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Tips for Healthy Aging

The number of people living longer is increasing dramatically. An estimated 4.2 million U.S. residents now fall into the age group of the “oldest old”—85 years and older—with more than 40,000 having reached the age of 100. In fact, centenarians (those 100 and older) are the fastest-growing subpopulation of the elderly, and by 2050, according to census projections, 1 million Americans will celebrate their 100th birthdays.

 

At the same time, a growing body of evidence suggests that good genes are only a small part of the longevity puzzle. In fact, researchers now believe that chronic illness is not an inevitable consequence of aging, but it results more often from lifestyle choices that we’re perfectly free to reject.

 

So what are centenarians’ secrets to healthy old age? Experts recommend the following:

 

Embrace a Positive Attitude

Centenarians tend be very optimistic and always hope for the best. According to research, having a positive attitude is key to the ability to live longer and can lead to a healthier, higher quality of life. Researchers speculate that positive emotions may directly affect overall health, perhaps through direct mechanisms, such as immune function, or indirectly, for example, by strengthening social support networks.

 

Stimulate Your Mind

Research shows the more educated we are, the longer we live. And the benefits of education are even more pronounced when learning continues throughout our lives. Most centenarians take advantage of opportunities and possibilities that have not been available to them earlier in their lives, such as second careers, volunteer activities, musical instruction, writing, and various classes in areas of interest or travel. In addition, you may want to consider mentally challenging activities such as crossword puzzles or learning a new language.

 

Limit Stress and Stay Connected

Protect your mental and physical health by managing your stress at work and at home. Humor, meditation, exercise and optimism are good ways to naturally reduce stress and relieve tension.

 

Stay in touch with family and friends. Those who maintain a close network of social support do best. Social contacts may encourage us to take better care of ourselves—by cutting down on smoking and drinking, for example, or seeking medical treatment earlier for symptoms that may indicate serious problems. Friends may also help us get through difficult times by offering coping mechanisms and having a positive effect on mood and self-esteem.

 

Take Advantage of Your Genes

Good health practices will help you make up for at least some of the genetic difference between you and centenarians. Essentially, you can compensate for bad genes by healthy living—or ruin perfectly good genes with poor habits. Smoking and excessive alcohol intake, for example, increases the risk of many chronic diseases. As you age, be sure to get regular health screenings.

 

Support Your Body with Exercise

Find fun ways to stay in shape, such as dancing, gardening, swimming, walking or jogging. Include strength training, as directed by a personal trainer or health care provider, to maintain muscle mass. Increased muscle tissue burns fat more efficiently, reduces your heart disease risk, and lessens your chance of a broken hip from falling. For adults, a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week is recommended.

 

Make Healthy Diet Choices

What you eat and drink—and what you don’t eat and drink—can make a big difference to your health. To prevent weight gain and maintain good health, pay special attention to eating efficiently. Choose foods that maximize nutritional value and minimize calories.

Overly processed foods often contain more calories and fewer nutrients. Choose, instead, whole, natural foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, good (unsaturated) fats, nuts, legumes and healthy sources of protein (white meat, fish and eggs).

 

Choose a Good Health Care Provider

Even if you are healthy and make good preventative choices, it is essential to have access to a good, trustworthy health care provider.

A health care provider should:

  • Know and support all forms of healing and various approaches to health care to present patients with the most effective, safest preventative or treatment options available.
  • Emphasize prevention and whole-person wellness.
  • Teach healthy living practices.
  • Involve patients in decisions regarding their care—except for acute, potentially life-threatening emergencies.
  • Encourage patients to be responsible for their health.

Chiropractic Care Can Help

Talk to your doctor of chiropractic about other ways to improve your quality of life. Doctors of chiropractic are trained and licensed to examine and treat the entire body with specific emphasis on the nervous and musculoskeletal systems, wellness and prevention.

 

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Helping Children with Attention Deficit Disorder

In the past decade, prescriptions for Ritalin, a stimulant medication commonly used for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), increased five-fold, with 90 percent of all prescriptions worldwide consumed in the United States. As many parents grow leery of the traditional medical approach to ADHD, doctors of chiropractic are offering promising results with non-drug treatments that focus on postural muscles, nutrition and lifestyle changes that affect brain activity.

Some children may simply have difficulty learning certain subjects, but the current system—in a sense—prompts school officials to encourage their parents to have the children diagnosed with ADHD, says Dr. Scott Bautch, past president of the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) Council on Occupational Health. “The higher the number of disabled kids in the school, the more funding the school can apply for,” says Dr. Bautch.

Some teachers might also have difficulty with students who have a different style of learning, according to Dr. Bautch. If the child is a visual learner—and the teacher is not—perhaps the child is not being taught in a way he or she can learn. Before diagnosing the child with ADHD, Dr. Bautch recommends doctors talk to the child and the parents: “Is the child too active? Bored? Has dyslexia or a different learning pattern? It can be a behavior problem, problems at home, or frustrations with the teacher’s style,” explains Dr. Bautch. “If we went to a conference where the speakers taught in a way we can’t learn, we would be frustrated and would misbehave—we’d get up and leave or chat to the person sitting next to us.”

The traditional medical model, however, seems to follow the cookie-cutter principle. The diagnosis of ADHD is based on a questionnaire. But this is not enough, says Dr. Robert Melillo, a chiropractic neurologist. “True ADHD patients have other signs — tics, tremors, balance or postural problems, or unusual sensitivity to touch, movement, sights, or sounds.” Unfortunately, although medications can keep ADHD under control, they don’t cure it. Eighty percent of patients have ADHD features in adolescence, and up to 65 percent maintain them in adulthood.

Doctors of chiropractic and chiropractic neurologists offer a non-drug and non-invasive treatment alternative for ADHD patients that targets the underlying problems, not just symptoms. “Motor activity—especially development of the postural muscles—is the baseline function of brain activity. Anything affecting postural muscles will influence brain development. Musculoskeletal imbalance will create imbalance of brain activity, and one part of the brain will develop faster than the other, and that’s what’s happening in ADHD patients,” says Dr. Melillo.

Chiropractic neurologists are trained to identify the under functioning part of the brain and find treatments to correct the problem, to help that hemisphere grow. “On every patient, we perform a brain function exam,” says Dr. Frederick Carrick, president of the ACA Council on Neurology. “We test visual and auditory reflexes through, for example, flashing light in the eye, or asking patients to listen to music in one or the other ear.”

When the problem is identified, patients are placed on a treatment program—and most of the therapies can be done at home. “Patients are asked to smell certain things several times a day … or wear special glasses,” says Dr. Mark S. Smith, a chiropractic neurologist. “We also focus on their individual problems. Some children, for example, have difficulty with planning, organization, and coordination—so they benefit from timing therapies. They learn to clap or tap to the metronome, perform spinning and balancing exercises.”

Although currently no studies comparing chiropractic neurological and medical treatment for ADHD are available, chiropractic neurologists are compiling the data. “We test children before they start the treatment and then every three months,” says Dr. Melillo. “Within the first three months, the children get a two-grade-level increase on average—which is pretty dramatic. With children on medications, the improvement in academic performance is short term and lasts only as long as they take the medication. Our programs change the brain function and the improvement doesn’t go away.”

While chiropractic neurologists have found success in treating ADHD and learning disabilities by providing the necessary brain stimulation, they also recommend nutrition and lifestyle changes that may help correct or prevent biochemical imbalances that cause ADHD. Parents are encouraged to:

  • Remove as many food dyes, sugar, preservatives, and additives from the diet as possible.
  • Focus on natural, mostly organic foods with as few pesticides or herbicides as possible.
  • Determine if there is an allergy—usually starting with dairy and gluten and try elimination diets.
  • Stop using pesticide sprays in the house.
  • Avoid taking medications, nicotine, alcohol, and other drugs in pregnancy that may harm the fetus.
  • Find ways to relax during pregnancy. Stress on the job may affect the unborn baby’s health, as well.
  • Breastfeed. The first months and years of a child’s life are critical to physical and psychological development. Breastfeeding mothers’ diets are important as well.

Chiropractic Care Can Help…
If you or your loved one is diagnosed with ADHD or has the symptoms, ask your doctor of chiropractic if he or she has experience treating patients with the condition. Doctors of chiropractic are trained to identify neurological problems and find individual non-invasive treatment modalities. They can also assess your nutritional status and help you find the diet that will help you manage your condition.

 

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What is Chiropractic?

Chiropractic is a health care profession that focuses on disorders of the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system, and the effects of these disorders on general health.  Chiropractic care is used most often to treat neuromusculoskeletal complaints, including but not limited to back pain, neck pain, pain in the joints of the arms or legs, and headaches.

Doctors of Chiropractic: often referred to as Chiropractors or Chiropractic Physicians – practice a drug-free, hands-on approach to health care that includes patient examination, diagnosis and treatment. Chiropractors have broad diagnostic skills and are also trained to recommend therapeutic and rehabilitative exercises, as well as to provide nutritional, dietary and lifestyle counseling.

The most common therapeutic procedure performed by doctors of chiropractic is known as “spinal manipulation,” also called “chiropractic adjustment.”   The purpose of manipulation is to restore joint mobility by manually applying a controlled force into joints that have become hypo mobile – or restricted in their movement – as a result of a tissue injury. Tissue injury can be caused by a single traumatic event, such as improper lifting of a heavy object, or through repetitive stresses, such as sitting in an awkward position with poor spinal posture for an extended period of time. In either case, injured tissues undergo physical and chemical changes that can cause inflammation, pain, and diminished function for the sufferer. Manipulation, or adjustment of the affected joint and tissues, restores mobility, thereby alleviating pain and muscle tightness, and allowing tissues to heal.

Chiropractic adjustment rarely causes discomfort. However, patients may sometimes experience mild soreness or aching following treatment (as with some forms of exercise) that usually resolves within 12 to 48 hours.

In many cases, such as lower back pain, chiropractic care may be the primary method of treatment. When other medical conditions exist, chiropractic care may complement or support medical treatment by relieving the musculoskeletal aspects associated with the condition.

Doctors of chiropractic may assess patients through clinical examination, laboratory testing, diagnostic imaging and other diagnostic interventions to determine when chiropractic treatment is appropriate or when it is not appropriate. Chiropractors will readily refer patients to the appropriate health care provider when chiropractic care is not suitable for the patient’s condition, or the condition warrants co-management in conjunction with other members of the health care team.

 

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What is Wellness?

“Wellness” has become a buzzword among the public, health care practitioners and legislators alike. But what exactly does it mean, and how can people benefit from it? The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) defines wellness as “an active process that promotes health and enhances quality of life.”

“With the enactment of health care reform legislation earlier this year, the public is going to hear more and more about the importance of wellness, staying healthy and ultimately reducing health care costs caused by chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes,” says ACA President Dr. Rick McMichael. “It’s time for people to understand that they have the power to take charge of their health and be well enough to do the activities they enjoy.”

Dr. Scott Bautch, a doctor of chiropractic from Wausau, Wis., explains wellness further. “We consider wellness the act of adding potential to people’s lives,” he says. “Whether that potential is the ability to avoid cholesterol problems, quit smoking, or exercise more — it’s all individual to each person. In other words, wellness is about giving people specific skills that will help them flourish in life.”

Finding a wellness coach

“If you’re interested in health and wellness, a good place to begin is by talking about it with a doctor of chiropractic,” notes Dr. McMichael. “Our doctors are well known for their expert care of back pain, neck pain and headaches, but they also offer patients a variety of conservative recommendations and counseling on general health and wellness.” (Link to: http://www.acatoday.org/healthtips)

You may ask, “What can a doctor of chiropractic offer that is different from a medical doctor?” The answer lies in the way the two professions approach wellness. To achieve “wellness” in traditional terms, a medical doctor will simply screen you for diseases, explains Dr. Bautch. “You might be examined or have lab tests. For medical doctors, wellness is about staying ahead of diseases.”

A doctor of chiropractic (DC), on the other hand, will screen you for diseases, but he or she also will talk to you about your lifestyle and behaviors that may put you at risk for injury or illness. It’s important to note that chiropractic’s approach is drug-free; instead of writing a prescription, a DC offers spinal adjustments, rehabilitative exercises, nutritional counseling and lifestyle modifications to move patients toward optimum function and wellness.

Typically, when a new patient visits a DC, one of the first things the doctor will assess is functional capacity. The DC will focus on decreasing pain and returning the patient to normal daily activities, including exercise. In the intermediate stage, a chiropractor will continue therapeutic care, but also begin to address factors that may have led to the patient’s pain by recommending lifestyle modifications. An example of intermediate care might include managing the patient’s obesity with counseling on diet and exercise. In the final stage of wellness care, a DC will help the patient take responsibility for his or her own health through patient education, enabling the person to independently maintain and even advance the level of wellness achieved.

Adjust your attitude

“The first thing I work on with a patient who is interested in living well is life skills in terms of thinking and dealing with life’s ups and downs,” says Dr. Bautch. “Research shows that coping skills and the ways that people deal with stress can be huge factors in whether or not someone is well.”

You can boost your attitude in a variety of ways: enjoying nature, looking for humor in life’s mishaps, listening to relaxing music and creating a support system of people who you can turn to in times of trouble or stress.

Start moving

Next, Dr. Bautch works with patients to increase their daily movements. “Americans today take significantly fewer steps than previous generations, and they spend a great deal more time in sedentary positions,” he says. “Adding more motion to your life can be a huge step toward living well.”

Simply taking a 30 minute walk each day is a great way to recoup the steps that are missing from your day. Experts generally agree that to be considered “active,” adults should take about 10,000 steps each day. Wearing a pedometer is an easy way to track your progress.

Food for fuel

Once the first two components of wellness are addressed, Dr. Bautch will address a patient’s diet. It’s surprising for some to learn that making even a few simple changes, such as eating more raw or organically grown foods, drinking more water and consuming 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day, can positively impact your health and help prevent a variety of adverse health issues in the future.