Healthy to Age 100: 5 Tips from a Top Doctor

Wearable_fitness_JOUR_36253_448800Thinking about improving your health? You might listen to David Carr, M.D., the clinical director for the Division of Geriatrics and Nutritional Science for Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Dr. Carr has reviewed thousands of medical studies in his practice and has some positive news about healthy aging: we can achieve significantly healthier outcomes with easy lifestyle changes and less effort than you might think.

“Exercise is number one,” Dr. Carr says. “There are studies that suggest regular physical activity can have positive effects on physical health, quality of life, and cognition. Even as little as 20 minutes of walking a day can yield great benefits.”

Thirty minutes of exercise, 5 times a week, is the minimum bar set by the Department of Health and Human Services.IMG_20151028_113009

It is easy to build up gradually in your regular routine. For example, choose the stairs instead of the elevator. Park at the distant side of a parking lot instead of circling until a spot near an entrance opens.

Dr. Carr’s longevity prescription also includes a workout for your brain and social life. “Cognitive and social stimulation are number two,” he says. “There is simply not much stimulation if you stay home alone and watch TV. The brain is like a muscle — it needs to be used, stimulated, and pushed.”

In his medical practice, Carr has found having a “care” is part of the “cure”, because people who have social connections live longer.1000102_10201651982325609_766739615_n

“Interacting with other people in social situations is crucial. It’s also important to keep your hobbies going – board games, puzzles, cards, playing a musical instrument or staying active in volunteer work,” are a few of the suggestions Dr. Carr offers.

caroline-attwood-225496-unsplash - CopyDr. Carr’s number 3 tip is focused on your plate: “A good heart healthy diet will probably also turn out to be great for the brain,” he says. “You should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables every day and consume fish at least a couple of times a week.”

His next tip for living to 100 or more includes regular health checks to catch diseases early when they’re still treatable.

202874“Controlling risk factors for vascular disease is tip number four. We know the number one killer of the brain and heart is vascular disease or atherosclerosis. If you have high blood sugar, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure, you should see your family doctor for treatment, and keep those risk factors under control.”

Dr. Carr finds relaxation to be vital. “I’m convinced that high stress levels over a lifetime can have a very negative impact on our organ systems,” he says. “So trying to keep stress under control is probably the fifth leg of the table.”DEYVTHFARF

Missing Cappy: An Extraordinary Healer and Volunteer

Why a Pint Sized Pup Means So Much to So Many

A remarkable volunteer for a Saint Louis nonprofit is being remembered. This big hearted go-giver was less than fifteen pounds and left a paw print on the hearts of thousands of people.

Cappy, a pint-sized pet of Jim and Diane Doyle worked with his “grandmother” Helen Doyle and her dog Lucky as therapy dogs. The trio served as PetReach volunteers with the Animal Protective Association of Missouri, or APA, visiting senior care facilities, convalescent centers and hospitals. It was a volunteer outreach they would perform for over ten years.

Helen, a pediatric nurse says Cappy was the right prescription for so many: “Cappy was calm and a great healer. I would put in in a lap or on the chest of someone in a bed and their face would light up. So many times, they would begin sharing stories of a childhood pet or their dog at home. Their pain and worries were eased.”Cappy

It was after such a visit to see patients at a Richmond Heights hospital, a vehicle struck Cappy. The truck never stopped. Even in the accident, Cappy brought out the best in people. Two onlookers rushed to help. The strangers gave mouth to muzzle CPR to Cappy. The dog that greeted everyone with enthusiasm and made life better for so many was gone.

Cappy exemplified the meaning of service as he helped so many people as an APA PetReach volunteer. So many feel fortunate to have known this wonderful soul and witness how Cappy put his training, loving nature, and small size to work to make the world a better place. His life leads many of us to believe angels are often disguised as dogs.

If you would like to learn more about the APA’s PetReach program, contact Laura Jones at volunteer@amamo.org or 314-645-4610.

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A Simple Secret 1 in 4 Americans Use to Feel Better and Improve their Lifestyle

Would you like to feel better and perhaps get a professional boost too? It is not a new juice cleanse or exercise regime I want to share; it can be as easy as walking a dog or reading to a toddler. It is an opportunity to grow personally and professionally as a volunteer. Health and lifestyle research finds there are many benefits for volunteers.11084281_825868887478501_532518496970130019_n

Here are just a few:

Volunteering connects you to others
Volunteering increases your social and relationship skills
Volunteering increases self-confidence
Volunteering combats depression
Volunteering with animals has been shown to improve mood and reduce stress
Volunteering can reduce anxiety
Volunteering can provide career experience or allow you to practice work skills

Many of your neighbors are enjoying these benefits. More than 62 million people give their time according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. It works out to one in four Americans volunteering their time.

Do you have a story about a volunteer experience to share? I would like to hear your tips and experiences as a volunteer. I volunteer in a couple of ways, but my favorite is the adoption center where I found my pets, the Animal Protective Association of Missouri (APAofMO).

Volunteers and educators from APA of MO Adoption Center work with children

Volunteers and educators from APA of MO Adoption Center work with children

A Free App Bringing Sight to the Blind and Visually Impaired

226541_2066754712732_918981_aMaking a big difference in someone’s life can be as easy as pulling out your smart phone for a few minutes every day. Really! A not-for-profit app makes life easier for those with vision problems by connecting them with sighted helpers through a smartphone app. Be My Eyes allows the blind to handle big and small tasks, while sighted volunteers get the joy of helping someone else in an easy and informal way at their convenience.

Be My Eyes harnesses the power of technology and generosity to connect visually impaired users with sighted volunteers through a live video connection. Volunteers lend their eyes to assist visually impaired users with a wide range of tasks, both large and small. For example:

  • Matching colors and clothing
  • Distinguishing between household or kitchen products; cans, cleaning products, shampoo, etc.
  • Determining departure or arrival of public transportation
  • Navigating in unfamiliar surroundings

The app is available for Android and Apple products. The Be My Eyes community is growing with more than 900,000 users across 150 countries helped by hundreds of thousands of sighted volunteers. Microsoft has also joined the effort offering Be My Eyes users a direct connection to receive technical assistance from the Disability Answer Desk, a free consumer service for Microsoft’s customers with disabilities.

This video demonstrates how Be My Eyes works.

Want to learn more about lending your eyes and stay connected with this awesome app? Be My Eyes is on Twitter and Facebook. Plus you should check out the website at http://www.bemyeyes.org/. Please consider following me on Twitter too.

Check out this great way to help visually impaired people

Check out this great way to help visually impaired people

Volunteer Trips Make a Difference Abroad and at Home

Your next getaway could change more than your view.  More travelers are finding a way to help others while exploring new communities and cultures through volunteer vacations.

 

Growing in popularity, volunteer vacations can strengthen family bonds while you volunteer to help others. On family volunteer vacations parents and grandparents have an opportunity to spend meaningful time with youngsters, with the opportunity to pass along values. Younger family members develop compassion for others and also master new hands-on skills.

Volunteer vacations can strengthen family bonds.

Volunteer vacations can strengthen family bonds.

 

Travel adventures for a cause can involve some tropical paradises or breath taking scenery, but require more planning than your typical vacation advises travel expert and author of Voluntourist, Ken Budd: “Taking a volunteer trip isn’t like spontaneously going to the beach. It requires a lot of homework and research. You want to find organizations that are meeting a legitimate need, and projects that need volunteer labor; not projects created to give volunteers something to do.”

 

Finding a great volunteer vacation opportunity starts with being realistic about your desire and abilities for the adventure. Taking a good look at what you’d like to get out of the trip will decrease your chances of disappointment. Think about what areas and subjects are important to you: Do you want to study climate change in Alaska or preserve the campground where you vacationed as a child?  Budd suggests you ask questions about a volunteer vacation adventure before packing your bags. 

 

·        What is the volunteer work?

 

·        Who will benefit?

 

·        Who runs the volunteer programs?

 

·        Where does the money from program fees go?

 

·        May I contact previous volunteers about their experiences?

 

Many volunteer vacation organizations will ask you to submit to a background check, particularly if you’re working with children. Others will want you to provide references or to write an essay on why you want to volunteer. When organizations don’t take those steps that should be a warning sign.

 Not all volunteer opportunities abroad are legitimate explains Budd:  Over the last year or so, the media has reported on a terrible situation in Cambodia, where orphanages basically trap kids in squalor to attract donors and volunteers.  So seriously scrutinize the organizations,” he advises.

There are many volunteer vacation opportunities close to home.  For example, volunteer conservation trips. These popular vacations combine camping in national or state parks with service projects to help beautify the land and make the parks more safe and accessible.

 This year, there are more volunteer vacation offerings than ever before, from building trails in the Grand Canyon to clearing debris washed up on remote Alaskan beaches following the 2011 tsunami in Japan.

Volunteer conservation trips may include activities like trail work, clearing fallen trees and branches, picking up litter and debris, removing invasive plants, maintaining gardens, and sprucing up fences and buildings.

 Volunteer vacationers often get access to parts of parks and forests not open to the public. And they always have free time to enjoy the beautiful parks they’re helping.

A lot of organizations offer multi-generational volunteer opportunities perfect for families who or large groups who want to get away and contribute together.  Budd says many volunteer vacation organizations find experienced, older volunteers to be a great asset:

“I’ve found that most volunteer organizations value people who have a lot of life experience. Older volunteers tend to be patient and they won’t get rattled when something goes wrong.”

The author has trekked and volunteered around the world and recalls many great experiences with older volunteer vacationers: “I encountered a lot of people in their 50s, 60s, and 70s when I was volunteering. In China, we had about 11 volunteers and only three were under the age of 50. The majority were in their 60s: they taught English to university students, which was really quite helpful. The students knew English, but they needed practice speaking it.”

Budd recalls another senior volunteer who became a world traveler while helping others: “I was in Costa Rica, I met an 80-year-old woman who volunteered there for three months. She was a widower, and it was only the second time in her life that she’d been outside of the United States. She enjoyed it so much that she wound up volunteering for three months in Thailand!”

There are many volunteer vacation options near home and abroad.

There are many volunteer vacation options near home and abroad.