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Is your home ready for the arrival of chilly weather?

Put your well-being at the top of the list with these ideas to help ensure a health-conscious home.

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When chilly weather arrives and the days get shorter, chances are good you’ll spend the majority of your days indoors. Before you start your hibernation, it’s a good idea to ensure your home is up to the task.

Put your well-being at the top of the list with these ideas to help ensure a health-conscious home.

Encourage better air quality
When the house is closed up to keep out the cold, you may be trapping in undesirable air pollutants. A well-sealed house may not have the best circulation, and that’s the ideal environment for allergens to accumulate.

A thorough cleaning is the first step toward better air quality. Vacuum all carpets, including under furniture and around baseboards. Be sure to launder linens that aren’t typically part of your regular washing routine.

When opening windows isn’t comfortable during cold weather, letting the sunshine in can still help to improve indoor air quality. A study by the University of Oregon’s Biology and the Built Environment Center showed rooms with increased sunlight have fewer viable bacteria.

“Until now, daylighting design has been primarily about visual comfort or circadian health, but now we can say daylighting influences air quality,” said Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg, co-director of the BioBE Center and co-author of the study.

Let in light
Natural light plays an important role in overall health, and reduced daylight in the winter months can have a big impact on productivity and sleep, according to a recent survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of Velux. For example, nearly two-thirds of respondents said they believe daylight affects their productivity and mood. Light is also an important cue to the body’s circadian clock, and proper exposure to natural light during the day can help support better sleep when darkness falls.

What’s more, sunlight is a natural antidepressant, and there is ample scientific evidence that associates daylight with better health and quality of life, such as improved mood, less fatigue and reduced eyestrain.

It may be tempting to keep the drapes closed when it’s blustery outside to ward off a draft, but with well-sealed windows, there’s no reason to block that all-important natural light. In rooms with ample natural light available, take advantage, especially in the morning when exposure to daylight can benefit your circadian rhythm.

However, not every room is situated to maximize your access to natural light, and that’s when you can get creative. One solution is skylights, which add natural light to virtually any space.

For a larger room, a fresh-air skylight can help address air quality concerns, and some models offer smartphone connectivity to open and close the skylight and even raise or lower blinds with a few quick taps of the finger.

Keep out the cold
There actually is some truth to the old wives’ tales associating cold with getting sick. The viruses that cause colds and the flu thrive in cooler temperatures, for example. This means that, at least indirectly, a cold environment may indeed make you sick.

To ward off a chill in your home, safeguard against drafts around windows and doors. If seasonal weather-proofing is impractical, consider temporary solutions like draft stoppers or mats you can place at the base of doors. Add insulation, if needed, in areas that commonly release a significant amount of heat, such as the attic and garage.

Learn more at whyskylights.com.

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Home Care

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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Photo by @deconovo from Unsplash.com

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

Fresh ideas for home upgrades

Spring means it’s time to start sprucing up your home and garden with a little TLC inside and out.

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Photo by Daiga Ellaby from Unsplash.com

Spring means it’s time to start sprucing up your home and garden with a little TLC inside and out.

If you’re unsure where to begin, consider these tips:

Make function a priority.

While aesthetic changes may boost value and please the eye, be sure to consider upgrades that make living easier, like organization units that give you more space or upgrades that create additional living space.

Keep budget in mind.

Make a list of the projects you’d like to complete and estimate how much each will cost. Use the list to determine what you can afford to complete now.

Do your research.

If you’ll be making a significant purchase such as a new vacuum or grill, be sure to explore your options, read reviews and shop around for the best prices for greater confidence in what you choose.

Set yourself up for a more enjoyable spring with more home and garden tips at eLivingtoday.com.

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Home Care

When to update home and garden goods

As you tackle spring cleaning this year, take stock of your common home and garden equipment to determine what may need updating.

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Photo by Tom Byrom from Unsplash.com

Investing in quality products, properly maintaining and storing them all have an impact on how long they’ll stay in good working condition.

As you tackle spring cleaning this year, take stock of your common home and garden equipment to determine what may need updating.

Lawn Mower: If your mower needs a repair that exceeds its value, it’s time for a replacement. However, there may be other signs that an upgrade is warranted. Rough operation, frequent breakdowns or other indications of faulty performance deserve a second look. Before you buy new, remember to check your warranty to determine whether repairs might be covered.

Vacuum: Many homeowners discard their used vacuum when it stops picking up dirt and debris as efficiently as it did originally. Before you move on, be sure to check that performance issues aren’t the result of clogged hoses or a filter than needs cleaning or replacing. A belt may also be worn or need adjusting. Other signs it may be time to replace the vacuum include damaged or frayed cords, motor issues like overheating or making strange noises.

Grill: A grill may last anywhere from 5-15 years, depending on the quality of the materials and how it is maintained. However, it’s common to have to replace parts along the way. Signs you may need a new grill include a firebox (the main enclosure) with cracks, rust or holes and burners that distribute heat unevenly. Damaged grates can affect even grilling if they’re warped or if they’re flaky or rusted, they can contaminate food. If you’re not able to replace the grates, or any other essential part, including hoses and connectors for a gas grill, you’ll be better off replacing the unit.

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