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How To Protect Long-Term Cognitive Health

Cognitive health is not something to take for granted. Although a certain level of memory loss can be expected as people age, when the ability to clearly think, learn and remember is compromised, those changes can affect an individual’s ability to perform daily activities and should serve as a cause for concern.

Brain health should be a priority for everyone. The National Institute on Aging says brain health is an umbrella term that encompasses a host of factors, including:

· cognitive health, which is how well you think, learn and remember

· motor function, or how you make and control movements

· tactile function, which is how you feel sensations; and

· emotional function, or how emotions are interpreted and responded to.

Individuals can safeguard brain health – particularly cognitive health – by taking these steps.

Be More Health-Conscious

Working with doctors, individuals can put their health first. This includes getting routine screenings, managing chronic health problems, limiting or avoiding alcohol and nicotine products, and getting the recommended amount of sleep each night.

Manage High Blood Pressure

All chronic conditions cause long-term repercussions, but the NIA indicates that observational studies show having high blood pressure in mid-life increases the risk of cognitive decline later in life. Lowering blood pressure lowers the risk for mild cognitive impairment and possibly dementia.

Challenge Your Brain

Harvard Medical School says nurturing social contacts, engaging in stimulating mental activities like reading and doing puzzles, seeing new places, and learning new things can help keep the brain in top form.

Manage Stress

Stress can take its toll on the body, and there is reason to believe that it may adversely affect cognitive health as well. Make every stride to reduce stress, whether that involves taking vacations, meditating, laughing with friends and family, or engaging in relaxing activities that relieve stress.

Get Enough Vitamin D

Vitamin D is linked to a host health benefits, including its potential to promote a healthy brain. Individuals can get more time outdoors to get vitamin D naturally from the sun and eat foods rich in vitamin D. If doctors find that vitamin D levels are exceptionally low, supplementation can help.

Pay Attention To Hearing Loss

Certain hearing loss has been linked to cognitive decline, says Healthline. Researchers in Italy concluded that people with central hearing loss had a higher risk of mild cognitive impairment than those with no hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss. Individuals with central hearing loss are urged to speak to their physicians to determine if they can take preventive action to stave off further decline.

Cognitive health should be a priority. Adults can employ various strategies to reduce their risk of cognitive decline as they age.

Identify Winter Birds In Backyards

Birds flittering around the neighborhood are a common sight during spring and summer, and these welcome guests can be enjoyable to observe as they nest, feed and interact. When the weather cools in fall and winter, many birds seek out warmer climates, but a good number of these feathered friends stick around.

Certain birds can be found all winter long across regions of North America. The Great American Bird Count is a program that is run by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. Its purpose is to seek the help of volunteer birdwatchers across North America to observe and count all the birds seen in a 15-minute interval during a four-day data collection period. This program helps identify birds that are most commonly seen in cold temperatures and study the composition and distribution of the winter bird populations across North America. Birds seen during this time may change from year to year, though certain species are more likely to be around in the winter months.

Northern Cardinals

One of the more iconic winter birds, the bright red cardinals are around much of the year but perhaps most noticeable against the snowy, stark landscape of a winter’s day. Cardinals use their bright, powerful bills to crack open seeds and cut through sugary fruits to help them survive the winter.

Tree Sparrows

Tree sparrows are large-bodied and long-tailed sparrows with gray and reddish-brown streaking along the edges of their feathers. They also wear a bright chestnut colored cap. Despite their name, tree sparrows spend much of their time on the ground feeding. The bird count has unveiled a greater number of tree swallows in recent years. These birds are insectivorous, so milder winters may be contributing to their increased presence.

Tufted Titmice

Tufted titmice resemble cardinals in body and head shape, albeit on a smaller scale, but they are pale gray in coloring. These are bold birds who defend territory with scolding calls.

Blue Jays

These common, vibrant birds are well known to many people. They are large-crested songbirds with broad, round tails. They have white or light gray feathering on the underside of their bodies with various shades of blue, black and white on the top. A favorite food is acorns, and these birds are often found on forest edges. Their calls are loud and carry long distances.

Mourning Doves

Many people hear mourning doves before they actually see them, as their soft cooing often comes from roof rafters and tree branches. These birds have plump bodies and long, tapered necks, with a head that looks particularly small in comparison. They tend to be brown to buff color. When the birds take off for flight, their wings make sharp whistling or whinnying sounds.

American Goldfinches

These birds are sometimes called the “wild canary” of the Americas. They have distinctive yellow plumage that fades in winter to a palette of buff, brown and gray. They’re small seed-eating birds that often travel in flocks.

Birds may need a little help surviving in the winter. Keep fresh, unfrozen water around and supplement food scavenged with peanut butter, suet and nuts. Brush piles, roost boxes or birdhouses can provide needed shelter.

How To Winterize A Vacant Home

A vast migration takes place when the temperatures begin to drop in the northernmost areas of the United States and even parts of Canada. No, it has nothing to do with feathered friends finding new roosts or certain mammals getting ready to hibernate. This migration involves the thousands upon thousands of people who retreat from one residence to head to another.

Snowbirds, as these migratory people are often called, are primarily retirees who split their living arrangements based on weather. Many spend the spring and summer months in one residence, generally in the northern portion of the country. Once the mercury begins to drop there, they trade that home for another in a more temperate locale, such as Florida, Louisiana, Texas, or even overseas. The Palm Beach Post reports that about 145,000 snowbirds flock to Palm Beach County alone each winter, raising the population by around 11 percent, according to the county’s official figures. Across Florida, an estimated 900,000 to one million seasonal residents stay a month or more every winter.

When snowbirds or other people leave their homes for extended periods of time, it is essential that they winterize properties that will sit vacant for months.

Protect Against Home Damage

· Consider turning off the water supply completely if you will be away for an extended period of time; otherwise, a burst pipe may result in significant damage.

· Drain all water in pipes by opening the faucets and flushing the toilets to clear the water from the tanks and bowls. Place non-toxic antifreeze in the toilet bowls to prevent any remaining water from freezing.

· If you will not be draining pipes and turning off the water, set the heating system to 55 F or higher to help keep the interior and wall cavities warm.

· Keep room and cabinet doors open to allow heat to circulate to areas where pipes are located.

· Shut off the water to outdoor faucets as well as the washing machine.

· Close up openings to the house so that rodents and insects cannot get inside and use a home for shelter.

Keep Safe With Snow and Ice

· Make sure that gutters are free of debris, which can lead to potential ice dams and water collection around the foundation of the home.

· Hire someone to clear the sidewalks and driveway of snow and ice.

· Remove any tree branches that can be weighed down by snow and ice and fall onto the property.

Make The Home Look Lived In

· Forward mail to your winter address, stop newspaper delivery and arrange to have any package deliveries picked up while you’re away.

· Put motion-sensitive exterior lights and interior lights on timers. Set lights to come on at various times to discourage thieves or squatters.

· Ensure the alarm system is in good working order.

· Use deadbolts to secure doors and windows.

These steps and others can help protect a home while residents are away.

Rewarding Resolutions That Won’t Require A Major Commitment Of Time

Much like money, time does not grow on trees. That reality is all too familiar to busy adults juggling multiple responsibilities at work, at home and other places where they spend their time.

A time crunch can make it hard to commit to a New Year’s resolution. But resolutions, which are often focused on self-improvement, can be worthwhile endeavors. So what are busy adults to do? Perhaps the best approach is to choose resolutions that don’t necessarily require much time.

Exercise More

A commitment to getting fit and being more physically active is a popular New Year’s resolution. Though choosing such a path may seem like it requires a significant time commitment, the Physical Activity Guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend that adults perform at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week. That might seem like a lot, but it can be combined with other leisure activities you already engage in. For example, a sports fan can watch the big game while on a treadmill or elliptical, while readers can swap the couch with an exercise bike as their go-to reading spot. Doing so for as little as a half hour per day can help you get the recommended amount of daily exercise without taking up a large chunk of your time.

Read More

Adults across the globe lament a lack of time to curl up with a good book. But some brief reading before bed each night can help adults achieve this goal and can even improve their quality of sleep. In fact, a 2021 study published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Trials found that reading in bed before going to sleep improved sleep quality compared to not reading a book in bed.

Journaling

Journaling is another worthy resolution that won’t take up much time. Individuals can take 15 minutes out of their day to write down their thoughts and feelings and reflect on the day’s comings and goings. That simple activity can produce profound results, as the University of Rochester Medical Center notes that journaling helps people prioritize their problems, fears and concerns; reduce stress; cope with depression; and identify negative thoughts and behaviors.

Become More Organized

This resolution won’t take up much of your time. In fact, becoming more organized should free up time. A lack of organization can make it harder to meet work deadlines, keep a house clean, tackle everyday tasks, and keep a clear mind. By taking steps to be more organized, whether that’s through using a daily organizer, avoiding procrastinating in regard to cleaning up around the house or other means, individuals will gradually discover they have more free time to use as they see fit.

New Year’s resolutions need not take much time. Busy individuals can keep that in mind as they look for ways to improve their lives in the year ahead.

A Perfect Dish For A New Year’s Day Brunch

The late-night revelry of New Year’s Eve has made New Year’s Day brunch a go-to tradition for millions of people. Staying up until the calendar officially turns from one year to the next at the stroke of midnight can make it harder to get out of bed on the morning of January 1, so there may be no better day to plan a brunch than the first day of the calendar year.

Many restaurants offer brunch specials on New Year’s Day, but people need not leave home to ensure their first meal of the new year is delicious. This recipe for “Pan-Fried Eggs and Mixed Mushroom Sauté on Toasted Sourdough Slices” from “Sunday Brunch” (Chronicle Books) by Betty Rosbottom can be just the dish to begin a new year.

Pan-Fried Eggs and Mixed Mushroom Sauté on Toasted Sourdough Slices

Serves 4

Mushroom Sauté

11/4 ounces mixed dried mushrooms

11/2 cups boiling water

3 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces sliced brown mushrooms

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary (see tip)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Toast and Eggs

4 1/2-inch thick sourdough slices

Olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 eggs

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Rosemary sprigs for garnish (optional)

1. For the Mushroom Sauté: Place the dried mushrooms in a medium bowl and cover with the boiling water. Let stand until softened, 20 minutes. Strain in a sieve lined with a double thickness of paper towels and reserve the soaking liquid. Coarsely chop the mushrooms.

2. Heat the olive oil in a medium, heavy frying pan set over medium heat. When hot, add the brown mushrooms and sauté, stirring often, for 6 minutes. Add the reserved mushrooms, garlic, rosemary, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; stir for 1 minute. Add the mushroom liquid and cook, stirring, until it has evaporated, 4 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and several grinds of pepper. Remove the frying pan from the heat and cover with foil to keep warm. (The mushrooms can be prepared 1 day ahead; cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat, stirring, over medium heat.)

3. For the toast and eggs: Brush both sides of the bread slices generously with olive oil. Set a 10- to 11-inch nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat, and, when hot, add the bread and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the toast and cover loosely with foil. When pan is cool enough to handle, wipe it out with clean paper towels.

4. Add the butter to the frying pan and set it over medium heat. When the butter starts to foam, break an egg into a saucer, being careful to remove any shell fragments., and gently slide it into the frying pan. Repeat with the remaining eggs. Immediately reduce the heat to low and cook, basting the eggs with some of the butter in the pan frequently, until the whites are firm and the yolks are still soft and runny, 3 minutes.

5. While the eggs are cooking, arrange a toasted bread slice on each of four plates. Mound the mushrooms evenly over the toast.

6. Remove each egg with a spatula and arrange on top of the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and, if desired, garnish each serving with a rosemary sprig. Serve immediately.

How To Celebrate The Holidays Away From Home

A popular Christmas song attests “there’s no place like home for the holidays.” For many people, a truer statement couldn’t be uttered. But sometimes life gets in the way of an old-fashioned holiday spent at home.

There are a number of reasons why individuals may not be able to spend the holidays at home. Active military service people may not be able to leave their posts to travel home. Some students studying abroad or even far away domestically may find getting back to their homes can be time- and cost-prohibitive. Some people may not be home for the holidays because work obligations keep them out of town, or because they have planned vacations to serve as nontraditional holiday celebrations.

Being away from some familiar sights and sounds of the holidays doesn’t mean celebrations should be any less special. Here are tips for celebrating away from home.

Find People In Similar Situations

Chances are you will not be the only person away from home, particularly if you are a student or someone on a business venture. Connect with others who are away from their families and do something together for the holidays.

Partake Of Local Traditional Activities

You may be used to baking sugar cookies for the holidays, but in a foreign country, the locals may make another type of dessert. Figure out how the locals celebrate the holidays and then take part in any way you can.

Volunteer Your Time

If you will be away or alone for the holidays, volunteer your time to help the less fortunate. Deliver meals to those who are not able to leave home, like seniors, or volunteer at a soup kitchen. Visit a children’s hospital and deliver small gifts.

Engage In Virtual Fun

Connect with people at home through the power of digital technology. Video conferencing services connect people who can’t be together in person. Utilize these apps and services to remote into a holiday dinner or when loved ones open gifts.

Cook Up Your Favorites

Evoke traditional holiday celebrations by cooking the foods you would normally enjoy at home. Those tastes and smells can transport you back to grandma’s kitchen or dad’s living room.

Stay Off Of Social Media

Being away from home during the holidays can be challenging, and that challenge can be even greater if you see photo after photo on social media of people you know spending time with their friends and loved ones. Tune out of your social feeds for a few days.

Invite Others To You

Maybe you don’t have the means of getting home, but you can bring those at home to you. Find out if anyone can plan a road trip, train ride or flight to where you are and then enjoy the holidays together.

Being away from home during the holidays may not be ideal. However, there are plenty of ways to maintain your holiday spirit when celebrating in unfamiliar surroundings.

14 Facts About The Winter Solstice

The winter solstice occurs each year during the month of December in the northern hemisphere. In 2022, the winter solstice will take place on December 21 at 4:48 p.m. EST.

Solstices are significant events that occur twice per year. One occurs in the winter and one in the summer. The winter solstice also is known as the first day of winter and occurs when the Earth’s pole reaches its maximum tilt away from the sun. During the winter solstice, people will experience the shortest period of daylight and the longest period of nighttime of the year. Here are 14 fascinating facts about the winter solstice.

1. Depending on the hemisphere, the north or south pole will experience continuous darkness or twilight around its winter solstice.

2. The winter solstice sometimes is referred to by the term midwinter.

3. Even though the solstice is marked by a whole day on the calendar, it actually is just the brief moment of time when the sun is exactly over the Tropic of Capricorn.

4. The word “solstice” can be translated from Latin and means “sun stand still.”

5. The Tropic of Capricorn is located at 23.5 degrees south of the equator.

6. Tourists flock to Stonehenge to track the movement of the sun. The stones will frame the sunset on the winter solstice and the sunrise on the summer solstice.

7. Ancient cultures viewed the winter solstice as a time of death and rebirth.

8. Important events in history have taken place on winter solstices. The Apollo 8 spacecraft launched on the solstice in 1968. Pilgrims also arrived at Plymouth on the winter solstice in 1620.

9. Each planet in the Earth’s solar system has its own solstices and equinoxes.

10. The southern hemisphere experiences the winter solstice in June each year.

11. A full moon on a solstice is even more rare than a blue moon. The last full moon to occur on the winter solstice was in 2010 and the next one won’t happen until 2094.

12. Earth is closer to the sun around the winter solstice in December. However, the northern hemisphere receives less sunlight and has cooler temperatures because it is tilted away from the sun during winter.

13. Even though the winter solstice features the shortest amount of daylight of any day during the year, it does not have the earliest sunset. That takes place roughly two weeks prior. In 2021 in New York, the winter solstice took place on December 21, but the earliest sunset occurred on December 7 at 4:28 p.m.

14. Meteorological winter begins on December 1 rather than December 21.

Craft An Entire Day Around Tree Shopping

Though retailers may begin playing holiday tunes shortly after Halloween, for many people, no date on the calendar marks the beginning of the holiday season better than the day they pick up their Christmas tree.

There are many different ways to acquire a Christmas tree. Some people prefer artificial Christmas trees that can be stored and taken out each year. Others make a yearly expedition to a tree lot or a Christmas tree farm to find the perfect fir or spruce. Historians believe a man named W.V. McGallard planted 25,000 Norway spruce seedlings at his Mercer County, New Jersey farm in 1901, essentially establishing the first commercial Christmas tree farm. By 1908, customers could visit the farm and choose trees for $1 each. McGallard helped create an entirely new industry that now accounts for 350 million trees being grown and sold in the United States every year.

Selecting a Christmas tree may not take more than an hour or two, but there are ways for families and other tree shoppers to maximize their time spent looking for a tree.

Bring Refreshments

Couple Christmas tree shopping with picnicking if the weather is amenable. Pack some foldable chairs into the vehicle (sitting on the ground on a blanket may be too cold) and bring along thermoses of coffee or hot cocoa. Snacks like granola bars, Christmas cookies or other filling treats can keep everyone satisfied and energized while they shop for a tree.

Pair Tree Shopping With A Trip To See Lighting Displays

Find the tree lot or tree farm and then scope out potentially scenic spots to view holiday lighting displays nearby. Neighborhood Facebook or other social media groups often tout homes that put up eye-catching displays. Ask around for addresses and plan your own tours.

Plan A Night Out

Everyone may be tired and hungry after a long day of Christmas tree hunting. Plus, it’s typically a good idea to wait some time for boughs to open before decorating. Use this opportunity to dine out and return home ready to decorate. Make it a regular occurrence that Christmas tree shopping is followed by a family meal at a favorite restaurant.

Watch A Classic Film

Many different holiday movies are broadcast this time of year and each enhances the Christmas spirit. While putting up the tree, play a favorite film in the background. What better way to enjoy decorating your own tree than by watching Charlie Brown adorn his meager evergreen at the same time?

Make a day of selecting and putting up the Christmas tree each year. Doing so can enhance the holidays and make for an entertaining way to spend time together as a couple or family.

How To Pet Proof Your Home When Decking The Halls

The holiday season is a special time of year. Many factors combine to make the holiday season so unique and festive, and that includes all the effort people put into decorating their homes. Much thought is giving to holiday lighting arrangements and which tree to buy, but it’s equally important to consider pets when decorating. Many common household pets are naturally curious, and that curiosity can make it difficult to decorate safely come the holiday season. But various pet-proofing strategies can ensure holiday decorations and displays aren’t compromised by four-legged friends this season.

Secure the Christmas Tree

Much like other residents of the home, pets may be mesmerized by a glowing Christmas tree. Pets may sniff around the tree or investigate it closely, which can increase the chances that it tips over. That poses a significant safety hazard and underscores the importance of using a sturdy stand. Fastening the tree to a wall, much like one might do with a television that isn’t mounted, adds a further layer of protection from tip-overs.

Block Off The Base Of A Live Tree

Live trees need water to stay green and keep their needles throughout the season. That water could prove enticing to thirsty pets. Drinking water from a tree stand could increase the risk of the tree tipping over and the water could upset the stomach of pets if the tree was treated with pesticides prior to being brought home. When decorating with a live tree, make sure the base of the tree where the water will be is blocked off. A small fence around the tree could keep curious pets away. The room where the tree is located should be locked or inaccessible when pets are home alone.

Inspect And Conceal Light Wires

Wires can become frayed over time, and that could pique pets’ curiosity. Lighting wires should always be inspected prior to decorating and frayed or damaged wires should be thrown away, even if it means replacing lights. If wires are still sturdy, conceal them along the base of the wall using a cable concealer, which prevents pets from chewing on them.

Avoid Lighting Candles

Candles should not be lit in homes with pets. Even candles on shelves that are seemingly beyond pets’ reach can be hazardous, as pets, especially cats, have a way of accessing spaces they seemingly shouldn’t be able to reach. Use electric candles in lieu of traditional ones.

Speak To A Vet About Seasonal Plants And Flowers

Pet owners can speak with their veterinarians before bringing poinsettias, holly and other seasonal plants and flowers into their homes. Some pets could suffer allergic reactions if they eat certain seasonal plants, so it’s best to be on the side of caution and speak to a vet before including live plants and flowers in decorative displays.

Decorating is part of the holiday season. Pet owners must exercise an extra bit of caution to keep their pets and homes safe when decorating during this special time of year.

5 Reasons To Shop Small Versus Big Box

The importance of small businesses to the economy cannot be overstated. Though national chains often garner publicity, local businesses are equally, if not exceedingly, worthy of attention.

What defines a small business as “small” varies significantly, but these businesses are generally privately owned and generate far less revenue than big corporations. General consensus also defines small businesses as companies with fewer than 500 paid employees, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Here’s a deep look at why small businesses are so vital, and why consumers should direct more of their purchasing power to smaller companies rather than the big box retailers and other national chains.

1. Autonomy And Diversity

The layout and offerings at national chains will be identical whether you live in the mountains or at the beach. Big box stores follow a consistent marketing strategy and look the same regardless of where they are located. That familiarity can come at the cost of variety. On the other hand, an independent business offers the products and services that are reflective of the customers and the community they serve.

2. Local Hiring Strategy

Certain big box retailers will hire local residents, but hiring policies may push for promoting from within the organization. This could mean relocating an employee rather than bringing in someone from the community who may be more in tune with local sensibilities. Small businesses may be more inclined to hire residents they know and keep hiring centralized to the local area – something that keeps more resources and money in the community.

3. Adaptability And Change

Local businesses can move more quickly to respond to economic factors that require change. Since they are focused more on the needs of their customers rather than stockholders, changes can be implemented rapidly without having to go through red tape, meetings and updates to corporate policies. Changes also can be customized to the local community at large.

4. Investing In The Town

According to the financial resource Financial Slot, shopping at locally owned businesses rather than big box retailers keeps more money in the community. Local property taxes and other taxes paid by the businesses go right back into the community. This helps raise overall value for homeowners and can even reduce their taxes. The funding helps keep police, fire and school departments functioning properly.

5. Turnover Is Greater

While no one wants to see a small business fail, that fate is sometimes unavoidable. However, that turnover helps teach communities what was done poorly and helps others learn from those mistakes. It also means fresh businesses will come in and replace the old, driving new growth, opportunity and competition that keeps prices competitive.

The benefits of a thriving small business sector are numerous. Consumers can do their part by patronizing these firms more frequently.