Category Archives: general well-being

Optimism linked to longevity and well-being in two recent studies 

Optimism is linked to a longer lifespan in women from diverse racial and ethnic groups, and to better emotional health in older men, according to two NIA-funded studies. One study showed that the previously established link between optimism and longevity applies to racially and ethnically diverse populations of women and that the link is only partially due to changes in health behaviors. The other study showed that more optimistic men have fewer negative emotions, due in part to reduced exposure to stressful situations. These findings suggest that increasing optimism may be a way to extend lifespan and improve well-being in older adults.

Photo by Hasan Albari on

Previous research has established that optimism is associated with healthier aging and longevity. However, most of these studies were in non-Hispanic White populations. In a collaborative study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers from Harvard University; Boston University School of Medicine; Kaiser Permanente; University of California, Davis; University of California, San Diego; and the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University explored the link between optimism and longevity in a racially diverse population of women.

Researchers analyzed data from over 150,000 women ages 50–79, collected as a part of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). The WHI included non-Hispanic White, Black, Hispanic/Latina, and Asian women. Each participant in the study completed a validated optimism test and provided demographic and health information. When scientists analyzed the data, they found that the most optimistic women lived, on average, 5.4% longer (approximately 4.4 years) than the least optimistic women. The most optimistic women were also more likely to achieve exceptional longevity, defined as living over 90 years. These trends were consistent across all racial and ethnic groups.

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Filed under general well-being, longevity, optimism

2016 Survey on Healthy Behaviors and Well-Being

The aim of this blog is to eat right, exercise regularly and live past 100 with a fully functioning brain. I just ran across a fascinating survey done last year  by AARP. I thought it had some very useful information that coincides with things I have written for this blog.

AARP conducted a survey among adults age 18 and over to understand the link between healthy behaviors and mental well-being. This study also sought to determine what motivates engagement in brain-healthy behaviors and which behaviors they are likely to adopt.


Key findings include:
•    Mental well-being scores increase with age.  Those age 54 and older have higher than average mental well-being scores (assessed on the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale). Mental well-being is low during middle age but, after midlife, it markedly improves. Continue reading

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Filed under aging, Exercise, exercise benefits, general well-being

Should I Be Tested for Hepatitis?

May is Hepatitis awareness month. Millions of Americans are living with chronic viral hepatitis and many do not know that they are infected. Every year, approximately 15,000 Americans die from liver cancer or chronic liver disease associated with viral hepatitis. Despite this, viral hepatitis is not well known. In fact, as many as 75 percent of the millions of Americans with chronic viral hepatitis don’t know they’re infected.


The word “hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis is most often caused by one of several viruses, which is why it is often called viral hepatitis.
The Centers for Disease Control offers a free Hepatitis Risk Assessment to find out if you should be tested for viral hepatitis. This risk assessment tool allows individuals to answer questions privately, either in their home or in a health care setting, and print their recommendations to discuss with their doctor. May 19 is National Hepatitis Testing Day.

You can take the free test by clicking on the link above.


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Filed under general well-being, Hepatitis, inflammation, life challenges

Squats and Lunges – The Good and the Bad

So, besides pushups and chinups, that I wrote about two days ago, what are some other useful exercises that you can do without needing the equipment of a health club? Squats and lunges are some good ones. When I took the conditioning course last fall, we did a lot of lunges.

WebMD suggests squats and lunges in their series of Effective Exercises.



I like these photos with right way and the wrong way. It’s good to keep in mind that you always want the front knee directly above the foot, not extended forward.


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Filed under Exercise, general well-being, health, healthy living, Weight

Is Cycling Past 70 Different Than Cycling Past 50?

I ran across this excellent discussion of senior cycling on They have graciously permitted me to reprint it. See permission at end.

RBR Editor’s Note: Coach John Hughes copied me on a recent email exchange he had with Marty Hoganson, an RBR reader with whom he had ridden on tours in years gone by. Marty wondered what, if any, differences there are in terms of recovery, motivation, etc., between 50-somethings and 70-somethings. Both agreed to let me share the exchange with RBR readers. It provides a wealth of solid, useful information.

Marty Asked:
These days I live and ride in Yuma, Arizona. I am involved in our local bike club called Foothills Bicycle Club, which is primarily made up of retired folks – late-50s to mid-80s. Many strong riders in their 60s and 70s, for their ages — or any age, for that matter.

Now that I am older also I have taken some interest in your articles on cycling and aging. I was wondering how cycling over 70 relates to your articles on cycling over 50? I’m pretty sure they don’t necessarily relate well. I am arriving in that 70+ age group this year, and have been feeling the difference in recovery time and healing from injuries for quite a few years.

The plus 70 year old blogger riding with his dog on Northerly Island in Chicago.

The plus 70 year old blogger riding with his dog on Northerly Island in Chicago.

What used to take three days to recover from, while riding a tour, may now take longer than the tour lasts. Maybe months longer. I ride year-round and still ride pretty strong, but I’m also experiencing a loss of interest in doing long days. I still like to do long tours, but with shorter days. I’m wondering if the lack of desire or drive might be a major contributing factor in the loss of performance, or if the loss of performance leads to the lack of desire to train harder? Also, if the shorter days might lead to the longer recovery times? Continue reading


Filed under aging, biking, blood pressure, cardio exercise, Exercise, general well-being, health, healthy living, heart, living longer, men's health, muscles, seniors, stretching, Weight

Natural Relief for Pain and Stress – WebMD

Chronic pain is complex. Research over the past 25 years has shown that pain is influenced by emotional and social factors. These need to be addressed along with the physical causes of pain. Chronic stress is one factor that contributes to chronic pain. The good news is that you can get natural pain relief by making relaxation exercises a part of your pain-management plan, according to WebMD.

Too often folks combat stress and pain by eating. That is a bad coping strategy. Herewith five good coping strategies from WebMD.

“Relaxation exercises calm your mind, reduce stress hormones in your blood, relax your muscles, and elevate your sense of well-being. Using them regularly can lead to long-term changes in your body to counteract the harmful effects of stress.
Don’t get stressed trying to pick the “right” relaxation technique for natural pain relief. Choose whatever relaxes you: music, prayer, gardening, going for a walk, talking with a friend on the phone. Here are some other techniques you might try: Continue reading

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Filed under blood pressure, chronic pain, general well-being, happiness, health, healthy living, meditation, obesity, relaxation, Uncategorized, yoga

How Our High Tech Gadgets May be Hurting Us – WebMD

We all love our smart phones and other labor-saving devices. I know I marvel at the stuff my iPhone does for me every day. Yet, WebMD says our high tech gadgets hurt us in various ways.

Web MD cited computer vision syndrome as a biggie, citing eyestrain, tired eyes, irritation, redness, blurred vision, double vision as examples. They suggest making sure our glasses or lenses are up to date on their prescriptions. Sometimes occupational glasses are needed.

Other problems included insomnia as the illuminated monitor throws off our internal clock.

Repetitive stress injuries result from mousing or typing on a keyboard. “But repetitive stress injury, or RSI, can affect your whole body, not just the part you’ve overused, says Mary Barbe, PhD, a professor in the department of anatomy and cell biology at Temple University. Injured cells release substances called cytokines that travel through the bloodstream.

“If you have enough of these circulating in your bloodstream, they can be toxic to nerve cells and other cells,” Barbe tells WebMD.

Obesity is a favorite of mine. The amount of hours we spend in front of the tube or playing on the computer has been rising for years. Eat less; move more.

One shocker for me was office-related asthma. “Your sleek, high-tech office may be a source of indoor air pollution. Some models of laser printers shoot out invisible particles into the air as they chug away. These ultra-fine particles can lodge deep in your lungs. Not every printer is a health hazard. In one study of 62 printers, 40% tested emitted particles. But only 17 printers were high-particle emitters.”
Go figure!

Barry Katz, professor in the industrial design and graduate program in design at Stanford University, told WebMD, “It may have taken 10,000 years to evolve the form of a sewing needle, or 2,500 to evolve the form of the safety pin,” he says. “That gives a lot of time to work out the kinks in the system.”

But modern devices, from the mouse to the ear bud, were invented from scratch. “You know about the electronics inside, but you don’t know how people are going to use it,” Katz says. He promises that designers are continually fine-tuning our gadgets to make them more helpful and less harmful.

Until they’re perfected, though, take a moment to consider the ramifications of your high tech gadgets in light of the above.


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Filed under aging, arthritis, calories, childhood obesity, circadian cycles, Exercise, fat, general well-being, health, high tech gadgets, life challenges, obesity, Weight

Public Largely Ignorant About Obesity Risks

It shouldn’t be surprising that since 60 percent of us are overweight and 30 percent obese that many people don’t understand the risks of obesity. Duh. This is twice as many as 20 years ago. Even our children are getting fatter. Among young people, 15 percent of those ages 6 to 19 are seriously overweight. That’s nearly 9 million, triple the number in 1980.

Maybe if people had a better idea about how damaging obesity is, there wouldn’t be so many overweight.

About one out of four people think it’s possible for someone to be very overweight and still be healthy, according to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Only seven percent of people in the survey mentioned cancer. Yet doctors have known for years that fat increases the risk of a number of cancers. It was recently reported that cancers of the esophagus, uterus, pancreas and kidney have risen despite declines in cancer rates. Experts said that excess weight triggers production of insulin and hormones that play a role in cancer growth.

Also, with overweight people excess fat makes it difficult to spot some tumors.

John Seffrin, the American Cancer Society’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.”For people who do not smoke, excess weight and lack of sufficient physical activity may be among the most important risk factors for cancer.”

As an arthritis sufferer, I was not surprised to learn that excess weight takes a toll on one’s joints, especially the knees. Only about fifteen percent of people were aware that obesity can contribute to arthritis, which then aggravates joint pain and makes it harder to exercise creating a vicious downward spiral in health.

The study also found that half of the people think their weight is just about right and only 12 percent of parents think their child is overweight. Nevertheless, about 60 percent of adults and 30 percent of children and teens are either overweight or obese.

If you want to know how much you should weight, please check out What is My Ideal Weight?

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research study took place between late November and mid-December, by phone interviews with just over 1,000 adults.

For significantly more detail on obesity, you can read How Does Obesity Affect You posted here in May. Or you can click on the obesity tag at the right for a number of similar items.



Filed under arthritis, body fat, childhood obesity, fat, fat kids, general well-being, health, healthy eating, heart problems, men and healthy eating, men's health, obesity, Weight

Flu Season Starting Early This Year – Get a Flu Shot

Flu activity continues to increase across the United States. The nation is experiencing an early flu season, the earliest since 2003, with high levels of activity concentrated in the south central and southeastern regions at this time. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) urge you to get a flu vaccine now if you have not done so already this season. Vaccination is especially important for people who are at high risk from flu complications.

Back in October, I wrote about my trip to the doctor for a flu shot and tried to convince you to do likewise.

Now, Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter reports that the U.S. new cases of flu have gone from a few hundred a week to more than a thousand.

The CDC reports that five children have died from it.

Catching the flu is not fun. Ms. Godman reports that flu is “a highly contagious and potentially deadly respiratory disease. Some years the outbreak is relatively mild, other years it is severe. Deaths range from 3,000 a year to nearly 50,000, and about 200,000 people end up in the hospital each year. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, fatigue, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.

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Filed under flu season, flu shot, general well-being, health, winter

Can the Holiday Season Bring on Depression – Harvard Healthbeat

“The gloom of winter seems to get inside some people, the dark affecting their moods as well as their days.” So says the latest issue of Harvard Healthbeat.

Known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), this form of depression affects a small percentage of the population. Although it strikes all genders and ages, women are more likely to develop SAD than men, and young people are more likely to develop it than older people.

“SAD seems to be triggered by decreased exposure to daylight. Typically, it arrives during the fall or winter months and subsides in the spring. Symptoms are similar to general depression and include lethargy, loss of interest in once-pleasurable activities, interpersonal problems, irritability, inability to concentrate, and changes in sleeping patterns, appetite, or both,” Healthbeat continued.

I have mentioned a number of times my aunt who died from Alzheimer’s. She lived just over six years with it and died at the age of 93. But, I had known her my entire life and before getting sick, she had been a major character in my life. For years I called her daily and chatted about everything under the sun. She had often told me how she hated the winter because it always depressed her and she didn’t really ‘feel good’ until spring.
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Filed under aging, Alzheimer's, depression, full spectrum lighting, general well-being, life challenges, light box, relaxation, winter

Dr. Oz Cover Story on Food in This Week’s Time Magazine

I am the biggest fan of Dr. Oz. Ever since I read YOU on a Diet back in 2006. He wrote it with Dr. Michael Roizin. There is a revised edition from 2009 that you can pick up on Amazon here for $6.98. I recommend it. Dr. Oz writes for the man on the street who wants to eat healthy and not spend a fortune in the bargain.

This week’s cover story is wistfully entitled Give (Frozen) Peas a Chance And Carrots Too. Love the word play on give peace a chance.

This week’s issue of Time Magazine

He opens the piece talking about how unsightly a block of frozen spinach looks coming out of the package. Doesn’t look very appetizing. Doesn’t compare with buying fresh organic leaf spinach grown in soil an hour ago in your locale. But it’s worth it because it is so much healthier than “the green ice from the supermarket. Right?”

“Wrong.” Dr. Oz writes, “Wrong. Nutritionally speaking, there is little difference between the farmer’s-market bounty and the humble brick from the freezer case. It’s true for many other supermarket foods too. And in my view, dispelling these myths–that boutique foods are good, supermarket foods are suspect and you have to spend a lot to eat well–is critical to improving our nation’s health. Organic food is great, it’s just not very democratic. As a food lover, I enjoy truffle oil, European cheeses and heirloom tomatoes as much as the next person. But as a doctor, I know that patients don’t always have the time, energy or budget to shop for artisanal ingredients and whip them into a meal.”

Write on, Dr. Oz!
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Filed under arteries, blood pressure, body fat, cholesterol, Dr. Oz, fat, Fiber, general well-being, healthy eating, heart, heart problems, Weight

Thanksgiving – Giving Thanks

thanks·giv·ing noun \thaŋ(k)s-ˈgi-viŋ also ˈthaŋ(k)s-ˌ\
1: the act of giving thanks 2: a prayer expressing gratitude (Merriam Webster)

The Thanksgiving Holiday tomorrow is uniquely American. Other countries have a similar celebration but not on the fourth Thursday of November.

I like Thanksgiving and wanted to start my celebration of it here on the blog.

I was riding my bicycle this morning and some of the things I have to be thankful for began rolling through my head and I wanted to share them with you.

This is a rare view of the Chicago skyline from behind the Adler Planetarium.

The thing I am most grateful for is my current state of superb health. I retired 12 years ago and think I currently enjoy the best health of my entire life. I can’t run as fast or jump as high as I did in my 20’s and 30’s but my general health, mental and physical, is the best ever. One of the main reasons for that wonderful health is co-writing this blog. And for that I am deeply grateful to John for suggesting we write a blog on diet and good health back in March of 2010. It’s funny how the blog has worked for me. It brought a health-oriented focus to my mind that has not wavered in nearly three years. So thanks, John, much appreciated.

Once we started writing the blog, I signed up for various courses from The Great Courses (formerly The Teaching Company). Three of the most valuable were Nutrition Made Clear, taught by Professor Roberta Anding, Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital. Lifelong Health: Achieving Optimum Well-Being at any Age, by Dr. Anthony Goodman, Montana State University and Cornell Medical College and Stress and Your Body by Professor Robert Sapolsky, a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant recipient, Stanford University.

As you can see from their titles, information flowed from them through me to the blog. They added breadth and scope to our efforts.

What I learned from them has helped to reshape my life in the last three years as I put their lessons into daily practice.

Because of my good health, as a senior citizen, I daily have the blessing of being able to ride my bike and enjoy it with the same pleasure I did as a child. I mostly ride along Chicago’s beautiful lakefront. You can see one of the photos  from my ride today above. I also write a blog on my own called WillingWheeling which has the singular focus of the beautiful elements in my life. Feel free to take a look.

I shot the skyline of Chicago to share with you a view that very few people who actually live here ever see. It is from the eastern-most point behind the Adler Planetarium. Few Chicagoans even know there is anything behind that building. I ride my bike there often.

I am also grateful for this November to remember weather we are experiencing. Temperatures have been more than 10 degrees above normal this week. The 50 and 60 degree F temps are ideal cycling weather. I pedaled over 40 miles in today’s balmy air. Some call this Indian Summer.

My daughter and myself at her fashion show for the Wounded Warriors.

I am also grateful for my beautiful daughter, Kate, who has just been accepted into a university and offered a four year scholarship. I am very proud of her. The photo of us was taken at a fashion show she produced which raised several thousand dollars for the Wounded Warriors.

Last but not least, I am grateful for my little canine companion, Gabi, who I adopted six years ago and who makes me laugh every day of my life. I wrote the strange story of my adoption of her here.
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Filed under aging, biking, brain, Exercise, general well-being, happiness, healthy eating, men and healthy eating, men's health, stress, Weight

Should I Get a Flu Shot?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that nearly 20 percent of Americans get the flu each year. More than 200,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized every year and between 3,000 and 50,000 deaths occur due to flu. There is a good chance that these statistics would improve dramatically if more people got a flu shot.

I should get a flu shot. I called my doctor last week to arrange one and some blood work going into flu season. My appointment was Monday morning. As everyone knows when you have blood work done you need to fast from the night before. Unfortunately for me, I am an early riser and I got up around 5:00 AM. Nothing special about that, but my doctor’s appointment wasn’t till 9:00 AM. So I had a minimum four hour wait before I could expect to get any food into me.

I brought questions to ask the doctor about a possibly broken finger, a new drug I was taking as well as something recommended by Dr. Oz on TV. I made up a questions list on my iPhone to bring with me.

I arrived at 8:30 hoping I might get in earlier. No such luck. At 9:15 I was still waiting. This was a potentially stressful situation for me. Last year, I would have been stressing about the delay and fretting over the time I had wasted arriving early, etc. However, I refused to succumb to the stress. I reasoned that I had taken a chance coming early. I gambled and lost. Fair enough. Not the first time that has happened and surely not the last. Nothing to fret over. On the bright side, I had brought a really good book and enjoyed reading it. (If you are a dog lover, I highly recommend The Other Side of the Leash by Patricia B McConnell Ph.D. Superb read!)

My appointed hour arrived at 9:45 and I was ushered in. The nurse took my vital signs: Blood Pressure: 119/59; Pulse 50; Weight 155, I guess I was wearing about 5 pounds of clothes.

My doctor came in after a short wait and we got down to business. I showed her my left little finger which is crooked and painful. I told her that I feared I had broken it, but hadn’t a clue when it happened. I just had pain there for over a month and it was crooked. She examined it and said it wasn’t a break just more of the arthritis which plagued other parts of my two hands. I guess that was good news as I didn’t have to have a splint or rebreak or something done to my finger. We went down my list of queries and she dealt with them in order. I had no earthshaking changes to make in my life. Good news. Now for the blood work. But, wait, she looked at the computer and said that we had done blood work in June. So, no need for fresh work now as everything had been in order then. I actually laughed out loud as I had now been fasting for six hours FOR NOTHING! The nurse came in and gave me my shot and sent me on my way. Fortunately, I had brought along a Honey Stinger waffle for an energy boost which I truly needed at this point. I wrote up Honey Stingers last December.
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Filed under aging, arthritis, blood pressure, flu shot, general well-being, life challenges, stress

This is Active Aging Week

In the last week of September, older adults find plenty of interesting things to do and learn during Active Aging Week, The International Council on Active Aging’s (ICAA) annual health promotion event.

In senior centers and retirement communities, parks and health clubs, nature preserves and dance halls, Active Aging Week hosts provide many opportunities to choose an active life:

•    Healthy lifestyle presentations for diabetes, arthritis, depression and other conditions
•    Nutrition and lifestyles presentations
•    Brain fitness and healthy mental outlooks
•    Health and fitness assessments
•    Concerts, singalongs, dancing
•    Group exercise, strength training,Tai chi and yoga
•    Games and challenges
•    Strolls and walks
•    Health fairs, referrals, government programs
•    Free food, prizes, coupons, pedometers and t-shirts

As our regular readers appreciate we fully support this effort to engage seniors in healthy activities. Please see what events are available in your area.

Eat less; move more.


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Filed under aging, brain, Exercise, general well-being, men's health, stretching, walking, Weight

Healthy Snacking as an Act of Kindness

I have suggested practicing random acts of kindness as one of the techniques of being a happy person. To the extent a person is eating to assuage feelings of unhappiness, this can also help with weight control. Here is a non-random act pointed specifically at yourself.

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation suggested that the next time you feel hungry from a snack to skip the soda, chips or candy and eat a healthy snack like a piece of fruit, granola bar or some veggies which, not incidentally, also have fewer calories than junk foods. This is a simple way to be kind to your body. It’s also a great way to get the energy you need to pay full attention at school and work or enjoy yourself in other activities outside. Be kind to your body and eat healthy snacks.

Some of the benefits of healthy snacking include keeping your energy levels even. The refined sugar in junk foods leads to a false feeling of more energy, or sugar rush. The downside of this is a crash when it wears off. Instead, eating healthy snacks keeps you productive and happy all day and more available to help others.
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Filed under calories, diet soda, general well-being, happiness, healthy eating, sugar, Weight

10 Things Science Says Will Make You Happy and Live Longer

Happy people live longer according to Time Magazine and others.

Following is an excerpt from that blog item from November:

Jennifer Horton wrote in Discovery Fit & Health when combined with other indicators of longevity, happiness can have an even more pronounced effect. In a test of 50 variables thought to have an effect on a person’s lifespan, satisfaction ranked as one of the strongest predictors, right up there with expected indicators like genetics, intelligence, socioeconomic status, tobacco use and overall health. Coupled with one or more of these other factors, the tests indicated that happiness adds a total of 16 years to the life of a man and 23 years to the life of a woman.

Here is a picture from the Random Acts of Kindness site:

If one picture is worth a thousand words, consider the above another 10,000 words on the subject.



Filed under aging, Exercise, general well-being, happiness, kindness