Tag Archives: Successful Aging

Successful Aging – Part 2

aging2By Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

Identifying the risk factors for cognitive decline as we grow older is among the greatest health challenges researchers face today.  Cognitive skills, which include awareness, information handling, reasoning and memory, are necessary to carry out tasks from the most menial to the most difficult.  As the average lifespan continues to increase, we may all experience a certain amount of cognitive decline as a normal part of aging.  Yet some will experience severe deterioration in cognitive skills leading to dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease.  In order to live independently and carry out normal everyday activities, we must maintain our ability to reason, our memory, our processing speed and our ability to function. 

It is estimated that as many as 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease.  As the population ages, the disease will impact a greater percentage of Americans.  However, according to the Alzheimer’s Disease and Research Center at Emory University, it is not inevitable that we will lose all cognitive abilities as we age.  They also found that interventions may slow some of the changes that do occur.  Many people age with little cognitive decline.  For some, mild cognitive impairment, such as some memory loss, occurs but does not affect or prevent performance of daily activities.  For others, severe cognitive deficits prevent the ability to live independently. 

What is considered a normal amount of cognitive decline?

  • Knowledge experienced over time or “crystallized” intelligence remains stable as we age.  “Fluid” intelligence, not based on experience or education, tends to decline. 
  • Remote memory, stored for many years, remains relatively intact.  Recent memory or the formation of new memories is more likely to be affected.
  • Simple focused attention tends to be preserved.  Divided attention or multitasking tends to be more difficult.
  • Language and verbal abilities also tend to be preserved with aging.  Word retrieval, such as the names of people or things, tends to become more difficult.  The “it’s right on the tip-of-the-tongue” state tends to occur more often.
  • Traditional reasoning and problem solving are maintained.  New problems or those not encountered before may take more think time to resolve.
  • Processing speed, both cognitive and motor, is affected with aging.  Certain activities or tasks may take longer to perform. 

Research has begun to identify some traits that can lead to the development of cognitive disease such as a prior head injury and gene mutations.  Research also shows that higher education levels and antioxidant intake appear to reduce the probability of disease.  According to a study by Group Health-University of Washington published in the New England Journal of Medicine, high blood sugar levels have been associated with an 18% increased risk for developing dementia even in those who do not have diabetes.  Dementia risk in people with diabetes, whose blood sugar levels are generally elevated, can be as much as 40% higher.

Largely preventable age related diseases and conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and vascular disease may increase the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s.  If you needed one more good reason to actively work to reduce your risk factors for age related chronic diseases through healthy lifestyle habits, this is it.  Modifiable risk factors include:

  • Vascular risk factors – Hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity and physical inactivity are all associated with increased risk of dementia.  Exercising and maintaining a healthy weight, and working to lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels will improve your physical health and may support your cognitive health.
  • Healthy diet – Antioxidant nutrients, vitamins B6 and B12, folic acid and a higher intake of essential fatty acids have all been linked to a lower risk of dementia.  A nutritious diet is known to help maintain overall good health.  A diet rich in antioxidant fruits and vegetables and good fats, low in sugar and refined carbohydrates, and devoid of processed convenience foods may be neuroprotective. 
  • Psychological factors – Education, learning, social participation and intellectual activities are all healthy and modifiable lifestyle factors that could aid in the prevention of cognitive decline.  Actively performing new and challenging tasks can protect against age-related decline.  Research shows that those who are bilingual have 4.5 year delayed onset of dementia and that learning a new language may offer cognitive protection.  
  • Physical activity – Exercise increases blood supply to the brain and may increase the connections between nerve cells.  Research shows that exercise raises the level of a nerve growth factor and can stimulate the brain’s ability to maintain old network connections.  Aerobic physical activities that improve cardio-respiratory fitness have been shown to enhance cognitive performance in previously sedentary adults.  Research has shown that high stress levels can impair learning and memory.  Reduction of stress through exercise has been shown to be beneficial.  

Supplements for healthy cognitive aging include:

Ultra Anti-Oxidant (7470)
Ultra Anti-Oxidant (7470) by Douglas Laboratories provides potent, wide spectrum nutritional antioxidants including pycnogenol, vitamins C and  E, and B complex. 
AntiOxidant Formula
AntiOxidant Formula by Pure Encapsulations offers synergistic broad spectrum antioxidant nutrients designed to promote cellular health and support the body’s natural defense mechanisms against free radicals. 
Acetyl L-Carnitine
Acetyl L-Carnitine by Ortho Molecular has been shown to beneficially affect cardiac function and to provide cognitive benefits to those with age-related dementia.
Complete B-Complex
Complete B Complex by Life Extensions provides a balanced amount of all B vitamins that are crucial for metabolic activities and optimal organ system function. 


Successful Aging – Part 1

agingBy Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

As the average life span continues to increase, a good thing to remember is that a healthy lifestyle doesn’t just mean the absence of disease.  What most of us would hope for is to be able to physically and mentally enjoy all the years of our lives.  Investing in your health includes regular physical exams and careful screening for potential illnesses.  With the exception of genetic factors, many chronic diseases can be avoided given good nutrition, exercise, stress reduction and the adoption of other health maintenance and disease prevention strategies.  In other words, we all have the ability to influence the state of our health by taking action to reduce the risks of developing age-related chronic disease. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the leading causes of death among American adults are heart disease, stroke, cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease.  Lack of awareness and reluctance to take action when faced with health issues are two of the reasons for poor states of health in men.  Although women tend to be more vigilant when it comes to their health, more often women have less access to health care for financial reasons. 

Heart disease – Heart attacks are the major cause of sudden, unexpected death among both men and women.  The major risk factors for heart disease include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and genetics.  While genetic factors cannot be controlled, there are life-long strategies that can help minimize risks.  For starters, focus on taming stress, spending less time on the couch, and maintaining a healthy weight.  With age comes an increased risk for heart disease, so if you want to live longer and better, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels need to be watched and managed.  Taking a few extra steps such as exercising regularly, consuming a diet of nutrient-rich foods, and not smoking can all help to lower your risks. 

Stroke – According to the National Stroke Association, up to 80% of all strokes can be prevented by working to reduce personal risk. High blood pressure, often labeled “the silent killer” because it can be asymptomatic, is the most common cause of stroke.  Untreated high blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke as it puts unnecessary stress on blood vessel walls, weakening the vessels and damaging major organs.  Smoking doubles the risk, as it contributes to clogged arteries, high blood pressure, and damaged artery walls.  High cholesterol, diabetes, excess weight and excessive alcohol consumption are all contributing factors in measuring stroke risk. 

Cancer –  The first line of defense against cancer is diet, exercise and avoidance of tobacco products.  According to Thomas A. Sellers, PhD, Associate Director for Cancer Prevention and Control at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, as many as 70% of known causes of cancers are avoidable and related to lifestyle.  The National Cancer Institute states that cancer is not a single disease but a group of related diseases that are influenced by our genes, our lifestyles and our environment.  Scientists believe that cancer preventative factors include a diet high in cancer-protective fruits and vegetables, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing exposure to environmental toxins such as pesticides, second hand smoke and chemicals. 

Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease – CLRD, which includes chronic bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.  COPD causes serious long-term disability and the death of 120,000 Americans each year.  Smoking is the primary risk factor along with repeated exposure to harsh chemicals or fumes, air pollution, allergens or other lung irritants, and lack of nutrition.  With no known cure, early diagnosis and treatment can make a measurable difference in slowing the progression of the disease and improving the quality of life.  As with all chronic disease, prevention should be the goal. 

These life threatening chronic diseases are connected by their common intermediate, preventable risk factors, including obesity, elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol and higher than normal blood sugar.  In summation, if you want to age in the healthiest possible way, reduce your risk factors with these six basic steps: 

  • Reach and maintain a healthy weight
  • Do not use tobacco products and avoid second hand smoke
  • Eat whole foods, high in nutrients and low in sugar
  • Exercise regularly
  • Drink alcohol in moderation or not at all
  • Reduce stress and get sufficient rest

Products to support successful aging include:

Pycnogenol (7041)

Pycnogenol® (7041) by Douglas Laboratories provides one of the most powerful natural free- radical scavengers available.  Pycnogenol® is a useful aid in preventing oxidative damage,  provides support for arterial health, and plays an important role in lung and cardiac health. 

Vessel Care (New Formulation)
Vessel Care by Metagenics aids in the maintenance of healthy homocysteine levels, supporting overall cardiovascular health. 
L-Arginine Capsules 750 mg
L-Arginine 750 mg by Designs for Health supports healthy coronary microcirculation in those with high cholesterol levels and prevents the creation of blood clots that can lead to heart attack or strokes. 
Maxi Fiber Powder
Maxi Fiber Powder by Bio-Design provides water soluble dietary fiber.  Dietary fiber that keeps bowels functioning well may help to prevent bowel cancer and reduce cholesterol levels.