can harness the power of our “super brains.” If we can wrap our minds around these, then we are off to a great start.

Myth #1: Over the course of our lives, our brains continuously lose cells that will never be replaced.

Truth: We do lose brain cells as a natural course of wear and tear (about one per second), but these cells are replaced and can even increase in a process called “neurogenesis.” Several thousand new nerve cells come into being every day in the hippocampus, home of short-term memory. We can promote the birth of these new cells by choosing to learn new things, take risks, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. This includes avoiding emotional stress and trauma, which have been shown to inhibit neurogenesis.

Myth #2: The brain is hardwired and cannot be changed.

Truth: Our brains are actually incredibly flexible, if we can just learn to nurture and foster their development. The term for this “re-wiring” is neuroplasticity and is dependent on our own will to try new things, tackle new goals and experience change. The brain’s circuitry can be reshaped by our thoughts, desires, and experiences. This property has been vividly illustrated by dramatic recoveries after injuries, but it also comes to bear every time you take a new route to work or learn a new skill.

Myth #3: Memory loss with age is irreversible.

Truth: It is possible to prevent and even reverse memory loss! Ever misplaced your keys and blamed it on old age? The fact is, you have to learn something in the first place before you can forget it. So it may be that you just never learned where you placed your keys. Practice mindfulness as the first step toward building a resilient memory. Also, memories associated with feelings are much stronger than memories based in simple, hard fact. We must take an interest in everything going on around us, stay alert, and resist feeling hopeless or apathetic about the aging process. Our brains are capable of miracles, regardless of age.

By The Chopra Well

6 Stress Management Tips from Around the World

6 Stress Management Tips from Around the World

 

How do you decompress after a long day or week? What do you consider  relaxing? They answer may change based on where you live. Check out some of the  ways people across the globe manage their stress, and let us know your  techniques in the comments.

1. Brazil

It’s all about balance in sunny Brazil. In this laid-back country, relaxation  and time with loved ones are built into your everyday life. It’s not about  working hard so you can relax when you retire, it’s about enjoying life’s simple  pleasures every day. Indeed, Brazilians truly have relaxation down to an  art form.

 

2. China

If you stroll through a city park in China, you’re might stumble upon a very  curious sight — several dozen people, sometimes hundreds, all exercising  together. Tai-chi, yoga, ballroom dancing — you name it, the Chinese are doing  it. It’s as much a social event as it is a workout.

 

3. Finland

Nothing says relaxing to Finns like a trip to the sauna. Indeed, in Finland,  letting off steam in a sauna with friends is a weekly activity — it’s not  considered a luxury like it is in most other parts of the world. Most Finns  visit the sauna at least once a week, usually on Saturdays, with close friends  and family. It’s a social event, though a relaxing one. In the sauna, most  people avoid controversial issues and arguments are taboo.

 

4. Italy

Italians are all about after-dinner strolls. Walking through their villages,  these traditional walks allow Italians to catch up with friends and neighbors,  get some fresh air and, of course, get in a little exercise.

 

5. New Zealand

With a more relaxed work environment, where leaving the office early or  taking time off for leisurely purposes isn’t as frowned upon as it is in the  U.S., Kiwis get to enjoy all their beautiful country has to offer. Outdoor  sports are big in New Zealand, and team sports like soccer and rugby are quite  popular, too.

 

 

6. Denmark

Often ranked as the happiest country on the planet, Denmark has a lot of  things going for it in terms of relaxing. To be clear, Sure, a healthy  economy, an excellent social welfare system, and political stability don’t hurt  the tiny Scandinavian nation’s stress level. There’s another crucial aspect of  Danish culture that plays apart in it too: For the Danes, their homes are their  sanctuaries — private places to relax away from the bustle of the city. Taking  pleasure in being at home sure does wonders for your stress level.

Katie Waldeck

Katie is a freelance writer focused on pets, food and women’s issues. A  Chicago native and longtime resident of the Pacific Northwest, Katie now lives  in Oakland, California.

 

4 Food Strategies to Boost Brain Function

4 Food Strategies to Boost Brain Function

While there are many positive aspects to aging, we’re more familiar  with the  things that can go wrong. For all the wisdom we gain from  experience, we’re  more apt to worry about memory loss. We fret over  rusty neurotransmitters and  cloudy thinking.

So we diligently do crossword puzzles, wrestle with brainteasers and  learn  to play musical instruments — for the intrinsic joy, of course,  but also to  help inoculate our brains against negative age-related  changes. These are  helpful pursuits, but they’re not the only ones that  matter. In fact, if we  want to build a better brain, what we choose to  eat and drink might make the  biggest difference of all.

The following food-based strategies can help any brain function better — whether that brain is 9 years old or 90.

Hydrate

Proper hydration is a critical factor in maintaining and improving  your mind  as you age. “Your brain is 80 percent water,” says Daniel  Amen, MD, a clinical  neuroscientist and author of Use Your Brain to Change Your Age: Secrets to Look, Feel,  and Think Younger Every Day (Crown,  2012). “Even slight dehydration  increases the body’s stress hormones,  which can decrease your ability to think  clearly. Over time, increased  levels of stress hormones are associated with  memory problems.”

While the amount of hydration you need day-to-day depends on several   factors, including activity level, relative humidity and eating habits  (to name  only a few), the oft-repeated advice to drink 64 ounces — or  eight 8-ounce  glasses — of water a day isn’t a bad general rule to  follow. Keep in mind,  however, that you can account for those ounces in  several different ways. If  you’re eating a lot of vegetables and fruits,  for example, you may need to  drink less water. Most fresh plant foods  have a high water content and will  help keep you hydrated.

While the feeling of thirst is a good indicator you need to hydrate, if the only time you grab a glass of water is when you’re noticeably thirsty,  you  may not be drinking enough for optimal health. That’s because that  “thirsty feeling” kicks in only when your body is already a bit  dehydrated. The  best approach to hydration is a conscious, proactive  one. So, drink up! (For  more on proper hydration, see Drink to Your Health.)

Fight Free  Radicals

If you leave a bottle of wine open too long, it will oxidize and  become  stale. If your car is exposed to the elements for too long, its  exterior may  rust. Just as wine degrades and metal rusts, the cells in  our brains and  bodies degrade over time when they are exposed to free  radicals.

Free radicals are unstable molecules that are generated in the body  as a  byproduct of other natural internal processes, such as the  metabolizing of food  or the triggering of an immune response by a  bacteria or virus.

Free-radical molecules are unstable because they have an uneven  number of  electrons, which prefer to be in pairs. So in an effort to  restabilize  themselves, free radicals roam the body stealing electrons  from healthy cells.  When that happens, the formerly healthy cells, now  short an electron, head out  on their own searching for a replacement  electron, thus inciting an unhealthy  chain reaction of stolen electrons  throughout the body. It is that cascade of “electron theft” that causes  the cellular damage or “rust” in our brains and  bodies.

Antioxidants are free-radical scavengers. They fight the corrosive  effects  of free radicals by quieting their search for additional  electrons. You can  build up your antioxidant power by eating more  vegetables: Broccoli, cabbage,  cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, spinach,  kale and chard all pack a powerful  punch in the fight against  free-radical damage.

Garlic, too, is a powerful antioxidant, and it also has antibacterial  and  antifungal qualities. Fruit is another ally. Blueberries brim with   antioxidants, as do raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. Red  grapes  contain high levels of the potent antioxidants resveratrol and  quercetin. (So,  too, by extension, does red wine; in moderation, it may  offer some antioxidant  protection.)

Spices and herbs are also powerful weapons in the fight  against free radicals.  Cumin, cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, mustard, ginger,  oregano, basil,  sage, thyme and tarragon are rife with antioxidants. Look for  recipes  that call for these, or add a dash of cinnamon, turmeric or ginger to a  cup of tea. Green, white and black teas contain antioxidants, too, so by   pairing tea with spices, you’ll get a double dose of antioxidant power.

Ditch Processed  Foods

The vast majority of unhealthy, age-amplifying foods are processed  foods.  One of the main dangers of processed foods? Added sugar.

Each year, Americans consume an average of 150 pounds of sugar per  person — much of it in processed foods, says Nancy Appleton, PhD,  coauthor of Suicide by Sugar (Square One, 2009). And that is  not good news for brain health.

Overconsumption of sugar has been linked to depression and dementia disorders  such as  Alzheimer’s. It also increases inflammation and raises insulin levels  in  a way that can suppress the immune system, increasing your  vulnerability to  a host of additional diseases of brain and body.

Remember, too, that high-glycemic carbohydrates (also called “simple   carbs”), which proliferate in processed foods, act like sugar in the   bloodstream.

Processed foods also contain more than their fair share of unhealthy  fats.  While the human brain needs healthy fats to function — such as  those found in  nuts, avocados, and coconut and olive oil — bad fats like  trans fats and highly  processed commercial vegetable oils have been  linked to depression and other  mood disorders. These fats interfere with  the metabolism of essential fatty  acids in brain-cell membranes, which  can harm some of the neurotransmitters  responsible for mood, focus and  memory.

Boost Key  Nutrients

Dietary supplements can play a key role in healthy brain functioning. Here  are some of the top brain-boosting supplements:

Vitamin D. Studies have shown that vitamin D can protect against dementia, a range of  autoimmune disorders, cancer,  high blood pressure and many other illnesses. Our  bodies produce vitamin  D in response to sunshine, but most people don’t get  adequate daily sun  exposure — especially if you live in a northern climate.

Omega-3s. Daily supplementation with fish oil, one  of the  best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, can give your brain a big  boost.  High-quality fish oil, free from mercury and other toxins,  provides the omega-3  fatty acids that sheath brain cells and facilitate  healthy brain functioning.  Omega-3s also help fight inflammation, which  tends to occur in our brains as we  age. Studies have shown that some of  the other nutrients in fish oil, such as  DHA and EPA, help provide  protection against depression, stabilize mood and  promote alertness.

CoQ10. Short for coenzyme Q10, CoQ10 is a molecule  that  works in concert with other nutrients to improve the functioning of  all the  cells of the body. Many recent studies have linked CoQ10 with  boosting overall  energy and sharpening cognition. (For more on CoQ10,  see CoQ10:  The Miracle Molecule.)

One of the most common myths about aging is that memory inevitably  declines.  But I know from the growing body of scientific evidence that  age-related  decline in brain function isn’t a foregone conclusion. If  you nurture your  brain with the right nutrients, you will help it remain  flexible, resilient and  strong. So, next time you sit down for a meal  or reach for a snack, think of  your future brain, and choose wisely!

By Michael J. Gelb, Experience Life

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness  publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic  lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in  favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit experiencelife.com   to learn more and to sign  up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe  to the print or digital version.

14 Things Your Eyes Say About Your Health

14 Things Your Eyes Say About Your Health

 

Looking someone straight in the eye may or may not reveal their honesty — but the eyes can tell you about cholesterol, liver disease, or diabetes, if you know what to look for.

“The eye is a unique window into health,” says ophthalmologist Andrew Iwach, spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and executive director of the Glaucoma Center of San Francisco. “It’s the only place in the body where, without surgery, we can look in and see veins, arteries, and a nerve (the optic nerve).”

The eyes’ transparency explains why common eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration can be detected early with regular eye exams.  “Unfortunately, people get busy and delay not only eye exams but regular physicals. That’s why eye doctors sometimes discover other issues, like diabetes or high blood pressure,” Iwach says.  Especially vulnerable, he says: People like caregivers, who worry about others around them while neglecting care for themselves.

Keep your eye out for these 14 problems:

1. Red flag: Disappearing eyebrows

What it means: Shaved eyebrows are a fad (or fashion, if you will) in some circles. But when the outer third of the brows (the part closest to the ears) starts to disappear on its own, this is a common sign of thyroid disease — either hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland) or hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland). The thyroid is a small but critical gland that helps regulate metabolism, and thyroid hormones are among those critical to hair production.

More clues: Brows tend to thin with age naturally. But with thyroid disease, the brow-hair loss isn’t evenly distributed; it’s a selective dropout on the ends. There’s usually a loss of hair elsewhere on the body, too, but the brows are so prominent, it’s often noticed here first. Early graying is a related sign of a thyroid problem. Women are more often affected than men, and hyperthyroidism especially strikes women in their 20s and 30s.

What to do: Mention this symptom to a dermatologist or your regular doctor. Most other symptoms of both hyper- and hypothyroidism are notoriously broad and general. Before you see a doctor, make note of any other changes you’ve noticed, possibly concerning weight, energy levels, bowel or menstrual regularity, mood, or skin changes.

2. Red flag: A stye that won’t go away

What it means: The vast majority of the time, a small, raised, often reddish bump along the inner or outer eyelid margin is just an unsightly but innocuous stye (also called a “chalazion”). But if the spot doesn’t clear up in three months, or seems to keep recurring in the same location, it can also be a rare cancer (sebaceous gland carcinoma).

More clues: Actual styes are plugged-up oil glands at the eyelash follicle. Fairly common, they tend to clear up within a month. A cancerous cyst that mimics a stye, on the other hand, doesn’t go away.
(Or it may seem to go away but return in the same spot.) Another eyelid cancer warning sign: Loss of some of the eyelashes around the stye.

What to do: Point out a persistent stye to an ophthalmologist (a medical doctor who specializes in the eye). A biopsy can confirm the diagnosis. The stye is usually removed surgically.

3. Red flag: Bumpy yellowish patches on the eyelid

What it means: Xanthelasma palpebra, the medical name for these tiny yellow bumps, are usually a warning you that you may have high cholesterol. They’re also called “cholesterol bumps” — they’re basically fatty deposits.

More clues: Sometimes people mistake these bumps for a stye, but with xanthelasma, there tends to be more than one bump and they’re quite small.

What to do: See your doctor or a skin or eye specialist. A diagnosis can usually be made by sight. An ophthalmologist can also examine the eye and see deposits; for this reason, in fact, sometimes high cholesterol is first diagnosed during a routine eye exam. The problem usually isn’t serious and doesn’t cause pain or vision problems. A physician will also evaluate you for other signs of coronary artery disease.

4. Red flag: Burning eyes, blurry vision while using a computer

What it means: You might be a workaholic, and you definitely have “computer vision syndrome” (CVS). The eyestrain is partly caused by the lack of contrast on a computer screen (compared with ink on paper) and the extra work involved in focusing on pixels of light. What’s more, by midlife the eyes lose some of their ability to produce lubricating tears. Irritation sets in, adding to blurriness and discomfort.

More clues: Does the problem worsen in the afternoon (when the eyes tend to become drier)? Is it
worse when you’re reading fine print (more eyestrain)? People who wear glasses or contacts tend to be bothered more by CVS. “Sometimes the problem is made worse by a fan positioned so it blows right in the face,” the AAO’s Iwach adds, noting that the air further dries tired eyes.

What to do: Reduce glare by closing window shades, investing in a computer hood, or checking out antireflective coating for your glasses (if you wear them). Simply tinkering with the contrast of your screen can help, too. White areas should neither glow brightly like a light source nor appear gray. Flat-panel LCD display screens (like those on laptops) cause less eyestrain than older models. Keep reference material close to the same height as your monitor, giving your eyes a break from having to refocus so much.

5. Red flag: Increasing gunk in the eye

What it means: Blepharitis — inflammation of the eyelids, especially at the edges — can have several causes. Two of them, surprisingly, are conditions better associated with other body parts: scalp dandruff and acne rosacea (which causes flushed red skin, usually in the faces of fair-skinned women at midlife).

More clues: The eyes may also feel irritated, as if specks have gotten in them. They may burn, tear, or feel dry. The crusty debris tends to gather in the lashes or the inner corners of the eyes, or even on the lids.

What to do: With clean hands, apply a warm, damp washcloth to the eyes for about five minutes at a time to loosen debris and soothe the skin. See a doctor, who may prescribe an antibiotic ointment or oral antibiotics, as well as artificial tears.

6. Red flag: A small blind spot in your vision, with shimmering lights or a wavy line

What it means: An ocular migraine (also called an “ophthalmic migraine,” “optical migraine,” or “migraine aura”) produces this disturbed vision, with or without an accompanying headache. Changes in blood flow to the brain are thought to be the cause.

More clues: The visual distortion starts in the center of the field of vision. It might appear as a bright dot, dots, or a line that can seem to move and disrupt your ability to see properly, as if you were looking through a pocked or cracked window. It’s painless and causes no lasting damage. Individuals seem to have different triggers (ranging from chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol to stress). A headache, possibly severe enough to cause nausea, sometimes follows.

What to do: If you’re driving, pull over until the phenomenon passes (usually within an hour). Do have an eye specialist check it out if vision impairment lasts more than an hour or so, to rule out serious problems such as a retinal tear; or if you also experience other symptoms elsewhere that could indicate stroke or seizure (such as fever, loss of muscle strength, or speech impairment).

7. Red flag: Red, itchy eyes

What it means: Many things can irritate eyes, but itchiness accompanied by sneezing, coughing, sinus congestion, and/or a runny nose, usually screams “I’m allergic!” When the eyes are involved, the trigger is usually airborne, like pollen, dust, or animal dander.

More clues: An eye allergy can also be caused by certain cosmetics or ointments. Some people, for example, are allergic to the preservative in eye drops used to treat dry eyes.

What to do: Staying away from the allergic trigger is the usual treatment. Antihistamines can treat the itchiness; those in eye-drop or gel form deliver relief to the eyes faster. If the problem turns out to be an allergy to eye drops, look for a preservative-free brand.

8. Red flag: Whites of the eye turned yellowish

What it means: Two groups of people most often show this symptom, known as jaundice: Newborns with immature liver function and adults with problems of the liver, gallbladder, or bile ducts, including hepatitis and cirrhosis. The yellow in the white part of the eye (the sclera) is caused by a buildup of bilirubin, the by-product of old red blood cells the liver can’t process.

More clues: “Other tissues of the body would have the same look, but we can’t see it as clearly as in the whites of the eye,” says ophthalmologist Iwach. (Skin can also turn yellowish when a person consumes too much beta carotene — found in carrots — but in those cases the whites of the eyes remain white.)

What to do: Mention the symptom to a doctor if the person isn’t already under care for a liver-related disease, so the jaundice can be evaluated and the underlying cause treated.

9. Red flag: A bump or brown spot on the eyelid

What it means: Even people who are vigilant about checking their skin may overlook the eyelid as a spot where skin cancer can strike. Most malignant eyelid tumors are basal cell carcinoma. When such a tumor appears as a brown spot, then — as with any other form of skin cancer — it’s more likely to be malignant melanoma.

More clues: Elderly, fair-skinned people are at highest risk. Look especially at the lower eyelid. The bump may look pearly, with tiny blood vessels. If the bump is in the eyelash area, some eyelashes may be missing.

What to do: Always have any suspicious skin spots or sores checked out by a dermatologist, family physician, or eye doctor. Early detection is critical, before the problem spreads to nearby lymph nodes.

10. Red flag: Eyes that seem to bulge

What it means: The most common cause of protruding eyes is hyperthyroidism (overactivity of the thyroid gland), especially the form known as Graves’ disease. (First Lady Barbara Bush had it.)

More clues: One way to tell if an eye is bulging is to see whether there’s any visible white part between the top of the iris and the upper eyelid, because normally there shouldn’t be. (Some people inherit a tendency toward eyes that bulge, so if the appearance seems to run in a family, it probably isn’t hyperthyroidism.) The person may not blink often and may seem to be staring at you. Because the condition develops slowly, it’s sometimes first noticed in photos or by the occasional visitor rather than by someone who lives with the person every day.

What to do: Mention the symptom to a doctor, especially if it’s present in tandem with other signs of Graves’, including blurry vision, restlessness, fatigue, increase in appetite, weight loss, tremors, and palpitations. A blood test can measure thyroid levels. Treatment includes medication and surgery.

11. Red flag: Sudden double vision, dim vision, or loss of vision

What it means: These are the visual warning signs of stroke.

More clues: The other signs of stroke include sudden numbness or weakness of the arm or leg or face,
typically on just one side of the body; trouble walking because of dizziness or loss of balance or
coordination; slurred speech; or bad headache. In a large stroke (caused by a blood clot or bleeding in the brain), these symptoms happen all at once. In a smaller stroke caused by narrowed arteries, they can occur across a longer period of minutes or hours.

What to do: Seek immediate medical help by calling 911.

12. Red flag: Dry eyes that are sensitive to light

What it means: Sjogren’s (pronounced “show-grins”) syndrome is an immune system disorder. It impairs the glands in the eyes and mouth that keep them moist.

More clues: Sjogren’s usually affects women over age 40 with autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. Usually the eyes and mouth are affected together. The person may also have vaginal dryness, dry sinuses, and dry skin. Because of a lack of saliva, it can be difficult to chew and swallow.

What to do: A doctor can diagnose Sjogren’s through testing. Artificial lubricants (such as artificial tears) are usually necessary to protect the eyes, as well as to improve eating. Drinking plenty of water also helps.

13. Red flag: Sudden difficulty closing one eye, inability to control tears in it

What it means: Bell’s palsy is an impairment of the nerve that controls facial muscles (the seventh cranial nerve), causing temporary paralysis in half the face. It sometimes follows a viral infection (such as shingles, mono, or HIV) or a bacterial infection (such as Lyme disease). Diabetics and pregnant women are also at higher risk.

More clues: Half of the entire face, not just the eye, is affected. Effects vary from person to person, but the overall effect is for the face to appear droopy and be weak. The eyelid may droop and be difficult or impossible to close, and there will be either excessive tearing or an inability to produce tears. The effects tend to come on suddenly.

What to do: See a doctor. Most cases are temporary and the person recovers completely within weeks. Rarely, the condition can recur. Physical therapy helps restore speaking, smiling, and other tasks that require the facial muscles working in unison, and it also helps avoid an asymmetrical appearance. Professional eye care can keep the affected eye lubricated and undamaged.

14. Red flag: Blurred vision in a diabetic

What it means: Diabetics are at increased risk for several eye problems, including glaucoma and cataracts. But the most common threat to vision is diabetic retinopathy, in which the diabetes affects the circulatory system of the eye. It’s the leading cause of blindness in American adults.

More clues: The changes linked to diabetic retinopathy tend to show up in people who have had the disease for a long time, not those recently diagnosed. The person may also see “floaters,” tiny dark specks in the field of vision. Sometimes diabetes causes small hemorrhages (bleeding) that are visible in the eye. There’s no pain. People with poorly controlled blood sugar may have worse symptoms.

What to do: Someone with diabetes should have a dilated eye exam annually to catch and control the earliest stages of retinopathy, glaucoma, cataracts, or other changes — before they manifest as changes you’re aware of.

By Paula Spencer, Caring.com senior editor

Caring.com was created to help you care for your aging parents, grandparents, and other loved ones. As the leading destination for eldercare resources on the Internet, our mission is to give you the information and services you need to make better decisions, save time, and feel more supported. Caring.com provides the practical information, personal support, expert advice, and easy-to-use tools you need during this challenging time.

Heat Wave Survival Tips

Heat Wave Survival Tips

Feeling the heat? A heatwave stretching across much of the U.S. has many of us  seeking relief, but it’s prime time for heat-related illness to strike.

In recent years, excessive heat has caused more deaths than all other weather  events, including floods, according to the American Red Cross. Our bodies lose  water and salt when we perspire, which can lead to heat cramps. If not  addressed, dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion leads to  heatstroke, a potentially life-threatening condition.

Young children, the elderly, and people with chronic diseases are most at risk of developing heat cramps,  heat exhaustion, or heatstroke. Do you know how to lower your risk of  heat-related illness…would you recognize the warning signs, and would you know  what to do should heat-related illness strike?

Tips to Avoid Heat-Related Illness

  • Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing made of breathable fabric like  cotton.
  • When outdoors, wear a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Choose shade over the sun on a hot day.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise during a heatwave.
  • Drink plenty of water or other fluids.
  • If you feel overheated, take a cool shower or bath.
  • Avoid sitting in a hot car or leaving your child in the car. (And that goes  for pets, too!)
  • Take advantage of cooling centers during a prolonged hot spell.
  • Listen to weather advisories before planning outdoor events.
  • Check on people who live alone, especially the elderly or ill.

Risk Factors for Heat-Related Illness

  • prolonged exposure to high temperatures
  • high levels of humidity
  • dehydration

You are at increased risk if you:

  • have heart disease or other chronic illness
  • are drinking alcohol
  • exercise excessively
  • take certain medications like diuretics and beta blockers

Early Warning Signs of Heat-Related Illness

  • fatigue
  • thirst
  • muscle cramps
  • profuse sweating

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

  • dizziness and lightheadedness
  • weakness
  • headache
  • nausea and vomiting
  • cool, moist skin
  • dark urine

Symptoms of Heatstroke

  • fast, shallow breathing
  • pulse is fast and weak
  • confusion and strange behavior
  • fever
  • skin is red, hot, and dry
  • seizures
  • loss of consciousness

First Aid for Heat-Related Illness

  • Take the victim to a cool place.
  • Have them lie down with their feet up.
  • Apply cool, wet cloths (or cool water alone) to their skin. Cold compresses  can also help.
  • If the person is conscious, have them drink water or a salted drink. Do not  offer drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine.

When to Call 9-1-1

Consider it a medical emergency if the victim:

  • appears to have blue lips and fingernails
  • has a high fever
  • has difficulty breathing
  • has a seizure
  • is confused or behaving irrationally
  • has lost consciousness

By Ann Pietrangelo

Ann Pietrangelo is the author of No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis.  She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and a regular  contributor to Care2 Healthy & Green Living and Care2  Causes. Follow on  Twitter @AnnPietrangelo

Photo credit: Stockbyte/Thinkstock

Sources: American Red Cross, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH)

The 7 Habits of Highly Happy People

The 7 Habits of Highly Happy People

 

Highly happy people all share happy habits.  It’s as simple as that. The happiest people I know  share seven very  obvious habits. If you’re looking to expand your general  happiness, you  may consider adopting these in your own life.

1. Be a part of something you believe in. This could be anything. People may take an active role in their   local city council, find refuge in religious faith, join a social club   supporting causes they believe in, or find passion in their careers. In  each  case, the physiological outcome is the same. They engage themselves  in  something they strongly believe in. This engagement brings happiness  and  meaning into their lives.

2. Share time with friends and family. A happy life is a  life shared with friends and family. The stronger  the personal relationships  are and the higher the frequency of  interaction, the happier a person will  be.

3. Reflect on the good. Quite often  people concentrate too much of their attention on negative outcomes and leave no  time to positively reflect on their successes. It’s natural for a  person to want to correct  undesirable circumstances and focus closely on doing  so, but there must  be a healthy balance in the allocation of personal  awareness. It is  important to mindfully reflect on the good while striving  diligently to  correct the bad. A continuous general awareness of your daily  successes  can have a noticeably positive affect on your overall emotional   happiness.

4. Exploit the resources you DO have access  to. The average person is usually astonished when they see a  physically  handicapped person show intense signs of emotional happiness. How  could  someone in such a restricted physical state be so happy? The answer   rests in how they use the resources they do have. Stevie Wonder couldn’t  see,  so he exploited his sense of hearing into a passion for music, and  he now has  twenty-five Grammy Awards to show for it.

5. Create happy endings whenever possible. The power of  endings is quite remarkable. The end of any experience  has a profound impact on  a person’s overall perception of the experience  as a whole. Think about reading  a well written, thought-provoking  novel. Now imagine the ending totally sucks.  Even if the story was  captivating up until the ending, would you still be happy  recommending  the novel to a friend? People always remember the ending. If the  ending  is happy, the experience creates happiness. Always tie loose ends, leave  things on a good note, and create happy endings in your life whenever   possible.

6. Use personal strengths to get things done. Everyone  possesses unique personal strengths. We all have different talents and skill sets.  Emotional happiness comes naturally to those  who use their strengths to  get things done. The state of completion always  creates a sense of  achievement. If this achievement is based exclusively on  your own  personal ability to get the job done, the physiological rewards are   priceless.

7. Savor the natural joy of simple  pleasures. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the best  things in life are free. They come in the form of simple pleasures and they appear right in front of you at  various locations and  arbitrary times. They are governed by Mother Nature and  situational  circumstance and captured by mindful awareness. It’s all about  taking a  moment to notice the orange and pink sunset reflecting off the pond   water as you hold hands with someone you love. Noticing these moments  and  taking part in them regularly will bring unpredictable bursts of  happiness into  your life.

By Marc and Angel Hack Life, DivineCaroline

At DivineCaroline.com, women  come together to learn from experts in the fields, of health, sustainability,  and culture; to reflect on shared experiences; and to express themselves by  writing and publishing stories about anything that matters to them. Here, real  women publish like real pros. Together, with our staff writers, they’re  discussing all facets of women’s lives from relationships and careers, to travel  and healthy living. So come discover, read, learn, laugh and connect at DivineCaroline.com.

How Eye Contact Affects Our Brains

How Eye Contact Affects Our Brains

 

Did you ever play the Eye Contact Game as a kid? You’re supposed to  sit  directly across from another person and stare into his or her eyes  for as long  as possible while keeping a straight face. I don’t think I  won a single game;  every attempt would end in a fit of nervous giggles.  And as an adult, I feel  even weirder locking eyes with someone for too  long. There’s just something  about prolonged eye contact that makes you  feel vulnerable and exposed, as if  the person looking into your eyes has  access to your inner thoughts and  feelings. A loved one’s lingering  look can trigger a rush of happiness, but too  much eye contact with an  acquaintance or a stranger can bring on sudden  discomfort. How, exactly,  does eye contact affect us, anyway?

The Look of Love That old adage about eyes being the  window to our inner selves  isn’t far from the truth. We can feign a frown or a  smile, but it’s harder to fake expressions from the nose up. A true  smile will produce crow’s feet, and someone  who’s angry will narrow his eyes a  bit, according to body-language  experts. We learn a lot by looking into another  person’s eyes, a  behavior that’s ingrained in us from the start. As babies, we  use  adults’ gazes to figure out what’s worth our attention. In a 2002 study   published in Developmental Psychology, researchers found that  infants  followed people’s eye direction, rather than head direction. Eye  contact also  helps our younger selves with memory recall. Researchers  at MIT discovered that  four-month-olds were more likely to recognize  someone later if he or she made  direct eye contact.

Over time, we learn the difference between eye contact that makes our hearts flutter and eye contact  that makes us cringe internally. Oxytocin, also known  as the “love” or “cuddle” hormone, plays a big part in that. It’s a  feel-good chemical that’s released  when we feel bonded with someone,  either emotionally or physically. The release is prompted by a warm hug, holding hands,  falling in love, and so forth. A recent article in Biological  Psychiatry postulated that oxytocin’s the reason we’re so inclined to make   prolonged eye contact with our loved ones. And Dr. Kerstin Uväs-Moberg,  the  author of The Oxytocin Factor, believes that eye contact can  bring  about oxytocin release as well. Perhaps that’s why gazing into the  eyes of  someone you don’t feel emotionally close with can feel so  wrong—the oxytocin  might be there, but it’s not for the right reasons.  It’s also why eye contact  is deemed so essential for couples trying to  reconnect. Looking deeply into  each other’s eyes might rekindle  forgotten feelings.

A Simple Gaze Inspires Complex Behaviors Even if we don’t  appreciate meaningful glances from just anybody, we  do look favorably upon  those who look directly at us. Researchers at  the University of  Aberdeen asked  a group of people to look at two  pictures of faces that were almost  identical—the only difference was  that one face had eyes looking away and the  other’s eyes looked into the  camera, mimicking eye contact. Whether the  subjects smiled or looked  disgusted didn’t make much difference; instead, men  and women found the  faces making eye contact most attractive and likable.  According to the  journal Nature, the brain’s reward center is  activated when one  makes eye contact with a good-looking person. Not only do we  like  looking at attractive people, but it makes us feel even better when they   look our way.

Because eye contact is linked directly to our emotions, it has an  effect on  our behavior, too, as researchers at Tufts University proved.  Study  participants encountered a dime left in a phone booth and were  approached by a  random person claiming it as his or her own. When that  person made eye contact  with the participants, they were more likely to  give back the dime. Having  someone look directly at them made them more  honest, probably because their  inner thoughts—namely, “This dime isn’t  mine”—seemed exposed.

Direct gazes also prompt increased participation from people in groups  because it makes them feel more included. Dr.  Roel Vertegaal, an expert on eye  communication between humans, showed  that the amount of eye contact a person  received during a group  conversation was proportional to how much he or she  participated. Eye  contact also forces us to pay attention more: a 2005 joint  study by the  University of Wolverhampton and the University of Stirling found  that  viewers remembered what a speaker said better if he looked directly into   the camera at least 30 percent of the time.

This improved attention to detail shifts the other way if  someone’s expected  to answer a question while making eye contact with  someone else, as evidenced  by a University  of Stirling study. Kids  answered questions correctly only 50  percent of the time if they had to  look at someone while doing it; their scores  improved significantly when  they were allowed to avert their gazes. Eye contact  requires so much  mental work that it becomes difficult to think of much else in  the  process. It’s easy when our eyes are focusing on someone we trust and   love; we can concentrate solely on the adoration, instead of on keeping  up a  conversation. But most of us can’t even look into an acquaintance’s  eyes and  keep a straight face, let alone attempt complex problem  solving.

Use Eye Contact with Discretion Eye contact can help us  feel incredibly bonded or incredibly creeped  out, depending on the person in  view. It can make people more honest or  make them appear more attractive. It  has the power to enhance memory or  cause us to forget everything else but the  irises in front of us. Think of how many people we lock eyes with on a daily   basis, be it at the grocery store or during a conversation with a  coworker.  It’s a wonder we can get anything done!

Luckily, there’s a social difference between strangers and loved  ones when  it comes to eye contact time limits. A certain amount is  necessary for social  functioning (how weird is it when the person you’re  talking to refuses to look  you in the eyes?), but anything more than  that gets far too close for comfort.  Though we do it all the time, eye  contact is clearly one of the most intimate  behaviors we engage in. We  may look into people’s eyes throughout the day, but  we reserve the  prolonged kind of gazing for those we keep closest to our  hearts.

By Vicki Santillano, DivineCaroline

At DivineCaroline.com, women  come together to learn from experts in the fields, of health, sustainability,  and culture; to reflect on shared experiences; and to express themselves by  writing and publishing stories about anything that matters to them. Here, real  women publish like real pros. Together, with our staff writers, they’re  discussing all facets of women’s lives from relationships and careers, to travel  and healthy living. So come discover, read, learn, laugh and connect at DivineCaroline.com.

 

7 Warm-Weather Foods with Surprising Health Benefits

7 Warm-Weather Foods with Surprising Health Benefits

The days are getting warmer and longer, inspiring people to engage in  backyard barbecues, and midday picnics.

Even if your elderly loved one isn’t able to take part in traditions like  cookouts, or holiday parties, you can introduce seasonal celebrations into their  lives through food. Many popular warm-weather foods even offer the added bonus  of helping a senior get the nutrients they need to remain healthy.

Here are some popular spring and summer treats that may offer some unexpected  health benefits for you and your elderly loved one. Ruth Frechman, M.A., a  registered dietician and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Nutrition and  Dietetics, offers her perspective on how these foods can be both tasty and  nutritious for seniors.

Watermelon: Synonymous with summer, this juicy fruit is not  only low-fat, it also contains a staggering amount of nutrients seniors need.  Pound for pound, watermelon  has more lycopene than any other fresh fruit or veggie. Also found in tomatoes,  lycopene is an antioxidant that has been shown to combat certain forms of cancer  and heart disease. Watermelon is also packed with potassium, which can be a boon  for seniors suffering from potassium deficiency, or hypokalemia. According to  the National Institutes for Health, hypokalemia in seniors can sometimes be  brought on by certain heart failure and blood pressure meds, and can cause  problems with heart and muscle function. Watermelon also contains significant  amounts of vitamins A, C, and B6.

Iceberg lettuce: Don’t forgo a spring salad just because it  has romaine lettuce in it. Oft-maligned as the less-healthy relative of spinach  and romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce actually has more of the antioxidant  alpha-carotene than either of them. Alpha-carotene (and its companion,  beta-carotene) can be transformed by the body into vitamin A, which can help  maintain good eye health. Research has shown that alpha-carotene, on its own,  may also play a role in lowering a person’s risk of dying from ailments such as  cancer and cardiovascular disease. Iceberg lettuce also has a good deal of  vitamin K, which can help combat osteoporosis and regulate blood clotting.  Frechman says that, because the amount of alpha-carotene in iceberg lettuce is  relatively low compared to other veggies, so you may want to add some carrots,  tomatoes, and spinach to a salad to boost its overall carotene content.

Spices: Seasoned sauces and rubs are the cornerstones of a  delicious warm weather cook-out. Spices can serve the dual purpose of making  food more flavorful to seniors whose ability to taste has been diminished, as  well as helping them fight off disease. From tumeric, whose primary compound,  curcumin has been shown to be beneficial in fighting off diseases such as  Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cancer; to cinnamon, which can help people with  type 2 diabetes by lowering their blood sugar, total cholesterol, and  triglycerides, spices have numerous potential health benefits.

Popcorn: Going the movies to see a popular summer flick can  be a simple, fun way for caregivers and their elderly loved ones to get out of  the house. Popcorn has been a cinema staple for years, and often gets a bad rap  for being unhealthy. But, if you forgo the extra salt and butter, recent  research indicates that popcorn may actually have health benefits. Researchers  found polyphenols—a group of beneficial antioxidants—to be more plentiful in  popcorn than certain fruits and veggies. Popcorn is also a pure source of whole  grain, an important dietary element for seniors. (Leesa recommends the bag of Organic Popcorn in Olive Oil found at Trader Joes!)

Party dip: Perennial components of popular party dips, tomatoes and avocados  can offer seniors an array of healthy nutrients. Salsa comprised of tomatoes and  other vegetables can provide an elderly person with part of their daily  recommended vegetable intake, as well as antioxidants such as lycopene. Though  they are high in (“good”) fat, avocados, the main component of guacamole, are  full of vitamins and minerals that can deliver a host of health benefits to  seniors. (Leesa says to make sure the veggies are organic!)

Eggs: Sometimes shunned as a member of the protein portion  of MyPlate, eggs are actually a good source of protein and contain many essential  vitamins and minerals, including vitamins: A, D, E, B6 and B12. And, it’s  not just egg whites that contain health benefits. According to Frechman, egg  yolks contain choline, lutein, and zeaxanthin—several nutrients that are  essential for good eye health. (Leesa recommends using free-range organic eggs.) 

Chocolate: In moderation, certain types of chocolate  are actually good for you. Dark chocolate is chock-full of antioxidants and has  been shown to have numerous health benefits, including: reducing blood pressure,  and increasing insulin sensitivity. (Leesa recommends Vivani Organic Dark Chocolate – order yours today from Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/vivanichocolate. )

While this article is directed at the elderly, Leesa says everyone can enjoy the benefits of these foods! Enjoy!

By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com  Editor

AgingCare.com provides online  caregiver support by connecting people caring for elderly parents to other  caregivers, elder care experts, personalized information, and local resources.  AgingCare.com has become the trusted resource for exchanging ideas, sharing  conversations and finding credible information for those seeking elder care  solutions.

6 Secret At-Home Stress Relievers

6 Secret At-Home Stress Relievers

As a caregiver,  you know you need to de-stress. But who has time to go to five yoga classes a  week or the money to indulge in a professional massage? There are ways to lower  stress without leaving your home, and without spending money. You’re surrounded  by everyday household items right now that have the power to help you relax and  unwind. You just have to know where to look!

Hand towel

Soak a hand towel in water and then microwave it for two minutes until its  steamy. Place the towel on the back of your neck and then over your face. As the  soothing heat hits your skin, your body will instinctively relax.

Water

Not only is running water a great noise muffler, but the sound and feel of  water is therapeutic. For maximum effectiveness, focus on the task at hand. The  goal isn’t to scrub down and towel off in under 30 seconds. Take 10 minutes for  a hot, unhurried shower or a steamy bath and feel the stress melt away. Massage  your head as you shampoo, use a scented body wash, loofah your skin gently. When  you emerge, you will feel rejuvenated and ready to take on the rest of your  day.

Paper

Don’t keep your anger, fear and frustration all bottled up. Vent it by  putting pen to paper. Studies show that writing  about stressful events in your life for just 10 minutes dramatically lowers  your perception of your personal stress. Experts aren’t exactly sure why it  works. Perhaps it’s because writing gets your worries out of your head and into  the real world where it’s easier to do something about them. It could be a more  transcendental explanation: the transfer of your stress through your hand, out  your body and onto the paper. Or maybe the exercise simply stops you from  ruminating about your problems. No matter what the reason, the result is the  same: Less stress and a better mood.

Tea

Skip  the coffee and opt for tea instead. Research has shown that drinking tea on  a daily basis can help lower stress hormones and inducing greater feelings of  relaxation. Try proven stress-busting brews, like Chamomile or black tea.  (Leesa recommends Organic India Tulsi Green Tea available at your local WholeFoods  (www.wholefoods.com) or order direct from Organic India at  www.organicindia.com.)

CDs

How often do you turn on the TV for “background noise.” Instead of reaching  for the remote, pop in a CD. Music has proven therapeutic benefits and does  wonders to alleviate stress. Experts suggest that it is the rhythm of the music  or the beat that has the calming effect on us even though we may not even be  consciously listening to it.

Candles

Aromatherapy is, well, therapeutic. Lavender, jasmine and chamomile scents relax  the mind and relieve stress. Give yourself several minutes of slow, deep,  even breathing. Imagine that with each breath, the scents are entering your nose  and spreading throughout your body, relaxing tight muscles and alleviating  tension. ( Leesa recommends Votivo candles!  Visit www.votivo.com. ) 

Tese moments will soon become one of your favorite times of the day.

Caregiving can be mentally and physically demanding. In the Caregiver Burnout  forum you can ask questions, find helpful answers or give your support.  Visit the Caregiver  Burnout Forum on AgingCare.com.

By Marlo Sollitto, AgingCare.com

6  Secret At-Home Stress Relievers originally appeared on AgingCare.com.   AgingCare.com provides online  caregiver support by connecting people caring for elderly parents to other  caregivers, elder care experts, personalized information, and local resources.  AgingCare.com has become the trusted resource for exchanging ideas, sharing  conversations and finding credible information for those seeking elder care  solutions.

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