10 Things You Can Do to Stay Out of a Nursing Home

Monday, 05 May 2014 04:44 PM

By Sylvia Booth Hubbard

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About 3.3 million Americans — 1 in 7 people ages 65 and older — live in nursing homes, and their numbers are projected to increase sharply as America ages. It's the last place most people want to spend their golden years: a study found that aging Americans feared losing their independence and moving to a nursing home more than they feared dying. How do you avoid a nursing home? "Avoid frailty," says nationally renowned wellness expert Dr. Erika Schwartz.
 
"Frail people are old people, and they break and get sick and belong in nursing homes," she tells Newsmax Health. Use Dr. Schwartz' tips to help avoid going to a nursing home by keeping your brain sharp and your body strong and healthy.
 
1. Exercise regularly. "Thirty minutes of exercise every day will keep you from becoming frail and your mind from getting senile," says Dr. Schwartz. Hundreds of studies have found that exercise fights heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, obesity, insomnia, depression, and can even give your sex life a boost. A study published in the British medical journal BMJ found that exercise can be as effective as drugs for many diseases of aging, including heart disease and diabetes.
 
Editor’s Note: Nursing Home Nightmare, 3 Ways to Live In Your Home Forever

2. Keep your weight in check. "Keeping your weight normal and your BMI less than 20 will help prevent you from getting old and sick," says Dr. Schwartz. A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society found that older women who were obese were at much greater risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, diabetes, depression, and cognitive impairment than women of normal weight. Other studies have shown that obesity increases the risk of frailty in both older men and women.
 
3. Get enough sleep. "Sleep between seven and nine hours a night," suggests Dr. Schwartz. A recent study from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia showed that people who usually slept less than six hours had a higher risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes. Researchers at Johns Hopkins found that not getting enough quality sleep is associated with the first signs of Alzheimer's disease. People who reported troubled sleep or sleeping less had higher levels of beta amyloid plaque in their brains.

4. Stay positive. A growing number of studies show that older people who feel good about aging are more likely to live longer, be healthier, and remain free of disabilities than those who hold negative stereotypes about growing older. Yale researchers found that positive thinkers lived an average of 7.6 years longer than those with negative feelings about aging, and were 44 percent more likely to recover from a severe disability.
 
5. Eat an alkaline diet. "Alkaline diets are anti-inflammatory and will help keep you in great shape and prevent diseases of aging," says Dr. Schwartz. Alkaline diets are believed to lower acid levels in the body and make bodily fluids more alkaline. They emphasize fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts,  and are low in meat, sugar, dairy, and most grains.
 
6. Manage stress. Stress in your life now can affect how well you age. A study published in the journal PLoS One found that stress shortened the end sections of DNA called telomeres. Shortened telomeres have been tied to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and Parkinson's. Studies have also shown that chronic stress contributes to the development of Alzheimer's. Identify your sources of stress and figure out ways to control it. For example, if your stress is caused by always saying "yes," learn to say no and reduce your commitments.
 
7. Read instead of watching television. "Reading keeps more of your senses involved," says Dr. Schwartz. "TV is a passive activity which makes us stupid and increases senility rates." A study which appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that people who spend long hours in front of the television had approximately a 2.5 higher risk of developing Alzheimer's than those who engaged in hobbies such as reading, playing musical instruments, and working crossword puzzles.
 
8. Eat fish. The American Heart Association recommends at least two servings a week of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to being heart healthy, a recent study from the University of South Dakota found that fish is good for your brain. Researchers found that postmenopausal women who had the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood had overall greater brain volume than women with the lowest levels, including the hippocampus, the area of the brain most affected by Alzheimer's. Dr. Schwartz warns to choose varieties low in mercury, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines.
 
9. Drink Water. "Drinking a lot of water is important," says Dr. Schwartz. Every system in your body needs water to function — carrying nutrients to cells and flushing out toxins. Most experts advise drinking eight 8 ounce glasses daily. But make sure the water you drink is free from contaminants. Filtered water is best, but if you drink tap water, use cold water and let it run at least a minute before using. About 15 percent of brain-destroying lead exposure in the United States comes from drinking water, and warm and hot water can contain higher levels of lead than cold. 
 
10. Take vitamins and supplements. Dr. Schwartz recommends the following daily vitamins and supplements "if you are looking to keep your energy high, boost your immune system, decrease inflammation, and support hormone production:"
 
• Vitamin C — 1,000 milligrams
• Vitamin B complex — 100 milligrams
• Coenzyme Q10 — 100 milligrams
• Omega-3 fish oils — 2,000 milligrams
• L-carnitine — 500-1,000 milligrams
 
Editor’s Note: Nursing Home Nightmare, 3 Ways to Live In Your Home Forever

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