Archives for October 2020

Sleep Debt: Are You Suffering from Lack of Sleep?

Hey, Wellness Warriors, how have you been sleeping lately?  Many things keep us from getting a good, healthy night’s sleep, yet it’s key to our longevity. Last year, I posted a couple of blogs about the importance of sleep—including how vital it is for your brain’s health and tips for improving your sleep.

I’d like to take the next few weeks and address a few other questions about sleep.

The hours registered on your bedside clock only tell you how many hours you were in bed, not the actual quality or quantity of your deep sleep. These are the questions I ask my friends, my colleagues, and the families I meet at our communities when they “wake up” and start to worry about their sleep:

  • Do you often wake up tired, with a bad headache, and have to drag yourself around during the day?
  • Do you get up in the middle of the night, disoriented and confused?
  • Does your significant other complain about your snoring and gasping for breath during the night?
  • Are you suddenly experiencing fatigue all day long, feelings of being out of breath, or other signs and symptoms of heart disease? (Don’t delay seeing your doctor or going to the emergency room if you’re experiencing pain.)
  • Are you suffering from irritability, worry, anxiety, depression, recurring negative thoughts and ruminations you can’t stop, or lack of motivation?
  • Are you dealing with weight gain issues, diabetes or prediabetes, or food cravings and bingeing that could be triggered by the stress hormone cortisol (which sleep helps control)?
  • Are you worried about being less productive and effective, scared about increasing “senior moments” and mental gaps like forgetfulness, poor concentration, poor decisions, or carelessness?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might need help developing your sleep habits for better health.

The Effects of Sleep Debt

We know that every year, an estimated 40 million Americans suffer from a chronic sleep disorder. The most common ones are insomnia, where you have trouble falling or staying asleep (or both), and sleep apnea, a condition of compromised breathing, which results in diminished oxygen being supplied to your brain. (You’ll learn more about that in an upcoming blog.)

Not getting enough sleep affects your body in several ways.

  • It weakens your immune system, raising the risk of infection, viruses, and some types of cancer.
  • Your body’s ability to metabolize glucose decreases, causing insulin sensitivity, making you more vulnerable to diabetes.
  • Your body decreases its leptin (a hormone that helps to regulate energy balance by inhibiting hunger, which in turn diminishes fat storage) and increases its ghrelin (a hormone that stimulates appetite, increases food intake and promotes fat storage).

One study of more than 83,000 healthy American men and women in midlife (age 51 through 72) looked at their self-reported sleep and weight changes over an average of 7.5 years. A recent NIH-AARP diet and health study investigating sleep duration, weight change, and obesity found that those who slept less than five hours a night had a 40% higher risk of becoming obese than those who slept seven to eight hours a night.

In addition to shortening your life, sleep deprivation is both dangerous and debilitating. It leads to slow reaction times, irritability, and inattention. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that sleep-deprived drivers cause 1 million motor vehicle accidents and at least 1,500 fatal crashes per year.

To learn more about how living in your purpose can increase your longevity, order your copy of my latest bestseller, 30 Summers More from Amazon today. All proceeds go to the American Diabetes Association.

If you do shift work or have a work schedule that challenges your ability to maintain a healthy sleep schedule—something that is becoming more common in our 24-7 kind of world—you’re at real risk for health problems and will need to work extra hard to get enough sleep. Some 22 million Americans are affected in this way. This includes people working in traditional trades of law enforcement, health care, manufacturing, retail, information technology, media, as well as anyone who travels for business or has a long commute, requiring them to start their day early in the morning. Shift work, in particular, makes it extremely difficult to get enough consistent deep sleep and to have circadian rhythms that enhance health and peak performance.

Anxiety, depression, and worry are exquisitely connected to lack of sleep and to sleep disorders. A cycle of worry and negative thoughts can keep someone awake all night. Negative, obsessive thinking and a sense of not having control of your thoughts can feed on itself, and soon you are worrying about worrying, reinforcing the rumination.

People who get less sleep and go to bed very late often experience more negative thoughts than people who have more regular sleep cycles and get to bed earlier. Researchers Meredith Coles, Ph.D., and Jacob Nota, Ph.D., of Binghamton University of the State University of New York suggest that helping people get to sleep at the right time, much earlier in the night, could have a direct positive impact in preventing, as well as improving episodes, of depression and anxiety.

For tips on improving the quality and quantity of your sleep, read, “How’d You Sleep Last Night? 9 Steps for Better Sleep.” Take the tips one or two at a time, and watch your sleep improve. Next time, I’ll address a question I’m frequently asked: Do naps really help?

Until then, Wellness Warriors, Live Well, Live Long!

~Dwayne


Three Essential Components to Longevity: Purpose, Happiness, and Attitude

Interacting with our seniors at Aegis Living has taught me so much—not just about life and living, but also about how to live a long and happy life. One of the things I’ve learned from our “oracles”—that has been confirmed by research—is that having purpose in your life is critical to your health and longevity.

Some would say that purpose means having a sense of direction and overarching goals, or even specific ones—like learning a new language or playing the piano or guitar.

I think of purpose as putting forth effort toward doing things that have meaning for you and having daily, doable micro-goals. After all, you’re the one who decides what gives you purpose. For example, if gardening has become a passion for you, giving it a sense of purpose in your life would lead you to read gardening books, talk to neighbors about what they’re planting and share ideas and tips, speak to experts at nurseries, and move things around in your yard to improve and enhance their health and visual impact. You get the idea.

A sense of purpose organizes your time, focus, and even relationships. If you have to get out of bed to start making phone calls and planning for a community event you are involved in, it’s easier to push yourself out of bed and get moving.

People who have goals and work toward them also feel a sense of self-worth and fulfillment, which helps them maintain a positive outlook on life. While research shows that finding purpose early in life is a prescription for health, I believe that finding a renewed sense of purpose is what takes people into thriving later in life. If you are bored with cooking after many years of doing it, find a new cooking style—or a completely new hobby or pursuit that excites you. If you live to 100 or beyond, you will have several lifetimes of purpose and passions to fulfill.

Not sure purpose and longevity are connected, consider this. Although it’s believed that being in the White House ages US Presidents pre­maturely, research shows this isn’t true. A 2011 study by S. Jay Olshansky, PhD, at the University of Illinois at Chicago, showed that US Presidents of the last 50 years have lived, on average, 8 ½ to 9 years longer than the average American. These men held what’s often called the most stressful job in the world—and we know high levels of stress can lead to an earlier death. Why, then, do so many presi­dents live so long after serving in office?

Maybe what these men have in common is that their lives were driven by pur­pose, and they were rewarded and praised for their hard work. Also, they carried over their purpose-filled drive for meaning and for making a difference after they served in office.

Finding Purpose Takes Physical and Mental Effort

Hidekichi Miyazaki, a Japanese father of four and grandfather of 10, was 105 years old in 2015 when he completed the 100-meter sprint in 42.22 seconds. He set a new Guinness world record in track and field as the oldest competitive sprinter. He also competed in the shot put event at the Kyoto Masters Tournament.

What struck me most about his life wasn’t his competitive running or his race times. It was his sense of purpose. Before he took up track and field at the ripe age of 93, he spent 33 years practicing calligraphy and playing Japanese chess with his friends. Those habits gave him purpose and friendship for many years. But as his friends started to die from old age, he wanted to find something he could do on his own—thus the track and field events.

Miyazaki is vigilant about his training. According to his daughter, he practices every day, except when it’s raining, in a nearby park. His routine is to run one 100-meter sprint and to practice throwing the shot put three times.

To learn more about how living in your purpose can increase your longevity, order your copy of my latest bestseller, 30 Summers More from Amazon today. All proceeds go to the American Diabetes Association.

He refuses to “take it easy,” and he has set a new goal to reduce his 42.22-second sprint time down to 36 or even 35 seconds.

His story shows that finding that purpose and happiness requires a bit of physical or mental effort—a stretching of the mind and body.

The Purpose-Happiness Connection

Purpose is a key driver of happiness, and if you’ve been reading my blogs, you probably know that I think happiness is crucial to good health. But what if you are still on the path to finding your purpose? You still want to infuse some happiness into your life right now, right?

Dr. Becky Su, a brilliant practitioner of Western and Chinese medicine, has some words of wisdom: “Happiness is contagious. If for one night only you can be a beacon of happiness and joy, by the end of the night, everyone in your presence will be happy.” This is a great reminder that we can find moments of happiness, even during trying times. Just as with love, there’s no limit to the amount of happiness there can be in the world.

Dr. Su is perhaps at her most inspiring and helpful when she talks about happiness. Her three steps for happiness are simple and profound:

  1.  “If you can’t change it, don’t think about it. If your adult child is struggling and it’s something you can’t change, don’t lose sleep over it. Keep yourself healthy so you can be there for everyone else.”
  2. “You have to give yourself permission to be happy. You can’t make yourself happy, but you can give yourself permission to decide to be happy.”
  3. “Focus on the beautiful and the good. Your brain is trainable. You’re not fixed in your mood, your thinking, how you feel today, or how you’ll feel tomorrow. We’re wired to notice what’s wrong—it’s a survival mechanism—but we can counterbalance that instinct. The Chinese philosophers ask the question, ‘Can the monk move the mountain?’ The answer is, ‘What angle do you want to see?’”

Being happy is obviously a worthy goal to improve the quality of our lives. But the whole field of happiness research is proving that being happy isn’t a “bonus” for a good life; happiness may help us live longer, encourage healthier habits, and even affect our genes.

In this context, happiness doesn’t mean being constantly cheerful or pollyannaish. The goal isn’t perfection or doing everything right to be perfectly happy all the time. Happiness coexists with moments of sadness or grief. A rigid adherence to the “right” behaviors—including the habits I discuss in my blogs—doesn’t guarantee longevity, and correctness without joy leaves us with a life half-lived. Happiness is a way of seeing and interacting with the world that brings positivity, a sense of purpose, and a spark of aliveness that is infectious.

Connect with Your Inner Child’s Purpose to Lift Your Mood

Our attitudes count for a lot when it comes to healthy longevity. It’s been shown that if you believe you look and feel younger than your actual biological age, you’re likely to live longer than someone who feels his or her age or even older. Becca Levy, Ph.D., a researcher on aging at Yale School of Public Health, has shown that a positive attitude toward aging can help you live an average of 7.5 years longer. Our beliefs about aging—whether we think of it in terms of limitation and inevitable decline or of lifelong potential and living at the edge of our capacity— shape our actual health.

At Aegis Headquarters, I built a treehouse behind the main building, so my staff has easy access to childlike experiences.

At our Aegis Living communities, we’ve discovered that people who live longer and happier lives seem to have some kind of totem that connects them to their younger selves. One resident who was nearly 90 loved to ride the Ferris wheel every year.

But the opposite seems true as well. People who think they are “too old” for certain activities they might otherwise enjoy or that they need to “look and act their age” seem to age prematurely.

Your Longevity Is in Your Hands

Wellness Warriors, if you equate aging with inactivity or being “over the hill,” you’re less likely to take care of yourself. You’ll give in to decline. If you believe that aging is defined by how you feel, you’re more likely to practice healthy habits, creating a healthier life span. You’ll eat foods that fuel rather than harm your body. You’ll get the restorative sleep you need, so you have the vitality to fuel yourself throughout the day. You’ll move more and sit less.

All these habits will help you feel better—and younger—and, in turn, help you have the best possible health for the rest of your life.

Until next time, Live Well, Live Long!

~Dwayne


Don’t Let the New Normal Land You in—or Keep You Away from—the Hospital!

Wellness Warriors, take notice! I recently went in for a colonoscopy…it was an outpatient procedure…and the results came back all clear…for which I am truly grateful!

BUT here’s what I want you to think about.

People are putting off routine health check-ups during these uncertain times because they are worried about contracting the virus in a hospital or health facility. And worse, those experiencing symptoms of more serious conditions, like heart attack, stroke, and even appendicitis, are putting off going to the hospital. Sadly, this is proving to have deadly consequences.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Hospital

Many doctors say the uncertain times we’re currently living through have produced a silent sub-epidemic of people who need care at hospitals but who don’t dare go in for treatment. According to physicians and early research, these include people with inflamed appendixes, infected gall bladders, bowel obstructions, and, more ominously, chest pains and stroke symptoms.

“Everybody is frightened to come to the ER,” Mount Sinai cardiovascular surgeon, John Puskas, said.

Alarming new research also shows that deaths are increasing from causes such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, while emergency room visits for those conditions are actually down. “One factor that could be contributing to the increase [in deaths] is that people are afraid to come in for care,” said Dr. Steven Woolf, professor of family medicine and population health at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. “We need to assure them that the danger of not getting care is greater than the danger of getting exposed to the virus.”

Dr. Woolf led a recent study that was published July 1, 2020, in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), which found that in Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania (the five states with the most C-19 deaths in March and April), there were dramatic increases in deaths from causes such as heart disease, diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s disease.  New York City experienced the biggest jumps, including a 398% rise in heart disease deaths and a 356% increase in diabetes deaths.

Wellness Warriors, this is just sad and unnecessary. The immediate message from the medical community to patients is clear: Don’t delay needed treatment. “Time to treatment” dictates the outcomes for people having heart attacks and strokes. If fear of the virus leads people to delay or avoid care altogether, then the death rate will extend far beyond those directly infected by the virus.

What to Do

If you feel like you might be experiencing symptoms of something serious, like a heart attack, stroke, or appendicitis, GET HELP! Don’t wait. Call 911 or have someone take you straight to the emergency room. As I just mentioned, “time to treatment” is crucial, not only to save your life, but also to ensure a good quality of life afterward.

But just because you’re not experiencing symptoms of something serious doesn’t mean you should stop taking care of yourself. Have you had your regular exams this year? While the new normal may cause some to have concerns about the safety of going to a doctor’s office or other health facility, we cannot stop taking great care of our health. Whether a routine health check, colonoscopy, breast exam, dental exam, or heart check-up, get them done on time.

Hospitals, health facilities, and doctor’s offices are taking extensive precautions to keep all patients safe and virus-free. If it’s available, schedule a telemedicine appointment to speak to your physician/physician’s assistant/nurse before scheduling an appointment to come into the office.

When it’s time to go into a health facility or doctor’s office, take standard precautions. Wear your mask, wash your hands with soap and warm water, and use hand sanitizer. I recently read an article from the Mayo Clinic, and here are a few of the tips they recommend when preparing to go to a doctor’s office or health facility.

Be sure to check for information about:

  • Requirements regarding mask-wearing by staff and visitors
  • Cleaning protocols and sanitizing measures for exam rooms, waiting areas, restrooms, elevators, and other frequently touched surfaces
  • Social distancing practices at check-in, in waiting areas, and in exam rooms
  • Limits on the number of people who can be in the clinic at the same time
  • Screening questions and temperature checks for staff and visitors at all entrances
  • Special measures, spatial isolation, or instructions for people who have or may have COVID-19
  • How doctors and other staff are using personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Video (telemedicine) appointment options

When you’re at the facility, continue to exercise normal precautions, such as wearing your mask or face covering, washing your hands with soap and warm water or using hand sanitizer, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, use your own ink pen, and if possible, use touchless payment options (i.e., mobile or online payments). If you must pay with a card machine or cash, be sure to use hand sanitizer immediately after completing the transaction, and wash your hands thoroughly when you get home.

Self-care is more important than ever. Don’t be caught by surprise—by then, it might be too late.

I’m grateful for the good results I got from my colonoscopy. Taking care of myself is paying off! Make sure you’re taking care of yourself as well! If you need help in getting on the good-health track, grab a copy of my latest bestseller, 30 Summers More. It’s chocked full of helpful tips and in-depth information on how to live your best life!

Until next time, Wellness Warriors, Live Well, Live Long!

~Dwayne


How Have the Last Six Months Changed You?

Wellness Warriors—how have the last six months changed you? Have you slowed down, been under stress, maybe eating too much? Or have you taken advantage of life’s change of pace to do more things outside, to try new, healthy ways of cooking, or to decompress?

I spent the Summer swimming several times a week. Initially, I did it for stress relief and to get in some cardio. Then I started to see my body transform. So, I kept on swimming and swimming and swimming, and my body reacted in so many positive ways. My entire shape changed, and I feel great!!!

You know that I preach longevity, and I’ll be the first to reinforce that you have to practice what you preach. So, I spent the last six months making exercise a PRIORITY!

Now, we’re leaving Summer behind and heading into Fall—sweet treats, cooler weather, and some degree of sheltering in place. The danger of becoming sedentary, especially as we give in to indulgence, is real.

Every year gives us a new chance to be better than before. With our health, which has never been more critical to maintain, we basically have two choices:

  • Get moving and fuel the body,
    OR
  • Get sluggish, heavier, run-down, and more susceptible to illness.

So, if you’ve let lockdown slow you down, TODAY is your day to get moving. I’m a huge proponent of doing anything to keep your body moving. But if you can add exercise to your health routine, you’ll not only be healthier, you’ll feel better too. You can swim, walk, jog, lift weights, climb stairs, dance, cycle. There are so many options available, even during the upcoming new season. Let’s take a look at a few amazing exercise options.

Four Great Exercise Options

No matter your age, the best exercise for you is the one you like doing. After all, if you don’t enjoy your workout, will you really stick with it? You’ll also want to check in with your physician before stating on an exercise regimen. But with that said, here are what I feel are four excellent exercise options to help you feel good from your head to your toes.

Swimming

Of course, I’ll start with the form of exercise that I spent the Summer enjoying. Swimming is an ideal workout for us senior Wellness Warriors because it presents little risk of injury and is low impact. Water exercises work out all the muscle groups in the body, giving you a complete workout. Whether you’re swimming laps or doing water aerobics, you’ll get a workout that’s good for your body while being gentle on it, too.

Here are just a few of the health benefits of swimming:

  • It improves your heart health – Swimming makes your heart stronger, improves your endurance, lowers your blood pressure, and improves your circulation.
  • It boosts your mental health – As I mentioned before, I started swimming as a form of stress relief, and I can attest to this point. Swimming is a great way to reduce your stress levels, increase brain function, and improve your mood.
  • It’s gentle on your joints – Because swimming isn’t weight-bearing, it’s easy on the joints, especially for those who suffer from joint pain and discomfort. It’s a full-body workout that keeps the pressure off your hips, knees, and spine.
  • It improves muscle tone – Swimming is an excellent form of resistance training and can help improve your muscle strength. You’ll also see long, lean muscle tone forming the more you do it! I know I did!

Walking

Experts report that walking could be the best exercise for seniors. It’s an effective way to reduce the risk of chronic conditions and improve your overall health. Some of the benefits of walking include:

  • It improves your hearth health – Getting your heart rate up daily leads to a reduction in the risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and even coronary heart disease.
  • It boosts your mental health – A daily walk can actually help you feel more positive about life. The endorphins released during physical activity create a sense of well-being, reduce anxiety, and boost your mood.
  • It lowers your blood sugar – After eating, taking a 15-minute walk has been shown to reduce the after-eating spike in blood sugar some seniors can experience.
  • It reduces pain – Walking even just three times a week for 20 minutes can help strengthen abdominal and back muscles to decrease chronic back pain. Studies have also shown that walking helps reduce some pain due to chronic conditions like arthritis.

Dancing

T and I love to dance! Dancing is fun and can be done with your family at home or with your friends in a class or a club. (Nowadays, you can even take dance classes over Zoom!) And, of course, it has great health benefits. As you age, your body loses muscle mass, coordination, and balance, making you more likely to fall and injure yourself in the course of everyday activities. Dancing can help counteract this decline. Some of the benefits of dancing include:

  • It improves strength – Dancing improves strength and muscle function in older adults, as well as increases balance and flexibility. It also leads to better stability and fewer injuries.
  • It can improve your cardiovascular health – Not surprisingly, dancing can improve your cardiovascular health, which will decrease your chances of developing heart disease.
  • It can improve your posture and motor skills – In one study, healthy older adults who participated in a six-week dance program showed improved posture, reaction times, and motor performance.
  • It could improve your brain health – Some research has found that dancing increases activity in the brain, which helps you form new neural connections and to think with more speed and agility.

Cycling

While there is some debate regarding the safety of cycling for seniors, there are many more statistics that show that senior bike-riding is not only safe but healthy. Here are a few of the benefits of cycling:

  • It is a low-impact, low-stress exercise – When you cycle, you move in smooth motions that don’t put undue stress on your body. When you cycle, the circular movements that propel you forward don’t strain the body in any way. Meaning? You can cycle for years to come without harming your body.
  • It can help you lose weight – Each time you hop on a bicycle—outdoors or stationary—you burn calories. The more comfortable you become riding, the longer you can ride and lose more weight. Combining cycling with another low impact exercise, like swimming, is a perfect way to stay in shape.
  • It’s great for your heart – Riding a bicycle is a great way to increase your heart’s capacity. As you become a better cyclist, your heart becomes even stronger and reduces the odds that you will suffer a heart-related ailment.
  • It increases your body strength – Muscular health is directly influenced by mitochondrial health, which is directly influenced by regular exercise such as cycling. The more you cycle, the healthier your mitochondria, the healthier your cells, and the stronger your muscles.

So, whether you choose one of these forms of exercise, or choose something else that you enjoy, keep your body moving every day, so you get stronger, leaner, more energized, and keep your immune system running at top speed.

Get moving, Wellness Warriors, and close 2020 with great health! Until next time, Live Well, Live Long!

~Dwayne