Monday, June 30, 2014

Staying Healthy After 40

7 Ways to Stay Healthy After 40


Age 40 is a milestone when the risk of many health conditions increases. This makes the birthday a perfect time for taking stock of your health, experts say.
Whether people have demanding jobs, aging parents, growing children or all of the above, it's easy to put health aside. But 40 is the time to evaluate your wellbeing, and to plan for the long-run.
"Forty is a good time to take a deep breath, and, although you have a lot of other things out there, do a little introspection and say, 'OK, there's some things I need to do to make sure I stay healthy,'" said Dr. Sandra Fryhofer, an internist at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta.
And if you're not there yet, there's no reason to wait,  said Dr. William Zoghbi, professor of medicine at the Methodist DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center in Houston and president of the American College of Cardiology.
"It's not like people are going to wake up and say, 'I'm 40, I'm going to change everything I'm doing to get healthier,'" Zoghbi said. Instead, "the earlier they can start, the better it is for them."
Here are seven ways to stay healthier when you are nearing or turning 40:

Keep your eyes open for vision problems
At age 40, vision can start to worsen, so have your eyes checked out, Fryhofer said. "You need to be able to read the fine print on medicine labels, and lots of different labels. If you don't have reading glasses and you can't read the fine print, you might miss some important information," Fryhofer said.
She also suggested wearing sunglasses to prevent further damage. "Too much sun exposure can increase cataracts, so sunglasses are a good idea," Fryhofer said. "Make sure they have the UV-A [and] UV-B protection."
A diet high in fruits and vegetables – which are full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals – may slow vision loss, added Heather Mangieri, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The leading cause of blindness in the elderly is a condition known as macular degeneration. It affects 9.1 million Americans over age 40. "Macular degeneration tends to be genetic, but we can use nutrition, a diet rich in lycopene (found in red fruit and vegetables) and antioxidants to slow down that vision loss," Mangieri said.

Know your numbers
Age 40 is a good time to look into your numbers for blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar and body weight. "People need to know what their cholesterol level is and if they haven't checked before age 40, they should," Zoghbi said.
When you visit a pharmacy, take time to get your blood pressure measured, and visit your doctor to get a simple blood sugar test, he suggested. Knowing these numbers will help you and your doctor identify potentially hidden disease risk-factors.
For example, people with higher blood pressure are at higher risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney failure, Zoghbi said.

Explore your family history
During your fifth decade, it's time to look carefully at your family tree to find out if your genetics increase your risks for diseases such as cancer or heart disease. "Once you hit 40, when things go wrong, you have to think of the C-word and that's cancer, because you're no longer a kid," Fryhofer said. "That's a good time to make sure you understand your family history."
For example, those with a family history of colon cancer may want to get a colonoscopy at age 40, instead of waiting until age 50, Fryhofer said.
The same goes with heart disease: a calcium test can help determine whether your arteries are starting to harden, and if you need major lifestyle changes or medications. "People get by with a lot until they hit 40, but then when you hit 40, it's got to be a little bit about you. It can't be just worrying about everybody else," she said.

Muscle up
Starting at age 40, we lose about 1 percent of muscle mass per year.
So people can benefit from incorporating weight-bearing exercises, along with cardiovascular exercise, into a weekly physical activity plan, Mangieri said. "Even if it's using cans of soup to do some bicep curls — it doesn't have to be in a gym, it just needs to be some sort of resistance training," Mangieri said.
As we age, we also become less flexible. Mangieri suggested adding yoga or Pilates, which can help improve flexibility, core strength, balance and range of motion. "If we can maintain our muscle mass and maintain our strength, then as we get older, we can continue to do the things we enjoy doing," Mangieri said.

Fiber is your friend
The days of gorging without gaining weight are over. And as your metabolism slows around age 40, eating fewer calories can boost health. But you should also make sure to get adequate fiber and fluids, Mangieri said.
"We want to make sure the calories that are decreasing come from things like sweets, but we keep those high-fiber foods in the diet, and we also make sure we meet our fluid needs. That's really important," Mangieri said. "Make sure that our daily eating plan is packed full of nutrient-dense food, like lean protein, fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy and whole grains.
"Those items are important through all the stages of life, but as we get older, we want to make sure we maintain those high-nutrient foods even though our caloric needs are less," Mangieri said.

Consider the big picture of your lifestyle
Dr. Elizabeth Jackson, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan emphasized the difference that a generally healthy lifestyle can have on preventing heart attacks and strokes.
For cardiovascular events, "we know that the risk increases with age, and you can't get younger. There's no cure for getting older," Jackson said.
But losing the spare tire around your middle could help you not only fit into your clothing, but reduce the risk for heart disease, diabetes and vascular diseases. "When you think of lifestyle modifications, there's a lot of bang for your buck in all different factors," Jackson said.
Doing regular physical activity, reducing stress levels, maintaining a healthy weight and a eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables and polyunsaturated fats all "help keep our blood vessels healthy," Jackson said. "And that keeps our heart healthy, that keeps our brains healthy, and it really helps us prevent that waistline increasing. An investment in healthy lifestyle will pay off through every subsequent decade," she said.

Butt out
Age 40 should include a reality check for smokers.
"If you're a smoker, it's time to take this seriously and stop it by whichever way, shape or form. Get some help," Zoghbi said.
Quitting "is not easy, but believe me, it will decrease the incidence of everything bad that you can think of, from heart attacks [to] heart disease, stroke, kidney failure as well as lung cancer and lung disease," he said.

Thyroid check
People who feel worn out, and are gaining weight and whose hair and skin have lost their luster, may consider getting their thyroids checked. This neck gland helps control energy levels and regulates hormones, and 40 is a time "when thyroid disease can show its face," Fryhofer said.
A test can determine if your thyroid is functioning as it should, she said. An underactive thyroid is primarily results from genetic condition causes, but you can stave off its complications with prescription medications, Fryhofer said.  

This story was provided by MyHealthNewsDaily

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Being healthy in RETIREMENT!


Retirement. For some this is a distant dream, and for others it is a livid reality. No matter what boat you are in, it is still helpful to know some tips to maintaining a healthy retirement! The cold hard facts are that most of us have spent our entire lives working, paying bills, getting by day to day when retirement being the end goal. Really retirement is just the beginning!
Not everybody retires by choice, but don’t let that bring you down and embrace this new chapter of life. Whether you retire because you want to or because you have to, it's possible to make your retirement years happy and healthy -- you just need to approach things a bit differently. In this top 10 list, we'll check out all of the ways that you can adjust to retirement, starting with rethinking finances.

One way to help preserve as much of your money as possible and maintain the lifestyle you want is to create a budget. With any luck, you've always had a budget in some form, but if not, there's no time like the present. Even if you did have one, once you retire, your priorities shift. You'll still have to pay your phone bill each month, but you'll spend less money on some things and more on others. For example, you may no longer need to pay for transportation to work, but you may need to pay more insurance co-pays and deductibles. There are several software programs out there to help with money management, but you could easily do it with paper and a calculator.
One benefit of being a senior citizen is the ability to take advantage of a multitude of discounts. Many restaurants have special senior menus or certain times when seniors can eat cheap, and grocery stores and movie theaters often have senior citizen discount days or times. If you join an association like the AARP, you can get discounts on everything from hotel rooms to clothing.
Making and sticking to a budget is one way to stretch your retirement income. Let's look at other ways to save money next.

Many people buy larger and larger homes over the course of their lives as their families grow and their careers blossom. But by retirement age, your children are probably grown and out of the house. Do you still need a five-bedroom, three-bath with the big, high-maintenance backyard? Even if you don't have a mortgage, you're still paying to heat and cool rooms that probably aren't getting much use and spending both time and money to keep up your home's exterior.
Now is the time to consider scaling back to a smaller house or moving into an apartment, condo or townhouse. An added benefit of some of these options is that you're only responsible for maintaining the interior of your home. No yard to mow, no siding to replace. You may also want to consider living in a retirement community, also called an active-adult community. These communities are planned with amenities to meet the needs of senior citizens. Their amenities may include arts and crafts classes, entertainment, nature trails, golf courses, pools and even on-site medical facilities.
After your house, your car is usually the next major expense. If you have different cars for different purposes, consider whether those cars fit your needs as a retiree. A smaller, more fuel-efficient car could save you a lot of money if you're replacing an eight-passenger van. Even if you just have one car, if it's getting older you may find yourself spending more and more money to maintain it. It may be cheaper in the long run to get a newer car that requires less maintenance but still gets you from point A to point B.

Wait -- retiring is all about not working, isn't it? Technically, yes. However, there are many benefits to continuing in the workforce in some capacity, assuming you're able to do so.
Making money and bolstering your financial situation is one of them -- many people are finding that their savings aren't going as far as they thought due to the rising cost of everything from gas to insurance. Even if you're in a good place financially, you could use the money to pay off debts or save for an extended vacation or home improvements. Having a regular schedule and interacting with different people on a daily basis can also help maintain the emotional and mental health of retirees.
In some companies, transitioning to part-time or flex time is an option for people in their retirement years. Maybe just cutting back is a good compromise between continuing those 60-hour work weeks and fully retiring. Many retirees take part-time jobs, either related to their previous careers or in an entirely different field. The senior citizen bagging groceries may seem like a cliché, but this is an example of a relatively low-stress job that can work well for retirees. Depending on how many hours you're working, how much money you make, and exactly what comprises your retirement income, you may be able to still draw retirement while you work.
Even if you're in a good place financially, you could use the money to pay off debts or save for an extended vacation or home improvements. Having a regular schedule and interacting with different people on a daily basis can also help maintain the emotional and mental health of retirees.
In some companies, transitioning to part-time or flex time is an option for people in their retirement years. Maybe just cutting back is a good compromise between continuing those 60-hour work weeks and fully retiring. Many retirees take part-time jobs, either related to their previous careers or in an entirely different field. The senior citizen bagging groceries may seem like a cliché, but this is an example of a relatively low-stress job that can work well for retirees. Depending on how many hours you're working, how much money you make, and exactly what comprises your retirement income, you may be able to still draw retirement while you work.
Even if teaching wasn't your profession, it's still something that you can take up after you retire. Not necessarily teaching children (although if you're interested in a second career, it's a possibility), but teaching other adults what you've learned in the years spent in your chosen industry. Some colleges and technical schools like to employ people who have a lot of real-world experience, even if they don't have teaching experience. Many companies also employ career coaches or bring in speakers to share their knowledge with their employees.
Also consider teaching other skills you've acquired that don't necessarily have anything to do with your career. Local community schools hold classes in everything from foreign languages to basics in horseback riding. If you've long been quilting, growing a vegetable garden or crafting wooden children's toys, you'll get to teach people who are interested in learning.

You may have heard that it's never too late to go back to school but never really considered it true for yourself. If you're spent all of your adult life working full-time and raising children, there may not have been time to even think about pursuing additional degrees or getting a college degree, period. But the old adage is true; there are plenty of senior citizens setting foot on campus to earn undergraduate or graduate degrees. Continuing your education keeps your mind sharp and active. It could be the opportunity to learn more about a lifelong passion, or the start of another career.
If you aren't interested in getting a degree but just want to take classes, most colleges allow senior citizens to audit classes for free or at a greatly reduced rate. Auditing means that you attend and participate in the classes, but don't take exams or receive a grade. If you want to audit a class, you usually have to wait until all of the people taking the class for credit have had a chance to enroll in it. Other than that, it's basically all of the fun of going to school without any of the pressure.

 Many of us have skills or hobbies that we wish we'd picked up but never got around to. Now's your chance. Want to learn how to play the guitar? Use the Internet to research your ancestry? Ballroom dance? Many of these skills can be learned in classes held at community schools and colleges. Depending on the type of class you take and how often they're offered, these classes are usually inexpensive. Some schools offer courses specifically for senior citizens.
If your local community school doesn't offer anything that catches your interest, keep looking. Hobby and craft stores conduct free or inexpensive classes in knitting, scrapbooking and jewelry making. If you're interested in home improvement, those types of stores often have classes in everything from gardening to tiling your bathroom floor. Cooking classes and demonstrations are often held in kitchenware stores. You get the idea -- if you're interested in learning about it, chances are you can find a class in it.
Maybe you don't want to learn how to do anything, but you're interested in starting a collection. Whether you want to collect autographs or antique dolls, there are plenty of online groups and forums dedicated to your new hobby. Some of them meet in person or even hold conventions. No matter what your interest, you can find others out there with whom to discuss it.
According to a study conducted over an eight-year period at the University of Michigan, retirees who were active volunteers were 40 percent more likely to be alive at the end of the study than nonvolunteers [source: Wheeler]. That should be reason enough to consider volunteering. Not only does it keep you moving and engaged, volunteering also instills a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
There are so many opportunities that you might feel overwhelmed, but some things may seem like a natural fit if you consider your interests. Check out volunteer opportunities at local schools, such as assisting with an after-school program. Animal shelters can always use someone to walk dogs. You could work in a museum as a docent or as a tour guide at a park. Your local church or other house of worship should have suggestions for you.
If you find yourself stuck, consider calling or looking up your local chapter of United Way. This charity organization is actually a coalition of other organizations and can match you with volunteer opportunities that will suit you best. You could also try Volunteer Match. There are also organizations that specifically recruit senior citizens, such as Senior Corps. They have programs such as Foster Grandparents, which matches exceptional children with adults ages 60 and older who mentor them and help them with reading and schoolwork.

Casting your vote when election time rolls around is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to participating in the political process, but for most of us, it's as far as we go other than placing a bumper sticker or a sign in our yards. Think back to the last time you walked into a polling place -- did the workers there have something in common? There's a good chance that most of them were senior citizens. Working the polls is an easy way for you to play a part.
You doubtless have strong opinions about who should be chosen to represent you, and you state those opinions when you vote, but you can get even more involved. If you like a specific candidate, call his or her local office and ask how you can help. You could find yourself making phone calls to potential voters, stuffing envelopes or coordinating fundraisers and rallies. It doesn't matter whether you're working for someone running for local or national office; they all need volunteer help to get there.
If you don't want to campaign for a particular candidate, consider the issues that most affect you and the pieces of legislation that your local and national representatives could vote on. Care about environmental issues? Worried about your Social Security? There are countless grassroots organizations and special interest groups devoted to a particular issue or category of issues. They work to get politicians interested in their cause and try to convince them to vote a certain way, and they need volunteers to help spread the word.

 Despite all of the things that you could be doing, it's easy to get into a rut when you're retired -- especially if you live alone. Sitting around the house isn't just bad for your mental health, it's bad for your physical health as well. It's OK if you have limitations -- even if you have problems with your mobility, there are exercises that you can do to keep yourself fit. Check out your local library for books and DVDs with exercises geared toward seniors or see what local gyms have to offer. Some gyms have discounts for senior citizen memberships, and they also have fitness instructors who are trained to work with seniors. Some shopping malls have walking clubs that meet on a regular basis to get exercise in a climate-controlled, level environment.
Being active doesn't just mean exercising, though. If you're the only person who has retired in your circle of friends, you may find that you don't have as much in common with them. Often, retirees in cold climates move to warmer parts of the country, so even your retired friends could disappear. You may have to seek out new friends, and the community senior center is a place to start. In addition to classes, senior centers offer recreational and social opportunities. They often hold luncheons and dances and organize day trips to places like historical sites and shopping destinations. Senior centers also may have clubs or groups for different interests, such as book clubs.

 If you ask most people what they look forward to about retirement, the ability to travel would probably be high on the list. Retirees are seen as people with endless amounts of free time and few attachments to keep them from spending months away from home. If you have the money to travel and the desire, why not go for it?

Being a senior citizen has its perks. There are typically discounts available for hotels, airfare (although this has declined) and rental cars to be had, all because you're a senior citizen. If you don't see one listed, ask. If you're a member of AAA or the AARP, there are almost always discounts available. Many retirees enjoy structured trips such as cruises or tour groups, or all-inclusive destinations like resorts. You typically pay one price and then you don't have to worry about food, accommodations or entertainment. There are travel companies that cater exclusively to senior citizens, which can help you get the best rates and find the best activities.

This article is adapted from:

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Keeping Kids Active

Keeping Kids Active
Helping your children have a healthy active lifestyle at a young age can help shape the activeness for the rest of their lives. As they age they have more challenges in their lives, school, social pressures, lack of active role models, and working families. Even if children have the time and the desire to be active, parents may not feel comfortable allowing the same kind of freedom to roam around the neighborhood like kids use to. These factors leave their opportunities limited.
Despite these barriers, parents can instill a love of activity and help kids fit it into their everyday routines. Doing so can establish healthy patterns that will last into adulthood.
Benefits of Being Active
·         strong muscles and bones
·         weight control
·         decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes
·         better sleep
·         a better outlook on life
Healthy, physically active kids also are more likely to be academically motivated, alert, and successful. And physical competence builds self-esteem at every age.
What Motivates Kids?
1.    Choosing the right activities for a child's age: If you don't, the child may be bored or frustrated.
2.    Giving kids plenty of opportunity to be active: Kids need parents to make activity easy by providing equipment and taking them to playgrounds and other active spots.
3.    Keeping the focus on fun: Kids won't do something they don't enjoy.
When kids enjoy an activity, they want to do more of it. Practicing a skill — whether it's swimming or riding a tricycle — improves their abilities and helps them feel accomplished, especially when the effort is noticed and praised. These good feelings often make kids want to continue the activity and even try others.

Here's Some Age-Based Advice:

Preschoolers: Preschoolers need play and exercise that helps them continue to develop important motor skills — kicking or throwing a ball, playing tag or follow the leader, hopping on one foot, riding a trike or bike with training wheels, freeze dancing, or running obstacle courses.
School-age: With school-age kids spending more time on sedentary pursuits like watching TV and playing computer games, the challenge for parents is to help them find physical activities they enjoy and feel successful doing. These can range from traditional sports like baseball and basketball to martial arts, biking, hiking, and playing outside.
As kids learn basic skills and simple rules in the early school-age years, there might only be a few athletic standouts. As kids get older, differences in ability and personality become more apparent. Commitment and interest level often go along with ability, which is why it's important to find an activity that's right for your child. Schedules start getting busy during these years, but don't forget to set aside some time for free play.
Teenagers: Teens have many choices when it comes to being active — from school sports to after-school interests, such as yoga or skateboarding. It's important to remember that physical activity must be planned and often has to be sandwiched between various responsibilities and commitments.
Do what you can to make it easy for your teen to exercise by providing transportation and the necessary gear or equipment (including workout clothes). In some cases, the right clothes and shoes might help a shy teen feel comfortable biking or going to the gym.

Kids' Fitness Personalities

In addition to a child's age, it's important to consider his or her fitness personality. Personality traits, genetics, and athletic ability combine to influence kids' attitudes toward participation in sports and other physical activities, particularly as they get older.
1. The nonathlete: This child may lack athletic ability, interest in physical activity, or both.
2. The casual athlete: This child is interested in being active but isn't a star player and is at risk of getting discouraged in a competitive athletic environment.
3. The athlete: This child has athletic ability, is committed to a sport or activity, and likely to ramp up practice time and intensity of competition.
The athlete will want to be on the basketball team, while the casual athlete may just enjoy shooting hoops in the playground or on the driveway. The nonathlete is likely to need a parent's help and encouragement to get and stay physically active. That's why it's important to encourage kids to remain active even though they aren't top performers.
Whatever their fitness personality, all kids can be physically fit. A parent's positive attitude will help a child who's reluctant to exercise.Be active yourself and support your kids' interests. If you start this early enough, they'll come to regard activity as a normal — and fun — part of your family's everyday routine.

Adapted from:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Health Promotion Across the Lifespan


By: Paul David Nussbaum, Ph.D.

Tip 1: Don't smoke. 
Smoking represents a major risk factor for cancer, heart disease and stroke. These leading causes of death represent an ongoing concern for all Americans. Nonsmokers might consider taking an empathetic approach to smokers who are trying to quit, and parents might use a "tough love" approach with their children to make sure they don't even start.

Tip 2: Follow your physician's advice. 
Your relationship with your physician is critical to your health. Remember, though, that as a consumer of health services your doctor is your employee, so establish a good working relationship based on the understanding that you are the boss of your body. We must develop a proactive attitude toward maintaining our health and take responsibility to change those aspects of our lifestyles that are minimizing our longevity potential. Our physicians can help guide this process. 

Tip 3: Exercise regularly. 
Exercise and physical activity continue to emerge as primary components of a healthy lifestyle at any age. Aerobic exercise, weight training and recreation are critical not just to our cardiovascular health but to our brain health, as well. Every time our heart beats, 25 percent of its output goes to our brains-quite a large market share! Clearly, maintaining efficient blood flow to our brains through regular exercise promotes health. If you don't exercise regularly, start by walking around the block tonight and build from there. 

Tip 4: Reduce the overall calories you consume daily. 
We Americans tend not to underconsume anything-including food. Yet the leading factor for longevity in animals is caloric restriction. This finding has yet to be demonstrated in humans. However, provided you get your daily nutritional needs from the USDA'S food pyramid, you should pay close attention to how much you eat. Follow the advice two physicians gave me: N ever go to bed stuffed, and eat only 80 percent of what you intend to consume at every meal. 

Tip 5: Socialize and have fun. 
We Americans specialize in stress, with little understanding of how to have fun. We need more time to socialize, celebrate and laugh! Some of us have walls around us that keep other people away. As humans, though, we need to be engaged and to be social. Kofi Annan, the secretary general of the United Nations, once stated that every time "we lose an elder from our village, we lose a library." If we begin to think of everyone as a library, it becomes clear that we can learn from others. 

Tip 6: Develop your spirituality. 
Evidence continues to emerge that prayer is a health-promoting behavior and that attendance at formalized places of worship may have more significance to our health than we understand. Meditation, yoga, relaxation procedures and prayer have neurophysiological bases. They help to alter our existing homeostasis for the better. Praying or meditating daily can help us combat the stresses of life and focus on the challenges ahead. 

Tip 7: Engage in mentally stimulating activities. 
"Mental stimulation" refers to the ways our brains respond to stimuli in the environment. Novel and complex stimuli are health-promoting for the brain. New learning translates to neurophysiological growth and to mental stimulation in the same way that aerobics translates to cardiovascular health. We can benefit from being challenged, from learning information and skills that we do not yet understand, and from engaging in pursuits that are initially hard for us! 

Tip 8: Maintain your role and sense of purpose. 
Retirement as it is presently envisioned in this country is not good for the human brain, which benefits from environments rich in novel and complex stimuli. Retirement by definition reinforces disengagement and passivity. Our nation might consider prioritizing social engagement across the lifespan-from a brain-health perspective. Although it is important to allow elders to choose more passive lifestyles, many may benefit from an understanding of the importance of actively participating in society and finding personally relevant roles and senses of purpose. 

Tip 9: Seek financial stability. 
Research clearly demonstrates that having some money late in life correlates with better health. Therefore, a practical tip for maintaining lifelong health is to hire a financial planner and begin a savings plan that will provide some money late in life. Financial planners do not consider themselves to be health promoters, but they are. We are never too young or too old to begin saving, and the less money we make the faster we need to get started! 

Tip 10: Engage family and friends. 
Developing and maintaining a social network of relationships is important from a health perspective. Our friends and family help us stay active and involved in the fabric of society. They can provide us with emotional support and can nurture trust. Our roles in life, from child to parent to grandparent, exist within the family; they provide much health and human enrichment across the lifespan. And intimacy, broadly defined, is itself a health-promoting behavior at any age.

Monday, June 23, 2014

10 Tips for Caring for Aging Aprents. (Your health and theirs too!)

10 Tips for Caring for Aging Parents

Family caregivers have options to reduce and manage these personal sacrifices.

Caring for an aging parent may be the highest calling of your life. But it also can rob you of time, money, and your own experiences. In some cases, these personal sacrifices can create bitterness and regret, causing ill will toward the very people you love and have pledged to help.
MetLife's aging and retirement research unit, the Mature Market Institute (MMI), measured the financial costs and sacrifices of family caregiving in a study released last month. More recently, it used those findings to create recommendations for how family members might cope with the financial stresses of caregiving.
The number of people taking care of an aging parent has soared in the past 15 years. MetLife estimates that nearly 10 million adult children over age 50 now care for an aging parent. In 1994, only 3 percent of men and 9 percent of women helped provide basic care for a parent. In 2008, 17 percent of men and 28 percent of women provided such care, which is defined as helping with dressing, feeding, bathing, and other personal care needs. This level of help goes well beyond grocery shopping, driving parents to appointments, and helping them with financial matters. And it's more stressful as well.
In taking the time to provide family care, MetLife said, working Americans lose an estimated $3 trillion in lifetime wages, with average losses of $324,044 for women and $283,716 for men. With these costs and other money issues in mind, MMI researchers put together 10 tips about the financial consequences of caregiving.
1. Think very carefully before quitting a job to help a parent. Gaining time may be offset by not only your loss of current income but also damage to your retirement savings. If you leave work, what are the odds of finding work in the future? Would your job skills still be attractive to prospective employers if you didn't work for several years?
2. Would you lose other helpful benefits if you left your job? In addition to your own health insurance, are there employee disability, life insurance, and long-term care insurance policies that would be very costly to replace? Check out your employer's flex-time and family leave policies. Perhaps they would allow you to keep your job.
3. Make a caregiving budget. Before making a lifestyle decision with financial consequences, put together a comprehensive look at what you are spending on caregiving. Make a companion list of your parent's resources and how they might be better used to support caregiving activities.
4. Explore free or low-cost public benefits. Several websites can provide help in identifying and getting help with caregiving tasks. Check out the government's eldercare locator. The National Council on Aging operates a benefits checklist service, and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging has extensive information on caregiving help, plus an online locator to a local office in your area.
5. Learn about Medicare and Medicaid. Think Medicare covers nursing-home stays? It does not? Medicaid does, but only people who have exhausted most of their assets qualify for Medicaid-paid nursing home benefits. What kind of Medicare coverage does your parent have? Do they also have a Medigap or Medicare Advantage policy? A drug plan? What are the co-pays, out-of-pocket limits, and other financial aspects of their insurance? Check out MetLife's own primer on Medicare and Medicaid.
6. Understand the costs of keeping your parent in their home. Most people want to grow older in their own home, surrounded by possessions and memories. How much will such "aging in place" cost, and can you find help? MetLife has an Aging in Place Workbook. For a detailed look at in-home and institutional care costs, look at the 2011 Genworth Cost of Care study.
7. Consider professional help. If your parent's needs are extensive and challenging, consider hiring a geriatric-care manager who can put together a care plan for you, and can often identify community resources to reduce your own expenses and time. The National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers can explain professional standards and services, and also has a locator to help you find a professional nearby.
8. Watch out for financial scams. Financial abuse of the elderly has, sadly, become a growth industry during the nation's tough economic times. Make sure your parents are protected from making hasty, poor, and expensive financial decisions.
9. Have "the conversation." Make sure you understand what your parent want should you wind up with the legal power and responsibility to make decisions for them. This conversation may be uncomfortable for both of you, but it is essential. If you don't know the ins and outs of a power of attorney, a living will, or a healthcare proxy—and few people do—find an eldercare expert or attorney to help.
10. Make your own retirement plan. How are you fixed for retirement? Will you be able to support yourself? How might your financial future be affected by taking care of a parent? Are there steps you need to take to deal with these implications?

Friday, June 13, 2014

12 Steps to Make Exercise Last!

12 Steps to Make Exercise a Lasting Part of Your Life

By Chris Freytag
“Take care of your body, it’s the only place you have to live.” -- Jim Rohn
Sometimes a new thought or a new idea is all you need to make a lasting change. You can wake up one day and decide to make your entire life change. If you are new to exercise or you dropped it for a while and you want to get back to doing it, the best way to begin is with small steps.
You don’t have to become an athlete overnight to make exercise a part of your lifestyle. It’s actually better if you commit to making small changes in your daily routine instead of reinventing yourself overnight, because you are more likely to stick with it. Small changes in habits can lead to lasting, permanent change. So think baby steps and incorporate exercise into your life with these tips.
1.  Develop a "move more" mindset.
Carving out a specific hour of a day for a workout is great (and we will get to that in a little bit) but first, start each day with the mindset to move more. By reminding your body to get more movement throughout the day, you will be more likely to do it. So sit less and stand more. Take more steps and stairs. Walk to talk with a coworker instead of emailing them.
Stretch in your chair, squat to pick something up, park far away from stores so you will walk more, stand up when you talk on the phone and do some exercises while you watch TV. There are numerous ways you can sneak more movement into your day. Begin each day with a move more mindset and you will find them.
2.  Commit to regular activity.
You may not be the type of person who wants to train for a triathlon and that’s perfectly okay. You don’t have to become a fitness buff to benefit from exercise and movement. Start by committing to getting activity regularly. Schedule exercise like any other appointment on your calendar and treat it as a commitment rather than something you squeeze in if you have time. Even if you can only allot 15 minutes at a time, schedule it.
Take a short walk. Walk at a leisurely pace at first if exercise is new to you. You can build up to a power walk. If that’s not your thing, take a fitness class, swim laps or sign up for dance classes. Whatever exercise you start, build up slowly so you don’t overwhelm yourself and give up. If your body isn’t accustomed to regular exercise, build up slowly day by day so you don’t get too sore and throw in the towel altogether.
3.  Find your favorite exercise.
I know people who commit to a form of exercise and hate it. How long do you think they will keep that up? We aren’t inclined to dive in or stick to things we despise. Out of all the forms of exercise out there, find one you just love. Get really specific. Don’t just say, “yoga” discover what form of yoga is your favorite. If swimming is your thing, do you prefer swimming laps or water aerobics? Or maybe you’d dread a step class but you can’t get enough of Pilates.
A good way to identify what type of exercise is right for you is to first figure out if you like to exercise alone, with a partner or in a group setting. You may have to experiment a little bit before you know. Try different forms of exercise until you find one that energizes you physically and mentally. Find your favorite exercise—one where excuses won’t even enter the equation when it’s time to exercise.
4.  Focus on health and strength and what it means to you, and not on numbers on a scale.
Many people can get easily discouraged and give up when there’s too much emphasis on weight loss. Rather than an exclusive focus on weight loss, focus on the joys of exercise and movement instead. Take pride in your body getting stronger or your new ability to able to exercise longer, even if it’s just in baby steps. Think about the great way your body feels after exercise and the exhilaration you feel. Taking the time to consider what really connects you to exercise on an emotional level, is powerful because you can use those thoughts to motivate you.
Most likely what motivates you runs much deeper than getting skinnier or being a specific set of three numbers on a scale. Identify what it is for you. Maybe you want to have more energy for your children or grandchildren or you want to be in more control of your health—whatever is your core motivation—connect to it.
5.  Add strength training to your weekly routine.
Exercise isn’t just cardio alone. Strength training is critically important to retain muscle as you age, have a strong body and an effective metabolism. Even if you focus on just one muscle group a day and do three different exercises with three sets of 15 each for that muscle group you will benefit. You can divide strength training up throughout the week. Try two days a week to start and work up to three. Strength training will change how you feel, help you conquer your workouts with all that new muscle you are developing, and it’s the secret to a revved up metabolism.
6.  Put yourself first.
Stressful situations can take your focus away from properly caring for yourself. If you neglect yourself for the sake of external problems, you will be creating more problems than you are solving. Make sure you consider what you need and do something—however small—for yourself each day. Even if you only have 15 minutes, just commit to 15 minutes. It all goes back to the oxygen philosophy you hear about on planes flight attendants advice: “Put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others.” Put the mask on you first and then your children. You aren’t able to effectively take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first. Keep that in mind.
7.  Exercise with a group.
Exercise doesn’t have to be a solo sport. Make it an outing with friends and family. When you join up with others to exercise, not only do you get the immediate benefits of exercise, you also get time spent with friends—a double deposit into your well-being. When you discover physical activities and forms of exercise you love, you develop a sense of camaraderie and community with others. Accountability works.
8.  Think of how exercise boosts your sense of well-being.
You probably know exercise can help you live longer and go a long way to disease prevention, but what you might find more rewarding is to think about all the immediate benefits exercise provides to your well-being. While the long-term benefits are numerous, let’s face it, many of us aren’t motivated by what we can prevent decades down the road. Think short-term instead. All of us can use exercise today to get more energy, alleviate stress, increase productivity, improve our outlook, sleep better and feel happier—today! Think about what you stand to gain if you work out today. Maybe it’s a sunnier disposition or the satisfaction in knowing you pushed your body. Just give it some thought or better yet, make a list.
9.  Look to the future
Don’t get caught up in guilt or regret because you haven’t worked out or don’t beat yourself up if it has been a while. Guilt and regret only make you feel badly, they don’t get you where you are headed. With a simple decision in your mind, you can let go of what you did or didn’t do and just start again. Look forward. If you are feeling badly about yourself, you are less likely to make positive change. Start over with a clear plan of what you will commit to doing each day for your health.
10.  Avoid stop and start and stop again syndrome
One great way to kill your confidence is to constantly start and stop your exercise routine. It’s common for people to get psyched up and dive in to working out and then drop it altogether when the craziness of life intervenes. But if you start and stop all the time, you are setting yourself up for a never-ending cycle, where you won’t see any progress. Don’t tackle the world in a day. Think baby steps. Think of what you can do and schedule today even if it’s small increments of time that you eventually build upon. Commit to what you can achieve, at least at first.
11.  Remind yourself daily of your why.
It’s easy to get off track if you aren’t reminding yourself of why working out and eating healthy is important to you. This goes back to your core motivation that we addressed earlier. If you make it automatic to wake up and remind yourself of why exercise is important to you, you will be more likely to keep your commitments to yourself. You also will be putting exercise front and center on your day instead of treating it as an afterthought that you skip at day’s end. Wake up thinking of what exercise you will do today and it becomes a priority.
12.  Stretch post workouts.
An effective exercise regimen involves cardio, strength training and stretching. Stretching after exercise can help relax and balance tension caused by the workout itself. Post-workout, when your body is warm is the ideal time to stretch. The risk of muscle injury is much lower, and you will save yourself from tight, sore muscles the following day. Plus, the calm, relaxing feeling of a good stretch is a great way to end a workout.
Try some of these steps to make exercise a part of your life. Remember, a great way to avoid skipping workouts is to ask yourself how you will feel afterward. You can feel proud of your dedication and gain the exhilaration of accomplishment, or you can be disappointed and defeated that you skipped, again.
About the Author
Chris Freytag is a health and fitness expert, blogger, author and motivational speaker. She has been teaching fitness classes and personal training for over 20 years. She is a contributing editor for Prevention Magazine; the fitness contributor for the NBC affiliate in Minneapolis; and sits on the Board of Directors for the American Council on Exercise.
Chris has authored 5 books; has created dozens of fitness DVD's; is a top trainer for Exercise TV; and sells her signature line of healthy kitchen and fitness products on QVC. Visit Chris' website,, and Facebook page, for more information.