January: Thyroid Awareness Month

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The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck that helps control the function of many of the body’s organs and helps to set the metabolism. According to the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, approximately 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease and an estimated 12 percent of the population will develop a thyroid condition in their lifetime.

Fortunately, the American Journal of Medicine reports that early detection of a thyroid disorder is as cost-effective as early detection of common chronic conditions. In honor of Thyroid Awareness Month, take some time to become familiar with the most common risk factors, which include the following:

  • Being female—Women are five to eight times more likely to suffer from a thyroid disorder than men are.
  • Age—The Thyroid Foundation of America recommends that women get annual thyroid hormone level tests yearly starting at age 50 and that men should get yearly tests beginning at age 60.
  • A family history—If thyroid disease runs in the family, testing every five years after age 35 is recommended.
  • Pregnancy—Thyroid conditions can arise after giving birth.

Those with a high risk of developing a thyroid disorder should speak with their doctor. Together, you can determine the next steps to take.

Exercising the Body and Brain

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Studies have shown a strong relationship between the health of the body and the health of the brain. Exercise revs up complex processes inside the brain that can deter depression, help you stay calm and keep your mind sharp.

Exercise Boosts Mental Fitness

spark of genius brainThe brain has approximately 86 billion neurons designed to give orders to the rest of the body through chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. Studies show that deficiencies of two of these neurotransmitters (glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA), can lead to mood disorders such as depression. However, moderate exercise can increase the amounts of the two neurotransmitters, contributing to increased mental fitness.

Exercise Decreases Stress

When you’re stressed, your brain secretes the “fight or flight” hormone, cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels can create a constant and unnecessary feeling of stress. But, if you exercise, you expose your body to “controlled stress,” which helps regulate your brain’s stress response, keeping you calmer.

Exercise Slows the Brain’s Aging Process

bigstock-Running-sport--trail-runners--47575639Your brain ages just like the rest of your body, but exercise can help the brain handle natural, age-related deterioration without taking a toll on your memory. Older adults who exercise have larger brain volumes than those who don’t. Plus, the brain’s hippocampus (which is responsible for memory and learning) is larger in people who are active. Exercising won’t make you smarter, per se, but it will help you remember things better as you age.

Healthy Aging Month

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Group of adult multiethnic friends playing American football onSeptember has been designated as Healthy Aging Month—an annual observance designed to focus national attention on the positive aspects of growing older. Healthy aging involves developing new skills and interests, learning to adapt to change, staying physically active and being connected to your community and loved ones, instead of being consumed with anxiety about aging.

Exercise is a great way to stay healthy as you grow older. All older adults should avoid inactivity. Some physical activity is better than none, and those who participate in any amount of physical activity gain health benefits. Government health agencies recommend 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise for all adults. Additionally, eating a low-salt, low-fat diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and fiber can reduce your age-related risks of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis and other chronic diseases. Whatever improvements you undertake, do so with determination and remain positive.