Senior Health

6 Health Habits to Take Home from Japan


Recently I was  lucky enough to spend 10 days in Japan. It was cherry blossom season—and a trip that’s been on my bucket list for a while. I only learned two new Japanese words—”konichiwa” is “hello” and “arigato” is “thank you”—but I figured out at least a few explanations for why Japan continues to rate high in rankings of the world’s healthiest countries. Here are a few tricks that are helping our neighbors to the west—who boast the greatest proportion of citizens over 100—live long and healthy lives:



Fish comes first: Eaten raw, cooked, or somewhere in between, not a day went by that I didn’t have fish during my trip. All of this seafood was good for my body and brain: the blend of lean protein and healthy fats makes fish a staple in many diet and healthy eating programs. I’ve always liked sushi, but this visit gave me a new appreciation for sashimi—basically raw fish any rice: You get all of the benefits of the fish without the calories or sugar of the rice!


Work Out in the Water! 5 Hot New Reasons to Make a Splash

We all know that swimming is a great, low-impact, full-body workout. But it’s not the only way to get in shape in the water. Over the last few years, traditional strength training, cardio workouts, and even yoga have taken to the water to deliver a form of exercise that is easy on the joints and effective at toning and strengthening the muscles. Sure, there’s water aerobics. But there are also a handful of other fitness styles that have taken the plunge into the pool, creating an entirely new experience for some of your favorite group exercises classes. 

aqua cycling

Here’s an introduction to five popular group fitness classes that you wouldn’t expect to take place in a pool:

Aqua Zumba

Aqua Zumba adds a fun challenge to one of the most popular group exercise classes in the world. The concept and moves are the same as in a  traditional Zumba class, but the extra resistance created by pushing against the water adds a great strength-training element to the workout. The class is held in shallow water (about chest height for the average participant) and the instructor is positioned near the ledge of the pool (so that everyone can see her movements and follow instruction). Aqua Zumba is described as a fun pool party- where you don’t even realize that you get a great workout.


10 Places for Allergy Sufferers to Avoid this Spring, and How to Cope if You Can’t

Spring is here, bringing with it green grass, warmer temperatures, baseball season, and allergies. Depending on where you live, you may be feeling the effects of allergies more strongly than others. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has released their list of “the 100 most challenging places to live with allergies.”

seasonal allergies

The 10 Worst Places for spring allergies:

  1. Louisville, Kentucky
  2. Memphis, Tennessee
  3. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  4. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  5. Jackson, Mississippi
  6. Chattanooga, Tennessee
  7. Dallas, Texas
  8. Richmond, Virginia
  9. Birmingham, Alabama
  10. McAllen, Texas


Eat Your Way to Better Eye Sight

By Janis Jibrin, M.S., RD, Best Life lead nutritionist

Which of your five senses is most important to you? If you said “sight,” you’d be in the majority—four out of five baby boomers chose sight in a survey by the Ocular Nutrition Society.

eye health

So be proactive about protecting your sight: Eating to ensure your eyes stay healthy is as easy as following these three steps:

Choose antioxidant-rich foods. Antioxidants like beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E protect your eyes from free radicals, damaging compounds that can cause cataracts and macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the U.S. A recent study of Swedish women found that those who consumed a diet with the most antioxidant power (one that featured antioxidants that worked best together to protect health) were 13 percent less likely to develop cataracts. Fruits and vegetables topped the list of main sources of antioxidants with 44 percent, followed by whole grains (17 percent) and coffee (15 percent).


One Big Problem with High-Protein Diets: Eating Mostly Meat Shortens Life Span

Almost all of today’s most popular diets are low-carb, high-protein. Atkins has been big for decades; Paleo is an ever-expanding movement, thanks in part to its following of cross-fit fans; and other plans like Dukan, Medifast, and Southbeach aren’t got anywhere anytime soon. But, while this eating formula may result in noticeable weight loss for most folks, a new study, profiled in a Huffington Post article, suggests high-protein diets may also shorten your life. That’s a pretty big deal.


Here’s what we know:

  • Diets that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates help the body shed fat. There are two main reasons for this: Protein is harder for the body to digest than other nutrients so you automatically burn extra calories as you digest and metabolize it. Also, proteins are more filling than many other types of food. Eat a bowl of pasta and you may be hungry again within the hour. Eat a chicken breast and you may forget to eat your snack.  (more…)

40 is the New 20. Which is Good News: Feeling Younger Will Help You Live Longer

By Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D., Best Life lead nutritionist

How old are you? Now, how old do you feel? The two numbers might not necessarily match up—your “real age” could be years younger than your chronological age.  Or, if you’ve abused your body and/or have a chronic disease, you could be older than your real age.


If you’re curious about your “real age,” there are a number of easy-to-use online questionnaires that can calculate this—I used RealAge to find mine but a quick Google search will reveal plenty more options. You simply fill out information on your medical history, including diseases, blood cholesterol levels, blood pressure and other lab values.  Mood, depression, and even your sex life are also queried, as well as risky behaviors like hours logged behind the wheel.

Even as an advisory board member of, which owns RealAge, I was skeptical. Could it—or any other questionnaire—churn out a legitimate number? I certainly hoped so; RealAge knocked 6.3 year off my age!  And now, a new independent study has made me feel even better about my results.


Here’s What You Missed Health-Wise During the State of the Union

Last night President Obama delivered his 5th State of the Union Address. During the near 90 minute speech, he covered topics like the citizenship, the United States’ military presence in the Middle East, and equal pay. An increase to minimum wage was a hot topic in the speech. President Obama would like to see it increase to $10.10 per hour. That portion of the speech provided the most easily quoted moment of the night, “Give America a raise.”

In a blink-and-you-missed-it moment, the president also, unsurprisingly, talked a bit about health care and the still much-debated Affordable Care Act.


The Dos and Don’ts of Colds and The Flu

Winter brings a lot of things: holidays, snow, chilly temperatures and, unfortunately, cold and flu season. The pesky viruses behind these ailments can make you feel miserable and really put a damper on your beginning-of-the-year plans.

cold and flu

When you come down with a case of the sniffles, develop a cough, or feel achey all over it can be hard to figure out if you have a cold, the flu, or something else entirely. We’ve broken down the facts about this season’s bugs to help keep you healthy.


Raw Vegan Couple Ran 366 Marathons in a Row

At least one amazing duo rang in the new year by meeting and completing their 2013 resolution, and it was a lofty one! About this time last year we learned about a couple who planned to run a marathon each day and make their way around the continent of Australia. Long story short: The couple ran into 2014 by finishing their 366th consecutive marathon.

Couple running sunset

Here’s a bit of background on the undertaking in case you missed our initial post: Last January 1st, Alan Murray and Janette Murray-Wakelin left Melbourne on foot for their first marathon of 2013. The 60-year-old grandparents set out to break a record, raise money for charity, and simply draw awareness to healthy living.


Get Fit Today for a Healthier Future

We often stress the importance of an active and healthy lifestyle for your current well-being, but two new studies show that being fit can have a serious impact on your health for decades. If you’re active now, you’re protecting yourself from muscle weakness later in life. And if you were a member a sports team in high school, researchers say you’ve likely prevented frequent doctor’s visits as you’ve gotten older.


active senior

Researchers from Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology teamed up to study the health of World War II veterans who were healthy as young men. The researchers were surprised to find that those who played a high school sport reported visiting the doctor for health concerns fewer times a year.