Two keys to strong bones … Harvard

Although bone-weakening osteoporosis is quite common among older people, it isn’t an inevitable part of aging. There’s a lot you can do to shield your bones from this disease.

While it is true that women account for most cases of osteoporosis. I think the fact that they outlive men, and the disease usually hits after late 50’s, because women outlive us, a disproportionate number of women get the disease. The International Osteoporosis Foundation says that worldwide, 1 in 3 women over age 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures, as will 1 in 5 men aged over 50.

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The best insurance against osteoporosis is building the highest bone density possible by your 30s and minimizing bone loss after that. But if you’re already in midlife or beyond, there is still much you can do to preserve the bone you have and perhaps even to replace lost bone. Daily weight-bearing exercise, like walking, is the best medicine. Getting enough calcium and vitamin D are two other critical strategies for keeping bones strong.

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Can exercise help people at risk for Alzheimer’s – Study

One of the main goals in living longer is having one’s brain fully functional. Since I have both Alzheimer’s and dementia in my family tree, I am totally focused on keeping my brain working. There is no question that exercise can help one defend against dementia, but with Alzheimer’s the jury is still out.

Can exercise slow or prevent cognitive decline in older people who are at increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease? A new clinical trial led by National Institute on Aging (NIA) -supported scientists in collaboration with the YMCA aims to find out whether exercise may be an effective nondrug treatment for staying cognitively fit.

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The trial, called EXERT, will enroll 300 people, age 65 to 89, with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition of mild memory problems that often leads to Alzheimer’s dementia. Based on the trial’s results, the researchers hope to develop an evidence-based “prescription” that will tell people the type and frequency of exercise needed to support memory and thinking skills.

“We want to design a real-life program that can be implemented in the community and prescribed by healthcare providers,” said Laura D. Baker, Ph.D., of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., who is leading the study with Carl W. Cotman, Ph.D., of the University of California, Irvine.

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Good health in simple steps – NIA

Living a healthy life is simple but not easy. This infographic from the National Institute on Aging makes it very clear.

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The Sleep Cure: The Fountain of Youth May Be Close at Hand

I couldn’t agree more with these healthy sleep sentiments. Check out my Page – How important is a good night’s sleep for more details.

Tony

Mark Zielinski knew he was onto something when his mice stopped sleeping. Normally, the animals woke and slept on a 12-hour cycle. When the lights were on in the lab, the mice were active. When it went dark on a timer, down they went. But Zielinski, who teaches psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, had recently […]

via The Sleep Cure: The Fountain of Youth May Be Closer Than You Ever Thought — Our Better Health

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Women perform better than men on memory tests for Alzheimer’s

Since I have at least three cases of Alzheimer’s or dementia in my family, this kind of information always resonates with me.

Women do better on verbal memory tests commonly used to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease compared to men with the same amount of neurotoxic protein in their brains, a new study has found.

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It is well known that females have an advantage on verbal memory tests, in which subjects are challenged to recite back a list of heard words. Because women are better at the tests, which are often used to help detect and diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, the severity of their disease may be missed, says Dr. Pauline Maki, professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago and an author on the study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

“Women have better verbal memory than men, in general,” said Maki, who is also senior director of research at UIC’s Center for Research on Women and Gender.

“One key factor is their higher levels of estrogen,” she said. “We see this in women whose ovaries are removed – their verbal memory worsens – and when they take estrogen, their memory bounces back. So the advantage women have over men on this test is real, and the issue is that these tests might not detect the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease in women. This is a big problem for women, because the earlier that mild cognitive impairment is diagnosed, the earlier treatment can begin to slow its progression.”

Maki and her colleagues wanted to see if the female advantage on the tests persists at different levels of Alzheimer’s pathology, as measured by amyloid-beta deposition in the brain. Buildup of the toxic protein is thought to be the main driver of the cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s.

The researchers looked at data from participants in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, whose brain cortex levels of amyloid beta were measured using positron emission tomography.

They then looked at the verbal memory test scores of these participants, for both immediate recall and delayed recall. They found that among men and women with low to moderate levels of amyloid beta, women had significantly better delayed recall scores. But the difference between the sexes narrowed for those whose amyloid-beta level was high.

“Scientists and clinicians have just recently begun paying attention to the ways that Alzheimer’s disease is different in women than it is in men,” Maki said. “About two-thirds of people with Alzheimer’s disease are women, but men are more likely to present with mild cognitive impairment, the precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. So there is this paradox.”

Women’s ability to perform well on the tests despite considerable evidence of disease “can also be a sign of resilience in the face of the disease,” Maki said.

“Their brains could be compensating or adapting,” she said, which may also explain the paradox.

“Once amyloid-beta levels get high enough, we see that women’s memory symptoms seem to worsen more rapidly than men’s. The initial diagnosis for many women may be full-on dementia, whereas the initial diagnosis for men may be the earlier, milder forms of cognitive impairment,” she said.

Maki thinks there may be a solution to that problem.

“The answer may be to lower the scoring threshold for these tests for women, so that they can pick up more women with early memory issues,” she said.

Co-authors on the study are Erin Sunderman and Dr. Richard Lipton of the University of California, San Diego; Anat Biegon of the State University of New York; Susan Landau of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine; and Lean Rubin of UIC.

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Gluten-free diet may increase risk of arsenic, mercury exposure

I’m sure you have encountered friends and acquaintances who are going ‘gluten-free.’ I have observed, I don’t think imagined, a certain smugness about the announcement. Like they have elevated themselves above the masses. Well, It turns out maybe not.

People who eat a gluten-free diet may be at risk for increased exposure to arsenic and mercury – toxic metals that can lead to cardiovascular disease, cancer and neurological effects, according to a report in the journal Epidemiology.

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Gluten-free diets have become popular in the U.S., although less than 1 percent of Americans have been diagnosed with celiac disease – an out-of-control immune response to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.

A gluten-free diet is recommended for people with celiac disease, but others often say they prefer eating gluten-free because it reduces inflammation – a claim that has not been scientifically proven. In 2015, one-quarter of Americans reported eating gluten-free, a 67 percent increase from 2013.

Gluten-free products often contain rice flour as a substitute for wheat. Rice is known to bioaccumulate certain toxic metals, including arsenic and mercury from fertilizers, soil, or water, but little is known about the health effects of diets high in rice content. (my emphasis)

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Is your office bad for your health?

Okay, nobody is saying that working in an office is as dangerous as construction or mining, but health hazards exist there, too. It’s easy to grow complacent about it.

Desk jobs, too, can pose dangers to your health. Rush family medicine physician Gabriela Baeza, MD, recently discussed some of the most common hazards — and how to avoid them.

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A growing body of research suggests that simply sitting too much can endanger your health — regardless of whether you get the recommended 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week.

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Researchers have found that too much sitting might make you less sensitive to insulin (a hormone that helps your body process and use energy from food). It also might lead to higher levels of triglycerides, or fats, in your blood. Such effects could, in turn, make you more likely to develop diabetes, heart disease or even cancer. Continue reading

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4 Ways to eat your way to lower cholesterol – Harvard

Following is one of those helpful email I get from Harvard from time to time. I thought you might find it interesting.

Many people can reduce cholesterol levels simply by changing what they eat. For example, if you are a fan of cheeseburgers, eating less meat (and leaner cuts) and more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains can lower your total cholesterol by 25% or more. Cutting back on saturated fat (found in meat and dairy products) and trans fat (partially hydrogenated oils) can reduce cholesterol by 5% to 10%.

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Here are four steps for using your diet to lower your cholesterol.

Stick with unsaturated fats and avoid saturated and trans fats. Most vegetable fats (oils) are made up of unsaturated fats that are healthy for your heart. Foods that contain healthy fats include oily fish, nuts, seeds, and some vegetables. At the same time, limit your intake of foods high in saturated fat, which is found in many meat and dairy products, and stay away from trans fats. These include any foods made with “partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.”

Get more soluble fiber. Eat more soluble fiber, such as that found in oatmeal and fruits. This type of fiber can lower blood cholesterol levels when eaten as part of a healthy-fat diet. Continue reading

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Some Good Leg Stretches for Cyclists

Here is a post I wrote a while back for another blog I do. Thought you cyclists and/or runners might be interested.

Quad-stretch

Tony

Willing Wheeling

I ride my bicycle nearly every day here in Chicago. Last year I averaged just over 17 miles per day for a total of 6350 miles. So far this  year, I am over 7500 miles in the first week of December.

In a four season city like Chicago, I am not always able to ride at all, so I end up with some longer rides to compensate.

As every rider knows, your legs can get stiff after a while.  I have found three wonderful stretches that do a super job of rejuvenating my legs. I usually do them after ten miles or so. That way the muscles are warmed up and I have good circulation.

There are pictures of each stretch, but I want to explain how I do them as that makes a difference. I do yoga for years and when I stretch, I always do the diaphragmatic breathing…

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Food and health cliches revisited – Wake Forest

An apple a day keeps the doctor away – I always liked that one. While apples boast many health benefits, they do not, sadly, bulletproof us against all diseases.

“Everything our parents said was good is bad,” complains Alvy Singer, the character played by Woody Allen in “Annie Hall,” his 1977 Oscar-winning romantic comedy.

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That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but when it comes to what certain foods can do to or for you, it’s probably best to take motherly advice, familiar sayings and other bits of conventional wisdom with a grain of salt.

“There’s some validity to some of them, but many of them are just old wives’ tales or myths that have trickled down over the years,” said Annette Frain, a registered dietitian at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Continue reading

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Is your child fat?

As you can see from this post, lifelong good health starts early. There are excellent tools here to make sure your children get off to the right start.

Tony

IS YOUR CHILD FAT? Here’s a question a growing segment of our PARENTAL population is going to have to begin asking themselves. The need to face REALITY is NOT based on aesthetics but rather the diseases and traumatic life altering compromises our children face if we continue to avoid this topic. The argument, “we should […]

via IS YOUR CHILD FAT? — All About Healthy Choices

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Breathe and Focus: How Practicing Mindfulness Improves Mental Health as We Age — Our Better Health

There are very helpful tips in this post. I would like to add my own suggestion: Exercise. That gives you a two-edged sword. Check out my Page – Important facts about your brain – and exercise benefits.

As we age, it’s natural to worry about possible declines in our mental and brain health. Many older adults are concerned about things like memory loss and poorer attention, forgetting names, and taking longer to learn new things. As a result, as we get older we may feel more distress, sadness, and/ or anxiety that […]

via Breathe and Focus: How Practicing Mindfulness Improves Mental Health as We Age — Our Better Health

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Feed a cold, starve a fever? Not so fast, according to Salk research

An apple a day keeps the doctor away is one of those cliches we have heard all our lives. So is, feed a cold, starve a fever.

The last time you had a stomach bug, you probably didn’t feel much like eating. This loss of appetite is part of your body’s normal response to an illness but is not well understood. Sometimes eating less during illness promotes a faster recovery, but other times—such as when cancer patients experience wasting—the loss of appetite can be deadly.

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Now, research from the Salk Institute shows how bacteria block the appetite loss response in their host to both make the host healthier and also promote the bacteria’s transmission to other hosts. This surprising discovery, published in the journal Cell on January 26, 2017, reveals a link between appetite and infection and could have implications in treating infectious diseases, infection transmission and appetite loss associated with illness, aging, inflammation or medical interventions (like chemotherapy).

“It’s long been known that infections cause loss of appetite but the function of that, if any, is only beginning to be understood,” says Janelle Ayres, assistant professor at Salk Institute’s Nomis Foundation Laboratories for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis.

A Salk Institute study shows how Salmonella blocks the appetite loss response in hosts to both make the host healthier and promote the bacteria’s survival and transmission

Mice orally infected with the bacteria Salmonella Typhimurium typically experience appetite loss and eventually become much sicker as the bacteria become more virulent—spreading from the intestines to other tissues in the body. Ayres’ team tested different conditions in the infected mice and found that sick mice that consumed extra calories despite their appetite loss actually survived longer. It turns out this survival wasn’t due to a more active immune response by well-fed animals (as measured by levels of the bacteria in the host). Instead, it was because the Salmonella weren’t spreading outside of the intestines and throughout the body when the mice ate more, which enabled the animals to stay healthy despite infection. Even more surprising, the Salmonella were acting on the intestine to try to suppress the appetite loss in the host.

The finding was initially puzzling: why would the bacteria become less virulent and not spread to other areas in the body when nutrients were more plentiful? And why would Salmonella actively promote this condition? It turns out the bacteria were making a tradeoff between virulence, which is the ability of a microbe to cause disease within one host, and transmission, which is its ability to spread and establish infections between multiple hosts.

“What we found was that appetite loss makes the Salmonella more virulent, perhaps because it needs to go beyond the intestines to find nutrients for itself. This increased virulence kills its host too fast, which compromises the bacteria’s ability to spread to new hosts,” explains Sheila Rao, a Salk research associate and the first author on the study. “The tradeoff between transmission and virulence has not been appreciated before—it was previously thought that virulence and transmission were coupled.”

When the host ate more and survived longer during infection, the Salmonella benefitted: bacteria in those mice were able to spread via feces to other animals and increase its transmission between hosts, as compared to bacteria in mice who didn’t eat and died sooner due to heightened bacterial virulence.

The researchers discovered that, to halt the appetite-loss response and boost transmission between hosts, Salmonella produces a molecule called SlrP, which blocks activation of an immune protein (cytokine) in the intestines. This cytokine typically communicates with the brain’s appetite center, called the hypothalamus, to prompt the host to lose its appetite during infection. The team found that mice infected with Salmonella that couldn’t make SlrP ate less food while infected, lost more weight and died faster than control mice.

Though the same gut-brain pathway tied to appetite loss exists in the human as in mice, Ayres cautions that infection responses are dependent on many factors and that whether eating—or fasting—during illness can improve one’s health will depend in large part on what the causative agent of the infection is. Her team is planning to search the human microbiome (the collection of bacteria that live in people’s bodies) to find other microbes that might have a similar effect on this pathway and explore those for new therapies tied to appetite loss and treating disease. The lab also wants to investigate whether drugs could be used to turn up or down the sickness-induced appetite-loss pathway that SlrP targets.

“Now that we’d identified this mechanism that regulates appetite, we want to turn it on the flip side and see if we can decrease appetite via this mechanism to help in cases of metabolic disease,” says Ayres.

The discovery also points to the tantalizing possibility of treating infectious diseases with approaches other than antibiotics, such as nutritional intervention. “Finding alternatives to antibiotics is incredibly important as these drugs have already encouraged the evolution of deadly antibiotic-resistant strains,” says Ayres. In the United States alone, two million people annually become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Tony

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day to one and all from me and Wondy.

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Be good to your heart today … and every day!

Tony

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The Sweet Truth About Chocolate

Herewith my reminder from last year on Valentine’s Day Eve.

Tony

One Regular Guy Writing about Food, Exercise and Living Past 100

In view of Valentine’s Day tomorrow and tons of chocolate being consumed in honor of it, I thought it might be useful to get a taste of chocolate’s impact on our health.

Medical News Today says, “Throughout the years, chocolate has been on the end of a lot of bad press because of its fat content, and its consumption has been associated with acne, obesity, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and diabetes.

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“However, ‘the recent discovery of biologically active phenolic compounds in cocoa has changed this perception and stimulated research on its effects in aging, oxidative stress, blood pressure regulation, and atherosclerosis. Today, chocolate is lauded for its tremendous antioxidant potential.’
The potential benefits of eating chocolate may include:
▪    lowering cholesterol levels
▪    preventing cognitive decline
▪    reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems.

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Whole grains improve immune response – Studies

Consumption of fast foods and processed foods took another hit today according to a couple of studies from Tufts.

In a clinical trial, adults who consumed a diet rich in whole grains rather than refined grains had modest improvements in healthy gut microbiota and certain immune responses. The research was conducted in tandem with a study that looked at the effects of a whole-grain diet on energy metabolism. Both studies are published online today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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Whole grain consumption has been associated with reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Researchers have speculated that whole grains lessen risk for diseases through reducing inflammation, but studies comparing the effects of whole grains versus refined grains consumption have not controlled the diets of study participants and have not evaluated cell-mediated immune responses to uncover the impact of whole grains on immune and inflammatory responses.

The research team analyzed the results from an eight-week randomized, controlled trial with 81 participants to see what effect a diet rich in whole grains, as opposed to a diet rich in refined grains, would have on immune and inflammatory responses, gut microbiota, and stool frequency in healthy adults. For the first two weeks, participants consumed the same weight-maintaining Western-style diet rich in refined grains. For the next six weeks, 40 of those participants stayed on that diet, while 41 participants consumed a diet rich in whole grains. Continue reading

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