Category Archives: aging brain

Aging arteries weaken memory – Study

Regular readers know of my concern about aging and its effect on cognition as three of my direct family members suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. For that reason I try to keep my arteries flexible through my program of regular exercise. I know that there is no known way to prevent Alzheimer’s, but I am willing to take any physical measures that I can to reduce my chances. Check out my Page  – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) for more details on this subject.

Researchers in Umeå, Sweden, have presented a model that explains why memory deteriorates as the body ages. With age, the brain receives an increased load from the heart’s beating as the body’s large arteries stiffen over the years, causing damage to the smallest blood vessels in the brain.

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The fact that human memory is deteriorating with increasing age is something that most people experience sooner or later, even among those who avoid diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Similarly, a connection between the ageing of the brain and the body is well known. However, the exact nature of this association is not known.

“We suggest a chain of events on how the aging of the brain and vessels are related,” says Lars Nyberg, professor at Umeå University.

What Umeå researchers Lars Nyberg and Anders Wåhlin have created is an explanatory model that starts with the heartbeat, and carries through the largest arteries in the body all the way to the finest vessels in the brain. An important feature of the model is that it provides a rationale why some cognitive processes may be particularly at risk for the proposed mechanism.

As the human body ages, large arteries, such as the aorta, stiffen and lose a large portion of their ability to absorb the pressure increase generated as the heart ejects blood into the arteries. Such pressure pulsatility is instead transmitted to smaller blood vessels, for example those in the brain. The smallest blood vessels in the brain, the capillaries, are subjected to an increased stress that causes damage to cells within and surrounding the capillary walls. These cells are important in the regulation of the capillary blood flow. If the smallest blood vessels are damaged, this is detrimental to the ability to increase the blood supply to the brain when coping with demanding cognitive processes.

According to the researchers’ model, the hippocampus in the brain is particularly vulnerable. The structure in that part of the brain is important for the episodic memory, that is, the ability to remember events from the past. The vulnerability of the hippocampus relates to the fact that it is located close to the large vessels and thus is exposed to the increased load early in the chain. In a young and healthy person, the pulsations are soft, but in an ageing person the pulsations can be so powerful that they affect the brain tissue and can damage the blood supply to memory processes.

The Umeå researchers’ model is based on a number of previous studies from the last five years.

“We have laid the puzzle of current and verified research in different fields to a broader and more detailed picture of the course of events. It will form a starting point for future research to gain a better understanding and, in the long term, researchers may also find solutions to slow down the process,” says Anders Wåhlin.

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10 Brain-saving techniques – Alzheimer’s Association

As regular readers know, I am very sensitive to cognitive impairment, having lost three close family members to Alzheimer’s and dementia. So I was very happy to come across this list of recommendations for building up our mental muscles and reducing our chances of contracting Alzheimer’s from the Alzheimer’s Association.

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“Research on cognitive decline is still evolving,” said Theresa Hocker, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association – North Central Texas Chapter. “But there are actions people can take. Certain healthy behaviors known to combat cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes also may reduce the risk of cognitive decline. These include staying mentally active, engaging in regular physical activity, and eating a heart-healthy diet that benefits your body and your brain.”

1. Break a sweat. Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body. Several studies have found an association between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline.

2. Hit the books. Formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. For example, take a class at a local college, community center or online.

3. Butt out. Evidence shows that smoking increases risk of cognitive decline. Quitting smoking can reduce that risk to levels comparable to those who have not smoked. Continue reading

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Diets rich in blueberries yield diverse benefits

A collection of new studies in The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences further quantifies how blueberry consumption can contribute to healthy aging.

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“Since the 1990s, research on the health benefits of blueberries has grown exponentially,” wrote guest editor Donald K. Ingram, PhD, FGSA, in an opening editorial. “Studies have documented that this fruit ranks highest in antioxidant activity compared to many other popular fruits. Moreover, other mechanisms for the health benefits of blueberries, such as their anti-inflammatory properties, have been identified.”

Ingram’s editorial is followed by four articles in a special section of the journal’s Biological Sciences section. One of the studies found that consuming 200 grams of blueberries (about one cup) daily can improve blood vessel function and decrease systolic blood pressure. As the cause, the authors cited anthocyanins, which are phytochemicals that give blueberries their dark color.

Other studies document the cognitive benefits of eating blueberries. One tied the fruit’s high polyphenol count to improved performance on memory tests by a group of older adults. Likewise, another journal article provides a review of several clinical studies focusing on benefits of blueberry supplementation — with a focus on specific memory effects in children as well as older adults with mild cognitive impairment.

The journal collection also includes a rodent study, which presents data on the improved memory performance of blueberry-supplemented aged rats compared to rats on a control diet.

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Seniors Improve Brain Function by Raising Fitness Level – University of Kansas

Science Daily reported that a professor of neurology at KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center, led a six-month trial conducted with healthy adults ages 65 and older who showed no signs of cognitive decline.

The randomized controlled trial attempted to determine the ideal amount of exercise necessary to achieve benefits to the brain.

Exercises-for-Seniors-and-Benefits

Before proceeding, I would like to add that I am now in my tenth year of writing this blog. To continue that long at a healthy pace (+3000 posts) you have to be motivated and get positive feedback.

Reading about this new study on exercise benefiting the brain was extraordinarily positive feedback. I have written about the benefits of exercise and the brain for several years. You can check out my Page – Important Facts About Your Brain (and Exercise) for more details. Suffice it to say that the KU report was most welcome. Continue reading

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Left brain vs right brain …

The human brain fascinates me for lots of reasons. I have taken several courses in it from The Great Courses and recommend them for anyone curious about this amazing organ that lives inside our heads. I have written a number of posts on various aspects of the brain which I recommend your chasing down. Just type in b r a i n into the SEARCH BOX at the right. Also, you can check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits). Last, but not least, of course, there is the specter of dementia in general and Alzheimer’s Disease, in particular. I have lost three family members to these afflictions and, at the age of 79, I am very focused on my mental functions. Which brings us to this wonderful article in Medical News Today on the two hemispheres of the brain – the left and the right.

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The two hemispheres or sides of the brain have slightly different jobs. But can one side be dominant and does this affect personality?

Some people believe that a person is either left-brained or right-brained and that this determines the way they think and behave.

In this article, we explore the truth and fallacy behind this claim. Read on to learn more about the functions and characteristics of the left and right brain. Continue reading

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New blood test for Alzheimer’s – Study

There is possible good news is the study of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers from Lund University, together with the Roche pharmaceutical company, have used a method to develop a new blood marker capable of detecting whether or not a person has Alzheimer’s disease. If the method is approved for clinical use, the researchers hope eventually to see it used as a diagnostic tool in primary healthcare. This autumn, they will start a trial in primary healthcare to test the technique.

MIT-Mood-Disoders

Currently, a major support in the diagnostics of Alzheimer’s disease is the identification of abnormal accumulation of the substance beta-amyloid, which can be detected either in a spinal fluid sample or through brain imaging using a PET scanner. Continue reading

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Some dementia patients show moments of clarity at end of life – Study

It happens unexpectedly: a person long thought lost to the ravages of dementia, unable to recall the events of their lives or even recognize those closest to them, will suddenly wake up and exhibit surprisingly normal behavior, only to pass away shortly thereafter. This phenomenon, which experts refer to as terminal or paradoxical lucidity, has been reported since antiquity, yet there have been very few scientific studies of it. That may be about to change.

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In an article published in the August issue of Alzheimer’s & Dementia , an interdisciplinary workgroup convened by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute on Aging and led by Michigan Medicine’s George A. Mashour, M.D., Ph.D., outlines what is known and unknown about paradoxical lucidity, considers its potential mechanisms, and details how a thorough scientific analysis could help shed light on the pathophysiology of dementia. Continue reading

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Seniors – Raise fitness level; Improve brain function – KU

Science Daily reported that a professor of neurology at Kansas University (KU) Alzheimer’s Disease Center, led a six-month trial conducted with healthy adults ages 65 and older who showed no signs of cognitive decline.

The randomized controlled trial attempted to determine the ideal amount of exercise necessary to achieve benefits to the brain.

Exercises-for-Seniors-and-Benefits

Before proceeding, I would like to add that I am now in my sixth year of writing this blog. To continue that long at a healthy pace (+2500 posts) you have to be motivated and get positive feedback.

Reading about this new study on exercise benefiting the brain was extraordinarily positive feedback. I have written about the benefits of exercise and the brain for several years. You can check out my Page – Important Facts About Your Brain (and Exercise) for more details. Suffice it to say that the KU report was most welcome. Continue reading

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Teeth brushing may fight Alzheimer’s

As a person with no less than three cases of Alzheimer’s/dementia in his family, I have serious interest in anything relating to maintaining brain health and function. So, I was most interested in this item from the University of Bergen.

You don’t only avoid holes in your teeth by keeping good oral hygiene, researchers at the University of Bergen have discovered a clear connection between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

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The researchers have determined that gum disease (gingivitis) plays a decisive role in whether a person develops Alzheimer’s or not.

“We discovered DNA-based proof that the bacteria causing gingivitis can move from the mouth to the brain,” says researcher Piotr Mydel at Broegelmanns Research Laboratory, Department of Clinical Science, University of Bergen (UiB).

The bacteria produces a protein that destroys nerve cells in the brain, which in turn leads to loss of memory and ultimately, Alzheimer’s. Continue reading

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Tips on living a longer life – WebMD

Regular readers know that I am a big fan of WebMD. I often quote from them to share ideas with readers. They have just run an item on living longer that has some wonderful suggestions. By no small coincidence, I have also included many of the same suggestions in this blog over the past nine plus years. However, here are a few that were new to me:

Profiles of two partners looking at each other while arm wrestling

Profiles of two partners looking at each other while arm wrestling

“Be Conscientious – An 80-year study found one of the best predictors of a long life is a conscientious personality. Researchers measured attributes like attention to detail and persistence. They found that conscientious people do more things to protect their health and make choices that lead to stronger relationships and better careers. “

As a person who considers himself to be conscientious I was happy to learn that it may be instrumental in my living longer.

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Reaching and grasping — Learning fine motor coordination changes the brain

When we train the reaching for and grasping of objects, we also train our brain. In other words, this action brings about changes in the connections of a certain neuronal population in the red nucleus, a region of the midbrain. Researchers at the University of Basel’s Biozentrum have discovered this group of nerve cells in the red nucleus. They have also shown how fine motor tasks promote plastic reorganization of this brain region. The results of the study have been published recently in Nature Communications.

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Simply grasping a coffee cup needs fine motor coordination with the highest precision. This required performance of the brain is an ability that can also be learned and trained. Prof. Kelly Tan’s research group at the Biozentrum, University of Basel, has investigated the red nucleus, a region of the midbrain that controls fine motor movement, and identified a new population of nerve cells which changes when fine motor coordination is trained. The more that grasping is practiced, the more the connections between the neurons of this group of nerve cells are strengthened. Continue reading

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How to boost brain health and fight Alzheimer’s

At the risk of being repetitious, I just wanted to pass along some good information on keeping your brain intact while you are pursuing a life of healthy eating and regular exercise. That’s why you’re reading this blog, right?

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The seven guidelines to reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease are:

  • Minimize your intake of saturated fats and trans fats. Saturated fat is found primarily in dairy products, meats, and certain oils (coconut and palm oils). Trans fats are found in many snack pastries and fried foods and are listed on labels as “partially hydrogenated oils.”
  • Eat plant-based foods. Vegetables, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), fruits, and whole grains should replace meats and dairy products as primary staples of the diet.
  • Consume 15 milligrams of vitamin E, from foods, each day. Vitamin E should come from foods, rather than supplements. Healthful food sources of vitamin E include seeds, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains. Note: The RDA for vitamin E is 15 milligrams per day.
  • Take a B12 supplement. A reliable source of B12, such as fortified foods or a supplement providing at least the recommended daily allowance (2.4 micrograms per day for adults), should be part of your daily diet. Note: Have your blood levels of vitamin B12 checked regularly as many factors, including age, impair absorption.
  • Avoid vitamins with iron and copper. If using multivitamins, choose those without iron and copper, and consume iron supplements only when directed by your physician.
  • Choose aluminum-free products. While aluminum’s role in Alzheimer’s disease remains a matter of investigation, those who desire to minimize their exposure can avoid the use of cookware, antacids, baking powder, or other products that contain aluminum.
  • Exercise for 120 minutes each week. Include aerobic exercise in your routine, equivalent to 40 minutes of brisk walking, three times per week.

Other preventive measures, such as getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night and participating in 30 to 40 minutes of mental activity most days of the week, such as completing crossword puzzles, reading the newspaper, or learning a new language, can only help boost brain health.

Before you leave, just wanted to pass on a reminder about my Page – Important facts about your brain – and exercise benefits.

Tony

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How do you feel about aging?

Asking your opinion on aging is not just an idle query. Does aging mean decline and disability to you? Or do you consider aging to be a time of opportunity and growth?

According to the Wall Street Journal, your attitude about aging plays a key role in how well you actually experience getting older.

“In test after test, researchers are finding that if we think about getting older in terms of decline or disability, our health likely will suffer. If, on the other hand, we see aging in terms of opportunity and growth, our bodies respond in kind,” Anne Tergesen wrote in the WSJ.

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The good news is that there is a real physical and mental upside to aging with positive attitudes. On the other hand, negative stereotypes which are pervasive in America can do serious harm to all concerned. Continue reading

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Does solo living raise mental health risk?

Full disclosure. I am a senior who lives alone. I do have a girlfriend and a dog whom I consider to be constant companions, so that may temper the damage of living solo as reported by Medical News Today.

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A new study has concluded that living alone is linked to common mental disorders. The authors have also identified the main driver of this worrying relationship.

Some common mental disorders (CMDs) include mood disorders, anxiety, and substance use disorders.

According to some studies, almost one-third of people will experience a CMD in their lifetime.

These conditions can have a significant impact on the individual, of course, but due to their high prevalence, they also affect society at large.

Due to the widespread influence of CMDs, scientists are keen to understand the full range of risk factors that feed into mental health.

In recent years, scientists have investigated whether living alone might be one such risk factor. Continue reading

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Researchers Define Alzheimer’s-like Brain Disorder

As regular readers know, I have a history of Alzheimer’s Disease or some form of dementia on both sides of my family, so I entertain a strong interest in the subject, particularly since I am a senior citizen.

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A brain disorder that mimics symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease has been defined with recommended diagnostic criteria and guidelines for advancing future research on the condition. Researchers at Rush University Medical Center and scientists from several National Institutes of Health-funded institutions, in collaboration with international peers, described the newly named pathway to dementia, limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy, or LATE, in a report published today in the journal Brain.

“We proposed a new name to increase recognition and research for this common cause of dementia, the symptoms of which mimic Alzheimer’s dementia but is not caused by plaques and tangles (the buildup of beta amyloid proteins that Alzheimer’s produces). Rather, LATE dementia is caused by deposits of a protein called TDP-43 in the brain,” said Dr. Julie Schneider, senior author of the Brain paper and associate director of the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center. Continue reading

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Creativity is not just for the young – study

If you believe that great scientists are most creative when they’re young, you are missing part of the story.

A new study of winners of the Nobel Prize in economics finds that there are two different life cycles of creativity, one that  hits some people early in their career and another that more often strikes later in life.

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In this study, the early peak was found for laureates in their mid-20s and the later peak for those in their mid-50s.

The research supports previous work by the authors that found similar patterns in the arts and other sciences.

“We believe what we found in this study isn’t limited to economics, but could apply to creativity more generally,” said Bruce Weinberg, lead author of the study and professor of economics at The Ohio State University. Continue reading

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