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13

Protect Your Vision as You Age

At breakfast I told a friend how sad I will be if (or when) my 19-year-old son fully loses his vision. He has Retinitis pigmentosa (RP), which refers to a group of inherited diseases causing retinal degeneration. People with RP experience a gradual decline in their vision because photoreceptor cells (rods and cones) die. At present, my kid is blind in the dark or low lighting, and has trouble locating things on the floor.

(no pics of him are in this post, as he doesn’t prefer it)

kymberly williams-evans in glasses

Twin sis Kymberly can no longer wear contact lenses due to an eye infection she got years ago. Cute glasses, though! Almost as cute as the ones at the top of our blog.

As my side of the family is the side with terrible vision, I assume I’m the parent who passed this along to him. I could write about my desire to take his suffering onto myself, or the times I’ve cried for all he’s gone through (and the things he’s missed), or my huge fear of him one day sitting at home, alone in the dark. But that doesn’t help him or anyone else with vision issues. Luckily, I expect a cure to be found in his lifetime, as scientists are getting closer and closer to finding a way to get energy to the dying photoreceptors.

Brian Williams

My brother wears contacts and had a detached retina a few years ago.

It's easier than you might think to help protect your vision as you age. #FitFluential… Click To Tweet
Megan Williams

My sister Megan is the only one of 7 family members who doesn’t have to wear glasses or contacts full time, the stinker.

I’m not a scientist, so I cannot hurry along the research, but I AM an expert in health and exercise, so am constantly on the lookout for links between lifestyle and eye health improvements. A few months ago, via the PR rep from Visionworks, I sent along some questions to Dr. Robert Pretli, their Director of Professional Services. As this blog is geared toward Boomer women, I asked questions that would be helpful to my son AND to those of us who are on the right side of 50. In the spirit of a mom who wants to live long enough to SEE her son SEE, I offer these eye health suggestions  from Dr. Pretli to help you with your long term vision.

  • Healthy eating, nutrition and exercise are all factors that benefit eye health. Poor diet, smoking and lack of exercise are risk factors for Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
  • According to the American Diabetes Association, the leading cause of blindness in working-age Americans is diabetes. Healthy habits, including annual eye exams, are essential in preserving your sight
  • A diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids such as green leafy vegetables and fish have been known to help prevent AMD
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule: take a 20 second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes. This helps avoid the headaches, fatigue, dry eyes and blurred vision that come with staring at a computer for prolonged periods of time
  • Wear polarized sunglasses when in the sun to help protect your eyelids and tissues around the eyes from the sun’s damaging rays
  • Two-thirds of blindness and other visual impairments worldwide occur in women. In addition to annual eye exams, we should also be careful about our eye makeup use, especially those of us who wear contact lenses.
Alexandra Williams

I got my first pair of glasses at the age of 7. They were the the cat-eyes you see at the top of this page. I’ve worn contacts since college. Dry eye syndrome is definitely an issue for me, and I’ve had several tear duct surgeries.

That last one motivates the heck out of me, as I wear both makeup and contacts. Now, if only I could figure out a way to convince my son to wear his prescription sunglasses.

Zann in Marciano sunglasses

Thanks Visionworks, for these cute Guess by Marciano sunglasses

Alexandra Williams, MA

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6

Healthy Habits: Small Changes Lead to Big Changes

A recurring theme in our business of fitness and active aging is how to get from A to B – where you are now and where you want to be. Whether it’s weight loss, better nutrition, more energy, injury prevention, disease reduction or any of the many other reasons people have, the secret to success lies in using your mind to make small changes that add up and lead to the desired big changes as you create new, healthy habits.

Walk on beach, KymberlyInstead of speaking generally, I’ll give a specific case example. I have a 65-year-old friend, Barbara*. She has diabetes, insomnia, low arm muscle tone (related to a shoulder injury & surgery), is overweight by about 20 pounds, and has forward head thrust. Oh, she also complains of snoring, but wants to avoid wearing a CPAP machine to bed (recommended by her doctors after a sleep study for the insomnia). Her eating habits consist mostly of fast food and restaurant food.

For two months, she has talked about the things she “should” do, yet not much has changed. When she started talking to me, I listened for any recent relevant successes. As it turned out, she had lost about 35 pounds over the past few years. With a background in fitness, food and counseling, you’d think I could just say, “do X, Y, and Z and you’ll be fine.” Well, I COULD say that, but would she listen? Would you?

Keeping in mind she’s my friend, NOT my client, I’m somewhat limited, yet she truly is motivated. So I think like a pro and friend, by staying as non-judgmental as possible (that’s diplomatic talk for me trying to keep my mouth shut regarding unsolicited advice).

When trying to lead a healthier life, small changes are best because... Click To Tweet

Do’s:
Focus on one issue at a time
Put related issues together
Mention possible small changes
Create an environment that leads to success
Go small
Pat, Slap, Pat (totally non-counselorish phrase for Compliment, Correct, Compliment)
Find opportunities to celebrate small successes
Lay out a clear picture of what success looks like – can’t reach a goal if you don’t know what it is

Dont’s:
Try to solve all the issues at once
Nag
Be a saboteur
Expect the person to do what YOU would do

to do listI realized fairly quickly that Barbara’s main focus is the insomnia and snoring, even more than getting off the diabetes medicine. Me, I’d want to be off the daily shots for the diabetes, but that’s ME, not her. She doesn’t like being reminded about pulling her head back, so the forward head thrust is out of the equation for now. She also has shown little inclination to work out, so the arm strength is also set aside. The good news for her is that the cure for the insomnia and snoring is going to help her diabetes and weight too.

These are a few of the changes that she’s made:

She said she wanted to walk her dog, yet that wasn’t happening. Instead of nagging her to walk the dog, I asked what it was she didn’t like about walking the dog. She said it was boring to walk the same neighborhood day after day. Solution: We meet at different places in town and walk the dog. Side benefit: She is discovering places in town that she had never visited, and her dog barks less at night because he’s sleeping better too.

Kila and Liberty on rockShe said she wanted to eat better by eating fewer meals (skipping breakfast, to be specific). Research doesn’t back up this plan, but I know very few people who change their habits when they read research, so instead I went shopping with her and helped her pick out foods she would actually eat. Solution: She found cereals she liked and has taught herself to read labels to watch for the sugar content (for the diabetes). Side benefit: She is no longer driving through fast food places mid-morning to satiate her hunger, so the type and amount of calories she’s eating have changed for the better.

She knows that exercise leads to weight loss, which leads to a decrease in snoring and helps her sleep better, yet she wasn’t doing any exercise. She’s a social person, so I invite her to join me on dog walks and other walking opportunities. For example, she’s so used to driving everywhere, that’s it’s a habit for her to jump into her car for even a short distance. We were headed somewhere that’s about a quarter mile from my house, so I suggested we walk. Solution: She’s starting to look at walking as a way to get from place to place, rather than as forced exercise. By simply “interrupting” her unconscious habit of jumping into the car, she now sees walking as an alternative mode of transport. Side benefit: She has noticed the correlation between the exercise and how she sleeps, and has come to realize that it’s actually cause and effect.

She is a kindhearted person who likes to be a good friend. We were going out to restaurants far more than is my usual style, and I found I was eating more than I normally would. When I expressed concern about this, she wanted to be helpful to me. She isn’t a doggie bag person; her mindset is more toward “clean your plate.” Thinking of “Pat, Slap, Pat,” I said, “I love going out to eat and trying new foods. This lifestyle won’t work for me in the long run, as I’m sitting too long and eating too much” (way better than saying, “You eat out way too often,” which sounds judgy). “Could we swing by the ready-made section of the grocery store and pick up some lunch there instead?” If I had suggested cooking at home, she would not have been successful at reducing her restaurant visits, since she doesn’t cook. Solution: She is looking more to the grocery store as a place for portion control and choice. Side benefit: She now has more time for those dog walks, as she’s spending less time sitting in a restaurant.

nutrition at IDEA WorldI gave her a card for her wallet that lists her goals, but that was a total bust, as she never looks at it. And I discovered that chocolate shakes are non-negotiable for her, so I stopped rolling my eyes. She has a sweet tooth, so I have to work WITH, not AGAINST it. How? I offer fruit in vanilla yogurt to her, which sometimes (not always) satisfies her sugar craving. And isn’t fruit two times out of ten better than candy bars ten out of ten? Maybe she’ll get to five times fruit and five times chocolate bars. But that might be enough to beat the diabetes.

Oh, I got her hooked on Bolthouse Vanilla Chai instead of the caffeinated energy drinks and sodas she was drinking. THAT is a big success.

What is the one small thing you can do? Write it in the comments below so we can steal your ideas.

Alexandra Williams, MA

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Photo credit for “To Do” –  Courtney Dirks

10

Post-Workout Healthy Snacks

Please share some examples of slow carb release post-workout healthy snacks please (I’m diabetic).
Thanks, Maxine

Hi Maxine:
I’m currently studying for my Nutrition Specialist certification, so I will do my best to give you some general information about slow (and fast) release carbs.

Fast release carbohydrates are foods that are quickly broken down into sugars.
Slow release carbs are foods that are slowly broken down into sugars.

strawberries and blueberries

Glycemic response refers to the body’s increase in blood glucose (a simple form of sugar; if you see the word “monosaccharide,” that is the type of sugar that is glucose) and insulin after you eat.
As you’re diabetic, I imagine the insulin/ blood glucose terminology is familiar to you, but this quick definition is my way of leading you down the non-sugary path to the Glycemic Index (GI). The GI is a standardized list of food categories. Using white bread as the reference food (GI of 100), foods that have a GI >85 are considered high, foods that are 60-85 are moderate, and foods that are  <60 are low. Low Glycemic Index foods are slow release.

 

pic of healthy brain foodsI cannot advise you specifically what foods to eat, as that’s out of my scope of practice, but I can certainly tell you some of the foods listed as low (<60) on the GI.

lentils

hummus

peaches

apples

grapefruit

peanuts

pears

beans

oat bran bread

milk (whole or nonfat or soy)

yogurt

dried peas

egg fettuccini

apricots

bananas

wheat kernels

cherries

plums

tomato soup

rice

bran barley

For a truly complete list of over 1,300 food listed on the Glycemic Index, you can click to the International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002 published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Handy hint – you won’t want white bread, I’m thinking.

Healthy packed dried fruits and veggiesWhat you choose from the Low GI Foods will also depend on what type of exercise you did, duration of that exercise, and intensity. And of course, your personal taste. I know I’d find it a lot easier to eat some cherries after working out than stashing tomato soup in my gym bag. But I wouldn’t say no to a bowl of egg fettuccini if someone else prepared it for me. But then, who wants plain fettuccini. Guess I’ll go look up the GI of butter and garlic.

In case you don’t carry the Glycemic Index list around with you, I’ll give you a super simplified way to choose – if it’s white, you probably don’t want it (except milk). If it’s colorful, you probably do. Brightly colored children’s cereals do NOT qualify slow release, even though they are probably the brightest food around.

picture of white foodsOne more way to quickly gauge – starchy = fast release; non-starchy – slow release. But I find the white/ colorful easier.

Now I’m hungry for some kale, carrots, plums and almonds, all mixed in with my steel-cut oats. Or something along those lines. I wonder where red licorice falls on the index???

Alexandra Williams, MA

Photo credit for white foods: Sharon Drummond via CreativeCommons.org