Posts tagged ‘health’

Get On Your Feet…Get Up and Make it Happen!

Listening to NPR this week, I heard a story on the dangers of too much sitting,” Sitting All Day: Worse For You Than You Might Thinkthat reminded me of Baby Boomer, Gloria Estefan’s great song, Get On Your Feet.  So many of us have sedentary jobs and/or we come home from work (whether required to perform physical labor during the day or not) and then sit for the rest of the evening. Dr. Steven N. Blair, a professor of exercise science, epidemiology, and biostatistics at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health, has conducted research that shows that even individuals who exercise regularly during the week may be at greater for heart attacks than those that have less sedentary habits throughout the day.  Dr. Blair warns, “If you’re sitting, your muscles are not contracting, perhaps except to type.  But the big muscles, like in your legs and back, are sitting there pretty quietly.”  Dr. Blair goes on to say that such sedentary behavior can lead to slower metabolism and health problems.

Coincidentally, in the Sunday edition of the Los Angeles Times dated May 1, 2011, the Business Section included an ad supplement entitled, “Stress, Inc.” that emphasized the effect of jobs on one’s overall health, and how stress in particular can wreak havoc on our bodies resulting in headaches, back and neck pains, anxiety, lightheadedness, and a loss of sleep and energy. In the section on “Desk doldrums,” the article points out the health risks of workers whose jobs primarily require sitting in front of a computer monitor for most of the day.  For some, overcoming work related ailments requires employing some of the simple suggestions below.  Others may need to think about a career change that offers more physical movement.  You might wish to consult the Library’s copy of J. Michael Farr and Laurence Shatkin’s 175 Best Jobs Not Behind a Desk for advice on alternate career opportunities.

The NPR story also referenced Dr. Toni Yancey, professor and co-director of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity at the University of California, Los Angeles and author of the book, Instant Recess. Dr. Yancey advocates taking routine breaks during a full day of sitting.  Here are a few ideas she suggests to help break the sitting cycle:

  • Park further away from where you work, shop, study, play, and/or worship
  • Take the stairs instead of an elevator
  • Place printers a short distance away from work or study spaces
  • Fidget, stand up, and stretch at intervals during meetings
  • Take a 10 minute activity break at a scheduled time every day

There is a short video accompanying the story that demonstrates how to take some of the simple actions above.

In the Library world, most of us that work public service desks spend a great deal of time on our feet answering questions and directly interacting with the public. Getting up from behind a desk to show someone how to use a library resource or find their desired book, CD, or DVD is a common occurrence. However, after hearing the radio piece, I started thinking of other ways to force myself to get up and move about at my workplace, such as drinking at least 3-4 glasses of water per day. The drinking fountain requires a little trip from my desk and water is much more beneficial than loading up on coffee or soda, my typical guilty pleasures.  I also will be offering to deliver items to fellow workers that are located on another floor or in a nearby building.

In thinking about your workplace and daily activity level, what are some steps you might take to insure you are providing your body with needed movement and muscle tone?  Please share your ideas with our readers and comment below.

May 10, 2011 at 2:20 am 4 comments

How to be an Empowered Patient

Mick Jagger probably said it best, “What a drag it is getting old.” Eyesight gets blurry, knees go bad, back goes out, menopause hits…and let’s not forget hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, and a host of other chronic health problems. As we Baby Boomers age, we usually make more visits to the doctor. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, 57% of doctor visits were made by those 45 years old and over in 2008; that’s up from 49% in 1998. With life expectancy hovering at a little more than 80 years old for women and 75 years old for men, that’s a lot more doctor visits on our horizons.

Many Baby Boomers are also caring for their aging parents, who are living longer, too. It’s often up to Boomer sons and daughters to advocate for their parents’ care. Boomers are a generation known for questioning authority, and that nonconformist spirit shouldn’t stop at the doctor’s office. Marcus Welby, M.D. may have taught us “doctor knows best,” but Boomers need to empower themselves and their loved ones when it comes to health care.

The idea of patients taking control of their health care is catching on with the media. CNN Online has an Empowered Patient section by medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. The September issue of Scientific American featured an article on “The Rise of the Empowered Patient.” The basic message is that no one will look after the well-being of your family with more diligence than you.

So how do you become an empowered patient? Information is the key. Ask your doctor questions. Don’t know what questions to ask? Research health issues that are pertinent to you. Health information online is abundant, but may not be vetted thoroughly. An excellent place to start your information search is MedlinePlus, which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. MedlinePlus offers the latest health information, tutorials, directories, plus lots more.

And don’t forget that the Torrance Public Library has books on how to empower yourself as a patient:

Tell us your stories of how you were able to empower yourself or a loved one and receive better care.


November 5, 2010 at 4:32 am 1 comment

Conquer Your Inner Hoarder!

I’ve become fascinated with the hoarding shows on television. A&E offers Hoarders and TLC airs Hoarding: Buried Alive. The basic premise of both shows is that hoarding is a type of obsessive compulsive disorder whereby people become incapable of throwing out anything, and I mean anything: broken hangers, empty soda cans, and the hoarders’ classic, old newspapers. Their stuff has taken over their homes, their lives, and their relationships. The hoarders often fight their families, well-meaning organizers, and professional therapists about why they need to keep such items as a ceramic bunny that was bought five years ago and still has the sales tag on it.

Besides the television shows, the recent nonfiction book Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee uses case studies to explore the world of hoarders and tries to understand why more than six million Americans suffer from the disorder.

Why am I so fascinated with hoarding? It’s quite possible that these shows allow me to look around my home and think, “I’m not that bad…even though three loads of laundry need to be folded, and this morning’s dishes are still in the sink, and the pile of papers I need to shred date back to 1998.”

Boomers were born during one the greatest eras of prosperity in the history of the United States. Boomers were also the first generation to grow up with television, a great peddler of stuff; so we bought stuff…and lots of it, for example, McMansions, SUVs, and complete DVD sets of M*A*S*H. The late, great George Carlin even had a bit on what our stuff means to us.

Most of us aren’t classic hoarders but we certainly can use a little more organization in our lives. We posted about decluttering on the blog before, and maybe it’s time for a refresher. There are books available at the Library to help get yourself organized and finally get rid of that stuff:

Throw Out Fifty Things by Gail Blanke

Go Organize!: Conquer Clutter in 3 Simple Steps by Marilyn Boh

How to Cheat at Organizing: Quick, Clutter-Clobbering Ways to Simplify Your Life by Jeff Bredenberg

Clutter Busting: Letting Go Of What’s Holding You Back by Brooks Palmer

Kick the Clutter: Clear Out Excess Stuff Without Losing What You Love by Ellen Phillips

Are you ready to conquer your inner hoarder? What belongings are you ready to finally let go of? What organizing tips do you have for others? Leave us a comment and let us know!


October 26, 2010 at 10:36 pm Leave a comment

Eating to Sleep

I have often reflected on my inability to fall asleep and hoped that as I grew older I might fall prey to those little cat naps I often caught my parents indulging in.  No such luck for me and my insomnia has only gotten worse as I’ve aged.  In my Boomerhood, I have tried some of the typical remedies recommended by friends – aerobic exercise during the day (not shortly before going to bed), warm milk, decaffinated tea, and while it was in vogue, tryptophan.  None of these seem to affect me and as such, I read with great interest a recent article in the Washington Post, “More Foods Hinder Than Help Sleep,” by Jennifer LaRue Huget

Ms. Huget researched foods that might help individuals sleep better and rather than find that wonderous substance that might send me off to dreamland, I did learn what to avoid!

First and foremost, it seems I have to change my diet. Based on research conducted by Dr. Michael Grandner (University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Sleep and Respiratory Neurobiology), the biggest culprit associated with getting less sleep is fat. In tracking the diets and sleep habits of women enrolled in a 15-year study, the more fat the women ate, the less they slept. No more late night chocolate chip cookie binges, coffee cake, or ice cream for me! Another finding, if eating fat stops you from sleeping, being fat also affects your sleep. Grandner is quoted, “People who are obese sleep less and report that the sleep they get is not as good.” He relates this to the possibility that some obese individuals may have undiagnosed sleep apnea or that the hormones that control feelings of hunger and being full are disrupted when sleep is disrupted.

A few items to avoid:
• Caffeine
• Spicy foods
• Alcohol – it disrupts the sleep cycle by delaying the onset of and
   shortens REM sleep (restful sleep)

Another medical professional quoted in the article, Dr. Christine Gerbstadt, mentions that melatonin, a hormone that has sleep-inducing properties, is found in red and white wine, but rather than risk alcohol’s interference with restful REM sleep, one might benefit from eating red grapes with the skin on to get a little boost of melatonin.

Both doctors stress that foods such as milk and herbal tea may help by making one more relaxed, they are calming foods, and ingesting calming substances might enhance a person’s ability to fall asleep by reducing anxiety. However, Dr. Grandner says, “when it comes to calming foods, there are a number that may have calming effects, but honestly the evidence suggests that it is mostly placebo.” In other words, if you believe that having a warm glass of milk calms you down enough to go to sleep, you may just fall asleep!

In addition to eating or drinking recommended substances, I’ve tried other suggested methods to help myself fall asleep – read a boring book (my problem with this remedy – no book is boring to me!), listen to soothing music on a personal disc player or iPod (calming music makes me nervous), watch television, engage in a repetitive non-stressful task such as folding laundry, and most of the time I’m still wide-eyed and wondering if I’m ever going to fall asleep. Personally, deep breathing associated with yoga (pranayama) has helped to slow me down and get my mind to focus on something other than the problems of the day, what I want to accomplish tomorrow, etc. Practicing yoga breathing has allowed me to relax and while I may not fall asleep, at least I generally don’t become more anxious about my lack of sleep.

Working in a library certainly has its advantages and I have checked out several of our excellent collection of books on insomnia and sleep disorders. Here’s a small sampling of titles to get you started if you wish to do some reading on the subject:

Do you have trouble falling asleep?  Have you found any techniques or remedies that work for you?  Please post a note below and share your experiences!

August 26, 2010 at 6:42 am 6 comments

H.E.L.P. is on the way!

Do you have elderly parents, relatives, or friends that need assistance with planning for their future? Are you a “sandwich generation” Boomer seeking to help parents with their life needs? The Torrance Public Library is pleased to be hosting a series of life planning classes that will be provided by H.E.L.P. H.E.L.P. is a non-profit agency dedicated to empowering seniors, their families and caregivers to make wise choices. H.E.L.P. offers education and counseling programs focusing on elder care, law, finances, and consumer protection.

Beginning Wednesday August 4, 2010 and continuing on successive Wednesdays through September 15, 2010, individuals may attend classes on a variety of essential topics. Each two-hour session will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Class Dates and Topics:

August 4                Staying in Charge of Your Health Care and

August 11             Wills, Probate, and Probate-Avoiders

August 18             Trusts and Taxes

August 25             Elder Care and Residential Choices

September 1        Long Term Care Insurance: Pros and Cons

September 8        Medi-Cal for Nursing Home Care

September 15      Safe and Independent at Home

All classes will be held in the Katy Geissert Civic Center Library Community Meeting Room.  Classes are free; however, there is a suggested donation of $10.00 per person per class.  To reserve a spot, please call 310-533-1996.

August 2, 2010 at 4:26 am 5 comments

Bouncing Thoughts and Sharp Brains

As I go about my work day, my Boomer brain can become easily confounded by the many distractions and interruptions I encounter. I frequently find myself thinking, “What was I going to say?” or “What was I just about to do?” Such symptoms of bouncing thoughts are typical of many individuals as they age, and while the experience can be disconcerting and/or annoying, two recent stories overheard on National Public Radio helped to reassure me that I’m not necessarily in the beginning stages of dementia.

Morning Edition’s anchor, Renee Montagne, profiled a new book by Barbara Strauch, The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind. Ms. Strauch is the health and medical science editor at the New York Times and when she began her research, she hoped to determine what happens to the middle age brain that makes us so forgetful. Her definition of “grown-up” (people roughly between the ages of 40 and 65) closely aligns with the widely accepted notion of Baby Boomers (those individuals currently between the ages of 46-64).

Yes, one common indication of aging is becoming more forgetful; however, memory is comprised of different components and some parts of our memory, for example autobiographical details and habits remain strong throughout middle age. It is episodic memory (remembering things in context such as the name of someone you are talking to) and short-term memory that pose problems. As Ms. Strauch says, “It’s a retrieval issue. Those names are not really lost. They’re just kind of temporarily misplaced.”

While conceding that our brains do decline as we age, Ms. Strauch sites research that suggests that the middle-aged brain actually improves in a number of areas including inductive reasoning, verbal memory, and vocabulary. In addition, as we perform tasks and learn, white matter, which is composed of fat and coats the tails of brain cells, increases and brain signals move faster. In fact, Ms. Strauch says that white matter peaks in middle age and studies have shown across all occupations and ethnicities that as people reach middle age, a sense of well-being also peaks and an older brain can see connections and solve problems better than a younger brain!

Rather than recommending mild mental stimulation to keep your brain healthy, Ms. Strauch says that people may have to work harder than they anticipated. For example, doing crossword puzzles may not be enough anymore because when doing them, you’re retrieving information you already know. She contends that you have to push your brain very hard – make it not comfortable. Some research shows that talking with people who disagree with you is basically good for you since it helps you sharpen your own thinking.

So the next time you become distressed at not remembering a co-worker’s name or where you left you keys, forgive yourself and think about all those areas where we outshine our 20-year-old co-workers: in general we Boomers are better at getting the gist of arguments, better at recognizing categories, better at sizing up situations, better at making financial decisions, and better at social expertise (judging character). And don’t forget to challenge your brain – get out of your comfort zone. The Library has an incredible array of resources to help you do just that!

For more information on current brain research and health you may want to check out these titles:

Brain:The Complete Mind: How it Develops, How it Works, and How to Keep it Sharp by Michael S. Sweeney

Buddha’s Brain:The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love &Wisdom by Rick Hanson

Change Your Brain, Change Your Life by Danel G. Amen (book on CD)

Rewire Your Brain:Think Your Way to a Better Life by John B. Arden

The Scientific American Brave New Brain by Judith Horstman

Your Brain: A User’s Guide by Jeffrey Kluger

May 4, 2010 at 5:21 am 5 comments

The Aging Brain: Bad News/Good News

As a Boomer who loves to eat much and often, I have learned that if I don’t take to the treadmill most nights, I will suffer for it with reduced energy and mental lethargy for several days to come, to say nothing of the pounds I seem to acquire almost instantly.  The way in which my body has appeared to guide me on its own, I now discover is based on scientific fact.  In a radio piece entitled “The Aging Brain Is Less Quick, But More Shrewd” airing on March 1, 2010, National Public Radio (NPR) reporter Michelle Trudeau provided information about research on the aging brain.

Listen to the story from the link above to get all the facts but here are a few gems:

  • Bad news:  Reaction time is slower in the aging brain – it may take longer to learn or retrieve new information
  • Bad news:  Our ability to multi-task diminishes with age – we’re quick but we may be sloppy and make more errors!
  • Good news:  Complex reasoning skills improve
  • Good news:  Empathy (the ability to understand the emotional viewpoint and feelings of others) increases as we age
  • Good news:  The brain is always changing and is capable of brain cell growth in middle age and beyond

My favorite part of the story was Ms. Trudeau’s revelation that memory can improve with treadmill workouts.  Citing research conducted by neuroscientist Art Kramer (University of Illinois), Kramer found that “three days a week, working up to an hour a day, people improved in various aspects of both short-term and long-term memory.”  Following treadmill workouts, individuals were given brain scans and those who had trained on the treadmill had larger hippocampi, the key brain area for memory, as well as growth in other brain areas controlling decision making and planning.

While my rationale for walking exactly one hour has not been based on scientific knowledge or method (I watch DVDs when I walk and I can view at least one full TV episode of a favorite series each night), I was delighted to discover all the positive benefits of my treadmill regimen…and I can feel my hippocampus growing as I write!

NPR has recently featured other stories on brain research including an article broadcast February 22, 2010 that reported how scientists are working to understand what hormonal and physiological cues in the body lead the brain to respond to food emotionally.

I have no doubt my Boomer brain is best served by regular physical and mental exercise and I regularly turn to the Library to obtain the resources that help accomplish both. Good news: If you don’t have a library card, it takes only a few minutes to apply, and once a “member” of the library, you’ll have access to a wealth of resources to keep your aging brain young!

March 7, 2010 at 7:07 am 8 comments

Older Posts



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    Listening to NPR this week, I heard a story on the dangers of too much sitting,” Sitting All Day: Worse For You Than You Might Think” that reminded me of Baby Boomer, Gloria Estefan’s great song, Get On Your Feet.  So many of us have sedentary jobs and/or we come home from work (whether required […]
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  • How to be an Empowered Patient November 5, 2010
    Mick Jagger probably said it best, “What a drag it is getting old.” Eyesight gets blurry, knees go bad, back goes out, menopause hits…and let’s not forget hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, and a host of other chronic health problems. As we Baby Boomers age, we usually make more visits to the doctor. According to Centers for […]
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  • Conquer Your Inner Hoarder! October 26, 2010
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