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Spending time on household chores may improve brain health

Engaging in household chores may be beneficial for brain health in older adults. In a recent Baycrest study, older adults who spent more time on household chores showed greater brain size, which is a strong predictor of cognitive health.

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Engaging in household chores may be beneficial for brain health in older adults. In a recent Baycrest study, older adults who spent more time on household chores showed greater brain size, which is a strong predictor of cognitive health.

“Scientists already know that exercise has a positive impact on the brain, but our study is the first to show that the same may be true for household chores,” says Noah Koblinsky, lead author of the study, Exercise Physiologist and Project Coordinator at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute (RRI). “Understanding how different forms of physical activity contribute to brain health is crucial for developing strategies to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia in older adults.”

In this study, published in the journal BMC Geriatrics, the researchers looked at the links between household chores, brain volume and cognition in a group of 66 cognitively healthy older adults living in the community. The participants attended three assessment visits at Baycrest Hospital, including a health evaluation, structural brain imaging and cognitive assessment.

Participants were asked about the time they spent on household chores, such as tidying, dusting, meal preparation and clean up, shopping, heavy housework, yard work, home repairs and caregiving.

The researchers found that older adults who spent more time engaging in such activities had greater brain volume, regardless of how much exercise they did. This was observed in the hippocampus, which plays a major role in memory and learning, and the frontal lobe, which is involved in many aspects of cognition.

Although it is possible that individuals with larger brains are more likely to take up household chores, there could be several explanations for the brain benefits of household physical activity.

First, we know that heart health is closely tied to brain health. It could be that household chores have a similar effect on the heart and blood vessels as low-intensity aerobic exercise.

Second, the planning and organization involved in household chores may promote the formation of new neural connections over time, even as we age.

Third, it could be that the older adults who engaged in more household chores spent less time being sedentary, which has been shown to be associated with negative health outcomes, including poor brain health.

“Besides helping to guide physical activity recommendations for older adults, these findings may also motivate them to be more active, since household chores are a natural and often necessary aspect of many people’s daily lives, and therefore appear more attainable,” says Dr. Nicole Anderson, Senior Scientist at the RRI, Director of the Ben and Hilda Katz Interprofessional Research Program in Geriatric and Dementia Care, and senior author of this study.

This study was funded in part by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

As a next step, the researchers would like to assess household physical activity more objectively using wearable technology. With additional funding, they could also plan controlled trials with the aim of increasing individuals’ household activity and studying brain changes over time.

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Home Care

How to check for bed bugs

Following these tips to check for the pesky insects while traveling and back at home.

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Bedbugs can make you itch just by thinking about them. These tiny, reddish-brown insects that feed on blood are notorious for infiltrating hotel rooms and luggage, hitchhiking their way back to a new home virtually undetected.

“Understanding what to be on the lookout for when checking for bedbugs is key,” said Danilo Del Campo, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in Chicago. “If you’re able to catch the infestation early enough you can avoid bringing a problem home, which can save a lot of frustration. However, these insects are tiny and that’s not always possible.”

Although bedbug bites are not usually dangerous, bedbugs can come home with you, infest your home, and cause a great deal of discomfort and anxiety. If bedbugs are present in your home, you will likely find bites on your body. These bites sometimes turn into itchy, red or purple welts and are often found in zigzag clusters of 3 to 5 bites.

To find bedbugs before they find you, Dr. Del Campo and the AAD recommend following these tips to check for the pesky insects while traveling and back at home:

1. Store your luggage. 

When you arrive at your lodging, temporarily place your luggage in a tiled area, like the bathroom, while you inspect your room. There are fewer spots for bedbugs to hide in bathrooms, so you can check your room without worry.

2. Check your furniture. 

Bedbugs often hide in upholstered areas. Carefully inspect your bedding, mattress, headboard, and any fabric-covered furniture for:

  • Rusty or reddish specks of blood.
  • Tiny, blackish dots that look like dots made by a marker—these may be bedbug feces.
  • Whitish, oval bedbug eggs the size of apple seeds.
  • Shell-like bedbug exoskeletons.
  • Live bedbugs.

3. Check your room. 

Make sure to check the seams of fabric, in dressers, behind wall hangings or wallpaper, in corners, and in between cushions. If a credit card could fit in a crack, a bedbug could fit, too—they are that small. 

  • After you check your room, you can bring your luggage in.
  • Place your bags on a luggage rack away from the wall.
  • If you find signs of bedbugs, request a new room.

4. Check your luggage when you get home. 

After your trip, look at your belongings before unpacking to make sure no bedbugs came home with you.

  • Use a flashlight to check the contents of your bags, including the seams of your clothing—look closely at your luggage to make sure no bedbugs are hiding inside.
  • If you find signs of bedbugs in your luggage, wash your clothes on high heat and use a hand steamer to clean your luggage.

If you notice any physical signs of bedbugs on your body or experience blistering, a skin infection (bites feel tender or ooze discharge, such as pus), or an allergic reaction (red or purple swollen skin or hives), make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist.

You’ll rarely see bedbugs due to their small size, so many people mistake their bites for mosquitoes, fleas, spiders, or common skin conditions such as a rash or chickenpox.

“Unfortunately, bedbug bites can look similar to other insect bites,” said Dr. Del Campo. “A dermatologist will be able to help determine the cause of your bites and symptoms.”

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Home Care

7 Ways to reduce home energy costs

To help dial down your energy costs, consider these tips.

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When building your budget, utility bills – especially the electric bill – are likely one of your largest monthly expenditures. One of the biggest culprits: home heating and cooling, which account for more than half of the average household’s annual energy consumption, according to estimates from the Energy Information Administration.

In fact, 83% of homeowners are concerned about the impact of energy bills on their household budgets, according to a survey conducted by Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US (METUS), with 54% saying it cost “somewhat more” or “much more” to heat their homes this winter compared to last year.

To help dial down your energy costs, consider these tips from the heating and cooling experts at METUS.

Adjust the Temperature

While you’re sleeping or away from home, adjust your thermostat up 5-10 F in the summer or down 5-10 F in the winter, which can help lower annual heating and cooling costs if done consistently. A smart thermostat can monitor your energy use and behaviors then automatically adjust to make your home more energy efficient.

Look for Incentives and Rebates

Qualified homeowners may be eligible to save money on qualified home energy improvement projects. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) offers tax credits and rebates, including a credit of 30% (up to $2,000) for qualifying heat pump installation, an energy-efficient option to replace fossil fuel-burning furnaces. Other incentives under the IRA include offsetting costs of electrical panel upgrades and rebates for homes with energy usage reductions of 20% or more.

Switch to a Heat Pump

Among survey respondents, 54% ranked government incentives like the IRA as one of the top reasons they would consider installing a heat pump to replace a traditional air conditioner. Options like Mitsubishi Electric’s all-climate heat pumps use two units – an exterior heat pump, which replaces your existing air conditioning condenser, and an interior unit installed on your furnace – to deliver cost-effective, eco-efficient, year-round heating and cooling. These smart systems not only improve air conditioning efficiency on hot days, but also determine the best source of heat (gas or electricity) on cold days, so your HVAC system is always running at peak efficiency and comfort.

Have HVAC Systems Serviced Regularly

For best performance and efficiency, regular maintenance of your heating and cooling system is imperative. Keeping outdoor units free of debris and changing air filters are tasks most homeowners can handle on their own but bringing in a professional – usually in the spring and fall – can help ensure your HVAC system and all its components, including electrical and ductwork, are functioning properly.

Improve Your Insulation

Poorly insulated attics, walls, ceilings, floors and crawl spaces can lead to energy waste and increase costs by requiring more energy to heat or cool your home. Because air can escape through these spaces when your HVAC system pushes air through your home, adding insulation can help reduce losses and keep your home more comfortable.

Use Appliances During Non-Peak Hours

Rather than using your oven, stove or clothes dryer from noon-6 p.m., peak time for many electricity providers, consider doing so in the morning or later at night. Using these appliances outside of the peak timeframe, when conventional heating and cooling systems are often running full bore, can help lower energy costs. Some utilities may also offer plans that incentivize limiting energy use during peak hours.

Think Multi-Zone

Consider upgrading to an all-climate, multi-zone heat pump, which can seamlessly connect to multiple indoor units, revolutionizing the way you experience comfort in your home. By eliminating problematic hot and cold spots in your home, this system ensures personalized comfort tailored to individual zones and optimizes energy usage by directing it only to the areas requiring heating or cooling. Replacing an outdated HVAC system with a multi-zone solution can also help achieve cost and energy savings. By efficiently managing temperature in different zones, you can experience improved energy efficiency, resulting in a more sustainable and economical solution for heating and cooling.

Find more solutions for improving your home’s efficiency and increasing energy savings at MitsubishiComfort.com.

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Home Care

3 Tips to buy a new HVAC system for your home

Here are three tips that will help you buy a perfect AC unit and improve your home comfort.

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Choosing the right heating and cooling system for your home can be a tough task. InverterCool Inc. recommends three tips that will help you buy a perfect AC unit and improve your home comfort.

1. Understanding Your HVAC Needs:
– Size and Capacity: Understand how the size of your home and its insulation qualities impact the capacity of the HVAC system you need.
– Energy Efficiency: Learn about energy efficiency ratings like SEER2 and how choosing a high-efficiency system can save you money in the long run.

2. Latest Innovations in HVAC Technology:
– Smart Thermostats: Discover how smart thermostats can automate your home’s climate control, enhancing comfort while optimizing energy use.
– Inverter technology: Explore the benefits of inverter systems that improve efficiency and reduce sounds without compromising performance.
– Fault Detection and Diagnosis: Master how the FDD technology 7/24 detects and diagnoses the system faults automatically and helps to reduce the risk of downtime.

3. What to Look for in a Quality HVAC System:
– Durability: Quality materials and construction mean a longer lifespan for your system.
-Service: A good system installation equals optimal performance. Searching for the HVAC brand or companies who offer products coming with packaged installation and maintenance services.
– Warranty and Support: A solid warranty and reliable customer support are vital before and after purchase. If your AC units qualifies for incentives or the HVAC suppliers provide financial support is also good to reduce the investment burden.

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