Test Your Stroke IQ

Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. and one of the leading causes of long-term disability. Nearly 800,000 people suffer a stroke every year. Women, African Americans, and Hispanics are at higher risk for experiencing a stroke. One in three deaths in Hispanic women is the result of a stroke. However, experts say that almost 80% of strokes are preventable.

Preventative Tips

Begin by taking this Stroke IQ test developed by the American Heart Association. This test will help you separate the facts from the myths. There are also preventable risk factors that everyone should know.

Lifestyle choices and other diseases contribute to strokes. Knowing what those choices are and taking steps to manage them can help cut your risk.

  • Alcohol plays a role in stroke prevention. Some studies have shown that one glass of wine each day can help reduce risk, but two or more increases your risk.
  • Atherosclerosis is a leading cause of strokes. This disease is caused when fatty deposits build up in artery walls. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes all contribute to it. Find ways to manage each.
  • People with Atrial Fibrillation (Afib) are five times more likely to experience a stroke. This condition is caused when the upper two chambers of the heart beat in an unpredictable pattern. Many people don’t even realize they have Afib. Talk with your doctor for advice on how to determine if you have this condition that affects 2.5 million Americans.
  • Inflammation caused by diseases such as Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis can increase the odds that you will experience a stroke. If you live with chronic diseases like these, talk with your physician to see how they can evaluate you for inflammation and help find ways to control your risk.
  • Diet and exercise also play a role in managing your risk. Many conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are caused by poor diet and lack of exercise. Reducing salt and sodium can help decrease risk.
  • One of the lesser known health conditions that can lead to a stroke is sleep apnea. It occurs when people have pauses in their breathing while they are asleep. It causes oxygen levels to fall, which can lead to a stroke. The good news is sleep apnea is generally treatable and controlling it can decrease your risk.
  • Finally, we come to smoking. It is one of the leading causes of stroke. Smokers have double the stroke risk of non-smokers. That is because smoking decreases the amount of oxygen in the blood, causing the heart to work harder and blood clots to form more easily.

To learn more about prevention, warning signs, and risk factors, visit the Resource Center at the National Stroke Association.

Traveling Safely with Mom this Summer

Dear Ashlee:

My husband and I decided to include his 85-year old mother on our summer vacation this year. While our plans are still in the works, we expect to be staying at a national park for five or six nights. We haven’t tried this before so we are hoping for a little advice on traveling with a senior. His mom has a variety of small health issues but nothing that would make the trip dangerous for her.

What do you suggest we do to prepare?


Dear Marci:

It sounds like you are off to a good start by recognizing how important it is to plan ahead when you will be traveling with an older loved one.

Here are a few tips from our team that can help you make the trip memorable for all the right reasons.

Summer Travel with a Senior Loved One

1.) Do Your Research: When you are trying to decide on a destination, spend some time online researching the possibilities. For example, you mentioned going to one of the national parks. Visit the websites of those you are considering to see what senior-friendly accommodations —including pricing discounts for seniors— they offer. You might also want to call the hotels you are considering to how accessible they are for older adults.

2.) Account for Special Needs: Family vacations often mean you will spend a lot of time riding in a car or walking around at a park or other attraction. These can present unique challenges for older adults. For example, hiking through a national park might be fairly easier for you and your children. But for seniors, a lot of walking – especially up and down hills – can present a struggle.

Riding in a car for long distances without stopping can also present a problem for seniors. Be sure you take your mom’s needs into consideration as you are putting together your itinerary.

Your schedule should include frequent breaks to use the restroom, as well as plans to use taxis or public transportation more than you would if your family was making the trip alone.

Also remember to pack a few extra days of the medications and supplies your mom needs in case you are delayed getting back home.

3.) Updated Medical Information: While no family wants to head off on vacation believing a senior loved one is at risk for a health crisis, it is important to prepare for the worst.

A caregiver app can be an easy way to keep track of your mom’s health file and medications. CareZone and MyMedical are two you may find to be helpful when you are on the go. Both provide you with a place to safely store important health information. In case of a crisis, you can use your smartphone to quickly access the information emergency personnel with need.

These types of trips are great ways to build bonds between generations and create lasting memories. So I hope this helps your family do both, Marci!


Director of Nursing

Have other questions concerning senior lifestyles for our care experts? Contact us at Optalis today for any questions you may have.

4 Tips for Easier Post-Rehab Grocery Shopping

Going back to daily life after post-hospital rehabilitation and therapy can be challenging.

One typical chore you may or may not have missed is grocery shopping, which can quickly become tiring or beyond your current physical capacity after rehab.

Fortunately, we have a few simple tips to make this task easier and less overwhelming. That way, you can focus on what matters most – your recovery.

Tip 1: Form a Plan of Attack

Maybe you were always an organized list-maker before trips to the store, or maybe you just try to get in and out as quickly as possible.

Regardless, planning out what you need beforehand will make the trip itself simpler and ensure you don’t need multiple trips throughout the week for forgotten items.

As you create your list, keep in mind any dietary restrictions you may now have with new medications. And depending on your situation, your doctor may have recommended avoiding certain foods or adding others.

Eating well as you recover from your surgery or illness is more important than ever. Your body needs key nutrients to help heal itself, and you need to build up enough energy to take on the task of getting back to normal.

You’ll also want to think about foods that are simple to prepare, keep for a while and can be used in a variety of ways. This will decrease the likelihood that you’ll waste food and the number of grocery trips you might have to make.

Nutritional Considerations for Grocery Shopping

The National Institute on Aging recommends thinking about these suggestions as you plan your grocery list:

  • Choose nutrient-dense foods. For example, a 200-calorie serving of peanut butter has more nutritional value than a 200-calorie serving of potato chips.
  • Cut down on added sugars, saturated fats and sodium. Try making healthy swaps – like substituting flavored sparkling water for soda, or leaner cuts of meat for fattier ones.
  • Pick whole grains over refined ones. Foods like brown rice and whole-grain bread offer more nutritional benefits than their white, refined relatives.

Related: Quick and easy post-rehab recipes you’ll love >>

Tip 2: Take a Shortcut

Many grocery stores now offer delivery or pick-up services. This can be a real time-saver for anyone and may be perfect if you aren’t feeling up to getting your groceries after rehab.

Below are some central Ohio grocery stores that offer pickup or delivery options.

  • With Kroger Pickup (formerly ClickList), you can order your groceries online up to three days in advance, then have them brought out to you without leaving your car.
  • Aldi offers a home grocery delivery service that works much the same way. Check their website to see if they offer this service in your area.
  • Apps like Instacart offer grocery delivery service from a variety of local stores. Check the app to see if your favorite stores participate.

Another option, although it can be more expensive, is a meal kit delivery service like Blue Apron or HelloFresh. These services have grown in popularity recently, so there are plenty of options available. If you don’t mind paying more, they can be convenient options during your recovery period.

Tip 3: Ask for Help

If ordering your groceries for delivery or simply picking them up isn’t an option, don’t be afraid to enlist some help.

Even if you live alone, don’t drive or don’t have someone on-call, you can still get help. See if you can arrange for a friend or family member to visit once a week and take you to the grocery. You can also call your area Agency on Aging to ask for services near you.

If you do end up venturing to the store by yourself, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. Store associates can reach items on higher shelves, lift heavier things and bring groceries to your car.

The National Institute on Aging also suggests looking for motorized carts, shopping at a time of day when you’re well-rested and there are fewer people, and looking for a seat in the pharmacy section if you get tired.

Related: The importance of continuing therapy at home >>

Tip 4: Create a Post-Game Strategy

Once you get home with your bags, take it as easy as possible. If someone went with you to the grocery, ask if they can help you put things away.

Don’t lift something heavy or twist sharply. Use common sense depending on what your injury or illness was. While physical activity is good for your recovery, doing too much, too fast isn’t.

Think about where items are stored and how easily you’ll be able to access them. If they’re currently in hard-to-reach places, see if you can do a little rearranging so you won’t have to bend or stretch too much. Make life as easy for yourself as possible.

More Post-Rehab Tips

After rehabilitation and therapy, you’ll probably have a lot of medical bills and paperwork to handle. Keeping all this information in order can be challenging.

Need some help? Download our guide, How to Keep Your Medical Bills Organized, for tips on keeping your paperwork in order.

Download the Guide >>

4 Easy Ways to Improve Your Diet This Summer

After a long, cold winter, warm weather has finally arrived in Central Ohio! If you are like most seniors and caregivers, too many snowy days led to a lack of exercise and too much indulging in comfort foods that aren’t very healthy. We thought the month of June would be a great time to help you build a healthier lifestyle.

Our Change Your Life this Summer series will focus on nutrition, exercise, important prevention screenings and the health benefits of having an active social life. We hope you will follow along and share this information with family and friends.

Nutritional Needs Change as You Age

You’ve been hearing it since childhood. Eat your veggies. Drink your milk. Healthy eating habits are even more important as you age. As you get older, what your body needs to stay fit changes.  While a decrease in physical activity often means you need fewer overall calories, you might need to increase your intake of some vitamins and minerals. For example, older adults are at increased risk for vitamin D deficiency. That generally means you should increase your vitamins B12 and D intake, as well as your calcium.

Determining what your personal nutritional needs are is a great discussion to have with your primary care physician during your next appointment. They might want to order blood work to see if you are vitamin D deficient, low in iron, or anything else.

Four Tips to Improve Your Diet this Summer

To help our senior friends and caregivers in the Columbus area improve your diet this summer, we’ve pulled together four easy tips to get started:

1.    Adopt the DASH diet or the Mediterranean diet. Both of these lifestyles rank high with nutritionists and physicians. They are rich in vitamins, nutrients, and minerals because they are plant-based. Each also encourages low consumption of red meat and higher intake of omega-3 rich fish such as tuna and salmon. Olive oil is the primary cooking base.

2.    Make your plate look like a rainbow. This is one of the easiest tips to evaluate how balanced your diet is. Your goal should be to eat between five and seven fruits and vegetables a day. You will want to incorporate fruits and vegetables ranging from dark green vegetables to bright orange fruits.

3.    Have a cup of Joe. Coffee has earned some bad press over the years. More recent studies have shown that the bad reputation isn’t really deserved. Some Alzheimer’s studies have actually shown that drinking one or two cups of coffee a day may prevent the brain inflammation commonly linked with Alzheimer’s. Before you race off to Starbucks though, consider other health conditions and medications you may be taking. Cardiologists often restrict heart patients’ caffeine intake.

4.    Lock up the salt shaker. For many older adults, this is one of the hardest habits to break. But the link between salt and sodium and hypertension has been proven time and again. Instead of using salt when you are cooking, try fresh or dried herbs and spices. Another tip is to keep the salt shaker in the cupboard and not on the table. That will keep you from automatically reaching for the shaker.

Two great resources for learning more about senior nutrition are MyPlate and MyFoodPyramid from Tufts University. Both were developed by researchers especially for older adults.

How are you planning on changing your diet this summer? 


Pack Up a Healthier Picnic

If your summer fun includes a senior loved one, planning heart smart menus is important. Many picnic and party foods are high in fat, salt, and sodium.

All three are known to contribute to an increase in blood pressure and can exacerbate existing conditions such as Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The experts from Optalis have pulled together some quick tips to help you make smart food choices this summer.

Heart Healthy Picnic Tips for Older Adults in Central Ohio

1.    Skip the fried chicken.

Instead of buying fried chicken to go at the local supermarket or fast food restaurant, bake up a quick and healthy version at home. It is as easy as rolling chicken breasts in Greek yogurt and covering them in panko breadcrumbs and your favorite seasonings. Line a baking sheet with foil and set a wire rack on top of the baking sheet. Spritz with a healthy cooking spray of your choice. Place the chicken on the wire rack and bake 40 to 45 minutes until golden brown. By skipping the heavy breading and oils, you can cut the grams of fat from an average of 20 per serving to 7 or 8.

2.  Lighten up the salads.

If potato or macaroni salads are a must-have part of your family’s menu, lighten them up this year. While switching to mustard-based salads is best, another option is to replace some of the mayonnaise with low-fat plain yogurt. Our friends at WebMD have some great tricks for creating healthier salads you can try out this summer.

3.  Serve fresh veggies and hummus.

Many picnic menus already include fresh vegies. The problem is that most also include dips loaded with mayonnaise and sour cream. This summer swap out the vegie dip with hummus. The chick peas found in hummus can help lower your cholesterol and better balance blood sugar which helps prevent binge eating.

4.  Skip sugary, salty foods.

Instead of packing sodas and chips in your picnic basket this summer, opt for water and lemon slices. Skip the chips all together. Sugary foods and snacks high in salt can all contribute to dehydration.

5.  Munch on fruits.

Melons and berries are great additions to heart healthy summer picnics because they can curb your sweet tooth. That helps you from indulging in high fat, high carb foods like cookies and brownies. Fruit also has a high water content which helps promote hydration.

Finally, one reminder you may have heard before bears repeating again.  Keep the hot foods hot and the cold foods cold. It’s the best way to prevent food poisoning when dining outdoors in the summer!