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The Age Well
March, 2010
Have a Retirement Plan?  How about a Wellness Plan? 

Do you have a financial plan for retirement?  Will the investments you are making now be enough to support the plans you have made for your retirement years?  Chances are you probably have spent time planning your financial future.  Financial planning is on most mid-lifer's agenda.  But have you made plans that nurture your wellbeing?  Have you made the necessary investments in your health to ensure that it too will support you as you age?

The truth of the matter is that most of us take our health for granted until we lose it.  Unfortunately, the reality is that most of us have been slowly eating away at our health assets and reserves for many years now.  Biological aging begins early in life when our vital organs slowly begin to lose their capacity.  Fortunately, most of us have more capacity than is required to meet our daily functional living needs.  For example, in our 20's and 30's we have the physical capacity to run a marathon yet few of us choose to do this.  As we age our capacity to run this marathon slowly erodes but we aren't aware of it because we never call on our body to perform at this level.  Then, at around age 65, this capacity has declined to a level that interferes with our ability to perform some of our daily activities. 

Maybe you notice that it's more difficult to get in and out of a car or hike the trail you do every summer.  The capacity that seems to have suddenly eluded you has in fact, slowly been declining for years.  But for many, this entrance into what's often called the "Disability Zone" is at least partly our own doing, the result of poor investments or the lack of investing in our own wellness.  Fortunately, it's not too late to change your portfolio -- creating a Wellness Roadmap to help make better choices to improve your longevity and well-being.

The Wellness Roadmap Process
Wellness Roadmap

The first step in creating your own Wellness Roadmap is to decide where you want to go.  What do you want your life to look like when you are 80?  What do you want to be able to do?  How do you want to spend your time?  What do you want to be like?

The second step is an honest assessment of your assets or strengths as well as your liabilities or risks.  This involves determining what will help you get to where you want to go and what things could become obstacles.  If you want to be hiking mountains in your 70's, then you need strength and aerobic capacity.  You don't need arthritis.  It's important that this assessment be holistic in nature and consider more than just physical health.  Equally important are psychological, emotional and spiritual dimensions because what we think, feel and believe influences our overall well-being.

Selecting strategies that will help you reach your goals with an understanding of your unique strengths and challenges is the next step.  This involves brainstorming potential lifestyle changes and evaluating which strategies are mostly likely to be beneficial to you. 

Formalizing your Wellness Roadmap is the final step.  This involves putting all the pieces together into a plan that has measurable goals and phased strategies.  This allows the Wellness Roadmap to be an effective tool to guide you and help you evaluate your progress.

Just like a financial plan your Wellness Roadmap should:
  • Be comprehensive and holistic -- incorporating the mind, body, and soul.
  • Reflect your wellness assets and liabilities (strengths and risks/challenges).
  • Evaluate and anticipate your future needs and desires.
  • Provide an effective tool that measures your progress.
  • Provide a working document with short and long term goals that is used and updated on a regular basis.
Future issues of The Age Well will explore the details of the Wellness Roadmap and give you concrete examples of components of the plan in each of our wellness dimensions, so stay tuned.  In the meantime, if you would like to know how Age Well Be Well services can help you develop your own Wellness Roadmap, I'd love to speak with you. 
Toss A Coin In The Well . . .
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This column will give readers an opportunity to respond to an interesting question in each issue. 

You can send your "coins" to me by email (E-mail Paula) and I will include a sample of reader responses in my next newsletter.  Or better yet -- add comments to my related blog on the Age Well Be Well  website.

This Issue's Question Is:

What do you want to be able to do when you are 70, 80 or even 90?

See Paula's Blog for her answer to this question -- you may find some surprises!

 
Founder's Forum
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Each edition, Paula will answer questions submitted from the Age Well Be Well community.  To Submit a question to The Founder's Forum, e-mail me at paula@age-well-be-well.com.


I see my primary care doctor on a regular basis and he says everything is ok.  Do I still need a Wellness Roadmap?


Your primary care doctor will be excited to know you are thinking about creating a Wellness Roadmap because this demonstrates that you are accountable for your own health.  Most people rely too heavily on their doctors to solve their medical problems instead of investing in their own health by making good lifestyle decisions.  Although your doctor has confirmed that you don't have any active medical concerns at this time, it is important to understand that this doesn't mean that there aren't things you should do now to optimize your health, prevent disease and postpone your entrance into the "Disability Zone."  For example, I would encourage you to set your sights on optimal lipid levels rather than just keeping your lipids in a range that doesn't represent disease.  For total cholesterol this means shooting for a level around 150 mg/dL.  According to, Dr. William Castelli, a former lead researcher on the Framingham Heart Study, "in forty years, we never found a heart attack in anyone with cholesterol below 150."  (As quoted in Longevity Made Simple 2007).   Since we know what levels prevent heart disease, why not focus on reaching these optimal levels?  In addition, remember that a Wellness Roadmap is comprehensive and includes far more than just health/medical issues.

I don't smoke, I'm not overweight, I eat healthy meals most of the time, and I exercise regularly.  Aren't these the basics of good health?

Yes, these are the basics of good health but well-being is more than just good health.  It's also important to look at the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of your life.  What this entails is exploring issues like stress, anxiety, sadness, sense of purpose, relationships and connectedness with self and others.  Not only do each of these dimensions contribute to our overall wellness, but the interrelationship of these areas are what most powerfully influences our lifestyle behaviors and thus any changes we want to make. 

For example, if you are struggling with insomnia this affects your cognitive capacity, mental outlook and physical health.  Similarly, improving your sleep pattern requires looking closely at potential contributing factors in all three dimensions and addressing them with a holistic approach.  So in addition to working with your doctor to rule out medical issues, exploring potential contributing factors like stress, diet and environmental conditions are all important to addressing this concern and ultimately improving your wellness.

I know what I need to do, but I just don't seem to have the discipline to follow through.

While willpower and discipline are helpful, for most of us there are other reasons that keep us from following through.  Sometimes our physical environment and/or support systems don't provide the level of encouragement and support that is needed.  Other times, misconceptions, misinformation, beliefs or fears keep us from accomplishing our goals.  A holistic evaluation helps explore these issues so that they don't become barriers to the goals you want to pursue.

Book Review
The Blue Zone Book

The Blue Zones
By:  Dan Buettner

This fun and engaging book summarizes research exploring the reasons for the ultra-longevity found in four distinct areas of the world.  These four "Blue Zones" are unique because they are home to high concentrations of centenarians and people who live long, vital lives.  After exploring each of the Blue Zones -- Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan;  Loma Linda, California; and the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica -- Buettner consolidates his research by highlighting the common lessons he discovered in all four zones.  I loved his suggestion that each of us can create our own personal "Blue Zone" by incorporating these lessons or strategies into our own lifestyles.  Read this book to learn the Blue
 Zone lessons or visit the Blue Zone website at www.bluezones.com.

"A No Brainer"

As the name suggests, these are strategies or lifestyle choices that undoubtedly make sense because they are well researched and have a significant impact on wellness.  Each issue will highlight one of these strategies.

BREATHE

This is a strategy that comes quite naturally to us and yet somehow most of us even mess this one up!  Normally we breathe 12-16 times a minute and have the capacity to take in 16,000 quarts of air each day.  But most of us restrict our breathing with poor posture, tight clothing, lack of exercise, and shallow breathing patterns associated with stress.  This suppressed breathing style deprives our cells of optimal oxygen levels causing us to feel sleepy, irritable, or experience headaches.  Over time, this compromises our immune system and contributes to accelerated aging.

By becoming conscious of our breathing pattern and learning healthier techniques, we can improve our well-being.  Breathing techniques are one of the most reliable ways to manage stress.  Benson's famous book The Relaxation Response helped demonstrate to even those of us here in the west that proper breathing is essential for wellness and health.

While there are numerous techniques taught, they all share these common principles:
  • Focus on the breath, allowing the mind to let go of other thoughts.
  • Breathe in slowly, deeply expanding the belly and letting air slowly rise all the way up into the chest cavity.
  • Breathe out slowly and completely.
The beauty of this simple strategy is that it is always available and if practiced on a consistent basis will become a habit that will literally enhance your health with every breath.
Research Highlights
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Vitamin D has always been considered an important nutritional component for health but only recently have researchers begun to realize that a significant portion of the population has deficient levels of this hormone.  Vitamin D is not abundant in our food supply, so we must depend on our bodies to produce what we need.  To produce vitamin D our bodies require UV rays from the sun.  Unfortunately, the UV rays north of Atlanta and Los Angeles are too weak in the winter to prompt our skin, liver and kidneys to make vitamin D.  Even in the summer when UV rays are sufficient, routine and recommended use of sunscreen prevents the rays from stimulating vitamin D production.  Studies now suggest that most of us need 700 - 1000 IU of vitamin D a day.  Only 40 - 150 IU are generally consumed in food each day and most multivitamins have only 400 IU.  This means that most of us should at least discuss with our doctors the need for a vitamin D supplement.

Recent studies have begun to suggest that vitamin D levels are a risk factor in some cancers including breast and colorectal and that sufficient vitamin D levels can provide some protection against heart disease, stroke and hypertension.  Studies are also demonstrating fall risk reduction with vitamin D intake of at least 700 IU daily.  Some studies are even suggesting the powerful anti-inflammatory effects of vitamin D may lower the risk of diabetes, depression, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and auto-immune thyroid disease.

A large study is currently being launched at Harvard University to study whether vitamin D and Omega-3's can lower the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and other illnesses.  If you would be interested in participating in the study (called VITAL) go to www.vitalstudy.org or call 1-800-388-3963.
I hope you enjoyed this issue of The Age Well.  Please take a moment to forward this issue along to family and friends so we can expand our Age Well Be Well  community. 

Age Well and Be Well,
 
Paula Koppel
In This Issue
You Need More Than A Financial Retirement Plan

Toss A Coin In
The Well

Founder's Forum

Book Review

"A No Brainer"

Research Highlights


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Coming Events
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FREE
Wellness Roadmap Workshop


Have a financial retirement plan but have never considered developing a wellness plan?  Join the crowd!  Few people have made this investment or know how to go about it.  This workshop walks you through the steps necessary to build a Wellness Roadmap, a tool to guide your investments in health and wellness over the coming decades.

April 20, 2010
1 - 3 P.M.

April 22, 2010
7 - 9 P.M.

Loring House
Unitarian Universalist
Church of Reading

239 Woburn Street, Reading, MA

Register now by phone 617-835-7087
or
e-mail


Complimentary Seminars


"Live Wires", the Reading Public Library's Lifelong Learning Program is sponsoring three
 Age Well Be Well seminars this spring.  They are offered FREE to the public.


"Understanding the Aging Process and Why Some People Live Longer"

March 23, 2010
7:00 P.M.

"Add Years to Your Life and Life to Your Years"

April 27, 2010
7:00 P.M.

"Myths & Misconceptions About Aging or Why You Just Might Want to Live to Be 100"

May 25, 2010
7:00 P.M.

Reading Public Library, 64 Middlesex Ave., Reading, MA


No Registration is required for the Live Wires Seminars