Aging and Caregiving in the News

Related topics: Mental and Emotional Health, Eating Right, Heart Health

Information, updates and interesting tidbits about healthy aging, senior care and caregiving from across the country and around the world.

In this issue:

  • A nutrition expert says it's not what we eat, but how much.
  • If you gain weight after quitting smoking, you're still better off.
  • A new look at attitude and aging.

It's Hard to Resign from the Clean Plate Club

Mom always told us, "Eat up! Clean your plate!" But those eating habits we learned when we were kids can mean a lifetime of struggling to maintain a healthy weight.

Are you one of the many Americans who put "lose weight" at the top of your New Year's resolutions?  Maybe you are trying to select low-fat foods, eat more slowly, and stop eating once you feel full. These are all good ways to reduce your food intake. But in a recent issue of the International Journal of Obesity, expert Brian Wansink reported that adults eat, on average, 92 percent of whatever's on their plate—so the best way to cut down on calories is to reduce portion sizes. Serve yourself less food, and use a smaller plate.

Said Wansink, who is director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, "Just knowing that you're likely to consume almost all of what you serve yourself can help you be more mindful of appropriate portion size. Next time you grab that serving spoon, think to yourself, 'How much do I want to eat?' and serve accordingly."

Find more reminders, including a video pep talk from Brian Wansink, here

"Quit Smoking? But I Might Gain Weight!"

Giving up cigarettes is another common New Year's resolution. It's on fewer lists today because fewer people smoke, but still far too many do—42 million Americans, according to the American Cancer Society.

One reason many smokers continue to light up is fear they will gain weight if they quit—or, even more compelling for them, they've quit in the past and sure enough, the pounds came on.

Here is something to consider. The American Heart Association recently released the results of a study from Japan showing that it's true that those who quit smoking tend to put on a few pounds. But, said study author Dr. Hisako Tsuji, "Quitters had a significantly lower risk of death, compared to smokers, regardless of their weight change after they stopped smoking." Even those who gained a few pounds were better off than those who kept smoking.

Find smoking cessation resources from the American Heart Association that can make 2015 the year that you keep your resolution to quit!

Why Are Some Seniors Happier Than Others?

Gerontologists have long studied the connection between attitude and healthy aging. A positive attitude makes it more likely that we will take care of ourselves as we grow older. On the other hand, the challenges and losses that we face as we age can test the optimism of anyone! Is it harder to maintain a positive attitude as we age? Researchers from Oregon State University say that as we enter our 50s and 60s, many of us handle adversity better than we did when we were younger. But after the age of 70 or so, it becomes more difficult. Gerontology professor Carolyn Aldwin explains, "Aging is neither rosy nor depressing, and how you react to hassles and uplifts as a 55- to 60-year-old may change as you enter what researchers call 'the fourth age,' from 75 to 100, based on your perceptions and/or your life experiences."

After age 70, factors such as health problems, cognitive decline and loss of a spouse can combine to cause seniors to react more negatively to life's ups and downs. Yet, says Aldwin, "Some older people continue to find sources of happiness late in life despite dealing with family losses, declining health, or a lack of resources. You may lose a parent, but gain a grandchild. The kids may leave the house, but you bask in their accomplishments as adults. You find value in gardening, volunteering, caregiving or civic involvement."  She hopes to learn more about why some people handle late-life adversity better, and to apply that knowledge to helping other seniors experience more meaningful, positive later years.

Source: IlluminAge Communication Partners; copyright 2015 IlluminAge.