Category Archives: successful aging

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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6 Steps to sharpen your brain – Harvard

At the risk of repeating myself I have had three cases of dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease in my family. They occurred on both my mother’s and father’s side, so I am totally paying attention to anything that might help to preserve my cognitive powers. I turned 78 in January. Here is Harvard Healthbeat on the subject.

Everyone has the occasional “senior moment.” Maybe you’ve gone into the kitchen and can’t remember why, or can’t recall a familiar name during a conversation. Memory lapses can occur at any age, but aging alone is generally not a cause of cognitive decline. When significant memory loss occurs among older people, it is generally not due to aging but to organic disorders, brain injury, or neurological illness.

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Studies have shown that you can help prevent cognitive decline and reduce the risk of dementia with some basic good health habits:

  • staying physically active
  • getting enough sleep
  • not smoking
  • having good social connections
  • limiting alcohol to one drink a day
  • eating a balanced diet low in saturated and trans fats.

Certain health conditions that can impair cognitive skills include diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, depression, and hypothyroidism. If you have any of these health issues, you can help protect your memory by following your doctor’s advice carefully.

Memory changes can be frustrating, but the good news is that, thanks to decades of research, you can learn how to get your mind active. There are various strategies we can use to protect and improve memory. Here are several you might try.

1. Keep learning

A higher level of education is associated with better mental functioning in old age. Experts think that advanced education may help keep memory strong by getting a person into the habit of being mentally active. Challenging your brain with mental exercise is believed to activate processes that help maintain individual brain cells and stimulate communication among them. Many people have jobs that keep them mentally active, but pursuing a hobby, learning a new skill, or volunteering for a project at work that involves a skill you don’t usually use can function the same way and help improve memory. Continue reading

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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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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.

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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

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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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).

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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.”

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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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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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Cold vs. flu symptoms – WebMD

The country appears to be under siege from the flu this year. Schools are closing in some states to protect children. The flu vaccine appears to have been formulated in a way that it is not a protective as usual. You have every reason to be concerned about your health these days. No one wants to come down with the flu. On the other hand, you might just have a cold. How do you tell the difference? WebMD offers the following infographic to help  you answer that question.

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Finally, I have found it valuable to be very careful of where I put my hands these days. You can buy antiseptic hand wipes cheaply from Amazon and your local drug store. I recommend that you buy them and use them often. Be careful where you put your hands. It is winter so you can wear gloves and use them for opening doors, wear them riding the bus or train. Those strap hangers and poles on your ride to work can be breeding ground for bacteria. 

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Tony

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Turmeric compound could boost memory and mood

I have eaten and enjoyed Indian food back in the late 1970’s when I lived in London and didn’t eat meat. Those days are long gone, but I do keep hearing good things about turmeric. Here is a nice rundown from Medical News Today on it.

Not a lover of Indian food? A new study might change your mind. Researchers have found that a compound in turmeric — the spice that gives curry its golden color — could help to improve the mood and memory of older adults.

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Turmeric has been linked to a wealth of health benefits. Last year, for example, Medical News Today reported on a study suggesting that turmeric could help to treat pancreatic cancer, while other research claims the popular spice may help to treat stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. Continue reading

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Everyday habits can bolster your memory muscles – Harvard

Regular readers know that I have had several members of my family, or both sides, suffer from dementia in general or Alzheimer’s in particular. So, being a guy in his late 70’s I am particularly sensitive to any kind of cognitive kinks that I may be experiencing. I don’t know if it is my imagination or there are simply more people coming on board the cognitive improvement movement. Herewith, Harvard Healthbeat on tips for strengthening your memory.

Your daily habits and lifestyle — what you eat and drink, whether you exercise, how stressed you are, and more — affect your mental health every bit as much as your physical health. A growing body of research indicates that regular exercise and a healthful diet can help protect your memory from aging-related decline. (my emphasis)

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Exercise

Physical fitness and mental fitness go together. People who exercise regularly tend to stay mentally sharp into their 70s, 80s, and beyond. Although the precise “dose” of exercise isn’t known, research suggests that the exercise should be moderate to vigorous and regular. Examples of moderate exercise include brisk walking, stationary bicycling, water aerobics, and competitive table tennis. Vigorous activities include jogging, high-impact aerobic dancing, square dancing, and tennis.

Exercise helps memory in several ways. It reduces the risk of developing several potentially memory-robbing conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Exercise is good for the lungs, and people who have good lung function send more oxygen to their brains. There is some evidence that exercise helps build new connections between brain cells and improves communication between them. Finally, exercise has been linked to increased production of neurotrophins, substances that nourish brain cells and help protect them against damage from stroke and other injuries.

 

Here are some ways to build physical activity into your daily routine:

Walk instead of driving when possible.

Set aside time each day for exercise. For extra motivation, ask your spouse or a friend to join you.

Use the stairs instead of the elevator.

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