Category Archives: aging

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.

Aging is exhibited by organisms as diverse as yeast, worms, flies, mice, and humans. Age is also the major risk factor for a plethora of diseases, including neurological diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer.

For this new study, the researchers looked at the rDNA, the most active segment of the genome and one which has also been mechanistically linked to aging in a number of previous studies. Lemos and lead author Meng Wang, a research fellow in the Department of Environmental Health, hypothesized that the rDNA is a “smoking gun” in the genomic control of aging and might harbor a previously unrecognized clock. To explore this concept, they examined epigenetic chemical alterations (also known as DNA methylation) in CpG sites, where a cytosine nucleotide is followed by a guanine nucleotide. The study homed in on the rDNA, a small (13 kilobases) but essential and highly active segment of the genome, as a novel marker of age.

Analysis of genome-wide data sets from mice, dogs, and humans indicated that the researchers’ hypothesis had merit: numerous CpGs in the rDNA exhibited signs of increased methylation—a result of aging. To further test the clock, they studied data from 14-week-old mice that responded to calorie restriction, a known intervention that promotes longevity. The mice that were placed on a calorie-restricted regimen showed significant reductions in rDNA methylation at CpG sites compared with mice that did not have their caloric intake restricted. Moreover, calorie-restricted mice showed rDNA age that was younger than their chronological age.

The researchers were surprised that assessing methylation in a small segment of the mammalian genome yielded clocks as accurate as clocks built from hundreds of thousands of sites along the genome. They noted that their novel approach could prove faster and more cost effective at determining biological and chronological age than current methods of surveying the dispersed sites in the genome. The findings underscore the fundamental role of rDNA in aging and highlight its potential to serve as a widely applicable predictor of individual age that can be calibrated for all mammalian species.

Importantly, the clocks respond to interventions, which could allow scientists to study how biological age responds to environmental exposures and lifestyle choices. Being able to ascertain an accurate biological age can give a person an indication of how much better or worse he or she is doing relative to the general population and could potentially help monitor whether someone is at heightened risk of death or a certain disease.

Work in Lemos’ lab has been partially supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, The Lawrence Ellison Medical Foundation, and the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation, though the authors received no specific funding for this work.

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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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Merry Christmas and Season’s Greetings!

I hope this edible Christmas tree will give you healthy ideas about your eating this holiday season and in the coming year.

While you are thinking about it, don’t forget that you need to exercise, too. You won’t be exercising just to burn calories. Exercise benefits your brain and body in many ways. Check out the exercise tags at the right to read further on this.

I hope you will enjoy all the benefits of good food and exercise! Eat less; move more; live longer. Healthy eating is healthy aging and we all want that. Okay, we seniors are more aware of it than you younger folk, but keep at it and you will come realize and appreciate it too.

Best wishes for this holiday season!

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Tony

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Study Finds Biases in Widely Used Dementia Identification Tests

Dementia can be a real snake lurking in the brain of seniors who happen to be our loved ones. Is their memory merely slipping with their added years, or do they really have a cognitive impairment? It’s a tough question for many families. As a member of a family with several instances of dementia, I can attest to that.

Quick tests used in primary care settings to identify whether people are likely to have dementia may often be wrong, according to a study published in the November 28, 2018, online issue of Neurology® Clinical Practice, an official journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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The tests, called brief cognitive assessments, evaluate thinking and memory skills. They help doctors decide who may benefit from a full diagnostic assessment for dementia. The three tests examined in this study were the Mini-Mental State Examination, which looks at orientation to time and place and the ability to remember words, the Memory Impairment Screen, which focuses on the ability to remember words, and Animal Naming, which involves naming as many animals as possible in 60 seconds. Continue reading

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Guidelines for feeling good and functioning well into senior years – GCBH

I just ran across this newly-published set of guidelines for helping seniors succeed in retaining their mental function and well-being as they age. As a senior myself who has a family with a history of Alzheimer’s and dementia I found it to be on point with my own situation.

The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) is an independent collaborative of scientists, health professionals, scholars, and policy experts from around the world who are working in areas of brain health related to human cognition. The GCBH focuses on brain health relating to people’s ability to think and reason as they age, including aspects of memory, perception and judgment.

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We believe the following suggestions will increase the chances for people to experience or optimize mental well-being. If you are already engaging in these healthy activities, continue to do so, and consider trying something new as well.

FOR INDIVIDUALS:

1. Take the time to develop and strengthen relationships with family and friends. For more about the brain health benefits of strong social ties, see the GCBH report, The Brain and Social Connectedness: GCBH Recommendations on Social Engagement and Brain Health.

Continue reading

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Program of personalized physical exercise reverses functional decline in the over-75s

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.

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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

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Meditation and Music May Alter Blood Markers of Cellular Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease in Adults with Early Memory Loss

A research team led by Dr. Kim Innes, a professor in the West Virginia University School of Public Health, has found that a simple meditation or music listening program may alter certain biomarkers of cellular aging and Alzheimer’s Disease in older adults who are experiencing memory loss. Study findings, reported in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, also suggest these changes may be directly related to improvements in memory and cognition, sleep, mood, and quality of life.

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Sixty older adults with subjective cognitive decline (SCD), a condition that may represent a preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease, participated in the randomized, clinical trial. While SCD has been linked to increased risk for dementia and associated with certain neuropathological changes implicated in Alzheimer’s disease development, including elevated brain levels of beta amyloid, this preclinical period may also provide a critical window for therapeutic intervention.

In this trial, each participant was randomly assigned to either a beginner meditation (Kirtan Kriya) or music listening program and asked to practice 12 minutes/day for 12 weeks. At baseline and 3 months, blood samples were collected. Two markers of cellular aging were measured: telomere length and telomerase activity. (Telomeres serve as protective caps on chromosomes; telomerase is an enzyme responsible for maintaining telomere length). Blood levels of specific beta-amyloid peptides commonly linked to Alzheimer’s Disease were also assessed. In addition, memory and cognitive function, stress, sleep, mood, and quality of life were measured. All participants were followed for a total of 6 months. Continue reading

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Even mild physical activity immediately improves memory function, study finds

As a senior, I consider this to be very good news.

People who include a little yoga or tai chi in their day may be more likely to remember where they put their keys. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine and Japan’s University of Tsukuba found that even very light workouts can increase the connectivity between parts of the brain responsible for memory formation and storage.

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In a study of 36 healthy young adults, the researchers discovered that a single 10-minute period of mild exertion can yield considerable cognitive benefits. Using high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging, the team examined subjects’ brains shortly after exercise sessions and saw better connectivity between the hippocampal dentate gyrus and cortical areas linked to detailed memory processing.

Their results were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Continue reading

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Air pollution may be related to heightened dementia risk – Study

British researchers found that people exposed to increased levels of air pollution had 40 percent higher chances of developing dementia.

Air pollution is an established risk factor for heart disease/stroke and respiratory disease, but its potential role in neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia, isn’t as clear.

The researchers used carefully calculated estimates of air and noise pollution across Greater London to assess potential links with new dementia diagnoses.

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They looked at patient data on 131,000 Londoners aged 50 to 79, and based on their residential postcodes, the researchers estimated their yearly exposure to air pollutants. These were specifically nitrogen dioxide, fine particulate matter and ozone, as well as proximity to heavy traffic and road noise, using modelling methods validated with recorded measurements. Continue reading

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