Mind & Body
Secrets to Aging Well
8/28/2018 11:33:01 AM
Secrets to Aging Well

Americans are living longer and healthier lives than ever before. The average life expectancy in America today (age 81.2 for females, 76.4 for men) is higher than in any other period in history. This is largely due to significant improvements in healthcare services, investment in medical research, and universal health coverage. But longevity and vitality can also be attributed in part to lifestyle choices. What you eat, how you spend your free time, and your mental outlook on life can significantly affect your health. In this special section, Thrive offers tips on how you can be your best – physically and emotionally -- and lead an enjoyable, productive life well into your "mature” years.

Fitness & Nutrition Keys to Aging Well
by Christine Fisher

Angela Lansbury, 93. Betty White, 96. Kirk Douglas, 102. Dick Van Dyke, 93. These are a few examples of celebrities who are currently re-writing the manual on aging; they are vibrant and involved. Along with these famous individuals, we can probably think of several in our own circles over the age of 80 who continue to be healthy and active.

What is the secret to aging well? Good nutrition and consistent exercise make a significant impact on how well someone ages. A landmark study in 1998 known as the "MacArthur Foundation Study of Aging in America” found successful aging was largely a product of habits and less of heredity. High mental and physical function were key characteristics consistently found in men and women who were part of the study and aging successfully.  

"The ‘aha moment’ is when we realize that we are responsible for how we age,” said Cynthia Chantlin, registered dietitian with West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital. "Yes, we inherit tendencies toward high blood pressure or high cholesterol, for example; but often these can be controlled well with nutrition and exercise. For people who have chosen a lifestyle of eating nutritious food and getting consistent exercise, we’re seeing them continue to be active and engaged in life throughout their 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond.”

Aging doesn’t necessarily equal illness and decline. The risk for disease and disability increases with inadequate physical activity and poor diet.

Feeding the body fresh vegetables and fruits that are filled with vitamins, minerals, and especially anti-oxidants, will keep it well-nourished. "Antioxidants are vitamins C and E, as well as other compounds like polyphenols. These nutrients protect from bacteria; they keep the colon and digestive system working properly and promote overall good health,” explains Chantlin.  

Choose foods such as berries; green, leafy vegetables; yogurt; and bright orange vegetables such as pumpkin, sweet potatoes, carrots, and butternut squash.

In addition to quality foods, exercise plays an important factor in keeping bones strong and healthy, improving flexibility, and warding off health concerns. Whether it’s a group fitness class, a treadmill, swimming laps, or playing a sport, moving your body for 30 to 45 minutes every day will significantly improve your overall health.

"Balance and flexibility often decline as we age. Staying fit means staying strong,” says Suzy Trahan, wellness coach, ACSM certified exercise physiologist, registered dietitian, nutritionist, and director of Dynamic Dimensions Fitness Centers of West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital. "Consistent exercise will help you stay active and avoid, or reduce, the aches and pains that typically happen to older adults. In fact, exercise is one of the recommendations to ease the pain of arthritis. Working out helps both your mind and body stay sharp.”

When you have your health, age is simply a number. While we can’t control getting older, we can do all we can to curtail a decline in health with smart choices along the way, and it’s never too late to get started!

Aging Eyes Cataracts May Cloud Your Vision, But Not Your Future

"With aging comes change.” Our bodies tell us this every day. As we move through the decades of our adult life—our 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond – we have to adjust to bodily changes that can put limits on our activity.

As our eyes undergo the aging process, cataracts can form, interfering with our vision. Cataracts occur when, over time, natural proteins build up in the eye’s lens, making it cloudy. Normally, the lens is transparent and allows light to pass unhindered to the retina, but if the lens becomes clouded, our vision may appear dim or blurred. 

There’s a common misconception that cataracts affect only those in their 70s or 80s. "It may surprise you to learn that cataracts may form in younger people, often in their 50s and 60s,” said ophthalmologist William B. Hart, MD, of Hart Eye Center. In fact, Dr. Hart has performed cataract-removal surgery on many "younger” patients who haven’t even hit retirement age.

"Simply put, cataracts can form at any age,” Dr. Hart said. "Some cataracts progress slowly, and others progress rapidly. At some point, they interfere with a person’s vision.” 

How do cataracts affect your vision? You may notice these effects:
  • Blurred, cloudy, or even double vision. You may see "ghost images.” 
  • Colors may seem faded and washed-out. It may seem that there’s a filter over your eyes.
  • Dim vision. When you’re reading or working close-up, it may seem like any light level is too dim.
  • After changing your eye prescription, your vision doesn’t appear to improve.
Eyeglasses or contacts won’t slow the progression of cataracts. When you notice the effects of cataracts, it may be time to see your ophthalmologist for diagnosis and a "plan of action.” Your doctor can tell you how far the cataracts have progressed, and what options you have to improve your eyesight.

You and your doctor might decide that cataract-removal surgery is the best choice. This corrective surgery can be a safe, efficient, and easy way to remove the cataracts and improve your vision. In fact, it’s one of the most common eye procedures performed today. 

"The procedure actually replaces the cloudy natural lens with a clear plastic intraocular lens,” Dr. Hart said. Cataract removal is an outpatient procedure, usually with little or no discomfort to the patient.

The Outcome
And after the cataracts are removed? Most patients report much-improved vision, and no longer experience the symptoms associated with cataracts. Significant improvements in intraocular lenses – the ones that replace the cloudy, cataract-impaired lenses – make near-perfect vision a possibility after cataract surgery.

 "Many of our patients tell us that they no longer need to use their glasses,” Dr. Hart said. "They tell me the world is clearer and brighter again.” 

No one escapes the effects of aging, but today, cataract-removal surgery can reverse one effect of aging on our eyes. Cataracts no longer represent a "life sentence” of limited vision as we grow older.

For more information about cataracts, cataract surgery, and free cataract screenings, call Hart Eye Center at (337) 439-4014.

Caring for Aging Teeth

A century ago, dentures were seen as a necessary side effect of aging, along with wrinkles and gray hair. Today, thanks to advancements in dental care and improved awareness, most people keep their teeth well into their later years.

Still, some degree of natural attrition is inevitable. The everyday wear and tear from a lifetime of eating, nighttime grinding, and drinking coffees and teas cause teeth to decay and lose their original luster. As a result, older people suffer higher rates of gum disease, oral cancer, mouth infections, and tooth loss. The good news is that adopting a solid, daily routine can make a world of difference when it comes to slowing tooth decay and avoiding serious problems.

"Our teeth are incredibly strong and resilient, but they respond to how we treat them,” said Dr. Tim Robinson, DDS. "Through daily care and regular dental visits, our mouth can stay healthy well into our old age.”

Avoid Dry Mouth 
Getting older often means more medications, many of which list "dry mouth” as a common side effect. Saliva keeps teeth clean, and without it our teeth are more prone to decay. A good method of staving off dry mouth is to drink more water and hold the water in your mouth a moment before swallowing. Also, sucking on sugarless candy or chewing sugarless gum can combat dryness.

Tobacco Linked to Cancer
Many people diagnosed with oral cancer have one thing in common: they use tobacco. Oral cancer most often appears on the lip, tongue or bottom of the mouth. The early stages are barely perceptible. If you notice white or red patches that last longer than two weeks, it’s time to see a specialist. 

Abstaining from tobacco along with limiting alcohol consumption and using protective lip balm can help prevent this type of cancer. It’s worth noting that other conditions commonly found in older people — such as sores, herpes, and yeast infections — are often confused for oral cancer. Good hygiene will help prevent these benign, but painful, issues.

A Whiter Shade of Yellow
Teeth naturally yellow with age as the enamel thins and the dentin inside the tooth begins to show through. Culprits like coffee, tea, and red wine also contribute to discoloration by staining the enamel itself. To combat this, people have the option of either whitening at home — with toothpaste, strips or trays — or getting their teeth whitened under the supervised care of a dentist. Before starting a whitening routine, consult with your dentist. Available methods vary in effectiveness and some can damage sensitive teeth.
"Daily” is the Magic Word 
As people age, their gum lines tend to recede and the protective outer layer on their teeth grows thin, leaving them vulnerable. The best way to fight this is with a good daily routine. The rule of thumb is to brush with fluoride toothpaste twice each day using a soft brush for at least two minutes and to floss at least once a day. Sometimes aging makes brushing difficult, so electric toothbrushes are often good investments for older people. 

It’s important to avoid chewing ice or hard foods that can chip away at the outer covering on your teeth. Nighttime grinding is also a major culprit. Mouth guards are a common solution, as well as Botox, which fights damage by weakening the muscles through a series of injections.

From Mouth to Toe
Your overall health is critical to good oral health, and diseases like diabetes can take a toll on your teeth as well as your body. Good nutrition and regular doctor’s appointments are key to maintaining wellbeing in all areas. 

A good routine, combined with regular dental cleanings and preventative exams, will prepare your teeth to endure everyday wear and tear while maintaining their youthful brilliance long after the grays have started to show.
For more information, contact Robinson Dental Group, 2629 Country Club Rd, Lake Charles, 337-474-3636, robinsondentalgroup.net.

Being a Baby Boomer Doesn’t Have to be a Pain
by Kristy Como Armand

The generation of peace and love has evolved into the generation of aches and pains. 

Baby Boomers — people born between the years 1946 and 1964 — are getting older. Approximately 10,000 Americans turn 65 each day. This means that nearly seven Baby Boomers are turning 65 every minute. The significance of these numbers is that within 20 years one in five Americans will be older than 65.

As a group, Baby Boomers are living nearly twice as long as previous generations, and for the most part, are remaining much more active. And while this on-the-go population segment may not want to slow down, a wide range of aches and pains is starting to cramp their style. In a recent study, more than two out of three Boomers said they suffer from muscle and joint pain at least once a week. 

However, this generation is less resigned to simply accept injury and pain as an inevitable part of aging, and, according to Sarah Clevenger, MD, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist with Center for Orthopaedics, they don’t have to. "We often see older adults who want to keep doing all the things they did when they were younger, but find themselves struggling due to chronic pain. Fortunately, we have many more options to offer people who want to maintain an active lifestyle as they age.”

Dr. Clevenger says the original source of pain is typically just the natural wear and tear that occurs to joints over time. "As you get older, your joints start to show the signs of years of use, just like anything else, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stop using them.” She explains that Boomers often unknowingly make their problem worse by cutting back on their activities when they experience joint pain. "Their knee or back hurts after physical activity, so they stop doing that activity.  This results in a loss of muscle strength, decreased range of motion, reduced circulation to the area, and stiffness. So the next time they need to exert that part of their body, they experience more pain and stiffness due to inactivity. Pretty soon, that knee or back is painful any time they move.  It’s a vicious cycle that can quickly lead to an extreme reduction in activity and chronic pain.” 

The good news is that Baby Boomers do not have to live with the pain. "There is so much we can do to provide pain relief. "Many Baby Boomers are reluctant to seek help because they feel surgery or joint replacement is their only option. But that is definitely not the case. We have an arsenal of non-surgical interventions that can often eliminate – or at least delay – the need for surgery for joint pain,” says Dr. Clevenger. 

She says the first step is a comprehensive physical exam to assess functional status, which helps identify the source and cause of the pain. "With older adults, it is very common for the muscles that stabilize and support the joint to be weak. This can lead to instability around the joint, which can worsen arthritis and pain. If we can correct that with a program of physical therapy and strength training, that patient can not only be pain-free, but also be able to return to a more active lifestyle.” 

Other non-surgical treatment options may include over-the-counter or prescription medications, injections, heat and cold therapies, electrotherapies, massage, bracing, rehabilitation programs, nutritional recommendations and therapeutic exercise.  

"The treatment is determined based on each individual’s unique situation – their pain level and functional capacity. When it comes to pain management in these cases, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all approach,” says Dr. Clevenger. 

And that’s something free-spirited Baby Boomers can certainly appreciate.

For more information about joint and back pain treatment, call Center for Orthopaedics at 721-7236 or visit www.centerforortho.com.

Improve Your Quality of Life as You Age

When it comes to aging, Americans harbor plenty of concerns, whether they be physical, psychological, or financial. But there’s no reason to believe that a few age-related concerns doom you to a dreary existence.

"There are a number of things people can do right now that will increase the odds that their senior years will be healthy, productive and rewarding,” says Chris Orestis, a senior-care advocate and author of the books Help on the Way and A Survival Guide to Aging. "It’s important to help seniors and their families make the most of what should be the best years of their lives.

A healthy diet and exercise are two of the better known ingredients for improving the chances you’ll lead a long and fruitful life. Others depend more on your mental outlook.

Life hands everyone challenges, but it’s how you deal with those challenges that makes the difference. "Keeping a positive attitude is important,” Orestis says. "Do you approach each day with zeal or with dread? Are you active or sedentary? It’s critical to live life with a purpose because it will make you strive to be healthy of mind, body, and in your attitude.”

People change as they age and so does the world around them. "You need to be prepared to manage a whole host of changes in a positive way,” Orestis says. "Your body changes. Your mind changes. There are changes in your career, in the community you live in, and in the technology we all use every day. Those who do the best job of adapting are the ones most likely to thrive.”

People who nurture relationships are more likely to live higher-quality lifestyles. "As we age, relationships will change and it’s important to stay engaged, whether in person or from afar,” Orestis says. "We also need to build new relationships throughout our lives.”

Filling your time with activities – coaching a youth soccer team, learning guitar, traveling – can help give you a more meaningful and healthy life. "One of the keys to people who live long lives is that their life continued to have meaning,” Orestis says. "Hobbies, volunteer work, learning new skills, or getting more involved with your family are all paths to an active and meaningful life.”

"Aging shouldn’t be a one-way ticket to poor health, loneliness, boredom, and a declining quality of life,” he says. The key to enjoying a long and fulfilling life is often a matter of attitude. And it’s up to you.

Your Memorial Wishes A Final Gift for Your Family
by Kristy Como Armand

Few of us want to think of how our life will end, or how things will continue after we’re gone. But one of the most meaningful gifts you can give your family is a plan for your memorial service. When your wishes are left behind, it eases the burden on loved ones who will be expected to make decisions and answer questions about how to proceed in the hours and days immediately after your death.

"It’s about providing peace of mind to you, but most importantly, to those who are most important to you,” says Andy Hankins, licensed funeral director with Johnson Funeral Home. "When you plan your service beforehand, it makes things much easier for your family, who will already be going through a difficult time. We see the difference this makes for the families. Losing and saying a final farewell to a loved one is one of the most stressful situations a family faces. Having to make decisions about funeral and burial arrangements during this time just adds to that stress. Putting a plan in place ahead of time eliminates this burden.” 

According to Hankins, your wishes can be as personalized and detailed as you want. 

"Instead of approaching it as a sad or morbid task, think of it as a positive thing—a gift to your family. Think about how you want your memorial service to look or feel. Most of us would prefer that people celebrate our lives rather than mourn or deaths. If so, consider how you’d like your loved ones to do that,” Hankins said.

A few things to consider:

Music and songs. Music is typically an essential element of a service. What do you want performed at your service? Something uplifting, that celebrates life? Something nostalgic from your past? Your favorite song, perhaps? 

Traditions. If you have specific traditions you want to follow, make sure that’s clear. "Don’t assume your family knows,” Hankins says. "Discuss it with them so you can be sure they know your wishes and they won’t have to debate the decisions with each other.” 

Readings. "If you desire a faith-based service, you may wish to include your favorite scripture or readings,” says Hankins. "Those who prefer a more secular service could choose inspiration readings and personal philosophies.”

Eulogists. Is there someone specific you’d like to deliver your eulogy? If so, are there are key aspects of your life you want that person to talk about? 
Visitation and service. Do you want a viewing, visitation or wake before your service? "As for the service itself, you may want to consider whether you’d prefer a funeral service, memorial or graveside,” says Hankins.

Who and where. Who do you want to officiate, and where? 

Donations or gifts. "Many people prefer that the attendees give a donation in their honor, rather than flowers,” Hankins says. "If that’s the case, make those wishes clear.” Once you have all your wishes documented, make sure your family or loved ones know where to find them. Keep the document in a safe and secure place, preferably with your other important papers. 

"You can also arrange payments beforehand so no one is left with a financial burden,” Hankins adds. "This can also be a huge cost-savings for your family. Pre-paying for your funeral years ahead of time allows you to lock in today’s lower costs.”  

Hankins says there are numerous options for pre-arrangement policies and that is something his staff can assist with, along with other funeral pre-planning services. 

For more information on funeral pre-planning or to schedule a free consultation, call Johnson Funeral Home at (337) 478-8687.
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