Working and Volunteering Keeps Seniors Healthy

shutterstock_127409042Healthy aging is something we all strive for, and more and more studies are finding that the lifestyle we choose plays a role in shaping our physical and mental health later in life. In addition to eating the right foods, getting enough sleep, and scheduling regular screenings, new research has uncovered yet another way we can stay well long into our senior years: working and volunteering.

Researchers in Canada recently analyzed more than 70 different studies involving adults over 50 who spent time volunteering. Based on their findings, just 2 to 3 hours a week in an active volunteering role was associated with better overall health, reduced symptoms of depression, fewer functional limitations, and greater longevity.

Along those same lines, a new study conducted by scientists at the University of Miami found that older adults who continued working or went back to work after retirement were in better physical shape than their non-working counterparts. The study looked at seniors employed in a broad range of professions—from service workers to those performing manual labor—and determined they were less likely to suffer from chronic health conditions or physical limitations.

In addition to the physical benefits associated with working and volunteering, previous studies have pointed to the mental and emotional health benefits they provide. Staying active and spending time helping others can go a long way toward promoting a healthy mind and a positive mood as we age.


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What Does a Healthy Gut Eat? Here’s the Answer

shutterstock_51917494It turns out that a Mediterranean-style diet isn’t just good for your heart; it’s also good for your gut. How do we know? Because findings from a new study—published appropriately in the journal Gut—tell us just that.

Researchers from the University of Naples in Italy recently looked at the eating habits of more than 150 adults over a single week, taking regular stool and urine samples to analyze the participants’ gut bacteria in response to the foods they ate. What they found is pretty interesting.

Individuals who followed a Mediterranean diet—one rich in healthy fats, protein, and especially fiber from non-starchy veggies, low-sugar fruits, and legumes—had higher levels of beneficial short-chain fatty acids in their guts. SCFAs are formed when fiber from plant foods breaks down in the large intestine (or colon), and they provide countless health benefits for the body.

It was noted that different dietary patterns were linked to different microbial compositions, and the more healthy foods an individual consumed, the more his or her gut bacteria worked to produce SCFAs—which in turn helped regulate microbial metabolism and support overall health.

In addition to their role in healthy metabolic function, past research shows SCFAs support bowel health and promote a healthy inflammatory response in the body. They have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and related conditions.


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