Category Archives: Health

Health, Fitness and Retirement. Developing healthy lifestyles during retirement years.


Maybe it is the anniversary of Woodstock, but lately I have been thinking about different age generations, the labels that are placed upon them, and what that actually means. When controversial issues like health care are being discussed, we need to be careful about characterizing people based on their ages or arbitrary generational labels. This tends to divide rather than unite people.

It started with Tom Brokow and his book, The Greatest Generation. Who wouldn’t like that label? True, our WWII soldiers exhibited extraordinary bravery and the world is a very different place today because of it. However, this is also the generation that lived in a segregated world and had African American soldiers fight the war, apart from their fellow soldiers. It was also a world where women had limited opportunities. While it was a great generation, they were not without their problems. Tom Brokaw may have been a great reporter, but his view of history is limited and controversial.

The generational labels of Bridge and Baby Boomers are often described with less flattery and who wants to be considered second rate compared to the so called Greatest Generation anyway?.. Personally, I find these labels distasteful and as a Baby Boomer would like to think our generation might have had a hand in making our country great too. After all, civil and women’s rights came to be recognized during these years.

People of retirement age have enough labels placed on them already. To me, the labels placed on older people just limit us and we have more in common with the other generations than differences. We have forgotten what happens when issues are broadly categorized and we lose respect for other’s opinions.

Health care is an issue that affects everyone in this country and could divide us if we allow generational issues to influence these important decisions. While we might not always agree with one another on this issue, it is a call for civility and remembering what made all generations important in the formation of this great country. As President Obama has said, it is a time to examine the character of our country. And to do that, it will take every generation to show respect for all that have gone before and all that come after.

Enjoying the Summer Bounty

Do you ever have times when you are not really paying attention to what is on T.V?. Then all of a sudden something is said that really catches your attention. That’s how it was when I heard Kathy Freston talking about her new book, Quantum Wellness Cleanse: The 21-Day Essential Guide to Healing Your Mind, Body and Spirit recently on the Ellen DeGeneres show. With typical Ellen humor she was confessing that she wouldn’t be able to give up everything that was advocated in the 21 day Detox Plan. Specifically alcohol. That is only one of the things that Freston suggests in her 21 day healing plan. Also, included is sugar, gluten and meat. Essentially everything. She advocates a cruelty free lifestyle and choosing food with integrity and consideration of how it arrives at our table.

Detox plans or fasting seem to be the newest craze. Opening a magazine, the headlines in Elle question “What if you could reverse allergies, mood swings, stomach ailments-even some chronic diseases-with a periodic three-day cleanse?” The medical community is embracing the ideology of Jeffrey Bland, the co-founder of the Institute of Functional Medicine in Washington State. In essence his theory is: the body is constantly dealing with foreign chemicals that it (ingests, breathes, absorbs) from the outside world in a two-step process. In phase I, liver enzymes break down the chemicals into compounds that are often more dangerous than the original stuff- in the process, creating free radicals that cause “oxidative damage” in the cells (or rust). In phase 2, the liver neutralizes these compounds with the help of other nutrients, including key amino acids made from the protein we eat, and the waste is excreted. The theoretical justification for fasting is that it removes the bad stuff from fat-cell storage. If the body doesn’t take in the necessary nutrients during a water fast, the liver doesn’t get the nutritional support it requires to neutralize (phase 2) all the free radicals produced in phase 1, which can wind up making you feel worse.

So what does all this mean? One of the themes that seems to hold for all the Detox Plans is that it is a healing mechanism which supports balance in our bodies and minds and offers an alternative to conventional Western medicine.

All I know is, that as I get older, I want to do what I can to feel better. While the jury is still out for me on whether detox programs are effective, I do believe that thoughtfully considering what we eat can only be a positive action. In the words of the Muppet Miss Piggy, “Never eat more than you can lift.”

Brave Aging

I hesitate to write this month’s column because people who know me, may now start looking a little more closely. However, in the interest of sharing ideas on retirement and aging, I submit the following:

First, let me preface this by saying I have had no cosmetic surgery, not that there’s anything wrong with that. However, one of my friends has, and she invited me to an informational seminar at her doctor’s office one evening. Our area seems to have a lot of plastic surgeons who sponsor events to give you an idea of how much better you could look.

There were about fifty other women who were also curious about what they could do to improve their appearance and the office manager gave us a brief overview of different options. There are many different things, from lasers to chemical peels that can reduce wrinkles.

As the evening progressed they had a raffle for different prizes. When we arrived we were given three tickets and we had a choice of putting them in different bowls for a drawing. I had my eye on a gift basket filled with expensive skin care products, so that is where my first ticket went. My second ticket went into the bowl for a facial and eyebrow waxing. And my last hope was tossed in a bowl for a photo-facial, a procedure that reduces wrinkles and sun damage. As the drawing started, there were elated screams as people won Botox injections. My hopes were dashed as a name, other than mine, was drawn for the gift basket.

A hush came over the crowd as the drawing for the most expensive gift, valued at nearly $2000.00 took place. Facial Fillers or injectables as they are called, held little interest for me. I had seen the demonstration earlier in one of the treatment rooms and the needles and pained expression on the recipient, had frankly scared me.

And then all of a sudden I heard my name. How can it be me I wondered? Apparently, I had put my ticket in the wrong bowl. My immediate reaction was to say, please draw another name because I have no interest in the prize. But I didn’t. I wondered if there had been a cosmic intervention. Was there a reason I had won this prize I wondered?

My friends congratulated me and my husband encouraged me to buy a lotto ticket to see if my good fortune held. But I agonized. I was scared. I didn’t know if I wanted this prize. I would look in the mirror and try to imagine how I would look without my prominent laugh lines. Certainly, I would look better, but did I really look that bad?

Apparently, I did, because everyone encouraged me to go ahead.

After many sleepless nights, I decided to call and make an appointment. Again, cosmic intervention: they had an opening that day and could do it that afternoon. And the rest, as they say, is history.

My husband took me to my appointment and bravely sat in the treatment room as I had my procedure. I sat in a semi-reclined position as a nurse rubbed numbing cream on my face. Then she came in with a syringe and began making small injections into my laugh lines. It hurt a little, but certainly not a lot. The whole procedure took about 45 minutes. I was told to go home and put ice on it and rest. Other than that, no restrictions.

I was done and it would take about three weeks to completely heal. Initially, I was bruised for a few days, but that was it. I don’t look that different to me, but when I look at the before picture that was taken, I can definitely tell a difference.

It is expensive and I can see how it could become addictive. To me, when some wrinkles are diminished it is almost like the others become emphasized. But the reason I am happy I did it is because I was afraid. And sometimes it is just feels good to do something that is scary.

I would encourage anyone that is not happy with their appearance to explore this option. Whether or not you decide to proceed, at least you will know what is available.

And believe me, there is a lot.

What to Do When You Are Old and Don’t Wanna Be

retired coupleRecently, I felt like we have been given a reprieve on how easy it is to get in shape and stay in shape. Experts are now saying 30 minutes a day of walking can do wonders. Ten minutes of stretching a day and ten minutes of weights three times a week is enough to keep bones strong. And the piece de resistance ten minutes in the sun, without sunscreen, is actually now considered a requirement to aid in Vitamin D production.

In retirement, I figure I should always have time to do the things to keep me in shape, but unfortunately, when I look in the mirror, I can see that working out is not always enough.

There are things that age you and there are things that you can do to help. When you reach the age of retirement, you are probably no longer a kid, but there are age appropriate changes you can make that will make you seem younger to the outside world and yourself.

Number one is to start with the basics and that means new underwear. The other day in my yoga class, a fellow yogi was doing a Downward Dog with her granny panties showing. Not a flattering look and one that screams it is time for an overhaul. Start with basics and that means updating undergarments.

Next starting at the top, when was the last time you changed your hairstyle? If you are still sporting the Farrah Fawcett waves of yesteryear, it is time for an honest assessment from a friend, or perhaps, it is time to try a new hair stylist. And gray hair? Get rid of it. It is easier than ever with great new hair color products available at drug stores. And get some bangs. Once you reach a certain age, almost everyone looks better with a little face framing fringe.

Skin is one of the most tell-tale features of aging and one that probably has the most products out there to help. Sunscreen is still a necessity for the face and more than ten minutes in the sun can cause damage. However, there are tinted moisturizers with sunscreen that are easy to apply and make a huge difference in your appearance. Also, there are now microdermabrasion kits available in the drug store that can really help with cell turnover. And don’t forget the body. Lumps and bumps are always less noticeable with leg tanning spray. Plus it gives you an opportunity to forego pantyhose; especially the ones with a reinforced toe. And speaking of toes, manicured nails are always a way to stay ahead of the aging game.

And last but not least, teeth. Dental hygiene is so much easier now with the home whitening kits and great looking teeth can make you look and feel great.

There are many things you can and should do to look better because the benefits of looking better are not superficial. The better you look, the better you feel.

Fitness First in 2008

As we approach retirement age, most of us look at life in a different way than when we were younger. With age comes increased awareness about so many different things, but one that becomes very apparent is that life is what you make of it. For many people that were very involved in their work and have not developed hobbies or social networks outside of the workplace, retirement can be a difficult transition indeed. However, increasing research points to one thing that makes life easier and more enjoyable at any age and that is exercise.

With the start of the new year, many people say January is the best time to make changes in your life. If exercise is not part of your daily lifestyle, this is the month to make it happen. It can begin with just thirty minutes a day.

Exercise is simply sustained movement of the body, and at least 30 minutes of this sustained movement everyday is the key to an active lifestyle. Walking, bicycling, swimming, light weight training and jogging are just a few of the ways we can exercise for our sustained 30 minutes. Or better yet, combine several of these activities on different days or perhaps several in one day to make up your 30 minutes and you have an exercise program that can dramatically change your quality of life.

Two doctors have made a commitment to get Americans moving. Bob Sallis, M.D. a family medicine doctor and Ron Davis, M.D. a preventive medicine doctor, have launched an initiative that they hope will make a difference in the nation’s health called “Exercise is Medicine“. Understanding that health is determined to a large degree by lifestyle choices, including physical activity, they hope to drive home the medical importance of exercise to physicians and other health care professionals. “Why physicians are so quick to accept research data on expensive medications while essentially ignoring even stronger data on the benefit of physical activity is at the core of this program,” Sallis says.

Exercise has been shown to lower blood pressure, blood sugar and weight; improve cholesterol, sleep and bone and heart health while decreasing the risk of cancer. All of these benefits can be had for just thirty minutes a day by something as simple as exercise.

As more and more baby boomers are nearing retirement and looking for ways to stay young and fit, it is essential to incorporate exercise into the daily routine. And what better way to start the new year?

Relaxation… at the Spa

spa treatment womenThis month I was going to write about relaxation techniques and the benefits of going to a spa. And then I saw a movie, which surprised me so much, that it made me realize people need to find a way to get through life and perhaps, through this phase called retirement.

The movie I saw is called “Prozac Nation” based on the 1997 book by Elizabeth Wurtzel. In it, the difficulties of adjusting to college life are explored and the use of Prozac, to get through the roughest, are featured. At the end of the movie, it stated that 300,000,000 prescriptions are written for Prozac every year! Considering that the U.S. population is just slightly over 300 million, that number is staggering.

One message was clear. There are times when people need help. There is nothing wrong with seeking professional help if one feels depressed. From there, the best course of treatment options will be explored. Norman Cousins stated, “The human body experiences a powerful gravitational pull in the direction of hope. That is why the patient’s hopes are the physician’s secret weapon. They are the hidden ingredients in any prescription.”

Is there anything we can do to avoid becoming an anti-depressant nation? Does it now seem frivolous and superficial to suggest a spa can be a cure-all? I think it means that everyone has to find a way that works for them. Be it a massage, yoga, tai Chi or the luxury of feeling pampered, there are long-term benefits in finding ways to relax and enjoy life.

Just as Elizabeth Wurtzel found difficulty in adjusting to college life, retirement can also be a time of adjustment. There are many positive outlets one can explore to make the most of every precious day we have. You have heard it a million times-life is not a dress rehearsal, so find a way to enjoy it, not just get through it.

Menopause the Musical

menopauseIf you have retired, or are close to retirement, chances are you have heard about Menopause the Musical, the coming of age musical for the Baby Boomer Generation. I resisted going, not knowing what to expect and also because I am weary of hearing about what a wonderful time of rebirth in life this is. And I especially didn’t want to hear someone singing about it.

If you visit a bookstore, or look in just about any magazine, the message is there. You are entering an exciting new phase of your life. It is a reawakening, a time of nurturing and discovery. But even as you are reading these affirmations, they sometimes cannot be disguised. In her new book, Living Beauty, make-up artist, Bobbi Brown devotes a chapter of her book to different women’s experiences with aging. I was buying into the joy, until she said she now carries tweezers with her everywhere, in her car, at the office, for the errant hair that may spontaneously appear.

Being of the Baby Boomer Generation, I have a natural inclination not to believe anything that anyone older or wiser tells me. Entering a new time in your life? Yeah, I’m all for that, but why does it have to mean you are getting old? And no matter how you couch it, having a hot flash, growing a mustache, or losing your memory, just doesn’t sound that fun.

So, it was with this apprehension that I took my third row seat at Menopause the Musical wondering how they were going to spin the topic. Not that I didn’t want to like it. I did want to like it, but well, I was just uncomfortable being there with all the other estrogen-challenged women.

From the first song, “Change, Change, Change” set to the music of Aretha Franklin’s hit Chain of Fools you couldn’t help but laugh. And it just got better. From every symptom to every uncomfortable moment of menopause, it was enacted by four great performers singing well-known melodies, with slight variations in the lyrics. And then it hit me. You can run, but you can’t hide. We are going to go through this.

And we can go through it however we choose. But one thing is for sure. It is going to be a heck of a lot more enjoyable if we do it with laughter and friends. I would highly recommend seeing the musical. And I would highly recommend laughter and friends to get you through anything. 

The Importance of Staying Active

Good health is your greatest source of wealth. It is virtually impossible to be happy without it. During retirement, it becomes more important than ever to take care of yourself. Fortunately, this becomes easier then ever because you finally have the time to pursue activities that interest you. But what if you have never exercised or have no interest in exercising. As I said, it is virtually impossible to be happy without good health. You gotta do it. What is the best way to get started?Well, if you have never exercised, walking is the best way to get moving. You can start slowly. If you have been sedentary, start slowly, because you will want to avoid injuries.Even if you walk one block, that is one block you have never walked before. But keep going. The next day walk a little farther. You have started and never look back.

I had never been in a gym until we retired. I will be honest I was intimidated. However, I soon learned there was no reason to be. There are literally people at all different fitness levels. Let’s face it, most people are more interested in their own workouts than they are about you. Most gyms have a trainer who will show you how to use the machines to enhance the effectiveness of your workout. Also, there are a variety of classes. Maybe yoga is something you have always wanted to try. Or maybe you have wondered if a spinning class would be a good aerobic workout. Trust me, it is. The great thing is you can try different things and find something you like.