Special Interests

By Renea Dennison, Contributor

DTS_Kashmir_Big_Cartel_1 Palette

This month our blog is devoted to combating loneliness. December is a particularly hard month for those who are lonely, especially if they are isolated. This week our focus will be special interests such as current hobbies and/or learning something new.

Hobbies are wonderful at fighting loneliness because people who spend time on hobbies are genuinely interested in whatever they are doing. Whether it is collecting stamps, cooking, traveling, woodworking, singing, or square dancing, a hobby helps you focus your attention on something outside of yourself. Often you can find local groups or clubs who share your love and can talk for hours about collecting or whatever your fancy is. You can learn from others, or perhaps share your knowledge. You may even be able to enter your item into contests such as at the state fair. There are few things as satisfying as having someone with your same passions look over your work and declare it a blue ribbon winner. Even people with mobility issues can find friends with shared interests who can come by to visit, or talk to you over the phone or via the internet. An added benefit is that hobbies help keep your mind sharp, and some can even increase your exercise which is always good for you.

Another option is to take a class. You are never too old to learn an instrument, tackle an art or cake decorating class, enroll in ballet or boxing, or learn a new language. Studying something new, essentially taking up a new hobby, will introduce you to a new group of friends and help you develop new brain synapses which can help ward off dementia. Added benefits include things like being able to play music for friends and family or painting them a picture of a wonderful memory you have of them.

If you don’t have a hobby, start one. They can be expensive, but they don’t have to be. Many schools offer discounts or free classes for seniors. Check with your local library or parks and recreation department. Look for something that will get you involved with others, rather than something that will isolate you further. Coin collecting is fun, but only works against loneliness if you know other collectors and can talk shop with them.

Sign up for a class to learn something new. Many universities have courses seniors can take for free or for a nominal fee. You may be surprised where you can find a reasonably priced or free class. For instance, most fabric stores offer free sewing and/or quilting classes. Just ask around. You never know, just asking might help you make a new friend and that is what our blog this month is about.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

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Puppy Love

By Renea Dennison, Contributor

Doggy

Loneliness kills. Studies show lonley people suffer more anxiety, end up in the hospital more frequently, and live shorter lives than people who have regular lives. Never is lonliness felt more strongly than around the holidays. Therefore this month our blog will be devoted to ways to help you combat loneliness.

One of the fastest ways to counter lonliness is to adopt a dog. Canines come in all shapes and sizes, breeds and mixes, and you can find them in all age ranges. It’s best to find one appropriate for your abilities and lifestyle. For instance, a smaller dog is better if you live in an apartment. They are great for getting you out and about for their daily walks giving you multiple opportunities to meet other people. Plus the exercise will do you both good. You might also take them to a doggy park where other dog lovers hang out and meet people that way. Dogs are great ice breakers.

If you have mobility problems, you can find a quieter dog that is well trained. Perhaps you can install a doggy door to help out. In fact, you may find an animal who can help you with your physical needs. There are many working dogs ready and willing to love and help their owners.

If you have allergies or hate pet hair there are also dogs who don’t shed and are considered hypo-allergenic. They usually require frequent grooming. The love and devotion of your pet will be well worth it.

Finally, if you are more of a cat person then I encourage you to get a feline instead. We don’t usually walk cats, but they can be walked in special carriers or with special training if you want the exercise. Cats require more daily cleaning with litter box care, but less grooming and attention in general. A cat’s purr is very calming and restful. Few things are quite as sweet as a cat who is showing you affection.

Any pet that you can shower attention on and share your thoughts and feelings with will help ease your lonliness. Pets can give you common ground with others and open friendships. Cats are warm and sweet. Dogs are loyal and devoted and will love you no matter what.

Shelters are full of pets waiting for someone to love them and save their lives. Do a good thing and save a life today. Find some puppy love. Perhaps in the end the life you save will be your own.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

Gratitude

By Renea Dennison, Contributor

Flowering plant, Arches National Park, Utah, U.S.

Growing up you were probably taught to be grateful. We learn to say, “Thank you,” to “Never look a gift horse in the mouth,” and to give thanks daily for our food and shelter. Showing gratitude is not only good manners, it makes you more likely to be socially acceptable so wonderful people will want to be friends with you. Virtually every religion teaches thankfulness.

Self-help gurus also teach us to be thankful. They suggest keeping a ‘Gratitude Journal’ where you write down the things you are thankful for every day. Some suggest starting your day with at least three things you are thankful for so you can start your day happy and maintain your mood throughout the day.

Science has hopped on the band wagon and proven that grateful people are not only happier, they are healthier. I found the following facts in articles on Today.com and Forbes.com (paraphrased): Gratitude can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep. The University of San Diego’s School of Medicine found people who are more grateful have better heart health (less inflammation and healthier heart rhythms). Universities in Utah and Kentucky observed optimistic students had more disease-fighting cells in their bodies. Having a gratitude journal can reduce dietary fat intake by as much as 25 percent and stress hormones like cortisol as much as 23 percent. Grateful people have more empathy, less aggression, and have strong psychological health. Daily gratitude practice could reduce the effects of aging to the brain.

I know personally that being grateful makes me feel better as a human being. I hadn’t realized it helped my health. Like most people, I have good and bad days. Keeping a gratitude journal can train the ungrateful to be more thankful, and teach those who are only appreciative part of the time, to learn to be grateful on a daily basis. I believe it is time to start my own gratitude journal and begin recording all the people and things I am thankful for in my life, including you Dear Reader. I recommend you do the same.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm. Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

GERD

DTS_Dinner_damo_8 Cooking at counter

By Renea Dennison, Contributor

This week many Americans will indulge in a gastrointestinal extravaganza of the highest order as they celebrate Thanksgiving with family. The result: serious stomach aches. For many, however, it will go beyond simple tummy pain. Some will find their stomach acids backing up into their esophagus causing significant heartburn. Those who deal with this regularly have a faulty esophageal sphincter or valve, and have been diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). You may also know this disease by the term acid reflux.

GERD is the most common upper GI disorder in older adults, although anyone can get it. Some causes are eating large meals or eating late (just before bed), eating fast food or fried foods, sometimes eating spicy foods, smoking, wearing tight clothing, being overweight or pregnant (forcing your stomach and acids higher), and certain medications. Older people tend to have slower esophaguses, more weight and take more medications, thus they are more likely to have GERD. In addition, older people may have other health issues which may interfere with swallowing such as dementia, stroke or Parkinson’s disease.

GERD can cause a chronic cough and asthma attacks. It has been reported as simply a sore throat, sour taste in the mouth or one just losing their voice. Without treatment, GERD can cause inflammation, scarring and ulcers. GERD can even lead to changes in the lining of the esophagus which can increase the chances of esophageal cancer.

Simple heartburn can be managed with antacids which can be purchased over the counter. If you know you are likely to get heartburn from a meal, you can take an H2 blocker about 30 minutes before a meal. These can be purchased over the counter, or you can get more powerful doses via a prescription. For those with GERD, a common choice are acid blockers known as proton pump inhibitors. These are move effective than H2 blockers, and can also be purchased over the counter or via prescription. Consult your doctor to see which method will work best for you. And of course, be sure to follow all instructions carefully when taking medications.

Here are some options to help you avoid medications:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Do not smoke
  • Wear lose fitting clothing
  • Do not eat 3-4 hours prior to bedtime
  • Raise the head of your bed about 6 inches (or use a wedge pillow)
  • Lay on your left side rather than your right
  • Consider changing your exercise routine if it causes you problems
  • Avoid coffee, tea, sodas, alcohol, or any juices that cause you discomfort
  • Avoid tomatoes, onion, garlic, chocolate, peppermint, fatty foods, citrus fruits or spicy foods that cause you discomfort
  • Talk to your doctor about your medications
  • Eat more fiber
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Get regular health screenings

You don’t have to end the holiday this week being miserable. Take any medications you may need, think carefully about what you put on your plate, make sure you don’t eat too late, and enjoy your food and family. Stay healthy, and stay thankful.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

Diabetes and Aging

HibiscusBy Renea Dennison, Contributor

Diabetes is a growing problem in the U.S., especially among older adults. 25% of Americans over 60 have diabetes. I find this number staggering.

Diabetes is basically a shortage of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. It turns glucose (the food you eat turned into sugar) into energy in your cells. Without insulin our bodies build up glucose in our sytems which ultimately damages our heart, kidnes, eyes and even our feet. Diabetes can be controlled with diet, exercise and medication. Left on its own, diabetes kills.

The most common types of diabetes are Type 1 (you produce little or no insulin) and Type 2 (you produce insulin, but not enough). As we age, our risk for diabetes increases. And for those with Type 2, the risk to become Type 1 increases.

Older people are more susceptible to the ravages of diabetes because aging causes other issues. Uncontrolled diabetes can do even more harm. Your organs may already be worn to some extent, and older people tend to be slower to heal. The elderly are often subject to lonliness and depression so less likely to make sure they eat healthy foods and follow a healthy lifestyle. Exercise may be difficult due to other health issues or functional impairments. Sometimes, they forget their medications which only compounds an already trying situation.

Like most other health issues, the key to fighting this disease involves a healthy lifestyle:

  • Stay active and exercise.
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Stop smoking
  • Take your medications as directed
  • If you have been diagnosed, monitor your blood sugar closely.

Though the figures are staggering, the good news is that we do have control here. We can control the amount of sugar we eat. We can control the amount of exercise we get. We can control our smoking, our medications, and monitor our blood sugars if already diagnosed. A positive note for the future is the changing research regarding sugar in the western diet. For decades Americans have favored low fat high sugar foods. New research has implicated sugar as the force behind rising obesity and diabetes among Americans. Let’s get back to more natural, less sugary foods and a more active lifestyle. We can reverse the current diabetes trend. Let’s start today.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

COPD

By Renea Dennison, Contributor

November is Chronic Obstructive Pulmondary Disease Awareness Month

stock-vector-mascot-illustration-of-the-lungs-coughing-violently-263242823Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is a broad term used to describe a group of lung diseases (most with COPD have emphysema and/or chronic bronchitis.) COPD requires a medical diagnosis, frequently through lab tests and imaging. The US alone has about 12 million cases of COPD and approximately 120,000 die every year. About 85-90% of all COPD deaths are related to smoking.

Damage caused by this disease cannot be reversed. Treatment can help minimize the continued destruction, but COPD cannot be cured. Therefore the earlier a patient is diagnosed and helped the better. A COPD sufferer diagnosed in Stage I or Stage II who takes prescribed medications and follows a healthy lifestyle will most likely live nearly as long as they would have if they had never received the diagnosis.

The most important thing someone diagnosed with COPD can do is stop smoking. In addition, those with COPD need exercise and to make healthy food choices. Finally, there are special breathing exercises they can do to help keep their lung capacity up and mucus down. This can be very important because those with COPD tend to produce more mucus. If they cannot dislodge it the mucus becomes a breeding ground for other illnesses that further weaken their lungs.

COPD is a serious illness with serious consequences. Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to avoid this disease or reduce its impact.

DON’T SMOKE!

Follow your doctor’s orders.

Take your medications.

Eat healthy foods.

Get plenty of exercise.

If you’ve been diagnosed, do your breathing exercises.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

Fall Prevention

By Renea Dennison, Contributor

Sun lighting the wayWhen we were toddlers we could fall often and usually with little damage. The ground was close and our bodies pliable. As we grow older, our bodies become less and less able to handle the impact of slamming into the floor. In addition, recovery involves more than just a kiss on the knee.

Unfortunately, the changes brought by growing older make the liklihood of falling greater. Here are some reasons why:

  • Physical changes – some may find, especially those who become more inactive, their steps become shorter, they are becoming less flexible, and they may have balance and coordination issues.
  • Medications – sometimes the prescriptions and other drugs we take can cause dizziness, dehydration or interact with each other.
  • Vision – eyes receive less light so we are more likely to miss seeing some of the hazards and obstacles that can trip us up.
  • Physical conditions – illness and chronic conditions may increase your risk of falling due to medications or loss of function.

To add to this conundrum, most older people who fall will find themselves falling again. And again. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce your chances of falling.

  • Talk to your doctor – they can access your risk factors and suggest help if you need it.
  • Talk to your loved ones – they may be able to adjust your living space to make it safer by adding lighting, stair rails, shower chairs, etc.
  • Get an eye exam – make sure your vision and any prescription glasses are best suited for you.
  • Take your medications correctly – set a timer if you have to but take your medications on time and in the right amounts. This may be another area your loved ones can help.
  • Take care of yourself generally – eat healthy (and avoid unhealthy) foods, drink plenty of water, stay physically active as much as possible, and keep your social connections up to date as well as making new ones. I’m not suggesting you try to run a marathon here, but joining a Tai Chi or Yoga class can make a huge difference in your life. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel, how many friends you can make, and the difference it can make in your fall rate.

Falling can be more than painful. For some it can lead to long term health issues; others may never recover. You are in charge of your life so take charge and stop falling. In other words, be a stand up person.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.