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.
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
Besides the possibility of your personal information being sent to the dark web by unscrupulous hackers and sold to the highest bidder, it turns out that there are other, more mundane, risks to using social media, according to the Harvard Health Letter.
You’ve mastered the art of texting, emailing, and web surfing on your smartphone and computer. But along with that digital prowess, you’ve picked up an unexpected side effect.
“We get a number of patients who develop injuries from these activities,” says Dr. Tamara Rozental, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hand, wrist, and elbow disorders at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
The repetitive motions of texting and typing can lead to general hand pain from underlying osteoarthritis (the wearing away of cartilage in the joints). “Using these gadgets doesn’t cause osteoarthritis, but if you’re prone to it, it can increase your symptoms,” Dr. Rozental says. Continue reading
As regular readers know I am a music lover with a wide range of tastes. One of my favorite aspects of bike riding is the bluetooth speaker on my water bottle that lets me listen to the tunes on my iPhone as I pedal along. When my daughter, now 23 years old, was a toddler, I remember watching music videos with her and enjoying – The wheels on the bus go round and round … – too many times to count. That and numerous other tunes provided a regular source of engagement and enjoyment for her. At the time it just seemed like a fun thing to share with her. But, it seems she was getting a lot more out of it than I knew, according to a study presented at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society (CNS) meeting in Boston.
A universal sign of motherhood is the lullaby. The world over, mothers sing to their babies, whether Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, their favorite song from the radio, or even random notes. This universality makes the simple lullaby a great window into the human mind. In a new study, cognitive neuroscientists found that lullabies soothe both moms and babies simultaneously, while play songs increase babies’ attention and displays of positive emotion toward their mothers.
The behavioral implications of music are vast, says Laura Cirelli of the University of Toronto Mississauga, who presented the new work on maternal singing at the 25th meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society. “Infant brains must be able to track auditory events in a predictive manner to make sense of music,” she explains, and many complex things are going on in their brains to make that possible.
I haven’t posted anything on soft drinks for a while, yet they remain popular. If you need more, check out my Page – What’s wrong with soft drinks?
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.
Hrayr 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.
I have written numerous times about using deep breathing to combat stress. Turns out that a recent study from Brigham Young University says that exercise helps to combat negative effects of stress.
The study, newly published in the journal of Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, finds that running mitigates the negative impacts chronic stress has on the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
“Exercise is a simple and cost-effective way to eliminate the negative impacts on memory of chronic stress,” said study senior author Jeff Edwards, associate professor of physiology and developmental biology at BYU.
“The ideal situation for improving learning and memory would be to experience no stress and to exercise,” Edwards said. “Of course, we can’t always control stress in our lives, but we can control how much we exercise. It’s empowering to know that we can combat the negative impacts of stress on our brains just by getting out and running.”
To see the paper online, click here. Ten undergraduate BYU students served as co-authors on the paper, included David Marriott, who began the project for his undergraduate honor’s thesis. First author Roxanne Miller graduated in December with her Ph.D. and the research was part of her dissertation.
“Even though we will never be able to completely remove stress from our lives, it is nice to know that we can go out and do cardiovascular exercise for 20 minutes a day to help keep the stress from overwhelming our brains,” Miller said.
To read further on the benefits of exercise and the brain check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits).
Also, Happy Passover to those of you celebrating that holiday. And last, but not least, happy April Fools day to everyone.
The idea of achieving and maintaining good health in this blog really is just an exercise (intended) in restoring ourselves on a daily basis, isn’t it? We wake up in the morning and our body says to us, metaphorically, what have you done for me lately? It’s nice that you ate well and got some exercise yesterday, but this is a new day. So, get to it.
In the spirit of Easter and rebirth and good health I wanted to share this infographic on the benefits of exercise to our brains. Too often we overlook these benefits which are so important to us today and even more so tomorrow, in our senior years.
If you want to read more on this subject, check out my Page – Important Facts About Your Brain (and Exercise Benefits)
Regular readers know that my family history includes both Alzheimer’s and dementia. So, exercise and keeping my brain functioning is most relevant to me. When people ask me why I ride my bike every day, I always tell them that I am paying for my old age one bike ride at a time.
Enjoy the day!
A COUPLE OF APRIL FOOLERS
Ham is the traditional Easter main course, unless you’re going to an Easter buffet with your family and have miles of different foods to choose from.
Beware the salt in Easter ham
So how many calories are in that ham, or how much can you eat without ruining your calorie count on Easter? And what about the salt? Ham and salt go together because salt is used to cure and preserve ham.
Here are some differing estimates that may help you with that ham dinner. Myfitnesspal.com puts a three-ounce serving of honey baked ham, spiral cut, at a very manageable 150 calories. Three ounces is a small amount, less than a quarter of a pound, however. The quarter pounder works for McDonald’s. Maybe it can work for you, too.
But then the salt kicks in. That three-ounce portion has 960 mg of salt, or 320 mg an ounce. We need around 2000 milligrams a day and medical experts say that many of us should cut it to 1500.
Another site good on calorie matters, SparkRecipes.com, puts 5.33 ounces of ham, presumably made without the honey this time, at 337 calories but with a sodium level of 2,273.4 mg. Experts recommend that adults consume below 1500 mg of salt per day.
Maybe the idea is that Easter only comes around once a year. Enjoy some ham and be done with it. Just don’t overdo it, particularly in view of the sodium content.
I think the old saw, “All things in moderation” comes into play here. You can enjoy some ham on Easter as long as you don’t make a pig of yourself.
I admit to having a somewhat checkered past with regard to journalism. I started out writing and editing men’s magazines and sexy paperback novels. I graduated from that after some years to real journalism and spent the next 20 years of my life working for Reuters covering international commodities markets. My college degree is in finance. Don’t ask how I got from there to men’s mags …
Anyway, I recently ran across some old hot looking paperback book covers – on first glance. They looked hot, but were, in fact, very clever images of humorous books for librarians. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.
I would be indebted to anyone who might cast some light on these. I honestly never saw them before.
Thanks to USA Today for this superb graphic presentation of statistics from the American Cancer Society. On its face, it seems good news that smoking has declined. However, stopping a bad habit isn’t the same as having good healthy ones. It seems that as folks dropped their cigarettes, they picked up their snacking and overeating activities.
Please check out my Page – How many ways does smoking harm you? for more details on this destructive habit.
Also, My Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) is worth looking in to.
I recommend reading the following – Obesity is common, serious and costly – CDC. To read more on obesity, type O B E S I T Y into the SEARCH Box at the right.
A hundred years ago, it seems, I dated a woman who taught yoga. While we were dating I did yoga every day. After we parted, I still practiced daily yoga for some years. While I still do yoga from time to time, one aspect I have carried into my daily life is breath control. I can honestly say that I use it to calm myself at some point every day of my life. I also employ it at night when I finally crawl under the covers. I am quick to sleep. Herewith Harvard Medical School on relaxation techiques.
The term “fight or flight” is also known as the stress response. It’s what the body does as it prepares to confront or avoid danger. When appropriately invoked, the stress response helps us rise to many challenges. But trouble starts when this response is constantly provoked by less momentous, day-to-day events, such as money woes, traffic jams, job worries, or relationship problems.
Health problems are one result. A prime example is high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. The stress response also suppresses the immune system, increasing susceptibility to colds and other illnesses. Moreover, the buildup of stress can contribute to anxiety and depression. We can’t avoid all sources of stress in our lives, nor would we want to. But we can develop healthier ways of responding to them. One way is to invoke the relaxation response, through a technique first developed in the 1970s at Harvard Medical School by cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson. The relaxation response is a state of profound rest that can be elicited in many ways, including meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation.
Breath focus is a common feature of several techniques that evoke the relaxation response. The first step is learning to breathe deeply.
Deep breathing benefits Continue reading
Herewith the latest development in our battle with Father Time. At 78-years-old, this is the kind of information that keeps me on the edge of my seat.
As people age, their blood-vessel density and blood flow decrease, which is why it’s harder to maintain muscle mass after 40 and endurance in the later decades, even with exercise. This vascular decline is also one of the major causes of age-related diseases, such as frailty or hypertension. However, little is known about the underlying cause or how to stop it.
Now, in a new study published this week in Cell, a team of researchers from Penn Medicine and other institutions have shown for the first time how a well-studied enzyme called SIRT1 declines in the blood vessels with age and that restoring it reverses the effects of vascular aging. After receiving a supplement called NAD+ precursor nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), older mice had the number of capillaries and capillary density found in much younger mice, and improved endurance by up to 80 percent. The collaborative study also involves researchers from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“This study tells us that the loss of SIRT1 is a primary reason why our ability to exercise and receive its benefits diminish as we age,” said co-senior author Zoltan Pierre Arany, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Cardiovascular Medicine in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “We also show that when we bring the enzyme back into the blood vessels, vascular health improves dramatically: The old blood vessel tree [cluster of capillaries] in the older mice is turned into a young vessel tree, one that looks like it’s been exercising for a while, just by turning on this enzyme. That’s the most powerful aspect of the study.” Continue reading
Summary: A new study reports increased levels of STEP in the hippocampus is linked to mild cognitive impairment.
In mice, rats, monkeys, and people, aging can take its toll on cognitive function. A new study by researchers at Yale and Université de Montréal reveal there is a common denominator to the decline in all of these species — an increase in the level of the molecule striatal-enriched phosphatase, or STEP.
Increased levels of STEP in the hippocampus, a brain structure crucial to the formation of memory, were found in memory-impaired mice and rats, aged rhesus monkeys, and people suffering from mild cognitive impairment, the researchers report March 22 in the journal Current Biology.
High levels of STEP have also been reported in brains of Alzheimer’s patients, the authors note. STEP appears to play a key role in memory consolidation, but too much of it seems to be a bad thing. Young mice and rats with elevated levels of STEP perform more poorly on maze and other memory tests than their peers, and older animals in which STEP is inhibited perform more like young mice.
The scientists hypothesize that as we age we lose ability of to degrade STEP, leading to an unhealthy build up.
“The obvious follow up is to look for STEP inhibitors that will work in people,” said co-corresponding author Paul Lombroso, the Elizabeth Mears and House Jameson Professor in the Child Study Center and professor of neuroscience and of psychiatry.
I have written numerous times about the arthritis I suffer from in my hands and the various techniques I have tried to relieve the pain. Here is Harvard with five exercises that will restore some of the mobility in your hands.
If you find daily tasks difficult to do because you suffer from stiffness, swelling, or pain in your hands, the right hand mobility exercises can help get you back in motion.
Therapists usually suggest specific exercises depending on your particular hand or wrist condition. Some help increase a joint’s range of motion or lengthen the muscle and tendons via stretching. Other exercises strengthen muscles around a joint to generate more power or to build greater endurance.
Your muscles and tendons move the joints through arcs of motion, such as when you bend and straighten your fingers. If your normal range of motion is impaired — if you can’t bend your thumb without pain, for example — you may have trouble doing ordinary things like opening a jar.
These exercises move your wrist and fingers through their normal ranges of motion and require all the hand’s tendons to perform their specific functions. They should be done slowly and deliberately, to avoid injury. If you feel numbness or pain during or after exercising, stop and contact your doctor. Continue reading
Herewith the latest batch of pics and GIFs that tickled my funny bone in the past week. I hope you enjoy them. Although I am very allergic to cats I absolutely love them and their crazy, sweet ways.
Cats and dogs together are so cool.
Clearly, dogs need affection, too.
Have a great weekend!
As a 78-year-old concerned about his cognitive facilities remaining intact, this Penn State study caught my attention.
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.