Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder which affects the brain, whereby the neurons gradually break down or die. These neurons are responsible for producing dopamine and a decrease in this chemical results in abnormal brain activity and eventually Parkinson’s disease. The disease starts out gradually and as it progresses, symptoms become more pronounced including shaking hands, tremors, rigid muscles, a loss of automatic movements such as swinging your arms when you walk, among other signs of the illness.
Parkinson’s affects around 1 million Americans and 10 million people globally and is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder behind Alzheimer’s disease. In years gone by it was surmised that a person’s genes or their exposure to certain environmental toxins was the driving factor behind the cause of the disease. However, recent studies performed by researchers from America and Europe on mice, have found that changing the gut bacteria has had an effect on changing the dynamics of Parkinson’s. Researchers are now focusing their efforts on treating the gut as opposed to the brain.
The experiments were performed on mice which were genetically engineered to develop Parkinson’s. It was found that the sterile mice without gut microbiota did not develop symptoms of the disease, whereas the mice with certain gut bacteria did. Further experiments confirmed these findings when gut bacteria from infected humans was transplanted into mice and they became exposed to the disease.
Currently there is no cure for Parkinson’s, however medication and various therapies can help treat the symptoms and make life living with the disease a little easier. The gut-brain connection has opened a whole new world of research and possibilities for people suffering with the Parkinson’s.
The saying goes – “It is later than you think” and it is best not to waste a moment of time in our precious lives. However, growing older can be a meaningful and exciting phase in your life if you try and follow some of the following tips from people who have lived well into their nineties.
- Where there is a will, there is a way – A study undertaken by the Ohio Longitudinal Study of Aging and Retirement on 660 individuals 50 years and older, found that the self perception of stigmatized groups can influence longevity. Embracing aging with a positive attitude can add approximately 7,5 years to your life. Look at life as being like a ‘cup half full as opposed to half empty’.
- Don’t lose your sense of childlike awe – Children see the world in such a simplistic manner and through their unique curiosity, sometimes find the simplest things to be amazing. Open your eyes and see the beauty in the world and savor the simple gifts in life.
- Create a sense of purpose – Older adults who have a sense of purpose with goals and expectations, have more of a desire for life. Waking up each day knowing that you have what to achieve, makes life more meaningful. This could include activities such as volunteering at a hospital or giving of your time to others.
- Take on a new hobby – You are never too old to try something new. Keeping your brain stimulated and active is one of the best ways to ward of brain diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s and keep you feeling young. Taking on a new hobby such as painting or gardening, or learning a new career can be very stimulating and rewarding.
- Be adventurous – Step out of your box a little bit and do something adventurous or out of the norm for you. Travel to a new destination or try something that sounds intriguing like riding a horse for the first time or going skiing.
- Sleep, Sleep, Sleep – It is important to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night. Bad sleep habits, including going to bed at a very late hour can have a negative impact on your health and increase your risk for developing various illnesses.
- You are never too old to learn something new – At the age of 87, Joyce Lowenstein returned to Georgia State University to study a degree in art history. She will graduate in 2017. Keep your brain stimulated and active – it is one of the secrets of staying alert and sharp as you get older.
- Quit Smoking – Besides putting you at risk for developing diseases such as emphysema and lung cancer, smoking ages you inside and out. Stop the bad habit and change to a healthy smoke-free lifestyle.
- Exercise Regularly – Exercising increases the production of dopamine in the brain. It is a ‘feel-good’ chemical which helps keep you positive and upbeat. Maintaining a regular exercise routine also strengthens your body and helps keep illnesses at bay.
- Eat a healthy diet – Eating a healthy diet by incorporating plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and healthy fats, whilst reducing meat and sugar, can help nurture a strong body and mind.
- Stay socially connected – It is important to build and work on relationships and friendships. Some examples of staying socially active include attending bridge clubs, seniors meetings, family functions or just having lunch with a friend. Some of the benefits of being socially adept as a senior includes keeping loneliness and depression at bay, maintaining your independence, staying mentally stimulated and reducing the risk of developing mental health issues.
- Get an Annual Physical – Taking care of small health issues when they crop up can prevent them from developing into larger issues as you get older. Take care of your health – prevention is better than cure.
- Develop a skin care routine – Aging gracefully is the key to your beauty. Don’t put on too much make-up, it can cake up in your wrinkles and draw unwanted attention. Natural is beautiful – be proud of who you are. Make sure you take care of your skin with sunscreen during the day and a night cream in the evening – it need not be a very expensive brand, but it is important to put on moisturizer daily.
- Mind over matter – Think positive and it will be positive. Our minds have an unbelievable control over our bodies. Try and be positive, feel positive and think positively about yourself, how you feel and what you can accomplish with your life. Surround yourself with and develop good relationships with positive people – it will affect your outlook on life.
- Practice Gratitude – Whether it is sending a thank you note or making a quick call, showing your appreciation does not only make the giver feel good, but can also benefit you. Expressing gratitude for all the things that you have opens your eyes and gives you a new sense of appreciation as to how fortunate you are for even the small things in life.
- Sometimes the simple remedies are the best remedies – There are different remedies that octegenerians and nonagenarians (person in their 90’s) believe have helped them reach old age, including eating chicken soup which has long been touted as the best medicine for a cold.
- Keep on working – Seniors who have continued working past their retirement age have said that working has helped keep their mind active and alert. Interacting with customers and fellow workers helps stave off boredom, loneliness and gives them a sense of purpose.
Your ability to function normally and effectively during the day is greatly dependent on a good night’s sleep. Adequate sleep enables your body to rest and rejuvenate itself, and like food and water, sleep is essential for good health and your overall well being. Getting that good night’s sleep might however seem unattainable, especially as you age and your sleep patterns change.
Half the seniors over age 65 suffer from some sort of sleep disorder such as insomnia, sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. The recommended amount of sleep required for seniors is an average of 8 hours per night, although an undisturbed, restful night is out of reach for many. Physical or mental circumstances often play a role in adjusted sleep patterns which can include side effects from medication, a physical illness which keeps you awake at night, stress which can stem from things such as financial worries or social changes such as death of a loved one.
Health disorders such as reflux, depression, pain from cancer, Parkinson’s and dementia also affect a person’s sleep. However, the most common sleep disturber, is waking to go the bathroom several times per night as a result of incontinence in menopausal women and prostrate issues in older men. Besides having a difficult time falling back to sleep again, getting out of bed in the dark increases a senior’s risk of falling.
Poor quality of sleep can cause daytime sleepiness, lack of energy and lethargy in older people, as well as confusion, poor performance of tasks and difficulty concentrating. Daytime napping makes it harder for seniors to fall asleep at night and other bad habits such as not exercising enough, not being exposed to adequate sunlight by staying indoors too much and drinking alcohol at nighttime also affects the sleep routine.
Short-term insomnia can be relieved by certain lifestyle changes. They are as follows:
- Reducing stimulants such as certain over-the-counter drugs, alcohol and caffeine
- Going to bed the same time each night and waking at the same time in the morning can help your body slot into a healthy sleep routine
- Healthy bedtime habits such as taking a warm, relaxing bath, listening to music or reading a book helps the body switch into a calm mode, conducive for sleep.
- Make sure your room is a sleep friendly environment. It should be quiet, well ventilated and dark; light interferes with the production of melatonin – a sleep-inducing chemical produced by the brain.
By following the above steps and keeping yourself busy and active during the day, short-term insomnia can be eradicated and the quality of your sleep enhanced in order for you to get the best night’s sleep possible.
Although diet and exercise are two of the major components in leading a healthy lifestyle and helping you age gracefully, there are other factors that influence your well being that should be taken into consideration. Searching for the fountain of youth and holding on to it, can be reinforced by incorporating the following five easy pointers into your life:
There are many diets on the market, most of which are developed with a specific goal in mind. However, it has been scientifically proven that the Mediterranean diet improves cardiovascular, neurological and bone health, and adds to longevity. This diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and olive oil. Protein is derived mainly from fish and poultry versus red meat. In a study involving 1,300 participants across five European countries who adhered to the Mediterranean diet for one year, it was found that these individuals had reduced levels of C reactive protein (CRP), which is an inflammatory marker linked to aging. These participants also showed lower levels of osteoporosis and bone loss. In another study of 562 participants, the individuals in their 70’s who followed this diet had half the brain atrophy or shrinkage typical for people of similar ages. This relates to less dementia, improved memory and a greater ability to think clearly and effectively.
You are never too old to begin an exercise routine. However, the type of exercise that you undertake will not only impact your fitness level, but impact your cellular level as well. Interval training, which consists of moderate exercise interspersed with intervals of rigorous physical activity, seems to reverse the aging process. A study was conducted of 72 healthy, sedentary men and women from two groups aged under 30 and over 72, who were divided into three exercise groups: rigorous weight training, brief interval biking and moderate bike riding alternating with weight training. All three groups improved in their fitness levels, but the older group who performed interval training demonstrated improved muscular health and cell life.
A growing body of research suggests that meditation can enhance various cognitive functions, including attention, memory, and executive function, and that it positively affects brain function and structure relevant to cognition. Studies undertaken on the effects of meditation on aging are demonstrating that meditation can have a positive impact on the length of the telomeres, which are the protective caps on either ends of our chromosomes that hold the genetic information of our cells, or DNA. Our cells are constantly dividing and as they do so, the telomeres becomes shorter, making our cells more susceptible to disease. Individuals who practice meditation appear to have longer telomeres, and in turn have cells that live longer and appear to be healthier.
Social integration plays a vital role in our well being. Individuals who are socially active and have strong, happy personal relationships, appear to enjoy longer, more fulfilled lives than those who are lonely and socially inept. It has been shown to delay mental and physical decline in elderly patients. On the other hand, poor relationships can bring on chronic health conditions including cardiovascular disease, diminished immune response, depression, sleep problems and dementia.
The saying goes: “You are as young as you feel!” Feeling optimistic and positive about aging can have an affect on how well you age. For those individuals who view growing older as “no big deal”, they will find it easier to function independently, maintain physical fitness, work full time, and enjoy themselves socially as old age creeps up on them. If hard times come upon you, an effective means of self defense is to maintain a positive attitude and view your situation as an opportunity to overcome and grow from it.
Growing old is inevitable and a fact of life that we all need to come to terms with. However, the way we age, whether gracefully or not, can be somewhat premeditated by how we lead our lives. There are a number of key factors involved in taking care of ourselves as we get older, and if we take these into account, our bodies will be stronger and more able to handle the effects of aging.
Obesity causes serious medical complications at any age. However obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and osteoarthritis can lead to considerable morbidity, impaired quality of life, and premature death in the elderly. Obesity has important functional implications as it intensifies the deterioration of daily functioning that is associated with aging and expedites frailty. Ongoing decline in muscle mass and strength and an increase in joint dysfunction and arthritis affects day to day activities such as grooming, eating, shopping and cleaning, and ultimately the overall quality of life.
Excess body weight and weight gain during middle age may contribute to medical complications and increased medical expenses during old age. When a person is overweight and does not feel good about themselves, depression can set in. This can prevent a senior from socializing with others, becoming extremely lonely and losing the will to live. Certain medications are responsible for weight gain such as steroids and certain anti-depressants, and should be evaluated by a doctor to determine if there are any alternatives.
Obesity has been linked to an abundance of illnesses and it is therefore vital that you watch your calorie intake as you age. Slowing down is part of advancing age and as you reduce your physical activity, you lose muscle mass and increase your fat levels. This in turn leads to fewer calories being burned and a reduction in your BMR. When your calorie intake is not adjusted accordingly and you continue to overeat, it is inevitable that you will gain more weight.
Staying active is a fundamental requirement to help maintain muscle mass and keep your body fat levels low. This will enable your BMR to stay higher which will in turn burn more calories. Moderate weight loss in conjunction with physical activity will help improve your daily physical functioning and health-related issues. Arthritis, especially in the knees tends to ease a little when obese individuals lose weight, enabling a person to manage their daily routines easier.
Regular physical activity will help increase bone mass and preserve muscle, which will help strengthen your body, prevent injuries, ease arthritis pain and have an overall positive effect on your well-being. Older, obese patients should be assessed by a physician before beginning an exercise program. A trained professional should be consulted to develop and monitor an appropriate exercise routine, which should include stretching, aerobics and strength exercises, in order to prevent injuries, to help set goals and to continually monitor your progress.