Healthy Aging Month

Think it’s too late to “re-invent” yourself? Think again. According to Carolyn Worthington, editor-in-chief of Healthy Aging® Magazine and executive director of Healthy Aging®, it’s never too late to find a new career, a new sport, passion or hobby. The number of people over 45 is growing every year. The attention used to be just on the baby boomers. The generation x-ers are elbowing their way in and have many of the same interests as the previous generation – stay active and vibrant as long as possible. There are over 76 million baby boomers today over 50 and the first of the 82.1 million generation x-ers are about to reach that milestone in 2015.

 

To get you started on re-inventing yourself, here are some ideas from the editors of Healthy Aging® Magazine (www.healthyaging.net). Maybe you will find some that will help you think outside the box.

10 Tips for Reinventing Yourself during Healthy Aging Month:

  1. Do not act your age or at least what you think your current age should act like. What was your best year so far? 28? 40? Now? Picture yourself at that age and be it. Some people may say this is denial, but we say it’s positive thinking and goes a long way toward feeling better about yourself.
  2. Be positive in your conversations and your actions every day. When you catch yourself complaining, check yourself right there and change the conversation to something positive.
  3. Have negative friends who complain all of the time and constantly talk about how awful everything is? Drop them. As cruel as that may sound, distance yourself from people who do not have a positive outlook on life. They will only depress you and stop you from moving forward. Surround yourself with energetic, happy, positive people of all ages and you will be happier too.
  4. Walk like a vibrant, healthy person. Come on. You can probably do it. Analyze your gait. Do you walk slowly because you have just become lazy or, perhaps, have a fear of falling?
  5. Stand up straight! You can knock off the appearance of a few extra years with this trick your mother kept trying to tell you. Look at yourself in the mirror. Are you holding your stomach in, have your shoulders back, chin up? Check out how much better your neck looks! Fix your stance and practice it every day, all day until it is natural. You will look great and feel better.
  6. How’s your smile? Research shows people who smile more often are happier. Your teeth are just as important to your good health as the rest of your body. Not only is it the first thing people notice, but good oral health is a gateway to your overall well-being.
  7. Lonely? Stop brooding and complaining about having no friends or family. Do something about it now. Right this minute. Pick up the phone, landline, or cell and make a call to do one or more of the following: Volunteer your time, Take a class, Invite someone to meet for lunch, brunch, dinner, or coffee.
  8. Start walking not only for your health but to see the neighbors. Have a dog? You’ll be amazed how the dog can be a conversation starter.
  9. Make this month the time to set up your annual physical and other health screenings. Go to the appointments and then, hopefully, you can stop worrying about ailments for a while.
  10. Find your inner artist. Who says taking music lessons is for young school children? You may have an artist lurking inside you just waiting to be tapped. Have you always wanted to play the piano, violin, or tuba? Have you ever wondered if you could paint a portrait or scenic in oil? What about working in wood?
  11.  

    HealthyAging®
    P.O. Box442
    Unionville,PA

Cherie Englund

Cherie is a relatively new employee to the City of St. Paul, having just started in September, 2013. She is working at the Police Department West Team as an Office Assistant II.
 
Cherie has a passion – and she loves to share it. Her passion is: Stand-Up Paddle Boarding (SUP). It started back in 2008 when she signed herself and husband up for a class in Duluth. That day, it was 50 degrees and raining, and they were booked for 8 hours out on the lake. At first wanting to back out, the instructor encouraged them to put on wetsuits and endure the chill and drizzle. They did it and were hooked!
 
They started paddle boarding around the Twin Cities at area lakes where people were drawn to what they were doing. Not many people knew too much about it at that time, and there weren’t a lot of places to learn. So, they decided to become instructors and share their love of SUP with others. Cherie and her husband, Dave, are now certified with the American Canoe Association as SUP Level II Instructors.
 
As one thing often leads to another, they then formed a non-profit business, MN Stand Up Paddle Boarders Association. It was created to provide stewardship of the waterways of Minnesota and to teach the sport of Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP). They volunteer with local cities doing beach and waterway clean-ups on their stand up boards. They are able to remove hundreds of pounds of trash with the use of the paddle boards while doing this. They have taught SUP through the City of Minneapolis and Oakdale in their inner city youth programs.
 
They are now spreading their passion throughout the state. The DNR just started an “I Can Paddle” program at different state parks and have asked Cherie and Dave to be their instructors. It is a family event, with their two children accompanying them to the lessons. If you would like to see all the events they will be participating in (cleaning up of lakes, DNR events, classes), you can visit their website at http://www.mnsupa.org/.
 
Cherie will tell you that SUP is a very different point of view from canoeing and kayaking. It is fun to do and easy to learn. You can gain balance and stability using all of the major muscles in your body. It is so fun that you won’t even realize you are getting a great workout in. If you would like to see all the events they will be participating in and (cleaning up of lakes, DNR events, classes), you can visit their website at www.mnsupa.org.
 
Cherie and her family have been through some personal challenges that included injuries, surgery, and closing of their business they had for more than 20 years. Through it all though, she has learned to roll with change and not be afraid of it and to not stop growing. Besides being physically active, they keep themselves healthy with a diet that includes no processed foods and have eliminated foods without nutritional value.

Volunteering Does a Body Good!

For the heart and the spirit, give a little and you will get a lot back.

In recent years, it has become apparent that good health means much more than a set of numbers tracking height, weight, heart rate and cholesterol. It starts with the individual. It means taking an integrated approach to wellbeing that includes not only our physical health, but our emotional health, our sense of purpose, connections to our community and our overall quality of life.

A study by United Health Care of more than 4500 adult volunteers confirmed that volunteering made a difference – to the volunteers themselves. People who volunteer feel better – physically, mentally, and emotionally. They consider themselves in excellent or very good health, and they are more likely to say that their health has improved over the past 12 months.

Another important point in the study was how volunteering isn’t just something that healthy people do. Everyone can reap the benefits. Older individuals and those who suffer from multiple chronic conditions have taken on volunteering – and feel better as a result. They feel better physically as it helps to keep them active, but even more importantly, they reported that volunteering takes their mind off of their own problems and helping other people just makes them feel better.

Recognizing the benefits of volunteering, Healthy Saint Paul will be adding volunteering to the list of activities that qualify for the Well-Being Program’s incentive. Specific organizations will be listed from which employees/retirees can choose to serve. Watch for details on this new activity to come out in August.

Excerpted from Volunteering Does a Body good, US News and World Report, November 2010
United Health Group, Doing Good is Good for You. 2013 Health and Volunteering Study.

Anca Sima

Tell us about yourself

After communism collapsed in Romania, my husband applied for a Ph.D program at the University of Minnesota. He arrived in Minnesota in September, 1991, and I followed in April 1992.
 
I began working for the City in 2001 as an Engineering Aid in Public Works. I currently am a PW Technician 3 in the Sewers Division. I review site plans for commercial projects.
 
One of the exciting things I found in the United States when I first arrived was all the different foods here that are not available in Romania. I was so curious about all these new foods that I gained 30 pounds in 4 months! I had always been careful about maintaining my weight, but, here, my curiosity and appetite for the new foods got the best of me. It took me three years and my mom’s nagging before I decided to do something about it. I started exercising and being careful again about what I was eating. It took me almost one year to lose the weight and get back in shape. I promised myself I would stay in shape for the rest of my life.
 

You currently lead Yoga classes for City employees. Tell me about your Yoga career.

I had read a lot of books about yoga in Romania, and I was curious to try it. In 2001, I started taking classes at the YMCA, with not too much confidence that it would work for me. My husband actually saw the benefit yoga provided before I did: he realized if he wanted an affirmative answer about something, he should call me after the yoga class when I was more relaxed and accepting.
 
In 2002, I took a part time job at the YMCA and began instructor training classes for Yoga, Pilates and Body Flow. After I had all certificates in order, I started substitute teaching. In 2004, I was approved to teach a Pilates class at the YMCA and the next year started teaching BodyFlow, and Yoga. Since then, I have been teaching about a 12 classes a week at various YMCAs, and I love it!
 

When did you start leading Yoga/Pilates classes for the City? Do you have any examples of what participants have said about what Yoga has done for them since they started?

In 2006, I began teaching at the City, first 2 times/week and have continued to add more classes. My students really enjoy the lunch hour classes. It is a very good way to break up the working/sitting day. After the class, they tell me they feel even more productive. They also feel that their posture and fitness have improved since starting Yoga.
 

You recently were diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo surgery. What can you say about Yoga contributing to your recovery?

Before the surgery, I was thinking that this is a chance to see if all my working out would make a difference. After surgery, my doctor told me that I would be recovered in one week because of how fit I am from so many hours of Yoga and Pilates. (This same doctor, for the same procedure, recommended 6 weeks of rest for one of my friends.) Not only did my fitness level contribute to my recovery but the yoga techniques of concentration and meditation allowed me to maintain a positive attitude throughout.
 

Any final words?

I appreciate so much the benefits I have received from doing Yoga and Pilates, and I really enjoy being able to help others obtain these same benefits through the classes I teach. If you’ve never taken a Yoga or Pilates class, I encourage you to do that. When I first started, I had my doubts that I would even be able to do it. I never imagined I would be instructing others and here I am!

The need for sleep

How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?

Sleep needs vary across ages and are especially impacted by lifestyle and health. Thus, to determine how much sleep you need, it’s important to assess not only where you fall on the “sleep needs spectrum,” but also to examine what lifestyle factors are affecting the quality and quantity of your sleep such as work schedules and stress. To get the sleep you need, you must look at the big picture.

Though research cannot pinpoint an exact amount of sleep need by people at different ages. Nevertheless, it’s important to pay attention to your own individual needs by assessing how you feel on different amounts of sleep. Are you productive, healthy and happy on seven hours of sleep? Or does it take you nine hours of quality ZZZs to get you into high gear? Do you have health issues such as being overweight? Are you at risk for any disease? Are you experiencing sleep problems? Do you depend on caffeine to get you through the day? Do you feel sleepy when driving? These are questions that must be asked before you can find the number that works for you.

 

Exercise and Sleep

Exercise of any sort has generally been shown to improve daytime sleepiness. This is true for just about every population that has been studied, from healthy teens who took up running to inactive people who began Pilates. In understanding how exercise can result in such a positive effect on sleepiness, it’s helpful to take a look at the most common causes of sleepiness.

Among the most frequent causes of sleepiness and fatigue in the population are depression, obesity, diabetes, smoking, and inadequate sleep at night . Exercise helps with the first three of these. For example, physical activity has been shown to help depression in some studies. Physical activity is also an important part of most effective weight loss programs. Working out may also help with glucose control in diabetes. So part of the beneficial effect of exercise on sleepiness may result from its positive effects on some of the common causes of sleepiness.

We probably don’t know the whole story yet, but what we do know is compelling: exercise can help with excessive sleepiness

 

What You Can Do To Improve Your Sleep

To begin a new path towards healthier sleep and a healthier lifestyle, begin by assessing your own individual needs and habits. See how you respond to different amounts of sleep. Pay careful attention to your mood, energy and health after a poor night’s sleep versus a good one. Ask yourself, “How often do I get a good night’s sleep?” If the answer is “not often”, then you may need to consider changing your sleep habits or consulting a physician or sleep specialist.

Use the National Sleep Foundation Sleepiness Test to see if you are more or less sleepy than the general population. Similar tests are often used by doctors to test sleepiness levels. If you rate “very sleepy” on this test, you should speak to your physician. Click to take the sleepiness-test.

Most importantly, make sleep a priority. You must schedule sleep like any other daily activity, so put it on your “to-do list” and cross it off every night. But don’t make it the thing you do only after everything else is done – stop doing other things so you get the sleep you need.

Courtesy of the National Sleep Foundation

Bicycling is for everyone!

More than 42 million Americans 6 and older—15% of the population—rode a bike for recreation in 2010, making it the second-most-popular outdoor activity in the U.S. Minnesota’s miles of paved trails are a cyclist’s dream. Many bike trails are along former railroad beds, offering secluded, scenic biking. Several are part of the Minnesota State Trails system, while other trails and routes are regional or metropolitan.

Besides being fun, bicycling is good for you. Here are 5 reasons to start biking today:

  1. Cycling is good for your heart: Cycling is associated with improved cardiovascular fitness, as well as a decrease in the risk of coronary heart disease.
  2. Cycling is good for your muscles: Riding a bike is great for toning and building your muscles, especially in the lower half of the body – your calves, your thighs, and your rear end. It’s also a great low-impact mode of exercise for those with joint conditions or injuries to the legs or hips, which might keep them from being active.
  3. Cycling is good for your weight: You can burn a lot of calories while biking, especially when you cycle faster than a leisurely pace, and cycling has been associated with helping to keep weight gain down.
  4. Cycling is good for your lifespan: Bicycling is a great way to increase your longevity, as cycling regularly has been associated with increased ‘life-years’, even when adjusted for risks of injury through cycling.
  5. Cycling is good for your mental health: Riding a bike has been linked to improved mental health.
  6. So get on your bike and enjoy! Visit the City of Saint Paul’s website for more information on bike safety and trails in Saint Paul and Ramsey County.

    Learn more…

Tom Green

If the last time you saw Tom Green was 3 years ago, today you probably wouldn’t recognize him. At that time, Tom tipped the scale at 255 lbs. Today, he is maintaining a lean and fit 175 lbs.!

Tom has worked for the City for 13.5 years and is currently a fire equipment operator. He has two daughters that keep him quite busy and active.
It was a few years ago when Tom decided he needed to make a change. He wanted to feel healthier and make sure he would be able to stay active for his children. While he had always been active with participating in cross country skiing, racquetball and mountain biking, over the years, his diet had done a slow creep up to the 255 lbs. He knew it wasn’t so much his activity level as the amount and type of foods he had been eating that had to change.

Tom took on that task on his own, creating a diet that included healthier foods and eliminating more of the unhealthy ones. He confesses to having had a really big sweet tooth. He just couldn’t resist those treats. After six months of cutting out the treats, he realized though that the strong craving he had for them in the past wasn’t there. Plus, he had dropped down to 215 lbs.

This motivated him to keep going down to his ideal weight of 175 lbs. He has been able to maintain that weight by monitoring his weight closely – he likes to weigh every day. While he doesn’t have a perfect diet all the time, he balances the bad with the good and doesn’t really restrict his eating habits too much. Tom has made a lifestyle change that he feels he will keep forever.

Sgt. Steve Anderson

Last year, like so many other employees, I was participating in the Healthy Saint Paul Well-Being program so I could earn the incentive. I signed up for the onsite screening. My results came back and showed I had higher than normal cholesterol levels and off the chart blood glucose level.

 

While I was somewhat surprised, I thought those numbers were due to not fasting prior to the screening. I knew I also had been eating the wrong “healthy foods” – not understanding the difference between good and bad carbs and eating foods with hidden sugar. So, I made an appointment with my primary doctor figuring he would yell at me about my diet, give me a pill to assist with the high cholesterol and get me on the right path.

 

Well, I was right about having him yell at me and giving me a pill – he put me on cholesterol medications. What I didn’t expect to hear and what shocked me was that I was diagnosed with diabetes. That was a real wake up call for me. I now needed to get serious with my diet – eating the good carbs vs the bad carbs, watching the sugars, making better choices with a real eating plan. Additionally, I began to inject insulin and also take diabetes meds.

 

The good news is I lost about 25 lbs. I’m running and working out every day. I know that is important to stay with too.

 

I’m still having my bad days with the low carb/low sugar diet but I’m plugging along. I owe a great deal to the screening process because it forced me to deal with my numbers and also got me on the right meds. It also got me hooked in to how to lead a better overall healthy lifestyle.

 

Stress Management

What happens when you are stressed?

Stress is what you feel when you have to handle more than you are used to. When you are stressed, your body responds as though you are in danger. It makes hormones that speed up your heart, make you breathe faster, and give you a burst of energy. This is called the fight-or-flight stress response.

Some stress is normal and even useful. Stress can help if you need to work hard or react quickly. For example, it can help you win a race or finish an important job on time.

But if stress happens too often or lasts too long, it can have bad effects. It can be linked to headaches, an upset stomach, back pain, and trouble sleeping. It can weaken your immune system, making it harder to fight off disease. If you already have a health problem, stress may make it worse. It can make you moody, tense, or depressed. Your relationships may suffer, and you may not do well at work or school.
What can you do about stress?

The good news is that you can learn ways to manage stress. To get stress under control:
» Find out what is causing stress in your life.
» Look for ways to reduce the amount of stress in your life.
» Learn healthy ways to relieve stress and reduce its harmful effects.

How do you measure your stress level?

Sometimes it is clear where stress is coming from. You can count on stress during a major life change such as the death of a loved one, getting married, or having a baby. But other times it may not be so clear.

It’s important to figure out what causes stress for you. Everyone feels and responds to stress differently. Tracking your stress may help. Get a notebook, and write down when something makes you feel stressed. Then write how you reacted and what you did to deal with the stress. Tracking your stress can help you find out what is causing your stress and how much stress you feel. Then you can take steps to reduce the stress or handle it better.

How can you avoid stress?

Stress is a fact of life for most people. You may not be able to get rid of stress, but you can look for ways to lower it.
Learn better ways to manage your time. You may get more done with less stress if you make a schedule. Think about which things are most important, and do those first.

Find better ways to cope. Look at how you have been dealing with stress. Be honest about what works and what does not. Think about other things that might work better.

Take good care of yourself. Get plenty of rest. Eat well. Don’t smoke. Limit how much alcohol you drink.

Try out new ways of thinking. When you find yourself starting to worry, try to stop the thoughts. Or write down your worries and work on letting go of things you cannot change. Learn to say “no.”

Speak up. Not being able to talk about your needs and concerns creates stress and can make negative feelings worse. Assertive communication can help you express how you feel in a thoughtful, tactful way.

Ask for help. People who have a strong network of family and friends manage stress better.
Sometimes stress is just too much to handle alone. Talking to a friend or family member may help, but you may also want to see a counselor.
How can you relieve stress?

You will feel better if you can find ways to get stress out of your system. The best ways to relieve stress are different for each person. Try some of these ideas to see which ones work for you:

» Exercise. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress. Walking is a great way to get started.
» Write. It can help to write about the things that are bothering you.
» Let your feelings out. Talk, laugh, cry, and express anger when you need to with someone you trust.
» Do something you enjoy. A hobby can help you relax. Volunteer work or work that helps others can be a great stress reliever.
» Learn ways to relax your body. This can include breathing exercises, muscle relaxation exercises, massage, aromatherapy, yoga, or relaxing exercises like tai chi and qi gong.
» Focus on the present. Try meditation, imagery exercises, or self-hypnosis. Listen to relaxing music. Try to look for the humor in life. Laughter really can be the best medicine.

Want to learn more about your stress level? Use this interactive tool to learn more about your stress level.

Reynaldo Varela

Rey, tell us a little about yourself.
I have worked for the City in River Print for the last 17 years. My job is to run the two color printing press. There are a couple of factors that led me to change my lifestyle. My job, for example, requires me to stand for long hours. That, along with having gained weight over the years, contributed to finally the need for a knee replacement. In addition, my blood sugar levels were climbing, and I have a family history of diabetes. All my brothers have diabetes and my wife was also at risk.
 
What was your goal in changing your lifestyle?
My goal was to avoid becoming diabetic. My weight was up to 242 lbs. I knew I could lower my blood sugar levels and weight by diet and exercise. So, four years ago, I decided to take up biking. I began biking to work during the good weather months. This is a 7 mile trip one way. On weekends, I would also go for bike rides. I started eating healthier too.
 
What has been the result of your new lifestyle?
To date, my weight is down 40 lbs. My glucose, triglycerides and blood pressure have all gone down as well. I am able to maintain those positive results by sticking with my new lifestyle habits. In addition, my wife and I joined LA Fitness four years ago. We go together three times a week. I mix up my workouts by participating in water aerobics (which is easy on my joints), spin classes, and weight lifting.
 
Do you have any advice for someone wanting to make changes?
My advice is to pick an activity you enjoy, start slow and work your way up, doing four to five times per week. Cut back on carbs, up your fiber and protein. Most important, have fun!