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Exercise may save your aging brain – Study

I can’t even guess how many times I have written about the benefits physical exercise has on the brain as well as the body. I would also like to repeat that my family has numerous occurrences of dementia, in general, and Alzheimer’s, in particular. My aunt and her sister both suffered from those afflictions. My father was fine and his life ended with no cognitive afflictions. However, his father was afflicted. He used to wander off and the police would pick him up and call my father to come get him. Remember, this was the early 1940’s. Additionally, while my father was fine, his sister and her daughter both had cognitive impairment. Hence, my interest in preserving my cognitive abilities into my old age.

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So, I was gratified to read the latest findings on Alzheimer’s and Dementia from the Alzheimer’s Association.

As HealthDay News reported, “Exercise helps you stay fit, hale and hearty, and researchers say it may also help you stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Now they have a better understanding of the hidden benefits that aid the brain.
“Older folks who are more physically active have higher levels of a protein that promotes better communication between the brain’s synapses, a new study reports.”
People as old as 80’s and 90’s whose brains were riddles with amyloid plaques had better mental functions if they were more active.
The study indicated that physical activity can promote resilience in the brain.
“If you can keep brain cells healthy and communicating longer, you may slow the changes you would see in disease or you may be able to decrease the vulnerability of the brain to other injury or other insult,” Heather Snyder, vice president of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association said.
To read further on the subject, check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits).

Tony

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Groundbreaking pig heart transplant in a human may help patients awaiting donor hearts

The University of Maryland School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical Center announced the first successful transplant of a genetically modified pig’s heart into a human. According to reports, the patient, a Maryland man, is doing well following the groundbreaking surgery on Friday, Jan. 7 to save his life.

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Porcine (pig) heart transplants aren’t approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, the federal agency authorized the surgery in this case for “compassionate use” as no other options remained for the patient, according to the medical team.

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What, Exactly, is BMI? – Tufts

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure of body weight adjusted for height. It is considered a better indicator of excess weight than body weight alone and is used to categorize individuals as “underweight,” “normal weight,” “overweight,” or “obese.” What does it really tell us, and how accurate is it?

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Measuring Body Fat: Being overweight or obese is associated with a wide range of chronic and acute health conditions, so determining how much excess body fat a person is carrying is an important factor in caring for their overall health. There are many ways to determine how much body fat an individual has, including skinfold thicknesses, bioelectrical impedance, underwater weighing, and dual energy x-ray absorption. These measures can be expensive, intrusive, not widely available, or technically demanding. Calculating BMI provides a quick, easy, inexpensive surrogate measure of body fatness. Studies have shown BMI correlates well with results of more complex methods for assessing body fatness and with future health risks.

To calculate BMI, body weight (in kilograms) is divided by height (in meters) squared. In English measures, weight (in pounds) is divided by height (in inches) squared, then multiplied by 703. A link to an easy-to-use online BMI calculator is provided in Resources, below.

Check out my post https://guysandgoodhealth.com/2020/03/19/bmi-not-the-best-indicator/ to read further on BMI.

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Weekend Funnies …

Tony

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Exercise alters brain chemistry to protect aging synapses

When elderly people stay active, their brains have more of a class of proteins that enhances the connections between neurons to maintain healthy cognition, a UC San Francisco study has found.

This protective impact was found even in people whose brains at autopsy were riddled with toxic proteins associated with Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Riding with my dog on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. The annual Bike the Drive when the city closes the Drive to autos and lets us bike rides ‘have a turn.’

“Our work is the first that uses human data to show that synaptic protein regulation is related to physical activity and may drive the beneficial cognitive outcomes we see,” said Kaitlin Casaletto, PhD, an assistant professor of neurology and lead author on the study, which appears in the January 7 issue of Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

The beneficial effects of physical activity on cognition have been shown in mice but have been much harder to demonstrate in people.

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Resilience to stress can be measured and controlled in the brain and body

Recent research has begun to identify the neural mechanisms in stress responses that may lead to the development of resilience. The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2021, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.

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Resilience to stress is the ability of an individual to cope with hardship; this ability comes easier to some individuals than others.  A person’s level of resilience can be a determining factor for successfully coping with stressful events. Individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and other disorders may one day benefit from treatments targeting specific circuits and regions of the brain. However, the exact mechanisms of resilience, such as how it mediates the relationship between the brain and the rest of the body, are not yet known. 

New findings show:

  • Activation of a subset of touch neurons in the skin can reduce stress hormones after minor stress; the elimination of these neurons leads to depression-like behavior (Melanie Schaffler, University of Pennsylvania).
  • In rats who exhibit high anxiety and passive coping behavior, biological sex moderates the presence of resilience and active coping styles in adulthood after adolescent stress (Eva E. Redei, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University).
  • PTSD-prone rats have higher levels of urinary adrenaline and more inflammation-associated bacteria in their gut; exposure to stress significantly alters their gut microbiota (Esther Sabban, New York Medical College).

“Stress affects us in many ways, and these studies show us that resilience is also multi-faceted,” said press conference moderator Martha Farah, Walter H. Annenberg Professor in Natural Sciences and director of the Center for Neuroscience & Society at the University of Pennsylvania. “Discovering the brain mechanisms of resilience is arguably the holy grail of psychiatry. These findings will contribute to new treatments for PTSD and other anxiety and mood disorders.”

Everyone experiences stress in their lives. To read further on it in this blog, type STRESS into the Search Box on the right.

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Don’t try to get COVID – NW Medicine Experts

As omicron spreads across the country, some have wondered if they should just expose themselves to the coronavirus and get it over with. 

Don’t do it, say Northwestern Medicine experts.

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“You’d be crazy to try to get infected with this,” said Dr. Robert Murphy, executive director of the Havey Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Murphy and other Northwestern Medicine experts explain why that strategy is high risk for you, public health and the economy. They also discuss population immunity, and whether it’s inevitable that you will contract COVID-19.

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Balance between sleep and exercise may be key to help osteoarthritis patients manage pain

Although osteoarthritis has no cure, researchers are developing a new intervention to improve patients’ chronic pain outcomes.

It may shoot through the hands while typing or flare in the knees when getting out of the car. Wherever the pain, over 32 million Americans living with osteoarthritis experience it.

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To reduce that pain, patients living with the degenerative joint disease are often told to exercise.

It sounds simple.

But people with osteoarthritis may experience pain when they start to move more, which can be a deterrent to taking up, or sticking with, an exercise program.

“Pain during movement is an important reason why this population isn’t more active, and we need to identify ways we can help to change this,” said Daniel Whibley, Ph.D., research assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Michigan Medicine. “Otherwise, they may end up in a loop of pain and inactivity that we know can lead to disability later down the line.”

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Plant-Based Diet May Protect Against Stroke

If you have had a stroke or want to lower your risk for one, the case for eating more fruits, vegetables, and other healthy plant foods—and cutting back on meat and other animal products—gets stronger every year. A recent study published in Neurology adds to the evidence that a plant-based diet can reduce the odds of a stroke and preserve overall brain health. The study also indicates that the types of plant-based foods consumed may make a difference.

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Earlier studies have looked at the benefits of plant-based diets, but this one focused on the quality of those diets, says Kathryn M. Rexrode, MD, senior author of the study and a family physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “Not all plant-based diets are healthy,” she notes. “After all, you can be a vegetarian and eat pasta and cake all day.”

Dr. Rexrode and colleagues at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston studied the diets of 209,508 men and women over a roughly 25-year period and found that people who ate mostly fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (such as beans), and nuts reduced their overall risk for stroke by 10 percent. By contrast, they found no benefit against stroke among people who ate six daily servings of refined grains (such as white pasta and rice), potatoes (which convert to sugar rapidly in the body), fruit juice and sugar-sweetened beverages, and sugary desserts.

“If everyone in the United States followed healthy plant-based diets, we could see a reduction of about 80,000 strokes per year,” says Dr. Rexrode. “As someone who has seen the devastating impact of stroke on individuals and families, that sounds like a pretty substantial impact, and a reason to focus on diet.” Every year nearly 800,000 Americans experience a stroke, and survivors stand a one in four chance of having a second one.

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Alcohol’s Over-hyped Health Benefits

Some people feel a drink at the end of a tough day helps them unwind and relax. Others may see a daily glass of red wine as a way to boost heart health. This kind of moderate drinking has been associated in some studies with positive health effects, but cause-and-effect evidence is lacking, and alcohol carries serious risks to health and safety. Understanding the science behind the risks and benefits of alcohol consumption can help us make informed decisions about our drinking.

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Red wine is often singled out for potential health benefits. It contains bioactive compounds called polyphenols which have been associated with cardiovascular health. It is important to recognize that all of the potentially beneficial compounds in red wine are also found in other foods and beverages. For example, flavonoids, which account for over 85 percent of the polyphenols in red wine, are common in many vegetables, seeds, nuts, spices, and herbs. Resveratrol, a much-hyped compound being studied for health benefits, is found in grape skins and wine, but also in more than 70 other plant species, including berries, peanuts, and cocoa.

The detrimental effects of excess alcohol intake on heart health are well documented. Drinking a lot over a long time or binge drinking can damage the heart, causing problems including stretching of the heart muscle (cardiomyo-pathy), irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation), high blood pressure, and stroke. The potential benefits of red wine drinking, particularly in excess, may therefore be outweighed by potential risks, especially since the beneficial compounds in the wine are easily available from other dietary sources.

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Let there be light …

I don’t know if I suffer from SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – or not. If I do, I think it is a mild case. Don’t know what SAD is?


Here’s the Mayo Clinic explaining it, “Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer.”

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“Treatment for SAD may include light therapy (phototherapy), medications and psychotherapy.”


What I do know about myself is that I don’t feel happy about the dwindling hours of sunlight as winter advances. I can’t ride my bike as much because of the looming darkness. By late December I am thrilled to see that the days are beginning, very slowly, a few minutes a day, but undeniably, to have more light.
I live in Chicago. To help me to enjoy the return of the light as winter ebbs, I have charted the sunrise and sunset for January through March. I mentioned living in Chicago because you likely live elsewhere and your sunrise and set times will vary somewhat from mine.

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Mapping the musical mind

Researchers in Japan used magnetic resonance imaging to study the brains of secondary school students during a task focused on musical observation. They found that students trained to play music from a young age exhibited certain kinds of brain activity more strongly than other students. The researchers also observed a specific link between musical processing and areas of the brain associated with language processing for the first time.

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Professor Kuniyoshi L. Sakai from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tokyo is a keen musician, as are many of his colleagues. Although Sakai has studied human language through the lens of neuroscience for the last 25 years, it’s no surprise that he also studies the effect music has on the brain. Inspired by a mode of musical training known as the Suzuki method, which is based on ideas of natural language acquisition, Sakai and his team wanted to explore common neurological aspects of music and language.

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Excessive intake of simple sugar affect higher brain function

There has been a remarkable increase in intake of simple sugar (sucrose, isomerized sugar (corn syrup)) from beverages and diets in modern society. The intake of simple sugars in adolescents in which mental disorders frequently occur is higher than any other generations. Moreover, patients with mental disorders consume approximately 2-fold more sugar than age-matched healthy individuals, and patients with schizophrenia who consume more sucrose exhibit more severe symptoms. Despite accumulating evidence, it is still unproven that excessive sugar intake contributes to the pathogenesis of psychiatric disorders among susceptible individuals. Doesn’t an excessive intake of simple sugar affect higher brain function? We attempted to elucidate this causal relationship.

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As a susceptibility gene for psychiatric disorder, we selected Glyoxylase-1 and Disrupted-in-schizophrenia-1. By combining the heterozygous mice with environmental factors of excessive sugar intake at the age of puberty, we successfully created a novel mouse model exhibiting various mental disorder-like symptoms, including decreased sensorimotor gating function, decreased working memory, hyperactivity, abnormal gamma-band component in EEG. In other words, this demonstrates a possibility that the excessive intake of simple sugar at the age of puberty could be an environmental risk factor of psychiatric disorders.

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No convincing scientific evidence that hangover cures work

Spoiler alert: I’m not much of a drinker. I down maybe two beers in a month, so I have no need for hangover cures of any kind. However, I thought with New Year’s Eve celebrations barely over, maybe you might ….

A new systematic review has found only very low-quality evidence that substances claiming to treat or prevent alcohol-induced hangover work. 

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The researchers call for more rigorous scientific exploration of the effectiveness of these remedies for hangovers to provide practitioners and the public with accurate evidence-based information on which to make their decisions. 

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Nutrition Experts Reveal Top Consumer Diet Changes Due to COVID-19

The following was written as a summary of changes that consumers had made as a result of the Covid-19 conditions at the beginning of 2021. Here we are at the beginning of 2022. This provides a fascinating look back in time.

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The global pandemic has changed all aspects of normal living, and ushered in an era where health and wellness are paramount decision drivers for the foreseeable future, especially when it comes to food and beverage choices. The 2021 Pollock Communications and Today’s Dietitian “What’s Trending in Nutrition” survey, with 1,165 registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) responding, provides an in-depth look at how dietitians believe consumers’ diets have changed due to COVID-19. The health revolution has exploded as a result of the pandemic, with the top findings for 2021 revealing a focus on foods that support immunity and provide comfort, as well as a major shift in snacking habits. Changes to the top 10 superfoods list also indicate a move toward foods that are plant-forward and support health, with green tea, a natural anti-inflammatory beverage, jumping from #10 last year to the #3 spot this year, and nutrient-rich spinach and leafy greens making their debut on the list. As consumers continue to search for diets that promote well-being and longevity, intermittent fasting surpasses the ketogenic diet as the #1 diet trend dietitians predict for 2021, and RDNs forecast consumers will be on the hunt for natural, clean labels and ingredients like cannabidiol (CBD), collagen and hemp. Here’s a look at the full results.

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Happy New Year: Weekend Funnies

How about starting the New Year with maybe a giggle anyway. Heaven knows last year didn’t give us much to laugh about.

Best wishes for the coming year!

This might be an Italian joke. When I grew up, many of my friends played the accordion.

Tony

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