Link found between physical function and cardiovascular disease risk in older adults, according to new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association
Among people older than age 65 who were assessed using a short physical function test, having lower physical function was independently associated with a greater risk of developing heart attack, heart failure and stroke, according to new research published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access, peer-reviewed journal of the American Heart Association.
The Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB) used in this study is considered a measure of physical function, which includes walking speed, leg strength and balance. This study examined physical function, which is different from physical fitness.
“While traditional cardiovascular disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking or diabetes are closely linked to cardiovascular disease, particularly in middle-aged people, we also know these factors may not be as predictive in older adults, so we need to identify nontraditional predictors for older adults,” said study senior author Kunihiro Matsushita, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Division of Cardiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. “We found that physical function in older adults predicts future cardiovascular disease beyond traditional heart disease risk factors, regardless of whether an individual has a history of cardiovascular disease.”
Researchers tracked the incidence of heart failure over six years in more than 94,000 middle-aged adults in the U.K. Biobank who wore wrist accelerometers to record the amount and intensity of their physical activity over seven days between 2013-2015.
Participants who engaged in 150-300 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous physical activity during the week of observation reduced their risk of being hospitalized for or death from heart failure by two-thirds compared to participants who did not engage in the same amounts of moderate or vigorous physical activity during the week.
A six-year analysis of more than 94,000 adults in the U.K. Biobank with no history of heart failure at enrollment has found that engaging in moderate or vigorous physical activity may lower the risk of developing heart failure, according to new research published today in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation.
The study is one of the first to use objectively measured activity levels to estimate heart failure risk. The results are consistent with previous studies finding that performing 150-300 minutes of moderate exercise or 75-150 minutes of vigorous exercise each week may reduce the incidence of heart attack and stroke.
To date most research on obesity has focused on studying those with a high body mass index (BMI), but a research group in China is taking a different approach. In a study published July 14 in the journal Cell Metabolism, the scientists looked at individuals with a very low BMI. Their findings reveal that these individuals are actually considerably less active than people with a BMI in the normal range, contrary to speculation that they have a metabolism that makes them naturally more active. Additionally, they eat less food than those with a normal BMI.
“We expected to find that these people are really active and to have high activity metabolic rates matched by high food intakes,” says corresponding author John Speakman, a professor at the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology in China and the University of Aberdeen in the UK. “It turns out that something rather different is going on. They had lower food intakes and lower activity, as well as surprisingly higher-than-expected resting metabolic rates linked to elevated levels of their thyroid hormones.”
Fans of intermittent fasting say consuming fewers calories by skipping meals helps lose weight and leads to other health benefits.
But what happens to your body when you add exercise to the mix?
“Finding ways to lose weight that are as simple as skipping a meal is very difficult because many people find it hard to manage their hunger while being in a caloric deficit,” Eric Williamson and Matthew Lees of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, say. “But, if they find that their hunger is well managed with intermittent fasting and they plan to exercise at the same time, then it can be an effective tool for losing fat.”
Here is what Lees and Willamson had to say about the benefits of complementing intermittent fasting with exercise.
Exercise increases dopamine signaling in the motor areas of mice, according to research recently published in JNeurosci.
It’s no secret exercise is good for the brain — working out can improve mood, sharpen memory, and stave off cognitive decline. Exercise even improves motor behavior in people with Parkinson’s disease, but the exact mechanism is not known. One possibility is through an increase in dopamine, a neurotransmitter needed for motor and emotional control that declines as the disease progresses.
Bastioli et al. compared dopamine signaling in mice after 30 days of voluntary wheel running or inactivity. In the runner mice, dopamine release in the striatum (a motor area) increased in response to electrical stimulation, while there was no change in sedentary mice. The increased dopamine release remained even a week after the exercise ended. The researchers also measured increased levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein involved in neuron health, in the striatum of active mice. When the researchers repeated the experiments in a genetic mouse model lacking BDNF, there was no difference in dopamine release between the active and sedentary mice, suggesting BDNF catalyzes increased dopamine signaling. Future studies will examine if the relationship holds true in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease, and if exercise can improve motor outcomes.
Since we are entering the warmer weather, I thought it would be worthwhile to consider perspiring, or sweating. We are all going to be doing it. What does it mean to the body?
It is important to stay hydrated and avoid excessive heat during the hot summer months because we lose a lot of body fluid through sweat. But does this mean you should avoid sweating at all costs? Not at all.
People sweat for many reasons such as hot weather, nervousness, a fever, exercise, and being in a sauna. Sweating can dehydrate us, stress us out, or remind us our body is fighting an illness. In contrast, it may invigorate us on a hike or when working out in a gym. Besides, isn’t sweating what you are supposed to do in a sauna anyhow?
An analysis of data from multiple observational studies suggests 30 minutes of exercise a day may help you live longer, even if you’re otherwise sedentary, Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter said.
In the study, published recently in the British Journal of Medicine, researchers looked at data from activity trackers worn by 44,000 men and women (average age around 66 years) in the U.S., Norway, and Sweden. Most participants were sedentary eight-and-a-half to 10.5 hours a day and engaged in moderate or vigorous activity eight to 35 minutes a day. More sedentary time combined with less active time was associated with higher risk of death. About 30 to 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day seemed to be enough to attenuate the association between sedentary time and risk of premature death.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults get 150 to 300 minutes a week (an average of 30 minutes a day) of moderate-intensity activity (such as taking a brisk walk or raking the yard) or 75 to 150 minutes a week (an average of 15 minutes a day) of vigorous-intensity activity (like jogging or swimming). While moving more and sitting less—in this study and many others—is associated with the best health outcomes, fitting 30 minutes of movement into an otherwise sedentary day may help you live longer.
Eat less, move more, live longer and have a functioning brain thewhole time, as I have written here numerous times.
Studies have shown that exercise helps protect brain cells. A new study looking at the mechanisms involved in this relationship suggests that the role exercise plays in maintaining insulin and body mass index levels may help protect brain volume and thus help stave off dementia. The research is published in the April 13, 2022, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
“These results may help us to understand how physical activity affects brain health, which may guide us in developing strategies to prevent or delay age-related decline in memory and thinking skills,” said study author Géraldine Poisnel, PhD, of Inserm Research Center in Caen, France. “Older adults who are physically active gain cardiovascular benefits, which may result in greater structural brain integrity.”
In contrast, researchers found that the relationship between exercise and the metabolism of glucose in the brain was not affected by insulin or body mass index (BMI) levels. Reduced glucose metabolism in the brain can been seen in people with dementia.
One in 10 adults in the United States struggles with depression, and antidepressant medications are a common way to treat the condition. However, pills aren’t the only solution. Research shows that exercise is also an effective treatment. “For some people it works as well as antidepressants, although exercise alone isn’t enough for someone with severe depression,” says Dr. Michael Craig Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
The exercise effect
Exercising starts a biological cascade of events that results in many health benefits, such as protecting against heart disease and diabetes, improving sleep, and lowering blood pressure. High-intensity exercise releases the body’s feel-good chemicals called endorphins, resulting in the “runner’s high” that joggers report. But for most of us, the real value is in low-intensity exercise sustained over time. That kind of activity spurs the release of proteins called neurotrophic or growth factors, which cause nerve cells to grow and make new connections. The improvement in brain function makes you feel better. “In people who are depressed, neuroscientists have noticed that the hippocampus in the brain—the region that helps regulate mood—is smaller. Exercise supports nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, improving nerve cell connections, which helps relieve depression,” explains Dr. Miller.
The challenge of getting started
Depression manifests physically by causing disturbed sleep, reduced energy, appetite changes, body aches, and increased pain perception, all of which can result in less motivation to exercise. It’s a hard cycle to break, but Dr. Miller says getting up and moving just a little bit will help. “Start with five minutes a day of walking or any activity you enjoy. Soon, five minutes of activity will become 10, and 10 will become 15.”
What you can do
It’s unclear how long you need to exercise, or how intensely, before nerve cell improvement begins alleviating depression symptoms. You should begin to feel better a few weeks after you begin exercising. But this is a long-term treatment, not a onetime fix. “Pick something you can sustain over time,” advises Dr. Miller. “The key is to make it something you like and something that you’ll want to keep doing.”
At 2:00 o’clock tomorrow morning you need to set your clock one hour ahead – spring forward – to participate in Daylight Savings Time. Some explanations for this practice include to help the harvest for farmers by providing more daylight working hours.
But, what does it mean to the rest of us non-agrarian folks?
Well, this morning if you are on a schedule, like catching an airplane or something, you lost an hour of sleep, so you may be somewhat sleep-deprived the rest of the day. This being Sunday, maybe you just slept in. If that is the case, you will start your day an hour later, but otherwise, no harm, no foul.
Later, however, we all will experience the magic of moving an hour of daylight from the morning to the afternoon – Daylight Savings. If you want to enjoy the outdoors, you now have an extra hour of daylight to do so. Continue reading →
In view of Valentine’s Day tomorrow and tons of chocolate being consumed in honor of it, I thought it might be useful to get a taste of chocolate’s impact on our health.
Medical News Today says, “Throughout the years, chocolate has been on the end of a lot of bad press because of its fat content, and its consumption has been associated with acne, obesity, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and diabetes.
“However, ‘the recent discovery of biologically active phenolic compounds in cocoa has changed this perception and stimulated research on its effects in aging, oxidative stress, blood pressure regulation, and atherosclerosis. Today, chocolate is lauded for its tremendous antioxidant potential.’ The potential benefits of eating chocolate may include:
▪ lowering cholesterol levels
▪ preventing cognitive decline
▪ reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems. Continue reading →
I recently wrote about the beginning of flu season. Well, what goes hand in hand with flu season? Cold weather and snow shoveling. Hopefully, you have gotten a flu shot by now and are set up to face flu season. I just wanted to remind you that you need to use your brain as well as your back when it comes to shoveling snow.
For many of us the onset of snow shoveling season is just around the corner. Please be aware that in terms of your body, shoveling snow is not a totally innocent activity. While I strongly support calorie burning exercises to build up your cardiovascular system and other benefits, it is important to know your limits. If you are not currently working out or don’t consider yourself to be “in condition,” please think twice before you grab that snow shovel and race out to clear the walk. The American Journal of Emergency Medicine reported that more than 195,000 people were treated in U.S. Emergency Rooms for snow-shovel-related incidents from 1990 to 2006. This is an average of 11,500 individuals per year. Keep in mind that this information only covers folks who actually went to the ER for treatment. Plenty more stayed home and nursed their wounds …. About 2/3 of these incidents occurred among males. Children younger than 18 made up 15.3% of the cases. Older adults (above 55 years) accounted for more than 20%. The most common diagnosis was soft tissue injury. Injuries to the lower back accounted for more than 1/3 of the cases. The most common mechanism of injury/nature of medical emergency was acute musculoskeletal exertion followed by slips and falls. The study reported that snow shoveling places huge demand on the cardiovascular system and heart rates can shoot above recommended upper limits after only two minutes of activity. In addition peripheral blood vessels are constricted in freezing temps which further stresses the heart. The study recommended that folks warm up before shoveling and individuals with a more sedentary lifestyle consider hiring someone else to do it.
Grampa, when you finish that puzzle please slip on your walking shoes and step outside.
A lot of senior citizens are doing Sudoku puzzles and crosswords to ‘exercise their brains’ and slow the aging process. These puzzles can be fun, and they do build puzzle-solving skills which are long-lasting. They are not even half the battle against aging, though.
“Unless the activities that you’re practicing span a broad spectrum of abilities, then there is not a proven general benefit to these mental fitness programs. So, the idea that any single brain exercise program late in life can act as a quick fix for general mental function is almost entirely faith-based,” Professor Wang said in our post on physical exercise vs mental exercise.
Walking, on the other hand, boosts blood flow to the brain. Medicine.net reported that moderate aerobic exercise helps boost blood flow to the brain. Continue reading →
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…
Regular readers know that I ride year ’round here in Chicago. Through November, we barely cracked 40 degrees F which didn’t call for much extra prep beyond gloves and ear covering. Come December, however, with the advent of the 30s and below a whole new dimension of cycling wear opens up. Whether you ride a bike or not, I think you will find some useful info here.
From the Toronto Star
A recent Wall Street Journal had a cleverly written item on Your Outdoor Sports Survival Guide, by Jason Gay. He aptly describes “the maniacal joy of Survival Season,” and observes “Nobody looks suave playing sports in the freezing cold. If you are doing it correctly, you look a little unhinged and suspicious. Are you going to play golf…or rob the Bank of Alaska?” Continue reading →
People with treatment-resistant hypertension successfully reduced their blood pressure by adopting the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan, losing weight and improving their aerobic fitness by participating in a structured diet and exercise program at a certified cardiac rehabilitation facility, according to new research published in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure (130/80 mm Hg or higher) despite the use of three or more medications of different classes including a diuretic to reduce blood pressure is a condition known as resistant hypertension. Although estimates vary, resistant hypertension likely affects about 5% of the general global population and may affect 20% to 30% of adults with high blood pressure. Resistant hypertension is also associated with end-organ damage and a 50% greater risk of adverse cardiovascular events, including stroke, heart attack and death.
Diet and exercise are well-established treatments for high blood pressure. In June 2021, the American Heart Association advised that physical activity is the optimal first treatment choice for adults with mild to moderately elevated blood pressure and blood cholesterol who otherwise have low heart disease risk.