So far in 2017, Capital City Village has offered four programs with local physicians with different specialties. We’ve had a lesson on back health, another on heart health, one on aging in general, and, finally, mental health. In summary, the doctors’ advice, across topics, has been consistently, “Walk, keep walking, do some resistance training, and stay socially engaged.”
Walking, they’ve said, means more than strolling along the sidewalk. One way or another, all the doctors have said, “You need to get your heart rate up.” Whew! After the June 15th session on mental health, I added a pulse meter application to my iPhone and tested its efficacy on a fast walk along Bull Creek. Pulse stayed above 135.
I’m writing this blog bit to encourage CCVillagers to attend as many of these sessions as they can, and to applaud the Program Committee for creative planning.
On June 15, Doctor Mark Carlson, founder of Be Well MD, spoke to CCV a second time. He’d previously participated in a talk with Austin UP about creating an age-friendly community. Both times, by the way, he said CCV is “doing the right thing for seniors.” A geriatric specialist, he was joined by neurologist Ron Devere, president of Texas’ Alzheimer’s Association. Their subject was maintaining mental health as we age. They illustrated their major points from simple images on a slide illustrating how to keep our brains healthy. The steps are: “Look after your heart, be physically active, follow a healthy diet, challenge your brain, and enjoy social activity.”
Dr. Carlson opened the discussion by defining dementia as “an umbrella term for many types of disease. Not all dementia is Alzheimer’s, but Alzheimer’s is dementia,” he said. The greatest risk factor for dementia, he explained, is age. Next are genes and gender, but bad health, lack of exercise, and obesity are also risk factors.
He turned the program over to Dr. Devere, who began by saying, “It’s lonely to be in the memory loss practice, for nobody shows up.” After the laughter settled, he told the audience at the Atria senior living community that the science of dementia is new. When he studied medicine, there were two forms of dementia – senility and Alzheimer’s. Only after years of studying the donated brains of people who’d died with dementia did medical researchers start to understand the physical aspects of brain deterioration.
In addition to the general admonition of keep moving and socially engaged, Dr. Devere said that it’s necessary to challenge our brains as we age. One of the members of the audience asked about doing puzzles to ward off dementia. He gave a concise answer: “I have Alzheimer’s patients who do crossword puzzles. They have learned how to do one kind of puzzle.” It’s more effective, he said, “to vary cognitive capabilities.” A person will plateau with any one skill, he explained.
Playing a musical instrument, learning a new skill, staying fit by incorporating physical exertion into normal daily activities, and getting the heart rate up are all helpful.
Questions revolved around how much exercise is the right amount. “How many steps a day, how many minutes a week, what is the optimum?” “There are no rules,” answered Dr. Carlson. He noted that people who have trouble walking can get good heart strengthening work by swimming, letting the water support their bodies.
Keep walking. It will make life better.
~Submitted by Tom Knutsen, CCV Treasurer