Does Insomnia Have a Hold on You?

When was the last time you felt like you got really restful sleep? Hopefully, it was last night. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for many adults, who find themselves having trouble falling asleep, not sleeping well, or waking up early. In fact, according to the CDC, over 50 million Americans have chronic sleep disorders. If you’ve read my book, 30 Summers More, or if you’ve been following along with my blog, you know that sleeping poorly not only makes you tired during the day but can also contribute to other illnesses and diseases.

Today, I’d like to wrap up this blog mini-series on sleep with a discussion about insomnia—what it is, its symptoms, and how to treat it.

What Is Insomnia and What Causes It?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling or staying asleep (or both).  Over one-third of adults report having symptoms of insomnia (according to the American Psychiatric Association/APA), and 6-10% have symptoms severe enough for them to be diagnosed with insomnia disorder.

The condition can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). It may also come and go. Insomnia is considered acute when it lasts a few days to a few weeks. Chronic insomnia is characterized by symptoms that occur at least three times per week for at least three months.

Short-term insomnia may be caused by a number of things, including:

  • Stress
  • Changes to your sleep habits, like sleeping in a hotel or new home
  • An upsetting or traumatic event
  • Physical pain
  • Jet lag
  • Certain medications

Any of the following may also cause chronic insomnia:

  • Medical conditions that make it harder to sleep, such as chronic pain, restless leg syndrome, heart, and lung diseases
  • Psychological issues, such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder
  • Substance use, including caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs
  • Sleep apnea

Insomnia can occur at any age and is more likely to affect women than men. Having certain medical conditions, such as obesity and cardiovascular disease, can lead to insomnia. Menopause can lead to insomnia as well.

Common Symptoms of Insomnia

People who experience insomnia usually report at least one of these symptoms:

  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Waking too early in the morning
  • Not feeling refreshed
  • Not feeling tired or ready for sleep at regular bedtimes

These symptoms of insomnia can lead to other symptoms, including fatigue and malaise, mood changes, irritability, difficulty concentrating on tasks during the day, trouble remembering things, and behavioral problems such as hyperactivity and aggression. And, of course, all of these can lead to other more serious health problems if not treated.

Treating Insomnia

For as troublesome as insomnia can be, there are many things you can do to overcome it, including pharmaceutical and all-natural treatments, as well as behavioral changes.

Behavioral Changes

For some people, practicing healthy lifestyle habits can alleviate insomnia symptoms and help them sleep more soundly. So, let’s start with the things you can do to improve your chances of getting a restful night of sleep. Some of these are common sense, and others may make you go “a-ha!”

  • Avoid caffeinated beverages near bedtime.
  • Limit or eliminate naps, especially late in the day.
  • Restrict the use of alcohol and tobacco products in the evening.
  • Avoid late-night meals.
  • Limit screen-time before bedtime—or wear blue-blocking glasses.
  • Maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly during the day.
  • Avoid exercise near bedtime.
  • Follow a consistent sleep schedule that includes the same bedtimes and wake-up times every day.
  • Minimize the time you spend on your bed when you’re not specifically intending to sleep, such as watching TV or surfing the web on your smartphone.

To learn more about how quality sleep can improve your health and increase your longevity, order your copy of my latest bestseller, 30 Summers More.

Pharmaceutical and All-Natural Treatments

There are both pharmaceutical and all-natural treatments for insomnia. Your doctor can talk to you about what treatments might be appropriate. You may need to try several different treatments before finding the one that’s most effective for you.

On the pharmaceutical side of things, there are over-the-counter and prescription medications available to choose from. Again, please consult with your doctor about the over-the-counter options, as you want to make sure they don’t negatively interact with any other medication you might be taking.

On the all-natural side, here are several effective options to choose from:

  • Natural sleep aids, like herbal tea, warm milk, and valerian, can help you relax and fall asleep easier.
  • Meditation is a natural, easy, drug-free method for treating insomnia. It can help improve the quality of your sleep and make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. According to the Mayo Clinic, meditation can also help with symptoms of conditions that may contribute to insomnia, including stress, anxiety, depression, digestive problems, and pain.
  • Melatonin is commonly thought of as an effective supplement to help you fall asleep, but surprisingly, the jury is out on its overall effectiveness. It’s been shown to help some with insomnia fall asleep faster, and it doesn’t have the dependence properties some sleep medications have. Be sure to check with your doctor before taking this, though, as it can interfere with certain types of medications.
  • Essential oils that are thought to help you sleep better include lavender, Roman chamomile, cedarwood, sandalwood, and neroli (or bitter orange). Essential oils don’t generally cause side effects when used as directed.

Wellness Warriors, I hope these tips will help you overcome your battle with insomnia. Sleep is critical to your overall health, so don’t brush it off. Until next time, Live Well, Live Long!


Sleep Apnea: Not Just a Sleeping Disorder, It’s a Health Disorder

Poor sleep can be exhausting to your heart. Many times, you think you’re sleeping, but if you’re not in deep, restorative sleep cycles for enough of the night, your body can’t rest, and your gasps for air put stress on your heart. This is especially true with sleep apnea and other related sleep disorders.

More than 12 million Americans have sleep apnea, a type of disordered breathing characterized by the tightening of the throat muscles, which usually relax during sleep to keep the tongue from blocking the airway. If the muscles tense up, the airflow can stop, sometimes for 10 seconds or more. The body goes into distress as the person gasps for air in their sleep, which can happen hundreds of times a night. Sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, memory loss, obesity, and insulin resistance. If you’re over 50 and you have a neck size of more than 17 inches, you are at especially high risk.


While there are three types of sleep apnea, all three share these common symptoms:

  • Disrupted breathing in which a person’s respiration becomes labored or perhaps stopping for 10 seconds or more
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Limited attention span or difficulty thinking clearly
  • Irritability
  • Morning headaches

Many of these symptoms arise because of poor sleep and decreased oxygen levels that occur resulting from interrupted breathing.

Additional symptoms connected to obstructive sleep apnea include:

  • Snoring that is especially loud and involves gasping, choking, or snorting, which may cause a person to briefly wake up
  • Morning sore throat or dry mouth

Generally speaking, someone with sleep apnea is not aware of their breathing problems at night, so they often only find out about the issue from a spouse/partner, family member, or roommate. Excessive daytime sleepiness is the most likely symptom to be noticed by people who live alone.

What Are the Health Risks of Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea can lead to sleep deprivation from constant nightly interruptions and not achieving that necessary deep sleep. Lack of sleep is associated with far-reaching health consequences  that affect a person physically, mentally, and emotionally. As a result, it comes as no surprise that sleep apnea has been tied to diverse health problems.

Because of how it affects oxygen balance in the body, untreated sleep apnea raises dangers for various cardiovascular issues, including high blood pressure, heart attack, heart disease, and stroke.

What Are the Treatments for Sleep Apnea?

If you have symptoms of sleep apnea, you should make sure to talk with a doctor. Without understanding the root causes of your sleep apnea, it is difficult to treat. When necessary, the doctor can recommend an overnight sleep study to analyze your sleep, including your breathing.

Once diagnosed, there are numerous effective treatments available to restore sleep and improve your health. Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, reducing the use of sedatives, and sleeping on your side, can resolve some cases.

One of the most well-known treatments for sleep apnea is a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) or a BiPAP (bi-level positive airway pressure) machine. These devices push air through a mask and into the airway to keep it open during sleep.

Additionally, special mouthpieces that hold the jaw or tongue in a specific position are an option for people with certain anatomical features. And while not usually the first treatment option, surgery to remove tissue and expand the airway can also be considered.

A Journey with Sleep Apnea

In a TEDMED article called “Examined Lives: A Firefighter Lives Dangerously— While Sleeping,” firefighter Thomas Zotti wrote about his experience with sleep apnea. His wife had pointed out that he was snoring, but he thought nothing of it—even when his doctor asked if he had any reason to believe he might have sleep apnea. Zotti worked overnight shifts and ignored some signs of problems: waking up from sleep feeling claustrophobic, experiencing headaches, feeling so fatigued that he stopped working out in the mornings. With coffee fueling him through his long days, he was able to mostly ignore his tiredness.

Boy, could I relate to his story—I was having many of the same symptoms and, like Zotti, not connecting the dots. According to my wife, my snoring sounded like I was gasping for breath, but as long as it wasn’t interrupting her sleep, I wasn’t concerned. Zotti said that, before he got treated for sleep apnea, the amount of oxygen in his bloodstream was as low as 81%—very low compared with the near-perfect score in the high 90s that most people have.

So if you are experiencing fatigue and you know that you snore, pay attention. While being a snorer doesn’t mean you have sleep apnea (and not every person with sleep apnea snores), it’s a vital sign, especially as we age. Even if we didn’t snore when we were younger, many of us will begin to snore as our soft palate tissue gets even softer, blocking the air passage, which is one of the most common causes of snoring.

The connection between snoring and sleep apnea can be especially strong for people who are overweight or where sleep apnea runs in the family.

So, Wellness Warriors, I believe that sleep apnea isn’t just a sleep disorder, it’s a health disorder, and you could be silently wearing down your health and well-being. If you find that you are experiencing any of the symptoms I discussed, please be sure to consult with your physician and start sleeping better as soon as possible!

Until next time, when I’ll be discussing insomnia, Live Well, Live Long.


To Nap or Not to Nap

Did you know that JFK ate lunch in bed each day so he could take a nap immediately afterward? He did. (Reagan, Edison, and Churchill are other famous nappers.)

Naps aren’t just for toddlers at pre-school. An afternoon nap is great for adults too!

In Europe and Latin America, daytime naps are part of people’s everyday lives, but this is less true in the United States. Even so, a short, well-timed nap has been shown to improve mental performance, combat daytime sleepiness, and elevate mood.

I think of napping like plugging in your phone for 15 minutes when the power charge is low. Many studies show that 10-20 minutes is optimal, though for some people, a nap of 90 minutes or so works, which allows for one complete sleep cycle. Naps that fall in between produce sleep inertia and can make you confused and groggy, although the benefits may still occur once the post-nap alertness returns.

Timing is important, too. Most benefits seem to come from taking a nap in the early- to mid-afternoon, when alertness dips. Taking a nap after 5 pm can result in prolonged sleep inertia and is likely to interfere with your ability to fall asleep later that night.

6 Tips for Taking a Great Nap

There are numerous ways to take a perfect nap! Here are six tips that will get you to your perfect nap.

  1. Keep it short. Shoot for a nap that is on the shorter side. As mentioned above, 10-20 minutes is ideal for many. It’s also been shown that 20-30 minutes is just long enough to get a bit of energizing sleep, without the risk of being plunged into the slow-wave sleep that can make you groggy. For some, a 90-minute nap is considered the “perfect” length, as that is the length of a full sleep cycle.
  2. Don’t nap too late in the day. Improperly timed naps can interfere with your nighttime sleep, experts say. Don’t sleep too long or too late in the day, especially if you have trouble falling asleep at night. For many, the ideal time for a nap is between 1-3 pm. Individual factors, such as your need for sleep, your sleeping schedule, your age, and your medication use, can also help determine the best time of day to nap. And, as mentioned above, try not to nap after 5 pm.
  3. Set an alarm. To make sure you don’t sleep too long, be sure to set an alarm.
  4. Yes, that sounds corny, but it’s essential to have a restful environment. Your ideal place will be quiet, dark, have a comfortable temperature, and few or no distractions. If you’re not able to be in your ideal place, consider putting together a “nap kit,” similar to what you might travel with. A sleep mask, ear plugs, and a neck pillow will make almost any place a “nappy” place.
  5. Take a caffeine nap. I know this sounds counterintuitive but consider this. Caffeine takes 20-45 minutes to kick in. If you consume your favorite caffeinated beverage just before you lie down, it will kick in right around the time you wake up from your 20-30-minute nap. Many times, you’ll wake up naturally, feel refreshed, and be more awake than without the caffeine. Still unsure? Here’s some science: A 2003 Japanese study found that caffeine naps were more effective at combating daytime sleepiness than noncaffeine naps. Just be careful not to do this too late in the day, otherwise, it could interfere with your ability to sleep at night.
  6. Practice makes perfect. You can train yourself to become better at napping. Regular nappers report that it gets easier the more you do it. Once your brain and body get in the habit, you’ll learn to drift off quickly and even wake up at the perfect time without an alarm.

After napping, be sure to give yourself time to wake up before resuming activities—particularly those that require a quick or sharp response.

Not a Cure for Poor Sleep

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.

Napping can be an energy and clarity boost, but it’s not a cure for poor sleep.

Don’t kid yourself: You can’t easily make up for lost sleep. Yes, you might still be able to pull off an occasional all-nighter at 50, 60, or even 70 to get you through a big deadline or marathon trip. But you know how long it takes to recover from jet lag. Imagine doing that to your body regularly.

Charles Czeisler, Ph.D., MD, FRCP, professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, insists, “You can’t catch up on lost sleep,” which he calls “sleep debt.” If you occasionally miss a few hours of sleep during the week and catch up by sleeping in on the weekend, you have a low amount of sleep debt. You may be able to repay that debt with a few hours of extra sleep on Saturday morning, but you will also be shifting your circadian rhythm, making it difficult to fall asleep on Sunday night and causing stress on your body as it works harder to find its right sleep-wake cycle.

“If you consistently miss a few hours’ sleep each night for days or weeks on end, the accumulated sleep debt is as harmful as skipping an entire night of sleep,” Dr. Czeisler explains. “Not only will it be physically impossible to catch up on the missing sleep, some evidence suggests that you may actually be permanently damaging your brain or causing other health problems that reduce longevity.” Rather than think about how much sleep we can do without, we need to think of sleep as a vital sign that tells us about our well-being.

If you’re experiencing an increased need for naps and there’s no obvious cause of new fatigue in your life, talk to your doctor. You could be taking a medication or have a sleep disorder or other medical condition that’s disrupting your nighttime sleep.

Otherwise, if you feel the need for a brief pick-me-up in the afternoon, a nap is much better for you than an unhealthy energy drink or coffee alone.

Want more information on how to get the great sleep that increases your longevity? Pick up a copy of my bestseller, 30 Summers More, where you’ll find in-depth info on sleep and other health tips to live your best—and healthiest—life.

In my next blog, I’ll discuss the first of two common sleep disorders:  Sleep Apnea. Until then, Wellness Warriors, Live Well, Live Long!


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!


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!


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!