Mental health tips for seniors – NIA

As people age, changes such as hearing and vision loss, memory loss, disability, trouble getting around, and the loss of family and friends can make it difficult to maintain social connections. This makes older adults more likely to be socially isolated or to feel lonely. Although they sound similar, social isolation and loneliness are different, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA). Loneliness is the distressing feeling of being alone or separated, while social isolation is the lack of social contacts and having few people to interact with regularly.

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Several recent studies show that older adults who are socially isolated or feel lonely are at higher risk for heart disease, depression, and cognitive decline. A 2021 study of more than 11,000 adults older than age 70 found that loneliness was associated with a greater risk of heart disease. Another recent study found that socially isolated older adults experienced more chronic lung conditions and depressive symptoms compared to older adults with social support.

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What about seniors drinking alcohol? -NIA


Like all adults, older adults should avoid or limit alcohol consumption. In fact, aging can lead to social and physical changes that make older adults more susceptible to alcohol misuse and abuse and more vulnerable to the consequences of alcohol. Alcohol dependence or heavy drinking affects every organ in the body, including the brain.

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comprehensive study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism shows that alcohol consumption among older adults, especially women, is on the rise. The researchers also found evidence that certain brain regions show signs of premature aging in alcohol-dependent men and women. In addition, heavy drinking for extended periods of time in older adults may contribute to poor heart health, as shown in this 2016 study. These studies suggest that stopping or limiting the use of alcohol could improve heart health and prevent the accelerated aging seen with heavy alcohol use.

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Frivolous Friday…

Have a great weekend!

Tony

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Learning a musical instrument may confer lifelong cognitive benefits

Musical training has long been linked to better general cognitive functioning. Studies investigating everything from the cognitive skills of adult musicians vs non-musicians to the effects of instrument lessons on children’s cognition has come out in support of the idea, according to the British Psychological Society.

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However, relatively few studies have explored whether the benefits last — if, as a child, you have piano lessons, for example, does this have any impact on your cognitive abilities in later life? The results of a new longitudinal study, in Psychological Science, which tested the same people at the ages of 11 and 70, suggest that it does. Cognitive benefits of musical training seem to be evident even decades later.

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Leisure activities may improve seniors’ longevity – NIH

Eat less; move more; live longer … How many times have you read that on these pages? Now comes the National Institutes of Health with more of the same.

Physical activity is vital for your health. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight and prevent chronic diseases ranging from heart disease to diabetes. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get a minimum of 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week, or at least half that amount of vigorous-intensity activity.

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Previous studies have found that a wide variety of leisure-time physical activities can provide health benefits. But these studies have largely been done in younger adults. And many did not track different levels of various types of activities.

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Daytime eating may benefit mental health

Beating the blues with food? A new study adds evidence that meal timing may affect mental health, including levels of depression- and anxiety-related mood. Investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a founding member of the Mass General Brigham healthcare system, designed a study that simulated night work and then tested the effects of daytime and nighttime eating versus daytime eating only. The team found that, among participants in the daytime and nighttime eating group, depression-like mood levels increased by 26 percent and anxiety-like mood levels by 16 percent. Participants in the daytime-only eating group did not experience this increase, suggesting that meal timing may influence mood vulnerability. Results are published in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Risk factors for heart disease and stroke largely similar in men and women globally

Women and men share most of the same risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), a large international study has found – the first such study to include people not only from high income countries, but also from low- and middle-income countries where the burden of CVD is the greatest.

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The study was published in The Lancet.

The global study assessed risk factors, including metabolic (such as high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes), behavioral (smoking and diet), and psycho-social (economic status and depression) in about 156,000 people without a history of CVD between the ages of 35 and 70. Living in 21 low, middle and high-income countries on five continents, they were followed for an average of 10 years.

“Women and men have similar CVD risk factors, which emphasizes the importance of a similar strategy for the prevention of CVD in men and women,” said the paper’s first author Marjan Walli-Attaei, a research fellow at the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS).

Overall, women had a lower risk of developing CVD than men, especially at younger ages.

However, diet was more strongly associated with CVD risk in woman than men – “something that’s not been previous described, and which requires independent confirmation,” said Salim Yusuf, lead investigator of the study, senior author, executive director of PHRI, professor of medicine at McMaster University, and cardiologist at HHS.

High levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol and symptoms of depression were more strongly associated with CVD risk in men than in women.

The patterns of these findings were generally similar in high-income countries and upper-middle-income countries, and in low-income and lower-middle-income countries.

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How slow muscle fibers convince their neighbors to join them

Researchers from Tokyo Metropolitan University have discovered that a protein excreted by type I (slow) muscle fibers, key to muscle endurance, can cause surrounding myoblasts, precursors to muscle cells, to differentiate into type I fibers. This upturns prevailing wisdom which says our fast/slow fiber ratio can’t be significantly changed. They also identified the chemical pathway by which the protein affects differentiation. Such findings may one day lead to therapies to control slow muscle health.

Rspo3 is excreted from “slow” type I fibers (not from “fast” fibers), which promotes the accumulation of beta-catenin inside myoblasts. This leads to the increased production of MyHC I and the eventual differentiation of the myoblast into a type I fiber.

Skeletal muscle tissue is made up of hundreds of thousands of fibers which contract on command. However, they are not all the same. There are “slow” type I muscle fibers, important for endurance exercise, and “fast” type II fibers which can respond much more quickly but for shorter periods of time. Type I fibers might be likened to marathon runners, while type II fibers might be called sprinters. For a long time, the prevailing wisdom has been that the ratio of type I to type II fibers in our muscles is largely determined at birth.

But scientists are beginning to find that this is not the case. A team of researchers from Tokyo Metropolitan University led by Professor Nobuharu Fujii have now discovered that a protein excreted by type I muscle known as R-spondin3 (Rspo3) may hold the key to the development of new type I fibers. When myoblasts, precursors to muscle cells, were treated with Rspo3, they began to produce significantly higher amounts of Myosin Heavy Chain I (MyHC I), a protein produced by type I muscle. The effect seemed to be unique to myoblasts in early stages of their development. This means that type I fibers actively induce the formation of more type I fibers in their vicinity, excreting Rspo3 and acting on the differentiation of nearby cells. The finding sheds new light on the role of muscles in our bodies and upturns conventional wisdom which says that the ratio of type I to type II fibers can’t be changed. The team were also able to show that this happened via a specific cascade of chemical reactions known as the Wnt/beta-catenin pathway, responsible for the necessary accumulation of beta-catenin inside cells. Experiments to artificially reduce the amount of beta-catenin in cells, for example, led to suppression of increased MyHC I expression.

Type 2 diabetes and lack of exercise are two of many reasons why slow muscle fibers may atrophy. The team’s findings suggest that it is actually possible to specifically encourage the development of type I fibers through therapeutic means. For example, Rspo3 may be used directly as a treatment, or used to differentiate muscle cells taken from a patient before the tissue is replanted. If cells can excrete Rspo3 and affect surrounding cells, the benefits will be more than just the mass that is reintroduced. Such insights promise exciting new possibilities for treatments to improve muscular function, a key challenge for aging populations and society.

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Diet change may return bigger heart health rewards than other lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes are known to reduce the risk for heart attacks and strokes. A new study that simulated the effect of lifestyle change on future cardiovascular risks for people with high blood pressure suggests one change – adopting a heart-healthy diet – may do more than others.

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The findings predict adopting the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet would do more to cut cardiovascular events over a 10-year period than changes such as weight loss and physical activity for young and middle-aged adults with stage 1 hypertension that isn’t being treated.

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Frivolous Friday …

Having retired 22 years ago, I know that I am out of the ‘flow’ of office and work experience. A lot of folks don’t even go in to the office any more. Nonetheless, I would have thought that being a librarian was one of the most tranquil jobs imaginable. Looking at these faux paperback book covers, however, I realize how wrong I would be.

Tony

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Can the Flu Shot Reduce Your Risk of Stroke? 

For the record, I get a flu shot every year and encourage readers to do the same. Check out My post It’s Time to Get that Flu Shot.

Getting an annual flu shot may be associated with a lower risk of stroke, according to a study published in the September 7, 2022, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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“Studies have shown that getting the flu increases your risk of having a stroke, but research is still being collected on whether getting the flu vaccine can help protect against a stroke,” said study author Francisco J. de Abajo, MD, MPH, PhD, of the University of Alcalá in Madrid, Spain. “This observational study suggests that those who have a flu shot have a lower risk of stroke. To determine whether this is due to a protective effect of the vaccine itself or to other factors, more research is needed.”

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High blood pressure may accelerate bone aging – AHA

When high blood pressure was induced in young mice, they had bone loss and osteoporosis-related bone damage comparable to older mice, according to new research presented today at the American Heart Association’s Hypertension Scientific Sessions 2022 conference, held Sept. 7-10, 2022, in San Diego. The meeting is the premier scientific exchange focused on recent advances in basic and clinical research on high blood pressure and its relationship to cardiac and kidney disease, stroke, obesity and genetics.

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High blood pressure and osteoporosis are prevalent diseases, and people may have both at the same time. In this study, researchers examined inflammation associated with high blood pressure in mice and found it may be connected to osteoporosis.

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Music helps patients with dementia connect with loved ones – NW

People with dementia often lose their ability to communicate verbally with loved ones in later stages of the disease. But a Northwestern Medicine study, in collaboration with Institute for Therapy through the Arts (ITA), shows how that gap can be bridged with a new music intervention. 

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In the intervention — developed at ITA and called “Musical Bridges to Memory” — a live ensemble plays music from a patient’s youth such as songs from the musicals “Oklahoma” or “The Sound of Music.” This creates an emotional connection between a patient and their caregiver by allowing them to interact with the music together via singing, dancing and playing simple instruments, the study authors said. 

The program also enhanced patients’ social engagement and reduced neuropsychiatric symptoms such as agitation, anxiety and depression in both patients and caregivers.

More than 6 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s disease. 

The study is unusual because it targeted patients with dementia and their caregivers, said lead study author Dr. Borna Bonakdarpour. Most prior studies using music for dementia patients have focused only on the patients. 

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Deep dive on exercise and the heart – JACC

The Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) has issued a four-part focus seminar series on sports cardiology and of the impact of physical activity, cardio-respiratory fitness and exercise training on the general U.S. population and professional athletes’ cardiovascular health.

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“The field of sports cardiology is a well-established but still rapidly evolving sub-specialty,” said Jason C. Kovacic, professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and author of the accompanying introduction article to the focus seminar series. “Given the mounting interest in sports cardiology, its key relevance to all cardiovascular practitioners, and the knowledge explosion in this field, we felt it was particularly timely to pay special attention to this broad topic with a JACC Focus Seminar series.”

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Poor physical function after age 65 associated with future cardiovascular disease – AHA

Link found between physical function and cardiovascular disease risk in older adults, according to new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association

Among people older than age 65 who were assessed using a short physical function test, having lower physical function was independently associated with a greater risk of developing heart attack, heart failure and stroke, according to new research published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access, peer-reviewed journal of the American Heart Association.

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The Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB) used in this study is considered a measure of physical function, which includes walking speed, leg strength and balance. This study examined physical function, which is different from physical fitness.

“While traditional cardiovascular disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking or diabetes are closely linked to cardiovascular disease, particularly in middle-aged people, we also know these factors may not be as predictive in older adults, so we need to identify nontraditional predictors for older adults,” said study senior author Kunihiro Matsushita, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Division of Cardiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. “We found that physical function in older adults predicts future cardiovascular disease beyond traditional heart disease risk factors, regardless of whether an individual has a history of cardiovascular disease.”

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Is your blood type linked to your risk of stroke before age 60?

Gene variants associated with a person’s blood type may be linked to their risk of early stroke, according to a new meta-analysis published in the August 31, 2022, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The meta-analysis included all available data from genetic studies that included young adult ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blockage of blood flow to the brain.

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“Non-O blood types have previously been linked to a risk of early stroke, but the findings of our meta-analysis showed a stronger link between these blood types with early stroke compared to late stroke, and in linking risk mostly to blood type A,” said study author Braxton D. Mitchell, PhD, MPH, of University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. “Specifically, our meta-analysis suggests that gene variants tied to blood types A and O represent nearly all of those genetically linked with early stroke. People with these gene variants may be more likely to develop blood clots, which can lead to stroke.”

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