Health Secrets of a SuperAger
Although all of us senior citizens have our ‘moments,’ recent studies have shown that we can retain our mental clarity by following some basic habits of good health.
Harvard Medical School lists a number of habits that can cut into our chances of suffering from dementia in our old age. They include staying physically active, getting enough sleep, not smoking, having good social connections, limiting alcohol to one drink a day, and eating a balanced diet low in saturated and trans fats.
In addition, they point out several health conditions that can impair cognitive skills, including diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, depression, hypothyroidism, and high LDL (bad) cholesterol. If you suffer from any of these, they recommend that you follow your doctor’s advice.
They list six strategies that Harvard offers to protect and sharpen our memory and our minds.
1. Keep learning
According to experts challenging your brain with…
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A study just released by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health researchers is reporting a blood-DNA-methylation measure that is sensitive to variation in the pace of biological aging among individuals born the same year. The tool—DunedinPoAm—offers a unique measurement for intervention trials and natural experiment studies investigating how the rate of aging may be changed by behavioral or drug therapy, or by changes to the environment. Study findings are published online in the journal e-Life.
“The goal of our study was to distill a measurement of the rate of biological aging based on 12 years of follow-up on 18 different clinical tests into a blood test that can be administered at a single time point,” says lead author Daniel Belsky, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School and a researcher at the Butler Columbia Aging Center.
As an 80 year old, I have to confess I read about this study with a great deal of personal interest and identification.
People say life gets better with age. Now research suggests this may be because older people have the wisdom and time to use mindfulness as a means to improve well being.
Healthy aging researchers at Flinders University say certain characteristics of mindfulness seem more strongly evident in older people compared to younger people – and suggest ways for all ages to benefit.
“This suggests that mindfulness may naturally develop with time and life experience,” says behavioral scientist Associate Professor Tim Windsor, who co-authored a recent study based on an online community survey of 623 participants aged between 18 and 86 years. Continue reading
Americans in the prime of life, age 25 to 64, are dying at a greater rate than in years past, lowering overall U.S. life expectancy, according to a new study published Nov. 26 in JAMA.
Life expectancy — the average number of years a newborn can expect to live — increased in the U.S. by almost 10 years between 1959 and 2016, from 69.9 years to 78.9 years. However, it declined for three consecutive years after 2014, driven largely by a higher mortality rate in middle-aged people of all racial groups.
In the NIA-supported study, researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University analyzed data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the U.S. Mortality Database, and CDC Wonder. They found that from 1999 to 2010, the number of deaths per 100,000 people decreased for all age groups. This decline is attributable to reduced death rates from several specific causes, including heart attacks, motor vehicle injuries, HIV infection and cancer.
Declining mental sharpness “just comes with age,” right? Not so fast, say geriatrics researchers and clinicians gathered at a prestigious 2018 conference hosted by the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) with support from the National Institute on Aging (NIA).
In a report published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (JAGS), attendees of a conference for the NIA’s Grants for Early Medical/Surgical Specialists Transition into Aging Research (GEMSSTAR) program describe how increasing evidence shows age-related diseases–rather than age itself–may be the key cause of cognitive decline. And while old age remains a primary risk factor for cognitive impairment, researchers believe future research–and sustained funding–could illuminate more complex, nuanced connections between cognitive health, overall health, and how we approach age. Continue reading
Blood pressure is like what Mark Twain said about the weather, “Everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it.” Well almost. I have found that blood pressure is one of those subjects that is widely and wildly misunderstood. I used to think it was like grey hair on old people. Everybody has it. I was dead wrong.
Few assumptions are more dangerous than this one: If you have high blood pressure, you know it.
Doctors refer to high blood pressure, or hypertension, as a silent killer because it rarely produces warning signs.
“When symptoms do occur, such as headache, nosebleeds or blurry vision, high blood pressure may have already reached severe and possibly life-threatening levels,” says Daniel Pohlman, MD, a primary care doctor at Rush University Medical Center. Continue reading
I wanted to reblog this because I ran it six years ago and it seems unlikely that a lot of you are familiar with it. Also, there are some great ideas inside. Enjoy!
Health Secrets of a SuperAger
I ran across this excellent discussion of senior cycling on RoadBikeRider.com. They have graciously permitted me to reprint it. See permission at end.
RBR Editor’s Note: Coach John Hughes copied me on a recent email exchange he had with Marty Hoganson, an RBR reader with whom he had ridden on tours in years gone by. Marty wondered what, if any, differences there are in terms of recovery, motivation, etc., between 50-somethings and 70-somethings. Both agreed to let me share the exchange with RBR readers. It provides a wealth of solid, useful information.
These days I live and ride in Yuma, Arizona. I am involved in our local bike club called Foothills Bicycle Club, which is primarily made up of retired folks – late-50s to mid-80s. Many strong riders in their 60s and 70s, for their ages — or any age, for that matter.
Now that I am older…
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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.
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
I am fortunate to live in a big city and have lots of social outlets. For my senior readers, here are some suggestions from the National Institute on Aging for dealing with situations which are less hospitable.
This infographic says to get moving. I can’t stress enough how beneficial my daily bike riding is for me. I get out of the apartment and enjoy flying across the pavement. In the good weather I put my dog in the basket. But, I always bring my water bottle with the bluetooth speaker on top. I get to listen to my favorite songs from my iPhone the whole time, not to mention enjoying being out in nature. Don’t forget: the law of the body is – use it or lose it.
Eat less; move more; live longer. It works every time. Here is more good news. This time from a program specifically for very seniors – over 75s.
A program of personalized physical exercise implemented over a three-year period and involving 370 people over the age of 75 admitted to the Geriatric Service of the Hospital Complex of Navarre (CHN) has turned out to be “safe and effective” in reversing the functional deterioration associated with hospitalization to which patients in this age group are subjected. Other aspects such as cognitive status and life quality also benefited.
This is the conclusion of a research project coordinated by Nicolás Martínez-Velilla and Mikel Izquierdo-Redín, researchers at Navarrabiomed, the biomedical research centre of the Government of Navarre and the Public University of Navarre (NUP/UPNA); its results have just been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA Internal Medicine).
These findings open up the possibility of medical hospitalization units changing their traditional paradigm to focus on functional status as a clinical sign that may be negatively affected by traditional hospitalization classically based on bed rest. Continue reading
They say you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but new research shows you can teach an old rat new sounds, even if the lesson doesn’t stick very long.
For the record I wrote a post on that damaging cliche about teaching old dogs new tricks. You can read it here – Of cats and dogs and cliches ….
Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro) of McGill University examined the effects of aging on neuroplasticity in the primary auditory cortex, the part of the brain that processes auditory information. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to modify its connections and function in response to environmental demands, an important process in learning.
Plasticity in the young brain is very strong as we learn to map our surroundings using the senses. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Plasticity in the young brain is very strong as we learn to map our surroundings using the senses. As we grow older, plasticity decreases to stabilize what we have already learned. This stabilization is partly controlled by a neurotransmitter called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), which inhibits neuronal activity. This role of GABA was discovered by K.A.C. Elliot and Ernst Florey at The Neuro in 1956. Continue reading
Eat less; move more; live longer. It’s never too late to start.
Exercising regularly throughout life is the best way to keep your heart healthy. But starting to exercise even in late middle age may lessen the risk of heart failure, according to a report in the May 15 issue of Circulation. Heart failure, a gradual decline in the heart’s ability to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs, affects about 6.5 million people in the United States.
The study involved more than 11,000 people who were part of a long-running project begun in the late 1980s, the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. Every six years, participants got medical testing and filled out questionnaires about their physical activity.
People who followed federal recommendations for physical activity (see How much physical activity do you need?) for the first 12 years of the study had the lowest risk of heart failure—31% lower than people who didn’t exercise at all. But people who increased their physical activity levels starting around age 60 over a period of just six years lowered their risk by 12%.
As a plus 80-year-old writing blog on diet, exercise and living past 100, I am keenly interested in everything that reflects on the brain and its part in aging, as well as the actual aging of the brain itself. Remember, I have three cases of dementia in my family including one certain one of Alzheimer’s.
This is a shot of my dog and me riding on the Chicago Lakefront.
While everyone gets older, not everyone feels their age. A recent study finds that such feelings, called subjective age, may reflect brain aging. Using MRI brain scans, researchers found that elderly people who feel younger than their age show fewer signs of brain aging, compared with those who feel their age or older than their age. Published in open-access journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, this study is the first to find a link between subjective age and brain aging. The results suggest that elderly people who feel older than their age should consider caring for their brain health.
We tend to think of aging as a fixed process, where our bodies and minds change steadily. However, the passing years affect everyone differently. How old we feel, which is called our subjective age, also varies between people—with many feeling older or younger than their actual age. Continue reading
I have found that most people consider osteoporosis to be a women’s affliction. The reason is that statistics show two out of three women over the age of 50 will experience osteoporosis while only one out of three men will. This is clearly a disease that affects more of us as we age. I think it is important for us men to keep in mind that while statistics show more women get it, the fact is, as women outlive men, there are simply more of them around. Osteoporosis is definitely something of which men should be aware.
A new expert consensus endorsed by the European Society for Clinical and Economical Aspects of Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis, and Musculoskeletal Diseases (ESCEO) and the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) has reviewed the benefits and safety of dietary protein for bone health, based on analyses of major research studies. The review, published in Osteoporosis International found that a protein-rich diet, provided there is adequate calcium intake, is in fact beneficial for adult bone health. It also found no evidence that acid load due to higher dietary protein intakes, whether of animal or vegetable origin, is damaging to bone health.
The key findings of the extensive literature review include: Continue reading
I love these WebMD quizzes. I thought this was a particularly germane one for us.
There are only nine questions, but I want to offer a couple of sample. You can take the quiz here.
I only missed a couple (wheew!). Since I have been writing this blog for nearly 10 years, I expected to crush it.
Here are a couple of examples:
True or False – Thinner is better as you get older. Unlike the majority of our lives, things change as we age. The answer is, “You want to be healthy, not frail. For older adults, what matters most is how active you are and whether you can do all your everyday activities. While it’s important to stay at a healthy weight, how much of your weight ”
I thought that was an excellent insight which many people would not know.
True or False. Gaining weight is a fact of aging. This one is also not obvious. “You can keep your weight steady as you age. It does get harder, but it’s possible. Those corners you cut when you were younger (huge portions, happy hours, little to no exercise)? You can’t But age doesn’t have to equal weight gain.”
I must admit that the statement, You can’t get away with them anymore, is, I think, no secret to any of us over 50.
Relentless cognitive decline as we age is worrisome, and it is widely thought to be an unavoidable negative aspect of normal aging. Researchers at the Center for Brain Health at The University of Texas at Dallas, however, say their research could provide new hope for extending our brain function as we age.
In a randomized clinical study involving adults age 56 to 71 that recently published in Neurobiology of Aging, researchers found that after cognitive training, participants’ brains were more energy efficient, meaning their brain did not have to work as hard to perform a task.
Dr. Michael Motes, senior research scientist at the Center for BrainHealth and one of the lead authors of the study, said, “Finding a nonpharmacological intervention that can help the aging brain to perform like a younger brain is a welcome finding that potentially advances understanding of ways to enhance brain health and longevity. It is thrilling for me as a cognitive neuroscientist, who has previously studied age-related cognitive decline, to find that cognitive training has the potential to strengthen the aging brain to function more like a younger brain.” Continue reading