fbpx
L.J. Rohan

L.J. Rohan

Gerontologist

Second Quarter Blog Recap

June 29, 2020

April 6, 2020—Meditation Benefits Our Body and Our Brain

As we age, we lose our ability to handle stress as well as we did when we were young, and left untreated, chronic stress speeds up cognitive decline, and all the various degenerative aspects of aging. Meditation, however, can counter-balance many of the devastating effects of stress on our bodies and protect our brains from the debilitating combination of aging and unchecked stress overload.

April 13, 2020—How Pets Keep Seniors Healthy

Those who have pets are physically and mentally healthier, have more independence, and have stronger and broader social connections, all contributors to keeping us vibrant as we get older. Pets may even reduce some symptoms of dementia.

April 20, 2020—Why Multi-Tasking is Draining Your Brain and our Memory Banks

The truth is we were never able to do four things at once with the same level of attention as focusing on only one. Science tells us this harsh truth: multi-tasking is bad for your brain. Human brains are not wired that way; our brains work best when focusing on one thing at a time.

April 27, 2020—Shake Your Booty

Research shows that dancing is a promising candidate for countering the age-related decline in our physical and mental abilities. Aerobic exercise helps in both these areas, but dancing offers some unique benefits that will make you want to sign up for that tap class!

May 4, 2020Keep Moving With Vitamin K

Not getting enough vitamin K in our diet could be associated with mobility disability as we age. With the number of adults living to sixty-five and older projected to double by 2050, anything and everything we can do to keep our bodies movin’ and groovin’ should get our attention.

May 11, 2020One Ringy-Dingy, Two Ringy- Dingy…

No matter our age, we are inundated with unscrupulous boiler room calls, a serious, potential problem for our more senior members of society. Here are a few original tips to address this issue.

May 18, 2020—Aging in Place

Home…Going home…Being home. Those words envelop my soul, and bring a feeling of calm, of exhaling, of comfort, and warmth, and safety. Our greatest desire is to stay in our home until the angels call us home.

May 25, 2020Reversing the Dreaded Dowager’s Hump

Close to 65%, (and climbing) of older folks have some degree of the hump. Several studies of women, who develop DH four times as often as men, saw a decrease in the angle of spine curvature after thrice-weekly spine-strengthening and extension exercises.

June 1, 2020How Much Water Should I Drink? Part I

Every organ in our bodies, and every system and process of our bodies, need water to run properly. And, they all need enough water to work optimally. Drink up!

June 8, 2020How Much Water Should I Drink? Part II

A minimum of sixty-four (64) ounces of good quality, filtered water will cover your needs, adding in a few more glasses during and after exercise, and in very hot weather. This means only water. Other liquids—iced tea, juice, coffee, or vodka– don’t count toward your total daily intake.

June 15, 2020The Unseen Toll of Anxiety

Anxious times stemming from Covid-19 news overload are throwing many of us into continual high stress, which can damage our health. Daily meditation will really help during these challenging times.

June 22, 2020Please Explain Gerontology

Do you know what gerontology is? I get the request for this definition so often. Some people confuse it with geriatrics — a focus only on the medical conditions and diseases of the aged…

But, gerontology, the study of the process of aging, includes so much more than just our physical health!

Read More

The Unseen Toll of Anxiety

June 15, 2020

Back in March, after a couple of weeks of watching the news every night, I could feel the effects of being bombarded with all those jarring and distressing images. Listening to the death toll rise in the generally high-strung tone reporters adopted while discussing Covid-19 was hurting me. I began experiencing my telltale signs of stress, and I had to stop. I switched to calmly reading my trusted sources and newspapers to find out what was happening.  I also rededicated myself to making sure I put quiet contemplation time into my day. I advised my clients, and friends who asked, to do the same. Lowering anxiety helps stave off Covid and many other diseases in both postmenopausal women, and older men.

Hormones Help Protect Against the Effects of Anxiety

Until we reach menopause, we have what I call “a protective armor of hormones” which pretty much shields us from most of life’s bullets, hence, when we are young, we think we are bullet-proof.  😉 To a great extent, that’s true, as our hormones, most prominently estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, keep our organs (especially our brains and hearts) protected and our metabolism humming. This is why we can work like crazy, go out at night and be ready for the workday after only twenty minutes of sleep. Then menopause hits, and all that changes. We start to feel the sins of youth.

raising your gratitude quotient anxiety
The Adventures of LJ and GE™

Actually, all those excesses, including the effects of stress, accumulate in our health bank and create a deficit, which kicks in once our protective armor is lost. We are now metaphorically naked and exposed to the elements. Stress and anxiety can have their way with us, and they do. Remember cortisol? It’s that good/bad chemical flowing throughout our bodies. In balanced amounts it gives us the energy we need to take on the world. When cortisol is out of balance and unable to shut off due to over-stimulation, it starts to break down our insides.

Have a look at my past articles on stress and cortisol for more:

Physical Impact of Anxiety

New research into the damage that cortisol-creating stress wreaks on our bodies at mid-life is compelling. Without our protective armor, women suffering from anxiety, and depression, are twice as likely to develop osteoporosis. Heart disease can take hold and literally break our hearts, which is why that disease is the NUMBER ONE killer of women in this country. (500,000 every year) Our other organs suffer as well– liver, kidneys, pancreas, and lungs, to name some top hot spots for damage. One of the biggest organs to suffer? The brain. Scientists found that anxiety accelerates the decline in our cognitive function, most notably our memory and our ability to retain new information. Women suffering from anxiety are often biologically older than their chronological age. Ouch, that’s bad news!

The Good News

As always, I like to end with the good news. In these times of high anxiety for all of us, help is readily available. First, if you are a TV news junkie, turn off the TV and reacquaint yourself with the written word.

Next, add a contemplation or meditation practice into your day. Let me share my ritual: I wake up, hop out of bed and go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, then sit in my designated chair in my bedroom. I set a timer app on my iPad for fifteen minutes. I close my eyes and with each inhale I repeat a short phrase: lately, it is “I am at peace.”  Pick a phrase that resonates with you. After the timer dings, and for another couple of minutes I do my Gratitude Meditation℠, expanding the list from five things I am grateful for, to as many as I can think of at that moment. Then I open my eyes and begin my day feeling calmer, more centered, and definitely more grateful for all that is going right in my life right now.

Extensive research on the benefits of meditation tells us it’s a powerful way to lower cortisol and take the edge off our stress in anxious times. Have a look at what I wrote: https://www.ljrohan.com/blog/meditation-101/ and https://www.ljrohan.com/blog/2018-7-30-the-goods-on-meditation/.

Sometimes, we don’t even know what is causing those anxious feelings, or as I often call it, feeling “really squirrelly,” but you just know it when you feel it. Right now, many of us are feeling it. Meditation will lower that anxiety and help reset your cortisol production. An added bonus: you will have more patience than you ever thought possible. Really. Give it a try.

Until next time…Be Vibrant!

Meditation App - LJ Rohan

Read More

Reversing the Dreaded Dowager’s Hump

May 25, 2020

Dowager’s Hump. You might know someone who has it. Your mother or grandmother may have suffered from it. You think you are developing one. Whatever your experience, direct or indirect, I am betting you have heard of this term and have seen women, and men, who walk hunched over and with difficulty; who struggle to get out of a chair, and who are unsteady on their feet. All indications of what scientists call age-related hyperkyphosis. Zooming to the end of the story, I have great news for how to counter and even reverse this syndrome!

Ninety percent of the stimulation and nutrition to the brain is generated by the movement of the spine.  Roger Sperry, Nobel Laureate 1981 in Physiology and Medicine

First, let’s look at the research on Dowager’s Hump (DH). A small amount of curvature in the thoracic or upper spine is normal because of the natural shape and curve of our vertebrates and discs which compose the structure of our spines. When our spines have a 40° or greater curve, we have DH. The degree of curvature can even be greater, with more serious consequences, and progress from 40° for women forty years old and beyond, to an average of a 43° angle in women just postmenopausal (fifty-five to sixty), to a whopping 53° angle by the time we reach seventy-six.

The most surprising news? Researchers found an unexpectedly high percentage (35%) of women twenty-to-sixty already had the beginnings of DH. Most interestingly, that stat is from 1993, well before our fingers, and our lives, became glued to a computer or cell phone. The number today? Closer to 65%, and climbing…

Many of us believe DH is caused by “vertebral compression fractures.” Well, dispel that myth! A mega-study encompassing all the major studies done on DH from 1955-2016, found fractures the culprit in just 30-40% of the cases. Another belief brought up short by this study? DH is a result of spinal osteoporosis. Again, not true. Nor, has research found a direct link between DH and calcium consumption, estrogen levels, or follicle-stimulating-hormone levels. What about degenerative disc disease? Folks with DH do have higher incidents of degenerative disc disease, but it doesn’t seem that this is what causes DH, but rather is a result of having DH. Adding to the argument, the majority of those studied who had DH and degenerative disc disease did not have previous vertebral fractures or osteoporosis, meaning if we do something about DH, we can possibly prevent degenerative disc disease, as well. That works in my book!

Let’s look at the result of DH on our bodies and our life expectancy for a moment. As our heads pitch forward, we experience a decline in our entire visual system. Then, our accurate reading of the world around us becomes compromised. Add in other age-related visual issues like cataracts and macular degeneration, and we become accidents waiting to happen. Our mobility suffers, as well. We have trouble rising from a chair. We experience a loss of balance –also tied to our visual perceptions being skewed. We walk slower, we need more support for standing and walking, and our speed at climbing stairs declines—all of which double the chances of us falling and breaking a bone. In fact, the data points to DH as one of the major factors contributing to falls among people over sixty.

Increased pain in the back in 29% of the women studied was caused by loss of height due to increasing Dowager’s Hump, and more than 50% of adults who have lost height report having back pain. Interesting. Pain in the shoulders and pelvis, shorter pectoral and hip flexors resulting in pain in these areas, was noted, as well. Grip and ankle strength diminishes. Our entire quality of life suffers. Last, the development of DH shortens our lives by increasing the development of pulmonary disease and other frontal organ issues, and, with the increase in falls, death from fall-related developments.

Those of us experiencing Dowager’s Hump have difficulty reaching and doing anything more than light housework, and we score lower on overall physical activities and movement. What the new science now tells us is that we can do something about this. Spine-strengthening exercises and postural training, specifically, extension and thoracic strengthening work with resistance, done regularly, can both stop the development of DH in its proverbial tracks, and even more encouraging, can reverse the severity of DH in almost all cases. Flexion exercises—bending forward and rounding forward more often, increases our susceptibility to DH by more than 68%.

My last piece of data for today:  several studies of women, who develop DH four times as often as men, found after thrice-weekly spine-strengthening, extension exercises, saw a decrease in the angle of spine curvature by 11%. To quote Wendy Katzman at the University of California San Francisco in the Journal of Orthopedic Sports Physical Therapy, “Kyphosis and forward head posture were significantly reduced among the compliant exercise group compared with the noncompliant group.” The Mayo Clinic, from their study of postmenopausal women taking part in a back strengthening program, concluded, “Increasing the back extensor strength in healthy estrogen-deficient women helps decrease thoracic kyphosis.” The decrease in the angle of the spines of these women was, in their words, “significant.”

Below I have linked a short video demonstrating the most effective and easiest exercises to strengthen our backs and resign the Dowager’s Hump to its origin–the pages of a James Joyce novel. Here is to standing up straight and tall!

Until next time…Be Vibrant!

Read More

One Ringy-Dingy, Two Ringy-Dingy…

May 11, 2020

Frustrated and exasperated by scam callers? No matter our age, we are all inundated with unscrupulous boiler room calls. This is an especially serious problem for our more senior members of society. Today, I am addressing this growing, and possibly harmful issue with a few original tips I use that have reduced the number of calls I receive by more than ninety percent. Really. I may have a bit of an odd sense of humor, but I have decided that this is a game I want to win. I find it very rewarding when they hang up on me, since I know that after once or twice playing with them, they will never call me back. (So far, at least!)

scam callers

As the frequency of the calls increased, I searched the internet for solutions, and tried every one, including the most popular one recommended by so many sources—simply hanging up. While gaining momentary satisfaction as I slam the receiver to my landline into its cradle, that method failed to decrease the number of interruptions. Same for my cell phone, minus the slamming part—although once I did, and was grateful I didn’t crack the glass.

I caution about one thing: My suggestions do require actually talking to the scammers, and so it might not be the best option for everyone. But, if you or your loved one can handle the responses, it will definitely help. (No foul language required!) 

First, differentiate between legitimate items that need addressing and scams: Legitimate issues from legitimate companies will come in the form of a letter in the mail, giving you time to investigate the claims thoroughly so as to be sure it really is from the credit card company, or the car warranty department, etc. The one exception I can think of is when credit card companies call about checking for possible fraudulent charges, but in that case they tell you what charges they are checking. You don’t have to tell them anything. You only have to confirm or deny the charge—a very different kettle of fish from stinky scammers!

Let’s look at three of the current scams:

Your Car Warranty is about to Expire

  • The phone rings; you say hello and wait the 5-10 seconds for them to know they have a live one on the line.
  • “Barry” comes on the line and says your warranty is about to expire and he needs you to confirm the make and model of the car (or something similar).
  • Your answer: (This is the fun part) “My car is a 1973 Dodge Dart.” Or, pick a model more than twenty-five years old, maybe your first car, or one you particularly loved, somewhere around 25-30 years old or older, but after WW II. 😉
  • “Barry” will be incredulous, and say something to counter your answer. Just stick to your guns and tell him your car is a 1973 Dodge Dart. He will sputter for a moment, then hang up. Victory!
  • Another scam warranty company will probably call again soon. Tell them the same thing, or pick another oldie but goodie. After a very few times, you will be put on the No Dice list scammers all share (I believe) and that round of calls will (hopefully) stop.

Lower Interest on Your Credit Card or Other Scams about Your Credit Card

  • The phone rings; you say hello and wait the 5-10 seconds for them to know they have a live one on the line.
  • “Melissa” finally comes on and says you are eligible for lower interest payments on your credit card because you have consistently paid your credit card bills on time.
  • Your response: I don’t have a credit card, I only use cash.
  • “Melissa,” like “Barry” is incredulous and pushes you to say you have a credit card. She may even ask how you buy things online, or something like that. Stick to your guns again, and repeat, “I don’t have a credit card, I use only cash.”
  • “Melissa” sputters and as I/you continue to repeat the same answer, she finally gives up and hangs up.
  • Again, it will take a few times, but these calls will cease.

You Are Eligible for a Free Trip to Florida/Cruise to the Caribbean/Mars

This one has the most persistent scammers. It did take several times before they quit calling. I was tenacious, and you can be, too.

  • The phone rings; you say hello and wait the 5-10 seconds for them to know they have a live one on the line.
  • “Jessica” says you won a free trip to ___________. She just needs to confirm you have an income of more that $6400 (or some similarly low number).
  • You respond that you don’t have any income at all.
  • “Jessica” pushes, and maybe even asks if you get Social Security, or if anyone in your household makes more than $6400. Your answer: No and No.
  • “Jessica” says, (I love this part) “Well, unfortunately you are not eligible for any of our programs at this time.” Then hangs up.

While working on this a friend told me about a website and an app that can stop many of these scam callers after one ring. It’s called Nomorobo.com. However, you will miss the satisfaction for telling the scammer something that will make the never call you. I will wait just a bit to try this, until I have stopped a few more scams, just to be sure. (Plus it’s fun!)

 AGAIN REMEMBER!! No matter how sincere the person sounds on the phone, NEVER give scam callers any personal information!

There are a multitude of scams out there; these are just a few of the latest from scam callers. What is important for us to remember is: Feed them information that takes you out of the realm of possibility, like a very old car, no income, no credit cards, no bank account, you don’t pay any taxes—something that shuts them down from asking for any personal information.

Best of luck in reducing your phone ring-a-dinging!

Until next time…Be Vibrant!

Meditation App - LJ Rohan

Read More

Kick Mobility Issues with Vitamin K

May 4, 2020

I just finished reading the results of a new study on vitamin K and its role in decreasing disability and increasing our mobility as we get older, and I want to share these latest findings.

We gerontologists, and many researchers worldwide, consistently focus on what we call “novel” risk factors affecting vibrant aging. These include things which further limit our mobility as we get older and decrease our ability to do what we want to do in our lives.  With the number of adults living to sixty-five and older projected to double by 2050, anything and everything we can do to keep our bodies movin’ and groovin’ should get our attention.

Looking at the current stats, we find that 60% of men and 40% of women over sixty don’t get enough vitamin K in their diets. Because of this, we consider vitamin K a “shortfall nutrient” in older adults. Low levels of this important vitamin open us up to some rather unpleasant problems including worsening of some chronic diseases– cardiovascular disease and osteoarthritis top the list. Physically, a slower gait speed and deteriorating physical performance was noted over the 4-5 years of follow up with the participants of the study. This led researchers to conclude that not enough vitamin K could be associated with mobility disability as we age. We already know vitamin K plays a key role in blood clotting and maintaining healthy bones—another factor keeping us up and moving around. Some sobering news: alcoholics are at a much higher risk for vitamin K deficiency. Also at risk are those with digestive disorders like Crohn’s disease and cystic fibrosis, which make fat absorption more difficult.

Of course there is good news and delicious ways to up our vitamin K! Please check with your health practitioner, DIFM, or RDN* before adding things into your diet as folks on blood thinners could have contraindications.

My bevy of experts recommend striving for 90-100 mcg per day for women, and 120 mcg for men. 

Here is my list. Remember, organic is always the way to go, if possible, to help limit our exposure to more harmful chemicals.

The Delicious List of Vitamin K-Packed Foods:

  • Kale (565 mcg per ½ cup, cooked)
  • Collard Greens (530 mcg per ½ cup, cooked)
  • Spinach (444 mcg per ½ cup, cooked, raw 146 mcg per cup)
  • Turnip Greens (425 per ½ cup, cooked)
  • Brussel Sprouts (150 mcg per ½ cup, cooked)
  • Broccoli (85 mcg per ½ cup, cooked)
  • Asparagus (72 mcg per ½ cup, cooked)
  • Romaine Lettuce (60 mcg per 1 cup, raw)
  • Sauerkraut (56 mcg per ½ cup)
  • Edamame (25 mcg per ½ cup, boiled)
  • Pickles (25 mcg per cucumber dill or kosher dill)
  • Pumpkin (20 mcg per ½ cup, canned)
  • Pine Nuts (15 mcg per ounce)
  • Blueberries– Ahhhhh, a fruit! (14 mcg per ½ cup)

A good quality multi-vitamin, one from the health food store, can also help with low levels of vitamin K. However, because eating the food in its whole state whether it’s fresh or frozen with its many other vitamins and minerals gives us extra help in staying healthy and mobile, I recommend starting your vitamin K regimen by adding some of the foods listed above into your daily meal plan. Here’s to rockin’ our way through our silver years!

Until next time…Be Vibrant!

* DIFM: Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine/ RDN: Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Meditation App - LJ Rohan

Read More