LONGEVITY

Is Personalized Medicine the Way of the Future?

I am a huge fan of personalized medicine. I spend one to two hours a day studying it. In fact, I see it as the future. Why?

Well, I spent the last five and a half years doing research and studying and going to meetings and conferences, and even putting myself in my own kind of personalized health experiments, to create my bestselling book, 30 Summers More: Adding Time Back to Your Aging Clock. And what I discovered during this journey was, there are so many things that we can do to improve our lives and the lives of our Aegis Living residents.

Right now we take blood pressure, we take people’s temperatures, we look at them and see if their condition has changed. And of course, with the Coronavirus, it’s exceptionally important that we do these things and more, but there are so many other things that we can do as part of regular care.

Traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM, has been around for 5,000 years, but no one in senior housing has really taught people about monitoring a resident’s changing conditions via TCM. You can talk about whether skin tones are different or how to detect a pulse. And the thing about TCM that’s so brilliant is, it’s preventative. It’s not after-the-fact. You don’t want to wait until someone doubles up in pain to say, “Oh, they have a UTI.” You want to be able to look and say, “Wow, if we don’t give this person more hydration, they’re going to end up with a UTI.” We’re trying to think progressively about a variety of things.

I’m consumed by this concept called earthing or grounding, where we connect with the Earth. In Japan, they call it forest bathing. Doctors actually write prescriptions for people to lower their blood pressure, lower their blood sugar, through walks in the forest.

Regularly getting outside and spending time in nature can really boost your immune system. Relax and breathe deeply.

There’s also the concept of biophilia, which hospitals have found significant in terms of improving people’s immune systems. They originally discovered this by putting some people, post-op, in rooms that overlook brick walls and other people in rooms that overlook gardens. And they found that the people whose rooms overlooked the gardens were healing twice as fast as the people whose rooms overlooked the brick wall.

So, more than just getting out and taking a walk (which is still a great thing to do), what can you do to get back into nature? To get connected to the Earth—whether inside or outside? What you choose to do will help improve your immune system.

Something else that is important to your overall wellness is sleep. Take, for example, a person who’s getting eight percent deep sleep — maybe they sleep eight hours and out of those eight hours are only getting 32 minutes of deep sleep — there’s going to be an impact on their immune system. You can trace it back and say, “Did you drink coffee at nine PM? Are you drinking caffeinated beverages at night? Were you watching your TV until you fell asleep?” Once you trace it backwards, you can determine how to improve that?

You can also track it scientifically. There is tremendous technology for sleep. On my bed, I have a sleep map that can actually diagnose how much I toss and how deep my sleep is. I also wear a ring called an Oura Ring that will track my deep sleep and tell me how many times a night I wake up. With the assistance of technology, you then have data. With data, you can improve your sleep and, in the process, your immune system, and your quality of life.

One of the things that I didn’t write about in the book was my meeting with several past US Presidents. I’ve interviewed President Clinton, spent time with Jimmy Carter, and got to meet Barack Obama. One of the things that I found with presidents is that they are living 15, 20, 25 years longer than their mortality chart would have predicted at the time of their birth. President Clinton was 72 when I met with him, and no one in his family has ever lived to the age of 72; everybody dies from some form of cancer. And he said, “You know, there’s only one reason for it. It’s having a purpose in my life.” And Jimmy Carter, at 95, is still building Habitat for Humanity houses and teaching Sunday school, and he has a foundation that does great work around the world. His dad, brother, and sister all died of pancreatic cancer in their 50s, and here he is, 95. How do you explain it?

The one thing we don’t do well is give people purpose as they age. People think, “Well, my purpose is, I retire at 65 and I go golfing and fishing,” and that’s what kills people. Purpose is a big aspect of wellness, and if we really want to be forward-thinking, we’d better be thinking more about it.

Is personalized medicine and preventive health the future of senior living in general?

Yes, absolutely, and it’s certainly the future of Aegis Living. I think we’re way ahead of the curve in how we’re thinking about this and the experts that we’re gathering together to give us some very creative thoughts about this topic.

If you think about it, no one grows up saying, “Man, I can’t wait to go into assisted living. It’s my dream in life,” right? But if you invent a concept that says, “Hey, not only do I think I’m going to improve the quality of your life as you age, but I think I can extend your life expectancy through some very well-thought-out methodologies and science,” and so on, that’s significant. That’s really significant. We’re not at that point yet, but I think we have that capability.

Many thanks to Lois A. Bowers from McKnight’s Senior Living for featuring Aegis Living and me in her recent article.

Stay with me as I continue to share more on personal wellness, longevity, and thriving as a senior! Until next time, Live Well, Live Long.

~Dwayne

A HAPPY HEART IS A GOOD MEDICINE…AND CAN ADD YEARS TO YOUR LIFE

Whether you’re someone who has many, many friends, or is someone with just a few super close friends, relationships are vital to our emotional well-being. No doubt!

I sometimes wonder, though, if friendship should be called “healthship.” Social connec­tions not only give us pleasure, but also affect physical health. Many studies have demonstrated the health benefits of social connections—from a spouse/partner and extended family, to best friends and loose-but-friendly ties. Feeling connected to other people can give you a sense of purpose and meaning as well as confidence that you can face challenges, learn new things, and be resilient. Having a strong social network lowers your risk of dementia, too. 

One of the bright sparks of positivity at one of our Aegis Living assisted living centers is a remarkable African-American woman whose life mirrors the wrenching challenges of succeeding in segregated America. As a centenarian, her attitude is probably her greatest gift to herself and the wide circle of friends that have surrounded her for decades. 

Throughout her life, she had a vibrant community of friends. Apparently, her phone never stopped ringing and she constantly had vis­itors and all kinds of committees and projects she was involved in. 

When she thinks about what has been most important to her long life, she says:

I try very hard to be nice to people. I feel that down the road they too will be nice to everybody. I do things for someone, not because I want anything, but because I want the person to do the same thing— or more—for somebody else. The golden rule is one of the things I believe in. I feel it’s paid off. Not everyone has done for me what I’ve done for them, but I feel like I’ve got it from somewhere.

Make New Friends and Rediscover the Ageless You 

In the many interviews and conversations I’ve had with people over 80, one of the pieces of advice that has rung most true to me has been this: You have to have friends who are more than 20 years younger than you. 

When I asked why, the person said, “Most of our friends who would be our age have died. If we were to do this all over again, by the time we hit 50 or 60, we’d start making friends with people who were 30 or 40. Plus younger people keep you on your toes. You can’t live in the past. They make you think about the present and the future.” 

The octogenarians tell me, “Younger friends get us excited about things we wouldn’t normally get excited about. They stretch us physically, expecting us to keep up with them. They stretch our creativity and get us involved with things we wouldn’t normally do.” 

If you don’t know younger people, think about your friends’ children and your kids and their friends. One woman I know had a long habit of getting together with her girlfriends in her 50s, and one day she realized that some of the daughters and sons had interesting contributions to the conversations. Instead of just catching up with old friends, she decided to get to know their adult children better.

Great Relationships Infuse Your Life with Happiness 

Ultimately, I believe happiness is what many people want along with longevity; and happiness has been proven to be life extending. 

Research is proving what we’ve known from experience and observation about the value of a positive outlook and finding reasons to be happy even when faced with challenges. For example: 

  • People who perceive aging as a positive experience are more likely to prac­tice healthy behaviors. 
  • People who think they’re in poor health may die sooner than those who con­sider themselves healthy (regardless of their actual health status). 
  • Optimism, hope, life satisfaction, and happiness are associated with lowered likelihood of heart disease and stroke. 

Furthering this idea about health and happiness, researcher, psychologist, and ep­idemiologist Andrew Steptoe, DSc, DPhil, at University College London, led a team that studied 30,000 people over the age of 60 for eight years to learn more about aging, health, and happiness. The study found that those who were least happy were 80% more likely to develop problems with everyday activities like dressing than the happier participants. 

Dr. Steptoe and his team also analyzed the results of the English Longitudinal Study of Aging, which followed 11,000 people over 50. People who reported nega­tive emotions like feeling anxious or worried were twice as likely to die within five years as people who reported feeling contented and excited. Steptoe has pointed out that this holds true regardless of age, economic status, or health status. Being happy despite challenges is health protective.

How to Improve Your Relationships, Happiness, and Mental Health 

To enhance happiness and alleviate stress, depression, and anxiety, consider the following: 

  • Let happiness be a guide. Worry less about perfection and doing everything “right.” If you follow all the “rules” ofhealth but miss out on joy, pleasure, and a sense of purpose, you’ll miss out on the health benefits of happiness. 
  • Purchase experiences, not things. Research has shown that purchasing things like new clothes and electronics won’t make you happier overall. But buying experiences, such as travel or tickets to a play will maximize happiness. Anticipating the event and planning for it can provide even more enjoyment. 
  • Try joining a group and be open to friends from new, different, or unlikely sources. Read the flyers at the health food store and the library to find out what’s happening in your community. Is there a gardening club or a bridge game advertised? A lecture where you might meet people interested in the same topic you want to learn more about? Take a class at a community center, church, or local college or university. You might want to think about lecturing, teaching, or leading a workshop if you have expertise you would like to share. Or volunteer to work for a cause. 
  • Fake it till you feel it. Research has shown that when you’re feeling down, the mere act of smiling can cheer you up. Laughter can also slow your heart rate and reduce stress. Rent a funny movie or read a humorous book to improve your mood. 
  • Join a laughter club. Laughter is a tonic for health. Studies have shown that laughter can reduce stress, improve immune function, and even relieve pain. A number of laughter clubs have developed, where people gather to laugh and do breathing exercises. Find one at laughteryoga.org. 
  • Practice meditation. Meditation reduces stress, improves your mood, de­creases your heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure, and increases your production of serotonin and HDL numbers. Meditation can help you sleep better and maintain a better mood, reducing anxiety and depression. It also can help you be more focused and creative. Considering all it can do for our brains, minds, and bodies, we should all be looking at ways to meditate more. 
  • Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a conscious attempt to pay attention to the present moment in a particular way and in a nonjudgmental state. There’s increasing scientific evidence that mindfulness can reduce stress, boost the immune response, improve sleep quality, and lower blood pressure and cortisol levels. 
  • You can sit to do mindfulness meditation or do mindful listening, eating, or walking. Search the Internet for instructions on how to practice mindfulness. You don’t have to shut down all your thoughts and never let yourself get distracted. You just have to practice refocusing your attention on whatever you choose—your breath, or the feel of your feet on the ground as you walk very slowly.
To learn more about taking charge of your health, order your copy of my latest bestseller, 30 Summers More fromAmazon today.

Try yoga. Practitioners of yoga, the ancient Indian health care practice, use breathing exercises, posture, stretching, and meditation to balance the body’s energy centers. Yoga can reduce stress and anxiety and improve physi­cal fitness, balance, and overall functioning. Yoga should be seen as a gently flowing form of movement you can practice anywhere that will build strength, flexibility, and 

Become a healthy habits master. Getting enough sleep and physical activityeating right, understanding your body, and being proactive about getting the care you need can all help alleviate stress and build your resilience. 

Get specific help from a doctor or counselor if you’re struggling with stress and moods. There are treatments and medications that can alleviate depres­sion and anxiety. If you’re having a rough time managing your symptoms, talk to your doctor. Cognitive behavioral therapy is highly effective for the treatment of anxiety. It’s shown to help people examine how their thoughts promote or worsen anxiety and how they can change them.

Join or start an exercise club. Group activities will not only provide social support, but also promote healthy habits! For example, join a weight loss or walking club, or find a friend to walk with on a regular basis. Swimming or biking with others can get you out into the community and even into nature, depending on the climate you live in. 

Cultivating strong relationships is important for us all. I intentionally bring people into my circle of friends who I believe are kindred spirits, and I’ve also taken steps to release toxic relationships that drained me. Deep relationships with people other than your spouse/partner are shown to el­evate a person’s well-being because people with deep relationships are much more satisfied and happier than those who are lonely.

Next time, Wellness Warriors, I want to share with you one more thing that is a critical part of my healthy habits…namely, knowing my purpose—having a reason to get up in the morning. Your purpose can bring health-giving energy to your life as well. 

Until then, Live Well, Live Long!

~Dwayne

WHAT GETS YOU OUT OF BED EVERY MORNING COULD BE WHAT INCREASES YOUR LONGEVITY

Purpose is paramount in my life, and I think that’s just the way I’m built. But what I didn’t really understand until recently was that my purpose brings me such happiness, gratitude, and optimism for the future. Your purpose can bring the same health-giving energy to your life as well. 

While we can’t control our life circumstances, we can do our best to find ways to promote happiness, purpose, and well-being. The physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual elements of life all promote our healthy longevity. Living in a state of suffering, anger, or anxiety, on the other hand, leads to the opposite of health, just like too much sitting or not enough sleeping. 

As you read about some of the research on longevity and happiness, you might start to think, “That’s something my grandmother told me once.” Studies show she was right about quite a lot when it comes to a positive outlook and not letting yourself get too wound up about the things you can’t change. Even so, you might be surprised by some of the discoveries researchers are making. 

Let It Go 

Don’t ignore the value of letting go of what isn’t working for you, whether it’s a too-stressful job or a relationship or something else, like a habit of letting people push your buttons. It is never too late to reinvent yourself. 

There is no law that says midlife and older people don’t and can’t change. All the research on aging shows that people do continue to evolve and grow through­out their lives. Undertreated anxiety or depression at any age is not necessary. There are solutions and you can harness your resilience and feel optimistic about your future. 

The Purpose Effect 

To some, purpose means having a sense of direction and overarching goals, or even specific ones—like learning a language or how to play the piano or guitar. What I’ve come to understand is that, no matter what a person’s purpose, it can be defined as a reason to wake up in the morning because you’re needed—by an endeavor, a spouse, a community, or grandchildren. 

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 organizing for a community event you are involved in, it’s easier to push yourself out of bed and get moving. 

Dabbling—putting forth minimal effort instead of pushing yourself to learn more, create more, and contribute more—doesn’t give rise to satisfaction and doesn’t grow a sense of purpose. Being able to give someone advice on where to plant a particular flower or bush on their lawn or helping your gardening club put on a plant sale can make you feel connected to others around you. Learning about something new from others can do that, too. Think about what you can share with other people and what you can learn that will make you feel energetic. 

Renewed Sense of Purpose People who have goals and work toward them are likely to 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 gardening after many years of doing it, find a new way to garden—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.  One grandfather started a blog when he was 100 years old. Every day was an occa­sion to capture his thoughts and master the technology.

Goals, learning, and connecting with new people can all contribute to a sense of purpose and keep you feeling excited about an activity.

Although we say that being in the White House ages United States 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 United States 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. 

Jimmy Carter became involved in Habitat for Humanity, helping build houses for low-income people, and was an international peacemaker for decades. Bill Clin­ton developed a global foundation to connect and fund people with good ideas to solve problems like the AIDS crisis. He and George H. W. Bush worked together to help victims of Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 South Asian tsunami. George W. Bush quietly became an accomplished artist and published a highly praised book, Portraits of Courage, with his compelling paintings and stories of veterans. The project exemplifies the role of purpose.

The irony is, with the exception of Walter Mondale and Dick Cheney, U.S. Vice Presidents typically have not lived past age 76, the average mortality rate for men in the United States. I believe this is in part because they had a great deal of stress in their lives, but very little of the purpose, praise or rewards that comes with the presidency. After their term was over, they generally also did not develop a cause, mission, or purpose to carry them through the rest of their lives. If you think of what I’m saying as an equation—stress + no praise + no reward + no purpose = early death—you can see why you should take measures to turn that equation around.

We all have stress in our lives and this example illustrates why I strongly encourage you to live your life with positive purpose that brings meaningful rewards to you.

Purpose is Powered by Resilience and Optimism

To me, resilience—the ability to adapt positively to adversity—has always seemed to be a hallmark of longevity. I think that’s one of the qualities that led to my interest in aging when I was just starting my career in my 20s.

I always remembered the time I was a young boy and met a World War I veteran in the home for the aging where my grandmother lived. On one of our weekly visits, I wandered the hall and heard a man calling for help. I tentatively walked into his room and retrieved his pillow that had dropped to the floor when my eyes saw all his medals. We started talking and I was spellbound by his war stories, but also the stories of his productive—and now I see resilient—life.

The next time I visited my grandmother, I went to look for him and found out he had died. I never forgot him and when I got my first job working with the elderly, the thing that made the work meaningful for me was spending time talking to the residents.

Resilience and grit are being recognized as underlying keys to successful learning in young children—they lead to innovative thinking, perseverance, and delayed rewards. These are all things that help children experience the intrinsic rewards of learning. The same applies across the life span.

Purpose Can Improve Mental Health 

To learn more about taking charge of your health, order your copy of my latest bestseller, 30 Summers More fromAmazon today.

I believe that having a strong sense of purpose does a great deal to lift one’s mood and outlook on life no matter what a person’s age. I also believe it’s vital for im­proving mental health. Health researchers have known for quite a while that people with severe mental illness in general have shorter life spans, but they are starting to learn that milder conditions such as depression and chronic anxiety also have a very real impact on people’s lives. Even low-level signs of depression and anxiety may be associated with a 20% increase in health risks. Chronic stress can lead to a string of problems, including increased cortisol and inflammation, a depressed immune system, metabolic changes, negative changes in the gut micro­biome, brain disorders, and shortened telomeres

My point is that to avoid this, especially as we age, make an effort to keep your sense of purpose alive and well. There are so many options to improve your emotions and health. All the habits I’ve been sharing in this blog series have a direct connection to emotional well-being, but for anyone dealing with chronic unhappi­ness, anxiety, or worry, finding a sense of purpose and having healthy sleep practices are probably the first ones to adopt.

Your Longevity Is in Your Hands 

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 the habits of health, 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.

Wellness Warriors, I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog series and have learned valuable ways to take charge of your health, to live your best life, and increase your longevity. I am grateful to be a part of your health journey. 

Would you please share below: What have you found to be the most helpful, beneficial, eye-opening, or surprising thing you learned during this series? (And if you’re just joining the series, I encourage you to go back to the beginning and see what you missed.)

Until next time, Live Well, Live Long,

~Dwayne

HOW’D YOU SLEEP LAST NIGHT? 9 STEPS FOR BETTER SLEEP

So, you go to bed at a decent time, but you wake up groggy. Or maybe you’re a night owl and just can’t seem to go to sleep before midnight. Or maybe you’re not sleeping all the way through the night. Does this sound like you? As you may have read in my last blog, I think sleeping well is the most important health habit to develop.  

But how? What’s keeping you from getting the healthful night of sleep that your brain and body need? Here are 9 tips that I have incorporated into my health habits to get better sleep.

1. Put out the fire in your brain and go to bed with your mind clear. 

The first huge lesson I needed to learn was that I had to let my brain have downtime. 

Think about what thoughts you put in your head before you go to sleep. A work (or imagined) crisis that someone e-mails you about at 11 pm that will get your mind churning? A tension-raising text message that adds drama to a family issue? A stimulating action movie or a crime show or a disturbing news report? You fire your brain up by putting these kinds of thoughts in it right before you go to bed. 

When I started to unplug from all devices two hours before I went to bed and switched from watching TV to listening to music or reading a book before turning in, my sleep experience immedi­ately changed. 

The goal is to lower the intensity of your brain activity. If you go to bed with your mind clear, you have a much better chance of getting healthy, restorative, deep sleep. 

2. Shut off TV and electronics—the “blue lights”—one to two hours before bedtime. 

We’ve all heard this: bedrooms are for sleep and sex, not for TV and electronics. Studies are showing that lights from these de­vices can fool the brain into thinking it should be awake. Screens emit blue light, and the blue light spectrum suppresses melatonin, a natural hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. You need melatonin to regulate the body’s circadian rhythm (your internal clock that tells you when it’s time to fall sleep or wake up). A healthy, regular circadian cycle allows the body to turn off and get a good night’s sleep. 

To turn our minds and bodies off at night, we need to reduce or eliminate blue light before bed. The best thing is to turn all your electronic lights off one or two hours before bedtime and leave cell phones, tablets, and computers outside the bedroom. Second best is to try things like dimming your devices’ screens, or using orange-lens glasses and screens, and putting soft white bulbs in your lamps. There are also new software applications like “f.lux” for computers and “Twi­light” for mobile phones, which uses a red filter that protects eyes from blue light and allows melatonin levels to rise. 

3. No alcohol four hours before going to sleep. 

While alcohol in sufficient quantities will put you to sleep, it can prevent deep sleep and inhibit REM sleep. Alcohol may also cause you to wake up in the middle of the night, when it has metabolized and wears off. While studies have shown that one glass of red wine in the evening may help you sleep, three glasses will interrupt it. 

4. Cut evening caffeine. 

This may seem obvious because caffeine keeps you awake, but I’m not just talking about the big latte eight hours before you go to sleep. Eating choco­late at 9 pm is just as bad and may also keep you up because it contains caffeine. Other sources besides coffee and chocolate include nonherbal teas, some soft drinks, and some pain relievers. 

Don’t trust your perceptions. You might think you’re one of those people who isn’t bothered by caffeine and you’re able to get to sleep and stay asleep no matter what. Sleep lab monitoring is telling us that just isn’t so. Caffeine consumed a full six hours before bedtime is shown to have significant, detrimental effects on sleep. Why risk having caffeine interfere with that deep sleep you need, even if it doesn’t actually make you wake up or toss and turn? 

5. No foods, especially sugary foods and drinks, in the two to three hours before bed. 

If you take a big drink of orange juice at 9:30 pm, that’s going to set you abuzz because your body will race into action to handle all that sugar. Eating any food late in the evening is very likely to throw off your metabolism, so close up the kitchen well before bedtime. 

6. No strenuous exercise. 

If you’re the person who says, “Yeah, I like to go to the gym or spin class about 9 pm and then be in bed by 10:30 or 11,” sorry, but that schedule isn’t a good idea. Though your workout in the evening may not be intense enough to counteract the sleep-improving benefits of exercise, if you have any sleep problems or a history of insomnia, experts recommend you avoid exercise at least a couple of hours before bed. If you like some movement as part of your evening routine, try walking after dinner, doing light chores, or stretching and doing some gentle yoga poses instead, as long as you don’t push your heart rate above 100. 

7. Create a conducive, restful environment. 

Keep your room cool, dark, and comfortable. Our bodies cool down when we sleep and a warm room (above 68 degrees) competes with that natural cooling process. For women, dealing with hot flashes can be a challenge. It’s important to have light sheets, light sleepwear, cooling pillows, and discus­sions with a doctor if hot flashes disturb your sleep. 

While most of the steps for getting a good night’s sleep won’t cost you anything, this one will: to the extent you can afford it, spend enough money on your mattress, sheets, blankets, and pillows to be sure they help you sleep well at night. There’s a reason people say they sleep so well in nice hotels. The rooms are dark, calm, and usually quiet. The mat­tresses and bedding are stellar. Even as you are trying to manage your stress and shut down your brain before bedtime, having a comfortable bed that helps you sleep soundly can be a smart investment in your health.

About your mattress:

  • Make sure it’s not more than 10 years old. 
  • Make sure it’s not too soft or too hard for you to sleep comfort­ably. 
  • Don’t be afraid to return a new mattress that isn’t “just right,” and never buy a mattress you can’t return or exchange. 
  • If you and your partner have different sleep needs, consider a two-person option. There are mat­tresses that allow you to adjust the firmness and even temperature on both sides of the mattress so neither partner has to be uncomfortable. 

With bedding, different fabrics have different cooling and heat-trapping ef­fects. 

  • Aim for 100% cotton, but avoid thread-count gimmicks. Higher counts aren’t necessarily better. 
  • If you’re a woman experiencing hot flashes and night sweats, try moisture-wicking sheets. 
To learn more about taking charge of your health, order your copy of my latest bestseller, 30 Summers More fromAmazon today.

8. Develop shared sleep habits with your partner, or at least avoid disrupting each other’s sleep.

My wife and I have this discussion a lot, because I have really made sleep sacred. You have to be either on the same page with your partner about sleeping and waking times or respect each other’s rhythms. Rhythm is very important. If you married your spouse when you were 30 and now you are 50, your body has gone through changes and you have to adapt to them. 

If you and your partner have habits and schedules that don’t mesh, find ways to honor your partner—read in another room, avoid having lights on (or just use a small yellow-spectrum book light when reading in bed), use sleep masks, and so on. Having a shared ritual and commitment to sleep will be good for your relationship and your well-being, adding much-needed inti­macy, relaxation, and restoration to your life and your partner’s.

9. Track your sleep. 

Every night in bed, I wear a device that monitors my movements to track my sleep. There are ranges of affordable devices that can track your sleep patterns. Some you wear, some you place on the bed, and some you put on your night­stand. 

A good night’s sleep for me is over 7.5 hours with more than two hours of deep sleep and two hours of REM sleep. Many of us go to sleep thinking, “Oh, if I go to bed at 11 and get up at 7, I’ll have gotten eight hours.” Once you start tracking your sleep, you’ll be shocked at how often you wake up throughout the night. Each disruption can interfere with your ability to get enough deep sleep. 

Be aware of the total amount of sleep, the timing of that sleep (are you getting to sleep before 11 pm?), the consistency of your sleep (and thus your circadian rhythm), and the amount of deep sleep you’re actually getting to renew your body. 

Wellness Warriors, I hope these tips have given you a good idea for how to improve your sleep. Pick one or two of these habits to start with and gradually add the others into your healthy habits. The more of these tips you can incorporate into your daily life, the better and more restorative your sleep will be.

Coming next, I’ll be sharing about relationships and how your health and longevity benefit from having deep connections with other people. Could these deep connections protect you from serious illnesses like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease? Join me next time to find out.

Until then, Live Well, Live Long…

~Dwayne

DON’T JUST SIT THERE! HERE ARE 9 “STEPS” AND TIPS TO ADD MOVEMENT TO YOUR DAY.

Are you sitting right now? Come on, be honest. In our “age of the device”—my term—moving our bodies isn’t required anymore be­cause everything we need is right at our smartphone fingertips. We have remotes for every device and we even text each other when we’re in different rooms. There are even people who are replacing their lawns with pretty gravel, not so much to save water and help the environment, but to avoid the physical work and upkeep of a yard. 

Set goals and track your daily steps. 

One of the most important things you can do right now is begin to measure your actual activity, starting with tracking how many steps you take from the moment you wake up in the morning. 

If you do nothing during the day but sit on the couch or at a computer and you only get up to go to the bathroom, you may take about 2,500 to 3,000 steps a day. At less than 5,000 steps daily, your body will atrophy. It takes very roughly that many steps a day to maintain weight, health, and fitness.

The American Heart Association recommends 10,000 steps a day. The more the better. I try to trick myself into getting the steps I need. I try to get about 5,000 steps before 9 am by taking a long walk with my dog, doing an exercise routine, or doing some other combination of activity. Then my daily routines will get me to 10,000 steps without much conscious effort. If I don’t get that number due to a packed meeting sched­ule or something else, then I make sure I’m the one cooking. I can get 3,000 steps moving around the kitchen and cleaning up and then a few more steps with an after-dinner walk. A CEO friend of mine does it another way. He gets exercise into his busy day by scheduling all his staff calls during the first two hours of the morning, while he’s on his walk. 

The main message is to set goals and measure, and always remember that some is good and more (within your own limits) is better. 

Minimize—and track—sitting time. 

While an anti-sitting movement isn’t yet in place, it’s time to start your own. In addition to tracking your daily steps, spend several days tracking the amount of time you spend sitting—or lounging. Use a timer and record all your inac­tivity. Then try reducing that time by one, two, or three hours a day—it will be the easiest, least expensive health dividend you can invest in. You might want to use an app or notification software to remind you to get up and stretch, change position, or do some other type of movement. 

If you sit at a desk much of the day, invest in one of the many standing or treadmill desks, most of which provide a flat space for laptops and tablets. Your hands and eyes can be busy while the rest of your body is moving. Most users report that far from being distracting, the movement increases their ability to concentrate as blood flows into the brain. Use extreme caution however. Falls on a treadmill can be lethal. 

For phone calls, use a headset, walk around, swing your arms, and get up on your toes while you talk on the phone. Walk to colleague’s offices rather than using the phone or text messages to communicate. If you want to write memos, dictate them into a device while you are stretching, walking, or climbing up and down stairs. If you still watch old-fashioned TV, stand up and stretch when the commer­cials come on or even during the program. Set up an ironing board and do the ironing you never get around 

Movementize your life. 

There are simple things you can do to “movementize” your life. Take the stairs instead of using the elevator. Have a walking meeting with a colleague after lunch and discuss an issue as you stroll around the block or to a local park. Tap your foot when you’re sitting in traffic. Do chores.

Park your car at the far corner of the parking area and walk to your office building. If you often order in lunch, place your order for pickup, skip the tip, and be your own delivery person. If you have an electronic garage door, get out of the car to open the door anyway. That adds steps to your daily count, works your muscles, and contributes to your flexibility. Ride your bike to the nearby corner market when you need to pick up just one or two things. 

Take vacations that include a lot a natural movement—plan for walks, hiking, golf, museum going, or swimming. You’ll reset your sense of what makes for a healthy day, which will carry over into your daily life once you’re back home. 

Get outdoors.

Location, location, location. Although any exercise you do is good exercise, getting your movement outdoors in a natural area has extra benefits that working out inside doesn’t offer. In a study of runners, it was found that the group that ran on a treadmill in a gym expended less energy than the group that ran outdoors and had to adjust for terrain changes and wind pressing against them. Running downhill as you often do outside flexes and engages different muscles than running uphill or on flat ground. 

Biking is another way of getting outdoors for exercise and working with the natural elements of wind and gravity to get extra benefit from your movements. Consider buy­ing an e-bike. It takes the intimidation out of tackling monster hills, rekin­dling the romance of riding a bike outside.

Look for ways to include the four elements of exercise. 

To realize the full health benefits of movement, look for ways to incorporate the four following elements of exercise into your daily and weekly routines, including training for strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance.

  1. Strengthening (resistance) training. Strong muscles mean we can lift objects and easily get up and down from a chair and ascend and descend flights of stairs. Being physically strong also creates an inner sense of confi­dence and capability. Strength, or resistance, training can include training with your own body weight, dumbbells, barbells, resistance bands, or weight machines two to three days a week, ideally using all the major muscle groups of the legs, abdomen, arms, chest, back, and shoulders. 
  2. Endurance (cardio or aerobic) training. Endurance fitness—including walk­ing, jogging, dancing, tennis, and other active sports—means we can do all the things we want to from climbing stairs (and mountains) to protecting our hearts, and much more. The National Institutes of Health guidelines say that we should try to get 75 minutes of intensive aerobic activity or 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, but almost any amount of walking or aerobic exercise will help protect and improve your heart and health. 
  3. Flexibility (stretching) training. Stretching improves flexibility. Current thinking no longer recommends stretching before exercise but rather mid­way or afterward, when the body is already warmed up. Stretching activities that lengthen and stretch muscles can help you prevent injuries, address back pain, improve balance and posture, and basically increase your ability to use your whole body and range of movement. That’s a wonderful feeling. There are many, many exercise videos available online to get you started. Just be careful! Make sure your muscles are already warmed up and don’t push or force. 
  4. Balance training. Balance training is critical to prevent falls, and the Na­tional Institutes of Health says that people 65 and older should do balancing exercises to prevent falls—but why wait? People who sit a lot—at work, at home—can lose some of their sense of balance that they had earlier in life. If you’re noticing any balancing problems, and even if you’re not, you should make sure you’re doing some bal­ance training in midlife. 

Leg lifts (to the side and back and forth), the stork pose (balancing on one foot with arms held out to the side), yoga poses, and other exercises, such as heel-to-toe walking slowly, can help you develop greater balance and stability. 

Find a movement mate … or two or three. 

One of the challenges that we are faced with is staying motivated to exercise. About half the people who join a gym don’t stick with it beyond the first year. It can take a while to find the right companions who can help you get moti­vated to work out with them when you are in the mood to skip it, but hav­ing a walking or exercise class companion can make all the difference. 

One highly-fit 70-year-old I know, a retired philosophy and French professor with a lifelong passion for languages, met a Russian émigré at his local Y and the two of them started a weekly Saturday morning walk. He’d get a Russian les­son on the two-mile walk along the beautiful path they took. On the return they’d switch to a French lesson. 

Just walk. 

To learn more about taking charge of your health, order your copy of my latest bestseller, 30 Summers More fromAmazon today.

Remember, just walking each day has the potential to reduce risk for disease, and it’s something that most people are physically capable of doing with minimal risk for injury. Measure the steps you take daily and then find ways to double it. Just give it a try. 

Safety comes first. 

If you have any chronic health conditions, or have balance problems or any health issues that might limit your ability to exercise, be sure to consult your health care provider before you start an exercise program to find out about the types of activity that might be appropriate for you. Also, remember to drink plenty of water during physical activity. Older adults sometimes don’t feel thirsty even though they need fluids, and exercise will make you need to hydrate yourself.

Short on Time? 

One of my friends swears by “The Scientific 7-Minute Workout,” a form of high-interval intensity training that she read about in the New York Times. It’s a series of 12 exercises, all gentle on the joints, that combines aerobic, balance, strength, and some flexibility movements, each done for 30 sec­onds with short breaks in between. My friend thinks of her seven-minute workout as part of her morning routine, like making the bed, and she’ll add on a short jog or walk on most days. 

The original version and variations of the workout are on YouTube and there’s even an Alexa app. 

The important thing here is to get moving. Find something you enjoy, and better yet, find someone to do it with. Accountability partners are great! Track what you do, start small, and keep adding to what you’re doing. In my next blog, I’ll share insights with you about another thing your body needs…Sleep! 

So tell me, what is keeping you from moving more? What one thing could you start tomorrow? Share it with me below.

Until next time, Live Well, Live Long,

~Dwayne

ARE YOU BEING BRAINWASHED EVERY DAY?

In this day of rush-rush-rush, we tend to neglect the things that are important to living our best, most healthy life. When we’re younger, we tended not to think about how these things would affect our longevity, but eventually it all catches up with you. Recently, we’ve talked about getting the sugars out of our diet and the importance of movement. All very important to aging gracefully and improving our longevity. But in my opinion, sleeping well is the most important health habit to develop. 

For me, in my younger days, no matter how well I was eating or how much I exercised, I was full-on from morning to evening, and I was good about getting a physical workout most days. 

However, when bedtime came, I was so excited about all the things that I was do­ing that after 17.5 hours of go-go-go, I didn’t know how to give my brain a break. I couldn’t turn it off. My brain was so fired up that even when I slept, I didn’t sleep deeply. My brain was taking all my body’s energy, even during sleep. I call this “fire brain”.

I woke up tired, my weight was going up even as I tried to diet, my blood pressure and fasting blood sugar levels were rising—even my cortisol levels were getting higher. My lack of sleep was actually interfering with my body’s essential healing and cleansing processes (though I didn’t know it at the time).

Any of this sound familiar? 

If the purpose of sleep is to knit the cares of the day (a nod to Macbeth) into some­thing you can put away as a memory and to refresh and clear the mind, I was defi­nitely doing something wrong. If I hoped to live a long and happy life, something, maybe everything, had to change. 

Who Needs Sleep? The Matter of Dirty Brains, Stressed Hearts and Bodies, and Emotional Overwhelm

In our 20s and 30s, it was a badge of honor to say we pulled all-nighters or kept go­ing on three or four hours a night. Being overbooked was the ideal for many of us and it was popular to think that sleep was a waste of time. Whatever the health impact of pushing your body’s limits, you could still manage; you had reserves of healthy capacity in your heart, lungs, circulation, and most important, your brain. You had an excess supply of neuron and cell production. You burned off some cells and replenished them faster than you could use them—until you got to a certain age, around 30, when the balance tipped. After that, your body started using more cells than it could replenish. 

All of us were hurting ourselves and per­haps, ever so slightly, shortening our lives, but we didn’t know it. We hadn’t heard experts like James Maas, PhD, formerly of Cornell University, say, “Good sleep is the best predictor of life span and quality of life.” Sleeping well is that important to our health and the actual cellular functioning of our bodies. 

Now comes the time of reckoning. 

Over the years, scientists have made amazing discoveries about what actually happens when we sleep. New techniques that peer into the brain show that sleep is essential for at least three distinct functions: 

  • Cleansing the brain of toxic buildup 
  • Storing memories 
  • Maintaining metabolic balance for neuron and cellular health 

That’s pretty powerful stuff. The results in terms of well-being are real: lack of suffi­cient or deep enough sleep leads to greater risk of brain and memory impairment, heart disease, insulin and hormone imbalances, and the emotional fallout of worry and anxiety when the mind can’t or won’t turn off. 

The Washing Machine Metaphor: A New Understanding of Brain “Washing” 

I tell everyone I meet: your brain needs sleep to detoxify. That’s what the new brain imaging studies are showing us. Our bodies need to cleanse themselves. Our skin naturally sloughs off its top layer. Our digestive system rids our bodies of waste and toxins. The body uses the circulatory system for transporting blood and nutrients to where they need to go and uses the lymphatic system for clearing the body of wastes. However, it was believed for a long time that the brain was the only part of the body that didn’t have its own built-in lymphatic system—just a circulatory one. 

Neuroscientist Jeffrey Iliff, PhD, and his team at the University of Rochester Medical Center, discovered that the brain does have its own washing system, which they call the glymphatic system. It has a unique role in cleansing our brains—at night when we’re asleep! 

Each of our cells functions like a miniature factory, producing chemicals and fuel­ing processes in our bodies. Like factories, and like all the cells in our bodies, our brain cells also produce waste that must be flushed out. 

Dr. Iliff and his team discovered that the human brain has developed an inge­nious system for ridding itself of waste. The clear cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which is found between the cells in the brain, carries the waste along the outside of the blood vessels. But Dr. Iliff discovered that when the brains of mice go to sleep, their brain cells shrink and the space between them expands, allowing the fluid to rush through and clear out waste. During the day, the brain puts off this cleansing process. When you go to sleep at night, your brain flushes its dead cells out of your body. If your sleep is interrupted, it can’t wash your dirty brain. 

When you lack sleep, two things are going on—both of them bad. The first is that your body is not allotted the time it needs to produce new cells. The second thing is even worse. You see, the waste in the brain includes amyloid-beta, a protein that is continuously produced in the brain, which can build up and aggregate as plaque in the spaces between the brain’s cells. If you’re not sleeping well, you don’t allow the full wash cycle to take place, so that sticky plaque clumps and clusters—and guess what happens? Though the science is not yet definitive, it likely results in memory loss, Alzhei­mer’s disease, dementia, and other “dirty brain” diseases like Parkinson’s, which are caused by, correlated to, or sped up by the lack of sleep. 

Researchers at Johns Hopkins studied 70 older adults, average age 76, and using brain scans, they found that the participants who said they got the least sleep, less than five hours a night or who did not sleep well, had higher levels of amyloid-beta in the brain than those who slept more than seven hours a night. 

While the researchers couldn’t say whether poor sleep caused the buildup or the buildup caused the poor sleep, or if both effects were true, the study’s lead author, Adam Spira, PhD, explained, “These findings are important, in part because sleep disturbances can be treated in older people. To the degree that poor sleep pro­motes the development of Alzheimer’s disease, treatments for poor sleep or efforts to maintain healthy sleep patterns may help prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.” 

So, How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? 

As we age, our sleep needs change. Newborns require 14 to 17 hours of sleep a day, teenagers need 8 to 10 hours and adults generally need 7 to 9 hours. Except for about 2% of the population (odds are, you aren’t in that group), everybody absolutely needs at least seven hours of sleep a night. Sleeping less than 6 hours or more than 9 hours is associated with increased health prob­lems and mortality, so if either fits your sleep pattern, you might want to look into whether you are getting too little or too much sleep.

Sleep becomes ever more important as we age. In our late 30s, the deep, memo­ry-strengthening and restorative stages of sleep start to decline. While the common belief that humans need less sleep as they age is a myth, older people do tend to sleep more lightly and for shorter durations. Thus we have to do everything we can to maximize our sleep in order to protect our minds, cell generation, and the peak functioning of our bodies.

Deep Sleep and REM: Timing Is Everything 

Getting enough sleep is only part of the sleep issue. Getting the right kind of sleep is just as important. A full 20% or 25% of the energy our bodies generate supports the activities of our brains. When we get “good” sleep, that energy can be used to support and replenish all the systems in our bodies, including essential cell growth. It’s a big if, however, because so many of us have trouble getting a good night’s sleep, as my fire brain experience showed. 

So what is “good” sleep? 

To learn more about taking charge of your health, order your copy of my latest bestseller, 30 Summers More fromAmazon today.

Sleep patterns are described in terms of eye movement. REM, or rapid eye move­ment, sleep is the stage of sleep that involves dreaming. Non-REM sleep happens in four stages: (1) drifting in and out of light sleep; (2) slowing of brain waves and disengaging from surroundings; (3) extremely slow brain waves (delta waves), interspersed with smaller, faster waves; and (4) almost exclusively delta waves. Stages three and four are what experts consider deep sleep, which is the most restorative, “good” sleep we are aiming for. You can track these stages with a sleep monitor. According to the National Sleep Foundation, you should be getting about 15% to 25% of REM sleep and 12% to 25% of deep sleep each night.

It’s during deep sleep that our blood pressure drops and our breathing slows. The blood supply to muscles increases and tissue growth and repair happens. Hor­mones that regulate growth and appetite get released. The brain takes the stimula­tion, events, learning, and insights of the day, sorts them out and processes them to determine their larger meaning, and transfers them to places in the brain where they are stored long-term.

REM sleep alternates with the four stages of non-REM sleep. During REM sleep, our breathing is rapid and irregular, our eyes jerk rapidly, and our limbs become immobile and relaxed as the brain’s usual signals to the muscles are turned off.

As the night wears on, our sleep cycles shift. Longer periods of deep sleep tend to occur in the early part of the night, before midnight, and longer periods of REM sleep happen toward daybreak. That’s true regardless of when you go to bed. If you generally retire after midnight, even if you sleep eight hours, you may not be getting enough of the deep, restorative sleep you need for peak cognitive function and memory.

Wellness Warriors, in my next blog, I will share with you 10 tips to getting better sleep. You’ll definitely want to catch that one! But tell me, how many hours of sleep do you average every night? Just curious!

Live Well, Live Long,

~Dwayne