June 20, 2011

Healthy Living: Tips & Ideas

I was approached by Dr. Kathy Johnson who is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Home Care Assistance to submit a guest post. Her suggestions for helping to maintain a healthier lifestyle are basic, but serve as important reminders that sometimes the simplest steps can have some big benefits in creating a satisfying retirement.

From Kathy's Blog I have added a section on eye exercises anyone can practice. My mom lost her sight a few years before her death. I firmly believe her inability to see contributed to her rapid downhill slide and death. Losing my sight terrifies me. You can bet I will practice Dr. Johnson's eye exercises.


For those who do not know, it’s important to drink 8 to 10 glasses of water a day. Drinking water hydrates the body tissues and helps flush out any toxins that can slow your whole system down. If the thought of drinking water is not appealing to you, there are many other ways you can stay hydrated. Juices, smoothies, tea and soup all are good options to ensure you receive the necessary amount of water.

Even if you despise it, get out there and walk.

Walking for just ten minutes a day lowers your risk of developing Alzheimer's by 40 percent, reports Gary Small, MD and Director of the UCLA Center on Aging. Exercise improves your muscle tone and can keep your joints and heart strong. You don't have to go to a gym; just walk around your neighborhood or local mall.

Boost Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid. Fatty acids help maintain the proper functioning of every cell in your body. Salmon and walnuts are both good sources of omega-3 and if you heart rate is high, it can help protect you against heart disease – not to mention it will help your skin look younger.

Mental Exercise

Research shows that keeping your brain active can help ward off dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Challenge yourself mentally as much as possible during the day. Take a different route to work, use your non-dominant hand to brush your teeth. There are also crossword puzzles like Sudoku that will help increase your mental capacity.


Stress in your life affects your whole body. Particularly at risk are the nervous system, the immune system and the digestive system. It's essential to de-stress. Several recommended ways to do so are through yoga, visualization, tai chi or meditation. Listening to soothing music, for example, is extremely beneficial and a quick relief from stress. This is proven to slow your breathing while lowering your heart rate and blood pressure.

Eat Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is naturally full of healthy antioxidants, including flavanals, which are also found in green tea, red wine and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Research suggests that eating small amounts of dark chocolate regularly reduces your risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. It improves blood flow to your brain. When it comes to flavor and health, the darker the chocolate the better.

Eye Exercises

Many people experience impaired vision with old age. As we get older, the muscles in our eyes become less flexible and start to degenerate resulting in a decreased sharpness of vision and ability to focus. Putting extra tension on our eyes day after day can eventually change their shape over a long period of time. Doing daily eye exercises can help eyes maintain their shape and can slow the rate of eye muscle deterioration. Eye exercises are easy and can be done anywhere.

Here are four simple exercises for naturally improving eyesight:

1. Tracing - Trace the outlines of the objects around you with your eyes. Practice following the contours of the objects with your eyes at various speeds. Doing this exercise for a few minutes each day can help strengthen eye muscles and increase their flexibility.

2. Blinking - Blinking exercises are extremely easy to do and help to lubricate, relax and strengthen the eyes. Close your eyes for a few moments, relax and then blink 15 times. Blink lightly, yet rapidly. If you feel like you are straining the muscles around your eyes or your eyelids, you should slow down.

3. Near Far Focusing - This exercise helps to restore the eyes’ ability to rapidly shift focus between objects at various distances. Start by focusing on something situated very close to you. Allow your eyes to linger on this object long enough for them to clearly focus before focusing on an object 30 feet away. Upon completion, try focusing on an object 500 feet away and even further. Repeat.

4. Zooming – Stretch your arm out in front of you with your hand in the “thumbs up” position. Focus on your thumb as your arm is extended out in front of you. Follow it with your eyes as you and bring your thumb closer to your face. Stop when your thumb is about 3 inches away from your face. Then, maintaining focus on your thumb, slowly begin extending your arm out in front of you again.

Kathy N. Johnson, PhD, CMC, is a Certified Geriatric Care Manager, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Home Care Assistance. She holds a Doctorate in Psychology from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Kathy also co-authored the book, Happy to 102: The Best Kept Secrets to a Long and Happy Life.

My thanks to Dr. Johnson for her guest post. You can visit her blog by clicking here


  1. Good tips and I practice most of them, but the eye exercises are new and I'm going to start them right now! Blink, blink, blink. Like you, I want to protect my vision. Also need to drink more water. I keep a full glass on my desk so it's easy to keep sipping on it and refilling it as the day goes along. Thanks!

  2. Good morning Galen,

    I found the eye exercises particularly relevant for me. I take lutein pills every day but want to do all I can to protect my sight. Full eye exams, including dilation and glaucoma testing once a year are also part of my vision routine.

  3. This was a good reminder. I wasn't doing yoga for the eyes regularly-like the exercises you mentioned. Now I'll try and do them every day.

  4. Hi Donna,

    I've listed the eye exercises on an index card so I can use them every day.

  5. I came across your blog. I thought I'd expand on yesterday's comment. Here's the full item from the April 2010 UC Berkeley Wellness Newsletter:

    "Ask the Experts
    April 2010

    Q: Are caffeinated beverages dehydrating? Do they count towards my eight-a-day glasses of water?

    A: Many people think they can’t count coffee, tea, and colas as part of fluid intake, because caffeine promotes urination briefly. But you don’t end up with a net loss of water from drinking moderate amounts of caffeinated beverages. In other words, they don’t dehydrate you.

    For instance, in a study from the University of Nebraska Medical Center a decade ago, healthy adults showed the same "hydration status" (as determined from urine analysis and other tests) when they drank caffeinated colas and/or coffee as when they drank only water and/or fruit drinks. And in its 2005 report on water needs, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which advises the government about health issues, including dietary intakes, concluded that "caffeinated beverages appear to contribute to the daily total water intake similar to that contributed by noncaffeinated beverages."

    In any case, it’s a myth that you need to drink eight glasses of water a day. There’s no scientific backing for this rule. The IOM report confirmed this, too. People normally get enough fluids by drinking when they’re thirsty—though older people should drink water before they get thirsty, especially in the heat, since thirst is a less reliable indicator as we age. And other beverages besides water (including caffeinated ones), as well as foods (such as fruits and vegetables), help meet fluid needs.

  6. Hi RNW,

    I found a blog with that title, so I'm going to guess you are Warren, the author. Regardless, thank you very much for adding the information to this post.

    Like you, I was aware that the 8-10 glasses of water rule has no basis in fact but has become "folk lore" and is perpetuated by repetition.

    But, the information on caffeinated beverages is new to me. Like the 8 glasses of water advice, I have always believed coffee is a net negative toward hydration. I appreciate you finding this study and its qualifying conclusions.

    Those of us who live in the desert must be especially careful. With humidity in the single digits and temperatures in triple digits, it takes very little time to become dehydrated.

  7. Loved the eye exercises. The last two are part of tai chi exercises I do daily. In tai chi, your eyes always follow your hand movements also.

    To these healthy living tips, I'd add avoid sugar and processed foods. Processed foods are less about nutrition and more about adding unnecessary chemicals and preservatives your body.

  8. Good Morning Joan,

    Also, many processed foods are about convenience over healthiness.

    The feedback on the eye exercises has been strong. I didn't know they are part of regular tai chi.

  9. Tai chi and qigong exercises work every part of your body, internally and externally, all the while being low impact.

  10. Joan,

    Low impact is becoming increasingly important to my creaky body!