Music Therapy: Benefit for Those with Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Forms of Dementia

According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy for dementia is the clinical and evidence-based practice of utilizing musical interventions to meet individualized memory support goals facilitated by a credentialed music therapist. While music therapy can be used in many different settings, its use within the Alzheimer’s and dementia community has a long history. Music therapy’s use in the treatment of older adults with memory loss can be traced back more than 2,000 years. During the 20th century, community musicians gathered in military hospitals to play for World War II veterans suffering from both physical and emotional trauma. Later on, the first music therapy program was established in 1944 at Michigan State University, which prompted the creation of music therapy institutions, such as The American Music Therapy Association. Today, music therapy for dementia is widely known for its tremendous effects on those suffering from memory loss and is used throughout the nation in retirement communities and memory care settings.

Research on the effects of music therapy suggests it can provide improvements in memory recall, boost mood, reduce stress and anxiety, help manage pain and discomfort, and encourage emotional intimacy with family members and caregivers. As Alzheimer’s and dementia progress, communication and connection can become more difficult. However, research has shown music therapy for dementia is linked to emotion and memory and can help families and caregivers find new ways to connect with their loved ones.

How Does Music Help with Dementia?
Utilizing music therapy for dementia can help maintain or increase a patient’s level of physical, mental, social, and emotional functions. Music from one’s past can evoke emotion, which can lead to memory recall. By pairing music with everyday activities, patients can develop a rhythm that helps them remember the activity and improve cognitive ability over time. As dementia progresses and communication becomes difficult, music is a great way to connect. Musical aptitude and appreciation are some of the last remaining abilities for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Music can help reach beyond the disease and access emotions differently. Familiar music from the past can be a powerful way to boost mood, reduce agitation, and improve quality of life for periods of time. If your loved one is ambulatory, dancing can often lead to a physical connection such as embracing and holding hands.

Memory in Sound
Alzheimer’s disease and most other forms of dementia are degenerative diseases, which can make expressing basic needs more difficult. However, trained music therapists use musical interventions as a way of communicating nontraditionally. Singing can offer structure and enable dialogue by stimulating different areas of the brain. Music therapy can also be used to provide a renewed sense of identity for those living with Alzheimer’s disease. Singing songs from the past and reliving memories through sound can help those with Alzheimer’s communicate stories and memories to their loved ones and caregivers.

How to Practice Music Therapy at Home
While music therapy for dementia is best when facilitated by a trained and certified music therapist, you can apply the same helpful methods at home. According to the Mayo Clinic, music can be used in a variety of ways to help spark human connections, evoke memories, and decrease feelings of anxiety and agitation. If you’re interested in using music as a way to connect or soothe your loved one, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Play your loved one’s favorite selections
Start with playing music your loved one will enjoy such as favorite selections from when they were a teenager or young adult. If they have an old record or tape collection, this is a great place to start. These favorites can evoke positive memories and remind them of happy times in their life.

Engage younger generations
Music is a great way for grandkids and adult children to connect with their loved one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. You might encourage your family members to make a playlist of their loved one’s favorite songs or help them choose what to listen to together.

Set the mood
Playing relaxing and instrumental music can help calm your loved one, especially during meal times or before going to sleep. When it’s appropriate to help your loved one stay alert and engaged, play upbeat music.

Avoid overstimulation
Those with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia can become overwhelmed easily. It’s important to limit distractions while you’re playing music. Turn off the TV, shut the door, and opt for music that isn’t interrupted by commercials when playing through a streaming service.

Encourage movement
Help your loved one clap hands or tap their feet to the beat. If you can, you might consider dancing with your loved ones to keep them engaged and foster a sense of security.

Pay attention to the response
If your loved one enjoys particular songs or types of music, play them often. And make sure to avoid music that seems to provoke agitation or overstimulation.

Let the music play
Music can be beneficial for caregivers as well. Whether creating your playlist to boost your mood after emotional days or finding joy in watching your loved one engage with music, it’s important to find ways to care for yourself, too.

Find a professional music therapist
The American Music Therapy Association represents 5,000 music therapists and other associations that offer information about music therapy studies and provides a list of credentialed music therapists that offer their services in institutional, residential, and private home settings.

Working with Music at Maplewood Senior Living
Maplewood Senior Living communities offer music therapy and other music-related activities that can be beneficial for residents at all levels of care. To learn more about how these programs can serve your loved one, please contact us or schedule a tour.

Why Couples Choose Continuing Care Retirement Communities

As couples age, they are often faced with deciding where to spend their retirement years. While many couples wish to stay in their family home, there are several benefits of moving to a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). What is a Continuing Care Retirement Community? CCRCs offer Independent Living along with Assisted Living and Memory Care, but also have Skilled Nursing and Short-Term Rehabilitation services. Some even offer Respite Care. What makes it one of the best senior living options for couples is that you can both move in while you can still take advantage of all the lifestyle benefits — from activities and exercise to dining and local attractions. Couples who retire in CCRCs will be able to remain nearby despite their need for different levels of care. While this is helpful for caregivers and family members, there are also many benefits for couples who age together in the same place.

To help you with the process of deciding what your retirement options are we have created a guide, A Couple’s Guide to the Benefits of Living in a Continuing Care Retirement Community. You can get a FREE copy of our guide by clicking HERE

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Benefits of Aging as a Couple
We all age differently and can require different levels of support and care along the way. Often one spouse will require more support than the other, requiring a transition to a different facility out of the home. However, CCRCs offer every level of care, allowing couples to age together. Here are some of the benefits that come for couples who age together:

Physical health. Couples tend to care for each other in a variety of ways. When separated, physical health can deteriorate due to depression and changes in sleeping and eating habits.

Cognitive health. For some couples, long-term separation can lead to feelings of anxiety and loneliness. When gone unaddressed, long-term loneliness can have a profound effect on cognitive health in addition to increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. For those with dementia, separation from a spouse can lead to increased agitation and confusion.

Cost. In addition to physical and emotional benefits, couples who age together are also at a financial advantage. For many aging couples, one spouse will act as the caregiver for the other, especially in cases of dementia and other memory-loss conditions. This can pose a financial benefit compared to having one spouse in residential care and the other living independently at home.

Support. Aging can be difficult for several emotional and physical reasons. Couples who work to take care of one another as they deal with these emotional and physical challenges often feel more supported than those couples who age separately.

Connection. Research suggests that the human touch can alleviate depressive symptoms, reduce pain and stress hormones, and improve immune functions. While maintaining physical touch is possible even for couples who age separately, it’s more accessible for couples who are aging together.

Why Couples Should Consider Continuing Care Retirement Communities
With all the other lifestyle options available, why choose a CCRC? Continuing Care Retirement Communities help provide the key elements needed later in life, including medical care, social activity, and support with basic daily tasks. CCRCs can help with the burden of loss, create friendships, support good health and wellness practices, and lead happier lives. While CCRCs are a great choice for all older adults, they are especially beneficial for couples. Here’s why:

Care You Need
Each person ages differently, and this is just the same for couples. Often quite quickly, one spouse may have different medical needs or be declining more rapidly cognitively. The other spouse finds they suddenly need help.

Levels of Care
In a CCRC, you get a full continuum of care as it is needed. CCRCs provide Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care, in addition to Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation. If one spouse wants to participate in a Memory Care program activity while the other, more active spouse heads to the pool for a swim, it is possible because everything is located on one campus.

Peace of Mind
One of the most valuable benefits of living in a CCRC is peace of mind. The worry of home maintenance, shopping, cooking, laundry, activities, declining health and care needs has been eliminated because all the services you need are included as part of your fee.

Lifestyle Benefits of a CCRC
Once the decision is made to live in a Continuing Care Retirement Community, stress and worry are alleviated, and couples will have time to enjoy all the extra benefits of living in the community and surrounding area.

Dining
Imagine waking up, making yourself a cup of coffee or tea, getting dressed, and then walking out your door to get breakfast. This is life in a CCRC. Meals are beautifully prepared for residents every day. Menus include a wide range of delicious dishes — many made with locally sourced ingredients prepared by expert culinary teams.

Programming
Looking to stay active and engaged? Love socializing? Most communities have their activity calendars booked weekly with live entertainment, movies, quiz games, or coffee and conversations. Whatever your interest, you will have plenty to choose from.

Wellness
Keeping fit and healthy both physically and mentally as you age is important to your well-being. Many CCRCs have gyms and pools, and others are located where there is plenty of local walking and cycling trails. Exercise classes and group activities help keep you moving and engaged with fellow residents.

Community
The convenience of having a large community right outside the door to your apartment is quite special. When you want to retreat to your “home” to read or have some quiet time you can, but otherwise, plenty is going on in the community daily, giving you and your spouse ample opportunity to meet new friends and keep engaged. The surrounding local community can offer opportunities for additional community events, clubs, churches, restaurants, and local shopping.

Aging Together at Maplewood Senior Living
CCRCs offer senior living for couples that provides peace of mind by allowing them to receive high-quality care and additional support whenever they need it. This senior living option can also ease any potential future burden on adult children and family members. While it might seem like it’s too early to make a move into a residential community, it’s truly never too soon. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Why It’s Important to Have a Primary Care Physician

We’re all familiar with the adage, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But, as we get older and our health becomes a bigger priority, the importance of having a primary care physician (PCP) becomes greater. It can contribute to better overall health and even help us live longer. Understanding our own individual needs can become more complex as we age. In fact, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, eight in ten Americans turn to the Internet to look for health information. While the Internet can be helpful, connecting with a primary care physician can ensure a proper diagnosis and treatment plan, and help avoid some of the anxiety that comes with information overload.

No one is better equipped to help us navigate our health as we age than a good primary care doctor. He or she won’t just treat health problems, they can prevent disease by identifying risk factors, manage chronic disease care, and make referrals to medical specialists when needed. PCPs are responsible for providing preventative care, teaching healthy lifestyle choices, and identifying and treating common conditions. By finding and diagnosing problems early, PCPs help us live long and healthy lives.

Importance of Having a Primary Care Physician
In addition to treating illnesses or other medical conditions, here are a few of the benefits you’ll experience from establishing a relationship with a primary care physician.

Familiarity
Establishing a relationship with a primary care physician will allow them to understand your medical history on a deeper level. When your doctor is more familiar with your baseline, changes become more apparent. This will help your PCP provide personalized care and will save you time from having to explain your medical history each time you seek medical care. Further, you’re more likely to feel comfortable disclosing your medical issues to someone you trust will give you high-quality care.

Prevention
Primary care physicians will screen you for illnesses and diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Older adults are at a higher risk of developing chronic conditions that need to be managed with medication or other ongoing programs. Having a good primary care physician ensures that you will be screened for common conditions and have a plan to follow. Primary care physicians will make sure you have medication and immunization refills, which can become more difficult without a PCP.

Care team
Primary care physicians should be one part of your larger care team that together, meets your individual needs. Care teams usually include registered nurses, patient care associates, nurse practitioners, patient access staff, and physicians. Choosing a primary care physician that’s right for you will ensure better quality care and continuity across your care team.

What Does a Primary Care Physician Do?
Primary care providers cover everyday health concerns, give medical advice, and are available to answer questions about infections, chronic conditions, and medicines. By establishing a primary care physician, they will come to understand your current health needs, medical history, your family’s medical history, your treatment preferences, as well as your personality and lifestyle. Because this person will inherently become an integral part of your health, there’s legitimate importance in having a good primary care physician

How to Choose a Primary Care Provider
Finding a primary care physician you like and trust can feel like a daunting task. After all, our PCPs are responsible for helping us navigate health-care-related decisions, treating us, providing education and advice, and managing our overall wellbeing. Whether you’re looking for a new primary care physician or assessing your current one, here are a few things to consider:

● Find doctors in your network. If you have Medicare or another form of health insurance, you can start by finding an in-network doctor to avoid any unnecessary costs. To find a primary care physician within your network, you can do a simple search on the Medicare website or call your patient care advocate for those with other insurance plans.
● Ask your family and friends. Asking those you trust, like your friends and family, to recommend their primary care physician is a great place to start. You can also ask other healthcare professionals to give you information on some of the providers you are considering.
● Evaluate your transportation needs. As we age, finding transportation to doctor’s appointments can take some planning, especially for those who no longer drive themselves. As you search for a primary care physician, it’s important to factor in travel time, distance, and parking circumstances. If it’s too far away, you might consider moving on to your next choice.
● Assess your doctor’s availability. During your search, you might consider looking into your doctor’s office hours and weekend availability. Some practitioners offer telehealth appointments, which will allow you to be assessed by your doctor in the comfort of your own home via video conferencing platforms.
● Evaluate your doctor’s expertise. Primary care physicians can have a wide variety of expertise. For instance, pediatricians, OB-GYNs, and geriatricians are considered PCPs even though their specialties are vastly different. As you look for a PCP, make sure they are specifically trained to deal with your needs.

How to Prepare for Your First Visit
Once you’ve found a doctor that’s right for you, you can start preparing for your first visit. Many experts suggest bringing a list of your prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements and noting the dosage. It can also be helpful to bring a family member or close friend with you to the appointment. Your companion can help you remember questions you may have wanted to ask, and take notes during your visit if needed. It’s best to let your companion know how they can help support you before you arrive at the appointment. And, always remember to come to your visit with an open mind. Sharing major life events, stressors, or other changes can help your doctor give you the care you need.

Living Well at Maplewood Senior Living
Maplewood Senior Living facilities offer top-tier medical services to ensure all residents receive the health care they need to live long and healthy lives. Whether you’re searching for a new primary care physician or are interested in learning about your options, our attentive staff will be with you each step of the way. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

The Importance of Brain Health for Older Adults

Our brains do it all. In addition to managing voluntary and involuntary physical activity, they control our cognitive abilities, like memory and decision-making, which affect — in ways large and small — every moment of our lives. So of course our brains need to be protected, nourished, supported, and treated with the best possible care. Brain health for older adults is especially important.

At Maplewood Senior Living, our communities support brain health and overall health with everything we do. Our goal is to help you live a healthy, independent lifestyle.  We are offering Your Guide to a Healthy Brain, a complimentary guide for great tips and advice for Keeping Your Brain Healthy as You Age.  Download today (click the link) The guide highlights 7 specific areas you can focus on to help improve brain health today.

As we age, certain parts of the brain shrink, especially those that control learning and mental activities. In other brain regions, communication between neurons might not be as effective when compared to the brains of younger adults. While these changes are normal parts of aging, there are steps we can take to maintain our brain health. A healthy diet, hydration, engagement with friends and family, and even how much we sleep can all maintain brain health in older adults. To help, we’ve outlined the different ways you can make small changes that will lead to long-term brain health.

What is Brain Health?
According to the National Institute on Aging, brain health refers to how well a person’s brain functions across several different areas:
● Cognitive ability — how well you think, learn and remember
● Motor function — how well you make and control movements, including balance
● Emotional function — how well you interpret and respond to emotions (both pleasant and unpleasant)
● Tactile function — how well you feel and respond to sensations of touch, including pressure, pain, and temperature
Growing research suggests that making small changes to your daily routine could help you function better for longer. These changes can also help decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s and other age-related memory loss.

Diet and the Brain
While eating a balanced diet is a great step toward achieving overall health, some researchers have suggested there are specific diets linked to improving brain function. These include:
● Mediterranean diet
● Blue Zone diet
● DASH diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension)
● MIND diet

Mediterranean Diet or The Blue Zone Diet
The Mediterranean and Blue Zone diets are similar because they are primarily plant-based. Meat is eaten minimally, 1-2 times a week, and it is suggested to completely avoid added sugar, refined grains, trans fats, processed meats, and highly processed foods. Both diets are inspired by parts of the world that have communities where people eat food in its most natural state, are more active, value social interaction, and tend to live longer. These lifestyles also focus on being less sedentary. Exercise is achieved through walking, chores, gardening, and even harvesting food.

DASH diet
The DASH diet was created to prevent high blood pressure but it offers several health benefits. It mitigates sodium intake — the standard DASH diet encourages 2,300 mg or less per day. The lower sodium DASH diet recommends no more than 1,500 mg per day.

MIND diet
This is a combination of the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet. According to the Mayo Clinic, there is great evidence that diet can improve brain health, potentially lowering cognitive decline and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. The MIND diet highlights vegetables, berries, nuts, olive oil, plant-based meals, and one glass of red wine per day.

Exercise for Brain Health
Recent studies suggest that the activities you do to strengthen your body, heart, and lungs can also improve your brain health. According to the Cleveland Clinic, physical activity can benefit the brain by promoting cardiovascular health, improving blood flow to the brain, reducing inflammation, and lower levels of stress hormones. To reap the brain benefits of exercise, experts suggest aiming for 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as walking, biking, or swimming.

Mental Stimulation
Practicing new and challenging activities can help you build and preserve cognitive skills and mental acuity. Our brains can learn and grow even as we age, but to do so, they need stimulation. Training our brains includes practicing a new activity each day. According to Harvard Health, “much research has found that creative outlets like painting, learning an instrument, writing, and learning a new language can improve cognitive function.” Here are a few tips to get you started in training your brain:
● Pick one new activity and devote your time and attention to it.
● Sign up for a class. This is a great way to learn the basics of the activity, especially if it requires special skills like reading music or painting.
● Schedule time for your activity. Life can get away from us! It might be helpful to schedule practice time at the start of each week to ensure consistency.

Social Connectivity
Isolation and loneliness can have a deleterious effect on one’s physical and mental health. Research has shown that those who are socially isolated can experience cognitive decline, chronic illness, and depression at higher rates than those who maintain social connections. Volunteering, spending time with grandchildren, joining a club, or even attending an exercise class are all great opportunities for connecting with others. Even speaking with a loved one on the phone or through a video call can help combat isolation and loneliness.

Mental Health and Stress Management
Stress affects our minds and body. Not surprisingly, our brains suffer because of it. Stress raises the level of cortisol in our bodies, which may impair thinking and memory. Stress presents in other nefarious ways: you may drink more, overeat, undereat, eat more of the wrong foods, decide not to exercise. Any of these stress indicators take a toll. All the lifestyle changes we listed above will improve both mental health and stress levels. If you’re suffering from stress, ask your doctor about therapy or medications that may help.
A few de-stressing tips: Be positive. Avoid multi-tasking. Exercise (even a short walk can help). Add music into your daily life. Make sure you laugh regularly. Visit with a friend or family member.

How Maplewood Senior Living Supports Brain Health
At Maplewood Senior Living, our communities support brain health and overall wellness with everything we do. Through our delicious and nutritious dining options, exercise classes, support groups, and robust activity schedule, our goal is to help each resident live a happy, healthy lifestyle. To learn more about the benefits of choosing Maplewood Senior Living or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

What Malnutrition in Seniors Looks Like

When we think of malnutrition in seniors, it’s common to envision an older adult who looks frail and underweight. However, malnutrition doesn’t only happen to those who lack access to healthy foods or suffer from hunger. Malnutrition is widely prevalent in older adults, and because the signs and symptoms can be hidden from others, it often goes unidentified.

Maplewood’s dietician, Maria Gleason, explained how seniors can lose track of what they are eating and its nutritional value, “I feel that malnutrition sneaks up on the elderly. Some causes are related to a decline in a medical condition such as chewing or swallowing difficulties. Because of this, they may eat less protein, such as meat, cheeses, and nuts.  We find they are usually less social, show signs of physical and mental decline which may make food preparation more difficult, especially if they are on their own at home. As people age, they need more nutrients because their bodies are less efficient at using them. Most elderly people eat less which can lead to muscle wasting, which then can lead to falls. They also experience a decrease in taste, smell and appetite which additionally leads to eating less.”

Malnutrition can look different on each individual and can take place in those who are both underweight and overweight. Older adults can become malnourished for several reasons. Some chronic diseases, which are prevalent among older adults, can increase the risk of developing malnutrition. Cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic conditions can affect our appetite and eating habits, change our metabolism and cause other changes in our dietary needs. Often, it’s a combination of physical, social, and physiological issues that lead to malnutrition, especially in older adults.

Causes of Malnutrition in Older Adults
Malnutrition in seniors is a common yet under-recognized problem. While the causes of malnutrition might seem obvious, it’s a more complex phenomenon than most understand. Malnutrition can be caused and exacerbated by different factors, all of which can harm one’s long-term health. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common causes of malnutrition in seniors include the following:

Age-related changes. As we age we undergo physical changes that can affect appetite. Our senses of taste, smell and hunger levels can decline with age, which reduce the urgency and enjoyment that we normally associate with eating. Activity levels are likely to decrease over time too, which may slow metabolism and overall appetite.
Living alone. Older adults who live alone are more likely to experience feelings of depression, which can cause a lack of appetite. A person who lives alone will more often miss out on the social pleasure of companionship-dining or may become disinterested in preparing food for only themself. Older adults living alone are more likely to lose track of their nutrition and eating habits than those who live in residential communities.
Dental problems. Those with poor dental health might find it painful to chew and swallow, making eating meals a difficult experience.
Dementia. Cognitive issues caused by Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia can make it difficult to remember to replenish food supplies, prepare meals, or even eat.
Interacts with medications. As older adults work to manage chronic conditions or illness through medication, side effects can cause changes in appetite. Some medications can cause problems with absorbing nutrients, contributing to malnutrition.
Restricted diets. Dietary restrictions, such as limiting salt, fat, and sugar, can lead to inadequate eating and malnutrition.

Effects of Malnutrition on the Body
According to the National Council on Aging, malnutrition threatens our overall health. Malnutrition can weaken bones and muscles, which can make everyday tasks feel difficult and even unsafe. Our mobility, posture, and overall strength will decline when we’re malnourished and increase our risk of fall-related injuries.
When our bodies lack proper nutrition, our immune systems suffer. Our nutrition intake can influence how we recover from injury, respond to chemotherapy and fight off illnesses. When we are undernourished, our bodies lack the energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals to protect themselves.
Severe malnutrition can also harm our organs and damage their ability to function. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which often accompany malnutrition, can accelerate eye disease that can ultimately lead to vision loss. Those who are malnourished can lose neurons in the brain, which can impair speech, decision-making, and memory.

Monitoring Nutrition and Preventing Malnutrition
For older adults who live alone and without care, malnutrition can be hard to identify without knowing the risk factors. Those who live in assisted living facilities or retirement communities traditionally have access to a wider range of nutritious foods and have staff available to monitor their nutrition. Caregivers and family members should consider the following tips to monitor their loved one’s nutrition and prevent malnourishment:

Monitor weight
Tracking your loved one’s weight will help identify any sudden or drastic changes that might be contributing to malnutrition. Changes in how clothing fits can also indicate weight loss for those who are non-ambulatory.

Observe eating habits
Take time to observe your loved one’s eating habits during meal times. Note which foods your loved one is eating and how much they can consume.

Keep track of medications
You might consider bringing a list of medications and the dosages to a health care provider to see if there might be an interaction causing a change in appetite or nutrition absorption.

Make meals a time for socialization
Those who share meals are much more likely to enjoy their meal and consume it. Older adults in a senior living community — in independent living or an assisted living setting — eat together and participate in social programs that encourage proper nutrition.

Encourage physical activity
In addition to the well-known benefits of increased strength and flexibility, light exercise can help stimulate the appetite. Talk to a health professional about appropriate fitness activities for yourself or a loved one.

Take care of oral health conditions
Addressing dental problems can make mealtimes more enjoyable and decrease the risk of malnutrition. In recent years, it’s been noted that oral health has a significant effect on overall health. In short, take care of your mouth, and your mouth will take care of you.

Improving Nutrition
If you or your loved one struggles with appetite, there are strategies that can help. Focusing on nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats will keep you feeling full and nourished. Using spices and herbs while preparing meals can increase interest in eating and appetite.
It’s important to consult your healthcare provider or nutritionist if you or your loved one feels they might be at risk of malnutrition. These professionals can also recommend safe supplements, like nutrition drinks or vitamins.

Eating Well at Maplewood Senior Living
Maplewood Senior Living communities have dedicated nutritionists and chefs that plan meals using nutrient-dense ingredients, designed to prevent malnutrition in seniors. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Why Cardiovascular Health is Important

Exercise is important at every age but maintaining a consistent exercise routine as we get older can help keep us independent for longer. Studies have suggested that physical activity, such as cardiovascular exercise, is the number one contributor to longevity. In addition to helping us live long and independent lives, exercise, in general, helps maintain weight, reduce the impact of chronic diseases, improve immune and digestive functioning, regulate blood pressure, lower the risk of obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and even some cancers. Older adults are more at risk of living sedentary lives, especially as they undergo physical changes that might make exercise seem more challenging. However, by making an exercise plan that fits your needs and modifying exercises to fit your abilities, exercise can be a part of your life at every age.

How Much Exercise Does an Older Adult Need?

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, physical activity needs to change as we age. Older adults need 150 minutes, or 2.5 hours a week, of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as cardio. Just 30 minutes of physical activity can be physically and mentally beneficial for older adults. The guideline also suggests that older adults practice muscle-strengthening exercises two days a week and three days of cardiovascular exercises, such as walking or dancing. As we age, it’s normal to lose muscle mass and bone density, however, physical exercise can help reduce the risk of these conditions.

Benefits of Cardiovascular Exercise for Older Adults

While all types of physical activity are beneficial for our overall health, cardiovascular exercises have special benefits for older adults. Exercise can help older adults manage their blood pressure, improve bone and joint health and preserve their long-term cognitive function. Here are a few benefits that come with maintaining a consistent cardiovascular exercise practice:

Improved Immune Function. Our immune systems help fight off illnesses and protect us from diseases. A healthy immune system will also help heal our bodies from illnesses more quickly. According to Harvard Health, exercise can promote good circulation, which allows the cells that make up the immune system to move throughout the body more freely and more efficiently.
Enhanced Respiratory and Cardiovascular Function. According to the American Lung Association, regular exercise helps strengthen your lungs and heart. As we exercise, oxygen gets infiltrated into the bloodstream, transporting it to our muscles. As our exercise routines become more consistent, our bodies become more efficient at oxygenating our muscles.
Increased Bone Strength. Just as our muscles respond to exercise by getting stronger, so do our bones. Older adults are more at risk of losing bone density and developing osteoporosis. However, regular cardiovascular exercise can help strengthen our bones and reduce the risk of losing bone mass and developing osteoporosis. Exercising for bone strength can also help reduce the risk of falls and decrease the recovery time from a fall-related injury.
Decreased Risk of Chronic Illnesses. According to the Mayo Clinic, aerobic exercise can help decrease the risk of developing a chronic illness and help manage symptoms of an existing illness. Low impact exercises can help improve muscle function for those with lower back pain, while those suffering from arthritis can reduce pain and stiffness through cardiovascular exercises. Also, exercise can help improve the quality of life for those with cancer and lower the risk of dying from breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers.
Improved Gastrointestinal Function. Regular cardiovascular exercise can help boost metabolism, regulate the elimination of waste and encourage overall digestive health. Those suffering from slow digestion and constipation often find relief when implementing a consistent exercise regimen.

Types of Cardiovascular Exercises for Seniors

As our physical abilities change as we age, it’s important to make adaptations in our exercise routines to decrease the risk of injury and promote overall safety. Incorporating cardiovascular exercises into your routine doesn’t have to be as challenging as it sounds. Here are a few cardiovascular exercises that can be added to your fitness routine:

Ballroom Dancing
Dancing in general is a great way to get your heart rate up, build muscle and strengthen bones. Ballroom dancing, however, has become popular among older adults because of its ability to strengthen cognitive function. Remembering steps and the fast-paced movements keep our brains sharp and help with balance and coordination, which can protect us from fall-related injuries.

Water Aerobics

Water aerobics classes can help older adults reap the benefits of cardiovascular exercise without putting much impact on bones and joints. Practicing aerobic exercises in the pool can provide more resistance to add a strength-training element to this exercise as well.

Swimming

If you prefer independent exercise, as opposed to group activities, swimming laps can be a great alternative. Swimming can help build lung capacity, build endurance, muscle strength, and promote heart health.

Recumbent Biking

Biking is also a low-impact exercise, which is a great activity for older adults. For those who struggle with balance and coordination, or who prefer a safer activity, recumbent bikes can provide all the benefits of traditional cycling without the risk of injury or falling.

Making an Exercise Plan that Fits Your Lifestyle

Establishing an exercise routine can feel challenging, especially for those new to exercise. However, following a few simple steps can make your cardio routine a reality. First, start by choosing an activity that you find interesting, fun, and that will raise your heart rate. Choose the length of your workout, starting with just 20 minutes if you are doing something new or haven’t exercised for some time.

And, lastly, set your workout schedule each week, choosing the days you will exercise and at which time during the day. Sticking to this schedule will help you be consistent and allow you to establish a routine without having to make hard decisions each day. As you get into your routine, you might consider setting goals for yourself such as exercising three days a week or adding a new level of intensity after a month of consistent exercise. As always, it’s important to consult with your doctor before adding a new exercise to your routine or adding levels of intensity.

Keeping Up with Cardio at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, we know how important cardiovascular exercise is to the overall health of our residents. Each of our facilities comes with a robust workout and wellness facility that offers group and private classes. To learn more about our facilities or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Senior Sleep: Why It’s So Important

Older adults ages 65 and above need between 7-9 hours of sleep a night but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nearly 1 in 3 older adults fail to meet the minimum requirement of sleep each night. While some older adults might prefer to change their sleeping patterns as they age, such as going to sleep earlier and waking up earlier, the amount of sleep they need doesn’t differ much compared to their younger years. However, there are many different reasons older adults might not be getting adequate sleep. For some, feeling sick, experiencing pain and the increased frequency of urination can affect the overall quality of sleep. As we age, our risk of health problems increases and the medications used to treat these issues can actually interfere with our sleep duration and quality. Although it’s common for older adults to experience changes in their sleep, it’s important to resolve these issues, as sleep is responsible for maintaining many functions of the body.

Importance of Sleep for the Body

We rely on sleep to carry us through the day and give our bodies energy to function properly. Getting adequate rest each night allows our blood pressure to regulate itself, reducing the chances of high blood pressure and other sleep-related conditions. Our mental health is also impacted by sleep. Research suggests a link between lack of sleep and increased risk of depression. In fact, a recent study suggests that sleep is a contributing factor in deaths by suicide. A lack of sleep can also impact our ability to relate to and connect with others. Some studies have even suggested that a person’s emotional empathy, or the ability to recognize and relate to other people’s emotions and expressions, is less when they don’t get enough sleep.

Adequate, high-quality sleep gives our bodies time to repair themselves. In fact, research shows a link between sleep and reducing inflammation in the body. For example, those with gastrointestinal diseases have an increased risk of flare-ups during periods of sleep deprivation. Sleep helps the body regenerate and recover, allowing the body to better fight off infection and illness.

Aging and Sleep Quality

It’s not uncommon for older adults to experience changes in their sleep quality as they age. According to the Sleep Foundation, our body’s “master clock,” located in the brain’s hypothalamus is composed of 20,000 cells that make up the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which controls our circadian rhythms. These circadian rhythms influence our daily cycles, like when we get hungry, tired and when certain hormones are released in the body. As we age, so does our SCN. Deterioration in the function of the SCN can disrupt these rhythms, affecting when we feel tired and alert.

Light serves as one of the most powerful cues in maintaining circadian rhythms. Older adults are less likely to get efficient exposure to sunlight, which can affect the functioning of the SCN and throw off our circadian rhythms. As we age, the body secretes less melatonin, which can also play a role in disrupted sleep.

Common Sleep Issues in Older Adults

It’s not uncommon for older adults to experience sleep issues that result in sleep deprivation or other related side effects. Researchers suggest that more than half of older adults suffer from insomnia. Chronic sleep problems can interfere with our body’s ability to regulate itself, complete daily activities, and decrease our quality of life. According to the Sleep Foundation, common sleep changes with age include:

Pain. Discomfort can cause sleep disturbances including poor quality of sleep or waking up in the middle of the night. This can be especially disruptive for those with chronic pain disorders like arthritis, nerve damage, and lower back pain.
Nighttime urination. Frequent nighttime urination, or nocturia, affects nearly 70% of men and 75% of women above the age of 70. Nighttime urination can disturb sleep patterns and increase the risk of fall-related injuries.
Daytime drowsiness. Excessive daytime sleepiness is often a sign of other underlying sleep issues like sleep apnea. In addition, it can also be a warning sign of cognitive impairment or cardiovascular diseases.
Sleep apnea. Sleep apnea occurs when there are pauses in breathing during sleep. This can occur when there is a repeated or partial collapse of the upper airway. Symptoms can include headaches, daytime sleepiness, and difficulty concentrating.
Restless leg syndrome. This causes an urge to move the legs while resting or sleeping and can result in involuntary movements of the legs or feet. Restless leg syndrome can affect 10 to 35% of people over 65, impacting sleep and quality of life.
Insomnia. Those who have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep may suffer from insomnia. Those with insomnia might experience daytime sleepiness or other cognitive impairments related to sleep deprivation.

Sleep Tips for Seniors

There are many ways you can improve your sleep by keeping a bedtime routine, setting yourself up for a restful night, and reevaluating your diet. If you struggle with getting adequate sleep, here are a few places to start:

Establish a bedtime routine
Finding a consistent bedtime routine that works for you will remind your body that it’s time to prepare for sleep. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day will help get your body into a routine. Developing bedtime rituals such as taking a bath, playing music or meditating can also help you wind down before bed.

Setting up your environment
When we use our bedrooms for more than sleeping, our bodies can get confused when it’s time to rest. Watching TV or using a computer while in bed for long periods of time should be avoided. Make sure to block out noise that might disturb you like turning off the television or using a white noise machine. Keep your bedroom dark and cool as light and heat can cause sleep problems, especially for older adults.

Make healthy choices
Diet can actually play a big role in your quality of sleep. Make sure to limit caffeine, especially later in the day, and avoid alcohol before you go to sleep. Eating a full meal at dinnertime or having a light snack before bedtime will keep you from waking up hungry in the middle of the night. Be sure to cut down on sugary and processed foods as they can pull you out of the deep stages of sleep.

Staying Well Rested at Maplewood Senior Living

Sleep can positively or negatively impact our whole day. At Maplewood Senior Living, we offer meditation and relaxation classes, healthy meal options, and install safe lighting to make sure all residents have what they need for a restful night of sleep. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

The Importance of Vitamin D as We Age

Getting enough vitamin D ensures that our bodies function well, keeps our bones strong, and may minimize the effects of some cancers. Maintaining proper levels of vitamin D is important at every age, however, it’s especially significant for older adults, who are more at risk of fall-related injuries. Without vitamin D, our bodies are unable to absorb calcium, which is the primary component of bone.

While our bodies make vitamin D when exposed to direct sunlight, many older adults don’t always get regular sun exposure and can have additional difficulties absorbing vitamin D. Although many of us are aware of the importance of vitamin D for bone health, there are many other ways vitamin D protects our bodies that are often overlooked.

At Maplewood Senior Living, your health is top priority. Our culinary teams work hard to make sure our residents are eating well as they age and keep a close eye on them to make sure they are getting all the right nutrients they need.  Read about our dining philosophy. 

Importance of Vitamin D for Seniors

Traditionally, people recognize vitamin D by its role in protecting our bones. However, researchers are beginning to accumulate more data that suggests vitamin D does much more than it’s credited. Here are some of the important functions that vitamin D plays in the body:

Bone health and calcium absorption. Vitamin D is best known for its ability to keep bones healthy by increasing the absorption of calcium. Low levels of vitamin D can significantly reduce the body’s ability to absorb calcium, increasing the risk of bone fractures. Besides, weak bones can lead to loss of bone density and osteoporosis.

Working with parathyroid glands. Parathyroid glands help balance calcium in the body by communicating with the kidneys, gut, and skeleton. When there is sufficient vitamin D enabling the absorption of calcium, extra dietary calcium is put to use in other areas of the body. However, if there is a shortage of calcium being absorbed or if vitamin D is low, the parathyroid glands will take calcium from the skeleton to maintain proper levels of calcium in the blood.

Prevents cancer. Research suggests that vitamin D can help prevent certain cancers. Some data suggests that many cells in the body can activate vitamin D, helping to regulate cellular growth. In return, this can help reduce the risk of cancers like colon, breast, and prostate cancer.

Reduces the risk of cognitive decline. Older adults are more at risk of developing illnesses that can result in cognitive decline. Recent studies have suggested that low vitamin D levels in older adults are associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline.

Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency

It’s not uncommon for older adults to have low levels of vitamin D, especially since many lack direct exposure to sunlight. In fact, during the shorter summer months, people who live at certain latitudes don’t have enough exposure to UVB energy to make all the vitamin D they need. Many older adults can have difficulty absorbing vitamin D as a result of interactions with certain medications or due to hereditary diseases, such as familial hypophosphatemia.

Lack of vitamin D can be difficult to identify, especially in adults. Signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can look like fatigue, bone pain, muscle weakness, muscle aches, mood changes, and depression. While there are many different causes of vitamin D deficiency, here are a few of the most common causes in older adults, according to the Cleveland Clinic:

• Age. As we age, our bodies naturally reduce vitamin D production in the skin. Researchers have found that older adults produce 50% less vitamin D when compared to younger individuals.

• Mobility. It’s not uncommon for older adults to lose physical mobility as they age. Those who are non-ambulatory might find it difficult to get direct sun exposure as often as needed.

• Skin color. Those with darker skin do not necessarily lose the ability to produce vitamin D. According to a study performed on Maasai herders, they were producing vitamin D at the same level as adults taking 3,000-5,000 units per day.

• Chronic illnesses. Diseases like Cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease make it difficult for intestines to absorb vitamin D.

• Weight loss surgeries. These surgeries can make it difficult to consume and absorb sufficient amounts of nutrients and vitamins needed for our bodies to function properly. Instead, those who have undergone weight-loss surgeries may need to consume supplements to ensure their bodies are absorbing enough vitamin D.

• Obesity. Those with a body mass index greater than 30 are more at risk of testing at low levels for vitamin D. Research suggests that fat cells store vitamin D instead of releasing it throughout the body.

• Kidney and liver diseases. These diseases make it difficult for the body to transform vitamin D into a usable form. This can cause a vitamin D deficiency that will need to be monitored.

Health Risks Related to Vitamin D Deficiency

When the body detects low levels of vitamin D, it has trouble absorbing calcium, which is critical for bone health. Instead of malfunctioning, the body takes calcium that’s stored in the bones. If this continues to go unaddressed, it can increase the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures, which older adults are already at an increased risk of developing.

Vitamin D deficiency can also lead to other medical problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, and autoimmune conditions. Those who have low levels of vitamin D were 70% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

How to Consume More Vitamin D

Adults ages 70 and below require 600 IU of vitamin D, while adults over the age of 70 require 800 IU. While getting enough vitamin D is needed to maintain proper body functions, too much can have an adverse effect.

Vitamin D comes primarily from direct exposure to sunlight. However, we can also consume vitamin D through food sources. While most foods aren’t high in vitamin D, there are some fortified foods, like milk, cereal, and orange juice that have higher amounts of vitamin D. You can also get vitamin D from fatty fishes like salmon and tuna, mushrooms, and egg yolks.

Maplewood’s Culinary Director, Chef David Simmonds gave us this delicious salmon recipe for two. He uses a variation of this in our communities.

Salmon Quilt Enroute with Mushroom Duxelle

(Mushroom stuffing, serves2)

Ingredients:

  • Fresh Norwegian Salmon Filet, 10 oz (skinless)
  • Olive oil, 2 oz
  • Mushrooms medium, 12
  • Shallots, 2 cloves peeled
  • Milk/Cream, 3 oz
  • Parmesan Cheese, 3 oz
  • Dry White wine, 4oz
  • Sea Salt, 1 teaspoon
  • Cracked black pepper, 1 teaspoon
  • Puff Pastry
  • Egg, 1

Cook mushrooms with shallots, olive oil, wine, reduce on low, add milk/cream continue to reduce. Pull from heat and add to a food processer. Blend the ingredients, add parmesan cheese season to taste, and then fold in a whipped egg. Place mixture on sizzle plater. Cut the salmon into thin strips to braid. Braid the strips and place them on top of the mushroom duxelle

Brush with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 12 minutes or until the internal temperature is 140 degrees.  Chef Dave garnished with roasted beets, green beans, and fresh lemon.

If this isn’t enough, vitamin D supplements can be a better option. It’s always important to consult your doctor before making changes to your diet or adding in a dietary supplement, especially because too much vitamin D can be harmful to your health.

Catering to Vitamin D Needs at Maplewood Senior Living

Taking care of our bodies can feel like a full-time job. At Maplewood Senior Living, our talented staff prioritizes the health needs of all residents. Our team of chefs at each community prepares meals specifically designed to meet the needs of older adults. Maplewood’s Nutritionist, Maria Gleason, works with our culinary teams and residents to create meals that are tasty and healthy. “We make sure our menus incorporate foods that are rich in Vitamin D such as salmon, eggs, cheeses, and fortified milk and orange juice.”

If you’re interested in learning more about our special offerings or scheduling a tour, please contact us.

Living Well with Parkinson’s Disease

Have you or a loved one recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD)? Below, we outline some of the symptoms, the 5 stages, causes, and risk factors. To additionally help you during this difficult time of a recent diagnosis, we encourage you to download our complimentary Parkinson’s Disease Guide to help you through your journey.

Nearly 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with PD each year and approximately 10 million people worldwide live with the disease today. By 2030, almost 1.2 million Americans will be diagnosed with PD.

According to the Mayo Clinic, PD is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. While symptoms look different for each individual, the disease can often go unnoticed in the beginning stages. PD can start with a gradual tremor in one hand, but as the disease progresses, symptoms can begin to affect both sides of the body.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

Those with PD can experience both motor and non-motor symptoms. As the disease progresses, some individuals experience tremors in the face, legs, arms, and hands. It’s not uncommon for adults to experience hand trembling while resting or have the tendency to rub between the forefinger and thumb. Rigidity is also a common symptom of the disease, resulting in muscle stiffness, which can limit the range of motion and become painful, especially if it lasts for long periods of time. PD can cause delayed movements in speech and gait, such as walking with shorter steps or dragging your feet while walking. Speech can also come across with hesitation, softness, or slurring words. Many of these symptoms are due to a loss of neurons that produce a chemical called dopamine. When these levels become too high, it can cause abnormal brain activity. While the cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown, there are some factors that can increase the risk of developing the disease later on.

Causes and Risk Factors

While researchers are continuing to study the disease to determine a cause, there are some factors that play a role in the development of PD. According to Hopkins Medicine, there are a few risk factors that can contribute to Parkinson’s disease:

Genes: There has been evidence of specific genetic mutations directly relating to PD but it is rare to develop them unless PD is present in many family members.
Environmental Triggers: It is possible that some toxins or environmental factors could contribute to getting PD. An exposure to chemicals used in farming, such as herbicides or pesticides; working with metals, solvents, and detergents could also contribute. While these may trigger PD, it is not believed they cause PD.
Lewy Bodies: Microscopic markers of PD in brain cells are called Lewy bodies. It is believed they hold an important clue to the cause of PD.
Age: It is rare for young adults to be diagnosed with PD. On average it develops mid to late in life around age 60 or older.
Heredity: While your risk may increase if you have a close relative with the PD, the risks are actually still quite small unless many relatives in your family have the disease.
Sex: Men tend to develop Parkinson’s disease more than women. In fact, one study suggests that men have a 1.5 times greater risk of developing the disease compared to women.
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What are the 5 Stages of Parkinson’s Disease?

The stages of PD may vary from person to person. The stages listed below are a guideline of what one might experience; however, everyone experiences symptoms differently. Other concurring illnesses or environmental factors may impact progression.

Stage One: Mild symptoms tend not to interfere with daily activities. A person may start to show subtle changes in posture, walking and/or facial expressions.

Stage Two: While the person may still be capable of living alone, symptoms will begin to progress. They may experience tremors, rigidity, and other movement symptoms on both sides of their body.

Stage Three: This is considered to be mid-stage. Individuals may experience a movement slowdown and loss of balance, putting them at a higher risk for falls. The individual should still be able to remain quite independent but may need assistance with tasks such as dressing and eating.

Stage Four: At this stage, symptoms will most likely begin to affect day-to-day activities. While individuals may stand unaided, they could benefit from assistance with walking, such as a walker. To ensure the individuals remain safe, work with the care team to assess for safety in the home.

Stage Five: At this stage, an individual will need 24/7 care. Mobility is compromised. They will need assistance with personal care and may need adaptive equipment, such as a wheelchair. During this stage, connection, companionship, and comfort are imperative to their overall wellness.

Resources for Living a Normal Life with Parkinson’s

Learning how to cope with PD can feel like an impossible and lonely job. However, there are so many resources created specifically for those dealing with the disease. Some organizations specialize in creating resources that give comfort and support to PD patients, families, and caregivers. Here are a few of them:

For learning about the disease
The Parkinson’s Foundation offers expert briefings webinars that offer first-hand access to PD research and practical tips for managing the disease from experts. The foundation also has podcasts with topics that discuss treatments, research, clinical trials, and more.

• The Michael J. Fox Foundation has compiled a list of books and resources to teach you more about the disease and offer first-hand experiences.

For living with the disease
The Parkinson’s Resource Organization has created a virtual support group network that meets online multiple times a month. The organization has different types of meetings specifically designed for caregivers, community members, researchers, and of course, those living with the disease.

• The American Parkinson Disease Association offers a complete calendar of programs and events ranging from educational programs to tips on managing your symptoms.

For caregivers and families
• The Parkinson’s Resource Organization offers resources specifically designed for caregivers and family members. These resources include newsletters, educational meetings, and even one-on-one sessions with a PD specialist.

Navigating Parkinson’s Disease at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, our nurses meet with residents and their families, assess needs, and develop a specified plan to meet their requirements. Learning how to live with PD can be difficult for those diagnosed with the disease and their families; however, Maplewood Senior Living is dedicated to making it feel a little easier. Our complimentary and downloadable Parkinson’s Disease Guide is a comprehensive resource for families with someone who has been newly diagnosed or looking for advice as to how to proceed.

If you would like to discuss your diagnosis with someone on our team or schedule a tour, please contact us today.

Heart Health Tips for Seniors

Aside from your brain, your heart is one of the most important organs in your body. The heart is a large muscle that pumps blood into our bodies. The right-side pumps blood to the lungs and the left side receives blood from the lungs and redistributes it through the arteries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women in the United States and the statistics don’t vary much between race or ethnic groups. For older adults, maintaining heart health is the key to living a long and healthy life.

Age-Related Changes in the Heart

As we age, our bodies go through physical changes, many of which are obvious, such as the appearance of wrinkles or changes in mobility. However, some changes, like those in our heart, go unrecognized. Aging can cause changes within the heart and blood vessels that can put older adults more at risk of developing various heart conditions Increased stiffness in large arteries can lead to high blood pressure. Other changes, like those within our body’s electrical system, can cause arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeat. As we age, the chambers of the heart can increase in size, causing the heart wall to thicken and develop heart rhythm problems, such as atrial fibrillation. Fatty deposits can build up in the walls of our arteries over many years, which can ultimately lead to heart disease.

Types of Heart Disease

Cardiovascular disease encompasses a wide variety of conditions and diseases that can affect our heart function and overall quality of life. While there are many types of heart conditions, here are a few of the most common among older adults:

Coronary artery disease (CAD)

This type of cardiovascular disease occurs when the coronary arteries harden and narrow, causing blockages in the vessels that provide blood to the heart. The development of CAD happens over time and can eventually restrict blood to the heart completely. This can cause a heart attack, stroke, and other heart-related diseases.

Heart attack

Heart attacks usually occur when blood is severely restricted to the heart or completely blocked off, as in the case of coronary artery disease. However, heart attacks can also occur when substances, like fat, cholesterol, and plaque, build up and restricts access to blood to the heart. Heart attacks can result in permanent damage or death to part of the heart muscle.

Arrhythmia

This occurs when the heart develops an irregular rate of rhythm. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or irregularly, causing blood to pump ineffectively to the lungs, brain, and other organs. If an arrhythmia goes untreated, it can cause damage to the organs.

Heart failure

Heart failure occurs when the heart’s ability to pump blood becomes weakened. Blood will eventually move throughout the body at a slower rate, increasing pressure in the heart and reducing the amount of blood and oxygen in the body’s cells.

Cardiomyopathy

This is a progressive disease that causes the heart to become enlarged and thickened, limiting the heart’s ability to pump blood. Cardiomyopathy can cause other heart conditions such as heart failure or arrhythmias.

Signs of Heart Disease

Early heart disease doesn’t normally show symptoms, that’s why visiting your doctor annually is so important. Chest pain and heart attack are usually the first signs of progressing heart disease. According to the National Institute on Aging, here are some of the most common symptoms of heart disease and heart attack:

• Chest pain or discomfort that doesn’t subside
• Pain and discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back
• Weakness, light-headedness, and nausea
• Shortness of breath when active, at rest, or while lying flat
• Dizziness
• Confusion
• Cold sweats
• Tiredness or fatigue
• Swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, stomach, or neck
• Reduced ability to exercise
• Problems doing normal activities

If you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to contact your health care provider right away.

Tips for Preventing Heart Disease

While genetics can play a role in the development of heart disease, some factors can be controlled to help reduce the risk of the disease. Simple lifestyle changes, such as eating healthy and exercising consistently, can help prevent heart disease. If you’re wondering how to keep your heart healthy, here are a few simple ways:

Control portion sizes.
Eating more than you need can contribute to obesity, which is a key risk factor for heart disease. If you struggle with overeating, you might consider using a small plate or bowl to help you control your portions. Stick with high volume, low calorie, and nutrient-rich foods to help you stay full and maintain your weight.

Eat more fruits and vegetables.

Consuming a proper amount of fruits and vegetables with each meal can help prevent cardiovascular disease. Also, eating more fruits and vegetables can help you cut back on high-calorie foods. Keep fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables on hand so they are available for quick snacks and meals. Smoothies, soups, and salads are great ways to pack in servings of vegetables and fruits.

Eat whole grains.

Whole-grain foods are great sources of fiber and help regulate blood pressure and maintain heart health. You can easily add whole grains into your diet by swapping white bread for whole-grain bread and pasta. Brown rice, barley, and buckwheat are also whole-grain foods that are great for heart health.

Reduce sodium.

Consuming a lot of sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Canned vegetables and processed foods are usually high in sodium. Instead, you might consider buying low-sodium options and making foods at home. Try salt-free seasoning blends, herbs and spices, and reduced salt versions of condiments.

Exercise.
Physical activity is extremely important when it comes to protecting your heart. Just 30 minutes of activity each day will strengthen your heart and help maintain proper heart function start with activities you enjoy such as walking, dancing, bicycling, or gardening.

Quit smoking.
While smoking is dangerous by itself, it can also damage artery walls in your heart. Quitting can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer over time.

Manage stress.
Long-term stress puts pressure on the heart and can lead to high blood pressure. It’s important to learn how to manage stress and put relaxation techniques into practice. Yoga, breathing exercises, and tai chi can help manage your stress and allow you to relax, taking the pressure off your heart.

Maintaining Heart Health at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, we know the important role heart health plays in living a long and happy life. Heart-healthy habits are instilled in each element of living in our Maplewood communities. From our experienced team of chefs to exercise offerings and stress management activities, our goal is to keep our residents healthy and happy. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.