Category Archives: aging

Night Owls Have Higher Risk of Dying Sooner – Study

I started taking courses in various aspects of good health and nutrition back eight years ago when I first started working on this blog. I created the Page – How important is a good night’s sleep? in 2013, so regular readers have been hearing about that aspect of good health since at least then. Here, we have a fresh insight into sleep habits that adds to the import of it.

A new study reports being a night owl might have significant consequences for your health, including an increased risk of dying earlier.

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“Night owls” — people who like to stay up late and have trouble dragging themselves out of bed in the morning — have a higher risk of dying sooner than “larks,” people who have a natural preference for going to bed early and rise with the sun, according to a new study from Northwestern Medicine and the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom (UK).

The study, on nearly half a million participants in the UK Biobank Study, found owls have a 10 percent higher risk of dying than larks. In the study sample, 50,000 people were more likely to die in the 6½ -year period sampled.

“Night owls trying to live in a morning lark world may have health consequences for their bodies,” said co-lead author Kristen Knutson, associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Continue reading

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Filed under aging, good night's sleep, living longer, longevity, sleep

Choosing Healthy Meals As You Get Older – NIA

It turns out that ‘senior discounts’ apply as much to our nutrition as to our bills when it comes to eating as we get older. The National Institute on Aging offers the following tips for seniors to insure that we get all the nutrients. that we need.

 

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Making healthy food choices is a smart thing to do—no matter how old you are! Your body changes through your 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond. Food provides nutrients you need as you age. Use these tips to choose foods for better health at each stage of life.

1. Drink plenty of liquids

With age, you may lose some of your sense of thirst. Drink water often. Low-fat or fat-free milk or 100% juice also helps you stay hydrated. Limit beverages that have lots of added sugars or salt. Learn which liquids are better choices.

It always pays to read the labels. Remember, that a teaspoon full of sugar is only four grams, so know how much sugar you are consuming.

2. Make eating a social event

Meals are more enjoyable when you eat with others. Invite a friend to join you or take part in a potluck at least twice a week. A senior center or place of worship may offer meals that are shared with others. There are many ways to make mealtimes pleasing. Continue reading

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Filed under aging, hydration, portion control, portion size, seniors, Vitamin sources, vitamins

Diet, exercise and brain training counter cognitive decline

This is wonderful news. I love everything about it. My blog is based on exactly these principles. Eat intelligently and get your exercise and your brain will benefit in your declining years. Well done!

A comprehensive program providing older people at risk of dementia with healthy eating guidance, exercise, brain training, and management of metabolic and vascular risk factors appears to slow down cognitive decline, according to the first ever randomized controlled trial of its kind, published in The Lancet.

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In the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER) study, researchers led by Professor Miia Kivipelto from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, and University of Eastern Finland, assessed the effects on brain function of a comprehensive intervention aimed at addressing some of the most important risk factors for age-related dementia, such as high body-mass index and heart health. Continue reading

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Filed under aging, aging brain, cognition, cognitive decline, Exercise, exercise benefits, successful aging

Do Sleep Habits Change for Seniors?

With 10,000 baby boomers becoming 65 every day, the question of sleep becomes highly relevant. The Washington Post says, “Scientists have also discovered the role of telomeres in aging. These are caps on the ends of strands of DNA that protect a cell’s genetic material when it divides. But they get a little shorter with each division, and once they get too short, a cell can no longer function normally. Older people have shorter telomeres, but so do people with high stress and poor sleep habits.”

First of all the myth that seniors need less sleep is – a myth. Dr. Michael W. Smith of WebMD offers the following definitive answer, “As children and adolescents, we need more sleep than we do as young adults. But by our senior years, we need the same seven to nine hours a night we did as teens.” 
On the other hand, the nature and quality of sleep does change as we age.

sleep_puppy_iStock_000015227531MediumHrayr P. Attarian, MD, in a talk before Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Healthy Transitions Program® said that although we get less sleep as we age, we need the same amount. Older people take slightly longer to fall asleep than younger ones. Also, sleep efficiency falls as we age. The 18 to 30 year olds have 95 percent sleep efficiency; 31 to 40 year olds enjoy 88 percent sleep efficiency; 41 to 50 year olds have 85 percent sleep efficiency and 51 to 70 year olds are down to 80 percent sleep efficiency.

So the bottom line seems to be seniors need as much asleep as ever, but they have a harder time achieving it.

Medications play a part in senior sleep habits, too. As we age we often need more medications to get us through the day and night. Dr. Attarian warned about Tylenol and Advil PM specifically. He said that they worsen prostate conditions in men and that they impair reflexes in both sexes into the next day.

To read further on sleep, check out my page How Important is a good night’s sleep.

Tony

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Filed under aging, aging brain, baby boomers, good night's sleep, seniors, sleep, sleep deprivation, successful aging

Mis-remembering vs. forgetting – Seniors Study

As a 78-year-old concerned about his cognitive facilities remaining intact, this Penn State study caught my attention.

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Older adults often complain about forgetting, but Penn State psychologists suggest that another problem may be mis-remembering.

In a study, the researchers found that as people age, they may be more likely to rely on a type of memory — called schematic memory — that helps them remember the gist of an event, but not necessarily the details. This inability to remember details, though, could lead to difficulty in distinguishing between a memory of something that really happened and something that a person thought happened, but did not — a false memory.

Continue reading

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Can Exercise Help Me Learn?

“Exercise helps you to learn on three levels: first, it optimizes your mind-set to improve alertness, attention and motivation; second, it prepares and encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, which is the cellular basis for logging in new information; and third, it spurs the development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus,” so says Spark, the revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain. Author John J. Ratey, M.D., is a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Besides, Spark, he also wrote A User’s Guide to the Brain among other books.

The hippocampus plays a major role in the consolidation of information from long term memory and short term memory. So, clearly, exercise plays an important role for seniors who are concerned about their memory failing in their latter years.

One distinction needs to be made here. You can’t learn difficult material while you are exercising because blood is shunted away from the prefrontal cortex and this hampers your executive function. Dr. Ratey quotes a study of college students who were working out on treadmills and exercise bikes at a high rate. They performed poorly on tests of complex learning. “However blood flow shifts back almost immediately after you finish exercising, and this is the perfect time to focus on a project that demands sharp thinking and complex analysis.”

He enumerates an experiment that was done on 40 adults aged 50 to 64. They were asked to do one 35 minute treadmill session at either 60 percent or 70 percent of maximum heart rate. Afterwards, they were asked to list alternative uses for common objects, like a newspaper. It is used for reading, but can be used to wrap fish, line a bird cage, etc. Half of the group watched a movie and the other half exercised. They were tested three times, before the session, immediately after the session and then 20 minutes later. The results of the movie watchers showed no change, but the runners improved their processing speed and cognitive flexibility after just one session. “Cognitive flexibility is an important executive function that reflects our ability to shift thinking and to produce a steady flow of creative thoughts and answers as opposed to a regurgitation of the usual responses. The trait correlates with high performance levels in intellectually demanding jobs.” The doctor recommends going for a short, intense run at lunchtime ahead of an important brain-storming session at work.

spark-book I have enjoyed Dr. Ratey’s book and recommend it to readers of the blog. You can get a look at the book on the Amazon website and purchase it from there if you like it.

As regular readers know, I lost an aunt to Alzheimer’s and my mother suffered from dementia in her final years. I am a total believer in this exercise-learning hypothesis. If I don’t ride my bike every day, I manage a five mile walk, climb 30 flights of stairs, or take a trip to the health club. I ain’t sittin’ around doin’ nothin’.

I have repeated the phrase, Use it or Lose it time and again in this blog. In this case, using the body promotes healthy mental processes as well as good physical results.

Tony

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Filed under aging, aging brain, brain, brain function, brain health, cardio exercise, Exercise, exercise benefits, John J Ratey MD, successful aging

A Lifetime of Regular Exercise Slows Down Aging

Regular readers know that I ride my bike pretty much daily here in Chicago and my 78th birthday occurred in January. I wrote about my physical condition then, but I have to tell you that finding this study was like a wonderful belated birthday present.

According to researchers, older adults who exercised for most of their lives showed signs of slowed down aging. The study reports those who actively cycled into older age had lower cholesterol levels and better immune systems than those who did not partake in regular exercise.

Field Museum

Here I am with my trusty riding companion, Gabi, who just turned 12 in December.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham and King’s College London have found that staying active keeps the body young and healthy.

The researchers set out to assess the health of older adults who had exercised most of their adult lives to see if this could slow down aging. Continue reading

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2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Submits Scientific Report

Eat less; move more; live longer has been the mantra of this blog for years. I am always gratified to see those sentiments echoed elsewhere. The latest version comes from the government of all places and it dwells particularly on the aspect of exercise.

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The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee, a group of nationally recognized experts in physical activity and public health, has submitted its recommendations to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary and disbanded.

The 2018 Scientific Report reinforces the recommendations included in the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines that physical activity reduces the risk of a large number of diseases and conditions. In addition to disease prevention benefits, the Scientific Report includes findings that regular physical activity provides a variety of benefits that help people sleep better, feel better, and perform daily tasks more easily. The Committee also found that some benefits happen immediately, on the same day a single bout of physical activity is performed.

Expanding on findings from the Advisory Committee Scientific Report, 2008, the 2018 Committee identified health benefits of physical activity that had not been previously identified including:

Improved bone health and weight status for children ages 3 to 5
Improved cognitive function for children ages 6 to 13
Decreased risk of certain cancers, dementia, and excessive weight gain for adults
Improved quality of life and sleep for adults
Reduced feelings of anxiety and depression in adults
Additional benefits for specific population including older adults, women who are pregnant or postpartum, and individuals with pre-existing medical conditions

Additionally, the Committee found strong or moderate evidence that more time spent in sedentary behavior is related to greater all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality and incidence, type 2 diabetes incidence, and the incidence of certain cancers.

Get Involved: The Department has published the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report online and the public is encouraged to view the Scientific Reportand provide written comments to the federal government at https://health.gov/paguidelines/pcd. The comment period will be open until 11:59 pm E.T. April 2, 2018.

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Alzheimer’s in the family – What next? – Harvard

Dementia affects the person diagnosed but also raises fears for siblings and children. Here are the facts.

I have three cases of Alzheimer’s/dementia on both sides of my family, including mother, aunt and grandfather. So, I am extremely sensitive to any information on the subject of cognition and aging. One of the aspects of Alzheimer’s that few people consider, until a loved one becomes afflicted, is that the relatives and people who care about the person suffer greatly as they see a person they loved deteriorate mentally and physically before their eyes. It also raises the specter of – what about me? Will I get it, too?

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Here is a good no nonsense discussion from Harvard Men’s Health Watch.

Alzheimer’s disease represents a personal health crisis, but it’s also a family concern. What does it mean for your children or siblings if you are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s? What does it mean for you if a close relative develops the condition?

“People think that if their dad or aunt or uncle had Alzheimer’s disease, they are doomed. But, no, that’s not true,” says Dr. Gad Marshall, assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. “Even though family history adds to the overall risk, age still usually trumps it quite a bit. It means your risk is higher, but it’s not that much higher, if you consider the absolute numbers.”

Family history by the numbers

Studies of family history say that if you have a close relative who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease—the most common form of dementia in older adults—your risk increases by about 30%. This is a relative risk increase, meaning a 30% hike in your existing risk. Continue reading

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Can you make up for years of poor eating? – Harvard

Our bodies are, in fact, organic machines. We dwell inside them and operate them in society. Sometimes, we forget that our machines need proper fueling and maintenance. When that happens, our bodies, like regular machines, begin to break down. Because they are organic in some cases we can simply correct our bad maintenance habits and revive them with exercise and good nutrition. But decades of neglect are another story.

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In your 20s, maybe you sometimes chose fast-food burgers and fries over healthier foods. Perhaps in the decades that followed you pursued a series of fad diets, questionable lifestyle choices, and too many days when you skipped your workout in favor of the couch.

You’re now repenting for the sins of the past, but the question is, can you undo the damage? Can you unclog clogged arteries (otherwise known as atherosclerosis) and reduce your risk of heart disease in the process? Continue reading

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Age Matters Behind the Wheel – but Not How You Might Expect

As an admitted ‘old guy,’ I have to admit I have my own opinions about the drivers I encounter around me. I have to confess surprise at the results of this study.

A UCLA study explored the relationship between new drivers’ skills and four factors. Instructors from a Los Angeles driving school rated students’ driving skills on a scale of 1 to 4, and the researchers analyzed the results based on these variables:

 

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New female drivers rated their confidence lower than new male drivers, but instructors scored them the same.

Age: Among males, the older the student, the worse his driving skills score. Male teens scored 36 percent higher on driving skills than men in their 20s. The same pattern did not hold true for women. Continue reading

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Seniors Need to Exercise – NIH

Exercise and physical activity are good for just about everyone, including older adults. Eat less; move more; live longer is the mantra of this blog as regular readers know.

No matter your health and physical abilities, you gain a lot by staying active. In fact, in most cases you have more to lose by not being active, according to The National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Seniors-exercising

This is one of those simple, but not easy ideas. The damning statistics of 60 percent overweight of which 30 percent are obese in the general population hold true for seniors aged 65 and over, too, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There is a fascinating refinement in those numbers. In the years 65 to 74, the percent of obesity jumps to 41.5 for men and 40.3 percent for women. For the next segment, aged 75 years and older, however, it then drops to 26.5 for men and 28.7 for women. So, that 65 to 74 period is a very dangerous one for our senior population.

My only conclusion is that many of the obese 65-74 year old folks simply died off as a result of their weight leaving only the healthier trimmer ones alive after 75 years old.

To combat the ravages of a sedentary life and obesity, the NIH recommends exercise.

“Here are just a few of the benefits.

Exercise and physical activity:
• Can help maintain and improve your physical strength and fitness.
• Can help improve your ability to do the everyday things you want to do.
• Can help improve your balance.
• Can help manage and improve diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
• Can help reduce feelings of depression and may improve mood and overall well-being.
• May improve your ability to shift quickly between tasks, plan an activity, and ignore irrelevant information.

“The key word in all these benefits is YOU—how fit and active you are now and how much effort you put into being active. To gain the most benefits, enjoy all four types of exercise, stay safe while you exercise, and be sure to eat a healthy diet, too!

“Exercise and physical activity fall into four basic categories—endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. Each type is different, though. Doing them all will give you more benefits.”

Obesity is a killer. I have written about it in several posts, check out What are Some Obesity Statistics? How Does Obesity Affect You?” Public Largely Ignorant About Obesity Risks. There are more posts on the danger of obesity, but those will give you a start. If you want to read further, type obesity into the SEARCH box at the right.

Tony

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How did we evolve to live longer?

Eat less; move more; live longer is the mantra of this blog. Now, it seems that our bodies are taking it upon themselves to extend our life span.

Research shows a collection of small adaptations in stress activated proteins, accumulated over millennia of human history, could help to explain our increased natural defenses and longer lifespan.

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Publishing in Nature Communications, the team of collaborators from the UK, France and Finland and lead by researchers at Newcastle University, UK explain the importance of a protein called p62.

Many cells in our body, such as those which make up our brain need to last us a lifetime. To do this our cells have developed ways of protecting themselves. One way is through a process called autophagy, which literally means self-eating, where damaged components are collected together and removed from the cell.

This is very important as accumulation of damage in cells has been linked to several diseases including dementia.

Lead author, Dr Viktor Korolchuk from Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing explains: “As we age, we accumulate damage in our cells and so it is thought that activating autophagy could help us treat older people suffering from dementia. In order to be able to do this we need to understand how we can induce this cell cleaning.”

Continue reading

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Some insights into weight and aging – Web MD

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.

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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.

Tony

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Fitness over 50: Overcoming a sedentary lifestyle – Harvard

I remember 20 years ago when I was in the working world, I definitely lived a sedentary lifestyle. Long hours at the office, a child at home and all the aspects of family life made it difficult for me to exercise a lot. Vedging out in the evening in front of the TV proved a welcome relief from daily demands. In addition, my motivation was elsewhere. Now that I am retired that has all changed, but I understand if you may be where I was back then.

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Here I am riding with Gabi. Cycling is a super form of exercise for both mind and body.

Blame it on a job change, a chronic health issue, or simply a loss of motivation: whatever took you away from your regular exercise routine has led to a sedentary lifestyle. But don’t assume you can jump back into the same exercise regimen you followed when you were younger. “Your body has aged, and things have changed,” says Dr. Clare Safran-Norton, clinical supervisor of rehabilitation services at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

What’s different

Age-related physical changes aren’t always obvious. “We lose muscle mass and strength as we get older, and the muscles become less flexible and less hydrated,” says Dr. Safran-Norton. Arthritis weakens joints. And vision changes, neurological disease, joint pain, or problems inside the ear can throw off your balance. Continue reading

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Filed under aging, bicycle riding, cycling, fitness, fitness facts, men's fitness, successful aging, walking, women's fitness

Aerobic exercise may ease some Alzheimer’s symptoms

Regular readers how focused I am on the connection between exercise and the brain. I lost three family members to Alzheimer’s Disease or another form of dementia. And, I just turned 78 two weeks ago. So, I was most interested in this report on the benefits of aerobic exercise on Alzheimer’s symptoms. When you finish reading, please check out my Page – Important facts about  your brain (and exercise benefits.)

Alzheimer’s Disease is a brain disorder that destroys memory and thinking skills over time. It is the most common form of dementia in older adults. There is presently no cure for the condition, though treatment options are available. Today, some 5.3 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s Disease, and it is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. The number of older adults who will develop AD is expected to more than triple by 2050.

Geriatrics experts have suggested that exercising can improve brain health in older adults. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommendations for how much older adults should exercise. They suggest that older adults perform 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise (such as brisk walking), 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic training, or a combination of the two types. The WHO also recommends older adults perform muscle-strengthening exercises on at least two or more days a week. Continue reading

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