The Health Benefits of Journaling When You Are a Senior

The Health Benefits of Journaling When You Are a Senior

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Write without stopping; don’t worry about spelling and grammar. Just keep going.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Managing Diabetes during the Holidays

Managing Diabetes during the Holidays

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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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!

Fitness Trackers for Senior Walkers

Fitness Trackers for Senior Walkers

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!

Food Choices That Help Manage Cholesterol

Food Choices That Help Manage Cholesterol

If you or a senior you are the caregiver for has high cholesterol, you aren’t alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) more than 102 million adults in this country have total cholesterol levels at or above 200 mg/dL. This elevated level is considered unhealthy. Of them, 35 million have cholesterol levels of 240 mg/dL or higher, increasing their risk for heart disease and stroke.

To help manage it, the doctor may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering drug called a statin. For many people, the side effects of this class of drugs are tough to manage. They include skin rash, muscle pain, nausea, diarrhea, sleep problems, and an inflamed liver.

While statin concerns can be troublesome, it’s important to know how dangerous high cholesterol can be. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among older adults, and stroke is a leading cause of disability. High cholesterol increases the chances for both.

Is it possible to lower your cholesterol without taking medication?

For some adults, the answer is yes. Lifestyle plays a key role.

Using Diet and Exercise to Lower Cholesterol

A heart-healthy diet combined with exercise might lower your cholesterol without medication like a statin. But do you know what foods make up a heart-smart diet? Or what forms of exercise are senior-friendly?

Researchers are finding new evidence every year that the lifestyle of people living in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea might be a solution. Residents of these areas tend to enjoy longer lives with fewer incidences of heart disease, dementia, and some types of autoimmune diseases.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

If you love the tastes of Spain, Italy, and Greece, you’re in luck. Olives, nuts, garlic, and healthy fats like olive oil and avocados form the backbone of the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle. Residents consume fewer servings of meat and greater amounts of fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, fish, and lean protein.

People that live along the Mediterranean Sea also adhere to a lifestyle that promotes natural forms of exercise. Instead of working out in a fitness club, they swim, garden, walk their dog, and more. Instead of driving, many bike or walk to work. The sedentary lifestyle common in Western cultures is rare here.

What else can you do to maintain healthy cholesterol?

It is also important to note there are few smokers in Mediterranean zones. Despite the proven risks, the CDC estimates that 13% of the US population are smokers. Not only does smoking increase your risk for many forms of cancer, it also impacts cholesterol.

Smoking increases bad cholesterol (HDL) and decreases good cholesterol (LDL). If you are a smoker, it’s just one more reason to quit. Talk with your physician for advice on which smoking cessation programs have the best outcomes.

Live Well at Heritage Senior Communities

At Heritage Senior Communities, we understand the importance of a healthy diet and regular exercise. Whether you are searching for independent living, assisted living, or memory care, well-balanced meals and senior-friendly fitness activities are part of daily life. Call the community nearest you to learn more!

Are Probiotics Worth the Expense?

Are Probiotics Worth the Expense?

As worries about the coronavirus continue, many people are exploring ways to build their immune system. Because seniors are at higher risk for contracting the virus, it is vital for them to live as healthy as possible. One product often hyped as an immunity builder is probiotic supplements.

Probiotics are billed as a simple way to rebalance good and bad bacteria in the gut. Research seems to indicate a healthy gut lowers your risk for disease and health problems. But are they worth the expense? Are there less-expensive options that yield the same results?

Unfortunately, health care researchers disagree on their effectiveness. Some say they work, and others say the same benefits can be achieved through diet.

Consumers also seem to be split. But the industry itself is booming. Data published in the Nutrition Business Journal showed Americans spent an estimated $1.8 billion on probiotic products in 2016, up from $425 million in 2008. When asked, those using probiotics say they help with everything from lowering cholesterol to reducing inflammation.

While taking a supplement might be easier, quality probiotics often come with a high price tag. The good news is probiotics naturally occur in some foods. By working them into your diet, you and your senior loved one might be able to pump up your immune system.

Foods That Improve Gut Health

If you would like to try improving your gut health without supplements, a few foods to try include:

  • Kefir
  • Pickles
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tempeh
  • Soft cheeses (i.e., Gouda, cheddar, and mozzarella)
  • Green olives
  • Greek yogurt
  • Sourdough bread

Boosting the Immune System

In addition to COVID-19 worries, we are inching closer to the traditional flu season. It’s one more reason older adults need to take every possible measure to boost their immunity.

  1. Is your senior loved one up to date on recommended vaccines?

Talk with your doctor to see if you are in compliance with the vaccinations recommended by the National Institute on Aging (NIA). Two of the most pressing include:

  • Influenza: Early fall is the best time to get your annual flu shot. Most experts advise seniors get vaccinated in early October to be protected against early flu outbreaks.
  • Pneumonia: In most cases, you will only need to receive the pneumonia vaccine once in your lifetime. If you received it when you were under 55, however, your physician may want you to repeat the shot in later years.

In addition, talk with the doctor about shingles and Tdap vaccines.

  1. Does your older family member eat well and drink water?

A healthy diet rich with lean protein, fruit, and vegetables is essential. Nutritionists often encourage people to plan menus with produce in all colors of the rainbow. That helps ensure you consume necessary vitamins and nutrients.

Drinking eight glasses of water a day is another must. If a senior you care for doesn’t like water, try adding lemon or berries. You can also encourage them to eat foods with high water content, such as melon, cucumber, leafy greens, and celery.

  1. Is the senior getting enough quality sleep?

When you don’t sleep or aren’t getting good sleep, the body can become run down. That makes people more susceptible to illness. Unfortunately, insomnia and other sleep disorders are common among older adults.

If your senior loved one isn’t a good sleeper, their physician may need to order a sleep study. It can help identify problems and ways to correct them.

  1. Does your family elder exercise?

From chair yoga to walking, there are plenty of exercises for seniors to enjoy indoors. If you are self-isolating due to COVID-19, ask your doctor which types and durations of exercise are best.

Programs like Go4Life from the National Institute on Aging and SilverSneakers On-Demand make it easier to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle from the privacy of your own home. Go4Life is free for seniors, and SilverSneakers is a membership program many insurance companies help finance.

Follow Our Blog

We hope you found this blog helpful in your pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. The Senior Community Lifestyle blog is updated at least once each week. We tackle topics ranging from giving up driving to moving a loved one who has dementia. Bookmark this site and stop back often for the latest news.

National Wellness Month: 4 Steps to Successful Aging

National Wellness Month: 4 Steps to Successful Aging

The older you get, the more likely you are to pay attention to health and wellness. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet discovered the fountain of youth, despite what beauty ads say. Researchers do, however, have sound advice on steps you can take to look and feel your best as you grow older.


In honor of National Wellness Month, celebrated every August, we share some tips for living a healthier life.


4 Steps to a Healthier You


Here are some leading research-based steps you can incorporate into your life to look and feel better at every age.


  1. Stay social and engaged.

Pursuing new passions and reconnecting with old ones when you retire offers more benefits than being just plain fun. It could also lengthen your life. Socializing reduces the likelihood of isolation, keeps older adults active and less sedentary, and promotes a positive outlook.

Researchers who study the link between seniors and socialization have observed not just improvements in longevity but also in quality of life. They have even compared the benefits of being active in social groups to those of regular physical exercise.

But don’t cancel your fitness club membership! Our next tip is to get moving and stay active.


  1. Stand up and get moving.

Too much sitting is bad for your health. It makes you look and feel older. When you are physically fit and active, you reap a variety of rewards. Exercise decreases stress hormones which, in turn, make it easier to maintain a healthy weight.

You won’t need to pay for a gym membership or torture yourself jogging either. There are endless low-impact forms of exercise you can engage in at home or in your neighborhood. Walking, chair yoga, riding a recumbent bike, and gardening are a few to discuss with your primary care physician.

Limiting how much time you spend sitting every day also helps. Instead of sitting down to talk on the phone, for example, connect your smartphone to Bluetooth and walk while you talk.


  1. Eat nutritious foods.

A healthy diet is one of the most important steps you can take to age well. The struggle for many seniors is figuring out what that means. The MyPlate app has loads of great tools and tips for healthy-minded older adults.

Also talk with your doctor about adopting the Mediterranean Diet. It’s linked to lower bad cholesterol, fewer incidences of cancer, and a healthier heart. The good news is meals are simple and easy to prepare.


  1. Find healthy ways to manage stress.

Chronic stress negatively impacts health. It can contribute to high blood pressure, obesity, depression, and more. Some people pick up bad habits to cope, such as smoking or drinking too much. That can make the issue even worse.

Instead, learn how to manage stress in positive ways. Meditation, journaling, swimming, and gardening are a few ideas to explore.


Live Well at Heritage Senior Communities


From great food to a variety of daily life enrichment activities, residents of Heritage Senior Communities enjoy the best quality of life. Visit The Heritage Difference to learn what makes our communities so special!