Category Archives: Senior Living

What Do We Know About Healthy Aging?

A study found that taking 8,000 steps or more per day was associated with a 51% lower risk of death.

by National Institute on Aging (NIA), Home

Many factors influence healthy aging. Some of these, such as genetics, are not in our control. Others — like exercise, a healthy diet, going to the doctor regularly, and taking care of our mental health — are within our reach. Research supported by NIA and others has identified actions you can take to help manage your health, live as independently as possible, and maintain your quality of life as you age. Read on to learn more about the research and the steps you can take to promote healthy aging.

While scientists continue to actively research how to slow or prevent age-related declines in physical health, they’ve already discovered multiple ways to improve the chances of maintaining optimal health later in life. Taking care of your physical health involves staying active, making healthy food choices, getting enough sleep, limiting your alcohol intake, and proactively managing your health care. Small changes in each of these areas can go a long way to support healthy aging.

Whether you love it or hate it, physical activity is a cornerstone of healthy aging. Scientific evidence suggests that people who exercise regularly not only live longer, but also may live better — meaning they enjoy more years of life without pain or disability.

A study of adults 40 and older found that taking 8,000 steps or more per day, compared to only taking 4,000 steps, was associated with a 51% lower risk of death from all causes. You can increase the number of steps you get each day by doing activities that keep your body moving, such as gardening, walking the dog, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

As people age, muscle function often declines. Older adults may not have the energy to do everyday activities and can lose their independence. However, exercise can help older adults maintain muscle mass as they age. In a 2019 investigation of data from NIA’s Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, researchers found that moderate to vigorous physical activity is strongly associated with muscle function, regardless of age. This suggests that exercise may be able to prevent age-related decline in muscle function.

Although many studies focus on the effects of physical activity on weight and BMI, research has found that even if you’re not losing weight, exercise can still help you live longer and better. There are many ways to get started. Try being physically active in short spurts throughout the day or setting aside specific times each week to exercise. Many activities, such as brisk walking or yoga, are free or low cost and do not require special equipment. As you become more active, you will start feeling energized and refreshed after exercising instead of exhausted. The key is to find ways to get motivated and get moving.

Making smart food choices can help protect you from certain health problems as you age and may even help improve brain function. As with exercise, eating well is not just about your weight. With so many different diets out there, choosing what to eat can be confusing. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide healthy eating recommendations for each stage of life. The Dietary Guidelines suggest an eating pattern with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins.

It doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you’ve been smoking, research confirms that even if you’re 60 or older and have been smoking for decades, quitting will improve your health.

Study of green tea and other molecules uncovers new therapeutic strategy for Alzheimer’s

Study of green tea and other molecules uncovers new therapeutic strategy for Alzheimer’s

Study of green tea and other molecules uncovers new therapeutic strategy for Alzheimer’s Researchers have discovered how a molecule found in green tea breaks apart tangles of the protein tau, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Based on this finding, the team identified other molecules that can also untangle tau and may be better drug candidates than the green tea molecule. Results from the NIA-funded study, published in Nature Communications, suggest that this approach may one day provide an effective strategy for treating Alzheimer’s.

In Alzheimer’s, tau abnormally sticks together in fibrous tangles that spread between brain cells, leading to cell death. The molecule epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) — the one found in green tea — is known to untangle these tau fibers. However, EGCG is not on its own an effective Alzheimer’s treatment because it cannot easily penetrate the brain and binds to many proteins other than tau, weakening its effect. Therefore, researchers wanted to find molecules that replicate the effects of EGCG but have better drug properties for treating Alzheimer’s.

In this study, a team led by investigators at the University of California, Los Angeles, isolated tau tangles from postmortem brain tissue donated by people who had Alzheimer’s. The tangles were treated with EGCG and flash frozen. Images of the EGCG and tau fiber complexes were captured with a technique called cryogenic electron microscopy.

These EGCG-tau fiber images helped reveal how EGCG attaches to and dismantles the tau fibers. According to the team’s model, EGCG binds to clefts, or openings, along each layer of the fibers, destabilizing the layers and slowly prying the fibers apart.

Using computer simulations, the researchers identified other molecules likely to work in a similar way as EGCG but that may be able to enter the brain more easily. They tested these other molecules in a cell model for tau tangle formation and additionally on tau tangles isolated from brain samples donated by Alzheimer’s patients after death. In both setups, several of the molecules untangled tau fibers. Although researchers caution that more work is needed, the experiments indicated that certain molecules also prevented the untangled tau from spreading and forming new tangles.

Overall, the findings suggest that these newly discovered molecules that can penetrate the brain and dismantle tau tangles may be a promising strategy for treating Alzheimer’s. Future research into these molecules may help uncover more about their therapeutic potential.

This research was supported in part by NIA grants R01AG070895 and R01AG048120.

Can I prevent dementia?

As you age, you may have concerns about the increased risk of dementia. You may have questions, too. Are there steps I can take to prevent it? Is there anything I can do to reduce my risk? There are currently no approaches that have been proven to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. However, as with many other diseases, there may be steps you can take to help reduce your risk.

A risk factor is something that may increase the chance of developing a disease. Some risk factors can be controlled while others cannot. For example, a person is not able to control their age, which is the greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s and related dementias. Another uncontrollable risk factor is a person’s genes. Genes are structures in our body’s cells that are passed down from a person’s birth parents. Changes in genes — even small changes — can cause diseases.

Race and gender are also factors that influence risk. Research shows that African Americans, American Indians, and Alaska Natives have the highest rates of dementia, and that risk factors may differ for women and men. Researchers are investigating what’s behind these differences.

However, people do have control over their behavior and lifestyle, which can influence their risk for certain diseases. For example, high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. Lowering blood pressure with lifestyle changes or medication can help reduce a person’s risk for heart disease and heart attack.

For Alzheimer’s and related dementias, no behavior or lifestyle factors have risen to the level of researchers being able to say: This will definitely prevent these diseases. But there are promising avenues.

The number of older Americans is rising, so the number of people with dementia is predicted to increase. However, some studies have shown that incidence rates of dementia — meaning new cases in a population over a certain period of time — have decreased in some locations, including in the United States. Based on observational studies, factors such as healthy lifestyle behaviors and higher levels of education may be contributing to such a decline. But the cause and effect is uncertain, and such factors need to be tested in a clinical trial to prove whether they can prevent dementia.

A review of published research evaluated the evidence from clinical trials on behavior and lifestyle changes to prevent or delay Alzheimer’s or age-related cognitive decline. The review found “encouraging but inconclusive” evidence for three types of behavioral changes (called interventions): physical activity, blood pressure control, and cognitive training. The findings mean that interventions in these areas are promising enough that researchers should keep studying them to learn more. Researchers continue to explore these and other interventions to determine whether — and in what amounts or forms — they might prevent dementia.

Although there is no effective treatment or proven prevention for Alzheimer’s and related dementias, in general, leading a healthy lifestyle may help address risk factors that have been associated with these diseases.

  • Control high blood pressure.
  • Manage blood sugar.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Keep physically active.
  • Stay mentally active.
  • Stay connected with family and friends.
  • Drink less alcohol. Drinking website.
  • Stop tobacco use.

Fall Prevention Forum set for in-person return

After being held virtually for the past three years, the annual Fall Prevention Forum – co-hosted by the Ventura County Elderly Fall Prevention Coalition, the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging, and the City of Oxnard – will return to an in-person gathering at the end of September.

The 2023 forum – “Fall Back to the ‘70s” – will be held on Friday, September 29, at the Oxnard Performing Arts Center (800 Hobson Way). Registration will begin at 8 a.m., and the program will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The event is free to attend.

A Spanish translation service will be made available upon request. A free lunch will be provided.

Participants will hear from Dr. Thomas Duncan, chair of the Ventura County Elderly Fall Prevention Coalition; keynote speaker Dr. Javier Romero, the program director for surgery at the Ventura Community Memorial Health System; and a panel of experts. They will also have the opportunity to take part in Zumba or Tai Chi demonstrations, get free immunizations and health screenings, and go through balance and gait screenings.

Participants may pre-register by visiting and filling out the registration form, or by calling the VCAAA at (805) 477-7300.

The Ventura County Area Agency on Aging, a division of the County of Ventura’s Human Services Agency, is charged with the responsibility to promote the development and implementation of a comprehensive coordinated system of care that enables older individuals, children and adults with disabilities, and their caregivers to live in a community-based setting. The VCAAA advocates for the needs of those 60 years and older in the county, providing leadership and promoting citizen involvement in the planning process as well as in the delivery of services.

Autism Society Ventura County launches Healthcare Equity Initiative with focus on rewriting the vaccine experience

Wear sunglasses to help manage light sensitivity.

Autism Society Ventura County is proud to launch our Healthcare Equity Initiative in partnership with Autism Society of America and USAging’s Aging and Disability Vaccine Collaborative (ADVC.) Autism Society Ventura County believes that improving the vaccination experience is a critical step towards achieving more equitable healthcare for people with Autism and all neurodiverse individuals. As part of our strategic focus on health equity, the Vaccine Education Initiative (VEI) is a national program that addresses systemic barriers to healthcare, while providing education, confidence, and access.

“Autism Society Ventura County has a long history of advocating for options and access. Individuals with disabilities are often left behind when it comes to preventative healthcare. We look forward to working with doctors, nurses, and clinic staff to ensure that they have the tools to make healthcare comfortable, easy, and eliminate traumatic experiences.” – Ashley Pope, President, Autism Society Ventura County.

Autism Society Ventura County is committed to providing the resources and connections that improve outcomes for patients, providers, caregivers, and their communities. Our Goal is to:

  • Address the health equity challenges faced by people with Autism across their lifetime — specifically around accessible, inclusive healthcare and vaccines.

  • Ensure anyone in the Autism community has access to information, resources, support systems, and specialists to make decisions for their health.

  • Ensure that healthcare providers in Ventura County are equipped with the tools they need to deliver the best care and meet the unique needs of the Autism and disability community across the lifespan.

  • Ensure that all individuals and families who want a vaccination are able to receive vaccination in safe and supportive environments.

A key component of Autism Society Ventura County’s initiative are free Accessible Vaccine/Healthcare Kits to support sensory, communication, and social differences. These kits help provide a more positive healthcare experience for all ages. Kits include a variety of calming and sensory tools and typically include*:

  • Noise-Reducing Headphones;

  • ShotBlocker®, a non-invasive tool that lessens the pain and anxiety of needles;

  • Sensory Tools: Stress ball, Fidget Spinner;

  • Sunglasses ‒ to help manage light sensitivity;

  • Stickers;

  • Alternative Communication Methods such as visual supports.

* Items included in the Accessible Vaccine Kits are subject to change due to inventory, availability, and community needs.

By rewriting the vaccine experience and educating healthcare providers, we are creating a path for increased vaccination accessibility for Autistic individuals and those with disabilities and complex support needs.

To schedule a 20 minute free lunch & learn for your healthcare office or to have our tools at your vaccination event, contact Megan at [email protected].

Steps to Stronger Bones

Leslie and her students in action! Filming our dance and fitness TV show “For the Young at Heart” at Aegis Living of Ventura.

by Leslie Sokol

Maintaining strong bones and joints are essential components to a healthy life as you age. Ideally, you would start building up bone strength during your 30’s and 40’s to prevent issues later in life. However, it is never too late to get started – you can still strengthen your bones regardless of your age. Weight bearing exercises are ideal for activating your bone building cells. Bones need pressure on them to build the right way.

As we age, our bone density decreases for reasons such as hormonal changes, lack of exercise, genetics, or deficiencies in calcium and other nutrients. We tend to think of our bones as solid bricks that stop growing after childhood, but they actually are more like living sponges with a hard lattice structure and a hollow section inside. They are also constantly turning over new cells and changing. It’s helpful to think of building bone density as similar to building up your retirement savings account. Strengthening your bones so they are healthy and durable will make a significant difference in the sorts of physical activities you are able to do as you get older.

There are many things you can do now to reduce bone loss in the future. Focus on your nutrition and adding additional weight bearing activities into your workouts – start with something easy such as taking a long walk or lifting light weights to get started. These actions will increase your bone density and help keep you strong and healthy. Other activities that can help build bone health include:

  • Low impact workouts
  • Aerobic dancing
  • Running
  • Walking
  • Tennis
  • Pickleball
  • Treadmill
  • Elliptical
  • Strength training
  • Gardening and yard work
  • Hiking

Activities that alternate high, moderate and slow speeds can provide additional improvements to bone density and strength.

The health and strength of our bones relies on a balanced diet and a steady stream of nutrients. Most important are calcium, vitamin D, and protein. Calcium is a mineral that people need to build and maintain strong bones and teeth. A whopping 99% of our calcium resides in our bones and teeth and is essential for cell, muscle, heart and nerve function. Make sure you’re getting plenty in your diet or talk to your doctor about taking a daily supplement.

Remember, your bones are your foundation, so be sure to take care of them! Keep your bones strong, one step at a time. Keep moving, eat healthy and be happy! You can easily strengthen your bones with consistency, awareness, and a positive attitude. Better Bones = Better Life!

If you are interested in building stronger bones, please contact Leslie for setting up a program or routine to build your strength and get you fit for a more active life.

Leslie Sokol is the creator and founder of the adult dance and fitness program For the Young at Heart. She has been teaching adults and children for forty-five years. You can watch For the Young at Heart by visiting her YouTube Channel or on TVSB. She also teaches in retirement communities throughout Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties.

For more information contact Leslie at [email protected] 805-312-8089
or visit the website:

Alzheimer’s disease genetics fact sheet

by National Institute on Aging

Many people wonder if Alzheimer’s disease runs in their family. Is it in your genes? This question isn’t easy to answer. Researchers have identified several genetic variants that are associated with Alzheimer’s and may increase or decrease a person’s risk of developing the disease. What does that mean? Let’s first learn about the role of genes.

Human cells contain the instructions needed for a cell to do its job. These instructions are made up of DNA, which is packed tightly into structures called chromosomes. Each chromosome has thousands of segments called genes.

Genes are passed down from a person’s biological parents. They carry information that defines traits such as eye color and height. Genes also play a role in keeping the body’s cells healthy.

Variations in genes — even small changes to a gene — can affect the likelihood of a person developing a disease such as Alzheimer’s.

Do genes cause diseases?

Permanent changes in one or more specific genes are called genetic variants. Some of these variants are quite common in the human population. While most genetic variants don’t cause diseases, some do. In some cases, a person inherits a genetic variant that will almost certainly lead to that individual developing a disease. Sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, and some cases of early-onset Alzheimer’s are examples of inherited genetic disorders. However, other variants may simply increase, or even decrease, a person’s risk of developing that disease. Identifying genetic variants and their effects can help researchers uncover the most effective ways to treat or prevent diseases in an individual.

Additionally, factors such as exercise, diet, chemicals, or smoking can have positive or negative effects by changing the way certain genes work. In the field of epigenetics, researchers are studying how such factors can alter a cell’s DNA in ways that affect gene activity.

Genetic research is a component of precision medicine, an emerging approach that considers individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle. Precision medicine will enable researchers and doctors to predict more accurately which treatment and prevention strategies will work in particular groups of people.

In most cases, Alzheimer’s does not have a single genetic cause. Instead, it can be influenced by multiple genes in combination with lifestyle and environmental factors. Consequently, a person may carry more than one gene or group of genes that can either increase or reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Importantly, people who develop Alzheimer’s do not always have a history of the disease in their families. Still, those who have a parent or sibling diagnosed with the disease have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s than those without that association.

Genetic variants that affect Alzheimer’s disease risk

Ten years ago, researchers knew of only 10 genes linked with Alzheimer’s. Today, scientists have identified more than 70 genetic regions associated with Alzheimer’s. Understanding which genes play a role — and what role they play — may help identify new methods to prevent, delay, or treat dementia.

Hospitalization for infection linked to higher dementia risk

“I hope I don’t have an infection!”

Hospitalization due to infection may increase a person’s likelihood of developing dementia, according to a large NIA-funded observational study. The researchers found people hospitalized with an infection were more likely to be diagnosed with dementia years later than those who were not hospitalized with infections. The results, published in JAMA Network Open, suggest measures taken to prevent infection may also contribute to dementia prevention.

Previous findings have suggested an association between dementia and certain types of infections, such as systemic and central nervous system infections. Additionally, hospitalization for any reason, but notably for infection and critical illness, has been linked to cognitive decline. Building on these findings, a team led by researchers at the University of Minnesota and an NIA scientist explored the association between hospitalization for infection and dementia by looking at data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, an observational study that has followed participants for up to 32 years.

Using data from 15,688 participants who did not have dementia when they entered the ARIC study, the scientists determined whether participants were hospitalized for an infection, and how many subsequently developed dementia three to 20 years later. The research team also investigated whether different types of infections were associated with varying dementia risk.

During the maximum follow-up period of 32 years, 19% of participants were diagnosed with dementia, and 38% were hospitalized with an infection. The researchers determined people who were hospitalized with an infection were 70% more likely to be diagnosed with dementia than those who were not. The types of infections most associated with dementia were blood and circulatory, urinary, and hospital-acquired infections, such as catheter-associated urinary tract infections.

The study’s findings provide evidence that hospitalization with an infection increases one’s risk of developing dementia, underscoring the importance of infection prevention when and if possible. More research on the links between infection and cognition could also lead to improved dementia screening practices.

This research was supported in part by NIA grants K76AG057020 and RF1AG072387 and the Intramural Research Program at NIA (ZIAAG000348).

Staying healthy

A healthy diet can help reduce the risk of many chronic diseases.

Preventing or controlling high blood pressure, not only helps your heart, but may help your brain too. Decades of observational studies have shown that having high blood pressure in midlife — the 40s to early 60s — increases the risk of cognitive decline later in life. In addition, the Sprint-Mind study, a nationwide clinical trial, showed that intensive lowering of blood pressure (even below the previous standard target of 140 for systolic blood pressure) lowers the risk for mild cognitive impairment, which is a risk factor for dementia.

High blood pressure often does not cause signs of illness that you can see or feel. Routine visits to your doctor will help pick up changes in your blood pressure, even though you might feel fine. To control or lower high blood pressure, your doctor may suggest exercise, changes in your diet, and if needed — medications. These steps can help protect your brain and your heart.

A healthy diet can help reduce the risk of many chronic diseases such as heart disease or diabetes. It may also help keep your brain healthy.

In general, a healthy diet consists of fruits and vegetables; whole grains; lean meats, fish, and poultry; and low-fat or nonfat dairy products. You should also limit solid fats, sugar, and salt. Be sure to control portion sizes and drink enough water and other fluids.

Researchers are looking at whether a healthy diet can help preserve cognitive function or reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. For example, there is some evidence that people who eat a Mediterranean diet have a lower risk of developing dementia.

While scientists aren’t sure yet why the Mediterranean diet might help the brain, its effect on improving cardiovascular health might in turn reduce dementia risk. In contrast, the typical Western diet often increases cardiovascular disease risk, possibly contributing to faster brain aging.

Researchers have developed and are testing another diet, called MIND, a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets. According to observational studies of more than 900 dementia-free older adults, closely following the MIND diet was associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and a slower rate of cognitive decline.

Learn more about diet and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

Be Physically Active

Being physically active — through regular exercise, household chores, or other activities — has many benefits. It can help you:

Keep and improve your strength

Have more energy

Improve your balance

Prevent or delay heart disease, diabetes, and other concerns

Studies link ongoing physical activity with benefits for the brain and cognition as well, although a strong link between physical activity and Alzheimer’s disease prevention has not yet been documented.

In one study, exercise stimulated the human brain’s ability to maintain old network connections and make new ones that are vital to cognitive health. Other studies have shown that exercise increases the size of a brain structure important to memory and learning, resulting in better spatial memory. Aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, is thought to be more beneficial to cognitive health than nonaerobic stretching and toning exercise. One study found that the more time spent doing a moderate levels of physical activity, the greater the increase in brain glucose metabolism — or how quickly the brain turns glucose into fuel — which may reduce the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Federal guidelines recommend that all adults get at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of physical activity each week. Walking is a good start. You can also join programs that teach you to move safely and prevent falls, which can lead to brain and other injuries. Check with your health care provider if you haven’t been active and want to start a vigorous exercise program.