Friday, April 6, 2012

Healthy Aging, According to Dr. Bloom

Dedicated. This word best describes Dr. Patricia Bloom. For over 30 years, she has been involved in geriatric patient care, education, and research at Mt. Sinai Medical Center. Her title is Director of Integrative Health for the Martha Stewart Center for Living and she is an associate professor in the department of Geriatrics. Dr. Bloom is committed to the promotion of healthy aging: integrative health; stress reduction; mind body medicine; along with meditation and mindfulness for caregivers.

Often she is asked about the relationship between aging and creativity. Believing that great life experience comes with age she says, “While there is a lot of concern about what happens to brain function as people get older—especially about memory and dementia--there’s real data that senior wisdom is something that is accrued with life experience. Wisdom feeds into creativity. The older person is able to manifest his life experience and his wisdom, so that being creative and growing in new directions is the hallmark of successful aging.”

She cites Grandma Moses and Albert Einstein as two interesting, historical people who bear this out. Both aged well; both took up new forms of creative expression later in life. The former established herself as a fine artist, while the latter took up the violin.

Dr. Bloom advises, “One of the most effective ways of maintaining brain function as we age is to continue to be healthy in general. We know all of the risk factors that you hear about for heart disease--high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, or having an inactive lifestyle. All those things that put seniors at risk in other realms of health, are also risk factors for heart disease and Alzheimer’s.” Staying healthy by eating a good diet and being physically active are not easy things to do, but it is this combination that Dr. Bloom sees as “the real fountain of youth” for seniors. Careful attention to both diet and exercise has been shown to prevent many diseases that are associated with aging, and it fosters the maintenance of brain function, as well.

How does keeping active help? This geriatrician posits that there are literally reams of research data that prove this point. “Physical activity is a strong predictor of mortality. If you look at people’s exercise capacity, how able they are to be vigorously active, it is a very strong forecaster of how long they will live. And, for each increment up the scale they are for physical activity, the longer it would predict for their length of life.”

You don’t have to be a marathon runner though. Dr. Bloom wants older adults to know that they should not get discouraged even if they’ve been couch potatoes all their lives. She emphatically assures them, “If you go from the lowest quartile of physical activity to the second to the lowest quartile, you really improve your health status.”

The best advice this specialist has to offer includes continuing to be mentally and socially connected. She encourages seniors to be involved in everything. “Follow your passions, be truly engaged in life.”

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This blog is posted by Laraine Jablon.

Laraine Jablon, BA, MA, is a writer living in Nesconset, New York. She welcomes your thoughts.


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    Elderly Care

  2. We Are Never Too Old To Make New Friends by Sunie Levin

    Forget the calendar. How old are you? No cheating allowed. Be honest. On my 80th birthday last month my oldest daughter informed me, “You know, mom, 80 is actually today’s 60.” Sure, I thought to myself. Easy for you to say. Say that when you have the same aches and pains I do. But then I had another thought. I thought, you know, she’s right. I may be 80, but I don’t feel 80. I don’t act 80 either. Am I bragging? Maybe. But it’s the truth.
    And then I began thinking, “If that’s the case, specifically, what am I doing right? And as I pondered that question, I realized that, consciously or not, I really was doing at least some things that made me much younger than many of my calendar-year friends and acquaintances.So what things am I doing right? Well, for starters, I keep interested and I keep active. Big deal, you might say. Who needs to hear that bromide again? Lots of people, actually. I’m amazed at how many friends I have who have given up on life, lonesome, sitting quietly watching life go by. Their old friends have died or moved away to Florida, and it never occurs to them that is an unlimited supply of new ones out there just waiting to be met. And then it hit me. Yes! Yes! That’s it. That’swhat I’ve been doing right. I’ve been making new friends, and new friends open amazing new vistas for me, keep me interested. And hopefully, keep me interesting. Then another thought hit me. This extremely simple idea is one I should be transmitting to others. The result? My new book, ‘Make New Friends–Live Longer.’
    Don’t groan. Another book! Just what I need. Well, maybe you do. But it doesn’t matter. I’ll give you the key thoughts now, for free.
    Some get divorced. Some move to new communities. At this stage of the game, what’s to be done?
    Plenty, actually. I’m not saying it’s easy to make new friends, partly because we’re out of the habit, and partly because friendship circles are harder to break into now. But it’s doable, and if you want a more vital life.

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  4. Great article, I'll share this with my friends as well. Thank you very much.