Mental game – Don’t make yourself feel old

By HealthDay News

People who believe their bodies and minds will break down with age may be creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, a recent study suggests.

Researchers found that older adults with a dim outlook on aging tended to report more physical health symptoms on days when they were stressed out than on less stressful days.

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In contrast, people with more of a “golden years” perspective seemed to have some protection against daily stress: They actually reported fewer health problems on days where they felt more stressed than usual.

“We’ve known that there’s a strong relationship between perceived stress and physical health,” said lead researcher Dakota Witzel, a doctoral candidate at Oregon State University’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences, in Corvallis.

Numerous studies have found that when people habitually feel stressed-out they may eat poorly, skip exercise and have long-term consequences like high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease.

But the new findings, Witzel said, suggest that a brighter outlook on aging can be a buffer against the physical effects of daily stress.

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Exercise, Not Just Sudoku for Seniors

Grampa, when you finish that puzzle please slip on your walking shoes and step outside.

A lot of senior citizens are doing Sudoku puzzles and crosswords to ‘exercise their brains’ and slow the aging process. These puzzles can be fun, and they do build puzzle-solving skills which are long-lasting. They are not even half the battle against aging, though.

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“Unless the activities that you’re practicing span a broad spectrum of abilities, then there is not a proven general benefit to these mental fitness programs. So, the idea that any single brain exercise program late in life can act as a quick fix for general mental function is almost entirely faith-based,” Professor Wang said in our post on physical exercise vs mental exercise.

Walking, on the other hand, boosts blood flow to the brain. Medicine.net reported that moderate aerobic exercise helps boost blood flow to the brain.
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Some Soup-er Ideas from Tufts

Soups are wonderfully versatile and easy to make, and the combinations of ingredients and flavors are endless. They are a great way to boost your intake of vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, and when you make soups at home you control the sodium level, which tends to be high in canned and packaged varieties.

Better Broth: Making broth at home is surprisingly simple. To make a basic broth: cover meat, poultry, or seafood with water, throw in flavorful vegetables (typically onions, garlic, carrots, and celery), bring to a boil, cook for about 10 minutes, then lower to simmer for at least 30 minutes. Strain the resulting broth and use right away, or cool and refrigerate or freeze for future use in soups and stews and as cooking liquid. Skip the animal proteins and up the variety of produce to make vegetable broth.

(Note: Despite health claims that bone broth can ease arthritis or boost immunity, supporting evidence is scant.)

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Weekend funnies …

Hoping you enjoyed your holiday-shortened week. I know when I was in the working world, it always meant a lot to me.

Tony

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Four factors in midlife may predict later health declines in women

By HealthDay News

Examining a woman’s health in midlife can predict her health decades later, researchers say.

Four specific factors — higher body mass index (BMI), smoking, arthritis and depressive symptoms — at age 55 are associated with clinically important declines in physical health 10 years later, a new study reports.

“Age 55 to 65 may be a critical decade,” said study co-author Dr. Daniel Solomon, of the division of rheumatology, inflammation, and immunity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

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“A person’s health and factors during this period may set them on a path for their later adult years. The good news is that a large proportion of women at midlife are very stable and will not go on to experience declines. But being able to identify women at higher risk could help lead to interventions targeted to them,” Solomon said.

For the study, the research team used data from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation, that followed U.S. women from 1996 through 2016. The investigators studied their health status measures, lab measurements and imaging assessments.

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Celebrate National Popcorn Day

Health Secrets of a SuperAger

I am a big fan of popcorn. It is a great snack that can be prepared in a healthy way. I avoid microwave popcorn like the plague.

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I recommend buying regular popcorn and popping it in coconut oil with a simple salt flavoring. There are a number of flavored salts available which I don’t use, but aren’t harmful to you like what you get from a microwave.

Wikipedia says, “Corn was first domesticated 9,000 years ago in what is now Mexico.[3]Archaeologists discovered that people have known about popcorn for thousands of years. In Mexico, for example, remnants of popcorn have been found that date to around 3600 BC.[4]

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Exercise may save your aging brain – Study

I can’t even guess how many times I have written about the benefits physical exercise has on the brain as well as the body. I would also like to repeat that my family has numerous occurrences of dementia, in general, and Alzheimer’s, in particular. My aunt and her sister both suffered from those afflictions. My father was fine and his life ended with no cognitive afflictions. However, his father was afflicted. He used to wander off and the police would pick him up and call my father to come get him. Remember, this was the early 1940’s. Additionally, while my father was fine, his sister and her daughter both had cognitive impairment. Hence, my interest in preserving my cognitive abilities into my old age.

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So, I was gratified to read the latest findings on Alzheimer’s and Dementia from the Alzheimer’s Association.

As HealthDay News reported, “Exercise helps you stay fit, hale and hearty, and researchers say it may also help you stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Now they have a better understanding of the hidden benefits that aid the brain.
“Older folks who are more physically active have higher levels of a protein that promotes better communication between the brain’s synapses, a new study reports.”
People as old as 80’s and 90’s whose brains were riddles with amyloid plaques had better mental functions if they were more active.
The study indicated that physical activity can promote resilience in the brain.
“If you can keep brain cells healthy and communicating longer, you may slow the changes you would see in disease or you may be able to decrease the vulnerability of the brain to other injury or other insult,” Heather Snyder, vice president of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association said.
To read further on the subject, check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits).

Tony

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Groundbreaking pig heart transplant in a human may help patients awaiting donor hearts

The University of Maryland School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical Center announced the first successful transplant of a genetically modified pig’s heart into a human. According to reports, the patient, a Maryland man, is doing well following the groundbreaking surgery on Friday, Jan. 7 to save his life.

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Porcine (pig) heart transplants aren’t approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, the federal agency authorized the surgery in this case for “compassionate use” as no other options remained for the patient, according to the medical team.

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What, Exactly, is BMI? – Tufts

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure of body weight adjusted for height. It is considered a better indicator of excess weight than body weight alone and is used to categorize individuals as “underweight,” “normal weight,” “overweight,” or “obese.” What does it really tell us, and how accurate is it?

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Measuring Body Fat: Being overweight or obese is associated with a wide range of chronic and acute health conditions, so determining how much excess body fat a person is carrying is an important factor in caring for their overall health. There are many ways to determine how much body fat an individual has, including skinfold thicknesses, bioelectrical impedance, underwater weighing, and dual energy x-ray absorption. These measures can be expensive, intrusive, not widely available, or technically demanding. Calculating BMI provides a quick, easy, inexpensive surrogate measure of body fatness. Studies have shown BMI correlates well with results of more complex methods for assessing body fatness and with future health risks.

To calculate BMI, body weight (in kilograms) is divided by height (in meters) squared. In English measures, weight (in pounds) is divided by height (in inches) squared, then multiplied by 703. A link to an easy-to-use online BMI calculator is provided in Resources, below.

Check out my post https://guysandgoodhealth.com/2020/03/19/bmi-not-the-best-indicator/ to read further on BMI.

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Scientists find new insights about cellular death process, previously thought to be irreversible

A study published by researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago describes a new method for analyzing pyroptosis — the process of cell death that is usually caused by infections and results in excess inflammation in the body — and shows that process, long thought to be irreversible once initiated, can in fact be halted and controlled.

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The discovery, which is reported in Nature Communications, means that scientists have a new way to study diseases that are related to malfunctioning cell death processes, like some cancers, and infections that can be complicated by out-of-control inflammation caused by the process. These infections include sepsis, for example, and acute respiratory distress syndrome, which is among the major complications of COVID-19 illness.

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Weekend Funnies …

Tony

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Exercise alters brain chemistry to protect aging synapses

When elderly people stay active, their brains have more of a class of proteins that enhances the connections between neurons to maintain healthy cognition, a UC San Francisco study has found.

This protective impact was found even in people whose brains at autopsy were riddled with toxic proteins associated with Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Riding with my dog on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. The annual Bike the Drive when the city closes the Drive to autos and lets us bike rides ‘have a turn.’

“Our work is the first that uses human data to show that synaptic protein regulation is related to physical activity and may drive the beneficial cognitive outcomes we see,” said Kaitlin Casaletto, PhD, an assistant professor of neurology and lead author on the study, which appears in the January 7 issue of Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

The beneficial effects of physical activity on cognition have been shown in mice but have been much harder to demonstrate in people.

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Resilience to stress can be measured and controlled in the brain and body

Recent research has begun to identify the neural mechanisms in stress responses that may lead to the development of resilience. The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2021, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.

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Resilience to stress is the ability of an individual to cope with hardship; this ability comes easier to some individuals than others.  A person’s level of resilience can be a determining factor for successfully coping with stressful events. Individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and other disorders may one day benefit from treatments targeting specific circuits and regions of the brain. However, the exact mechanisms of resilience, such as how it mediates the relationship between the brain and the rest of the body, are not yet known. 

New findings show:

  • Activation of a subset of touch neurons in the skin can reduce stress hormones after minor stress; the elimination of these neurons leads to depression-like behavior (Melanie Schaffler, University of Pennsylvania).
  • In rats who exhibit high anxiety and passive coping behavior, biological sex moderates the presence of resilience and active coping styles in adulthood after adolescent stress (Eva E. Redei, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University).
  • PTSD-prone rats have higher levels of urinary adrenaline and more inflammation-associated bacteria in their gut; exposure to stress significantly alters their gut microbiota (Esther Sabban, New York Medical College).

“Stress affects us in many ways, and these studies show us that resilience is also multi-faceted,” said press conference moderator Martha Farah, Walter H. Annenberg Professor in Natural Sciences and director of the Center for Neuroscience & Society at the University of Pennsylvania. “Discovering the brain mechanisms of resilience is arguably the holy grail of psychiatry. These findings will contribute to new treatments for PTSD and other anxiety and mood disorders.”

Everyone experiences stress in their lives. To read further on it in this blog, type STRESS into the Search Box on the right.

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Don’t try to get COVID – NW Medicine Experts

As omicron spreads across the country, some have wondered if they should just expose themselves to the coronavirus and get it over with. 

Don’t do it, say Northwestern Medicine experts.

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“You’d be crazy to try to get infected with this,” said Dr. Robert Murphy, executive director of the Havey Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Murphy and other Northwestern Medicine experts explain why that strategy is high risk for you, public health and the economy. They also discuss population immunity, and whether it’s inevitable that you will contract COVID-19.

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Balance between sleep and exercise may be key to help osteoarthritis patients manage pain

Although osteoarthritis has no cure, researchers are developing a new intervention to improve patients’ chronic pain outcomes.

It may shoot through the hands while typing or flare in the knees when getting out of the car. Wherever the pain, over 32 million Americans living with osteoarthritis experience it.

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To reduce that pain, patients living with the degenerative joint disease are often told to exercise.

It sounds simple.

But people with osteoarthritis may experience pain when they start to move more, which can be a deterrent to taking up, or sticking with, an exercise program.

“Pain during movement is an important reason why this population isn’t more active, and we need to identify ways we can help to change this,” said Daniel Whibley, Ph.D., research assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Michigan Medicine. “Otherwise, they may end up in a loop of pain and inactivity that we know can lead to disability later down the line.”

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Plant-Based Diet May Protect Against Stroke

If you have had a stroke or want to lower your risk for one, the case for eating more fruits, vegetables, and other healthy plant foods—and cutting back on meat and other animal products—gets stronger every year. A recent study published in Neurology adds to the evidence that a plant-based diet can reduce the odds of a stroke and preserve overall brain health. The study also indicates that the types of plant-based foods consumed may make a difference.

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Earlier studies have looked at the benefits of plant-based diets, but this one focused on the quality of those diets, says Kathryn M. Rexrode, MD, senior author of the study and a family physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “Not all plant-based diets are healthy,” she notes. “After all, you can be a vegetarian and eat pasta and cake all day.”

Dr. Rexrode and colleagues at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston studied the diets of 209,508 men and women over a roughly 25-year period and found that people who ate mostly fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (such as beans), and nuts reduced their overall risk for stroke by 10 percent. By contrast, they found no benefit against stroke among people who ate six daily servings of refined grains (such as white pasta and rice), potatoes (which convert to sugar rapidly in the body), fruit juice and sugar-sweetened beverages, and sugary desserts.

“If everyone in the United States followed healthy plant-based diets, we could see a reduction of about 80,000 strokes per year,” says Dr. Rexrode. “As someone who has seen the devastating impact of stroke on individuals and families, that sounds like a pretty substantial impact, and a reason to focus on diet.” Every year nearly 800,000 Americans experience a stroke, and survivors stand a one in four chance of having a second one.

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