General Health Facts

As you can probably tell by now by reading my posts, my passion is teaching about health and providing important health facts to encourage others to make healthy choices.  I have not blogged for a couple of months due to having surgery and just now getting back into the flow of life.  This morning, I attended my department’s faculty meeting.  After the meeting, one of my collaborating physicians (whom I haven’t been able to speak with in several weeks) stopped me and said that he wanted me to know that he hadn’t drunk any soda in 3 weeks!  “It’s amazing that when you stop drinking soda, your GERD (acid reflux) goes away,” he stated and smiled.  I have to add that he has nicknamed me ‘Debbie Downer’ from the SNL show.  “Jokingly,” he told me, as I am always telling others all the bad facts about what we eat.  But, as he said,  “What God gave us is always going to be healthier than what is man made.”  I love that doc!:)

Anyway, I would like to share some general health information:

1)  BODY COMPOSITION:  There are a number of changes in body composition that occurs as the body ages that can have an impact on nutrition and overall health.  I remember back to sitting in one of my very first nursing classes and listening to my professor tell the class that as we age, our need for caloric intake decreases and the need for physical activity increases in order to maintain a stable body weight.  How depressing I thought.  Well… I am.  At a place requiring less caloric intake and more physical exercise to maintain my same weight, not to mention the diet and exercise adjustments required if I want to lose weight.  And those pounds have a way of slowly sneaking up on us without us realizing until there is an extra 10 – 15 pounds taking up body residency.

In regards to body composition, one such change as we age is the loss of lean muscle mass.  This loss is due to a reduction in physical activity, hormone production and alterations in nutrition.  If caloric intake continues at the rate consumed at a younger age, the older adult will gain weight in the form of fat, not muscle.  Even though the need for caloric intake decreases (usually in direct response to a decrease in physical activity) the need for vitamins and minerals does not decrease.  In fact, based on the type and amount of food intake, there may actually be a need for vitamin/mineral supplements.

Even though the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Pyramid has come under scrutiny in the past and has been replaced, some of the basic food recommendations still remain prudent.  Based on an 1,800 calorie diet, and under normal circumstances:  1 – Eat 6 – ounces of grains daily such as whole-grain cereals, whole grain breads, rice or pasta.  Choose cereals high in vitamin B12.  2 – Eat 2-1/2 cups of vegetables, especially dark-green and orange vegetables, and dried beans and peas.  3 – Eat 1-1/2 cups of fruit daily.  4 – Drink 3 cups of mild or other calcium-rich foods daily such as low fat milk or yogurt or low fat cheeses.  5 – Eat 5-ounces of lean meat, beans and other sources of protein, such as low-fat meats and poultry, and include fish, eggs, beans and nuts as protein sources.  Bake, broil or grill foods rather than fry them.

Vitamin requirements specific to the needs of older adults include:  1 – Vitamin D is important to maintain bone mineralization and to facilitate proper absorption of calcium in the body.  Calcium cannot be properly absorbed without an adequate amount of vitamin D.  Good food sources of vitamin D include liver, milk and juices  fortified with vitamin D and fish such as salmon.  2 – Calcium is important to help maintain or slow loss of bone mineral density.  Several servings of calcium rich foods/liquids daily are recommended.  3 – B vitamins are very important.  Vitamin B6 is necessary to metabolize protein and fat.  Vitamin B12 is required for the process of cell division and central nervous system functioning.

***Alert****Excess intake of vitamin B6 such as with supplements, can result in toxic side effects leading to sensory neuropathy (nerve damage that usually results in numbness and/or tingling in the feet and hands).  Use of vitamin/mineral supplements should always be under the direct supervision of a health care provider.  Fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E and K are stored in the body and not excreted in the same manner in which water-soluble vitamins are, therefore, taking large amounts of these fat-soluble vitamins could result in toxic side effects.  This is further compounded by the fact that there is as much as a 15 percent decrease in water content and an increase in body fat as we age.  The extra fat means that the effects of fat-soluble vitamins and drugs may be increased, and the reduction in water content means that water-soluble vitamins and drugs exist in more concentrated amounts.

2)  SLEEP:  I can’t say enough about getting a restful and uninterrupted nights sleep.  Sleep is when the body repairs itself and rids free radicals and toxins from the system.  An adequate restful nights sleep is important for overall health and well-being.  There are five recurring stages of sleep:  Stage 1 – This stage lasts approximately 5 – 10 minutes and is characterized by light sleep or drowsiness.  If a person is awakened during this stage, they may feel as if they haven’t even been asleep.  Stage 2 – This stage is characterized by a period of light sleep from which the person is easily aroused.  Brain waves slow, eye movements stop and heart rate and body temperature decrease.  Stages 3 & 4 – Theses stages are characterized by slow-wave or delta sleep.  Sleep is deep with stage 4 being more so than stage 3. ***Sleep stages 1 – 4 compromise non-REM sleep and last from 90 – 120 minutes total.  REM sleep – This stage of sleep is characterized by rapid eye movements, rapid respiration, increased heart rate and blood pressure, increased brain activity, and temporary paralysis of the limbs.  Dreams occur during this stage.  It is believed that REM sleep is necessary for psychological restoration, learning, memory and concentration during the day.  REM sleep is greatest during infancy and early childhood and decreases during adolescence and young adulthood with the greatest increases occurring in the older adult.  It IS extremely important to get a restful nights sleep.

3)  SLEEP APNEA:  This is an important topic.  Many, many individuals have undiagnosed sleep apnea which can lead to elevated blood pressure, lower leg swelling, enlarged heart after a prolonged period of time, excessive daytime drowsiness, decreased thought processes, irritability, low energy levels, headaches, as well as other symptoms/results.  Sleep apnea, also known as obstructive sleep apnea, is an intermittent, temporary pause in breathing during sleep.  These pauses can occur multiple times during the night and last for approximately 10 seconds each time it occurs.  These interruptions can lead to hypoxia (lack of adequate oxygenation to tissues).  Research shows that older adults who suffer from hypoxic episodes are more likely to experience sudden death, stroke, angina and uncontrolled high blood pressure.  If you or your partner experience heavy, loud snoring; choking, coughing or struggling to breathe while sleeping; extreme sleepiness during the day; headaches in the mornings; trouble concentrating; and, frequent nighttime awakenings, it is recommended that you talk with your health care provider and and get tested for sleep apnea with a sleep study.  Proper treatment can extremely improve overall health and a sense of well-being.  ***Tip:  Some antidepressants such as Amitriptyline (Elavil) and Sinequan (Doxepin), can have sedating effects and should be taken in the evening.  Other antidepressants such as Sertaline (Zoloft) and Paroxetine (Paxil) have stimulating effects and should be taken in the morning.  If you take an antidepressant, please check with your health care provider to determine what the best time of day is to take your medication.

Well…..that is enough information for now.  I plan on addressing women and atypical heart attack presentation with my next blog.  Hope that you enjoyed the information and can put it to healthy use.  Blessings until next time……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..