5 Benefits of Medical Nutrition Therapy

Chair Yoga For Strength, Balance and More

What Should You Weigh? Common Weight Loss Questions, Answered

How to Stay Well During the Holidays

7 Ways to Maintain Bone Health

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Stand Up To Falling Down- A Fall Prevention & Awareness Event


Sun Health wants to keep you standing tall. Each year, 3 million older adults are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries. However, fall-related injuries are preventable. Join Sun Health for our 8th Annual Stand Up to Falling Down fall prevention event.

Attend in-person or virtually through Zoom. Participate in a way that works for you!

The event will feature educational presentations from Banner Health professionals, fall prevention resources, as well as fall risk assessments. drawing will be held after each presentation for a fall risk assessment using VirtuSense™, the number one fall prevention solution in the world!

Thursday, September 22
9:00 to 11:30 a.m.
The Colonnade,
a Sun Health Community
19116 N. Colonnade Way
Surprise, AZ 85374

Presentations & Speakers:

9:00 a.m. Vendor Walk

9:30 a.m. Welcome Remarks
Sun Health Team

9:35 a.m. Banner Health Injury Prevention Program:
Fall Prevention Home Safety Tips
Melissa Luxton, MSN, RN, Banner Health
Tracey Fejt, RN, Banner Health
This interactive program is designed for community dwelling adults over the age of 65. The program uses evidence-based education, utilizing the STEADICompendium developed by the CDC, as well Safety Town’s adult safety house, providing interactive and engaging education for the senior community.

10:05 a.m. Improving Bone Health: Strategies
and Current Medical Trends
Dr. Christina Khoury, Orthopedic Surgeon, Abrazo Health
The strength of your bones is an important determinant of your quality of life, especially in your golden years. Dr. Khoury will discuss how to monitor, maintain and strength your bones.

10:35 a.m. Vendor Walk

10:45 a.m. Balance Assessments Demonstration with VirtuSense™
Megan Motsko, Program Manager
Jonathan Schwinger, PTA
Kelly Roggatz, Rehab Technician

10:55 a.m. Don’t Fall For It!
Rhonda Zonoozi, ACSM-EP, Cardiac Rehab
Exercise Physiologist, Banner Health
Our chance of falling is impacted by our choices and what is around us. Learn how to reduce the risk of falling and increase your balance and mobility, wellbeing and physical safety.

11:25 a.m. Closing Remarks

11:30 a.m. Fall Risk Assessments by appointment only


Wednesday, July 27, 2022

What is the Difference Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia?

 What is the Difference Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

Dementia is an umbrella term that describes memory dysfunction and a decline in intellectual abilities, which are significant enough to disrupt daily living. It could be a decline in judgment, reasoning, problem-solving or more. There are more then 70 different types of dementia with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common. In fact, it accounts for approximately 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases.

Dementia is more than just memory loss. As we age, it may take us longer to retrieve information we have stored in our memory. With dementia, this happens frequently enough to impact daily tasks such as the ability to keep appointments, manage bills or bank accounts, or to take medication correctly. A person with dementia may have personality changes and become more withdrawn or less social than they used to be.

If you notice these changes and disruptions in your cognitive ability or those of a loved one, consult with your physician to determine the cause and whether a treatment can delay or prevent the progression of dementia.

Help While Healing

Help While Healing image

Sun Health Care Transitions Program focuses on supporting patients after hospitalization

When Surprise resident Don Grover had open-heart surgery in January he and his wife Joyce realized they had questions they didn’t think to ask before leaving the hospital.
The care Don received at Banner Boswell Medical Center in Sun City, during a nearly weeklong stay was excellent, but continuing his recovery at home came with uncertainty and anxiety.
That is when nurse Krysta Roseberry and the team from Sun Health Care Transitions stepped to support the Grovers.
“We feel like home is the best place to help the patients heal,” Krysta says. “We don’t want them in the hospital any longer than they need to be. We provide education and emotional support, answer questions and are there for them as they need us.”
Sun Health Care Transitions is an evidence-based program that focuses on helping patients to self-manage their health conditions and break the cycle of readmissions by assisting them during the critical period after they are discharged from the hospital.
As part of this program, Care Transition team members will review patients’ medication regimens, educate them on their conditions, connect them with community resources and ensure timely physician follow-up care.
The program has served thousands of patients to date, especially those with chronic conditions such as heart failure,  chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes, which increases their risk for readmission.
At first, Don and Joyce were apprehensive about the at-home visit with Krysta.
“Our first question was, ‘Who is going to pay for this?’” Don says.
Krysta quickly eased their minds and assured them that there were no out-of-pocket costs, as the expenses of the program were covered through a Medicare demonstration program and the generosity of donors to Sun Health Foundation.
This was the first of many important topics Krysta discussed with the Grovers.
“When Krysta came over, the anxiety in the room dropped about 3,000 percent,” Don says. “She answered all of our questions, was very caring and spent more time with us than I know she had. That was appreciated.”
For the couple, married 53 years, Krysta and other care transitions nurses were a saving grace. Joyce says that as soon as the team stepped in, things didn’t seem so scary and they knew they could count on support.
“I felt so much less anxiety” Joyce says. “Even when I called over to speak with Krysta and she wasn’t available, the other nurses were great to work with. Then, she came to our home the next day just to check on us. She is quite a gal.”
Sun Health Care Transitions has served more than 11,000 patients since November 2011. The program has a hospital readmission rate of 7.81 percent, compared to the national Medicare average of 17.8 percent. Since the program began, Sun Health Care Transitions has saved $12.7 million in avoided costs due to decreased readmissions. Additionally, the Sun Health program’s success was featured  at a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Quality Conference in December 2016

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Keep Stress at Bay


 Keep Stress at Bay

Exercise can help reduce the stress that ails you

Stress carries a lot of baggage.  Frayed nerves.  Upset stomach. Rapid heartbeat.  Sleeplessness.  The list goes on.

Unless you’re a Buddhist monk in deep meditation, chances are that stress is a frequent, and sometimes unwelcome, companion in your life, no matter what your age.  But adults age 55 and older may experience stress differently, according to Rhonda Zonoozi, exercise physiologist and certified health and wellness coach at the Sun Health Center for Health & Wellbeing.

“The body’s natural defenses against stress tend to slow down with age,” Zonoozi says.

Worries over retirement, dwindling finances, loss of independence, declining health – our own health or a loved one’s health – are common worries faced by seniors.  Zonoozi primarily helps older adults and sees the downside of too much stress.

“As we age, our brains lose some of their ability to regulate hormone levels,” she says.  “Older adults who feel stressed tend to produce larger amounts of stress hormones, and over time that can lead to health problems.”

But don’t worry.  Be happy because there are many ways to de-stress, including one of Zonoozi’s favorites: a thing called exercise.

We’ve heard a million times that regular exercise is important for our overall health, but it’s also a proven way to keep the stress demons from your door.  Research backs it up: A 2013 Princeton University study found that mice who exercised frequently were less anxious in stressful situations than their more sedentary neighbors.

Other studies have shown that exercise can boost one’s mood by stimulating production of “feel-good” neurotransmitters such as dopamine and endorphins.

“These neurotransmitters are like natural antidepressants,” Zonoozi says.  “Antidepressant medications can take several weeks to kick in, but you can experience the relaxing effects of a 30-minute walk almost immediately.”

Exercise also helps distract us from our stressors by providing something else to focus on.  Exercise may reduce muscle tension and the secretion of cortisol, known as the “stress hormone.”  Regular exercisers tend to react and recover more effectively in highly stressful situations.

“This acute stress response pumps up the heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate, which prepares us to fight or flee,” Zonoozi says.

One more thing to know: exercisers tend to sleep better.  You snooze.  You lose your stress.

From yoga, to walking, to water aerobics, there are several physical activities that can help reduce our stress.  Other techniques may include deep breathing, meditation and journaling.

“It’s much better to work out, than to stress out,” Zonoozi says.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Don’t Let Your Age Weight You Down

 Don’t Let Your Age Weight You Down

Is it harder to lose weight the older you are?

Although it’s possible to lose weight at any age, several factors make it harder to drop the pounds as we add years.

First, research shows that we begin losing muscle mass in our 30s. Muscles burn more calories than fat (about three times more), so less muscle translates to a slower metabolism, the means by which our bodies convert food into energy. When metabolism slows, it’s harder to burn calories. Compounding these effects are declining levels of the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone in women and men as we age. If we don’t cut back on calories, we start gaining body fat, especially in the mid-section.

Second, the older we are the more sedentary we become. The aches and pains common with aging can make it more challenging to stay physically active.

Fight back by eating healthier. Aim to trim about 100 calories a day from your food plan. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Replace creamy, high-calorie salad dressings with some balsamic vinegar. Choose low-fat or fat-free creamer in your coffee or tea. Switch from junk food to foods rich in fiber and protein. And, get physical. Activity can increase your metabolism and help burn more calories.

As fitness guru Richard Simmons once said, “Love yourself. Move your body. Watch your portions.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Sweat is a Gift

 Sweat is a Gift

Exercise Physiologist & Health Coach

(As seen in the Sun City Independent and Surprise Today)

I’ve started dozens of exercise programs in my life and I’ve ended up quitting all of them. Do you have any advice on how to stick to it?

I’m going to answer your question with a question. Why are you exercising? Are you getting physical because your doctor told you so, or because you “should” lose weight or to prevent a chronic disease later in life?

In her book, “No Sweat,” researcher Michelle Segar, Ph.D., identifies these “whys” as abstract, clinical, future-oriented and guilt-fueled. This isn’t to say they are inherently wrong, but rather that they tend to turn exercise into a chore. The wrong “whys” may get us up and moving, but our motivation eventually fades, often leading us to quit and label ourselves as a failure. If we start exercising again but still have the wrong whys, we are destined to fail.

Replacing the wrong with the right whys makes all the difference. Try viewing exercise as a gift, something that’s meaningful and relevant now. Say, “I get to, I want to, I choose to exercise.”

Replacing a future reward (weight loss, improved health number) with a more immediate positive (feeling of accomplishment, being refreshed, more energetic) converts the chore into a gift. When we enjoy how we feel during physical activity, we want to repeat it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

A Second Chance At Life

 New Life image

West Valley woman overcomes traumatic past, loses 130 pounds and inspires others 

As we celebrate the third anniversary of the Sun Health Center for Health & Wellbeing, we wanted to share with you one of our many success stories. Our comprehensive suite of health and wellness services aims to promote the physical and emotional wellbeing of members of our community. From nutrition consultations with dietitians to massage and acupuncture, we offer a variety of services to meet your needs. Learn more at sunhealthwellbeing.org or call 623-832-WELL (9355).
When the scale tipped 330 pounds in May 2015, Sharon Brubaker decided to seek help one final time for her ongoing struggle with weight. Doctors advised the then 45-year-old Surprise resident to undergo weight-loss surgery, but Sharon realized self-medicating with food was an issue that needed to be fixed in her head, not in her stomach. After years of trauma and abuse, Brubaker joined Mending the Soul, a faith-based group, to learn proper coping mechanisms and also connected with Tracy Garrett, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Sun Health Center for Health & Wellbeing, who she ultimately credits for saving her life.

Rearrange your plate

At her heaviest, Sharon would often visit fast food restaurants and order two meals at a time. She was accustomed to eating large portions so it came as a surprise during a private consultation with Tracy, that she learned she didn’t have to reduce the amount of food she ate.
“She told me I simply needed to replace what’s on my plate with healthier options,” Sharon says. “That’s what changed my life.”
Following Tracy’s advice, Sharon began eating fruit and vegetables and incorporating healthy food into her diet.
“I was more concerned with the quality of food she was consuming than I was with the total calories,” says Tracy. “Sharon started to add in whole foods, developed a habit for healthy grocery shopping and was open to trying new things.”
Sharon became more aware of the ingredients in the food she chose and started preparing meals at home. Before dining out, she would review a restaurant’s menu online and decide what to order in advance to avoid temptation.

Maintain a food journal

Registered dietitian nutritionists often suggest clients write down their daily food intake to increase motivation and maintain accountability.

Sharon weighed 330 lbs in May 2015

“The first day we met, Sharon handed me her food log and was brutally honest in her recordings, knowing her eating habits needed work,” Tracy says.
Sharon began using “MyFitnessPal,” a free online calorie counter, which helps her stay on track.

Incorporate exercise

Because she walked with a cane and couldn’t stand on her own for more than five minutes, Sharon went to physical therapy before eventually hiring a personal trainer at a local gym. Today, she works out five days a week and incorporates walking and bike riding into her busy schedule.
Tracy helped Sharon learn about the appropriate timing and composition of meals to aid in weight loss. They also discussed sleep habits, stress management, behavior modifications and the use of food for fuel.
“She taught me that it’s beneficial for my body to eat protein within 30 minutes of completing a workout,” Sharon says.

Celebrate success

In less than two years, Sharon has lost 130 pounds. While she hasn’t yet reached her goal weight, she is well on her way.
“Sharon’s successes are due to her persistence and because she reached out to a team of professionals to help her on this journey,” Tracy says. “She changed the course of her life, and in the process, has positively impacted others, including me.”
When she isn’t working as a computer programmer, Sharon spends her time volunteering as a mentor to young girls at StreetLightUSA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending childhood rape and sexual abuse.
She is eager to move on to the next chapter of her life.
“It took me 47 years to transition from victim to survivor,” she said. “Now there is light.”

Monday, July 11, 2022

Diabetes Education and Training is Covered by Medicare, Other Insurers

Wellness Diabetes Education

Individuals receive 10 hours of training plus nutrition counseling

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Diabetes Association, nearly 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, including more than 25 percent of adults age 65 and older. Of those with diabetes, nearly 26 percent are unaware of their condition.
Education is key to managing and successfully living with type 2 diabetes. The Sun Health Center for Health & Wellbeing is proud to offer a Diabetes Self-Management Education/Training Program accredited by the American Association of Diabetes Educators. This program helps individuals with diabetes learn how to manage their disease and be as healthy as possible by focusing on healthy eating, physical activity, self-monitoring, medication management, reducing risks and preventing diabetic complications.
Sun Health’s program is taught by certified diabetes educators/registered dietitians and an exercise physiologist/health coach. The programs are offered throughout the year at different locations, including the Center for Health & Wellbeing locations in Surprise and at Banner Boswell Medical Center in Sun City, as well as locations in the Southwest Valley.

What is covered?

Medicare Part B (medical insurance) and most insurance carries cover outpatient diabetes self-management education/training to teach you to cope with and manage your diabetes. Medicare covers 10 hours of the initial Diabetes Self-Management Education/Training Program along with two hours of follow-up training each calendar year after the initial session. Medical Nutrition Therapy, one-on-one counseling with a registered dietitian nutritionist, is also covered as an annual benefit for those diagnosed with diabetes. This includes three hours of counseling in the first year the benefit is received, plus two hours of counseling each year thereafter.

Who’s eligible?

These benefits are for individuals diagnosed with diabetes who have Medicare. You must have a written order from a doctor or other health care provider.

Your costs in Traditional Medicare

You pay 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount, and the Part B deductible applies. Commercial insurance and Medicare replacement plans typically follow Medicare guidelines. Please consult your insurance provider for details about coverage.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Breakfast Burrito

 Breakfast Burrito


  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1/2 small, diced red onion
  • 1 diced red bell pepper
  • 1 cup drained, rinsed canned black beans
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 egg whites
  • Light cooking spray
  • 1/3 cup shredded pepper Jack cheese
    or any light, shredded cheese
  • 4 10-inch whole-wheat tortillas
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1/4 cup salsa
  • 1 large, diced tomato
  • 1 small, cubed avocado
  • Hot sauce (optional)


  1. Heat the canola oil in a large, nonstick skillet. Saute the onions and peppers until onions are softened and peppers are slightly charred.
  2. Add black beans and red pepper flakes, and cook until warmed throughout. Season with salt and pepper, if desired, and transfer to a dish.
  3. Whisk together the eggs and egg whites, then stir in the cheese.
  4. Spray the skillet with cooking spray, and reheat the skillet over a medium heat. Reduce heat to low and add eggs, scrambling until cooked through.
  5. Spread each tortilla with 1 tablespoon of sour cream and salsa, and then layer with even portions of the black bean mixture, the scrambled eggs, diced tomato and the avocado. Season, to taste, with hot sauce.
  6. Roll up, burrito-style, and enjoy!

Hint: Use egg substitute for whole eggs to lower cholesterol content if desired. Rinse beans, use homemade salsa and add no salt to lower sodium content.

Nutrition (per burrito):

Calories 460; Total Fat 20 g (Sat Fat 6 g, Mono Fat 4 g, Poly Fat 1 g);
23 g; Carb 51 g; Fiber 12 g; Cholesterol 235 mg; Sodium 860 mg.

Cook time: about 30-40 mins. • Serves: 4

Friday, July 8, 2022

Brace Yourself: Fall Prevention Tips

Brace Yourself Fall Prevention Tips

Exercise Physiologist and Certified Health and Wellness Coach

“Knowing what can lead to falls and how to avoid them is key in preventing them.”

Simple steps can help prevent serious falls

It’s happened to all of us.  A slip, a stumble, a misstep that causes your legs to buckle from underneath, and suddenly you find yourself on the floor.  As minor as these accidents may seem, in older adults, falls are a leading cause of serious injuries that can lead to significant rehabilitation, hospitalization and even death.

According to the Health in Aging Foundation, it’s estimated that one in every three adults, age 65 and older, falls each year.


“Falls among seniors can be attributed to many factors, including health problems and living environment,” says Rhonda Zonoozi, exercise physiologist and certified health and wellness coach at the Sun Health Center for Health & Wellbeing.

Medical issues such as arthritis, heart disease, muscle weakness, dementia, vision changes and certain medications can increase the chance of falling.  Around the home, things such a slippery throw rugs and poor lighting can cause falls, as well.

Fractured bones – coupled with emergency room visits and hospital stays – can be traumatic.


To prevent falls at home, she recommends inspecting rooms to make sure there are clear and open pathways free from furnishings and clutter.  Loose carpets and rugs should be tacked down, cords bundled up, and lights added to dimly lit areas.  For added precaution, grab bars can be installed near the toilet and bathtub, and no-slip decals or a rubber mat can be used in the shower.  If you live alone, consider purchasing a medical alert device.

Also, if you’ve had a fall, let your doctor know right away.  Tell them how it happened and the possible cause.

“Surprisingly, fewer than half of people who have fallen tell their doctor,” says Zonoozi.  “It’s important to let your doctor know so he or she can determine if a medical issue may have led to the fall.  One fall can lead to future falls if not addressed properly.  A doctor can recommend exercises, refer to physical therapy, check vision, or change medication to reduce the risks.”


Exercise is one of the best lines of defense.  “Exercises that increase leg strength are great for preventing falls.  Strong legs help with walking and gait,” she says, adding that exercises that help improve balance are also beneficial.  Overall good health and fitness can also help reduce the risk of falls.

“For most healthy adults, simply getting out and walking can do wonders,” Zonoozi says.  “The general recommendation is 150 minutes of cardio exercise a week.  If you’re just starting, begin with just a few minutes of walking each day and build up from there.”

Proper nutrition is important as well.  Eat foods rich in vitamin D and calcium.  “And if you can’t get everything you need in the food, a supplement may be recommended.  Adequate water intake is also very important to avoid dehydration.”

Knowing what can lead to falls and how to avoid them is key in preventing them.


The primary causes of falls in older adults may be related to the side effects of medications, home environment, leg weakness or balance issues.  The fear of falling also can be a factor.

In order to avoid or reduce falls, I recommend my clients tour their home, looking for hazards on the floors.  Do they have to walk around furniture?  If so, I suggest moving furniture to create a clearer path, as well as keeping floors clutter-free.  For pet owners, I suggest placing a bell on the pet’s collar to be more aware of its presence.  When walking their dog, I suggest staying on level sidewalks, instead of potentially hazardous grassy or rocky areas.

Certain exercises can help people avoid or reduce falls, such as those targeting leg strength.  Stronger legs help with walking and gait, and going up and down stairs.  Simply going from a seated position to standing, and building up to 10 to 15 repetitions, is a good way to increase leg strength.  Simple balance exercises include practicing standing on one foot.  Begin by standing on one foot with both hands on a table.  As your balance improves, go from two hands to one hand, to a finger, to no support.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

5 Benefits of Medical Nutrition Therapy


With age, dietary needs can change and shift depending on the state of your health. While maintaining good health is always a top priority, sometimes chronic diseases can creep in. However, you might be surprised to learn there are therapeutic diets which can help treat many chronic diseases. Following a personalized nutrition treatment plan, like Medical Nutrition Therapy, may help you control some symptoms associated with diseases like Type 2 diabetes, COPD, osteoporosis, cancer and more.

In this article, you can find out if MNT is right for you and how Sun Health Wellness can help you create the perfect diet and lifestyle plan to treat and prevent chronic diseases.

What is medical nutrition therapy?

Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) is defined as an evidence-based medical approach to treating certain chronic conditions through the use of an individually-tailored nutrition plan. MNT is provided by a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). While many people are hesitant to change their diet, Medical Nutrition Therapy is a more comprehensive approach, giving you the counseling and feedback you need to successfully meet your dietary needs and prevent or treat chronic disease. You may also hear Medical Nutrition Therapy referred to as ‘nutritional counseling.’

How does medical nutrition therapy work?

MNT typically begins with an initial nutrition assessment using client and medical record data, evidence-based guidelines and professional judgment to determine a nutrition diagnosis and intervention.  Then, together with your nutritionist, you will define what your goals are for your diet. The first visit usually is 60 to 90 minutes.

In follow up visits, your dietitian will monitor and evaluate your progress by reviewing updated labs, medication or health changes, to ensure your goals are being met and your health is optimized.

One thing to always keep in mind with MNT is that it is not meant to replace a doctor’s recommendation for treatment or medication for your specific health condition(s). It is meant to complement the advice given by other members of your health care team. In fact, many health professionals agree that nutrition services are one of the first treatments that individuals should receive to improve conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. Your dietitian will work with your health care team to ensure your treatment plan is safe and effective.

What are the benefits of medical nutrition therapy?

There are many advantages associated with MNT. You may see the following benefits when following a specialized diet plan with your dietitian:

1.      Slow or reverse symptoms of chronic disease

Chronic disease can be difficult to manage. However, MNT can slow the progression of your chronic disease and may even reverse or stop some of the symptoms you are experiencing. An example of this can be seen when a person with type 2 diabetes is able to maintain their blood glucose levels in target ranges, they may experience fewer symptoms associated with unmanaged diabetes such as frequent urination or weight gain.

2.      Prevent other diseases from happening in the first place

MNT may reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.  Also, effective MNT may help reduce onset or progression of painful diabetic neuropathy.

3.      Increase your daily energy and activity levels

Optimizing your nutrition may also increase your overall energy levels, allowing you to focus on other components of your overall health care plan. You may have increased energy levels that allow you to finally go and take that local fitness class you’ve been looking at, or visit with loved ones.

4.      Lose weight

As a result of balanced nutrition, you may also see a reduction in your weight. Many chronic diseases are exacerbated by excess weight so weight loss may be a first-line goal of your nutrition therapy.

5.      Reduce your health care costs

Preventing chronic disease and managing symptoms more efficiently can save you a lot of time and money down the road. It may even save you from having to undergo invasive tests and procedures. For example, if you have heart disease and can lower your cholesterol with an MNT plan, you may not have to undergo an operation to clean or replace your main arteries later on. That will save you the hassle of recovery and the potentially big financial burden that is involved with surgery.

Am I a candidate for medical nutrition therapy?

Many people are candidates for MNT through many stages of life, but older adults can really see a tremendous benefit with utilizing it for their overall health. Medicare and Medicare Advantage programs, as well as most insurance plans, will cover MNT for type 1 or type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease and post-kidney transplant. Other insurance providers may cover MNT for other conditions so always check with your insurance provider to verify your coverage. If you have any of the following conditions, you may benefit from MNT provided by a registered dietitian nutritionist near you:


MNT for diabetes is the cornerstone of diabetes management.  To complement MNT, diabetes self-management education and support (DSMES) group classes are also beneficial to learn how to manage your diabetes.  Both MNT and DSMES are covered insurance benefits for those with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Chronic Kidney Disease

If you’ve been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (stage 3, 4 or 5) and are not on dialysis, your diet may have a direct impact on progression of the disease. MNT can be helpful in determining dietary modifications that are best for you.

What are other common conditions that can benefit from MNT?

People experiencing the following conditions may also benefit from MNT. While these conditions are less frequently covered by insurance, you should check with your insurance plan to verify your own coverage. When these services are not covered by insurance, you may find that registered dietitian nutritionists can provide nutritional counseling for a modest out-of-pocket fee.


People with osteoporosis are often recommended to take calcium and vitamin D supplements. However, there are specific foods a dietitian can recommend you eat each day or week to boost your natural intake of these essential vitamins and minerals to improve your bone health.


A dietitian can provide guidance on how to minimize symptoms and side effects of cancer treatment therapy or design an anti-inflammatory eating plan to reduce the risk for cancer reoccurrence.

Heart Attack and Heart Disease

Heart attack and coronary heart disease are some of the leading cases of mortality among Americans. Diets to treat these conditions may include foods low in animal fat, processed meat and plentiful vegetables.

Where can I find medical nutrition therapy?

If you experience a chronic illness or want to work to remain active and healthy, you may want to consider a consultation with a dietitian. At Sun Health Wellness, we have registered dietitian nutritionists who will work with you to achieve your goals and improve your health. Contact us today to learn more about MNT and other nutrition consultations at Sun Health Wellness.


Monday, July 4, 2022

Chair Yoga For Strength, Balance and More

 Chair yoga

Do you often feel tense? Has it become difficult to bend down and tie your shoes due to stiff joints? Are you often worried about falling? If so, chair yoga is the ideal exercise to add to your daily routine. The stabilized motions of chair yoga are known to alleviate some of the most common aches and pains, while improving strength and mobility.

Once you begin practicing chair yoga, you’ll start to feel a sense of ease and relaxation flow through your body. Over time, you’ll notice the tension that once overtook your muscles and joints begins to release, and basic skills, such as bending over to tie your shoes, are once again possible.

Chair yoga can be practiced by anyone struggling with balance, strength and flexibility. Adding a chair into your practice provides extra support, so you can complete basic stretches and enhance your overall quality of life.

About chair yoga

Chair yoga is derived from traditional yoga, an ancient practice with poses that date back over 5,000 years. Many, if not all, traditional yoga poses can be replicated and altered to accommodate a chair, making it possible, enjoyable and suitable for all levels of experience.

This simple, yet effective, modification of incorporating a chair provides extra security and stability while transitioning through poses. Chair yoga allows you to make gradual improvements to your strength, balance and flexibility, and reduces the risk of losing your balance which is more common when practicing traditional yoga. Put your mind to rest knowing that if you struggle with balance and strength, you’ll always have the chair to hold on to.

When you feel confident enough, you can begin to remove the chair from certain poses and flow through movements on your own. It’s important to take your time, listen to your body and always take advice from the chair yoga instructor.

In addition to feeling more secure and stable, chair yoga is great for those who travel long distances or sit at a desk all day because it increases blood circulation throughout the body.

What are the benefits of chair yoga?

In addition to improving your quality of life, chair yoga has many benefits such as decreasing stress, blood pressure, anxiety, inflammation and chronic pain. The goal of chair yoga is allowing you to feel strong and confident in your ability to complete everyday tasks without the worry of falling.

Increases strength

As we age, our body tends to lose muscle mass. Less muscle mass means less strength and mobility and higher risk of injury. Whether you’re looking to maintain your strength or need to regain muscle mass, chair yoga is a great option for you.

There are various poses and flows targeted to build muscle and tone the body, strengthening areas such as your arms, legs, core and back. As your strength increases so will your overall mobility, leaving you more confident in your ability to complete daily tasks and remain active.

Below are just a few chair yoga poses that are known to build strength:

  • Chair Warrior I: Builds strength in your legs, core, back and arms by lunging forward, lifting your arms to the ceiling and holding your core tight.
  • Chair Warrior II: Builds strength in your legs, arms and core by lunging forward, lifting your arms to shoulder height and then rotating them.
  • Chair Reverse Warrior: Builds strength in your legs and core while stretching your back by lunging forward, extending one arm up towards the ceiling and slightly extending it back behind you.

As always, it’s important to follow the advice and guidance from your chair yoga instructor. When first beginning chair yoga, it’s best to practice under instructor supervision to ensure you are performing each pose correctly and avoiding injury.

Improves balance & flexibility

As life progresses, falling becomes more of a concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 3 million adults 65 and older are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries every year. Chair yoga helps improve balance and flexibility and reduces your chance of falling, providing you with self-confidence when completing everyday tasks.

There are many poses within the yoga practice. Below are a few poses that focus on improving balance and stability:

  • Downward Dog: Improves balance by bending over and increases the range of motion in hips.
  • Tree Pose: Increases balance by standing on one leg.
  • Triangle: Promotes balance through your legs, hips and back. This pose also improves the range of motion in your back.
  • Palm Tree: Improves balance by standing on your toes.

As always, it’s important to follow the advice and guidance from your chair yoga instructor. When first beginning chair yoga, it’s best to practice under instructor supervision to ensure you are performing each pose correctly and avoiding injury.

Helps with sleep, stress and more

Aside from the physical benefits of helping your body gain strength, balance and flexibility, practicing chair yoga is great for your mental health as well. Holistic exercises, like chair yoga, have a positive impact on your overall wellbeing and can affect areas of your life that you may not have anticipated. For example, when practicing chair yoga, you’re also practicing meditation and deep breathing. These mindful exercises have been known to create a more positive outlook on life, which in turn reduces stress and headaches and improves sleep – creating a mind-body experience.

Attend a chair yoga class

At Sun Health Wellness, we strive to better the lives of community members through various wellness programs and classes. To learn more about our Chair Yoga classes, visit our website or connect with one of our highly qualified Wellness Advocates to create a wellness plan best suited for you.

Friday, July 1, 2022

t What Should You Weigh? Common Weight Loss Questions, Answered


It’s great to want to be healthy and in shape, but there’s often a lot of confusion and uncertainty about how to reach your weight loss goals the right way. It can be frustrating when you feel stuck and aren’t making any progress, or maybe you’ve even taken a few steps in the wrong direction.

In this blog, we’ll tackle two main topics that have a significant impact on how to reach your health and weight loss goals.

Manage Your Eating Habits

Are you working hard at managing your weight but not seeing the results you’re expecting? Take a closer look at your eating habits. Often times, exercise and proper nutrition work hand-in-hand to help you accomplish your weight loss goals. To make yourself more aware of your eating habits, it can be useful to count your calories. This process could help you realize your daily calorie consumption is too high, or maybe you’re eating too much of a certain type of food, such as foods with high amounts of fat or sodium. To help you begin, we’ll cover how to determine your recommended calorie intake and then some counting calories Dos and Don’ts.

Determine Your Recommended Calorie Allowance

When deciding to count your calories, the first step is to determine just how many calories you are consuming per day.  Then you can find out what your calorie target should be, and compare the results.  An easy way to determine your optimal calorie intake is to use an online calorie calculator. When using an online calorie calculator, it’s important to keep in mind your results are estimates.  Your diet history and metabolism play a role in determining calorie expenditure.  To ensure you’re eating enough to sustain a healthy lifestyle, be sure to consult a registered dietitian or health care provider. Sun Health Wellness offers various nutritional services and assessments to help guide you in the right direction and determine your appropriate calorie intake.

Count Your Calories: Dos and Don’ts

Counting your daily calories isn’t just a great way to manage your eating habits and improve weight loss, but it also gives you great insight into what you’re eating, how much you’re eating and how it makes you feel. You’ll have a better understanding of the composition of the foods you’re eating such as the amount of carbs, fat, sugar, sodium, etc. When counting your calories, it’s important to do it the right way.

Here are some helpful tips and tricks to get you started:

Do consult with a physician or dietitian if you’re planning on starting a very low calorie diet

As a general rule, women should not consume less than 1,200 calories per day and men should not consume less than 1,500 calories per day. However, it’s always best to consult your physician or a dietitian if you’re planning on limiting calories beyond those recommendations.

Don’t limit counting to just calories

It’s important you don’t focus only on the calories you are consuming. Be sure to also pay attention to the amount of protein, fiber, sodium and added sugars in your meals. These nutritional components are especially important to pay attention to when trying to maintain good health while losing weight.  You can consult with a dietitian to determine your personal nutrient needs.

Do enlist the help from a tracking app or device

It can be hard to get in the groove of tracking calories, that’s why it can be very helpful to utilize a calorie tracking app or device. These apps can also help break your consumption down to keep you aware of how much protein, sugar, fiber, fat, sodium, etc. you’re consuming, helping make sure you’re not lacking nutrients.

Of course, if you prefer to write everything down manually, that’s perfectly fine as well – just make sure you’re paying attention to other important nutrition elements.

Don’t forget to record everything!

Counting your calories only works if you track everything you’re eating. It can be easy to overlook small snacks, but those also count towards your calories for the day. Not only does this help with your calorie intake, but this also helps you stay consistent and true to your weight loss goals.

Don’t be too hard on yourself

Always remember that it’s perfectly reasonable to eat a few extra calories one day and a few less the next. It’s important to keep a healthy balance and to always listen to what your body is telling you.

Switch Up Your Exercise Routine

It can be easy to get in the habit of doing the same exercise routine every day. Switch it up every few months when you feel your progress is starting to slow down, or when you’re feeling bored of your workouts and want to try something new. Our bodies are smart, and they eventually adapt to the same workout routine. When they adapt, you might notice less progress known as the weight-loss plateau.

Combining both calorie restriction and physical activity tend to be most beneficial for weight loss rather than just calorie restriction or just physical activity. Try some of the following training styles to switch up your workout routine and keep your progress moving forward:

Flexibility Training

This type of training is beneficial for any age group, but it’s especially helpful for adults 65 and older. As we age, our bodies tend to tense and tighten up, leading to more injuries, bad posture and poor balance. Incorporating flexibility training like traditional yoga, chair yoga and general stretching will help you feel less pain by loosening your muscles, as well as improving posture and balance with a greater range of motion. Increasing your flexibility also makes you less prone to injuries.

Strength Training

Strength training is essential to prevent loss of muscle mass while losing weight. As we age, our bodies tend to lose muscle mass and bone density, leaving us at a higher risk for developing osteoporosis or sarcopenia. Strength training will help maintain or increase muscle mass, strengthen your bones and burn more calories. In addition to strength training, it is equally important to consume enough protein throughout the day.


Cardio is another great form of exercise that is beneficial for all age groups and key for weight management. The general physical activity guidelines for Americans recommend aiming for 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise.  People who want to lose a substantial amount of weight (more than 5 percent of body weight) and people who are trying to keep a significant amount of weight off once it has been lost may need to do more than 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week to meet weight-control goals. The US Department of Health & Human Services recommends that adults over the age of 65 should incorporate a minimum of 3 days of cardio a week into their exercise routine. This could include walking, hiking, jogging, bicycling and even some mild yard work, such as pushing a lawn mower. Adding cardio to your routine will help increase your lung capacity, improve heart function, boost your immune system, strengthen bones and make you feel more energized.

How long will it take me to reach my goals?

Simple answer: Everyone is different and healthy weight loss takes time.

If you try to push your body’s limits too far, too fast, you could see your progress going the opposite direction. Always listen to your body and make sure to consult with a dietitian about your weight loss goals and strategy.

Set a Reachable Goal

Another factor to reaching your goals is to make sure you’re setting a realistic goal for yourself. For example, losing 5% of your current weight is a reasonable goal to start with. Even if you’d ultimately like to lose more than that, starting with a smaller goal makes it more likely that you’ll reach it with healthy lifestyle changes instead of unsustainable crash diets.

Sun Health Wellness Health & Wellbeing

Our team of experts, including licensed physiologists and dietitians, are here to help you accomplish your weight loss goals. Explore Sun Health Wellness and some of our most popular Healthy Living classes, which are covered under most insurance providers or have a low out-of-pocket-cost.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

How to Stay Well During the Holidays

 Staying well during the holidays

Holidays are full of festivities – family time, food, events, traveling, you name it. But sometimes, the holiday season can bring stress and anxiety when you’re trying to stick to healthy eating habits and a consistent exercise routine. The key to staying on track with your goals is to plan well in advance and get creative. We all know how hard it can be to set aside time for yourself during the holiday season, so try to infuse your good habits with your events.

Below are some simple and fun tips to get you through the holiday season without sacrificing healthy eating and exercise.


Pace Yourself & Eat Slow

Holiday meals bring excitement and eagerness to eat the beautiful assortments of savory and delicious food that you may only have once a year, which can ultimately lead to overeating. The key to avoiding this is to pace yourself and eat slow. It takes your brain about 20 minutes to realize that your stomach is full and satisfied. Often times, when you eat fast, you’re likely to overeat and feel too full or sluggish.

To slow down during your meal, try and strike up conversations or take a few sips of water in between bites. That way, you’re taking pauses and realize you’re satisfied without feeling too full.


Drink a Glass of Water Before Your Meal

A great habit to start, even outside of the holiday season, is to drink a full glass of water 20-30 minutes before your meal. We often mistake feelings of hunger for feelings of thirst – so when you’re feeling hungry, you could just be thirsty.

Again, your brain takes about 20 minutes to realize that your stomach is full, so drinking a full glass of water before your meal keeps you hydrated, avoids overeating, and helps your stomach digest food.



This tip is simple – eat your veggies first! By doing this, you’ll be sure to get your most important nutrients before digging into the other delicious items on your plate.


DON’T Skip Meals

A common misconception is to skip your regular meals in anticipation for a large meal later in the day or evening. Do your best to stick to your regular eating patterns until your big feast, even if that means having a light snack; like vegetables and hummus, for example. Skipping meals can affect energy levels, giving way to some mood swings, and setting you up to overeat.


Track Your Movement

Again, here’s another tip that’s useful year-round, but comes in handy during the holiday time. It’s easy to get wrapped up in holiday festivities and forget about exercise or moderate movement.

Using a fitness tracker can help you become more aware of your activity levels throughout the day. Most trackers will notify you if you’re below your normal activity levels, so don’t ignore those notifications and get moving!


Walk After Your Meal

Walking after a meal is another great habit that is useful year-round. A light walk will get you moving, helps aid digestion and combats feeling of sleepiness post eating.


Alternate Water & Alcohol

Around the holiday time, you’re more likely than not to see a holiday themed drink make an appearance. Fun drinks tend to contain more sugar. To help avoid a sugar crash and not stray too far from your healthy dietary habits, alternate between drinking water and alcohol. This will help you stay hydrated while consuming alcohol and reduce your sugar intake.


Think Creatively About Being Active

It can be difficult to set aside time for exercise, and most times, plans change. The best thing you can do to ensure active time during the holiday season is to get creative with it. The great thing about the holiday season is that, while it’s often a busy time, you’ll have more family or free time – so the tip here is to make the most of it and have some fun!


Family Time

The best part about family time is that there’s many ways to get the whole family together while getting in some light-moderate exercise. Here are some creative ideas to keep you moving:

  • Hike or Walk: If you’re in an area with a warmer climate, take the family outside for an easy hike or walk. While you’re getting your body moving, you’re also engaging in some great family time.
  • Kids: If you’re able, play with kids! Kids are always active and are bound to create a game that keeps everyone moving.
  • Dogs: Maybe your family is full of furry friends. Take the family dog for a walk, hike, swim or even play chase in the yard or house.
  • Sledding: If you’re in an area that has snow, take advantage of it and go sledding! You’ll most likely have to walk up a hill while carrying a sled, so you’re guaranteed to get your heart pumping with a leg and arm workout.


Holiday-Themed Events

A great thing about the holiday season is that you’re bound to see a fun activity pop up.

  • Fun Runs & Walks: There’s always some type of holiday themed run/walk. Get family or friends together to spend quality time together while getting exercise.


Home Activities

Sometimes, all you look forward to during the holiday season is sitting with the family and watching TV. Well, there are still fun activities you can do while watching TV. Here are some ideas:

  • TV/Movie checklists: Pick out a TV show or movie and make a list of things that could happen during the show/movie. Then, pair an exercise with each item. Here’s an example:
    • For the Movie “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”:
      • Every time the Grinch makes someone scream: 3 pushups
      • Every time the Grinch steals a present: 1 squat
    • Chair yoga: Don’t feel like getting up to do traditional yoga poses? Take a seat and do some chair yoga – you’ll still reap the benefits. Here’s a light read of the benefits of chair yoga.
    • Kitchen exercises: While you’re waiting for your favorite dish to cook, take the time standing in the kitchen and incorporate some easy exercises like:
      • Squats: Waiting for that pot of water to boil? Do some squats to pass the time and get your blood pumping.
      • Lunges: Do some lunges in place or walking lunges to get a nice core and lower body workout.
      • Table push-ups: Place your hands on the edge of the table or counter and do some up-right push-ups for an upper body workout.
      • Stairs: While you’re waiting for your food to cook, take a few minutes and walk up and down the stairs. You’ll get your heart pumping and feel the burn in your legs.
      • Walking: Take a few laps around the kitchen, house or backyard while you have some downtime between food preparation and mealtime.


We all know how important adequate sleep is for our daily lives, but it’s even more important during the holiday times. Holidays can be a time of stress, and the best way to fight feelings and side effects of stress, is to sleep. Also, the more sleep you get, the more energy you’ll have for activities and exercise, and less food cravings.

From Us to You

Happy holidays from all of us at Sun Health! By taking advantage of the tips listed in this article, you’ll be sure to adhere to your good habits and have a healthy and happy holiday season. Visit our website or contact us for additional information and resources on living an active and healthy life.


Friday, June 24, 2022

7 Ways to Maintain Bone Health

 7 ways to maintain bone health

Osteoporosis, which means porous bone, is a chronic disease characterized by the weakening of bones and significant reductions in bone density, which is the amount of bone minerals in the bone tissue itself. This can result in an increased risk of fractures and other fall-related injuries. Even mild stress can fracture an osteoporotic bone that has become very brittle.  Women have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis once they reach menopause due to hormonal changes.

What you can do for healthy bones

While there are many risk factors, there are some methods you can use to strengthen your bones and reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis. Read on to learn more about the top 7 ways you can maintain your bone health.

1.      Watch what you eat

Making sure you get a variety of nutrients from your food not only helps your overall health, but it can contribute toward building stronger bones and maintaining normal bone density. The two most critical nutrients for bone health are calcium and vitamin D. Other important vitamins for bone health include vitamin C and vitamin K.

Foods that are rich in calcium such as dairy products (milk, cheese and yogurt) and plant-based sources (like almonds, beans, tofu or kale) are the best sources. Sources of vitamin D include exposure to sunlight and consumption of certain foods and supplements. Since there are very few foods that contain vitamin D, your best sources include fatty fish like wild-caught mackerel, salmon and tuna or foods where vitamin D has been added, such as dairy products, orange juice and fortified cereals. Many of these nutrients can be found in a diet made up of dark leafy green vegetables and a variety of colorful fruits.

Some research has correlated a higher intake of fruits and vegetables with higher bone mineral density. Getting your vitamins and minerals from quality food sources is more beneficial than supplements, but your healthcare professional may recommend supplements if it is difficult for you to meet daily recommended levels from food alone.

2.      Maintain a regular exercise routine and a healthy body weight

Building a regular exercise routine that works for your body will help your bones in many ways. In the most direct way, weight-bearing exercises and high-impact activities can help build strong bones and slow bone loss. Exercising regularly will also help build your muscles, which can contribute to stabilizing joints and reducing bone fractures. In contrast, a reduction in exercise can lead to increased risks of bone loss, bone fractures or even a loss of independence.

Also, it is important to know that people who are obese or underweight may be predisposed to bone loss. Some studies have shown individuals who are underweight (BMI range of less than 18.5) are more likely to have lower bone density than individuals who have a normal weight (BMI range of 18.5 to 24.9) and even those who were overweight (BMI range of 25 to 29.9). While some researchers disagree, more recent studies have shown that obesity (BMI range of 30 or greater) negatively affects bone density, and that fat accumulation within the body decreases the overall bone mass in your body.

Overall, building and maintaining a regular exercise routine is vital to protect and strengthen your bones. Staying active is very important for maintaining and improving your bones and the rest of your health. If you have other health concerns which limit your ability to perform weight-bearing or high-impact exercises, talk with your healthcare professional about which exercises will best help you protect your bones and what exercise can be safely incorporated into your lifestyle.

To learn more about how Sun Health Wellness has helped others lose weight, be sure to check out the weight loss journeys of Sun Health residents, Susan Hershberger and Bonnie White.

3.      Quit smoking

It may come as a surprise that smoking can have detrimental effects on your bones, since most public health awareness campaigns on tobacco have historically focused on the risks of cancer, heart disease and early death. However, smoking is absolutely harmful to your bone health – some researchers claim that smoking is a key lifestyle risk factor for bone loss and fractures more so than other risks associated with age and gender. Furthermore, smoking can even reduce your intestine’s ability to absorb calcium – meaning it will be harder for your body to extract calcium from any food or supplements you consume.

4.      Reduce your alcohol and soda intake

To optimize your bone health, women are recommended to limit their alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day, and men to limit their alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day. Soda consumption has also been linked to bone density issues. In one study, researchers found that older adults were more likely to fracture a hip when consuming soda, regardless of whether it was diet or regular soda. However, while researchers have yet to uncover why this connection exists, it’s probably safe to limit your intake of soda.

5.      Talk to your healthcare professional

If you are concerned about your bone health, talk to your healthcare professional. He or she can review your medications and order tests to determine your risk of bone loss or fracture and uncover any nutrient deficiencies. Certain medications can negatively affect bone density, such as corticosteroids like prednisone, which are often prescribed for arthritis or certain autoimmune diseases. Similar to tobacco consumption, corticosteroids limit the intestine’s ability to absorb calcium and other key nutrients, weakening your bones as a result. If you need to take these medications for a long period of time or at high doses, your healthcare professional may recommend certain medications to protect your bones. Make sure to report any recent falls to your provider as well. A history of falls, combined with osteoporosis, can put you at increased risk for fractures.

6.      Get screened

Since osteoporosis has no obvious symptoms other than a fracture when the bone is already weakened, it is important to talk to your healthcare professional if you have any of the risk factors for osteoporosis. He or she may order a bone mineral density (BMD) test for you, a painless and quick exam that can tell you a lot about your bone health.

Medicare and most insurance providers will cover BMD testing every 24 months for beneficiaries with risk factors for osteoporosis. Some people with diagnosed osteoporosis or other conditions will qualify for an annual exam. A physician order is required for this test.

7.     Add supplements

Your healthcare professional may treat deficiencies found by suggesting supplements. While a balanced diet is key, you may also find yourself needing to boost your intake of certain vitamins and minerals – like calcium and vitamin D for example. Calcium is best absorbed when taken in amounts of 500 – 600 mg or less. Additionally, your body needs adequate levels of vitamin D in order to properly absorb calcium. If you are taking a vitamin D supplement, it does not need to be taken at the same time as your calcium supplement. When shopping for supplements, look for words on the label that state “purified” or have the USP (United States Pharmacopeia) symbol. Supplements with the “USP Verified Mark” on their label have been tested to meet standards for purity and quality. Supplements are not regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

You can also boost your vitamin D production naturally by going out into the sun for a few minutes a day – but be sure to check with your dermatologist first to determine whether the benefits of sun exposure outweigh the risks of skin cancer. Other supplements that may be beneficial include magnesium, B vitamins, potassium and folate. Be sure to discuss any supplements with your healthcare professional before adding them to your regimen to assure they are safe and effective, given your existing medications and health conditions.

Consult the experts at Sun Health Wellness

Navigating a tricky disease like osteoporosis and bone health can be difficult by yourself. Consider consulting the health and wellness experts at Sun Health Wellness to learn more about how to optimize your health. Whether it’s taking a Healthy Living Class on bone and joint health, or consulting with a Wellness Advocate who can help you navigate your health condition, there’s an option for everyone.


The information in this blog is not medical information, and any concern about your health, diet or exercise regimen should be deferred to your doctor for their professional expertise.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

The Dos and Don’ts of Brain Health

 Dos and Don'ts of Brain Health

Brain health is constantly in the news – for good reason. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, a number that is estimated to triple to 14 million by the year 2060. Navigating what is good and bad for your brain health can be tricky, especially given how much advice exists from so many different sources. This article will serve to outline what you should and shouldn’t do to help promote your brain health and reduce your risk for developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.


While these tips can apply to anyone at any age, it especially matters once you’ve entered retirement age. The CDC states that symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease tend to appear beginning around 60 years old, increasing as we age. Normal aging is associated with structural changes to the gray and white matter of the brain – meaning, there is a natural progression to brain deterioration that happens to almost everyone. However, diseases like Alzheimer’s – which is characterized by progressive memory loss, impaired thinking, disorientation and changes in personality and mood – are on the severe end of the brain degeneration spectrum and are theorized to be caused by certain lifestyle and risk factors. Making lifestyle changes now, no matter your age, can potentially prevent or reverse certain brain processes that may lead to Alzheimer’s.


What are some things I can do to help my brain health?

Taking steps toward preserving, protecting and improving your brain health can be as easy as changing one small habit, including incorporating the following tips:


1.      Exercise

Maintaining an active lifestyle is vital in preventing cognitive decline. Participating in activities such as light aerobics, dance, tai chi or even a simple walk around your neighborhood can contribute toward reducing your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Not only does light exercise improve your circulation, which brings oxygen to your brain, but some researchers state it can even increase the size of the hippocampus, which is the part of your brain responsible for memory that normally shrinks with age.


2.      Puzzles and games

It can be fun to keep your mind sharp! Things like puzzles, brain game apps, Sudoku and crossword puzzles or word searches can result in improved memory, visual recognition, concentration and mood. Try to incorporate a puzzle of some sort into your daily routine to boost your brain health.


3.      Eat a healthy diet

Eating a healthy diet and ensuring you’re getting your vitamins can make a significant difference in reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Deficiencies in vitamins like folate and Vitamin B12 have been linked to cognitive decline, and some scientists theorize that these vitamins serve as a protective mechanism against dementia. You can get folate from foods like broccoli, asparagus, spinach, beets and Brussels sprouts. Vitamin B12 can be supplemented with dissolvable tablets, sprays or obtained from food sources like beef, eggs, fortified cereals or seaweed snacks.


4.      Get enough sleep

Sleeping enough allows your brain the time it needs to repair, restore and reset after the many activities it does during the day. Sleeping also allows your brain to get rid of toxins, such as beta-amyloids, which is a substance that is linked to the development of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Most experts recommend older adults try to aim for eight hours of sleep per night. You can prioritize your sleep by following good sleep hygiene habits like going to sleep and waking up at the same time each night, avoiding caffeine and exercise at least six hours before bed and developing pre-sleep rituals you follow every night, like taking a bath or reading a book.


5.      Prioritize seeing your friends and family

Keeping in touch with friends and family can do more for your health than you might realize. One study found that certain social activities significantly reduced the rate of cognitive decline in a sample size of adults aged 65 and up. They found that the people who experienced the smallest amount of cognitive decline had the following things in common:

  • Active members of social clubs with their peers
  • Frequently contacted their children and grandchildren by phone, letters or in-person
  • Participated in two or more social activities, such as church groups, alumni societies or volunteer councils


6.      Practice mindfulness and meditation

Practicing a daily meditation routine can do many things for the brain, including decreasing inflammation, fighting fatigue and confusion, reducing rates of depression and promoting the formation of neural connections within the brain. A meditation routine can be as simple as a daily 15-minute practice during which you focus on taking deep and controlled breaths. There are also many tutorials available online.


What are some things I should avoid to help my brain health?

There are also some things you can change or omit entirely from your lifestyle to help improve your cognitive function. Stopping or limiting the following activities can help your brain health:


1.      Drinking in excess

It might come as a bit of a surprise, but drinking in excess for many years can actually affect your brain just as much as it can affect your other organs, like your liver or stomach. Because alcohol is technically a toxin, regular consumption can actually kill your nerve cells. Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to brain shrinkage, depletion of the gray matter and permanent chemical changes to the brain.


2.      Smoking

Not only does smoking increase your risk of heart attack, stroke and many kinds of cancer, it can also cause many other issues. Regardless of how long someone has smoked, quitting at any age can provide huge benefits toward their health.


3.      Being inactive

While regular exercise five times a week is the most beneficial for your brain and overall health, participating in light activities a few times a week is better than being completely inactive. Not only can inactivity cause weight gain, muscle loss and osteoporosis, but it can also contribute toward the development of depression and dementia. If you have a chronic illness or physical impairment which restricts your movement, ask your doctor for recommendations on exercises that work well with your body. Your doctor may also recommend physical therapy or rehabilitation depending on your individual situation.


How to get a leg up on your cognitive health

Following these steps to improve and protect your brain health can be as easy as finding local classes and opportunities in your community. Sun Health Wellness offers classes offered at little-to-no-cost. These classes range from informative wellness classes to exercise groups, all of which can benefit your mind and your body.