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Image of nurse.Don’t laugh. While the cornerstones of staying healthy are loudly preached – don’t smoke, exercise regularly, manage weight, eat right – evidence is mounting that additional secrets to staying healthy may lie in simple strategies that likely play a big role in preventing diseases, especially after age 50.

Smile when you say that! Bob Hope made it to his 100th birthday, and so did George Burns. Coincidence? Maybe not. Laughter releases endorphins, those “feel good” hormones suspected of boosting immunity, and that might make you more resistant to disease. At the very least, laughter reduces stress hormones, which we know have a bad effect on immunity.

Bring up Bowser. Dog owners 50 and older see their doctors less often, have fewer illnesses, and recover more quickly when they are sick than is the case with their critter less counterparts. And the benefits go beyond what you’d expect from the added exercise of regular walks. The simple act of petting an animal has been shown to lower blood pressure by inducing an instant relaxation response. Animal owners have a higher one-year survival rate following a heart attack, and have lower cholesterol levels, than those without pets. Even watching fish has been found to help slow Alzheimer’s deterioration in some patients.

You snooze. . . you win. Poor sleep also increases hunger and impairs metabolism, which by themselves increase the risk of obesity and diabetes. Restless sleep is very common among older people. After age 55 two out of three adults have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at least a few nights a week. So how do you cope? Try sprinkling your just-washed pillowcases and bedding sheets with lavender water. It is one of several aromas that might promote sleep. Other sleep-inducing scents include vanilla and green apple. A pre-bedtime snack of walnuts, milk, or yogurt which are rich in the amino acid tryptophan, a natural sleep inducer. To maximize your shuteye, consider going to bed 30 minutes later than usual. If you make yourself stay up a little longer, it increases your body’s need for sleep and you could fall asleep easier.
Read a book. The more education you have, the healthier you are likely to be. Read more, follow current events, do other things to keep your mind as sharp as possible.

Read a label. To manage your weight-and avoid scores of diseases caused by or worsened by obesity-pay attention to the ingredients in the prepared foods you eat. The fewer ingredients, experts say, the better. Filling your belly with “whole” foods such as unprocessed fruits, vegetables, and grains instead of overly processed foods tricks appetite-controlling brain cells into feeling fuller faster on less food.
Gaze at your navel. Older adults who regularly exercise, or practice yoga or tai chi a “soft style” a Chinese martial art best known for improving flexibility and mood, are more resistant than their peers are to shingles. Practicing meditation can improve immunity against influenza along with pneumonia. These practices strengthen memory T cells, the white blood cells that fight recurrences of infections. One loses memory T cells as one ages, but boosting their function can spare one.
©2007 St. James Catholic Church, Hopewell, VA