Value of Hobbies to your Health

Hobbies can greatly enrich our lives as we age, improve our well-being and increase life expectancy.

As we go into Labor Day weekend, I thought it might be nice to focus on a topic that isn’t about work.  It isn’t a task or something you have to do.  Instead, I going to focus on leisure.

Specifically, studies have shown that having hobbies can improve your well-being and even extend life expectancy, which helps lead to enjoyable golden years.  So with that, here are a few hobbies that may have a powerful impact on your health according to Money Talks News’ recent article entitled “7 Hobbies That Help You Live Longer”.

  1. Reading. Stress is a big source of health problems that shorten lives, and reading can provide a ready escape into a new world.  According to a study out of the University of Sussex, reading can decrease your stress levels by 68%. Reading improves your stress after only a few minutes because your mind focuses on what you are reading. This distraction eases the tensions in muscles and the heart.  This is a personal favorite hobby of mine and I would recommend it to anyone, even people who don’t think of themselves as “readers.”
  2. Gardening. A number of studies show that the physical activity of gardening — combined with being in a lush, green atmosphere — can enhance and extend life. People in their 60s with green thumbs decrease their risk of developing dementia by 36%, according to research from Australia.  I couldn’t find the citation for this, but I’ve been told that heart rates will reduce once you are outside in a green area after only 10 minutes.
  3. Cooking. Restaurant and processed foods are no good for your health. They can contribute to life-shortening illnesses, like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. However, people who make meals from scratch are much more apt to eat a healthier diet. The more often you cook at home each week, the higher you’ll tend to score on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Healthy Eating Index. University of Washington researchers say: “Home-cooked dinners were associated with greater dietary guideline compliance, without significant increase in food expenditures. By contrast, frequent eating out was associated with higher expenditures and lower compliance.”
  4. Listening to music. Research shows that regularly attending concerts can add years to your life. One study found just 20 minutes of listening can increase your sense of well-being by up to 21%. In particular, concert attendance increases:
  • Feelings of self-worth by 25%
  • Feelings of closeness to others by 25%; and
  • Mental stimulation by 75%.

The study concluded that such positive feelings could increase your lifespan by up to nine years. According to Fagan, “Our research showcases the profound impact gigs have on feelings of health, happiness and well-being — with regular attendance being the key.”

     5.  Volunteering. Helping others is another great hobby to extend your life, but only if your motives are pure. A study published in the journal Health              Psychology found that volunteering extends life, but with a strange caveat, according to the American Psychological Association:

“Volunteers lived longer than people who didn’t volunteer, if they reported altruistic values or a desire for social connections as the main reasons for wanting to volunteer, according to the study. People who said they volunteered for their own personal satisfaction had the same mortality rate four years later as people who did not volunteer at all, according to the study.”

Researchers think that proper motivation is key to getting the most out of volunteering because it buffers volunteers from stressors, like impingement on the volunteer’s time and lack of pay, which are part of doing good works.  I can say anecdotally that as people age and after they retire, sometimes they lack a focus and throw themselves into volunteering.  It isn’t a healthy approach, they are basically recreating their work experiences and the stress that comes with it.

       6.  Walking. This hobby can have a profound impact on your health, and those who take brisk walks might live up to 20 years longer than couch            potatoes, according to a Mayo Clinic study. Again, it’s brisk walking — at least three miles per hour or 100 steps a minute — is required to get the life-extending benefits.

       7.  Owning a pet. A lot of research has found that pet owners enjoy many health benefits from being around their furry friends. For example, a meta-  analysis of studies published between 1950 and 2019 found that dog owners had a 24% risk reduction for death from any cause. The benefit is even more pronounced for seniors with existing heart problems. The study authors believe walking a dog — (see #6) — may play a big role in these improved health outcomes. Another study in the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology found that people who own cats have a reduced risk of death from heart attack or stroke.

Hopefully this weekend you’ll spend time on your hobby, or pick one of these as a new one!  Happy Labor Day!

Reference: Money Talks News (Aug. 20, 2021) “7 Hobbies That Help You Live Longer”

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Health Mistakes to Avoid after 50

Everyone can improve their health as they age by avoiding key health mistakes people make after age 50.

Many of our clients are concerned with their health as they age.  All of us can improve the odds of a longer, more healthful life simply by avoiding the health mistakes that people tend to make after age 50, published in Money Talks News’ recent article entitled “7 Deadly Health Mistakes People Make After Age 50.”

  1. Loss of Social Connection. COVID-19 taught us many things, among them, people shouldn’t be alone. A 2018 study found that isolation may double a person’s risk of dying of cardiovascular disease. What’s more, social isolation is linked to increased risk of depression, cognitive decline, obesity and a weakened immune system. Men are at greater risk of suffering from social isolation, as a recent survey found just 48% of retired men living alone were very satisfied with the number of friends they had. However, about 71% of retired women living alone were very satisfied with their number of social connections.
  2. High-sodium foods. A very common health mistake is eating too many high-sodium foods.  About 90% of the sodium that we consume comes from salt. 90% of Americans over age two also consume too much sodium, so reduce your sodium intake. Do that and your blood pressure should fall within a couple of weeks, helping to lower your risk of deadly heart disease and stroke, the CDC says.  Several online sources list common high-sodium foods in our diets.
  3. Postponing colorectal cancer screening. Medical experts say that all adults 50 to 75 should have colorectal cancer screening. This test can find precancerous polyps, which are the main source of colorectal cancer, which is treatable when found in its early stages. With the Affordable Care Act of 2010, colorectal screening is among a list of preventive services that generally are free for people who have health insurance and are between the ages of 50 and 75.
  4. Not taking a daily aspirin. Not everyone over 50 should take an aspirin every day, but it can be good for those with certain potentially life-threatening health conditions. The Mayo Clinic says, “The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends daily aspirin therapy if you’re age 50 to 59, you’re not at increased bleeding risk and you have an increased risk of heart attack or stroke of 10 percent or greater over the next 10 years.”

Taking aspirin makes blood platelets less “sticky,” helping to prevent the clots that lead to heart attacks and strokes, explains Harvard Medical School. Talk to your doctor before starting a daily aspirin regimen.

  1. Failing to lift weights. As we get older, the risk of the bone disease osteoporosis increases. About 10 million people have osteoporosis, and 44 million more have low bone density, which puts them at risk for the disease, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Women are especially at risk for osteoporosis, since one in two women will break a bone due to osteoporosis. This happens more often in women than a heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined. Getting sufficient calcium and vitamin D is critical to preventing osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercise is also a great way to strengthen bones.
  2. Not drinking enough water. Anytime my kids tell me they have an upset stomach, don’t feel well or have a headache,  I respond the same way.  Drink some water.  Hydration is key for health, and the Mayo Clinic says that older adults carry a lower volume of water in their bodies. In addition, they are more likely to take medications that boost the risk of dehydration. Their sense of thirst is less acute, making it easy for them to forget the need to drink. Severe dehydration can lead to:
  • Seizures
  • Life-threatening heatstroke
  • Urinary and kidney issues; and
  • Hypovolemic shock (low blood volume shock).

As a general rule, men should drink 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women. 20% of daily fluid intake also typically comes from food.

  1. Continuing to smoke. Quitting smoker is easier said then done, but kicking the nicotine habit pays dividends at any age. The improvements accumulate over the next nine months, and by one year after quitting, your heart attack risk drops dramatically. However, improvements can be fast. For example:
  • Your heart rate and blood pressure drop 20 minutes after quitting:
  • The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal a few days after quitting; and
  • Circulation improves and your lung function increases two weeks to three months after quitting.

Reference: Money Talks News (May 24, 2021) “7 Deadly Health Mistakes People Make After Age 50”

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