A Little Bit of Weight Loss Goes a Long Way

Image of an older woman and older man on stationary bikes side by side in a fitness gym.

To lose weight, it’s best to set small, achievable goals. One success leads to the next. How much weight do you need to lose? Research suggests losing as little as 5% of your starting weight will make a big difference.

Too much weight increases your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis looked into how much weight loss would be necessary to reduce the risk of these life-threatening conditions.

Food for Thought

Their study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, examined 40 obese volunteers who showed signs of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a pre-diabetic condition that interferes with the ability of cells to use insulin for absorbing glucose—the sugar your body makes from digesting carbohydrates. Glucose is used as energy by all the cells and organs in our bodies. If unable to get into the cells, glucose builds up in the blood and damages the lining of blood vessels. Cells become starved for energy, triggering the pancreas to produce even more insulin in an effort to help cells absorb glucose.

Blood vessel damage caused by glucose attracts plaque deposits. Left unchecked, insulin resistance ruins the ability of the pancreas to produce insulin, while the body’s cells lose their ability to use insulin. The outcome is Type 2 diabetes, which further increases the risk of heart disease. In fact, heart disease is the number one killer of people with Type 2 diabetes.

5% Dividend

In the study, volunteers were assigned randomly to programs designed to either maintain their weight or to lose 5%, 10%, or 15% of their weight. Those who lost only 5% showed significant improvements in pancreatic function and the ability of cells in their body to use insulin. Those who lost slightly more showed even greater improvement.
The takeaway from the study is that if your weight has you worried about your health, take heart that losing as little as 5% of your body weight will send you on your way to a healthier future.

SMART Goal Setting

Focus first on what you want to accomplish today. Achieving daily goals will give you the ability to meet weekly, monthly, and yearly goals. Setting SMART goals will help build your confidence to commit to the 5% target:

S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable
R – Rewarding
T – Timely

Unlike the general statement “losing a pound,” walking 300 minutes in the next week is specific. Instead of “walking more often,” 300 minutes a week is measurable. If 300 minutes a week is unrealistic, 150 minutes a week may be more attainable. If you don’t like to walk, perhaps riding a bike or swimming would be more rewarding. Finally, one week is the timely standard that ultimately determines whether the goal is met.

Article by Bill Jennings, ACSM-CEP, Touchmark Fitness Professional

What’s Good for the Heart is Good for the Brain

Image of two hands cupping a plastic heart.

As one of the hardest-working muscles in your body, it comes as no surprise that the human heart has a significant impact on the functionality of the body’s other organs. Your brain relies on your heart to deliver a continuous blood supply, so the healthier your heart, the lower your risk of developing dementia and heart disease.

With February being American Heart Month, it’s a great time to focus on how you can improve both your heartand your brain with just a few simple changes, including some surprises you canenjoy this season.

Stick to a healthy diet.

Eating clean, nutritious meals is one of the best things you can do for your body and your mind. Those who maintain a healthy diet typically have lower cholesterol and blood sugar levelsas well as a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Foods that are good for both brain and heart health include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meat, and fish. Limiting trans and saturated fats is another beneficial change you can make for your overall health.

Let yourself indulge.

While we still recommend moderation when it comes to sweets, letting yourself indulge in treats like dark chocolate can offer your heart some benefits. As long as the dark chocolate is high in cocoa content (and low in added sugar!),consuming it in moderation offers a good source of antioxidants, lowers yourrisk of heart disease, and increases blood flow to the brain.

Another example of an occasional heart-healthy treat is enjoying some grapes, whether as a glass of red wine or grape juice. Resveratrol, an ingredient in red grapes, has been shown to help protect blood vessels and lower your risk of heartattacks.

Get moving …

Research has shown a direct connection between fitness for the heart and fitness for the brain. All Touchmark Health & Fitness clubs andstudios have state-of-the-art equipment. The Expresso HD bike is one example.This stationary bike gives users an interactive riding experience that is funand works large muscle groups while stimulating the brain.

Resident and Club member Bill Hines discovered the bike is a good exercise alternative when he doesn’t take his road bicycle out on trails around Edmond. “I don’t want to sit somewhere and stare at the wall,” he says. “This gives me a way to feel like I’m really there. It’s neat. I can shift gears. I can steer. I can watch peoplepass me on the road and try to peddle faster to pass them up.”

A unique password allows riders to login and track their accomplishments and ride data, even allowing one torace against previous record times. There are also monthly challenges to helpkeep riders motivated.

We recommend individuals exercise for 30 – 60 minutes a day and include cardio, strength training, flexibility, and balance in their routines.

… and keep it moving.

Sitting is the new smoking, according to a study performed by the Mayo Clinic. While it may sound like an extreme claim, it holds true. After just 30 minutes of sitting, our body’s metabolism slows down by 90%, good cholesterol drops by 20%, and we become likelier to develop high blood pressure and blood sugar.

There is good news, though. Moving for just five minutes after 30 minutes of sitting can greatly improveyour health over time. This small amount of movement will help protect yourmuscles from deteriorating, increase your energy, and assist you in keeping offunwanted weight.

If you spend hours reading or looking at your computer each day, investing in a standing desk can help you stay on your feet and get your blood flowing. Transitioning to a standing desk can also reduce back and neck pain, according to Start Standing. This transition may feel uncomfortable at first, but soon, your body will be thanking you.

Maintain your friendships.

Next time a friend or family member suggests you get together, say yes. Studies show that routinely interacting with friends and loved ones can improve your physical health by strengthening your immune system and fighting off common sicknesses.

While all social interactions can improve your health, face-to-face interactions are best. After all, humans are social creatures and have always done best when interacting within a community and social setting.

Having a healthy heart and brain starts by committing to these changes daily. To learn more about the different health and wellness programs offered at Touchmark, visit our website, Touchmark.com. Happy Heart Month!

The Many Benefits of Pet Ownership for Older Adults

Image of an older adult with a kitten, both of whom are reaping the benefits of pet ownership.If you are a pet lover, you’ll most likely be one all of your life. Those who have owned pets know just how rewarding having a furry friend can be, and how pets quickly become members of our families.

People derive many emotional benefits from owning a pet, even more so as older adults. In this post, we’ll examine some of the best reasons why you should consider having a cat or dog (or other pet) around in retirement.

Companionship

Even if you’re an introvert, everyone needs socialization in their lives, lest we feel lonely and isolated. Though your cat or dog can’t “talk,” they are more than capable of providing friendship and loyalty. Just like humans, domestic pets have unique personalities, skills, and habits that you can treasure and enjoy.

Exercise

For most of us, the most enjoyable form of exercise is the one that doesn’t actually feel like exercise. Going on a leisurely stroll outside with your dog each day is a great way to get moving and feels completely different mentally than tracking your time on the treadmill. It’s fantastic for your dog’s health, and yours! You can exercise with a cat as well by engaging in high-energy play throughout the day.

Sense of Purpose

Being a caretaker is a big responsibility that can provide a meaningful significance in our lives. Knowing your pet depends on you for their well-being, happiness, and health is a great motivator to keep active and positive. Everyone deserves to feel needed and appreciated.

Stress Relief

Did you know that scientific research tells us that holding or petting an animal is an effective form of stress relief? Specifically, it lowers blood pressure and reduces cortisol levels. Cortisol production is the leading cause of physiological stress and anxiety. What better way to achieve serenity than to snuggle with a soft and cuddly companion?

Safety & Comfort

If you’ve grown accustomed to living with a spouse or partner, it can be challenging to maintain that sense of security after they’re gone. Though having a pet cannot replace your loved one, it can help you feel safer at night or when you’re alone. Dogs also serve as excellent deterrents for burglars if home safety is a concern for you when you’re out. Even tiny dogs sound intimidating when barking behind a closed door!

Routine

Having some things to do each day provides stability and structure from which nearly everyone benefits. Incidentally, pets best behave when they have a routine and boundaries, too. Keeping even a loose daily regimen with your pet will provide the foundation you both need to find comfort in your home life and free up your brain for more exciting activities.

New Friends & Interests

Having a pet is a hobby that you can share with others if you choose to view it as such. You may see the same people walking their pets each day, or run into familiar faces at the dog park or groomer. These days, there are groups that exist solely to participate in pet-centric activities and excursions. So if you feel like you’d like to expand your friendship circle, hop online and see if others are nearby who want to plan a pug playdate or a mastiff meetup.

In summary, life is better with friends. If you feel something is missing in your life, or you’d like it to be sweeter, consider adopting a pet today. You’ll be doing yourself and your companion a world of good!

To learn more about retirement living at Touchmark, visit our website or Facebook.

Cool Down With Summer Mocktails

With summer temperatures rising, it’s important to stay cool and hydrated. Getting enough water can be difficult sometimes; especially if you’re craving something with more flavor. A nice cocktail by the pool is a fun alternative, but the alcohol can increase the risk of dehydration. To find the best of both worlds, take a look at these fun, hydrating mocktails, or cocktails without alcohol.

  1. Watermelon Lime Punch

This delicious punch combines the hydrating power of watermelon with a refreshing hint of mint to create a tasty punch for any garden party. Just blend fresh watermelon, stir in some honey and lime juice, add mint and ice, and enjoy! For the full recipe click here.

  1. Cucumber Lime Mojito

Mojitos are a fun summer treat, but all the sugar in them can make you thirstier than when you started. This version switches out sugary syrups for cooling cucumber and a hint of citrus. In a glass, muddle cucumber slices, mint, and a dash of sugar. Fill the glass with ice, and top everything off with lime club soda. For the full recipe, click here.

  1. Blackberry Lemon Spritzer

For a tangy, bubbly twist on lemonade, try this Blackberry Lemon Spritzer for your next party. Pour lemonade and lemon club soda into a pitcher. Then, mix in your blackberries; lightly muddling about half the total amount. Chill until ready to serve, and then add ice and a few more blackberries for texture. For the full recipe, click here.

  1. Pomegranate Sparkler

For those who enjoy a more tart beverage, check out this Pomegranate Sparkler. Be careful to choose the right pomegranate juice though, as many brands add a lot of extra sugar. To make this drink, mix sparkling water, pomegranate juice, and lime juice. Top with ice and enjoy! For the full recipe and others like it, click here.

  1. Raspberry Fizz

If you want to try out some more advanced mixology techniques, take a shot at this Raspberry Fizz Mocktail. In a shaker, muddle raspberries and lemon wedges. Add in ice, a dash of sugar, and—if you’re feeling adventurous—a bit of rose water. Shake well, strain into a glass with ice, and top with club soda. To get the full recipe, click here.

What are your favorite summer beverages? Let us know!

Debunking Detoxes and Cleanses

It’s summer and numerous messages we receive from the fitness, nutrition, and wellness industries have conflicting information. In particular, topics like detoxification, cleanses, hydration, and sports drinks can be confusing.

Detoxing and cleanses

A variety of detoxification (“detox”) diets and regimens, often referred to as “cleanses” or “flushes,” are suggested as a means of removing toxins from the body or losing weight.

Detox programs may involve a variety of approaches, such as:

  • Fasting
  • Consuming only juices or other liquids for several days
  • Eating a very restricted selection of foods
  • Using various dietary supplements or other commercial products
  • Emptying the colon with enemas, laxatives, or colon hydrotherapy (aka “colonic irrigation”)

At this time, there is no convincing evidence that detox or cleansing programs actually remove toxins from your body or improve your health. In most cases for healthy individuals, the body’s remarkable intrinsic detoxification system—the liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, and colon—work in conjunction with each other to remove harmful substances without needing any outside help.

The weight loss element of a detox diet typically results in a reduction in the intake of calories versus the “detox” itself.

From a health and safety perspective, use caution, as some of the products and procedures used in detox/cleansing programs may be harmful to your health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission have taken action against several companies selling detox/cleansing products because they contained illegal or potentially harmful ingredients. If you do decide to try a detoxification or cleansing product, be sure to clear it with your physician beforehand.

The Amazing Ripple Effect of Volunteering

Not only does volunteering help those in need, but it also provides significant emotional benefits to the one doing the volunteering. In fact, researchers from the London School of Economics found that people who volunteer weekly are 16% more likely to report being “very happy” than those who do not volunteer. This difference in perceived happiness is comparable to the boost you get from having an income of $75,000–$100,000 versus $20,000.

Now if that doesn’t have you wondering what work near you can be done to help others, consider that volunteering in retirement has even more significant benefits. The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency for service, volunteering, and civic engagement released two studies in the last several years on their findings of older adult altruism. It found that:

  • Almost two-thirds of Senior Corps volunteers reported a decrease in feelings of isolation, and 67% of those who first reported they “often” lack companionship stated that they had improved social connections.
  • 70% of volunteers who initially reported five or more symptoms of depression reported fewer symptoms at the end of the first year.
  • 63% of volunteers who initially indicated three or four symptoms of depression reported fewer symptoms after one year.

So, why does volunteering have such a marvelous emotional effect on the volunteer? The reasons are many, but some at the top of the list include:

  1. Increasing social connections with others.

It’s difficult to help out in a vacuum. Chances are, almost every volunteer activity also comes with the opportunity to socialize with others. Be it nonprofit coordinators, fellow volunteers, children or youth in need, or an organization dedicated to doing good; your friend circle just got a lot bigger!

  1. Tapping into talents and hobbies.

Volunteering often requires us to use our unique skills in unconventional ways. For example, knitting hats in the winter or planting trees in the spring can bring out talents we forgot we had. Pitching in allows us to rediscover our gifts and share them with others, or find new ones altogether!

  1. Increasing the value of your time.

This may sound wacky, but a study from Wharton College found that people who give more of their time feel as though they have more of it and that it means more overall. Regular volunteers reported they felt more confident and useful in their lives, and that they can more easily conquer new tasks.

  1. Sharing of intergenerational knowledge.

What better way to share all you’ve learned over the years than to teach it to someone younger and with less experience? It’s no secret that grandparents and grandchildren bring immense joy to one another, but that joy can be felt between nonrelatives as well. Youth get the benefit of learned wisdom, and retirees earn a chance to view things from the younger generation’s perspective.

Now that summer is in full swing and the days feel longer than ever, take the time to look for ways that you can become more involved in your community. A great place to start is VolunteerMatch, a nonprofit organization that helps you find local volunteer opportunities all over the United States (and in some other countries). When you give more, everything feels better.

Meet Steve Minich

“I can now live the principle of paying it forward.”

What difference can an hour make? For Touchmark resident Steve Minich, donating an hour of his time to help others gives him the greatest joy. “Some people can retire and be OK. I’m not one of those people … I need a purpose,” explains Steve of his decision to move to Touchmark more than three years ago.

“I had a busy career working for the same company for 47 years. I couldn’t just turn the switch off and not be helpful.” Steve welcomes Touchmark’s Full Life and regularly embraces the seven dimensions of wellness, including Occupational/Vocational. This dimension is defined as “determining and achieving personal and occupational interests through meaningful activities, including lifespan occupations, learning new skills, volunteering, and developing new interests/hobbies.”

The rewards of volunteering

Steve is willing to lend a hand wherever and whenever he can, whether it is helping with an event, program, or cause. “I volunteer, because it helps my mental and physical health.”

Volunteering is new to Steve, who says his career and schedule prevented him from being able to volunteer his time to organizations. “I worked odd hours, which meant I was at work when many civic groups were having meetings or events. But here, I can help out whenever I want. I can now live the principle of paying it forward.”

That desire to help has led Steve to new opportunities. He is the Vice President of the Resident Council and serves on the Dining Services Committee. He has learned new games and skills so he can help fulfill a need in his community. For example, the bridge group was short a player, so Steve learned to play the game; now he can stand in when needed. He also taught himself to play mahjong so that group could continue.

“Steve volunteers for everything,” says Life Enrichment/Wellness Director Nanette Whitman-Holmes, “and if he doesn’t know how to help, he will find a way to learn.”

Supporting the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s is an activity that’s especially meaningful. “I like to work the booth and interact with the participants. It is a great feeling when someone donates $100, and we get to ring the bell and celebrate that person’s contribution to an important cause.”

Making others “feel good”

Another favorite event to help with is Touchmark’s annual Dick Morgan Memorial Easter Egg Hunt. “I help sort the eggs, fill the eggs, hide the eggs … anything that needs doing, I do.”

Giving blood donations is another way Steve helps others. A donor early in life—he started giving blood in high school when a fellow student developed leukemia—Steve appreciates that he can donate at Touchmark during the regular community events held on-site.

As he says, “Helping others gives me a good feeling, a personal satisfaction that what I do matters to someone else.”

In fact, Steve doesn’t just go the extra mile to help others—he believes in going 25 miles. Despite not having volunteered during his working years, Steve strove to make his work matter. “At Food Services of America, we were encouraged to go the extra 25 miles to make a difference. I was always looking for ways to make processes more efficient and cost-effective for my employer.” Upon his retirement, Steve was presented with all 12 of Food Service of America Founder Tom Stewart’s principle coins. “I just broke down. Very few employees ever earn one of the coins, so to get all 12 was truly an honor.”

That desire to make a difference in the lives of others is deeply ingrained in Steve. “Helping people gives me great satisfaction. I appreciate Nanette and the other staff’s work ethic and enthusiasm and passion for giving every resident at Touchmark access to the Full Life. And I like to be part of that and enrich others’ lives.”

Moving Beyond Memories: Connection Through Art

Art forms can be influential—they have the ability to evoke an emotional response, trigger long-term memories, and create special moments between people. These results can be beneficial to anyone, but especially for people living with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia who may be unable to express themselves.

As dementia progresses and memory deteriorates, people often have difficulty communicating, may experience significant changes in their physical abilities, and may become moody, withdrawn, suspicious, or change their preferences and typical behaviors. These symptoms worsen over time, leading to frustration and a loss of hope in loved ones and caregivers wishing to maintain a relationship.

The benefits of art—whether it be stories, music, or paintings—can be achieved by sharing in these activities one-on-one with a loved one, but are also practiced through programs with certified professionals. The targeted programs detailed below offer opportunities for meaningful connections that may otherwise be difficult to achieve.

In today’s world, there are no highly effective medical treatments available for dementia, which make these programs all the more valuable. Utilizing these activities, both in individual and group settings, caregivers and loved ones can encourage socialization, collaboration, and engagement—and often develop a deeper understanding and more positive interactions with individuals struggling with dementia.

Many retirement communities offer these types of programs to help engage the lives of residents and provide an enhanced quality of care tailored to each individual.

Finding a connection without words

TimeSlips™ is a therapeutic storytelling tool that encourages people living with dementia to create and share stories together, which helps to strengthen their cognitive functions.

While TimeSlips focuses on using a picture to draw upon memories and creativity from participants, other programs, such as Music and MemorySM, uses the power of music to connect. Studies have shown that music touches all lobes of the brain, and can reach people at any stage of dementia.

Additional forms of artistic expression and appreciation, including painting and drawing, have been proven to produce similar benefits. Individuals living with dementia are often able to achieve levels of focus and engagement otherwise unattainable.

Telling stories together

In 1998, TimeSlips founder Anne Basting was curious about how reminiscing activities could help adults with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, and began developing stories in group settings. Since its inception, TimeSlips has become an internationally recognized certification program with over 2,000 trained facilitators; free, custom storytelling software; staged plays inspired by the stories; and press recognition by NPR, Today Show, Chicago Tribune, and more.

During a TimeSlips session, a large photo is shown, and those participating are encouraged to share what they see as well as the smells, sounds, and other details they might associate with the image. The group’s observations are used to construct a story about the image, which is then read aloud to the group, allowing residents to recognize their contributions and share in a fun moment.

The benefits of personalized music

Musical appreciation and aptitude can remain as one of the last abilities for a person in the later stages of dementia, and favorite songs from the young adult years are most likely to elicit a positive response.

For individuals living with dementia, listening to favorite songs of the past can help them to:

  • Decrease agitation and distract from fear and anxiety
  • Connect with caregivers and loved ones in more meaningful ways, even when verbal communication is no longer possible
  • Reduce sundowning symptoms
  • Aid in reducing reliance on antipsychotic, antianxiety, and antidepressant medications

The Music and Memory program was founded in 2006 by Dan Cohen, MSW, a social worker in New York, who felt that if he ever lived in a retirement community, he would like to be able to listen to his favorite music from the ’60s. Over the next two years, Dan volunteered at nursing homes and provided residents with personalized iPods. The program has grown rapidly since then and is used in hundreds of communities throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Engaging in these proven-effective techniques for connecting with a loved one with dementia can help produce more meaningful, positive, and enriching experiences—even as the disease progresses. When words fail, art still stands.

Let’s get emotional about heart health!

Each February we focus on the importance of heart health, as cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United State and one of the leading causes in Canada.

We often hear about how our weight, blood pressure, diet, and activity levels can affect our heart health. But heart conditions are tied to emotional well-being, too.

While the links between the heart and the mind are not quite as measurable, there is plentiful evidence that suggests a happy mind equals a healthy heart. Paying attention to all aspects of our personal wellness promotes a healthy mind, body, and spirit!

According to the American Heart Journal, up to 15 percent of patients with cardiovascular disease have experienced major depression. Many people with heart conditions also suffer from anxiety.

One of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of depression and subsequent heart conditions is to surround ourselves with those who make us happy—these relationships can provide emotional support, physical and intellectual intimacy, and a sense of purpose.

They say married people tend to live longer, and these feelings are part of the reason why. For those who live alone, owning a pet and spending quality time with friends and family can bring many of these same benefits.

Other ways to reduce stress and promote emotional wellness include taking breaks to clear your head, getting regular exercise (good for the mind and body!), and sharing any early feelings of depression with a family member or your doctor.

Let the love in your heart keep you on the path to wellness this month!

Enticing your loved one’s taste buds

Did you know that people’s eating habits may change as they move through their dementia journey and the disease progresses? These changes are in addition to those experienced by many older adults, as taste tends to diminish as we age.

You may have already noticed a difference in your loved one’s food preferences. Because people with dementia don’t experience flavor the way they once did, they often change their eating habits and adopt entirely new food preferences. For example, they may crave “heavy” foods, like cream, or highly flavored foods, such as sweets.

For a caregiver, packing enough nutrients into a loved one’s meals can be a challenge, but there are ways to do it.

Tips for encouraging nutrition

Add protein

Identify good sources of protein that your loved one will eat or drink. Be aware that older adults may have more difficulty chewing meat, especially if they have dentures.

  • Consider making a smoothie or milkshake and adding some extra protein powder.
  • Supplement other food items, like oatmeal, desserts, and mashed potatoes, with protein. This usually won’t change the food’s flavor or texture.
  • Try offering custard (made with eggs), pudding (made with milk), or liquid supplements.

Sneak in vegetables

Encouraging your loved one to eat vegetables can be a challenge. It’s also important for people with dementia to take vitamin and mineral supplements, but visit with your doctor before starting.

  • Change the texture of the vegetables or add a dipping sauce to help enhance the flavor.
  • Puree vegetables and add them to a smoothie.
  • Try adding flavored powdered vegetable supplements to shakes or smoothies. There are several varieties available.

Make eating a social event

We all, including your loved one, like to eat with others.

  • Eat a healthy meal with your loved one. People with dementia tend to watch other people and mirror their actions.
  • Avoid distractions. This allows your loved one to focus on the food. For example, eating in busy restaurants may be too stimulating. Instead, consider going to restaurants when they are less crowded, noisy, and overwhelming.
  • Depending on where the person is in the disease process, having a conversation while eating may or may not be possible. Early in the disease process, people may be able to multi-task easily. As the disease progresses, talking can actually distract them from eating altogether.

It depends on the stage

If your loved one is in the early disease process, you may have to pay particular attention to dietary restrictions associated with other medical issues to make sure he/she is getting proper nutrition. Inadequate nutrition can lead to other health issues such as weight gain/loss, falls, skin breakdown, etc. When people are in the end stage of the disease process, it’s usually reasonable to let them eat whatever they want.

Changing tastes can be a challenge for you and your loved one, but focusing on making meals special times you enjoy with your loved one can make eating more enjoyable for all—and more nutritious for your loved one.