By JUDD MATSUNAGA, Esq.
Whether you’re Issei, Nisei, Sansei, Yonsei, or Gosei, every one of us, without exception, shares one thing in common: we all have a mother. In most of our families, when life gets difficult, we can always trust the mother to have a solution. Mothers are everything to both the husband and the children. With that, mothers are the pillars that hold up a family.
That’s why it’s been said, “A mom is the glue that holds the family together,” even far into the years of grandparenting. A mother’s love for and devotion to her family remains solid and beyond reproach. But, with so many roles to play in the pursuit of family peace and harmony, they can become physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted.
Therefore, once a mother has reached their 80s or 90s, their focus should shift to staying strong enough to live independently, pursuing the hobbies that give them pleasure, and enjoying your family and friends. Self-care is incredibly important; it allows a mother to be prepared to care for those around you. And, if you’re like me, you want mom to be around as long as possible.
The following comes from a special section of a Harvard Health publication called “A Guide to Women’s Health: Fifty and Forward.” The special section is titled “10 Steps to a Longer and Healthier Life.” This article contains just parts of the special section. Although written for women, anyone can reduce the risk for many major diseases — and even improve some common conditions — by following this advice:
1. Kick the smoking habit
If you smoke, quit. There are few things you can do that will have such immediate and lasting benefits as giving up smoking. Your body starts fixing the damage soon after you take that last puff. Within 12 hours after you stop smoking, your blood transports oxygen more efficiently. By the end of the first week, your circulation improves. By the one-month mark, your lungs are functioning more efficiently.
Over the years, your risk for lung cancer, stroke, and heart disease will drop by at least half. And in 15 years, you’ll have erased your excess risk for heart disease.
Quitting is never easy. Most people who successfully quit smoking have tried to do so more than a few times. Keep on trying.
2. Keep moving
Lack of physical activity is an independent risk factor for nearly all of the diseases that are most likely to kill or disable you — heart disease, stroke, multiple types of cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, Alzheimer’s disease.
Move more, sit less. For the first time, the latest guidelines emphasize the importance of sitting less. Greater time spent sitting is associated with poorer health. Try to take regular breaks during the day to stand up and move around.
3. Adopt a healthy eating pattern
For all the attention that has been devoted to the health benefits of “superfoods,” nutritionists now emphasize that what really counts is not having certain special foods that you eat from time to time, but having a healthy dietary pattern that you adhere today in, day out. Here are the main points of the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate:
● Half your plate should contain fruits and vegetables. You can’t go wrong if you aim for color and variety. The greater the variety, the greater the range of nutrients you take in.
● A quarter of the plate should be filled with whole grains. Whole wheat, barley, wheat berries, quinoa, oats, and brown rice are more nutritious and contain more fiber than refined grains. They have less effect on blood sugar and insulin than white bread, white rice, and other refined grains.
● The final quarter should consist of healthful sources of protein. Fish, chicken, beans, and
nuts are all healthy, versatile protein sources. They can be mixed into salads, and they pair well with vegetables on a plate. Limit red meat, which has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, to one or two servings a week.
4. Mind your BMI
Excess body weight increases your risk for more than 195 different health problems. These conditions include some of the leading causes of death among women — heart disease, stroke, breast cancer, and diabetes — as well as less serious ailments such as arthritic knees and gallstones.
Body mass index (BMI) uses your weight and height to gauge whether you are normal weight, overweight, or obese. You can find your BMI by entering your height and weight into the calculator at www.health.harvard.edu/BMI. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered a normal weight. Once you reach 25, you’re overweight, and anything 30 and higher is obese.
5. Skip the drink, or stick to one
In 2020, the American Cancer Society revised its cancer prevention guidelines, saying for the first time that avoiding alcohol entirely is the best option. Alcohol raises the risk of numerous types of cancer, including those of the breast, colon, esophagus, larynx, pharynx, oral cavity, and liver. If you do choose to drink, moderate drinking — no more than one drink per day — is best.
6. Don’t run up a sleep debt
Medical evidence suggests that for optimum health and function, the average adult should get 7-9 hours of sleep daily. But more than 60% of women regularly fall short of that goal. In some cases, lack of sleep results from insomnia or other underlying conditions that may require medical attention.
Many studies show that sleep shortfalls can lead to a range of health problems, from the mild (being more likely to catch a cold) to the more consequential (having a higher risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes). Think of sufficient sleep as a pillar of health — just as important as eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise.
7. Take charge of your health
At mid-life and beyond, good health is increasingly dependent on successful collaboration with your doctors. Since you are likely to be making more medical visits, find a primary care clinician with whom you feel comfortable. Work with your doctor to devise a schedule for screening tests and clinical exams.
If you are prescribed medications, take them as directed; don’t stray from the designated dosage without talking to your doctor. Find out what you should expect from every new medication and procedure, and let your physician know what you expect it to accomplish in return.
Pay attention to your body. Keep an eye on new spots and bumps, and note any changes in your regular patterns, be they in appetite, sleep, energy, bowel habits, or mood. It’s easy to write off many changes as consequences of aging, but they could signal underlying disease.
8. Stay connected
Women are living longer, and with aging comes the risk of isolation, as you retire and as your friends, partners, and relatives go into a steep decline or die. Society is more mobile today, so many of your friends and neighbors may also move away. This means that as you age, you need to work harder to maintain and bolster your local social connections in order to enhance your health into old age. Informal socializing with friends is of particular importance.
Choose an exercise buddy.
If you find a friend to work out with regularly, you’re more likely to stick with an exercise program, and you’ll also get the benefits of socializing. Taking a morning walk with a friend
each morning is an easy option.
Join a group or club.
Do you like reading, crafting, or chess? Join a book group or some other group of people who share your interest. Check with universities, the YMCA, community centers, and your local library.
Take a class.
Maybe you’d like to learn a new language, ballroom dancing, or pottery making. If you join a class, you’ll meet new people.
Donating your time to a good cause offers double benefits: you get to meet a whole new circle of contacts while doing something to help others.
9. Say no to stress
We all have stress in our lives. The brain triggers a cascade of chemicals and hormones that speed heart rate, quicken breathing, increase blood pressure, and boost the amount of energy (in the form of blood sugar) supplied to muscles. Blood becomes “stickier” and more likely to clot, while the immune system releases inflammatory compounds.
Intermittent episodes of stress are not harmful. However, chronic stress is a major contributor to a host of serious physical and psychological conditions. Whatever sets your stress cycle in motion, having a personal escape plan can help.
Learn relaxation skills.
You can’t eliminate stress from your life, but you can learn relaxation techniques that work as an antidote to stress. Deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization can evoke a state of rest and release. Here are two simple techniques:
Place your hand just beneath your navel so you can feel the gentle rise and fall of
your belly as you breathe. Breathe in slowly. Pause for a count of three. Exhale slowly. Pause for a count of three. Continue to breathe deeply for one minute, pausing for a count of three after each inhalation and exhalation.
Get moving. Regular aerobic exercise helps control stress. It reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones. It stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that reduce pain and elevate mood. It also improves sleep, which is a stress-reducer in itself.
10. Shy away from supplements
People used to think that you could compensate for dietary deficiencies by popping a multi-vitamin every day. But the benefits of multi-vitamins remain uncertain. Research found that post-menopausal women who took multivitamins did not have a lower death rate than non-users of vitamins and were just as likely to develop cardiovascular disease or cancers of the lung, colon and rectum, breast, and endometrium. Some research even suggests that excessive use of supplements may be harmful.
Experts agree that the best way to get the nutrients you need is through food. No pill can make up for the fiber, antioxidants, and myriad other healthful compounds in fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Consult your doctor about what supplements may be right for you.
In conclusion, there is no single formula for health that works for all women. Each woman is a bit different. A medication that works wonders for a friend might not do the trick for you. So, it’s important to develop trusting relationships with health care providers who really get to know you. Working in conjunction with them, you can take whatever steps make sense for you to lead the happiest, healthiest, and safest life for many years to come.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Judd Matsunaga, Esq., is the founding partner of the Law Offices of Matsunaga & Associates, specializing in estate/Medi-Cal planning, probate, personal injury and real estate law. With offices in Torrance, Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, Pasadena and Fountain Valley, he can be reached at (800) 411-0546. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.