Memory loss reversed or abated in those with cognitive decline

Cognitive decline is a major concern of the aging population. Already, Alzheimer’s disease affects approximately 5.4 million Americans and 30 million people globally. Without effective prevention and treatment, the prospects for the future are bleak. By 2050, it is estimated that 160 million people globally will have the disease, including 13 million Americans, leading to potential bankruptcy of the Medicare system. Unlike several other chronic illnesses, Alzheimer’s disease is on the rise–recent estimates suggest that Alzheimer’s disease has become the third leading cause of death in the United States behind cardiovascular disease and cancer. Since its first description over 100 years ago, Alzheimer’s disease has been without effective treatment.

While researchers continue to seek out a cure, it is becoming clear that there are effective treatment options. More and more research supports the conclusion that Alzheimer’s disease is not a disease of only Beta Amyloid plaques and Tao tangles but a complex and systemic disease. In this study of patients with varying levels of cognitive decline, it is demonstrated how a precision and personalized approach results in either stabilization or improvement in memory.

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Affirmativ Health sought to determine whether a comprehensive and personalized program, designed to mitigate risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease could improve cognitive and metabolic function in individuals experiencing cognitive decline. Findings provided evidence that this approach can improve risk factor scores and stabilize cognitive function.

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Diets high in protein linked to lower risk of death

Diets high in protein, particularly plant protein, are associated with a lower risk of death from any cause, finds an analysis of the latest evidence published by The BMJ.

The researchers say these findings “support current dietary recommendations to increase consumption of plant proteins in the general population.”

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Diets high in protein, particularly protein from plants such as legumes (peas, beans and lentils), whole grains and nuts, have been linked to lower risks of developing diabetes, heart disease and stroke, while regular consumption of red meat and high intake of animal proteins have been linked to several health problems.

But data on the association between different types of proteins and death are conflicting.

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Lower wealth linked with faster physical and mental aging – NIA Study

People with lower household wealth (or socioeconomic status) have a higher risk of many diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and depression. They also have shorter lifespans. Some lifestyle factors may play a role. For example, people with lower incomes have higher rates of smoking. However, other factors—including chronic stress and reduced access to resources—also likely contribute, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA).

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Less is known about how socioeconomic status influences the general aging process. To look more closely at this question, Drs. Andrew Steptoe and Paola Zaninotto from University College London followed more than 5,000 adults, aged 52 and older, for 8 years beginning in 2004. The team broke the study participants into four groups based on household wealth. Continue reading

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Beating Hypertension-the Silent Killer

One in three American adults has hypertension (high blood pressure). And, because hypertension causes few obvious symptoms, many people with high blood pressure don’t even know it. What’s more, only about half of all diagnosed individuals are controlling their blood pressure adequately. This condition is a primary or contributing cause in more than 1,000 deaths each day and costs the nation $48.6 billion each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But, straightforward lifestyle changes can both prevent and treat this common and devastating “silent killer.”

What is Blood Pressure? “Blood pressure is the force the blood exerts on the walls of the arteries,” says Sondra M. DePalma, DHSc, PA-C, a cardiology PA with PinnacleHealth CardioVascular Institute at UPMC Pinnacle and an author of the American Heart Association’s 2017 Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults. The top number (the systolic pressure) is the force exerted on the artery wall with each beat (contraction) of the heart. The bottom number (the diastolic pressure) is the force when the heart is at rest (between beats). If readings rise above 120 systolic and 80 diastolic, risks begin to rise. Treatment through lifestyle changes and/or medication is recommended if numbers rise over 130 or over 80. [For more information on blood pressure readings, see Blood Pressure by the Numbers.

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Weekend funnies …

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As a senior, I had mixed feelings about this one …

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Tony

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Increased blood sugar levels may decrease benefits of aerobic exercise

Every doctor recommends regular aerobic exercise, since greater aerobic fitness is important for achieving better overall health. But Joslin Diabetes Center scientists now have discovered that some benefits of aerobic exercise may be dampened by higher-than-normal blood sugar levels, a condition known as hyperglycemia.

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These diminished gains are seen in mouse models and humans with chronic hyperglycemia that is in the “prediabetes” range, says Sarah Lessard, PhD, a Joslin assistant investigator in the section of Clinical, Behavioral and Outcomes Research and senior author on a paper in Nature Metabolism that presents the work. The study also showed that this maladaptive trait is independent of obesity and insulin levels in the blood.

Clinical studies have demonstrated that people with diabetes or chronically high levels of blood sugar struggle to improve their aerobic exercise capacity compared to people with normal blood sugar levels. “The idea behind this study was to see if we induce high blood sugar in mice, will we impair their ability to improve their aerobic fitness?” says Lessard, who is an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. The study also aimed to uncover the mechanisms that may lead to low fitness levels in people with hyperglycemia.

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Plant-based diets lower blood pressure even with limited meat and dairy

Consuming a plant-based diet can lower blood pressure even if small amounts of meat and dairy are consumed too, according to new research from the University of Warwick.

Published online by a team from Warwick Medical School in the Journal of Hypertension,  they argue that any effort to increase plant-based foods in your diet and limit animal products is likely to benefit your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular disease. They conducted a systematic review of previous research from controlled clinical trials to compare seven plant-based diets, several of which included animal products in small amounts, to a standardised control diet and the impact that these had on individuals’ blood pressure.

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Plant-based diets support high consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, limiting the consumption of most or all animal products (mainly meat and diary). (See Notes to Editors for further details) Continue reading

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Pizza study shows body copes surprisingly well with one-off calorie indulgence

A new study, which involved participants eating pizza well after feeling ‘full’ in order to test what immediate effects this had on the body, finds that our metabolism is surprisingly good at coping with over-indulgence.

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Researchers with the Centre for Nutrition, Exercise and Metabolism at the University of Bath compared the effects of normal eating (i.e. ‘eat until you are comfortably full’) with maximal eating (i.e. ‘eat until you cannot manage another bite’).

They found that the young, healthy men (aged 22 – 37) who volunteered for the trial consumed almost twice as much pizza when pushing beyond their usual limits, doubling their calorie intake, yet, remarkably, managed to keep the amount of nutrients in the bloodstream within normal range.

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Filed under calories, cardiovascular diseases, cardiovascular risk, diabetes, junk food calories, obesity, pizza

Key Immune System Genes Identified to Explain High COVID Deaths and Spread in Northern Italy Versus Fewer Cases and Deaths in the South

One of my biggest problems in dealing with Covid-19 has been sorting out the information that we are deluged with on a daily basis. I thought this explanation from the Sbarro Health Research Organization was a help.

Not long after the Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak in China, Italy was hard-hit by the infection and rapidly became one of the countries with the highest mortality rate. The disease was first detected on February 20 in Lombardy, a region in the Northern area, and rapidly spread throughout the country. The Southern regions and the Islands, however, registered much lower infection rates even though a massive migration from the affected regions to the South was recorded before the national lockdown.

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What spared the South of Italy from such a heavy disease burden? Various reasons have been proposed including that milder climate conditions in the South could have helped to prevent viral spreading, but none so far convincingly explained the different incidence rates throughout the country.

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Regular physical activity to enhance cognition in children who need it most

A common school-age stereotype is that smart kids are unathletic. However, as a recent study lead by Associate Professor Keita Kamijo at the University of Tsukuba and Assistant Professor Toru Ishihara at Kobe University shows that physical activity is linked to better cognitive ability, which is in turn related to academic performance in school.

Understanding the effects of physical activity on cognition has been difficult for several reasons. “Previous studies looked at the issue too broadly,” explains Professor Kamijo, “When we broke down the data, we were able to see that physical activity helps children the most if they start out with poor executive function.”

Relationship between baseline performance and pre–post changes in cognitive performance, illustrating the group × baseline performance interaction.

Executive functions refer to three types of cognitive skills. The first is the ability to suppress impulses and inhibit reflex-like behaviors or habits. To assess this ability, children were asked to indicate the color in which words like “red” and “blue” were displayed on a computer screen. This is easy when the words and colors match (“red” displayed in red font), but often requires inhibition of a reflex response when they don’t (“red” displayed in blue font). The second skill is the ability to hold information in working memory and process it. This was evaluated by testing how well children could remember strings of letters that vary in length. The third cognitive skill is mental flexibility. This was measured by asking children to frequently switch the rules for categorizing colored circles and squares from shape-based to color-based.

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Scientists study the link between the gut and Alzheimer’s disease

Do you know that feeling you get in your gut? It turns out your gut may really be trying to tell you something.  Our microbiome – the 100 trillion bacteria and organisms living in our gut – appears to have a profound influence on our health and risk of disease. And early scientific studies show there may be a link between the microbiome and the brain that could impact the risk of Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases.

The microbiome is a collection of bacteria, viruses and fungi that live mostly in our intestinal system. They play an important role in digestion and the production of certain vitamins, and they support our immune system. Researchers around the world study the gut microbiome, especially those bacteria unique to individuals, to learn more about their influence on our overall health.

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Significant disparities in U.S. life expectancy found at census-tract level

 Life expectancy in the U.S. varies widely when analyzed at the census-tract level and the method may provide a more detailed picture of health disparitiesin the U.S. than other widely used analyses of life expectancy, according to new research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The study is the first to analyze life expectancy data at the census-tract level across the contiguous U.S., as well as at the state and county level.

The findings were published online July 13, 2020 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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“Our study shows that as far as geographic variation in life expectancy is concerned, it’s a pretty local phenomenon,” said S (Subu) V Subramanian, professor of population health and geography and co-author of the study. “States are also quite important, but counties are not.”

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Weekend funnies …

Tony

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Aerobics a smart workout for your brain at any age

It’s never too late to lace up some sneakers and work up a sweat for brain health, according to a study published in the May 13, 2020, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study suggests older adults, even couch potatoes, may perform better on certain thinking and memory tests after just six months of aerobic exercise.

“As we all find out eventually, we lose a bit mentally and physically as we age. But even if you start an exercise program later in life, the benefit to your brain may be immense,” said study author Marc J. Poulin, Ph.D., D.Phil., from the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. “Sure, aerobic exercise gets blood moving through your body. As our study found, it may also get blood moving to your brain, particularly in areas responsible for verbal fluency and executive functions. Our finding may be important, especially for older adults at risk for Alzheimer’s and other dementias and brain disease.”

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“Love hormone” oxytocin could be used to treat cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disorder in which the nerve cells (neurons) in a person’s brain and the connections among them degenerate slowly, causing severe memory loss, intellectual deficiencies, and deterioration in motor skills and communication. One of the main causes of Alzheimer’s is the accumulation of a protein called amyloid β (Aβ) in clusters around neurons in the brain, which hampers their activity and triggers their degeneration.

Tokyo University of Science illustration

Studies in animal models have found that increasing the aggregation of Aβ in the hippocampus–the brain’s main learning and memory center–causes a decline in the signal transmission potential of the neurons therein. This degeneration affects a specific trait of the neurons, called “synaptic plasticity,” which is the ability of synapses (the site of signal exchange between neurons) to adapt to an increase or decrease in signaling activity over time. Synaptic plasticity is crucial to the development of learning and cognitive functions in the hippocampus. Thus, Aβ and its role in causing cognitive memory and deficits have been the focus of most research aimed at finding treatments for Alzheimer’s.

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Genes, cardiovascular health factor into dementia risk

Genes and cardiovascular health each contribute in an additive way to a person’s risk of dementia, U.S. researchers including Sudha Seshadri, MD, and Claudia Satizabal, PhD, of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) reported July 20 in the journal Neurology.

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The study was conducted in 1,211 participants in the Framingham Heart Study and involved collaborators from Boston University.

Participants with a high genetic risk score based on common genetic variants, including having an allele called apolipoprotein E (APOE) ε4, were at a 2.6-fold higher risk of developing dementia than subjects who had a low risk score and did not carry the APOE ε4 allele.

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