Category Archives: aging

Tufts on the benefits of walking

I have written repeatedly about the health benefits of walking. For a good rundown, check out my Page – Why you should walk more. Herewith further elucidation on the benefits of what I call ‘the Cinderella of the exercise world-‘ walking from Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter.

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Did you get your 10,000 steps today? Many people have adopted this daily walking goal to obtain the recommended amount of physical activity. The 10,000-steps-a-day number comes from the Japanese brand name of a pedometer manufactured in the 1960s, the “10,000 steps meter.” In the Fitbit era, counting daily steps remains appealing to many people as a source of motivation.

In the U.S., adults are urged to get the equivalent of 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise. Walking is a popular way to meet those recommendations, particularly in older adults or people who are relatively physically inactive.

Although 10,000 steps is a worthy challenge, aiming for more exercise than you normally get—unless you are one of the few who regularly trains for marathons or triathlons—comes with benefits. Any amount or type of physical activity adds to your daily goal. Regularly taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking farther away from your destination, can make a measurable improvement in your health.

A recent study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that the benefits of walking on longevity were equivalent whether people got their steps in one long walk, a few shorter ones, or even brief walk breaks of a few minutes—as long as the physical activity was regular.

Preserving Mobility: Among the most important benefits of walking for older adults is preserving physical mobility—the ability to walk without assistance. In 2014, a study involving Tufts researchers called Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) trial provided evidence for the benefits of physical activity in older adults at risk of immobility and disability and other associated health problems.

“This study, for the first time, showed conclusively that a regular program of physical activity can preserve independence among older men and women,” says Roger A. Fielding, PhD, director of the HNRCA Nutrition, Exercise, Physiology and Sarcopenia Laboratory, who led the Tufts portion of the study.

The LIFE trial was designed to test the ability of physical activity to prevent major mobility disability, defined as the inability to walk for about a quarter-mile (400 meters) within 15 minutes, without sitting and without the help of another person or walker. Use of a cane was allowed. The study involved 1,635 men and women, ages 70 to 89, at 8 universities and research centers across the country, including Tufts.

On a practical level, the walking test gauges a person’s general fitness to perform ordinary activities like shopping, household chores and travel. Not being able to pass the test is a harbinger of future immobility.

Participants were relatively sedentary at the start of the study, having reported less than 20 minutes per week of physical activity in the previous month. The volunteers were randomly assigned to either weekly health education classes with 10 minutes of gentle stretching, or to a program consisting of exercises for strength, flexibility and balance, as well as walking. Participants were told to set as their goal 30 minutes a day of walking at moderate intensity.

Over the average 2.6-year study period, participants in the exercise program were 28% less likely to develop major mobility disability, compared with the control group that just received health education. Increased regular exercise was particularly potent in participants who started the study with the lowest level of physical functioning.

“We think that one of the reasons older people lose their independence is because of some problem they have with their muscle function,” Fielding explains. “Therefore, if you can design an intervention that can help slow the rate of muscle loss or restore some of the muscle function, it may help to prevent individuals from ultimately becoming disabled. We’ve shown that pretty well with exercise.”

How Many Steps to Health? More recently, Fielding used the data from the LIFE study to pin down the amount of physical activity it takes to prevent disability in the at-risk individuals who participated in the LIFE trial. Is 30 minutes a day of walking and other exercise the required buy-in to prevent immobility?

Fielding and his colleagues reanalyzed the LIFE data to see what impact incremental “doses” of physical activity over the first two years of the trial had on physical function (based on tests of balance and leg strength) and walking speed. They found that an increase in physical activity of just over 45 minutes per week reduced the chance of mobility disability by about 70%. That’s equivalent to a single session of exercise training used in the LIFE trial.

It all adds up to this: Even people who are relatively sedentary and start late in the game can benefit from increasing physical activity. Walking is a great entry-level physical activity—simple, free and safe unless you have a balance problem or other risk factor for falling. A brisk walk, combined with a light aerobic workout and strength training, can increase the odds of staying active and independent with aging.

“Understanding the minimal dose of physical activity required to improve physical function and reduce the risk of disability may inform future public health recommendations about physical activity for older adults,” Fielding says. “A reduced risk of disability can be seen with substantially less physical activity than is currently recommended for most inactive older adults.”

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Physics explains why time flies as we age

Time flies when you’re having fun. As an old timer, I have responded countless times that “Time flies even when you’re not having fun.” So I was most gratified to find this research on exactly that.

A Duke University researcher has a new explanation for why those endless days of childhood seemed to last so much longer than they do now–physics.

According to Adrian Bejan, the J.A. Jones Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Duke, this apparent temporal discrepancy can be blamed on the ever-slowing speed at which images are obtained and processed by the human brain as the body ages.

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The end result is that, because older people are viewing fewer new images in the same amount of actual time, it seems to them as though time is passing more quickly. 

The theory was published online on March 18 in the journal European Review. Continue reading

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Higher Fitness Level Can Determine Longer Lifespan After Age 70 – Study

I am always happy to pass along another example of how valuable my eat less; move more; live longer mantra is in daily practice.

Researchers have uncovered one more reason to get off the couch and start exercising, especially if you’re approaching your golden years. Among people over age 70, physical fitness was found to be a much better predictor of survival than the number of traditional cardiovascular risk factors in a study being presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session.

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While high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking are closely linked with a person’s chance of developing heart disease, these factors are so common in older people that the total number of risk factors becomes almost meaningless for predicting future health, researchers said. The new study suggests doctors can get a better picture of older patients’ health by looking at how fit they are, rather than how many of these cardiovascular risk factors they have. Continue reading

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Consider Tai Chi …

I have had great success with yoga over the years, but tai chi comes heavily recommended by people whose opinions I respect. I took some classes in it and enjoyed them, but never felt as totally exercised as I did with yoga. Herewith a breakdown of this gentle martial art.

Tai chi is a non-competitive martial art known for its self-defense techniques and health benefits. As a form of exercise, it combines gentle physical exercise and stretching with mindfulness.

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Research has produced mixed results but appears to show that tai chi can improve balance control, fitness, and flexibility, and might cut the risk of falls in older people.

Tai chi also appears to reduce pain and the symptoms of depression in some cases.

The martial art is an ancient Chinese tradition that has evolved over centuries. To its advocates, it has become a means of alleviating stress and anxiety, a form of “meditation in motion.” Its supporters claim that it promotes serenity and inner peace.

It is safe for people of all ages, as it does not put too much stress on the muscles and joints.

This article explores the documented evidence for the benefits of tai chi.

Benefits

Various research suggests the benefits of tai chi might include improved balance, pain management, and cognitive function in people with and without chronic conditions.

Other possible benefits include improved sleep quality and an enhanced immune system. Continue reading

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Spoiler alert – on being 79 years old

First of all, please read and digest the facts contained in the photo below. I very much believe what it says and live my life accordingly. I think it paints a clear picture about the wonderful organic machines that are our bodies. As such, for the most part, I enjoy robust good health riding my bike nearly every day year ’round here in Chicago.

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Nonetheless, at 79 years old I am not a kid any more. This week I will be going to a physical therapist where I am getting treatments for lower back pains. In between visits to her, every day I do between 20 minutes and a half hour of physical therapy exercises which she has proscribed. I presently am working through some serious lower back pains.

On Friday I meet with a dental specialist who will be consulting on a problem I have under some bridgework on the upper right side of my mouth. That dental structure was put in over 20 years ago and has recently shown signs of age.

While I am not seeing a medical practitioner for the arthritis that afflicts my hands, I rub CBD oil on them regularly and roll Chinese exercise balls around in them to relieve the pain and increase my dexterity. You can read about my experience with CBD oil.

Other than that, President Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?

I did not intend this post to be as much of a downer as I fear it may be, but I wanted to put out some of the facts of my life that are indicative of a guy who just turned 79 years old. The good news is that I am retired and need to answer to no one for my time.

I am very happy with my life and once this Midwest weather straightens itself out I look forward to being back riding my bike daily.

But, I also wanted to paint a fair picture of things on this side of the temporal spectrum. 

Tony

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Push-ups and heart health – Harvard

Active, middle-aged men able to complete more than 40 push-ups had a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) outcomes—including diagnoses of coronary artery disease and major events such as heart failure—during 10 years of follow-up compared with those who were able to do less than 10 push-ups during the baseline exam.

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“Our findings provide evidence that push-up capacity could be an easy, no-cost method to help assess cardiovascular disease risk in almost any setting. Surprisingly, push-up capacity was more strongly associated with cardiovascular disease risk than the results of submaximal treadmill tests,” said first author Justin Yang, occupational medicine resident in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study was published February 15, 2019 in JAMA Network Open.

Objective assessments of physical fitness are considered strong predictors of health status; however, most current tools such as treadmill tests are too expensive and time-consuming to use during routine exams. This is the first known study to report an association between push-up capacity and subsequent cardiovascular disease outcomes.

The researchers analyzed health data from 1,104 active male firefighters collected from 2000 to 2010. Their mean age was 39.6 and mean body mass index (BMI) was 28.7. Participants’ push-up capacity and submaximal treadmill exercise tolerance were measured at the start of the study, and each man subsequently completed annual physical examinations and health and medical questionnaires.

During the 10-year study period, 37 CVD-related outcomes were reported. All but one occurred in men who completed 40 or fewer pushups during the baseline exam. The researchers calculated that men able to do more than 40 push-ups had a 96% reduced risk of CVD events compared with those who were able to do less than 10 push-ups. Push-up capacity was more strongly associated with lower incidence of cardiovascular disease events than was aerobic capacity as estimated by a submaximal treadmill exercise test.

Because the study population consisted of middle-aged, occupationally active men, the results may not be generalizable to women or to men of other ages or who are less active, note the authors.

“This study emphasizes the importance of physical fitness on health, and why clinicians should assess fitness during clinical encounters,” said senior author Stefanos Kales, professor in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School and chief of occupational medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance.

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6 Tips for successful aging

Simple, but not easy, is a common description that I seem to hear all the time. I have accumulated some simple, and I hope easy, tips for successful aging. These are from Dana Corp.’s Brain in the News.

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1. Be physically active – 30 minutes a day – three days a week. Easy peasy.

2. Reduce your cardiovascular risk factors – including hypertension, diabetes and smoking.

3. Manage your medications by reviewing them with a clinician and learning about their effects on your cognitive health.

4. Be socially and intellectually active.

5. Get enough sleep. I can’t stress this enough. If  you want to know more about this utterly simple step, please check out my Page – How important is a good night’s sleep?

6. Guard against delirium, a decrease in cognitive function that can be triggered by hospitalization, medications and certain illnesses.

 

Tony

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Uncovering a “smoking gun” of biological aging

I have always been fascinated by the dichotomy between chronological age and biological age.

There are two types of age: chronological age, or the number of years a person or animal has lived, and biological age, which accounts for various lifestyle factors that can shorten or extend lifespan, including diet, exercise, and environmental exposures. Overall, biological age has been shown to be a better predictor of all-cause mortality and disease onset than chronological age.

A newly discovered ribosomal DNA (rDNA) clock can be used to accurately determine an individual’s chronological and biological age, according to research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The ribosomal clock is a novel biomarker of aging based on the rDNA, a segment of the genome that has previously been mechanistically linked to aging. The ribosomal clock has potentially wide applications, including measuring how exposures to certain pollutants or dietary interventions accelerate or slow aging in a diversity of species, including mice and humans.

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“We have hopes that the ribosomal clock will provide new insights into the impact of the environment and personal choices on long-term health,” said senior author Bernardo Lemos, associate professor of environmental epigenetics. “Determining biological age is a central step to understanding fundamental aspects of aging as well as developing tools to inform personal and public health choices.”

The study was published online in Genome Research on February 14, 2019. Continue reading

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FDA takes action against 17 companies for illegally selling products making Alzheimer’s disease claims

As I have written here numerous times, both sides of my family have a history of Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common form of dementia. As a guy in his late 70’s this is a critical subject for me. And I am not the only one. I live near Northwestern Memorial Hospital, a major Chicago health establishment. They have a Healthy Transitions program there for folks over 50 which provides programs explaining the changes we are experiencing and can expect to experience. The most popular are the ones dealing with cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s and dementia. We are all concerned.

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That’s why I hope there is a special place in hell for companies who prey on the fears of seniors about their mental health and capacities. I found this item from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) most satisfying. Continue reading

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How exercise may protect against Alzheimer’s – Study

As a senior citizen whose family has Alzheimer’s and dementia on both sides I am keenly interested in anything on the subject. Herewith a study published in Nature Medicine.

Athletes know a vigorous workout can release a flood of endorphins: “feel-good” hormones that boost mood. Now there’s evidence that exercise produces another hormone that may improve memory and protect against Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study co-led by Ottavio Arancio, MD, PhD, a researcher at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain.

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Physical activity is known to improve memory, and studies suggest it may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. But researchers don’t understand why. Continue reading

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Blood Cells Could Hold Master Clock Behind Aging

A new study reveals blood cell DNA remains steady, even after transplant. The findings shed new light on human aging. Source: Case Western Reserve University.

Blood cells could hold the key to aging, according to new research out of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. In a study published in Aging Cell, researchers found human blood cells have an intrinsic clock that remains steady even after transplant. The researchers say the clock could control human aging and may underlie blood cancers.

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Their inherent steadiness suggests blood cells could be the master clock of human aging, as they are not easily influenced by their environment, Matsuyama said. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

 

Shigemi Matsuyama, DVM, PhD, cell biologist and associate professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, led an international team of researchers in studying the clock. The team measured cellular age in blood cells transplanted from healthy donors to leukemia patients, focusing on donor-recipient pairs of very different ages. Continue reading

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I’m 79 and feeling fine …

General Douglas MacArthur, Paul Newman, Angela Davis, Wayne Gretzky, Eddie Van Halen, Jules Feiffer and Ellen DeGeneres were all born on January 26.

Oh, yes, and one not so famous. It’s also my birthday. I am now 79 years old. I am happy to say that I feel great and am healthier than I was 20 years ago when I was toiling away in the working world.

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This is my birthday picture from a while back. It’s the only one I have that’s decorated. Also, my pup is in it, too.

This is from my birthday blog post last year:

One of the main reasons I feel like I have things so together is this blog. I started writing it in March of 2010 with a partner who has since left for other pursuits. From the beginning, I discovered a focus. At first it was simply trying to keep my weight down. I learned portion control and serving size. This Italian guy was surprised to learn that a “serving” of pasta was not a 10 inch plate heaped with spaghetti noodles smothered in tomato sauce. No, a 200 calorie serving of pasta is about the size of a baseball. Incredibly, that was a revelation to me. I put the information to use. I began to reduce my portions accordingly. I am not going to recount all the lessons I learned in the past nearly nine years, but if you want to get control of your weight, check out my Page – How to Lose Weight – and Keep it Off. Continue reading

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Tips for my senior friends … Infographic

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.

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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.

Tony

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Physical Activity, Any Type or Amount, Cuts Health Risk from Sitting

Eat less; move more; live longer just got further support from a recent study. I remain convinced that a sedentary lifestyle is one of the great unnoticed killers in our midst – particularly of senior citizens.

A new study of around 8,000 middle-aged and older adults found that swapping a half-hour of sitting around with physical activity of any intensity or duration cut the risk of early death by as much as 35 percent. The findings highlight the importance of movement—regardless of its intensity or amount of time spent moving—for better health.

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The study was published online in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

“Our findings underscore an important public health message that physical activity of any intensity provides health benefits,” says Keith Diaz, PhD, assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and lead author of the paper. Continue reading

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5 Life skills aid longevity – Study

Life skills, such as persistence, conscientiousness and control, are as important to wealth and well being in later life as they are when people are much younger, according to new research led by University College of London (UCL).

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Five life skills – emotional stability, determination, control, optimism and conscientiousness – play a key role in promoting educational and occupational success in early life but little has been known about their importance in later life. Continue reading

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Nutrients in Older Adults’ Blood Linked to Better Cognition and Brain Connectivity – Study

Summary: Investigating 32 key nutrients in the Mediterranean diet, researchers report aging individuals with more abundant key nutrients in their blood had better functional connectivity and improved cognitive performance than those lacking the nutrients. Source: University of Illinois.

A new study links higher levels of several key nutrients in the blood with more efficient brain connectivity and performance on cognitive tests in older adults.

The study, reported in the journal NeuroImage, looked at 32 key nutrients in the Mediterranean diet, which previous research has shown is associated with better brain function in aging. It included 116 healthy adults 65-75 years of age.

“We wanted to investigate whether diet and nutrition predict cognitive performance in healthy older adults,” said University of Illinois postdoctoral researcher Christopher Zwilling, who led the study with U. of I. psychology professor Aron Barbey in the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.

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The analysis linked specific patterns of a handful of nutrient biomarkers in the blood to better brain health and cognition. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

The analysis linked specific patterns of a handful of nutrient biomarkers in the blood to better brain health and cognition. The nutrient patterns included omega-3 fatty acids, which are abundant in fish, walnuts and Brussels sprouts; omega-6 fatty acids, found in flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts and pistachios; lycopene, a vivid red pigment in tomatoes, watermelon and a few other fruits and vegetables; alpha- and beta-carotenoids, which give sweet potatoes and carrots their characteristic orange color; and vitamins B and D.

The researchers relied on some of the most rigorous methods available for examining nutrient intake and brain health, Barbey said. Rather than asking participants to answer food-intake surveys, which require the accurate recall of what and how much participants ate, the team looked for patterns of nutrient “biomarkers” in the blood. The team also used functional magnetic resonance imaging to carefully evaluate the efficiency with which various brain networks performed.

“The basic question we were asking was whether diet and nutrition are associated with healthy brain aging,” Barbey said. “And instead of inferring brain health from a cognitive test, we directly examined the brain using high-resolution brain imaging.”

Functional MRIs can indicate the efficiency of individual brain networks, he said. Continue reading

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