If you’re growing older and have decided you could use some extra help at home, or if you’re caring someone who needs some additional assistance, it may be time to start looking for a Kansas City home health agency. But where should you start? Here are some things to consider:

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Researchers have shown that brain games and other exercises that are designed to keep the mind sharp may help guard against Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. These brain exercises can also be fun, and you can do most of them from the comfort of your Kansas City home.

Here are some examples:

Board games. Board games are not only fun, but can also challenge the brain, which can help to prevent Alzheimer’s. Some good examples include Scrabble, Chess, Clue, Mahjong, and any type of trivia game.

Puzzles. Jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, Sudoku, Rubik’s cubes, and other types of puzzles exercise your brain, which can help ward off dementia.

Video games. Fast-paced video games have been shown to stimulate the brain and improve cognition.

Apps. Brain-training apps can help sharpen the mind, and may even help to prevent cognitive diseases. Examples include Lumosity, Elevate, Dakim, Fit Brains, and Cognifit.

Reading. Any type of reading stimulates the mind, which helps sustain memory and ward off Alzheimer’s.

Learning new things. Learning a new skill like a new language, a musical instrument, or how to use a computer, exercises your brain and can slow cognitive aging.

Doing something creative. Creative hobbies, such as painting, knitting, or craft activities can help preserve memory and cognition.

Keep in mind that a healthy brain is only one part of the equation. Exercise, healthy eating habits, and maintaining a social life are also important ways to reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s.

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The older you get, the harder it is to lose weight, especially if you’re a woman. So many Kansas City seniors turn to “fad diets” to try to take off the excess pounds. But are those diets healthy?

Fad diets promise dramatic weight loss, and may or may not work in the short term. But they’re not sustainable long term, so even if you do lose the weight, you’ll probably gain it right back.

And, as you may have already guessed, fad diets are not healthy for seniors. Here’s why:

  • Diets that restrict carbohydrates or require fasting can cause your blood sugar to drop. And if you’re taking medication to reduce your blood sugar, it could get dangerously low if your medication isn’t adjusted accordingly.
  • Some high-protein diets allow unlimited fats. Too much fat in your diet can increase your risk of heart disease.
  • Fad diets sometimes eliminate entire food groups to help you lose weight (e.g., meat, dairy, grains). If you’re not getting food from all the food groups, you may become low on nutrients that are essential for good health.

So, what can seniors do to lose weight and still stay healthy? Here are some suggestions:

  • Focus on nutrients:
    • The older you get, the less calories you need. But you also need more nutrients. So concentrate on eating more foods that are low in calories but high in nutrients. Some examples are fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meats, beans, nuts, and seeds.
    • Cut back on foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients. You don’t have to give up your favorite foods completely, but you’ll need to eat them in moderation if you want to lose weight. Examples of high-calorie, low-nutrient foods include desserts; sugary drinks; and white bread, rice, or pasta.
  • Control portions:
    • Use a smaller plate. Dinner-size plates can hold a lot of food, so using a smaller plate can help with portion control.
    • Read food labels. See how many portions are in each package and make sure you’re not eating more than one at a time.
    • Cook meals ahead of time and freeze them in one-portion containers to re-heat when you don’t feel like cooking. Use a scale or measuring cups to make sure your portions are the right size.
    • Don’t eat in front of the TV or computer. While distracted, you may end up eating more than you’d planned.
  • Get help with meal preparation. If you have a tough time preparing your own meals, enlist the help of a caregiver or Kansas City home health agency.
  • Exercise. Regular exercise can not only help you control weight, but can also help you with balance and flexibility. You’ll need to do both aerobic exercise and exercises that will strengthen your muscles. If you need assistance, try joining a Kansas City gym or local senior center.

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Now that spring has (almost) arrived in Kansas City, you’re going to want to get outdoors and enjoy some of that beautiful weather! Here are some spring activities for Kansas City seniors. Depending on your level of independent activity, you may need your home care provider to help with some of these.

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If you’re past the age of menopause, you know how easy it can be to pack on a few pounds. And then a few more. Especially in Kansas City, where there are so many great restaurants to choose from! Although it gets tougher to keep the weight off as you age, it also becomes more important. Here’s why:

  • Obesity can limit your mobility and hinder balance and flexibility.
  • Obesity can put you at risk for serious illnesses, such as:
    • Diabetes
    • Heart disease
    • Coronary artery disease
    • Respiratory disease
    • Heart attack
    • Sleep apnea
    • Arthritis
    • Stroke

Why It’s So Hard for Seniors to Lose Weight

There are several reasons why it’s tougher for older adults to lose weight:

  • Once you get to a certain age, you tend to become less active.
  • You lose muscle tone as you age, which makes it more difficult to exercise.
  • Chronic illness (e.g., arthritis, hypothyroidism) can make weight loss challenging.
  • Some prescription medications can cause weight gain.
  • Hormonal changes can redistribute fat and contribute to muscle loss.
  • The older you get, the harder it is to do some of the exercises that were once easy for you.
  • Major lifestyle changes (e.g., death of a spouse) can lead to emotional eating.
  • It’s easier to eat out than it is to cook.

Weight Loss Resources for Kansas City Seniors

If you need to lose weight, or you just want to maintain your current weight, here are some local resources:

  • Exercise classes:
    • There are lots of Senior Centers in the Kansas City area, many of which offer exercise classes for older adults.
    • If you live in Overland Park, Leawood, Prairie Village, or Mission Hills, the Johnson County Parks & Recreation District has a 50+ Program that offers land and water exercises and nature walks at three Johnson County 50+ Centers.
  • Fitness or Activity trackers: In order to lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you eat. An activity tracker will track how many calories you’ve taken in vs. how many calories you’ve burned. You can also set it to remind you to get up once an hour and walk. There are lots of places in Kansas City where you can buy a Fitness tracker (e.g., Walmart, Target).
  • Nutrition guidance. If you need help with diet planning, start by talking to your doctor. If you feel you need additional assistance, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a Find-An-Expert tool that can help you find a registered dietitian in the Kansas City area.

Did you know what you eat can affect your chances of developing Alzheimer’s (or other form of dementia)? It’s true. There are foods that can actually improve your brain health.  And best of all, these foods can be found in just about any Kansas City grocery store.

Foods that Improve Brain Health

  1. Blueberries. Blueberries have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Antioxidants protect the body from free radicals (molecules that can potentially cause serious damage to cells, including brain cells).
  2. Fatty fish. Salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel, and other types of fatty fish are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3s are essential to brain health. Some studies have shown they actually ward off age-related memory loss and protect the brain against Alzheimer’s.
  3. Avocados. Avocados contain monounsaturated fat, which is a good type of fat. It helps lower blood pressure and improves blood flow to the brain, ensuring that the brain gets enough oxygen.
  4. Turmeric. This spice contains curcumin, which has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Some studies show that curcumin can delay or even reverse some age-related memory loss or help clear the amyloid plaques in some people with Alzheimer’s.
  5. Coffee & tea. There’s caffeine in both coffee and tea, which can make you feel more alert and improve your concentration. Coffee and tea are also both high in antioxidants.
  6. Nuts and seeds. There’s a lot of Vitamin E in nuts and seeds, which helps slow age-related cognitive decline. Walnuts, peanuts (or peanut butter), pumpkin seeds, and flaxseed also contain omega-3 fatty acids.
  7. Dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains both caffeine and antioxidant compounds called flavanols. The flavanols in dark chocolate have been shown to improve blood flow to the brain and to combat cell damage. They also protect the brain from inflammation.

Can the cold Kansas City weather make you sick? Will it make your allergies go away? Will Vitamin C prevent colds? Let’s take a look at some of these winter health “myths” and the actual truth behind them.

  1. You can get sick from being out in the cold, especially with wet hair. False. Cold weather does not cause illness. Exposure to germs from people who are ill (either by droplets in the air or by touching things that person has touched) is what causes colds and flu. These types of illnesses are more common in the winter months because people tend to spend more time indoors where it’s easier to become exposed to germs.
  2. Cold weather gets rid of allergies. Partially True. Really cold weather will get rid of seasonal allergens like hay fever. But many people suffer not only from outdoor allergens, but also from indoor allergens (e.g., dust mites, mold, pet dander). So whether or not your runny nose and sneezing will stop in the winter will depend on what you’re allergic to and what allergens you have in your home and/or workplace.
  3. Vitamin C will ward off colds. Partially True. There’s not much evidence to suggest that getting your recommended daily dose of Vitamin C will prevent colds. But the general consensus seems to be that taking Vitamin C at the onset of a cold may reduce the cold’s duration.
  4. Sunscreen isn’t necessary during the winter months. False. The sun’s rays can be harmful even during the winter months (and on cloudy days). So it’s important to wear sunscreen on any skin that will be exposed to the sun every day of the year.
  5. Most of your body heat is lost through your head. False. This myth likely started because a lot of people don’t wear hats in the winter, and you tend to lose heat from any area of your body that isn’t covered. So don’t forget to wear your hat this winter. And your gloves!
  6. You should feed a cold, but starve a fever. False. Not eating when you’re fighting an illness is rarely a good idea. When you’re running a fever, your immune system needs to be at its best to fight off the illness. That requires a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.

The older you get, the more likely you are to get shingles, a painful rash that shows up on your side, face, or upper body. The shingles vaccine can help prevent you from getting it. It’s not 100% effective at stopping the virus, but if you do end up with shingles after having had the vaccine, your symptoms will be less severe.

Who Should Get the Shingles Vaccine

The shingles vaccine has been approved for anyone who’s over the age of 50, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends it be given to people age 60 and above.

Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, and people who have never had chickenpox are supposedly immune. But the CDC says 99% of Americans over the age of 40 have had chickenpox at one time or another even if they don’t remember having it. So you should get the vaccine regardless.

If you’ve already had shingles, it’s still okay to be vaccinated (after your shingles rash has completely disappeared) to help prevent you from getting it again.

Also, if you’re a caregiver for someone who has Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia, you might want to think about getting that person vaccinated as well.

Who Shouldn’t get the Shingles Vaccine

Here are some instances in which you should avoid getting a shingles vaccine:

  • If you’ve had a previous severe allergic reaction to gelatin, neomycin (an antibiotic), or any other component of the shingles vaccine. If you’re not sure, tell your doctor up front if you have any severe allergies.
  • If you have a condition that weakens your immune system, such as:
    • HIV or AIDS
    • Leaukemia
    • Lymphoma
    • Multiple Myeloma
    • Viral hepatitis
    • Tuberculosis (untreated)
  • If you’re taking drugs or doing other treatments that affect your immune system, such as chemotherapy, steroids, or radiation therapy
  • If you’re pregnant (or trying to get pregnant)

Where to Get the Shingles Shot

The easiest place to get a shingles shot is at your primary care physician’s office. If he or she doesn’t offer the vaccine, there are plenty of doctors in Kansas City who do. You can also get a shingles shot at Walgreens or CVS.

Shingles Vaccine Side Effects

Side effects of the shingles vaccine tend to be mild. The most common side effects are redness, pain, swelling, and itching at the injection site. Headaches are also fairly common.

Some people will develop a chickenpox-like rash near the injection site after receiving the shingles vaccine. If that happens, just cover the rash until it disappears.

If you’re a Kansas City senior who’s dreading the idea of eating Thanksgiving dinner alone, you don’t have to. There are places in the Kansas City area that offer free meals not only to seniors, but to anyone who needs a place to go. So you’ll not only get a good meal, but also plenty of company.

Here are three places that are offering free meals for 2017.

  1. Brush Creek Community Center: (Wednesday, November 22): Dinner will be served from 4 to 6 p.m. at 3801 Brush Creek Boulevard in Kansas City, Missouri. Registration is required.
  2. The Salvation Army (Thanksgiving Day): Dinner will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 101 W. Linwood in Kansas City, Missouri. The Salvation Army also delivers Thanksgiving dinners to those who are unable to get out. Call 816-756-1455 for more information.
  3. Indian Heights United Methodist Church (Thanksgiving Day): Dinner will be served from 1 to 4 p.m. at the church (10211 Nall Avenue in Overland Park). Registration is required.