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Stroke and Nutrition

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A stroke occurs when there is a change in the flow of blood to the brain that leads to a change in and/or loss of function. Some risk factors for stroke include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stress
  • Family history
  • Health conditions including diabetes, heart disease, and obesity
  • Lifestyle factors, such as a diet high in fat and cholesterol, lack of exercise, and smoking

The effects of a stroke can vary, and depend on the location of the damage in the brain and the amount of damage. There may be changes in behavior or the ability to perform daily activities. Some individuals may find it more difficult to feed themselves or swallow. If these problems are present, an Occupational Therapist can help with self feeding, while a Speech Therapist can help with swallowing problems. A doctor can help determine appropriate treatment options.

Healthy eating may help with weight and blood pressure management, which can help to prevent another stroke. In general, healthy eating involves:

  • Low sodium: to help control blood pressure.
  • Plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products: to help keep blood pressure under control.
  • Choosing heart-healthy fats: such as soybean, canola, olive, or flaxseed oil over saturated fats and trans fats to reduce the buildup of plaque in your blood vessels.

There are many ways to incorporate healthy eating into your diet. Some ways to start include:

  • Choose foods with less than 300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per serving.
  • Use herbs and spices, or herb mixes (e.g., Mrs. Dash) to flavor food.
  • Choose carefully when eating out. Restaurant foods can be high in sodium.
  • Choose fiber-rich foods. These include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Choose fruits like bananas, oranges, cantaloupe, and apples, and vegetables like sweet potatoes, spinach, zucchini, and tomatoes. Whole grains include whole wheat bread products, oatmeal, brown rice, and quinoa.
  • Eat fatty, cold-water fish (e.g., salmon, mackerel, and sardines) twice a week. These provide heart healthy fats. Try to choose fresh or frozen varieties, as canned may be too high in sodium.
  • Limit saturated fat and trans fat. Saturated fats are found mostly in animal foods, foods made with animal products, or fried foods. Trans fats are found in meat and foods that contain hydrogenated oils (e.g., peanut butter and margarine).
  • Limit cholesterol from food to 200 mg per day. Foods high in cholesterol include egg yolks, shrimp, and full fat dairy foods.

Check with a dietitian or doctor for your specific dietary needs.

Diverticulosis and Nutrition

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Diverticulosis is a chronic condition where there are sac-like pouches protruding from the large intestine. When these pouches become inflamed or infected, the condition is then known as diverticulitis.

The most commonly suspected cause of diverticulosis is a low fiber diet. Consuming low fiber can lead to constipation, which can make it difficult to pass stool and lead to straining. This straining can put pressure on the colon, which may lead to the development of the sac-like pouches. Individuals with diverticulosis should consume a high fiber diet to prevent constipation. A high fiber diet should include an additional 6 to 10 grams of fiber beyond what is typically recommended (25 to 35 grams a day). Foods high in fiber include:

  • Brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, oatmeal, and other grains
  • Fruits such as prunes, apples, bananas, and pears
  • Popcorn
  • Fruit and vegetables with skin/peel on
  • Beans, peas, and legumes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole grain breads, pastas, crackers, and cereal Previous recommendations include avoidance of nuts, seeds, and hulls. There is no evidence to show this contributes to the development of diverticulitis, therefore the current nutrition recommendations focus on increased fiber.

When the sac-like pouches become inflamed or infected, your doctor may recommend no foods by mouth to allow your large intestine to rest. As you begin eating foods again you should slowly begin with low fiber foods that are easy to digest. Foods low in fiber include:

  • Tender well-cooked meats
  • Eggs
  • Smooth peanut butter
  • Tofu
  • Cream of wheat and grits
  • Refined grains such as white bread and cereals made with white flour
  • Canned and/or well-cooked vegetables or vegetable juice
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Canned, soft, and/or well-cooked fruit, or fruit juice without pulp
  • Broth

As the infection and inflammation heals, fiber can slowly be added back into the diet.

Check with a dietitian or doctor for your specific dietary needs.

Stroke and Nutrition

By | Health and Wellness | No Comments

A stroke occurs when there is a change in the flow of blood to the brain that leads to a change in and/or loss of function. Some risk factors for stroke include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stress
  • Family history
  • Health conditions including diabetes, heart disease, and obesity
  • Lifestyle factors, such as a diet high in fat and cholesterol, lack of exercise, and smoking

The effects of a stroke can vary, and depend on the location of the damage in the brain and the amount of damage. There may be changes in behavior or the ability to perform daily activities. Some individuals may find it more difficult to feed themselves or swallow. If these problems are present, an Occupational Therapist can help with self feeding, while a Speech Therapist can help with swallowing problems. A doctor can help determine appropriate treatment options.

Healthy eating may help with weight and blood pressure management, which can help to prevent another stroke. In general, healthy eating involves:

  • Low sodium: to help control blood pressure.
  • Plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products: to help keep blood pressure under control.
  • Choosing heart-healthy fats: such as soybean, canola, olive, or flaxseed oil over saturated fats and trans fats to reduce the buildup of plaque in your blood vessels.

There are many ways to incorporate healthy eating into your diet. Some ways to start include:

  • Choose foods with less than 300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per serving.
  • Use herbs and spices, or herb mixes (e.g., Mrs. Dash) to flavor food.
  • Choose carefully when eating out. Restaurant foods can be high in sodium.
  • Choose fiber-rich foods. These include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Choose fruits like bananas, oranges, cantaloupe, and apples, and vegetables like sweet potatoes, spinach, zucchini, and tomatoes. Whole grains include whole wheat bread products, oatmeal, brown rice, and quinoa.
  • Eat fatty, cold-water fish (e.g., salmon, mackerel, and sardines) twice a week. These provide heart healthy fats. Try to choose fresh or frozen varieties, as canned may be too high in sodium.
  • Limit saturated fat and trans fat. Saturated fats are found mostly in animal foods, foods made with animal products, or fried foods. Trans fats are found in meat and foods that contain hydrogenated oils (e.g., peanut butter and margarine).
  • Limit cholesterol from food to 200 mg per day. Foods high in cholesterol include egg yolks, shrimp, and full fat dairy foods.

Check with a dietitian or doctor for your specific dietary needs.

Parkinson’s Disease and Nutrition

By | Health and Wellness | No Comments

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic movement disorder. PD involves the failure and death of vital nerve cells in the brain, called neurons. Some of these neurons produce dopamine, a chemical involved in bodily movements and coordination. As PD progresses, the amount of dopamine produced in the brain decreases, leaving a person unable to control movement normally.

Primary motor signs of Parkinson’s disease include the following:

  • Tremor of the hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face
  • Bradykinesia or slowness of movement
  • Rigidity or stiffness of the limbs and trunk
  • Postural instability or impaired balance and coordination

Common nutritional concerns for people with Parkinson’s disease are:

  • Unplanned weight loss
  • Difficulty eating due to uncontrollable movements
  • Swallowing dysfunction
  • Constipation
  • Medication side effects (e.g., dry mouth)

Nutritional concerns vary by individual based on signs and symptoms and stages of disease. It is important to work closely with a doctor or dietitian to determine specific recommendations.

When it comes to nutrition, what matters most?

  • Increase calories. If a tremor is present, calorie needs are much higher. Adding sources of fat to foods (e.g., oil and cheese) is one way to do this.
  • Maintain a balanced diet. Eating properly involves eating regularly. If uncontrollable movements or swallowing difficulties are making it hard to eat, seek the advice of an occupational or speech therapist.
  • Maintain bowel regularity. Do so with foods high in fiber (whole grain bread, bran cereals or muffins, fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes) and drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Balance medications and food. Individuals taking carvidopa-levadopa may need to adjust the amount of protein eaten and the time of day it is eaten, or take their medication with orange juice. If side effects such as dry mouth are making it difficult to eat, work with a health care professional to help manage these.
  • Adjust nutritional priorities for your situation and stage of disease.

Check with a dietitian or doctor for your specific dietary needs.

Cancer and Nutrition

By | Health and Wellness | No Comments

Cancer begins when cells in the body become abnormal. As these cells duplicate, a mass of tissue made of abnormal cells forms and is called a tumor. Normal cells grow and divide and know to stop growing. Over time, they also die. Unlike these normal cells, cancer cells continue to multiply and do not die when they are supposed to. If the tumor gets bigger, it can damage nearby tissues and organs. Cancer cells can also break away and spread to other parts of the body.
Nutrition is important for both cancer prevention and treatment. If diagnosed with cancer, there are numerous treatments that can be utilized, all of which can cause side effects capable of affecting nutrition. Some effects of cancer treatments include:

  • Fatigue: Get plenty of rest, and if unable to eat large amounts, choose calorie-dense foods (e.g., butter, cheese, ice cream, and milkshakes)
  • Nausea and vomiting: Avoid excessive exposure to the smell of food, and take medications with food if able
  • Taste changes: Stay well hydrated (this can be linked to dry mouth) and eat citrus foods to stimulate saliva production
  • Dry mouth or thick saliva: Stay well hydrated and try sucking on ice chips
  • Sore mouth or sore throat: Pick soft, easy-to-chew foods; add gravy and sauce to food
  • Diarrhea: Drink plenty of fluids, choose low-fiber foods, and avoid irritating foods (e.g., dairy, sugar, and spicy foods)
  • Constipation: Eat fiber-rich foods and stay well hydrated
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss: Choose calorie-dense foods (e.g., butter, cheese, ice cream, and milkshakes)

There are also unique side effects that can vary depending on the location of the
cancer. For example:

  • Head and neck cancer may lead to chewing difficulties
  • Colon cancer may be associated with more gastrointestinal-related side effects (e.g., diarrhea)
  • Lung cancer may lead to an increase in shortness of breath, which can make eating more difficult

Nutrition is also important for cancer survivors, as well as those looking to prevent cancer. The following guidelines can help minimize the risk for cancer:

  • Eat plant-based foods (e.g., fruits, vegetables, and whole grains).
  • Be physically active for at least 30 minutes a day.
  • Avoid sugary drinks and excessive energy-dense foods (e.g., chips, cookies, and candy).
  • Limit consumption of red meats (e.g., beef, pork, and lamb)
  • Limit consumption of processed meats (e.g., bacon, sausage, and salami)
  • If consuming alcohol, keep it to 2 drinks/day for men and 1 for woman
  • Avoid excessive salt consumption

Check with a dietitian or doctor for your specific dietary needs.

Staying Cool: When it’s Hot, Hot, Hot!

By | Health and Wellness | No Comments

Our aging population is more active today.  Experts tell us that as we age our bodies can’t handle the heat as when we were younger.  A senior body often doesn’t detect the heat, and will not begin sweating until body temperature has skyrocketed.  What’s more, our body’s cooling devices don’t operate as efficiently as we age.

Summer’s scorching temperatures don’t have to wilt a senior’s ability to enjoy the season.  By taking some common-sense approaches to staying cool and hydrated, seniors can spend quality time with family and friends outdoors.

*Staying hydrated is essential.  When the temperature soars, the body keeps cool naturally through perspiring, which results in a loss of water.  Be sure to keep drinking all day long, even if you don’t feel thirsty.  Recommended amounts for everyone, not just seniors, are at least 8-10 8-ounce cups per day.  Water is best, but fruit juice will also hydrate.

*Take care of how you dress.  Try to wear loose-fitting clothing made of breathable fabrics like cotton.  Light colors reflect the sun’s rays, whereas dark colors absorb the heat of the sun.

*Be sure to protect your skin with sunblock.  Use any and all means to keep the sun from directly hitting your skin.  You can wear a hat, sunglasses, and especially important is sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30.

*When the day is really hot, avoid being outside between 11am and 3pm, which is generally the hottest part of the day.  If you live in a climate with high humidity, the heat can be especially dangerous, and it is harder for your body to cool down naturally through perspiring.

In the heat, try to check on your loved one at least twice a day.  If your senior begins to experience dizziness, breathing problems, rapid heartbeat, headache, nausea, or fainting, call 911, or if they reside in an assisted living community, press the emergency call button for immediate help.

Don’t let the heat of summer rule your days.  Implement the tips listed above into your daily routine during the dog days of summer to help keep cool.

From Chronic to Deadly: Prescription Pain Meds

By | Caregiving, Health and Wellness | No Comments

A couple of weeks ago I watched a documentary produced by the FBI about the heroin epidemic in this country, in our city, entitled “Chasing the Dragon.”   It is an epidemic, and it is heightened by the ongoing use of prescription opiates. Many of the prescriptions were prescribed by doctors for pain management following an accident or surgery or diagnosis of chronic pain.

According to AARP, some seventeen percent of adults age 60 and older struggle with alcohol or drug addiction. In reports following the death of music icon Prince, prescription opiates were identified as the alleged cause. My sister, who is in her early 50’s, was prescribed Vicodin and Oxycodone for what was described as chronic pain. She now cannot live without these drugs. Until I watched the above documentary I was not educated about the growing problem.  I wonder what situations other individuals may be experiencing, for example, surgeries and old sports injuries, and what has been prescribed by their doctors.  What should we be looking for in their behaviors?

If you suspect someone you love is overusing medications, you will want to take some action. First and foremost, be on the alert. What health conditions are they being treated for? Are they still taking heavy meds months after a surgery? Look at the labels on the prescription bottles. Who is prescribing them? What is the dosage, refill amount, etc?

Behavior. Is your loved one’s behavior erratic? Are they more depressed, anxious, angry, secretive or just want to be left alone? Do they fall asleep during a visit or conversation? Do they take more than the prescribed amount? Watch them and write down any odd or out of sync moments.

For older adults, especially if they live alone, it is important to monitor intake of prescription meds. When my mother went from one prescription to seven following her heart attack, we purchased a seven-day pillbox and broke out the distribution per day to help her keep track of what meds she was taking and what day. We made sure we were comfortable with her taking the meds, and also accompanied her to several doctors’ visits to discuss her meds and long-term plans for taking.

Of course, I could not talk about monitoring without addressing some form of recordkeeping. I have kept a record of all medications prescribed to me over the years for various ailments, from dental procedures to back pain caused by a car accident. List all of your medications, dosages, and why they were prescribed for you. Also include any over-the-counter medications you take. Be sure to share with your doctor.

Prescription opioids are powerful, and can be harmful with long-term use. If you have concerns, talk to your doctor and ask about alternative ways to address chronic pain and/or new methods for pain management. Be most aware of the synthetic opioids that are coming into the market. If it involves someone close to you, look for warning signs. Either way, it is important to find or get help.

To watch “Chasing the Dragon” go to www.fbi.gov/chasingthedragon

Common Types of Memory Lapses

By | Alzheimer's and Dementia | No Comments

It’s normal to forget things from time to time, and it’s normal to become somewhat forgetful as we age.  But how much forgetfulness is too much?  How can you tell if your memory lapses are part of the aging process, or if they are a symptom of something more serious?

We’ve all misplaced keys, blanked on an acquaintance’s name, or forgotten a phone number. When we’re young, we do not pay attention to these lapses, but as we age, sometimes we worry about what they mean.  While it’s true that certain brain changes are inevitable when it comes to aging, major memory problems are not one of them.  That’s why it’s important to know the differences between normal age-related forgetfulness and the symptoms that may indicate a developing cognitive problem.

People with some forgetfulness can use a variety of techniques that may help them stay healthy and maintain their memory and mental skills.  Here are some tips:

  • Plan tasks, make “to do” lists, and use memory aids, like notes and calendars. Some people find they remember things better if they mentally connect them to other meaningful things, such as a familiar name, song, book or TV show.
  • Develop interests or hobbies and stay involved in activities that can help the mind and body.
  • Engage in physical activity and exercise. Several studies have associated exercise (such as walking) with better brain function, although more research is needed to say for sure whether exercise can help to maintain brain function or prevent or delay symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
  • Limit alcohol use. Although some studies suggest that moderate alcohol use has health benefits, heavy or binge drinking over time can cause memory loss and permanent brain damage.
  • Find activities, such as exercise or a hobby, to relieve feelings of stress, anxiety or depression. If these feelings last for a long time, talk with your doctor.

If you’re concerned that you or someone you know has a serious memory problem, talk with your doctor.  He or she may be able to diagnose the problem or refer you to a specialist, such as a neurologist or geriatric psychiatrist.  When it comes to memory, it’s “use it or lose it.”  Just as physical exercise can make and keep your body stronger, mental exercise can make your brain work better and lower risks of mental decline.

Get Moving: A Workout for Wherever

By | Health and Wellness | No Comments

Finding time to work out is probably the biggest deterrent for most people. Some people are not morning people, and some are just too tired at the end of the day to stop by the gym. During these sunny days and extended daylight hours, getting in a few minutes here or there is absolutely doable. And guess what? You don’t need a trainer. You just need a little motivation and these simple exercises to get you started.

Heading to the pool? A quick little exercise you can do to work those abs is as simple as supporting yourself by the pool’s edge and crunching your legs toward your chest. Pull up and extend your legs down. Do as many repetitions as you can. Rest in between and start over.

Take the first step, then a few more. One easy exercise is taking the steps. You can boost that stamina by taking two to three steps at a time if you can. Walking up a hill? Stretch those legs in front of you and go!

Knee pain? Many of us have that, but there is a way to exercise in reverse. If you are out on a stroll, stop and take a few steps backwards to take the pressure off of your knees. You will be surprised how it makes you feel. Plus, this little trick also builds quad triceps while putting less stress on your joints.

Walking in a metro park? Use some of the installations as a weight bearing, weight-training source. For instance, work your back, shoulders and arms by doing a few light push-ups against a park bench. Lean forward, and lean in, or face forward and squat down using your arms to do backwards push-ups and work those triceps. Many parks now have built-in workout support systems on the grounds. Check them out!

The beach is your buddy. Take a morning stroll and hit a nice stride. You are sure to pass many like-minded people, plus using the sand provides a cushion for your feet and joints. It is a great place to do lunges, jumps and stretches.

Wherever, whenever…get moving for your health!

Fresh Options that Hydrate

By | Health and Wellness | No Comments

Summer has officially arrived, and boy, has it been hot! I sat out by my pool in my condominium complex this weekend and simply could not digest enough liquids. With the heat and humidity, it is very important to get in those recommended eight glasses of water a day. This is especially true during this time of year when we tend to be out and about more, attending events, like art festivals, farmer’s markets or just going for a walk in our local metro park.

One thing people tend to forget is the amount of heat contained in cement. Sidewalks, paths and roadways become heat conductors, radiating heat upwards and through the soles of our shoes. If you ever wondered why you feel especially drained or thirsty after walking around a festival or on a 5K, that would be the reason.

I am a water lover. I drink it all day long. I actually pour a 32 oz. cup in the morning and drink it while I am getting ready for work, summer or winter. My mother, on the other hand, prefers to pour her eight 8 oz. glasses of water throughout the day. She wills herself to drink one roughly every hour until she is done. And she drinks them straight down. “I don’t like drinking water,” she said.

If you are like her, you may want to seek out alternatives from drinking water to eating it instead. Yes, you heard me. You can eat water. There are loads of fresh fruits and veggies readily available during the summer and they are packed with nutrients and….water. Double whammy!

Here is a list of the top choices and their water equivalents:

  • Watermelon – ah, one of my favorites. One tasty wedge serves up 10 ounces of water. Yes, please!
  • Like peaches? And yes, I am talking about a fresh peach. These little gems have 5 ounces. Let the juice flow.
  • Just one cup of these sliced little red berries also serves up 5 ounces of hydration.
  • How about those vegetables? Cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini and corn on the cob—so good for you and best picked fresh—have four and three ounces, respectively. Water done right the easy and healthy way. Sign me up!

Speaking of corn on the cob, don’t shuck and run. Keeping corn in their little husks also keep the nutrients IN. Think about that the next time you are grilling, steaming or microwaving. Do it after.

Hmmm….now, what’s for dinner?