Tag: preventative medicine

Single Baby Boomers Need a Goal

Single Baby Boomers Need a Goal

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary lists the synonyms of goal as “aim, ambition, aspiration, bourne (also bourn), design, dream, end, idea, ideal, intent, intention, mark, meaning, object, objective, plan, point, pretension, purpose, target…”  Your goal may change during different stages of your life and at times you may have more than one.  Your family, environment, job, health and religious beliefs can all influence what you consider your purpose in life.  You want to be true to yourself, but life has a way of interfering with your plans.  Perhaps you face a health issue and need to rethink your objectives for the future.  You can’t continue working or must rely on others for assistance after a life of independence.  You need to readjust your goals to fit in with your circumstances and ability to do what you need to do.  If you’ve been living life taking care of others, you may now need to focus on yourself.

 

Your physical, cognitive, and mental health depend on you having something to look forward to.  It doesn’t have to be a world-saving goal, just one that makes you get out of bed every morning and look forward to the day.  Some people make some sort of appointment or find an activity to get them out of the house.  If you’re still working and hate your job you may need something that gives you a lift each day like a walk at lunch time so you can enjoy the fresh air, relieve your stress and get some exercise.

 

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Your purpose needs to be something that will improve your life in some way.  It can still be helping other but you should get something out of it like a sense of pride or well-being.  These are intangible rewards and sometimes you need something tangible.  I plan trips to help me achieve my goal of visiting all of the places I want to see before travel becomes difficult.  It’s not the only goal I have in life, but when I’m feeling down or bored, it brightens my day.

Here’s how even this small goal benefits me.

  • It keeps my mind active by researching the places I want to visit, airfares, accommodations and things to see and do while I’m there.

 

  • I keep engaged with family and friends. Planning a trip to visit them is one way to accomplish this, but I also like to take them with me. Sometimes we stay at my timeshare and other times we take a tour or cruise.  When I have a question I can’t find an answer to on my own or want the opinion of someone else, I call someone I know who’s been there or used a service like Uber or Airbnb.

 

  • I also make new contacts when I ask for help or information. At the moment I’m planning a tour with a tour planner for a trip to England where some of my favorite mystery writers got their inspiration for such fascinating characters as Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, and Inspectors Morse and Lewis.  You can find out more about it on my Single Boomer Life Facebook Page.

 

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  • I develop new interests. Every time I start planning a trip I get side tracked while I’m doing research.  I try to keep my mind open to ways I can make the trip more interesting and I explore new areas I find on related websites.  The plan for the British mystery writers trip was born out of the desire to write a novel of my own, my love of British mystery novels and TV crime shows in addition to my desire to explore London, Oxford, Devon and Cornwall.  I was watching a video about Agatha Christie’s home when I found it was near Port Isaac, the setting of my favorite TV show Doc Martin.  I couldn’t find any tours that went everywhere I wanted to go and I wasn’t too keen on learning how to drive on the left side of the road, so I decided to plan one myself.  This opened up many new avenues to research.

 

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  • It keeps me positive and looking ahead to a bright future full of adventure.

 

  • When the time for the trip arrives I’ll have a sense of accomplishment from seeing my plan come together.  I’ll also get to meet new people and explore the places I’ve read about and seen on TV and in movies.

 

  • When I finish the trip I’ll have the memories of a new and exciting adventure. I feel experiences are more valuable to me than material goods.  They never go out of style or break. As Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

 

This is a short term goal, but it’ll keep me entertained and engaged for over a year.  In the meantime, I have goals I want to work toward in other areas such as finding my ancestors in Italy, spending more time with my grandchildren and getting healthy and fit.  My goals change often, but I make them attainable and if I tire of them or just cannot meet them, I move on.  I don’t want to wallow in the fact I didn’t achieve them.  I just make new ones.  I may come back to the old plans when the time is right, but I leave the door open to new ideas and dreams.

 

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Travel may not be your dream but you can apply this principal to any goal.  The point is to find what interests you and set a goal to achieve.  Give yourself a timeline and date of completion. It keeps you motivated and accountable.

 

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Continue the adventure!

 

Linda Lea

 

 

 

10 Reasons Why a Pet Can be Better Than a Spouse.

10 Reasons Why a Pet Can be Better Than a Spouse.

I was researching a blog on Elder Care when my cat jumped on the couch to drink from her cup.  She has to have her own or she’ll drink out of mine.  I knew writing about Elder Care wasn’t what I wanted to do on a beautiful day on the bay.  After my cat had her drink she left without any questions or requests so I could get on with my writing.  Would I have liked her to sit by me just for company? Sure, if she didn’t want to sit on my warm laptop while I was trying to write.  Is having her in my life the same as having a spouse?  No, but she gives me affection and attention without asking for much in return.  That may sound selfish but as we age we sometimes find we want to simplify our lives and spending time with a pet can be very rewarding for a number of reasons.   You may not agree with them all, but maybe a few will give you laugh.

  1. Pets can help you feel more connected.  A recent study at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University found that young people who had “strong attachment to pets reported feeling more connected to their communities and relationships.” According to survey results, it also made them more empathetic and confident.  It follows that this would apply to all ages and enhances all of your relationships whereas being married often isolates people who spend more time with their spouse than with others out in their community.pet healthy
  2. Pets can keep you healthy.   We all know the benefits of walking a dog but research has shown that owning a pet can also boost physical and mental health. A 2011 study in the “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology”, showed that “pet owners fared better, both in terms of well-being outcomes and individual differences than non-owners on several dimensions,”  According to researcher, Miami University’s Allen R. McConnell, Ph.D.,  “Specifically, pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extraverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners.”  Research often claims married people live longer healthier life, but in truth never marrieds have a longer life expectancy according to Bella DePaulo, PhD. an expert on singles.

 

 

  1. Just looking at your pet can make you feel happier.  A 2009 study by Miho Nagasawa of Azabu University in Japan found that one’s level of oxytocin (the neurohormone that elicits feelings of happiness) spiked after interacting with their dog even if they only stared into their dog’s eyes.  I know petting my cat makes me feel relaxed and just seeing my friend’s dog, Joy, makes me understand why she named her that.  Your spouse can raise your oxytocin levels too but rarely does a pet cause you the pain a person can trigger with just a disgusted look.

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  1. Pets can help you recover from a psychological crisis.  Support animals have been used to help soldiers with PTSD recover from the horrors and pain they endured on the battlefield.  Many other animals have been found to help their owners in similar ways with just their presence.  Animals trained to be Support Animals don’t lose their temper in a crowd or demand your attention when you might need to time for yourself to sort out your life.  They may not have a shoulder to lean on like a spouse but they can give you unconditional love and support whenever you need it just by always being there.

 

 

  1. Jealousy isn’t a problem.  She may sniff me when I get home, but my cat doesn’t care that I’ve been petting other cats or even a dog.  Other animals aren’t considered a threat to your relationship with your pet like other men or women with whom you might get romantically involved or just want as friends can be to your marriage.  Pets often let other animals share their home but few spouses would agree to that even if you wanted another one.

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Photo credit: russelljsmith via Visualhunt.com / CC BY

  1. They don’t care if you leave them home when you travel.  A pet may care until the pet sitter comes to feed and pet them but it’s not like leaving a spouse on their own.  There’s no silent treatment because they have to stay home.  Pets like to be home and aren’t worried if you’re having fun with someone else.  I do feel guilty at times but my pet is always happy to see me and doesn’t make me feel like I deserted her to enjoy myself while I go off alone or with my friends.  Some animals show their displeasure by making a mess while you’re gone but it’s a rare male spouse who cleans up after himself and few women don’t ask what you did when you were traveling without her.  You never have to explain anything to a pet.

I only want the ears.

Kevin and peeps

  1. Pets don’t care about what’s for dinner.  As long as she has food in her dish and a few treats on the side, my cat is happy.  She doesn’t care that it’s the same flavor every day or if it’s served at the perfect temperature and matched with the appropriate wine.  There’s no need to mix it up with a new recipe or take her out to eat.  She’s perfectly happy with whatever I choose to feed her and seldom begs for anything I eat so I don’t mind sharing every now and then.  If you’re the cook, can you say your spouse will accept this arrangement?

 

 

  1. You’re usually the one in control.  Now it’s been said cats don’t have owners they have staff but any well-trained pet is controllable.  People on the other hand fight to be the one in charge and resent you if you try.  You can always take a dog to obedience school but the only thing close for people is couples therapy and you can’t physically drag a spouse there.  Pets also don’t want control the TV remote.

 

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  1. They can protect you.  Your spouse can deter a mugger or burglar by their presence but well-trained pets are less expensive and don’t have the same sense of self-preservation.  Their first choice is usually to fight when their owner is threatened.  If you walk your dog in the park, it’s less likely you’ll be attacked.  A pet has excellent hearing and can hear sounds you might not, especially if you’re asleep.  They also have teeth and claws and aren’t afraid to use them to protect their families.  Their sensitive noses have been known to sense smoke and gas fumes before their humans and save lives.  They’ve even towed drowning people to shore.

 

 

 

  1. Pets don’t take your covers in bed.  Now it can be argued that even a small pet who sprawls out in your bed can take up more space than its share, but they rarely take the covers and their snoring is usually not that loud.  It’s a lot easier to toss them out of your bedroom than to do the same with a spouse.  Pets may not like it but they’ll forget about it in the morning when you feed or pet them.  Spouses aren’t so forgiving.

 

 

I know I’ll probably be accused of being cynical when it comes to relationships but I’m not a lonely single Baby Boomer living with a cat who will be found dead and gnawed on by my cat.  There are times when a pet can’t give a person the love they crave.  However, a pet will always love you no matter how you look or feel.  That’s not always easy to find in a spouse.  If you’ve found that special partner, you may have won the relationship lottery.  For the rest of us who have either chosen to live alone or live that way through no choice of our own, there are our sweet, lovable pets.

 

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If you have a picture of your special pets, please post it here or on my Facebook page, Single Boomer Life, so we can all enjoy it.

 

Continue the adventure!

 

Linda Lea

Are Single or Married Baby Boomers More Likely to Suffer From Depression?

Are Single or Married Baby Boomers More Likely to Suffer From Depression?

Photo credit: GollyGforce – Living My Worst Nightmare via Visualhunt / CC BY

 

There’s been much discussion and many surveys done on how marriage affects the health of Baby Boomers. Depending on the source and the spin put on it, the results vary.  Earlier studies appear to suggest that marrieds are the healthiest, especially the men, but current research could be reversing that finding.  With more Baby Boomer widows and divorcees choosing to stay single, many women report being happier with their single state and the freedom that comes with it.  Whenever the subject of getting married comes up, my single female friends who are single Baby Boomers say they would never get married again.  The majority of the single men I talk to are open to another relationship, but there are always those who do well on their own and prefer it remains that way.  Widowers who have been in a fulfilling relationship are often the ones who want to remarry.  So does the freedom to make choices on their own about how they live their life, perhaps for the first time, make single Baby Boomers happy and less susceptible to depression or depressed because they live their life alone?

 

Depression affects your well-being just like any physiological ailment, but the studies on the health of marrieds vs. singles usually don’t address that aspect of health.   According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. It’s a leading cause of disability. “What Is Depression?” at https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/depression reports that depression is an illness that interferes with concentration, motivation and many other aspects of everyday functioning. “It is a complex disorder, involving many systems of the body, including the immune system, either as cause or effect. It disrupts sleep, and it interferes with appetite, in some cases causing weight loss, in others weight gain. Because of its complexity, a full understanding of depression has been elusive.”

 

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There’s some evidence that depression is related to diet, both directly through the nutrients we consume, such as omega-3 fats and indirectly, through the composition of the bacteria in the gut.  It causes pain for those with the disorder and those who care about them.

 

Depression isn’t an occasional blue mood.  It’s a pervasive experience of repetitive negative rumination, bleak outlook, and lack of energy. It’s not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed away.  There’s some evidence it serves a positive purpose, bringing with it ways of thinking that force people to focus on problems and motivate them to seek help to solve them.

 

Even the most severe cases of depression are cyclical and early treatment may prevent or forestall recurrent episodes. Studies show that the most effective treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy.  It addresses problematic thought patterns.  It can be used with or without the use of antidepressant drugs. In addition, the evidence currently shows that regular mindfulness meditation, alone or combined with cognitive therapy, can stop depression at its onset by disengaging attention from the repetitive negative thoughts that often set in motion the downward spiral of mood.

 

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Photo credit: darkwood67 via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

So are single Baby Boomers more susceptible to depression?  If you just look at studies done on the benefits of marriage to your health without taking a close look at the statistics, you’ll believe the hype.  But as Bella DePaulo cites in her book, Singles Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, these studies don’t take into account the statistics that show never married people have a lower incident of health issues than their married friends.

 

Two articles on the Livestrong.com website state “The World Health Organization says single and divorced people have an overall two to four times greater rate of depression, with men facing a higher risk than women.” Then another article cites the American Psychological Association report that says  “. . . married women are actually more stressed than single women.”  Who can we believe?  If you’re single or married and are predisposed to depression, then you can have a problem any time you have an event in your life that causes you distress.  The death of a loved one and divorce often top the list, but other things such as a move, the loss of a job or even changing jobs can cause a chemical imbalance in our bodies and push us into a depressive state.

 

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You also need to take into account all of the causes of stress in your life.  If you decided to remain single and childless, you take a factor of stress and possible depression out of your life, children.  Yes, the little darlings can give you moments of unbounded joy and may take care of you in your old age, but there are no guarantees.  Even the sweetest child can be a source of stress for their parents.  All children can have health, emotional, substance abuse or learning problems, hang with the wrong crowd or dislike the way you choose to spend your life, your friends or partner because it affects their life.

 

Singles have been accused of having attachment issues which can be caused by unresolved childhood attachment issues that “leave an adult vulnerable to difficulties in forming secure adult relationships” according to Evergreen Consultants in Human Behavior.  They also posit that “There is a strong correlation between insecure adult attachment and marital dissatisfaction and negative marital interactions.” Although this is a legitimate psychological disorder, can the decision to remain single be considered a psychological problem?  Singles can form an attachment to family members and friends.  These secure relationships can be as rewarding and healthy as the attachments you form with a spouse.

 

It’s time to quit apologizing and worrying about what people think about you being single. I’m not advising you to keep away from all relationships that cause you stress, just suggesting that you look for the warning signs of stressful situations that could possibly overwhelm you and cause depression.  A dating site called Depression Dating matches members with other people who are suffering from depression and takes advantage of the depressed and lonely.  No one needs friends like those.

 

Continue the adventure!

 

Linda Lea

Don't Suffer From Jet Lag Single Baby Boomers

Don't Suffer From Jet Lag Single Baby Boomers

Photo credit: OneEighteen via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC

Many single Baby Boomers crave new experiences.  Travel can offer excitement and intellectual stimulation so they don’t lose their edge.  Why do we need to keep our edge, the qualities or skills that made us successful in the past, you may ask?  Well, we’re on our own most of the time so we have to rely on our wits both at home and when we’re out of our hood.  Part of not losing your edge is remaining alert at all times.  Navigating in a new place where they speak your language can even be difficult sometimes, but in a foreign country, it can be tricky. You don’t want to wander into the bad part of town and become a victim of a pickpocket or mugger.  I can read a map on the ground or in the air but when I’m at the controls of a car or plane it’s easier to have a navigator.  If you don’t have the human kind then a GPS is a lifesaver.  Suffice to say, it’s easier to make mistakes when you’re on your own or jet lagged.

 

When I was younger, I never traveled more than 2 time zones away from home.  As I was able to take more time off, the world became my oyster.  Not just the time zones crossed makes you tired, but age can make it harder to adjust to the time of day at your destination.  If you’re taking a trip overseas, you often depart at night and arrive in the morning.  If you have to make connections, you may need to start in the morning on the day of your departure.  The last time I went overseas I was up 40 hours because I couldn’t sleep on the plane.  I got up at 3 am and made 3 connections.  By the time I got home I was happy that my friends met me because I could’ve been a threat to myself and other drivers.

 

In the article “How to Cope With Jet Lag”, at http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/jet-lag-remedies#1, Camille Peri tells us “Jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder, but not temporary enough for many travelers . . . If you’re an older adult, jet lag may hit you harder and recovery may take longer.”  If you’re flying from L.A. to Rome for a 10-day trip, it could take 6 to 9 days to fully recover. It can take up to a day for each time zone crossed for your body to adjust to the local time. On the return trip jet lag could last four to five days – around half the number of time zones crossed since jet lag is generally worse when you “lose time” traveling west to east.

 

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Rapid travel throws off our circadian rhythm, the biological clock that helps control our wake and sleep cycles.  “Cues such as light exposure, mealtimes, social engagement, and activities regulate our circadian rhythm,” says Allison T. Siebern, Ph.D. a fellow in the Insomnia and Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Stanford University Sleep Medicine Center. “When you cross time zones, it disrupts those, and your internal clock and the external time are desynchronized. Your body needs to get on the rhythm of the new time zone.”  There are other aspects of air travel that can aggravate the problem. A 2007 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that air cabins pressurized to 8,000 feet lower oxygen in the blood, making you feel uncomfortable and dehydrated. Also, people don’t move or walk as much as on an airplane. “These can increase symptoms of jet lag and further disrupt your circadian rhythm from re-synchronizing,” says Siebern.

These are the symptoms of jet lag.

  • disturbed sleep pattern
  • indigestion
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • loss of appetite
  • difficulty concentrating
  • feeling disorientated
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • memory problems
  • clumsiness
  • lack of energy
  • lightheadedness
  • confusion
  • headaches
  • sweating
  • muscle soreness
  • irregular periods in women who travel frequently
  • generally feeling unwell

 

So what can the single Baby Boomer traveler do to combat the onslaught of jet lag and be able to enjoy their trip as soon as possible?

  • Simulate your new schedule before you leave – “When traveling east, start moving your bedtime earlier,” says Avelino Verceles, MD, assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of the school’s sleep medicine fellowship. “Shift it a half-hour earlier each night for several nights before you leave.” When traveling west, do the opposite.  Also, try moving your mealtimes closer to when you’ll be taking them at your destination.

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  • Adapt to your new schedule while in flight – Change your watch to the time at your destination when you get on the plane. “This is mostly psychological,” says Siebern, “but it helps you get into the mind-set of what you’ll be doing in the place where you’re going.” Try to sleep on the plane if it’s night where you’re going or stay awake if it’s daytime.  “It can be difficult to force yourself to sleep and that can cause frustration, which can then prevent sleep,” says Siebern. “If that happens, just try to rest as much as possible.”

 

  • Eat sensibly – Don’t eat a high carb or fatty diet close to bedtime because that can be disruptive to sleep.

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  • Stay hydrated – Drink water before, during and after your flight. Avoid alcohol or caffeine altogether or a few hours before you plan to sleep as they can disrupt sleep and cause dehydration.

 

  • Move around – Walk around when possible, do some static exercises, and stretch. After you land, avoid heavy exercise near bedtime as it can delay sleep.

 

  • Use sleep aids – See the ones I discussed in a previous blog at https://singleboomerlife.com/single-baby-boomers-need-their-zzzzs/ such as blue light blocking glasses, silicone earplugs, lavender, and melatonin. You might also try noise canceling headphones, an eye mask, slippers, loose fitting clothes, a travel pillow, and a coat or wrap to use as a blanket.  The ones the airlines give you aren’t always cleaned.  Book the seat that works best for you for sleeping and allows you to move around in flight.

 

  • Arrive early – If you need to be at top of your game for an event at your destination try to arrive a few days early, so your mind and body can adjust.

 

 

  • Try natural light therapy – Upon arrival at your destination remember that exposure to sunlight helps regulate your circadian rhythms. On westward flights, get bright morning light and avoid afternoon and evening light exposure.  On eastward flights, avoid early morning light and walk in the sunlight in the afternoon and early evening. Light helps shift your body’s circadian clock so that you feel rested and wake at appropriate times at your destination.

 

  • Exercise – Take a walk and enjoy the new scenery or hit the gym to get more energy for your day and to limber up those travel weary muscles. You can also bring along a stretchy band for resistance training.  Pack a tennis ball or other small self-massage tools for myofascial pain. See suggestions for these at https://www.painscience.com/articles/tennis-ball.php.  You can roll away your travel pains while lying on the floor watching TV or listening to music.  They work best on your back and hips, but your feet and hands can also benefit from a quick massage.

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  • Take a hot bath before bedtime – It can ease sore muscles from travel and help you relax. The drop in your body temperature when you get out of a bath can also make you sleepy.

 

Jet lag is often a temporary problem, but if these strategies don’t work for you, your doctor may prescribe or suggest temporary medication to help you sleep or stay alert, if necessary.  If you fly often and jet lag is a problem, consider seeing a sleep specialist.  See http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/jet-lag-remedies#1for and http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Jet-lag/Pages/Introduction.aspx  for more information.

 

Single Baby Boomers, don’t let fear of jet lag keep you from taking the journeys you’ve been waiting to experience.  You’ve worked too long and too hard to have the time and money to be able to check your dream destinations off of your travel bucket list.  You’ll have to power through for a few days, but in the end, you’ll recover and regain your usual energy.  I snorkeled the Outer Great Barrier Reef with jet lag and it was one the most fantastic experiences of my life.  I was so mellow that when a fellow traveler told me that a shark swam right by me, I was thrilled and continued to swim until the horn sounded signaling that I had to get out to catch the boat back to Cairns.

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You can sleep when you get home, so if you work plan to return at least a couple of days before you have to be back on the job.  Don’t get off a plane and go to work.  You may fall asleep at your desk like I did when I was much younger.  Those red eye champagne flights that Northwest Airlines had back in the 70s were too much of a good thing.

 

Continue the adventure!

 

Linda Lea

 

 

 

 

 

 

Single Baby Boomers Need Their ZZZs

Single Baby Boomers Need Their ZZZs

Photo credit: Mary Lee Hahn via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Getting to sleep and staying asleep can become a problem for single Baby Boomers.  The same worries that kept us awake when we were younger, work, family and the state of the world may still be on our mind.  Even if you’re retired and work problems are no longer a concern, you find new things to fret about.  Whether you’re a man or woman, you have to deal with hormonal changes that affect your sleep and sometimes sleep apnea.  I swore when I retired I wouldn’t get up early anymore unless I wanted to do something fun.  I plan my appointments, travel plans, and social events for the afternoon whenever I can.  Watching late night shows has become a ritual and luxuriating in my comfy bed as long as I want is wonderful, but I still have trouble getting to sleep and with waking up for extended periods at night without an OTC sleep aid.

 

I know I’m not alone because my friends complain about it too.  I live in an apartment with thin walls so I can hear the neighbors preparing for bed and trucks revving their engines in the parking lot.  I use silicone ear plugs, lavender aromatherapy, listen to relaxing audio tapes or a white noise machine to help me sleep.  Sometimes these work and then there are times when I can’t turn my brain off so I get up and wander through my apartment.  I know I shouldn’t watch TV or spend time on my computer near bedtime, but I succumb to their lure.  Perhaps it’s time to have a better plan.

 

According to an article on the website healthy aging for woman baby boomers.com, studies have shown our “sleep efficiency declines as we get older.”  We often suffer from more aches and pains so we spend less time in deep sleep and are more prone to wake up in the middle of the night. Even though we spend the same amount of time in bed, we’re getting less restful sleep.  We still need the same amount of sleep as we did when we were young so we suffer from moodiness, slower reaction times, memory loss, difficulty solving simple problems, a decline in our strength and coordination and a weakening of our immune system.   Long-term sleep deprivation is even linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, weight gain and Alzheimer’s.

 

In one of my blogs, https://singleboomerlife.com/can-sleep-help-us-age-gracefully/, I gave you suggestions that can help you get a good night’s sleep.  Here are a few more you might find helpful.

A Healthy Sleep Routine

  • Set an ideal bedtime and stick to it.
  • Decide when you want or need to get up. Make sure you have time to get ready and eat a healthy breakfast before you start whatever you need to do in the morning whether it’s at work or home.
  • Have dinner 3 or more hours before bedtime.
  • Finish your evening events at least a half an hour before bed so you can start your bedtime routine.
  • Then hit the sack 8 hours or more before you plan to wake up.

 

You need to find what types of activities turn off your brain and make you feel sleepy through trial and error.  It could be reading, meditating or some of the methods I use.  Avoid drinking too much water or eating before bedtime.  In the morning get out in the sunlight as soon as you can and get another dose of sun at midday.  Avoid long naps, however, a short power nap may give you extra energy so you don’t fall asleep at work or in front of the TV.  Exercise, avoid caffeine after noon and don’t overindulge in alcohol at dinner.  With this healthy schedule, you should be able to get a good night’s sleep.

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Photo credit: Sean MacEntee via VisualHunt / CC BY

Blue Light Blocking Glasses

On January 5th, 2016, Sue Byrne in her article “3 Blue Blockers Put to the Test, light from smart gadgets can keep you awake, but these eyeglasses are meant to guard against that” at http://www.consumerreports.org/eyeglass-stores/3-blue-blockers-put-to-the-test/ reported that LED screens expose us to high levels of blue light.  “Exposure to high levels of that light close to bedtime can suppress the production of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin by the brain’s pineal gland,” says Charles Czeisler, M.D., chief of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.  Experts advise it’s best to avoid using all backlit screens like an LCD TV, computer or smartphone 2 or 3 hours before bedtime.

 

If you can’t or won’t unplug before you hit the hay, several companies offer blue light blockers, glasses that filter out the wavelengths in the blue part of the spectrum.  More research needs to be done to assess their ability to accomplish this, but according to reviews on Amazon.com, people who used them found they can fall and stay asleep easier.  Consumer Reports tested 3 pairs of glasses in their labs for their ability to block blue light by measuring light intensity at all wavelengths to find out how much each lens absorbed. Only one, the Uvex Skyper safety eyewear (orange tinted), which currently is on Amazon.com, for under $8 cut out almost all blue light.  “The Gunnar Intercept gaming glasses (medium yellow), $53, cut blue light by about half, and the Spektrum Pro Blue Light Blocking Glasses (light yellow), $40, cut it by only about a third.”  They noted that “none of the blue blockers claim to be medical devices (intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of a disease or condition) and aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.”  I ordered the Uvex Safety Eyewear and have used them for a few nights.  They aren’t stylish, but they’re light-weight and fit over my glasses.

safety glasses

Set Your Thermostat Lower

A current study said that temperature may have more effect than light on getting a longer, deeper sleep.  Dr. Natalie Azar, an NBC Medical Contributor, shared the current medical research that says to sleep in a room that is between 60-65 degrees at http://www.today.com/video/whats-the-best-temperature-for-sleep-and-should-you-wear-socks-630281795901 .  Since this may seem cold, she suggests using blankets and socks.  The socks will help the blood vessels in the feet open up so your core temperature drops and blood circulation goes to the feet.

 

The 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise

This exercise also called “The Relaxing Breath,” reportedly promotes better sleep. Based on pranayama, an ancient Indian practice that means “regulation of breath” it is described by Weil Andrew Weil, M.D., a leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine as “a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system” that eases the body into a state of calmness and relaxation.  Kevin Meehan, a holistic practitioner and founder of Meehan Formulations in Jackson, WY says this breathing technique could be effective because it encourages the fast removal of carbon dioxide. “Doing so equates into a better preservation of the bicarbonate pool; our reservoirs for helping maintain an appropriate pH balance”

 

Weil’s technique is simple and quick. You can do the exercise in any position, but it’s recommended to sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Weil says “place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.” Then follow these steps.

  1. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  2. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  4. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
  5. Inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

Weil emphasizes the most important part of this process is holding your breath for eight seconds. This is because keeping your breath in will allow oxygen to fill your lungs and then circulate throughout the body. That’s what produces a relaxing effect in the body.  You need to practice this twice a day over two months to perfect the technique until you can fall asleep in a minute. Once mastered, it’ll become more and more effective and can also help you deal with anxiety and stress during the day.  I tried and it makes me yawn and seems to make me sleepy.  Let me know how it works for you.

 

To find out if you have a sleep disorder, take the quiz at http://claytonsleep.com/adult-sleep-quiz-do-i-have-a-sleep-disorder/.

 

I was about to post this blog when I saw a report on OTC sleep medications that cited a 2015 Consumer Reports survey of 4,023 adults that found that out of the 20% of the people who took an OTC medication within the past year, 18% said they took it on a daily basis and 41% used the drugs for a year or longer.

 

 

The main ingredient, diphenhydramine, can cause constipation, confusion, dizziness, and next-day drowsiness, according to the drug’s FDA labeling. It can also cause the “hangover effect” with impaired balance, coordination, and driving performance the next day.  A January 2015 study in JAMA Internal Medicine said, “the frequent, long-term use of first-generation antihistamines, including diphenhydramine, was linked to an increased risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.”  Carl W. Bazil, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Epilepsy and Sleep Division at Columbia University’s Department of Neurology said, “The pills are not ‘addictive’ in the physical sense, but there can certainly be a risk for a psychological dependency.”  Sometimes I wonder if everything causes Alzheimer’s disease.  Single Baby Boomers, especially those without a family, worry about what will happen to them if they need help in their old age.

 

Melatonin, a hormone found naturally in the body, regulates sleep-wake cycles. If you have trouble sleeping you may have low levels of melatonin. It’s thought that adding melatonin from supplements might help you sleep.  WebMD says it’s a safe long-term, but has a list of side effects and precautions.  It doesn’t help me as much as the OTC pills do, but you need to make up your own mind.

sleep2

So this week I gave up the pills and used some other techniques.  The first night I slept 7 hours.  The next night I fell asleep, woke up and was up for 3 hours, so I read and then watched an old TV show while wearing my blue light blocking glasses until I fell asleep.  The third night I was really tired but couldn’t sleep, so in the middle of the night I took 5 ml. of melatonin and went to sleep.  The next night I took another pill and slept even better.  Last night I didn’t take any medication and slept 6 hours.  My study of the techniques in this blog wasn’t very scientific since I was using them all at the same time and I quit using my usual OTC sleeping pills.  You may want to try them one at a time and see which one or ones help the most.

 

We spend about one-third of our lives sleeping.  During sleep, our body heals, restores energy, the brain organizes information, solves problems and exchanges chemicals.  Single Baby Boomers are responsible for a great deal in their everyday lives.  We need to be alert.  No one is going to take care of us.  Don’t deprive yourself of something that can do so much good for your health.  Make sure your nights are truly restful.

 

Continue the adventure!

Linda Lea

Single Baby Boomers Sometimes Need a Little Help from their Friends

Single Baby Boomers Sometimes Need a Little Help from their Friends

Photo credit: KOMUnews via Visual Hunt / CC BY

Single Baby Boomers as a whole are fiercely independent.  We want to enjoy our family and friends and not burden them with our problems.  During quiet moments, we may think about what would happen to us if we had an accident or other health problem, but we don’t dwell on it or develop a plan.  We know we may need a ride after a medical procedure, so we plan for that, but there are times when our needs are unexpected.

 

Most of us list our relatives as emergency contacts even if they live on the other side of the country.  We don’t consider that they don’t know anyone who lives near us who could offer help in our time of need.  We have a contact list on our phones full of people we know, but will medical personnel call anyone even if they have and ICE-in case of emergency-notation by their name?  I found I can communicate quite well and not remember anything later when I’m in pain so no one was called when I had a medical emergency and I was on my own in the emergency room.  If this has ever happened to you, you know when you do have your wits about you, having a blank space in several days in disquieting and downright scary.

 

If you’re like me, you don’t want anyone to have to take time out of their day to wait with you in the emergency room, so you send them away.  They try to check on you, but if you’ve left the hospital, don’t answer your phone or give them a key, how can they? They figure you’re asleep and doing well so they can call the next day.  Yes, they care, but you’ve made it quite clear you can take care of yourself.  Single Baby Boomers or singles of any age need to be able to accept another’s help without feeling they’re imposing.  There will come a day when your friends need your help and you’ll be there to give it as graciously as they did. Give at least one friend your key.  You can help them out by keeping theirs to use in case of emergency.

key

Photo credit: Visual hunt

Here are some tips on how to plan for emergencies when you’re alone anytime or anywhere.  Gather the following information and keep it handy:

Names of your emergency contacts – It’s not enough to have them in your phone, keep them with your driver’s license or passport in your wallet, purse or a passport holder you wear around your neck for safe keeping.

 

Names and contact information of your doctors – If you don’t have anything else, this may be the most important piece of information because chances are good your doctors can provide the information needed as well as more details about your health history.

 

Birth date – Often medical records and insurance information are cataloged according to birth date. This can improve communication in an emergency or a crisis.

 

List of allergies – This is important if you have an allergy to certain medications or things, such as nuts or shellfish.

 

Blood type – You may need a blood transfusion.

 

Major medical problems – This includes such diseases as diabetes or heart disease.

 

List of medications – It’s vital a doctor know if you use blood thinners.

 

Cultural concerns / Religious beliefs – This is important if beliefs might impact care.

 

Insurance information – This includes Medicare, MassHealth (Medicaid) and third party coverage. You should know the name of the coverage and policy number.

 

Prior surgery – List past medical procedures such as cardiac bypass surgery.

 

Lifestyle information – Do you drink alcohol or use tobacco?

 

Assistive equipment – Do you use a cane, wheelchair, hearing aid, false teeth or other durable equipment?

 

Health care proxy – Designate another person to act as your patient’s health care agent with the authority to make all health care decisions for you should you become unable to make or communicate those decisions.

~adapted from Mayo Clinic Senior Health

jetlag 8

You’ll also need to be prepared when you travel.  Don’t be like me and just take off without informing anyone when and where you’re going.  Plan ahead with the tips listed above and some additional information.

 

Enroll with the State Department – If you’re going out of the country go to https://step.state.gov/step/ and enroll your information when traveling abroad so in case of emergency your emergency contacts will be alerted.

 

Carry and share your itinerary – Carry and give your travel itinerary and contact information to your emergency contacts.  If there’s a disaster in the area where you’re traveling or with your transportation, they can find out if you’re safe or be able to come to your aid.

 

Vaccinations – Make sure to be current on the vaccinations needed for the area of the world where you’re traveling. Some countries require foreign visitors to carry an International Certificate of Vaccination (aka Yellow Card) or other proof they have had certain inoculations or medical tests before entering or transiting their country. Before you travel, check the Country Specific Information on the https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/go/health.html and contact the foreign embassy of the country to be visited or transited through for current entry requirements.

 

Insurance – Confirm your medical insurance covers you everywhere you travel or buy travel insurance.  There are many companies on the internet offering policies for travelers and ex-pats.  Remember there’s a difference between travel insurance and medical travel insurance.

 

Medications – Keep your medications in your carry-on in their original bottles.  If you need refills or think there may be questions, have the prescription and a note from your doctor verifying you need the medication.  Check to see if any of your prescriptions are illegal in the country you’re visiting.

 

Traveling with Disabilities – Before you travel visit https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country.html and enter a country or area to find information for mobility-impaired travelers in the Special Laws & Circumstances section. Many countries do not legally require accommodations like the U.S.  It contains information on service animals, electrical information, the availability of assistive equipment and many other issues you may encounter.

 

This information can be entered on a spreadsheet or word document so it can be changed and will be easier to carry in your purse or wallet.

 

We don’t want to think anything will ever happen to us, but one day it will.  It may not happen until you’re older and grayer, but it’s smart to have a plan.  You’ve all the information you need.  You just need to organize it and keep it with you.  Your life could depend on it.

 

Continue the adventure!

Linda Lea

 

 

STDs and the Single Baby Boomer

My last blog was meant to be informational and not to ruin your sex life, but I hope you single Baby Boomers heeded the warning.  Here are more health concerns for you to think about, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C.

HIV/AIDS

In 2014 people aged 50 and over accounted for 17% (7,391) of an estimated 44,073 HIV diagnoses in the United States. The largest number of the 7,391 infected, 44%, was in the 50-54 age group.  African Americans in that group accounted for an estimated 43%, whites 37%, and Hispanics/Latinos 16%.  Among people aged 50 and over, 40% were diagnosed with AIDS at the time of HIV diagnosis since they were diagnosed late in the course of the infection.

Source: CDC. Diagnoses of HIV infection in the United States and dependent areas, 2014. HIV Surveillance Report 2015;26.

hiv

 

Older people in the U.S. are more likely than younger people to be diagnosed after the infection has progressed resulting in treatment starting later and the possibility or more immune-system damage.  Late diagnoses occur when health care providers don’t test older patients for the HIV infection, older people don’t consider themselves to be at risk or mistake HIV symptoms for those of normal aging.

 

 

Studies show that many Baby Boomers infected with the virus decades ago, do not perceive they are at risk, and have never been screened.  Since single Baby Boomers and those older are sexually active, including those living with HIV, they have the same HIV risk factors as younger people.  They also may lack of knowledge about HIV and how to prevent it.  Older people also face some unique issues.  Women no longer worry about becoming pregnant and are less likely to use a condom and to practice safe sex.  As with all STD’s, age-related thinning and dryness of vaginal tissue raises their risk for HIV infection.  Although they visit doctors more frequently, they’re less likely than younger people to discuss their sexual habits or drug use with them.  Doctors often don’t ask older patients about these issues.  Since single Baby Boomers may already face isolation due to illness or loss of family and friends, the stigma of having HIV/AIDS may negatively affect people’s quality of life, self-image, and behaviors and prevent them from seeking HIV care and disclosing their HIV status.

 

 

Aging with HIV presents special challenges for preventing other diseases because both age and HIV increase the risk for cardiovascular disease, low bone density, and certain cancers.  Older HIV patients and their physicians need to maximize prevention efforts against these conditions, remain vigilant for early signs of illness, and be careful about interactions between HIV medications and those used to treat common age-related conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, elevated cholesterol, and obesity.

 

 

The CDC and its partners are working to advance the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, maximize the effectiveness of current HIV prevention methods, and improve surveillance among older people in the U.S.  This will be accomplished through support and technical assistance to health departments and community-based organizations to deliver effective evidence-based prevention for antiretroviral therapy adherence for older Americans.  Starting in 2012 the CDC awarded at least $330 million to health departments each year.  In 2015 $343.7 million was given to direct resources to the populations and geographic areas of greatest need and to prioritize the HIV prevention strategies that will have the greatest impact.  They’ve also implemented the following programs that aid Baby Boomers: Let’s Stop HIV Together (approximately 25% of campaign participants are aged 50 and older), Standard Care which encourages primary care physicians to screen patients of all ages for HIV infection, and Prevention IS Care, which provides continuing education and materials for physicians to address the complex issues of those living with HIV infection.

 

The information above is from the CDC blog “HIV Among People Aged 50 and Over” at http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/age/olderamericans/index.html.

 

hivHepatitis C

In the U.S. hepatitis C (HCV) chronically infects an estimated 3.2 million.  Approximately 75% are Baby Boomers.  National prevalence data show that people born between 1946-1965 are five times more likely than other adults to be infected.  It’s a leading cause of liver cancer, liver transplants, and accounts for 73% of all hepatitis C associated mortality.  HCV-associated morbidity and mortality increased more than 50% from 1999-2007 for Baby Boomers with hepatitis C.  A high percentage (45%-85%) of people with hepatitis C don’t know that they are infected.

 

 

One-time testing of those born from 1945-1965 is estimated to identify 800,000 infections and with linkage to care and treatment avert more than 120,000 HCV-related deaths.  This strategy is estimated to save $1.5-$7.1 billion in liver disease-related costs. Testing based solely on elevated ALT levels, which measures the amount of this enzyme in the blood, is estimated to miss 50% of chronic infections.  ALT is found mainly in the liver, but also in smaller amounts in the kidneys, heart, muscles, and pancreas.

 

 

New therapies, including interferon-free regimens, can halt disease progression, cure most infected with hepatitis, increase the effectiveness, and reduce the duration of therapy for many patients.  Those who are chronically infected require clinical preventive services which include regular medical monitoring, hepatitis A and B vaccinations, behavior changes like alcohol reduction/cessation, and achieving and maintaining a healthy BMI to improve their health outcomes.

Information is taken from the CDC Recommendations for Prevention and Control of Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Infection and HCV-Related Chronic Disease (MMWR 1998;47(RR19).

 

 

The CDC Know More Hepatitis website offers more information and help, including a new online Hepatitis Risk Assessment tool to help people determine their risk for viral hepatitis.  New funding will focus on groups that are disproportionately affected such as Asian-American Pacific Islander communities who have the highest rates of hepatitis B, injection drug users, and individuals born from 1945–1965. These efforts align with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis, which was released in May 2011.  See more at http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/2012/heptestingrecspressrelease2012.html “CDC Announces First Ever National Hepatitis Testing Day and Proposes that All Baby Boomers Be Tested Once for Hepatitis C”.

 

feet-in-bed

 

Don’t keep your head in the sand.  If you’re too embarrassed to go to you long-time family doctor for testing, go to the health department.  If your HIV test is positive, all 50 states require the testing site to report the results to your state health department so that public health officials can monitor what’s happening with the HIV epidemic in your city and because federal and state funding for HIV/AIDS services is often targeted to areas where the epidemic is strongest.  Your state health department will remove all of your personal information from your test results and send the information to the CDC.  They don’t share this information with anyone, including insurance companies.  However, many states and some cities have partner-notification laws.  This means that if you test positive for HIV, you or your healthcare provider may be legally obligated to tell your sex or needle-sharing partner(s). If you’re HIV-positive and don’t tell your partner(s), in some states, you can be charged with a crime.  Some health departments require healthcare providers to report the names of your sex and needle-sharing partners if they know that information even if you refuse to report it.  Some states also have a “duty to warn” law that requires clinic staff to notify a third party if they know they have a significant risk of exposure to HIV from a patient the staff member knows is infected.  The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program requires health departments receiving money from them to show “good faith” efforts to notify the marriage partners of a patient with HIV/AIDS.  The AIDS.gov website https://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/just-diagnosed-with-hiv-aids/your-legal-rights/legal-disclosure/ offers information on this and many other HIV/AIDS related issues.

 

 

Many states have regulations that require laboratories to report all anti-HCV positive results to local health departments. Although there are limitations to the use of anti-HCV positive laboratory reports to conduct surveillance for hepatitis C infections, these reports can provide information to state and local health departments so they can identify HCV-infected persons who need counseling and medical follow-up.  Also determining the frequency and characteristics of persons reported as anti-HCV-positive can describe who and where infected persons are being identified, help in developing minimum estimates of infection burden, identify gaps in current testing practices and direct and evaluate prevention activities.  See “Guidelines For Viral Hepatitis Surveillance And Case Management” at http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/statistics/surveillanceguidelines.htm.

 

 

This may disturb you, but don’t you owe it to your partners to let them know that they have been infected or at least give government agencies the information they need to get funding for education, prevention, and cures.  You can see by the statistics that you’re not alone and having HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C is often not your fault.  After all, wouldn’t you want someone to tell you?

 

Continue the adventure safely!

 

Linda Lea