Archive for May, 2009

Sonia Gow in Hamstring Stretch

Sonia Gow in Hamstring Stretch

Wednesday, May 25, 2009 was National Senior Health and Fitness Day. As part of the celebration, Goodwin House in Alexandria, VA held their Senior Health and Fitness Day. Activities included speakers, a special luncheon, performers, and other activities. Sonia Gow, a certified fitness instructor with special certifications in older adult fitness & aquatic exercise, was one of the speakers. I’ve known Sonia for several years and she invited me to tag along and observe. She talked about reasons for falls and what you can do about it. Her company is called Flamingos in Training. Did you know flamingos have good balance? She assured us that we can, too.

She started by asking the audience of about 50 seniors whether any of them had fallen. She got a lot of chuckles.

Sonia felt that there are four reasons that people fall:

  1. External factors such as slippery floors, slippery shoes, loose clothing that catches on things, and many more.
  2. Internal reasons such as not seeing clearly or chronic diseases such as arthritis, Parkinson’s, inner ear disturbances causing dizziness or vertigo, foot disorders, lack of sleep, and many more.
  3. Medications: Older adults who take four or more medications are more likely to fall.
  4. Fear causing you to take small steps or shuffling and tendency to look down at your feet while walking.

She went on to say that the most important point is to be more active. The good news is that falls are not a normal part of aging. We need to keep moving; that’s what our bodies are designed for. She had a memorable phrase worth remembering: If you rest, you rust!img_5940-red

She talked about the benefits of being more active and she had us do a few exercises both in our chairs and standing. In her Flamingos in Training program, the exercises are designed for flexibility, strength, posture, walking, balance, coordination, endurance, agility. What’s practical about her program is that it’s designed for seniors to be able to function in every day living.

The five skills for better balance include:

  1. Walk and turn your head at the same time
  2. Extend the hip and back
  3. Reach down and pick up something
  4. Reach up
  5. Stand on one foot for five seconds, preferable 20 seconds. And if that is not enough of a challenge, close your eyes. Be sure you have something you can hold on to should you start to fall.

Sonia had her audience totally engaged in what she had to share. She ended with a demonstration of how to get up from the floor if you should fall. If possible, roll to one side first, then push yourself up and crawl to a chair or something to help you get up.

Finally, she said that falls are not inevitable and if you want to prevent them, you have to be active and practice the exercises. “Exercise is like chocolate: It makes you feel good, only it lasts longer and doesn’t make you fat.”

For more information on Sonia’s program check out Sonia’s Web site at

Fitness: Strong Quadriceps

Clip Art Graphic of a Red Guy CharacterOne of the exercises I was taught by my physical therapist was a quadriceps (quads) muscle strengthener. With my feet about 1.5 feet from the wall, I put a small ball (16″) between my knees and I slide down the wall until I am almost in a seated position, making sure that my knees do not go over my toes. I then hold for a few seconds while squeezing the ball between my knees, then slowly slide back up. You don’t necessarily need a ball for this exercise, but it gives my knees greater support.

According to Prevention (11/2008), lower body strength translates into good balance, flexibility, and endurance. As you get older, those are the key attributes to reducing your risk of falls and injuries, particularly hip fractures, which often quickly lead to declining health. They state that up to 20% of hip fracture patients die within one year because of complications from the trauma. I know I would not want to be part of that statistic.

According to Robert N. Butler, MD, president of the International Longevity Center-USA, “Having weak thigh muscles is the number one predictor of frailty in old age.” What a great piece of information to know. I believe most of us want to remain independent until we depart this life.

For quicker recovery from sore muscles and joint support, consider a regimen of glucosamine/chondroitan. There are many over-the-counter brands, some with an additional ingredient, MSM, which some believe helps pain and inflammation. As in all dietary supplements, know your source and remember, this is not medication. Do not expect instant results. Your body needs time to absorb over a period ot time. Here is one to check out which I take called Naturflex. Here’s to strong quads!

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Lovaza is the first and only prescription fish oil prescribed for very high triglycerides. It has a concentrated amount of omega-3 fatty acids which is the substance that lowers triglycerides. You would need to take just four pills instead of 12 over the counter fish oil pills. At my local Rite-Aid Pharmacy, I was quoted a price of $208 for a one month supply, but if you have no insurance, they will give you a 20% discount.

Here are the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) — created in 1985 by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) — guidelines for triglyceride levels:

There are counter arguments regarding this prescription fish oil. Two Web sites, one written by a cardiologist and another by an internist, are worth looking at. I love the view of Dr. William Davis: Your health belongs to you, not your doctor! and

If you believe that over-the-counter fish oil is for you, look for the label “USP Verified” which means that they have been tested by the U.S. Pharmacopeia for purity and potency. Or, buy from companies you know and trust. Personally, I take a product from This product undergoes molecular distillation where toxins like mercury are removed. Make sure the product you choose has the same high standard. As we grow older, if we’re not careful, our triglycerides rise as well. Add fish oil supplements to prevent your triglycerides from climbing to a dangerous level.

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Outstanding Nursing Home Administrator


Nora in a wheelchair being pedaled on a Draisin bike by Steve Gurney, publisher of SourceBook, a Guide to Retirement Living

Last Friday, I attended a ProAging luncheon at The Fairfax Lifecare Retirement Community in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The keynote speaker was Ben Cornthwaite, a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator at Greenspring. Cornthwaite (known as Happy Sunshine) spent one week as a resident of the nursing and rehabilitation center he manages. He entered the facility in a wheelchair with only the admissions person and his wife knowing about it.

He did not feel that issues he faced were typical of only Renaissance Gardens at Greenspring, but impacts any nursing home. The moment he entered in a wheelchair, he said the place looked totally different.

He simulated the following challenges:

  • Wheelchair bound needing total assistance
  • Incontinent
  • On 10 medications (M&Ms were used in place of medication)

Some of the things he learned seems obvious, but he had no idea about the problems because no one talked about them. In some cases, design creates dependence instead of independence. For example, the closet rods were too high and therefore, he had to call for assistance, instead of being able to reach for his clothes by himself.

Ben Cornthwaite

Ben Cornthwaite

For anyone who has sat in a wheelchair for any length of time, it is not a comfortable chair. Hence, they purchased high quality gel cushions for the wheelchairs and for residents that wanted them. Additionally, door hinges were changed so that doors to bathrooms swung outwards. Otherwise, the residents could never have any privacy because they could not close the doors with the wheelchair in the bathroom.

Another problem with nursing homes, like hospitals, is that you cannot sleep through the night because you are awakened for medication. Can you imagine not being able to sleep through the night because of external influences? So it caused them to take a hard look at scheduling. Cornthwaite said it’s all about changing a mindset.

Most of us have no desire to enter a nursing home. I remember the day I had to put my dad in one. I took him for a hair cut, had lunch, and all the while with butterflies in my stomach. When we arrived at the nursing home, his face read fear. He knew where we were and he had no desire to go in. He lasted only three weeks.

I am grateful for creative thinkers like Ben Cornthwaite who now has a much deeper and compassionate understanding of the handicapped senior population in a nursing home. We need more people like him as well as Steve Gurney, seen in the first picture above, who works tirelessly for the senior community. You can read his Everyone is Aging blog here.

For further information see Happy Sunshine Visits Renaissance Gardens.

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Diabetes: Know Your Numbers


George Washington University Hospital

Last week I attended an informative seminar at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, DC on “Living with Diabetes.” It was presented by Dr. Joshua Cohen, an endocrinologist at the George Washington University School of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism Diabetes Center.

He said that health is the #1 concern on the Internet and within health, diabetes is #1. He defined diabetes as a group of diseases characterized by high levels of blood glucose sugar. Diabetes is also closely related to obesity. In 1990, the obesity trend was 10 to 15%. In 2001, it was greater than 25%. Furthermore, children born today have a 30 to 50% chance of developing diabetes!

The danger of diabetes, of course, is the resulting complications that occur on the macro vascular level and the micro vascular level. Vascular refers to the vessels of the body, especially the arteries and veins, that carry blood and lymph.

On the macro vascular level, there are atherosclerosis complications (deposits of fat causing the walls of arteries to thicken) such as coronary heart disease and stroke. On the micro vascular level, it can affect the eyes, kidneys, and nerves leading to blindness, kidney failure, and limb amputation, respectively.

As a knowledgeable patient, Dr. Cohen says you need to know your numbers.

  • Hemoglobin A1C
  • Blood pressure and lipid levels (triglycerides, cholesterol — LDL, HDL — remember “L” for lousy and “H” for happy)
  • C-reactive protein (CRP) which measures the level of inflammation in the body and is a determinant of your risk of heart disease

The hemoglobin A1C is the average glucose level over a two to three month period. Just a 1% reduction can significantly reduce diabetic complications. The number should be less than 7%. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) says blood pressure numbers should be:

  • Healthy blood pressure: below 120/80
  • Early high blood pressure: between 120/80 and 140/90
  • High blood pressure: 140/90 or higher

The ADA says the LDL, HDL and triglycerides numbers you should aim for are:

  • LDL Cholesterol: Less than 100 mg/dL
  • HDL Cholesterol: Greater than 60 mg/dL
  • Triglycerides: Less than 150 mg/dL

The American Heart Association says

  • You are at low risk of developing cardiovascular disease if your hs-CRP level is lower than 1.0mg/L
  • You are at average risk of developing cardiovascular disease if your levels are between 1.0 and 3.0 mg/L
  • You are at high risk for cardiovascular disease if your hs-CRP level is higher than 3.0 mg/L

Dr. Cohen stressed the importance of having a treatment plan. If your body needs insulin, it is not a narcotic. If your body can’t produce it, you risk hypoglycemia. Take a glass of milk or juice immediately. More than previously thought, your whole gastrointestinal (G/I) system plays a role.

Personally, I do not have diabetes, nor am I a pre-diabetic. However, most of my very close friends do have diabetes and considering the complications as noted in my previous post, it is something that I’m very interested in. Help educate your friends if they have any of the following symptoms. Early detection can decrease complications.

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Increased fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Blurry vision

Some people prefer to stay on diabetes medication to control their blood sugar level, but most prefer to do it naturally through diet and lifestyle changes. If you’re interested in lowering your blood sugar naturally, read about how GluCare helps you maintain a healthy blood sugar level.

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The Alzheimer’s Project

hbo-alz-logoThe Alzheimer’s Project is a four-part documentary series produced by HBO Documentary Films in partnership with the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health. Also associated with the project are the Alzheimer’s Association, Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, and Geoffrey Beene Gives Back Alzheimer’s Initiative. The series started on the night of Mother’s Day.

The four parts are:

  1. The Memory Loss Tapes
  2. Grandpa, Do You Know Who I Am? with Maria Shriver
  3. Momentum in Science
  4. Caregivers

There are several ways you can watch this besides the HBO channel on TV. You can see the series at You can even buy the book at All of the information about this project and related information is available at the HBO website at

The figures on Alzheimer’s are staggering. The Alzheimer’s Association reports the following:

  • As many as 5.3 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s.
  • Alzheimer’s and dementia triple healthcare costs for Americans age 65 and older.
  • Every 70 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer’s.
  • Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death.
  • The direct and indirect costs of Alzheimer’s and other dementias to Medicare, Medicaid and businesses amount to more than $148 billion each year.

One person featured on part one of The Alzheimer’s Project writes a blog that gives you a real insight into the frustration an Alzheimer’s patient faces.

I have a personal interest in this — my dad had Alzheimer’s. I was not his personal caretaker, my mom and my sister were. I went to Hawaii to help my mom take care of him when my sister went on a well-deserved vacation. In his final two summers, I recall the first summer when he was so happy to see me, but he couldn’t figure out how I’d gotten there. The final summer the smiles were no longer there, and if not living in a state of confusion, he slept a lot.

So my wonderful Mother’s Day ended on a bittersweet note watching The Memory Loss Tapes. I empathize with the many families that are caretakers to their loved ones. My family, especially my mom and my sister, were there, too.

In future posts we will look at what we can do pro-actively to possibly prevent or slow down the onset of Alzheimer’s. Many of us are afraid of the devastating toll on the patient and their families. Let’s do something about it.

I invite you to comment on The Alzheimer’s Project.

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A Fix for the Economy

I received this e-mail from a friend. Enjoy!

This is from an article in the St. Petersburg Times newspaper last Sunday. The Business Section asked readers for ideas on “How Would You Fix the Economy?” I think this guy nailed it!

Dear Mr. President:

Please find below my suggestion for fixing America’s economy. Instead of giving billions of dollars to companies that will squander the money on lavish parties and unearned bonuses, use the following plan. You can call it the Patriotic Retirement Plan:

There are about 40 million people over 50 in the work force. Pay them $1 million apiece severance for early retirement with the following stipulations:

1) They MUST retire. Forty million job openings – Unemployment fixed.

2) They MUST buy a new American CAR. Forty million cars ordered- Auto industry fixed.

3) They MUST either buy a house or pay off their mortgage — Housing crisis fixed.

It can’t get any easier than that! If more money is needed, have all members of Congress and their constituents pay their taxes….

Here’s the link to the original article:

What do you think?

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