Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Marijuana, Brain Health, and Alzheimers Disease

While millions of Americans of all ages are using marijuana for a variety of reasons, including relief from pain, anxiety and nausea, researchers have begun to study whether prolonged use of cannabis can affect the brain.  The simple answer is "yes, but whether the effect is good or bad depends on a variety of factors."  Although no one dies of an overdose from marijuana, which is increasing its general acceptance by the public, there are both pros and cons to its use.

What are some of the facts which researchers have discovered about marijuana use?  The information below may help you determine whether or not it is right for you.

The THC in Marijuana May Slow Alzheimer's Disease

One of the scariest diseases facing aging Americans is Alzheimer's Disease, which is believed to be caused by beta-amyloid proteins building up in the brain.  These proteins turn into amyloid plaques and the good news is that the THC from marijuana appears to block the enzyme which produces the plaques. A preclinical study published in the "Journal of Alzheimer's Disease" (June 1, 2017) indicated that very small doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (better known as THC) can slow the production of beta-amyloid proteins.  Since THC is the component in marijuana which can make you "high," getting the dosage right is very important.

Even earlier, in 2006, Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego also observed that THC was an inhibitor of amyloid plaque formation and they published their findings in the "Journal of Molecular Pharmaceutics" on August 9, 2006.

Researchers are continuing to study whether THC can also have beneficial effects on other neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's Disease and Huntington's Chorea.

One difficulty with this research is determining the best dosage to benefit the patient while still allowing them to lead a normal life, drive a car and not suffer from the toxic or psychoactive effects of THC.

CBD and THC Can Treat Pain, Anxiety and Other Problems

Not all the components of marijuana make you high.  CBD is a substance found in marijuana which has health benefits, but will not make you high. Often it is derived from hemp rather than the marijuana plant, although the two plants are closely related.  Research indicates that CBD can relieve anxiety, reduce pain, stimulate bone growth, and possibly have anti-inflammatory benefits.  Other benefits may include a reduction in breast cancer cells.

THC, the component in cannabis which can make you high, can ease pain, increase relaxation, reduce the risk of nerve damage and suppress muscle spasms and convulsions.

CBD is often combined with THC to provide maximum benefits. The ratio of CBD to THC can range from 18:1 CBD to THC, up to a 1:1 ratio between the two components.  Unfortunately, finding the correct dosage for your problem is currently a matter of trial and error.  It is recommended that you seek the assistance of a doctor who is a Medical Cannabis Specialist to help you.

These products are available in oils, creams, vape pens, pills and edibles.  

Tips for Older Adults Experimenting with Cannabis

Since it can be difficult to determine the best dosage, and the right CBD to THC ratio for your health issue, experts recommend a few safety tips when you begin to use the products.

1.  Start with the lowest possible amount of THC and the highest concentration of CBD to make sure you can comfortably and safely tolerate the THC.  If it helps your problem, stick at that level.  If not, increase the ratio and quantity slowly.

2.  Stay hydrated with water.  Cannabis can dehydrate you and cause your mouth to feel dry.  Dehydration may also cause dizziness and increase your risk of a fall, which could complicate any health problems you have.

3.  Use the buddy system and make sure your buddy has tincture of CBD on-hand in case you have a bad reaction to the THC.  Using tincture of CBD sublingually may ease the THC effects if it appears you have taken too much.  However, it will not completely eliminate the symptoms.

4.  It is significantly safer to use legal marijuana which is inspected and analyzed for contaminants, including herbicides and insecticides which may have been used in the growing process.  Illegal marijuana varies widely in the amount of CBD and THC, often contains contaminants, and may even be "enhanced" with illegal narcotics, thus causing patients to consume unknown and dangerous additives.

5.  Work with your doctor, particularly a Medical Cannabis Specialist, when taking marijuana for medical reasons.  Let your other physicians know you are using it, because it could conflict with medications they are prescribing.  

Warning: Marijuana Endangers the Brain Health of Adolescents

While many teens and young adults are enthusiastic about using marijuana, the younger you are and the heavier your use, the more vulnerable you are to cognitive decline over time.  People who are regular, persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline as they move from childhood to midlife, according to an article published in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal" October 2, 2012.

In other words, it would be prudent for most teens and young adults to avoid the use of marijuana or cannabis products unless there is a medical reason, such as the presence of seizures.

The bottom line is that marijuana is best used for medical purposes in the elderly, and should be avoided as much as possible by younger people, especially when being used frequently for recreational reasons.

If you are interested in learning more about common medical issues as you age, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit:  Pixabay Images

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Six Pillars of Brain Health - Lower Your Dementia Risk

As we age, many of us are concerned about memory loss, mild cognitive decline, dementia, Alzheimer's Disease and similar brain problems.  While there are no guarantees we can avoid all the dangers, research shows that people who follow certain behaviors have much better brain health and a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease and other types of dementia.  Those brain healthy behaviors are known as the Six Pillars of Brain Health.

You can find detailed articles about each of the pillars by using the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to scroll through the Medical Concerns section and find links to a number of articles on this blog about the connection between Alzheimer's Disease or dementia to exercise, nutrition, brain games, sleep, social interaction and physical health.  Below is a summary of the best behaviors to protect your brain.

Six Pillars of Brain Health

Physical Exercise:  According to researchers, a minimum of 30 minutes of physical exercise three times a week can reduce your Alzheimer's risk by 21 percent.   Exercise improves your memory and cognitive functioning because it increases the blood flow to the brain.  It also causes your body to produce the feel-good hormones, serotonin and dopamine, so you feel better immediately.  It also strengthens the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain which is responsible for storing memories.

Everyone should practice four different types of physical exercise - balance, flexibility, aerobic and strength training.  The balance and strength training will keep your blood flowing and also protect you from falls, which is another way to take care of your brain. One bad fall resulting in a concussion or other brain damage could easily undo all your other effort.  As a result, it is important to keep your muscles strong, engage in balance training, and avoid accidents in your home.

Nutrition:  The best diet for brain health is called the MIND diet.  It is a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets.

To summarize this diet, the best foods to eat are green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and a small amount of wine.

The foods to avoid, although they can still be consumed in small amounts, are red meat, butter or margarine, cheese, pastries, sweets, fried food and fast food.

Brain Exercises:  It is important to challenge your brain regularly.  Learning something new and challenging, such as a second language or how to play a musical instrument, is good for your brain.  On the other hand, doing repetitive, easy activities which do not challenge you will not help your brain make new connections. 

Good brain challenges include dancing, playing board games, taking a class, reading a book, taking a music lesson, learning a new hobby, researching a topic which interests you, or engaging in conversation during social activities.  Yes, simply chatting with other people can help your brain, since it requires you to stay engaged and respond appropriately to what another person says or does.  You can also find brain game apps or online games which will help keep your brain active.

Sleep and Relaxation:  People who do not get enough sleep, or whose sleep is frequently interrupted, have 1.5 times the normal risk of building up the brain proteins which can lead to Alzheimer's Disease.  This is because the toxins which form the amyloid plaques are cleared during restful sleep.

Make sleep a priority by having regular times to sleep and wake up, relaxing in the evening, avoiding vigorous exercise or caffeine in the evening, avoiding smoking or alcohol, and limiting your consumption of other beverages in the evening, which could cause you to wake up to go to the bathroom.

Social Interaction:  People who do not regularly interact with other people in a meaningful way have a much higher risk of dementia, because social activity requires you to use a variety of areas of the brain.

If you want to lower your dementia risk, call a friend, volunteer with a charity, join a group, take a class, go to your church or temple, babysit your grandkids, or interact with other people on a regular basis.

Take Care of Your Physical Health:  A general rule to follow is that anything which is good for the heart is good for the brain.  If you follow the recommendations for exercise, sleep, and nutrition, mentioned above, you will have gone a long way towards taking care of your general health.  In addition, seek medical help for any signs of serious health problems including obstructive sleep apnea, heart disease, diabetes, blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, depression or other medical conditions.  Diabetics, for example, are 50 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer's Disease.  Taking care of your disease can reduce this risk.

Finally, have your doctor check to make sure you do not have any vitamin deficiencies, particularly inadequate amounts of Vitamins A, C, D, E, B6, B12, or Folate.  Not having an adequate amount of these substances in your blood can increase your risk of dementia.  At the same time, you do not want to take megadoses of vitamins which you do not need.  Not only can this be expensive, but it can actually cause health and brain problems.  Check with your doctor and have your blood tested before taking nutritional supplements. 

If you are interested in learning more about common health problems as you age, financial planning, where to retire, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit: morguefile.com

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Best Retirement Communities in US per MSN Money

There are many theories about the criteria you should use in finding the perfect retirement community for you.  Among the issues you need to consider are climate, community amenities, type of housing, proximity to family, and convenience.  You may also want to be near a golf course, university, sports venue, or your favorite fishing hole.  More than anything, you should consider whether or not your new community will fit into your lifestyle.

When my husband and I chose our retirement community of Laguna Woods Village, on the outskirts of Laguna Beach in Southern California, we were pleased to find one which had a golf course for him and an equestrian center for me, as well as a mild climate and access to a wide variety of activities both within and outside our retirement village.  The picture which accompanies this article is one I took while horseback riding on one of the trails in our community.

In an article published by MSN Money, the authors came up with their own list of "The Best Retirement Villages in America."  You may or may not agree with the choices they made.  However, if you want to make sure you have considered all your possible choices, this list is a great place to start, although you should not limit the possibilities just to the names on this list. If you click on the "Retire in the US" tab at the top of this page, you will find a number of additional articles about other potential retirement locations.

My best recommendation is to keep an open mind.  You may find that a community you first discarded because of its location or climate may turn out to be the perfect place for you.  Below is the MSN Money list:

MSN-Money: Best Retirement Communities

The Villages in Sumter County Florida is located about 45 miles northwest of Orlando. The community of single-family homes is occupied by 118,000 residents who manage to use approximately 50,000 golf carts to get around the community.  The Villages are broken into smaller neighborhoods surrounding three town squares with dancing, drinking and live entertainment available every night of the year.  There are 48 golf courses and 80 pools. 

Del Webb Retirement Community at Lake Oconee, Greensboro, Georgia is a single family home community on the edge of a man-made lake less than two hours from Atlanta.  It is near mountains as well as the lake and is a gated community with golf where residents can also find places nearby to go fishing, sailing, horseback riding and skiing in winter.

Covenant Shores at Mercer Island, Washington is a faith based community just across a bridge from central Seattle.  Residents have easy access to all that Seattle has to offer including theater, music, and restaurants. The community has a putting green and private marina for canoeing and kayaking.  The residences consist of studios or one and two-bedroom apartments.  There is also a wellness center and health care services.  These are independent living residences with a variety of dining options.

Del Webb Sun City Hilton Head in Bluffton, South Carolina is a single family home community with 14,000 residents, three golf courses, a fitness center, indoor and outdoor pools, performing arts center, sports park.  There are a number of Sun Cities around the nation, including near Palm Springs, California and Georgetown, Texas.  Although they are not on the MSN Money list, you may want to tour one of the other Sun Cities near you as part of your retirement community research.

Del Webb - Great Island Community in Plymouth, Massachusetts is located near Cape Cod.  The community is made up of approximately 600 private homes, many with large backyards and wooded forest views.  There is a large clubhouse and the 75 acre Great Island Pond with canoeing and other water sports available. In addition, you have your choice of leisurely weekends on Cape Cod or in the nearby city of Boston, with a variety of cultural and sports venues.

Solivita in Kissimmee, Florida is a 4,300 acre community of single family homes with lakes and two semi-private golf courses in the Stonegate Golf Club.  Residents can also enjoy the Riviera Spa and Fitness Center with an indoor walking track and heated lap pool.  The community is broken up into a variety of smaller neighborhoods. 

The Clare in Chicago, Illinois is a 53-story high rise in the center of the city with easy access to all the city's restaurants and shopping areas.  It is one of the tallest developments designed exclusively for senior citizens in the world.  These are rental apartments and the amenities include a health and wellness center, as well as fitness and swimming facilities.  There are regular monthly activities.  The community has three restaurants and two bars for the use of the residents.  Dining credits are included in the monthly rental fee, which means that most of your meals are included in the rent.

Rio Verde Community and Country Club in Scottsdale, Arizona  has stunning mountain views, local wineries, Southwestern architecture, two golf courses, and a Saddle Club with a member owned luxury stable.  It is proud of its "Cowboy Country" atmosphere and the design of the single family homes reflects that concept.

You can learn more about all these locations by reading the full MSN Money article or by looking up the websites for each of these communities.  If you live near one of them, go ahead and arrange a visit. They are located all over the United States, including in the Northeast, the Northwest, the Southeast and the Southwest.  There is a location and climate for everyone.  A personal visit is always the best way to assess a potential retirement community.

For more information about where to retire in the US or abroad, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, common medical problems, travel and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit:  author

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Link Between Stress and Alzheimers

Many Americans seem almost addicted to stress.  We scurry from activity to activity, sometimes feeling guilty if we take time for ourselves to relax, rest or meditate.  After all, we only live once and we want to cram every possible job, responsibility and adventure into our days.  However, not only could the stress of that busy lifestyle actually reduce the number of days we have to enjoy during our lives, but the stress could also cause us to develop Alzheimer's Disease or other forms of dementia during the final years of our life.  If you hope to avoid these brain disorders, one place to start is to learn to control your stress.

All stress is not bad.  We need some stress in order to accomplish anything in life.  However, it is important to find the right balance in our lives and make time to relax and rest.

Too Much Stress is Dangerous

According to Kathy McCaleb, a researcher with Cognitive Care Solutions, too much stress can affect all aspects of our life, including our work, play, family relationships, friendships and home life. It can cause both mental and physical reactions, including the ones listed below.  In particular, you want to notice that one of the mental reactions can be various types of dementia, including Alzheimer's Disease.

Mental Reactions to Stress

Lack of Focus
Dementia, including Alzheimer's Disease

Physical Reactions to Stress

Blood Pressure changes
Immune system decline
Heart disease
Appetite Changes
Libido Changes
Reduced energy level or fatigue
Weight changes (either weight loss or weight gain)
Digestion issues
Increases in the brain proteins associated with Alzheimer's Disease

Relaxation Can Reduce Your Dementia Risk

If stress can cause some or all of the problems listed above, including Alzheimer's Disease, then learning how to relax and how to practice mindfulness can diminish your risk of developing this common form of dementia.  Below are a few of the ways to learn to relax, improve your overall health and, particularly, protect your brain health:

Use imagery to take the focus off distractions
Practice deep breathing
Try sequentially tightening and relaxing your muscles

Many people believe they do not have the time to meditate or that they cannot empty their mind.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Recently, I read an article about the most basic elements of simple meditation.  It can be done anywhere, even in public, in the time it takes you to breath once or twice.  All you need to do is mentally think slowly of the word "inhale" while you breath in, then think slowly of the word "exhale" as you breath out.  While you are thinking those words, you are emptying your mind, just for a moment, of everything else.  At the same time, you are calmly breathing and bringing oxygen into your lungs.  It is as simple as that.  "Inhale" .... "Exhale" .... repeat.

Practice Mindfulness by Appreciating the Simple

The key to mindfulness is learning to enjoy the simple things in life.  You do this when you:

Focus on the present, not the future or past
Enjoy the ordinary ... a meal, shower, or beautiful morning
Pamper yourself
Get a massage
Try yoga, Tai Chi or other forms of gentle exercise
Get a pet and spend time with it
Try journaling
Invest time in your healthy relationships
Avoid toxic relationships
Practice saying "no"
Fight depression; it is not a normal sign of aging

Use Technology to Fight Stress

One of our daughters, a special education teacher, recently purchased the newest version of the Garmin Vivofit fitness tracker. The other day it vibrated and when she looked at the screen it indicated she was getting stressed. The screen said, "Breath with Me."  Great reminder.  We do not know what the exact technology it uses to determine that someone is getting stressed and needs to breath, but it is a useful piece of technology.  I am sure there are other fitness trackers which will pick up the same clues and help you know when to relax.

Use whatever technology you have at your disposal to help you reduce your stress, whether it is a fitness tracker, calendar on your phone, your favorite music, or even the ability to simply turn off your phone and other technology periodically and enjoy the people who surround you.

Helpful Websites on Stress and Brain Health

If you are having difficulty reducing your stress or you are uncertain how to deal with your stress in healthy ways, the following articles may help you:

www.healthybrains.org  The Cleveland Clinic, "10 Everyday Stressors and How to Conquer Them" by Kate Hanley, April 4, 2012 (www.msmindbody.com)

www.psychologytoday.com  "How Deep Relaxation Affects Brain Chemistry" March 31, 2015

www.SharpBrains.com "Relaxing for Your Brain's Sake" by Alvaro Fernandez, March 20, 2008

If you are interesting in learning more about common health issues as you age, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire and more, use the tabs and pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo of Laguna Beach taken by author; all rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Make Your Retirement Bucket List

Whether you believe you have another three years or thirty years left in your life, it is always important to have something to look forward to.  Everyone should have goals, hopes, and dreams.  One way to put them all together is by creating your own personal bucket list.  You may want to have a short one for the coming year and a larger one consisting of things you would like to accomplish during the remaining years of your life. If you are looking forward to retiring in the next few years, you will be even more excited about the future if you create a bucket list full of the things you would like to do after retirement.  In this way, you will immediately have a plan for how you want to keep busy after you stop working.

Your bucket list should contain a list of places where you would like to travel, people you would like to see, performances you think you would enjoy, new experiences or hobbies you want to try, financial changes you need to make in order to accomplish the above things, and anything else which is important to you.  Below is a list of suggestions to get you started, but feel free to let your mind run wild.  Whether or not you achieve everything on your bucket list is not important.  In fact, you may even want to update your bucket list from time to time.  You just need to make sure you have a reason to get out of the house and stay engaged in life right up to the very end.  Whether you are still in your working years or newly retired, having goals and working to achieve them is a proven way to stay physically healthy and mentally active.

Ideas for Your Bucket List

1.  Have you visited all the tourist traps in your area, or did you postpone going to see them because they are so close?  Make a list of all those sites you have been meaning to see, but never thought you would have the time.  People travel hundreds of miles to visit some of these places.  Maybe it is time you should check them out, too.

2.  Make a list of two or three distant places you have always wanted to visit.  Do you have a yearning to go to Europe, Indonesia, or South America?  Do some research.  Make a list of specific cities or locations you would like to visit.  Find out how much it would cost in air fare.  How much are hotels or other accommodations in the area?  How would you get around once you are there?  Are there tours which would save you time, trouble and money? Order a travel guidebook and read all about the locations on your list.  Start a savings account so you can make your dream a reality.

3.  Why not travel around the U.S.?  You could go on a road trip in your car, rent an RV, get a bus pass, or travel by train around the country.  Who knows what adventures you might have as you travel throughout our nation?  You may even want to venture into Canada or Mexico when you near our borders.  Better bring along your passport, just in case!

3.  What types of cultural and entertainment events do you enjoy?  Make a list of museums, plays, sporting events, musicals and concerts you have always wanted to enjoy.  Then, try to find a way to do at least one thing on this list every year.

4.  Do you have relatives or old friends you rarely see?  Get in touch with them.  Plan a reunion.  Perhaps they will want to join you in completing some of the other items on your bucket list.  In fact, you may want to combine visiting some of your relatives while on a road trip around the US. You could also add in a side trip to attend a special event which is high on your bucket list. 

5.  You are never too old to learn something new.  Have you always wanted to learn a new language, play an instrument, become an artist, improve your cooking, or learn some other new skill?  Sign up for classes.  Depending on what you want to do, you may be able to find fun classes at your local community college or senior center.  Classes are a great way to make new friends, too.

6.  Are you an empty nester, divorced or newly retired?  You may be lonelier than you realize. Have you considered getting a pet?  Visit the local animal shelter and check out the cats and dogs they have available.  If you don't want a puppy, they often have house-broken older dogs which are looking for a home.  Don't be afraid to get something a little more exotic, too, such as a bearded dragon, bird, guinea pig, rabbit or miniature goat.  This is your opportunity to get the type of pet you always wanted, but never thought you would have the time to take care of.

7.  Unsure how you will be able to afford to do the things on your bucket list?  Talk to a financial planner so you are confident you are in strong financial shape going into retirement.  Having a financial plan which includes money set aside for travel or hobbies will give you the confidence to enjoy your retirement.

8.  Do you have some other "crazy" ideas which have been bouncing around in the back of your mind.  Sky-diving? Trekking the Himalayas? Scuba diving in Indonesia? Living and traveling in an RV? Learning to fly a plane? Sailing around the Caribbean or the San Juan Islands in Washington State?  Put them down in writing and create a plan to make them come true.  Life is an adventure.  Enjoy it.  These ideas may not be as crazy as you think!

If you are interested in learning more about aging, financial planning, ideas for where to retire, common medical issues, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit:  Photo taken by author; all rights reserved.