Category Archives: Wellness

5 Tips to Engage the Brain

WWC-Cover-2By David J. Barczyk, D.C.

With few exceptions, the human body is a self-healing organism and would function, in most cases, without a hiccup if we were able to give it all the things it needs – nutrition, exercise and spiritual food.  Most of the time, however, life gets in the way.  The good news is that we all have the chance to make right with our physical, emotional and spiritual selves and live in a way that allows our bodies to function better.

To reverse a downward spiral and get life back on track, a person has to make a choice to live differently.  The bottom line is that major lifestyle changes are almost always prompted by a Wellness Wake-up Call that comes in one form or another.  The idea of my new book is that Wellness Wake-up Calls don’t have to be organic moments inspired, perhaps by a major life event or upcoming class reunion.  Wellness Wake-up Calls can be intentional. Based on years of research, both academic and practical, many health issues can be traced back to some form of not living right.  Of course, there are exceptions – and those unfortunate instances are not the ones addressed in Wellness Wake-up Call.

My personal devotion to wellness comes largely from the events of my childhood.  My dad, an electrical engineer for AT&T, lived his young adulthood in the throes of the rat race of the Northeast corridor – commuting an hour-plus each way and focusing most of his energies on making a living.

The stress of his life hit him with a stroke in his early ‘40s.  Eventually, he recovered from the stroke.  But by his mid-40s, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, which was removed.  He quasi-recovered from the tumor, only to have a degenerative neuropathy of his brain.  His health steadily deteriorated for the next five years, until he passed away.  He was and still is a major motivating factor in my life.

One consequence of living lives of such plenty is the onset of diseases a healthier diet or more exercise could often help prevent.  Specifically, many diseases that adversely affect humankind later in life are diseases of brain (Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, etc).  So, if we can take steps to reduce the chances of these debilitating diseases – and research says we can – the time has come to take serious interest.

The human brain essentially needs two things to survive.  It needs a fuel supply and activation.  The fuel supply is largely oxygen.  Activation comes in many forms.  Think of it in terms of struggle.  Too much time on autopilot can lead to long-term issues.

Here are some suggestions of ways to put your brain in the right struggle and get it off the dangerous autopilot mode:

1.    Meditate.
Meditation has been shown to increase IQ and decrease stress.  Meditate 10 minutes a day.  No excuses.

2.    Listen to music or better yet learn to play music.
You are never to old to learn – and the particular struggle of learning an instrument is perfect for your brain.

3.    Exercise.
Walk. Bike. Swim.  Exercise increases oxygen.  Your brain loves oxygen.

4.    Change your environment.
It may seem counterintuitive, but look for ways to struggle a bit and challenge your brain. Take a different route to work.  If you usually go left, go right.  Do something different.  Change your routine.

5.    Think positive.
Research shows that positive thoughts and having a positive attitude increases your brain’s ability to function.  Negative thoughts actually slow your cognitive ability.

DAVID J. BARCZYK, D.C.
David J. Barczyk, D.C. is the Chief Executive Officer of ALL !N Wellness. He earned his Doctor of Chiropractic Degree in 1994 from Life Chiropractic College in Georgia and has a robust chiropractic practice that includes four locations across Southern Louisiana.

Dr. Barczyk has dedicated his adult life to living well and helping others do the same. His motivation stems from the sickness and early death of his father. His father’s death charged the writing Wellness Wake-up Call, which challenges readers to take ownership of their healthy diet and find the time to exercise four to five days a week.  He and his wife, Dr. Colleen Barczyk, motivate young people to stay fit by coaching a competitive swim team. They reside in Lafayette, Louisiana, and have two daughters who are competitive swimmers.

Resolve to Brush and Floss

So many New Year’s resolutions are tall orders: start a business, lose weight, check an item off your bucket list. Why not give yourself an easy resolution this year? Simply commit to flossing your teeth daily. It sounds funny, but humor can make the lifelong process of oral health a rewarding daily practice. It is essential to establish good daily dental practices that can lead to years of healthy teeth and gums.

smileAs we age, it is more important to take good care of our teeth when there are specific concerns and issues that can arise. For example, many medications can lead to dry mouth which can in turn to lead to faster gum recession which make teeth more susceptible to cavities. Daily brushing and flossing are important and senior dental services can make it easier to keep dental disease at bay. For people who cannot get to the dentist because of decreased mobility and chronic conditions, there are in home options to consider that address the specific dental conditions that come with age.

In home dental providers are available to fill this gap and treat the dental issues specific to this population. Make sure that you or a loved one receive the best in senior home dental care by reviewing this expert checklist:

1. Getting into a dentist’s office can be difficult for an elder adult. A mobile dental provider will bring the office directly to the patient’s familiar environment, easing any worries about making it to an appointment and sitting in the dentist’s chair.

2. Ask the visiting dentist if there are any affordable dental plans or specialized discounts to help the senior patient save money on dental treatments, procedures and services. Keep in mind that in some instances there might be a slightly higher cost for the convenience and comfort of a home visit from the dentist.

3. Verify that the dentist coming to your home has the latest training in geriatric dentistry and the latest tools to make the dental process easier and less painful.

4. Be sure to ask the dental care provider about issues affecting seniors like dry mouth, gingivitis, and cavities and have them educate you about unique conditions for older adults.

5. Whether you or a loved one is uninsured or under-insured, the home dental provider should be able to meet your need with no pre-existing condition exclusions.

Gabrielle Mahler, DMD, was trained at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. She went on to do her residency in the Advanced Education of General Dentistry at Columbia University. She has been providing mobile geriatric dentistry to the senior community for 8 years. The warm and loving manner with which she treats patients makes her a favorite practitioner among the families that she works with.

There’s An App For That

Even if you don’t use a smartphone, you have likely heard of “apps” by now. App is short for application, which is a self-contained program or piece of software on a smartphone to fulfill a specific purpose. There seems to be an app for everything imaginable these days—including caregiving.

We have selected a short list of caregiving-related apps for you to check out:

  1. caregiving-appsCalm down and check your heart rate with your phone. The Azumio Heart Rate app is free and available on iOS and Android. All you need is one finger and a few seconds to detect your pulse. The app makers note that this data is for recreation and fitness uses only.
  2. The American Heart Association has created Pocket First Aid & CPR app, which is credited with saving at least one life so far. This app includes videos and colorful illustrations to guide a user through life-saving instructions. Available for both Google Android and Apple iPhone.
  3. Stop stress before it starts with an app. Certified by The American Institute of Stress, the Stress Stopper Pro app from Stress is Gone LLC aims to stop stress before it starts—precisely three minutes before it starts. At one touch, users are reminded to breathe or laugh. Currently only available for iPhone.
  4. CaringBridge, the non-profit that allows users to set up their own websites to share photos and personal information with a select audience, has a smartphone app for Google Android or Apple iPhone.
  5. You don’t need a lot of expensive recording equipment to document Grandpa’s life story—just download the Record Their Stories app and start asking questions as your loved one answers right into the phone. Read more about this app in our related article on making life stories into gifts.
  6. Koi Pond from The Blimp Pilots is a game as well as a relaxation app, complete with a timer for snoozing (see our current article on the benefits of good sleep) while you listen to the gentle sounds of rippling water. Users can “feed” the fish and let the fish “nibble” their fingers. Currently only available for iPhone.
  7. Walking is beneficial for everything from weight loss to dementia. Check out MapMyWalk, which allows users to yes, map a walking route, and also set fitness goals, share with family and friends, record duration, speed, calories burned and more.

We’d love to hear about apps that you find useful or just plain fun too.

 

Heart Attack at 25: The Struggle of Getting Better

Guest Blog by Jeffrey Wolf, Content Writer for Homewatch International, Inc.

I was the youngest person there by at least 20 years, possibly by 40 – that’s what the nurses told me my third day in. At 25, I was among the youngest adult patients admitted to the cardiac wing of the hospital in a long time. A man in his 20s shouldn’t need cardiac care and shouldn’t have a heart attack. For several days, the doctors even danced around the term “heart attack,” saying they needed more tests to be sure.

But yes, I’d had a heart attack while lying on my bed reading the latest “Harry Potter” novel. I wasn’t your typical cardiac patient. I wasn’t an 80-year-old man in need of elder care, I wasn’t morbidly obese (although I was overweight), I didn’t have high blood pressure, and I didn’t smoke or take recreational drugs. My heart attack happened because I had a very rare illness as a baby called Kawasaki disease. I believe I was the 47th case in the country. In 50 percent of patients, Kawasaki causes cardiac problems later in life. So by the flip of a coin, my heart suddenly sped up on a July afternoon and I finished the new Harry Potter book that night in a hospital bed.

While I am decades younger than other cardiac patients, many things are the same. I take many of the same medications and I have an internal cardiac defibrillator (ICD) in my chest. The medications and my condition mean I have to eat a different diet. The blood thinners mean I can’t have too much vitamin K – the vitamin found in green, leafy vegetables. While I can eat asparagus, broccoli and spinach, I can’t overdo it. If I do, I get a splitting headache. It could also cause uncontrolled bleeding or even a stroke. It’s the same with alcohol, because that also manipulates what blood thinners do. While I miss having a drink with friends, the headache isn’t worth the booze.

Additionally, I have four stents in my heart. These little lattice-work cylinders keep an artery open and blood flowing properly. The blood thinners ensure the red blood cells don’t get caught and cause a blockage. I also take blood pressure medication, so I have to avoid foods high in salt. One of my favorite things to eat in the world is chips and salsa. But I don’t buy chips anymore because of the sodium. I sometimes indulge myself at Mexican restaurants, but I avoid the chip aisle at the grocery store.

When I got out of the hospital I went through cardiac rehab for several weeks. I wasn’t allowed to drive during that time, so friends and family drove me there three or four times a week. One time I took the bus. Several of the others in cardiac rehab also took public transportation, but I could tell it put stress on them. At the start of each class, old men surrounded me as technicians hooked up heart monitors to our chests. Then we’d exercise while they monitored us. Some of the men struggled and could barely go above a shuffle as we all built up our stamina. It wasn’t just the old men who had trouble. A heart attack, like any sort of heart disease, drains you. For weeks afterward I got tired very easily.

As we walked on our treadmills, the techs played videos about cardiac health, showing us what to do if something went wrong. Have nitroglycerin ready; make sure you take all your medications; eat well and exercise. It was stuff you always hear on TV, but now I was just like these old men, a very depressing realization. I found myself dwelling on the things I couldn’t do any more and the new limitations on my life because my body failed me. It didn’t help that some of the men in the class were on their second or even third time around. Is this what lay in store for me? I was only 25, not 85.

When you feel this way, you want to rely on friends and family, but the heart attack hurts them as well. My parents were fits of worry – my mom paced when I was around and my father couldn’t sleep. My friends shrugged awkwardly and didn’t know what to say. Many people around me treated me like glass.

I eventually got out of my funk and I am very happy now. The medications help keep me healthy and I exercise daily. But I still think about the old men who walked beside me on the treadmills. I was a young man and my friends weren’t 85 and sick like me. My family hadn’t moved out of town. What’s it like for the older heart patients who don’t have that type of support system? Now that I work for Homewatch CareGivers, I know that we can create a circle of support for those older people so they don’t have to recover alone.

A heart attack doesn’t stop when they stabilize your heartbeat in the emergency room. You always remember it and it changes how you live. You have a scar on your chest and a pill case in your pocket. You feel lonely, even if you have friends and family around who can help. But what if you don’t have that? It’s important to know there are trained caregivers who can help, giving you what you don’t even know you need. Seven years ago, my life changed on a Saturday in July when all I wanted to do was read how Harry Potter overcame his next challenge. It changes for heart patients every day, but it’s not something you have to face alone.

Jeffrey Wolf is the Content Writer for Homewatch International, Inc. in Denver, Colorado.

Donating Blood: The Habit of Helping People

For Christine Orr, it’s more than a habit. She’s done it for 37 years without being paid for it once. The most she gets is a drink and some cookies when she’s done, but she always leaves feeling good. She says she’s done something very special and it gives her a warm fuzzy feeling.

“To me, it’s a badge of honor,” she said. “Donating blood can be the best thing you can ever do for anybody, including yourself. It’s an experience that everyone should try. It’s like everyone should own a Volkswagen at least once in their life.”

Chris likes to donate blood (or plasma and platelets) every other week at the Bonfils Blood Center in Denver. She’s a United Airlines flight attendant and wants to reach her 60th gallon when she turns 60 in another year and a half. Since she began in 1976, she’s donated 448 pints of blood.

“They figure I’ve helped over 1,200 people, give or take one or two. I just know my blood is going to go somewhere where it’s needed,” she said.

January is Blood Donor Month and it brings attention to this much needed and easy-to-do service, even for older people. There is no age limit to donating blood – anyone who is healthy can do it. While there are certain conditions that keep people from being able to donate, most people can still donate safely. Often if they cannot donate “whole blood,” they can still donate plasma, platelets or white blood cells. People are allowed to donate up to 24 times a year, but must wait 56 days in between donations of whole blood.

When arriving at a blood donation center, people usually have to fill out a form that will tell the tech if the potential donor is eligible. Here are Bonfils’ pre-screening questions: http://bit.ly/Wjuny8. The questions help ensure the safety and quality of the blood supply. Certain medications and conditions affect blood in different ways. People exposed to possible infections or with other health conditions, like the chronic conditions that need elder home care services, aren’t able to donate, but that may not last forever.

While Chris was traveling in India, she was kidnapped and when she returned Bonfils told her she could not donate for a year.

“I was so upset. I didn’t even care about the kidnapping. I’d been donating for 20 years and if that ever happens again that I can’t donate, it is going to be tough. I’m just hoping that there’s never going to be that day,” she said.

Anyone with questions about their health before donating can also speak with a doctor ahead of time. Bonfils’ representatives can also answer many questions. Donating blood can also tell a person a great deal about their health. All the blood is tested before it is given to someone else.

“It made me think about my own health, to keep in shape, get my rest and try and eat better,” Chris said. “I love to ride my bicycle and I love to ski. Donating blood has been an eye opener to me to stay healthy. I just had a knee replacement and I couldn’t donate for a couple of months, but I’m back at it and I’m going to keep doing it as long as I can.”

While Chris usually doesn’t know where her blood goes or who it helps, she did get to meet one of her recipients several years ago. The family of the little boy getting the blood found out when she was going to be at the donation center and came to meet her.

“I was hooked up to a machine and it was pretty exciting. They could see who I was and they just wanted to say thank you. I was very touched because it just doesn’t happen that often,” she said.

Chris doesn’t necessarily need to know who she is helping – just that she is helping someone. That is why she thinks everyone should try it at least once.

“It’s a great feeling. I think that’s why I do it,” she said. “I always walk out feeling good that I’ve done something really special and kind of personal.”

To learn more about Bonfils, visit http://www.bonfils.org/. The American Red Cross also collects blood. To find a blood donation center in your area, visit http://www.redcrossblood.org/donating-blood.