Balance

By | Body, Spirit | No Comments

Balance

Aging is going to happen whether we rebel against it or not but we do have some control over aging well. Unfortunately, it is well documented that the likelihood of developing balance issues as you age is significantly high. This is because as we age we lose full balance function through a decreased or loss of sensory processing, the ability to integrate the information and issue motor commands and because we are generally weaker. Increased incidences of falls are one of those realities but with a little effort you can minimize it being your reality.

Ideally we want to begin to address these issues long before we need them however you can start at whatever level you are capable of and progress from there. Safety when performing these exercises is critical so I always insist that some one else is present especially when you first start. What we do know is that repeating specific movements will create a new neurological pattern in your brain. In addition by performing these repetitions you will strengthen the muscle utilized in balance. The more repetitive the movement the stronger the neurological connection and the easier you can access the movement.

I frequently discuss this with most of my more senior patients at some point and with a minimal amount of effort they find significant improvement and minimize the chance of injury while feeling stronger and more stable.

Consider trying the following simple exercises as recommended by the National Institute on Aging:

  1. Standing up from a seated position without pushing up with your arms. This will activate your gluteus muscles, which often don’t fire optimally as you age.
  2. Try standing in front of your kitchen counter or behind a sturdy chair. Gently place your hands out in front of you on the surface to steady yourself. Creating a slight space between your hands and the counter then lift one leg off the floor with a bent knee, look straight ahead and hold for ten seconds. Repeat with the other leg. Try to do five times each side morning and night. When you feel comfortable lift you hands up higher but keep them outstretched in case you need to catch yourself. When you are proficient try doing this with your eyes shut. (Continue to keep your hands out in front.)
  3. Placing one foot behind the heel of your front foot and perform Heel/Toe walk. (walking in a straight line) Choose a spot in front of you and keep your eyes focused on it as you take a step moving the back foot in front of the lead foot. Keep your arms out to the side to assist in your balance and repeat for twenty steps morning and evening
  4. When you have become fairly proficient with the above exercises try doing some of your regular exercises such as bicep curls or stretching on a large exercises ball. Performing exercises on the ball initiates a muscle in your abdomen called the transverse abdominus, which is a critical muscle recruited in balance.

If you are someone who likes to participate in a class experience I highly recommend Thai Chi as a safe effective gentle way to incorporate balance exercises into your life. Thai Chi can best be described as continuous flowing movement. It incorporates your whole body, is very gentle and almost anyone can participate. There are many places around town that specialize in groups specifically for the aging. Cate Morrill in Little Five Points has a company called Shoulders Down Inc., 404-525-6466 or try Jude at Decatur Healing Arts 404-378-6288.

I encourage you to try a number of these options and decided what works best for you. The sooner you begin the less likely you are to develop problems in the future so please get busy now!

I Can’t Meditate

By | Mind, Spirit | No Comments

I Can't Meditate

As humans we are wired for mastery and generally don’t like to fail. For some, when they have tried something new and have limited success they often give up and move on to something else. Meditation frequently falls into this category.

At least every other day someone tells me, “I can’t meditate! I want to and I’ve tried but I‘m just no good at it!” What I have discovered is that there is frequently a misunderstanding of what mediation is, accompanied by a belief that the only way to meditate is to sit in an incredibly uncomfortable cross-legged position, be really quiet and still then clear your mind. Meditation is not about clearing your mind; it is about being in charge of it. It is learning how to control and manage the incessant mindless chatter that goes on all day long.

During a workshop I taught a few years ago I had a room full of people who believed they couldn’t meditate. I had to be creatively instructive to get them to recognize that they could easily meditate if they chose to so I deceived them into meditating by first discussing that as we age we loose the acuity of our hearing especially in the low and high registers. Then I asked if they wanted to try an experiment to help improve their hearing and all readily agreed.

I asked everyone in the room to raise one hand and instructed them to put their hand down only when they could no longer hear the sound I was going to make. I then struck a metal meditation bowl with a wood dowel. As the pleasant ringing sound emanated forth each participant listened with intense focus and one by one after about 1 1/2 minutes all the hands were down. I looked at my non-meditators and asked, “How was that meditation?”. The surprised looks of confusion were priceless. “Yes”, that is a form of meditation. By focusing on the sound they were controlling their mind and their ability to stay present. Try meditating yourself by listening to the hum of your refrigerator, a clock ticking or simply the breath going in and out of your lungs. As your mind wanders gently bring your focus back to the present.

Getting better at meditation just takes practice. There are many ways to meditate and I suggest you explore different methods to discover what works best for you. One thing you can count on is your mind will wander especially initially. This doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It is normal for this to occur. When you find you have drifted a little, don’t judge it. Just bring yourself back to the present and start over.

Begin with smaller amounts of time initially. Trying to meditate for a half hour or more with no experience is a sure way to defeat yourself before you even get started. Try 5-10 minutes at first then gradually increase your time. Practice anywhere you have a few minutes. Car pool lines, waiting for the coffee to brew, waiting for an appointment or waiting for friends to arrive are just a few that come to mind.

If you have a brain you can meditate. Give it a try. The benefits are numerous and controlling your mind……priceless.

Got Water?

By | Body | No Comments

Got Water?

Summer is upon us and with that an increased need for hydration. It may surprise you that many people drink virtually no water at all and believe they get a sufficient amount in their coffee or tea. Aside from water, coffee and tea each contain caffeine which actually contributes to dehydration instead of resolving it.

This occurs simply by loosing more water than you take in. Each day we diminish our water by evaporating it through our skin, breathing as we exhale, urinating and through fecal material in our stool.

This loss of water can be caused by many things such as:

  1. Heat exposure especially during exercise
  2. Diarrhea and/or vomiting
  3. Burns
  4. Urinary tract infections
  5. Limited water and/or drinking dehydrating beverages such as coffee, tea etc
  6. Fever

Dehydration leads to a variety of symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Being thirsty or having a dry mouth is obvious but some symptoms are not so apparent and often go unrecognized. Headache, rapid heart rate, dizziness, rapid breathing, irritabilty and/or confusion, listlessness, muscle cramping, delerium and in a severe state loss of consciousness can all be caused by dehydration. Urine color is also a tell tale sign. Urine color should be pale yellow to clear. Darker urine is indicative of dehydration, but be aware that taking Vitamin B can also create a darker urine color even when you are well hydrated.

While prevention is obviously the best choice, remedying dehydration is fairly simple. Drink plenty of water or drinks with electolytes. Stay away from soda, caffeine and sugar laden energy or sport drinks. While Gatorade is a good hydration source its cousin, G2 contains half the carbs and calories but has the same electolytes for hydration making it a much better choice.

The amount of water we need depends on our weight and the eight glasses/day that you may have heard is not true for everyone. Larger people need more water. Sixty Four to 100 ounces a day is a good rule of thumb for most average weights with increasing amounts during times of exessive perspration, workouts, sickness or burns. If you allow yourself to get dehydrated know that it can take a day or so of consistent hydrating to get back to a proper level of hydration. Alcohol will also dehydrate you. If you are drinking alcohol make sure you drink additonal water. Not only will it keep you hydrated you will drink less alcohol and consume fewer empty calories.

Lastly, let’s not forget our pets. They get dehydrated just as easily so keep their bowls full of fresh water especially if they spend time outside. Fortunately they aren’t nearly as resistant as some of us are and will drink when they are thirsty. As long as the water is available they will generally self regulate well.

If I haven’t convinced you yet that drinking water is critical to virtually every aspect of maintaining a healthy body consider that drinking the proper amount of water water will keep your skin moist, plumped and younger looking. So, please be mindful, good to yourself, drink enough water and stay healthy.