Difficulties of travel for some seniors…Aging and endorphins…our bodies own miracle…Want to get high?…Could this be the answer?

A deer at Zoo Ave.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Here’s another sad loss of a bird, a Hoffman’s Woodpecker, that hit the glass wall in the veranda. Unfortunately, this one never came back to life.

Regardless of how one may strive to maintain a modicum of good health as we age, there’s only so much we can do. A healthy diet, regular movement and exercise, sufficient sleep, regular small doses of sunlight, and a positive state of mind may seem to be the panacea for long and healthy life. But it’s so much more than that.

We’re subject to heredity and the past ways in which we’ve lived our lives, which at times may not have been the most health-inducing for the long haul, having an impact on how quickly we age.

Did we spend too much time in the sun resulting in creepy hanging skin and the potential for skin cancer? Did we smoke or consume recreational drugs in our youth?  Did we drink alcohol in excess?  Were our lives filled with stress and worry impacting the quality of daily lives and the ability for good sleep? 

A deer lounging in the foliage.

Many of us abused our bodies with too much exercise, or as in many cases, not enough exercise, resulting in bad hips, knees, backs, and joints in general. So when we hear about many of our friends requiring hip and knee replacement surgeries, we wonder if there was something that may have prevented the necessity of these major surgeries. 

Is reliable information available to inspire the young to prevent the need for such surgeries in their later years? Unfortunately, many studies we’ve read seem to contradict one another. 

Thankfully, neither Tom nor I have any concerns over hip or knee surgeries in the imminent future.  However, the necessity of such could quickly stop us “dead in our tracks” for an extended period in continuing our world travels. 

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An Iguana at Zoo Ave. We’ve seen them running across roads at various locations, but they dash. It’s not easy to get a photo while driving.

When we look back at our lives, is there anything we did “right” to avoid these surgeries?  There’s nothing we can recall. Is it merely a matter of chance? I can’t imagine this is so.

Simply due to the fact we’ve chosen this life of world travel doesn’t make us exempt from age-related health issues. We, too, like many of you, have signs and symptoms commensurate with aging that no matter how hard we try, we can’t seem to escape.

We can eat all the low carb, healthy organic, free-range, and grass-fed chemical-free foods we can stuff into our mouths and accomplish a daily goal of 10,000 active steps on the Fitbit, and still, we find ourselves struggling to get enough uninterrupted sleep each night and notice subtle changes in our health as the years pass.

Close up of an Iguana face.

No, we don’t spend time worrying about aging. No, we don’t frequently check the mirror looking for changes in the number of wrinkles, skin changes, and gray hair that comes with aging. 

However, it’s impossible not to notice a new ache, a new pain, or a symptom we may not have experienced in the past. Without a doctor and confused over the varying opinions of doctors and medical professionals worldwide based on fuzzy medical research and protocols, we often have no option but to try to figure out day-to-day issues on our own.

Of course, if we experienced a possibly life-threatening situation or severe injury, we’ll head to the nearest hospital. We’re not foolhardy.

Check out the complexities of this unusual creature.

Oh my gosh, while we’ve had US news here in Costa Rica, we’ve been appalled over the commercials for drugs that hardly seem worth trying, with all the risks of side effects, unless a person has a life-threatening condition and all other options have been exhausted. It’s hard to believe.

Traveling is suitable for aging. The joy, the mental stimulation, and the varied experiences surely must be beneficial for one’s health. We’ve noticed this repeatedly during the past five years of world travel (only nine days until the fifth anniversary of our trips).

The rush of endorphins continually wash over us time and again, whether it’s a result of spotting a little bird alighting on the railing, a cultural experience, or the sighting of a lion in the wild.   Endorphins are described as follows from this site:

“Endorphins: 
(contracted from “endogenous morphine”) are endogenous opioid neuropeptides and peptide hormones in humans and other animals. They are produced by the central nervous system and the pituitary gland. The term “endorphins” implies a pharmacological activity (analogous to the activity of the corticosteroid category of biochemicals) instead of a specific chemical formulation. It consists of two parts: endo- and -orphin; these are short forms of the words endogenous and morphine, intended to mean “a morphine-like substance originating from within the body.”The class of endorphins includes three compounds – α-endorphinβ-endorphin, and γ-endorphin – which preferentially bind to μ-opioid receptors. The principal function of endorphins is to inhibit the transmission of pain signals; they may also produce a feeling of euphoria very similar to that produced by other opioids.”

Turtles seem to enjoy hanging out together. Hmmm…kind of like people.

Gee…want to get high? Experience life’s wonders and feel this exceptional sensation of euphoria and well-being produced by our bodies. This has got to be suitable for aging! 

Hardly a day passes where we don’t have an opportunity to experience this indescribable rush.  Perhaps, in essence, this is our choice of “drug” that spurs us on to continue our travels. Maybe this may be the “magic” required to extend our health and the quality of our lives, joy, and purpose.

May each day bring you an endorphin rush!

Photo from one year ago today, October 22, 2016:

On our last night in Bali, we shot this sunset photo from the cabana. For more final photos, please click here.

Turning off the brain long enough to sleep…

As a poor sleeper most of my life, a few years ago I went on a rampage researching methods to improve my ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. 

Discovering nothing new or life changing, the frustration over the scientific research extolling the virtues of a variety of solutions for improving sleeping found me with little relief.

Some of these suggestions included:
1.  Using light as a means of resetting one’s biological clock (circadian rhythmby increasing waking light and reducing evening light.  This method, although described in brief here, increasing the production on nighttime melatonin, the miracle sleep adjusting hormone.  This means, no TV or computer before attempting to sleep.
2.  Reduce nighttime noises or wear earplugs.  
3.  Don’t exercise at night before bed. 
4.  Don’t go to bed on a full stomach, allowing two hours for food to digest before lying down.
5.  No caffeine late in the day, preferably after 2:00 PM.  Mostly done but usually have ice tea up until dinner, water after.
6.  No stimulating activities before bed. 
7.  Drinking less fluids at night, reducing necessity of getting up during the night. 
8.  Comfortable bed, blankets, pillows and bedtime attire. 
9.  No biting, noise making, annoying flying things buzzing one’s head at night.
10. No negative conversations or thoughts that instill anger, excitement or frustration before retiring for the evening. 
10.  No worrying about not sleeping which in itself can be a deterrent to a good night’s sleep. 
11.  Turning off the brain at night!

Most certainly, there are hundreds of other suggested solutions to poor sleep but these appeared to be most applicable in my world.  Trying them collectively or one by one, I found some relief but frequently awaken between 2:00 am and 4:00 am each night, struggling to fall back to sleep.  This is a common phenomenon many have described, particularly as one ages. 

For years while a working person, I awoke at 5:30 am every morning, never needing an alarm clock to get up to ready for work.  Now, as a retired person, my self imposed waking time is blissfully, hopefully at 7:00 am.

Tom, on the other hand, has less trouble sleeping, seeming to fall asleep as soon as he puts down his ebook, possibly waking a time or two during the night, usually falling back to sleep easily.  I’m less fortunate, needing a few “crutches” to make it happen:

1.  Falling asleep:  If I don’t try to fall asleep at the first indication of sleepiness, I find it difficult to do so a few hours later.  Now, when the sensation overtakes me, I succumb, putting down my smart phone ebook.

2.  Awakening during the night:  Five out of seven nights, I awaken during the night, either from a sound or a dream.  If I don’t fall back to sleep in 10 minutes, I pull my smart phone off the nightstand and read until sleepy again. 

If after 10 more minutes, I’m still not sleepy, I take a dose (two for me or three for a person over 200 pounds) of a safe homeopathic, non-addictive over the counter remedy, called Formula 303 containing Valerian and magnesium, suggested by the doctor that was instrumental in my changing my diet to low carb, sugar, starch and grain free. Within 20 minutes, I fall back to sleep. This safe product doesn’t result in drowsiness upon awakening, as do often dangerous and addictive prescription medications.

3.  Awakening too early in the morning:  Following the above in point #2, if it is before 6:00 am, usually reading for a short while will lull me back to sleep, immediately putting the book down the minute sleepiness becomes evident.

Overall, following these methods, I am able to sleep a total of seven hours each night, certainly enough for a well-rested day.  In many of the studies I’ve read, there was emphasis on the fact that seniors usually require less sleep.  Why?  Most believe it is merely due to the reduced amount of physical and mental energy utilized during waking hours.

Here is a listing of thousands of sleep research performed at various universities, such as Harvard.  It is from these resources that I spent many hours looking for answers to a lifelong problem, now seemingly under control.

Overall, the biggest issue I’ve found, is turning off my brain at night.  That’s the most challenging.  At night, we seem more vulnerable to negative thinking as our strength and determination to be positive dissipates as we become tired. 

Right now, I could be engaged in a load of negative thinking. Is it safe to fly to Africa? To live in Kenya?  Will we be able to arrange our seat assignment on the upcoming three flights to Kenya on order to sit together? How will we feel with no sleep when we fly with layovers for over 15 hours, arriving in Kenya the middle of the night?  It goes on and on. 

Turning off these thoughts at night is a commitment I’ve made to myself to ensure a good night’s sleep. So far, its working, especially when there’s no flying things buzzing my head at night!