Category Archives: Uncategorized

How good cholesterol can keep women’s brains healthy

Although I like to keep my posts applicable to both men and women, I ran across this article down under and thought you might find it worthwhile reading as it applies to healthy brains.

We’re all living longer, and for many women our older years are our happiest.

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Maintaining brain health is key to joining these lucky people living a long, happy and healthy life. But for many women, it’s the slow creep of dementia that leads to the demise of their health, and quality of life.

Two thirds of people living with dementia are women, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics confirms it is now the leading cause of death for women.

Yet there are few studies of how dementia progresses in women.

Two recent studies from the landmark 20-year Women’s Healthy Ageing Project at the University of Melbourne shed light on which women are most at risk of developing dementia, and how we can get in early to prevent or delay the disease.

Their results are timely, coming as the Australian Government considers the best ways to look after women’s health in the future, inviting submissions to its National Women’s Health Strategy for 2020 – 2030.

In research published in Brain Imaging and Behaviour, researchers found that a woman’s volume of grey matter in their brain at the age of 60 predicts their memory performance at 70.

Grey matter is the part of the brain that is controlled by the nerve cell bodies and it’s where the real processing happens, including speech, hearing, feelings, seeing and memory. White matter allows communication to and from grey matter areas, as well as between grey matter and other parts of the body.
In separate study published in the same journal, they also found that women with normal levels of the ‘good’ cholesterol, called HDL which carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver, in 1992 had less white matter damage in their brain a decade later when they conducted late-life brain MRI scans and cognitive assessments in 2012.

So, maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol impacts on the structure of the brain directly.

“Taken together, these findings show there are useful neuroimaging biomarkers for the prediction of cognitive decline in healthy older women,” says lead researcher Professor Cassandra Szoeke.

“They build on a growing body of research helping us pick up the warning signs of dementia earlier. In fact just this year the National Institute of Ageing published proposed criteria to diagnose dementia and pre-dementia on biomarkers, like brain scan results and body fluid measures of protein levels.”

What’s happening in our brains

Researchers already knew that brain shrinkage (or atrophy) is associated with diagnosed dementia.

These studies add to this knowledge by looking at risk-exposures and brain functioning over 20 years.

“Including brain scanning in a longitudinal study like this is very rare,” says Professor Szoeke. “It meant we could measure women’s brain pathology alongside cognition over decades, and being able to ‘see’ the impact of changes in the living brain is a huge leap forward in understanding how dementia develops.”

In the study, women with white matter changes were worse at planning and organization tests, and those with grey matter volume loss had worse memory as they aged.

“Maintaining brain health isn’t just important because dementia shortens our lives; we also have to process more information on a daily basis now than ever before – just consider how many times you need to click the ‘forgot my password’ button,” says Professor Szoeke.

“We know that having family members who had dementia increases our chance of the disease, but now we have other ways of predicting how our brains are likely to age.”

Keeping our brains healthy

Professor Szoeke says healthy lifestyles are important, in particular maintaining daily physical activity.

“Our study shows that healthy blood vessels reduce our risk of cognitive decline and disease. This aligns with our knowledge that regular physical activity, normal blood pressure and maintaining normal levels of HDL cholesterol are all associated with better cognition,” she says.

In this study, low levels of HDL cholesterol were associated with more vascular brain damage decades later and very large studies have already shown this kind of damage, known as ‘white matter hyperintensities’, are associated with increased risk of dementia.

So, maintaining good cholesterol levels, healthy blood pressure and a healthy diet, along with good levels of physical activity and annual health checks are important for maintaining good brain health.

“These findings suggest strategies to target major cardiovascular risk factors at midlife might also be effective in reducing the development of brain lesions and late life cognitive decline,” says Professor Szoeke.

“And while our findings relate to women, we know healthy lifestyles are important for men to maintain their brain health, too.

“Importantly people need to make sure any changes they’re making to adopt a healthier lifestyle meet their needs as an individual, considering what works for them. Their local GP is great place to start looking for advice.”

“This article was first published on Pursuit. Read the original article.

 

 

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AI Could Soon Predict Cognitive Decline Leading to Alzheimer’s Disease – Study

A team of scientists has successfully trained a new artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm to make accurate predictions regarding cognitive decline leading to Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Mallar Chakravarty, a computational neuroscientist at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, and his colleagues from the University of Toronto and the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, designed an algorithm that learns signatures from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), genetics, and clinical data. This specific algorithm can help predict whether an individual’s cognitive faculties are likely to deteriorate towards Alzheimer’s in the next five years.

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“At the moment, there are limited ways to treat Alzheimer’s and the best evidence we have is for prevention. Our AI methodology could have significant implications as a ‘doctor’s assistant’ that would help stream people onto the right pathway for treatment. For example, one could even initiate lifestyle changes that may delay the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s or even prevent it altogether,” says Chakravarty, an Assistant Professor in McGill University’s Department of Psychiatry. Continue reading

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About that aging brain …

They say you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but new research shows you can teach an old rat new sounds, even if the lesson doesn’t stick very long.

For the record I wrote a post on that damaging cliche about teaching old dogs new tricks. You can read it here – Of cats and dogs and cliches ….

Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro) of McGill University examined the effects of aging on neuroplasticity in the primary auditory cortex, the part of the brain that processes auditory information. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to modify its connections and function in response to environmental demands, an important process in learning.

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Plasticity in the young brain is very strong as we learn to map our surroundings using the senses. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

Plasticity in the young brain is very strong as we learn to map our surroundings using the senses. As we grow older, plasticity decreases to stabilize what we have already learned. This stabilization is partly controlled by a neurotransmitter called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), which inhibits neuronal activity. This role of GABA was discovered by K.A.C. Elliot and Ernst Florey at The Neuro in 1956. Continue reading

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Protect your brain from stress – Harvard

While this blog started with a weight control focus, I soon realized that the answer was in living a healthy life, eating intelligently and exercising regularly. Right in harmony with those physical habits, I found that you can’t overlook the mental side of life and expect to succeed. As a result I have written numerous posts on dealing with stress. So, I was very pleased to run across this work on the subject from Harvard Medical School.

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Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

Protect yourself from damaging stress

To better cope with stress, consider how you might minimize factors that make it worse. Here are some tips that can help you better manage stress and hopefully prevent some of the damaging effects it could have on your brain.

Establish some control over your situation. If stress isn’t predictable, focus on controlling the things that are. “Having a routine is good for development and health,” says Dr. Kerry Ressler, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Predictability combats stress.

Get a good night’s sleep. Stress can result in sleep difficulties, and the resulting lack of sleep can make stress worse. “Sleep deprivation makes parts of the brain that handle higher-order functions work less well,” says Dr. Ressler. Having healthy sleep habits can help. This includes going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, avoiding caffeine after noon, and creating a relaxing sleep environment.

Get organized. Using strategies to help manage your workload can also reduce stress. For example, each day, create a concrete list of tasks you need to accomplish. This way, your duties won’t seem overwhelming. Making a list also gives you a clear end point so you know when you are done. “Laying tasks out like this helps reduce the feeling that the brain is being bombarded,” he says. It can also help you predict when you are likely to be stressed.

Get help if you need it. Reaching out can help you become more resilient and better able to manage stress, which may ultimately protect your brain health. Earlier intervention may reduce disability caused by stress-related complications later on.

Change your attitude toward stress. “A life without stress is not only impossible, but also would likely be pretty uninteresting — in fact, a certain degree of stress is helpful for growth,” says Dr. Ressler. So, rather than striving for no stress, strive for healthier responses to stress.

Following is a link for my Page – How to deal with stress which will give you further tools.

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All the news that fits …

I think the mainstream media is making us all into journalists.

Ernest Hemingway famously said, “To be a good reporter you need a built-in shockproof crap detector.”

When I started covering the fast-paced futures markets for Reuters News Service back in the 1960’s that quote resounded in my head on a daily basis. I started my journalistic career on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange talking to traders about what was happening in the futures markets. In those days, the biggest markets were pork bellies, live cattle, live hogs and shell egg futures. The financial instruments futures hadn’t been created yet.

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My qualifications included a degree in finance and several years experience magazine writing and editing. 

Reporting markets, you had to remember that everyone you talked to had an agenda (and likely a position in the market). So, I always assumed that the person speaking to me had an axe to grind. When someone told me something bullish on the market, I would search around for a contact likely to tell me the ‘other side.’ That way, my market comments remained balanced and useful to traders.  Continue reading

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‘Safest level of drinking is none’ – study

A comprehensive worldwide study of alcohol use and its impact on health concludes that the safest level of consumption is zero. The Global Burden of Disease Study 2016 has calculated levels of alcohol use and its effects on health during 1990–2016 in 195 countries.

The research, which now features in the journal The Lancet, notes that in 2016, alcohol use was responsible for almost 3 million deaths globally.

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Photo by Tembela Bohle on Pexels.com

Alcohol use was the main cause of death for people aged 15–49 that year, accounting for 12 percent of deaths in men of that age.

“Our findings,” says senior study author Dr. Emmanuela Gakidou, who currently works at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle, “are consistent with other recent research, which found clear and convincing correlations between drinking and premature death, cancer, and cardiovascular problems.” Continue reading

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Exercising to relax – Harvard

This is perfectly in line with our mantra of eat less; move more; live longer. Besides all the health benefits of exercise on the brain and body, Harvard Health Publishing says that it also reduces stress.

How does exercise reduce stress, and can exercise really be relaxing?

Rest and relaxation. It’s such a common expression that it has become a cliche. And although rest really can be relaxing, the pat phrase causes many men to overlook the fact that exercise can also be relaxing. It’s true for most forms of physical activity as well as for specific relaxation exercises.

Exercise is a form of physical stress. Can physical stress relieve mental stress? Alexander Pope thought so: “Strength of mind is exercise, not rest.” Plato agreed: “Exercise would cure a guilty conscience.” You’ll think so, too — if you learn to apply the physical stress of exercise in a controlled, graded fashion.

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 As you get into shape, you’ll begin to tolerate exercise, then enjoy it

How exercise reduces stress

Aerobic exercise is key for your head, just as it is for your heart. You may not agree at first; indeed, the first steps are the hardest, and in the beginning, exercise will be more work than fun. But as you get into shape, you’ll begin to tolerate exercise, then enjoy it, and finally depend on it. Continue reading

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Weekend funnies …

Herewith the latest edition of weekend funnies. I hope you get a smile of two ahead of a wonderful weekend.

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Catness

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Tony

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Weekend funnies …

Herewith some more little tidbits from my web wanderings. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

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I think this is what you call a kneed to know basis.

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Tony

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Feeling young could mean your brain is aging more slowly

As a 78-year-old writing blog on diet, exercise and living past 100, I am keenly interested in everything that reflects on the brain and its part in aging, as well as the actual aging of the brain itself. Remember, I have three cases of dementia in my family including one certain one of Alzheimer’s.

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This is a shot of my dog and me riding on the Chicago Lakefront last year.

While everyone gets older, not everyone feels their age. A recent study finds that such feelings, called subjective age, may reflect brain aging. Using MRI brain scans, researchers found that elderly people who feel younger than their age show fewer signs of brain aging, compared with those who feel their age or older than their age. Published in open-access journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, this study is the first to find a link between subjective age and brain aging. The results suggest that elderly people who feel older than their age should consider caring for their brain health.

We tend to think of aging as a fixed process, where our bodies and minds change steadily. However, the passing years affect everyone differently. How old we feel, which is called our subjective age, also varies between people—with many feeling older or younger than their actual age. Continue reading

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Did you win in Las Vegas …?

Did you win? That’s always the question people ask when I mention having gone to Las Vegas. Please consider this a companion piece to what I posted May 12 –The agony and ecstasy of video poker.

Back 20 years ago when I was married, my wife and I had a subscription to Chicago’s famed Lyric Opera. A night at the opera would easily run in the neighborhood of $500, considering the ticket prices, well north of $100 each, cabs to and from, dinner out and a baby sitter. No one ever asked – Did you win? upon hearing that we went to the opera. How was the performance? What did you see? How was the production? Those were the kind of questions asked.

The fact is that my girlfriend and I played a lot of video poker on the trip. BUT, that wasn’t all we did.

Here is a shot of the beautiful fountain at Bellagio out the window of our room.

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You can see the dancing waters of the fountains. At night the view was more spectacular.

Like any trip there were lovely meals out. Here are pics from a few of ours.

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These were delicious baked clams at Rao’s on our first night there. New York readers are familiar with Rao’s.

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Lack of sleep may be linked to risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease – Study

This is kind of a yin/yang thing with exercise vs rest. Just as I write about the myriad benefits of exercise regularly here, it seems there are almost as many ways that not getting enough sleep damages us. If you would like to learn more, check out my Page – How important is a good night’s sleep?

Losing just one night of sleep led to an immediate increase in beta-amyloid, a protein in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a small, new study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In Alzheimer’s disease, beta-amyloid proteins clump together to form amyloid plaques, a hallmark of the disease.

While acute sleep deprivation is known to elevate brain beta-amyloid levels in mice, less is known about the impact of sleep deprivation on beta-amyloid accumulation in the human brain. The study is among the first to demonstrate that sleep may play an important role in human beta-amyloid clearance.

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“This research provides new insight about the potentially harmful effects of a lack of sleep on the brain and has implications for better characterizing the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease,” said George F. Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health, which funded the study.

Beta-amyloid is a metabolic waste product present in the fluid between brain cells. In Alzheimer’s disease, beta-amyloid clumps together to form amyloid plaques, negatively impacting communication between neurons.

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Happy Birthday – Albert Einstein – Belated

While my ignorance of physics is nearly pristine, over the years, I have run across a number of quotes from Albert Einstein that I thought were really fine. Herewith, some birthday celebration ones:

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As a bike rider, I couldn’t possibly overlook this one. I also have this poster framed in my living room.

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These are just a few that I like. Please feel free to offer anything that you may know that he said particularly meaningful.

Clearly my ignorance of physics rivals my ignorance of Einstein as his B’day was March 14th.

Ton

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Weekend funnies …

Here in the Midwest, we have actually gotten some normal spring weather. I hope you have a lovely weekend and these little tidbits might give you a running start on it.

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Master of the exercise ball

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What I love about dogs

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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 weekend funnies … vintage ads

Here is a variation on the theme of fitness funnies. It is always fascinating (to me) to look at some of the old ads and the way goods and services were sold. Times have sure changed.

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Tony

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