A good night’s sleep can be hard to come by even during the best of times, especially for older adults. Insomnia and aging seem to go hand-in-hand. Some seniors may have difficulty falling or staying asleep.
Research shows that from sleep apnea to restless leg syndrome, as much as 30% of the population suffers from insomnia. As concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic linger, some seniors are also experiencing anxiety that may disrupt sleep or cause insomnia.
When it comes to solving sleep issues, people may simply give up on getting a good night’s rest. Unfortunately, it’s not something you should just try to live with. There are many negative health consequences associated with a lack of quality sleep, including:
- Weakened immune system that puts you at higher risk for colds and viruses
- Poor nutrition, which often contributes to unintended weight gain and greater incidences of diabetes
- Change in disposition (quick to anger or easily tearful) because the body doesn’t have enough time to refresh itself
- Sedentary lifestyle, which is believed to be as dangerous as smoking
- Increased chance of experiencing falls, which are a leading cause of disability
6 Ways to Beat Insomnia as You Age
- Exercise every day: When you feel tired, you are more likely to develop bad habits that lead to a sedentary lifestyle. And a lack of exercise is linked to poor sleep. It’s something of a vicious cycle. By staying active throughout the day, you’ll likely sleep better at night. Walking, chair yoga, swimming, and gardening benefit the body, mind, and spirit.
- Limit caffeine: Being overcaffeinated is another cycle that is easy to fall into when you are tired. While caffeinated beverages might give you a temporary pop of energy, more than a cup or two a day actually exacerbates sleep problems. Limiting your intake of candy, tea, soda, and even hot cocoa may improve sleep quality.
- Create a sleep space: Creating a dark, peaceful sleep environment might also help you beat insomnia. Turn off the television, smart phone, and other devices at least one hour before bedtime. Turn down the thermostat. If you can’t relax when it’s too quiet, try using a white noise machine or a fan.
- Be consistent: Sleep specialists often suggest a strict sleep schedule. Have set times to wake up and go to bed. An irregular sleep schedule interferes with the body’s natural circadian rhythms. If you have to, set an alarm so you rise at a similar time each day, including on weekends.
- Skip the alcohol: People often think a glass or two of wine at bedtime will help them relax and unwind, making it easier to sleep. In reality, alcohol disrupts melatonin in the body. That can wreak havoc on your sleep/wake cycles. It also worsens snoring and sleep apnea, both of which contribute to poor sleep.
- See your doctor: Despite your best efforts at overcoming insomnia, sleep may remain elusive. Sometimes an undiagnosed medical condition is the cause. You may want to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. They might be able to figure out what the problem is or refer you to a specialist for a sleep study.
Sleep is just one factor that contributes to a healthy lifestyle for older adults. To stay updated on the latest news on wellness and aging, we encourage you to bookmark our blog, The Senior Community Lifestyle, and visit often. We talk about issues ranging from nutrition and exercise to friendships and volunteering!
As the number of adults in this country who’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine continues to climb, concerns about its safety and effectiveness linger. From cost to side effects, people still have many questions.
To help you and a senior loved one make an informed decision about getting vaccinated, we pulled together some commonly asked questions. We share answers from public health experts.
5 Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccines
- Since the vaccines were approved so quickly, are they safe?
The first two vaccines, developed by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, were indeed rolled out quickly. But both met the criteria for receiving an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).
Simply put, that means each vaccine went through a three-phase clinical trial and at least half of the phase three participants were followed for two months or more after the trial’s completion. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has more information on their website. Visit Emergency Use Authorization for Vaccines Explained to learn more.
- How much will I have to pay for the vaccine?
Unlike other recommended vaccines, this one is available at no cost. According to the CDC, that’s because the COVID-19 vaccine doses were purchased using taxpayer money.
Vaccine providers, however, may charge an administration fee for giving a patient the shot. According to the CDC, a vaccine clinic host organization “can be reimbursed for this by the patient’s public or private insurance company or, for uninsured patients, by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund. No one can be denied a vaccine if they are unable to pay the vaccine administration fee.”
- Does the vaccine use a live virus to build immunity?
This is a myth that keeps people from getting vaccines. No, the COVID-19 vaccine does not contain a live virus. While you may experience minor side effects for a day or two after being vaccinated, it is usually means the body is building immunity.
The most common side effects include some swelling and redness at the injection site, fever and chills, or fatigue. These symptoms last for a few hours or up to a few days. Some people have experienced severe allergic reactions.
- Do you need the vaccine if you had the coronavirus?
Because the science isn’t clear yet on how long natural immunity lasts after a person has had the coronavirus, the general recommendation is yes. You should still be vaccinated unless your primary care physician advises against it.
Researchers seem to believe the body’s natural immunity varies from person to person and may not last more than a few months. As we learn more about COVID-19, this recommendation may change.
- Do you still need to wear a mask after being vaccinated?
Yes, you will still need to wear a mask. While the vaccine offers you protection, experts don’t know if you can still transmit it to others if you are exposed. This is another area of ongoing research and recommendations from the CDC may change as scientists learn more.
Learn More about COVID-19
The CDC has a dedicated COVID-19 resource center on their website. You will find guidelines on topics ranging from whether you need to quarantine to where to find vaccine clinics in your area.
Residents and staff at Heritage Senior Communities were fortunate to begin receiving their vaccines in January and February. Visit our Facebook page to see how excited our residents were to be vaccinated and why. From wanting to see a new great-grandchild to being able to volunteer at the community again, you’ll see a lot of smiling faces as vaccines are administered!
After a long, cold winter, many people find themselves suffering from a vitamin D deficiency. We may see a significant increase in vitamin D deficiency this spring due to the months of quarantining at home because of COVID-19. That’s because a lack of exposure to sunlight translates to less vitamin D production.
There are other medical conditions that can cause low vitamin D, such as obesity, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and celiac disease. These health issues make it more difficult for the body to process and absorb vitamins and minerals.
Knowing how much vitamin D you need in a day and how to work it into your daily diet is an important part of successful aging.
Vitamin D and Healthy Aging
Getting the right amount of vitamin D is important for everything from quality sleep to cancer prevention. Here are a few problems that can occur when the body is deficient in this essential vitamin:
- Cancer: Vitamin D deficiency is linked to higher rates of some forms of cancer, such as prostate, thyroid, lung, and breast.
- Dementia: There is evidence that seems to indicate low vitamin D may put people at increased risk for cognitive decline and dementia.
- Heart disease: The risk for cardiac diseases also goes up when your vitamin D is low. This is especially important because heart disease is the leading cause of death in this country.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS): Studies show maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D may help prevent or treat MS, a disease that attacks the protective sheath that covers nerve fibers. It results in communication problems between the brain and the body that can be disabling.
- Osteoporosis: Studies suggest maintaining proper levels of vitamin D and calcium can slow bone mineral loss, which helps prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures.
One challenge with preventing a vitamin D deficiency is that the symptoms can be easily overlooked. Here are a few signs to watch for in yourself or a senior loved one.
Recognizing a Vitamin D Deficiency
Recognizing a vitamin D deficiency is difficult because the symptoms are so vague. They are often mistaken as a normal sign of aging or a side effect of medication. Vitamin D deficiency symptoms can include:
- Fatigue or weakness
- Muscle or joint pain
- Aching bones
Your primary care physician can order a simple 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test to make a clear diagnosis. If you are deficient, treatment will depend on the severity. Your physician may order a prescription dose of vitamin D to take once a week for a few months or an over-the-counter supplement.
Daily Recommended Dose of Vitamin D
Experts disagree on how much vitamin D we need, sometimes by fairly significant numbers. Many factors can impact how much vitamin D you need each day, such as age, weight, and chronic health conditions.
Experts from Harvard Medical School say if you’re taking a vitamin D supplement, 600 to 800 IU per day is likely adequate. People with a medical condition that impacts how vitamin D or calcium is absorbed, such as Crohn’s disease, may need more. If you are under a physician’s care, the maximum upper limit of vitamin D is 4,000 IU a day.
Follow the Heritage Blog
If you found the information in this article to be of interest, we encourage you to bookmark the Heritage Blog and stop back often. We publish new articles on topics ranging from caregiving to memory care and healthy aging each week!
As we close the book on the tumultuous year that was 2020, many people continue to experience a great deal of stress. While the COVID-19 pandemic persists, there are a variety of reasons to feel anxious. Uncertainty about a vaccine, worries about exposure, and isolation are among the most common.
Because chronic stress is linked to health issues ranging from headaches and weight gain to diabetes and heart disease, it’s important to learn healthy ways to navigate tough times. When you don’t have positive ways of coping, unhealthy behaviors are more likely to develop.
Many people find regular journaling eases stress. It can be a productive way to sort out your feelings, focus on your blessings, and keep grounded. In fact, University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker believes regular journaling may even improve your health.
Journaling your feelings and fears helps you find solutions and peace. It can strengthen your immune system, increasing your odds of fighting off infections and staying healthy.
How and Why You Should Journal
One study highlighted the importance of journaling about what is really getting you down. Researchers found that 47% of patients with a chronic health condition experienced improvement in their physical and emotional well-being after writing honestly about what was impacting their lives. In contrast, people who journaled solely about everyday activities only had a 24% improvement. The bottom line was writing about what really hurts is difficult but meaningful.
If you’ve never tried journaling before, here’s some advice for getting started:
- Your journal doesn’t have to be expensive or particularly beautiful. While something nice to write in might entice you to journal more, even a spiral notebook will work.
- Journal at least four times a week to document your fears and hopes. Twenty to thirty minutes at a time is optimal for many people.
- Write without stopping; don’t worry about spelling and grammar. Just keep going.
- Write this for your eyes only. You’ll be more inclined to be open and honest if you don’t worry about what others might think.
- If writing about something makes you too upset, stop. Take a break and try again another day.
The Therapeutic Value of Journaling When You are a Caregiver offers more tips on journaling for better health. While written for family caregivers, much of the advice can be applied to anyone.
Heritage Responds to the COVID-19 Pandemic
At Heritage Senior Communities, we understand how fearful people are of being exposed to the coronavirus. Older adults are at highest risk for serious health consequences if they develop it. Coronavirus Precautions has tips to help you reduce your chances of being exposed, as well as information on our communities’ prevention measures. As conditions change, so will our response.
The holidays can be tough if you have type 2 diabetes. Sticking to a well-balanced diet isn’t easy when tasty treats abound. Some people find it difficult to get enough physical activity when the weather or COVID-19 concerns keep them stuck inside. However, diet and exercise are vital to managing diabetes.
Health professionals say planning is the key to enjoying the holidays without putting your health at risk. We are sharing a few suggestions to help you get started.
Managing Type 2 Diabetes during the Holidays
With so many temptations, it takes more than self-control to manage diabetes. Here are a few ways you can adjust your daily routine to stay safe during the holiday season:
- Exercise in the morning.
This is a good strategy any time of year, but especially during the holidays. If you are busy shopping, wrapping gifts, and baking, you might be tempted to skip your work out. But as anyone with diabetes knows, exercise is an important part of maintaining your health.
Walking, riding a recumbent bike, and practicing yoga or Tai Chi can all be done in the comfort of your own home. Resistance bands are another inexpensive tool that can help you maintain muscles and core strength. “Exploring Senior-Friendly Forms of Exercise” has more fitness suggestions for older adults to explore.
- Monitor your health.
Most diabetics know it’s vital to continue checking their glucose as directed by their physician during the holidays. What some may skip is stepping on the scale. It’s easy for extra pounds to creep up when you are overindulging and not exercising as much. For adults with diabetes, maintaining a healthy weight is essential. Take time to weigh yourself weekly before a few pounds turn into more.
Also be sure to monitor your blood pressure as per your physician’s recommendations. Salty foods and alcoholic beverages often served at holiday parties can cause your blood pressure to spike.
- Plan your meals ahead of time.
No one wants to miss out on holiday goodies, but moderation is key. That’s why mapping out your food choices for the day and week ahead is important during the holiday season. If you know you’ll be attending a holiday luncheon on Wednesday, for example, eat a healthy breakfast and dinner that day.
If you blow your diet at one party or during one meal, don’t use it as an excuse to give up your healthy lifestyle. Instead, forgive yourself for slipping and get back on track at the next meal.
- Make smart choices at holiday parties.
While many people are limiting how many holiday gatherings they attend this year because of COVID-19 worries, you’ll still want to be careful. Though you can’t control the menu at holiday parties and events, you can be mindful of making better, healthier choices.
- You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s worth repeating. Try to fill up on healthy foods before a holiday event. A plate of fresh vegetables, apple slices topped with peanut butter, or a cup of yogurt can help prevent you from overindulging at your party.
- Skip alcoholic beverages and opt for water with lemon instead. If you want an alcoholic beverage, choose dry wine or light beer. Avoid drinks with sugary mixers.
- For food, opt for fresh fruit, vegetables, turkey, chicken, and nuts. Skip fried foods and those covered in dips or sauces. Limit sweet treats to just a bite or two of your favorites.
We hope these tips help you have an enjoyable and safe holiday season!
Heritage Communities Accommodate Special Diets
At Heritage Senior Communities, our dining services teams happily accommodate the special dietary needs of residents. It’s part of The Heritage Difference that makes our family-owned company a leading provider of senior living services for over four generations. Call the community nearest you to learn more today!
Health and wellness have been at the forefront of many conversations this year. As worries about the COVID-19 pandemic continue, older adults everywhere are wondering how to strengthen their immune system. In most cases, a well-balanced diet, exercise, and quality sleep are essential components of a healthy lifestyle.
If you haven’t been exercising regularly, discuss walking with your physician. When the weather is nice, you can enjoy a walk around your neighborhood or local park. When it’s snowy or rainy, a treadmill might be the answer.
Health Benefits of Walking
While walking might not seem like exercise, it yields many health benefits for older adults. The Arthritis Foundation recommends it to help control the pain and symptoms of osteoarthritis. Other benefits of walking include:
- Weight management
- Diabetes control
- Stress reduction
- Improved circulation
- Stronger bones
- Increased muscle strength
- Better sleep
- Lowered Alzheimer’s risk
How much should you walk each day? Here’s what the experts say.
Walk Your Way to Better Health
The medical community often recommends 10,000 steps a day or 150 minutes a week of combined walking. Keep in mind 10,000 steps generally equates to about 5 miles.
If you are just starting out, however, setting a goal that high might be intimidating. Instead, begin by tracking how far you walk in a typical day. Once you have a baseline established, set small weekly goals to keep you moving closer to 10,000 steps.
A few ways to make walking more enjoyable are:
- Adopting a senior dog (or borrowing one!)
- Listening to music
- Finding a walking buddy
- Walking in different places each day
Senior-Friendly Fitness Trackers
How can you track your steps? There are a variety of devices available at many price points. Here are a few devices you can explore to track your daily steps:
- 3DFitBud: This simple-to-use pedometer will track steps in every direction—up, down, forward, and backward. It also features an extra-large digital display, which is easier on aging eyes. At $24.99, it’s inexpensive.
- Fitbit Charge 4 Fitness Tracker: This device does more than just count steps. It also has a real-time heart rate monitor and an inactivity monitor that alerts you if you’ve been sedentary too long. The backlit grayscale display and the touch screen are two senior-friendly features. The device can be purchased for about $150.
- Apple Watch 5 Series: A device that might appeal to seniors is an Apple watch. This series offers an electrocardiogram (ECG) system that can detect cardiac abnormalities, like atrial fibrillation. The watch also has a fall detection tool. Prices start at $399.
- Garmin Vivosmart 4 Fitness Tracker: Garmin trackers are also very popular. The long battery life, generally 7 days, is a nice benefit. Beyond tracking steps, the device also has a pulse OX sensor to measure oxygen, sleep tracker, inactivity alert, and calorie tracker. Cost ranges from $80 to $120.
Active Living at Heritage Senior Communities
At Heritage Senior Communities, residents have a wide variety of opportunities to engage in fitness programs every day. From gardening to walking and morning exercise groups, there is an activity for every interest and ability. Call the Heritage community nearest you to learn more!