Senior Citizen's Guide to Pittsburgh Fall/Winter Edition 2015-16 - page 40

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Americans are living longer and
life expectancy continues to rise
each year, but how do you know if
your quality of life is what you are
expecting or hoping for during the
“golden years?” Don’t sit back and
just hope for the best - be proactive
and take steps now to safeguard
your independence.
What are the three biggest threats
to maintaining your independence
as you age? Frommy experience as
an Aging Life Care Specialist, the
biggest threats to independence that
older adults face are memory loss,
falls, and lack of planning. While
these threats cannot be eliminated
completely, they can be minimized
if you are aware of the dangers that
lie ahead and take action to avoid
the pitfalls that can steal away your
independence.
Memory Loss
According to the Alzheimer’s
Association, dementia impacts
about 11% of people age 65 and
older, and about 33% of people age
85 and older. Those statistics are
frightening! So what can you do
to minimize the risk of dementia?
Let’s look at four important factors
that have an impact on your brain
function.
1. Nutrition matters. Consider
carefully what you eat – is
it providing nutrition or
increasing risk of disease?
Excessive amounts of
sugar (Americans generally
consume 2 ½ x the
recommended amount daily)
can damage and impair
communication between brain
cells, hinder learning and
memory by slowing down the
brain, and widely recognized
as a risk factor for age-
related cognitive decline and
dementia. On the other hand,
a healthy diet containing
fruits, veggies, whole grains,
and lean protein feeds brain
cells and promotes healthy
brain function.
2. Sleep disturbance (or sleep
deprivation) is one of
the leading predictors of
institutionalization in the
elderly. The recommended
number of hours of sleep for
ages 18-64 is 7-9 hours per
night and 7-8 hours after age
65. Lack of sleep negatively
impacts brain function and
causes decreased performance
and alertness, increased stress
levels, and puts you at a higher
risk factor for depression,
heart disease, and diabetes.
The “Golden Years”
How to Safeguard Your Independence
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