Tag Archives: aging brain

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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Dim light dims our brains – Study

Regular readers know I do a lot of work on the brain, my brain. Family members have suffered from both Alzheimer’s and dementia. At the age of 78, I want to continue enjoying my life and mental capacity.

Now comes Michigan State University with info on how light affects our mental functioning.

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Spending too much time in dimly lit rooms and offices may actually change the brain’s structure and hurt one’s ability to remember and learn, indicates groundbreaking research by Michigan State University neuroscientists.

The researchers studied the brains of Nile grass rats (which, like humans, are diurnal and sleep at night) after exposing them to dim and bright light for four weeks. The rodents exposed to dim light lost about 30 percent of capacity in the hippocampus, a critical brain region for learning and memory, and performed poorly on a spatial task they had trained on previously.

The rats exposed to bright light, on the other hand, showed significant improvement on the spatial task. Further, when the rodents that had been exposed to dim light were then exposed to bright light for four weeks (after a month-long break), their brain capacity – and performance on the task – recovered fully.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is the first to show that changes in environmental light, in a range normally experienced by humans, leads to structural changes in the brain. Americans, on average, spend about 90 percent of their time indoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Continue reading

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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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Send your brain a Valentine

We are sending our loved ones greetings cards and chocolates next week. Let’s not forget that two pound organ in our heads that keeps the show on the road. 

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Here are 10 tips from the Alzheimer’s Association to help protect your brain from decline  as you age. Please don’t wait till you are in your 60’s to start thinking about your brain health. The sooner your pay attention to it the better off you will be. 
1 Break a sweat
Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body. Several studies have found an association between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline.

I write about exercise and the brain regularly. Check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) to learn more about this. 

2 Hit the books
Formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. For example, take a class at a local college, community center or online. 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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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.

Continue reading

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Cognitive Training Helps Regain a Younger-Working Brain

Relentless cognitive decline as we age is worrisome, and it is widely thought to be an unavoidable negative aspect of normal aging. Researchers at the Center for Brain Health at The University of Texas at Dallas, however, say their research could provide new hope for extending our brain function as we age.

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In a randomized clinical study involving adults age 56 to 71 that recently published in Neurobiology of Aging, researchers found that after cognitive training, participants’ brains were more energy efficient, meaning their brain did not have to work as hard to perform a task.

Dr. Michael Motes, senior research scientist at the Center for BrainHealth and one of the lead authors of the study, said, “Finding a nonpharmacological intervention that can help the aging brain to perform like a younger brain is a welcome finding that potentially advances understanding of ways to enhance brain health and longevity. It is thrilling for me as a cognitive neuroscientist, who has previously studied age-related cognitive decline, to find that cognitive training has the potential to strengthen the aging brain to function more like a younger brain.” Continue reading

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6 Ways to a better memory – Infographic

When I was in the working world, my memory was constantly being tested. Now that I am retired my memory concerns have morphed. Being a senior citizen, I feel more aware of and am more concerned about my memory for non-professional, but very personal, reasons. I have suffered from senior moments ever since I was in my fifties. I hope that is all they are and not a prelude to any serious cognitive situations. I thought this little infographic on building up your memory might be useful to you no matter what your age is.

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Lack of Sleep Boosts Levels of Alzheimer’s Protein – Study

I wrote about the dangers of sleep deprivation earlier this week. Here is the opening paragraph of that post: Regular readers know that I am an old man and very highly value a good night’s sleep. That is not the way I felt 20 years ago when I was in the working world. In those days I felt strongly that sleep was an intrusion on my life and activities and resented having to do it. I got a little wiser as the years went by. Please check out my Page – How important is a good night’s sleep? for significantly more details on this very important aspect of living a long healthy life.

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Have you resolved to take better care of yourself in the new year? Here’s a relatively painless way to do it: Catch a few more zzz’s every night. A third of American adults don’t get enough sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention..

Chronic poor sleep has been linked to cognitive decline, and a new study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis explains why: As a wakeful brain churns away through the night, it produces more of the Alzheimer’s protein amyloid beta than its waste-disposal system can handle. Levels of the protein rise, potentially setting off a sequence of changes to the brain that can end with dementia.

“This study is the clearest demonstration in humans that sleep disruption leads to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease through an amyloid beta mechanism,” said senior author Randall Bateman, MD, the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Distinguished Professor of Neurology. “The study showed that it was due to overproduction of amyloid beta during sleep deprivation.” Continue reading

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Short-term exercise = Big-time brain boost – Study

Herewith more good news on the connection between exercise and mental capacity. Eat less; move more; live longer – and maybe think better.

A 10-minute, one-time burst of exercise can measurably boost your brain power, at least temporarily, researchers at Western University in London, Canada, have found.

While other studies have showed brain-health benefits after 20-minutes of a single-bout of exercise, or following commitment to a long-term (24-week) exercise program, this research suggests even 10 minutes of aerobic activity can prime the parts of the brain that help us problem-solve and focus.

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“Some people can’t commit to a long-term exercise regime because of time or physical capacity,” said Kinesiology Prof. Matthew Heath, who is also a supervisor in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience and, with master’s student Ashna Samani, conducted the study. “This shows that people can cycle or walk briskly for a short duration, even once, and find immediate benefits.” Continue reading

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How to age more slowly

Here is further information on the goal and idea of living a long life with a functioning brain throughout.

Tony

True Strange Library

Centenarians reach age 100 because they age more slowly. Genetics play a part in resisting damage that accumulatesover time, but there are things anyone can do to slow the aging process and improve health.

According to Israeli physician Nir Barzilai of the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York:

“There is no pattern. The usual recommendations for a healthy life — not smoking, not drinking, plenty of exercise, a well-balanced diet, keeping your weight down — they apply to us average people. But not to them. Centenarians are in a class of their own.” …

“Today’s changes in lifestyle do in fact contribute to whether someone dies at the age of 85 or before age 75.

But in order to reach the age of 100, you need a special genetic make-up. These people age differently. Slower. They end up dying of the same diseases…

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Age: It’s Just a Number

There are some superb concepts in this post that are in harmony with much of what I have written on living a long, healthy, happy life with your brain still functioning throughout. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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Tony

The Other Side of 55

“Age is just a number, and agelessness means not buying into the idea that a number determines everything from your state of health to your attractiveness to your value. You can be younger at 60 than you were at 30 because you’ve changed your attitude and your lifestyle. To be ageless is to defy the rules of what it supposedly means to be this age or that age. It is, quite simply, to never ‘grow old’ – to never feel as if the best days are behind you and it’s all downhill from here.”

Christiane Northrup, M.D. (from ‘Goddesses Never Age’).

There’s a great line in the original Crocodile Dundee movie when Sue asks Mick when he was born and he says, “In the summer”. He has no idea how many years he has lived (i.e., how ‘old’ he is), and so his age doesn’t limit him…

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Amish have internal ‘fountain of youth’ – Study

The first genetic mutation that appears to protect against multiple aspects of biological aging in humans has been discovered in an extended family of Old Order Amish living in the vicinity of Berne, Indiana, report Northwestern Medicine scientists.

An experimental “longevity” drug that recreates the effect of the mutation is now being tested in human trials to see if it provides protection against some aging-related illnesses.

Indiana Amish kindred (immediate family and relatives) with the mutation live more than 10 percent longer and have 10 percent longer telomeres (a protective cap at the end of our chromosomes that is a biological marker of aging) compared to Amish kindred members who don’t have the mutation, reports the new Northwestern study. (my emphasis)

Amish with this mutation also have significantly less diabetes and lower fasting insulin levels. A composite measure that reflects vascular age also is lower — indicative of retained flexibility in blood vessels in the carriers of the mutation — than those who don’t have the mutation, the research also found.

The paper was published Nov. 15 in the journal Science Advances.

These Amish individuals have very low levels of PAI-1 (plasminogen activator inhibitor,) a protein that comprises part of a “molecular fingerprint” related to aging or senescence of cells. It was previously known that PAI-1 was related to aging in animals but unclear how it affected aging in humans.

“The findings astonished us because of the consistency of the anti-aging benefits across multiple body systems,” said Dr. Douglas Vaughan, the lead author of the paper who has been studying PAI-1 for almost 30 years.

Vaughan, a cardiologist, is the Irving S. Cutter Professor and chairman of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Medicine.

“For the first time we are seeing a molecular marker of aging (telomere length), a metabolic marker of aging (fasting insulin levels) and a cardiovascular marker of aging (blood pressure and blood vessel stiffness) all tracking in the same direction in that these individuals were generally protected from age-related changes,” Vaughan said. “That played out in them having a longer lifespan. Not only do they live longer, they live healthier. It’s a desirable form of longevity. It’s their ‘health span.’”

“Longevity” drug developed by Northwestern and Tohoku University

Northwestern has partnered with Tohoku University in Japanin the development and testing of an oral drug, TM5614, that inhibits the action of PAI-1. The drug has already been tested in a phase 1 trial in Japan and is now in phase 2 trials there. Northwestern will apply for FDA approval to start an early phase trial in the U.S., possibly to begin within the next six months.

The proposed Northwestern trial will investigate the effects of the new drug on insulin sensitivity on individuals with type 2 diabetes and obesity because of the mutation’s effect on insulin levels in the Amish.

A mutation confers longevity

In the new study, Northwestern scientists looked at individuals who had one mutant copy of the gene, rendering their level of PAI-1 about half the level of kindred with two normal copies. Continue reading

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Tips for better aging – NIA

Below is a neat little infographic from the National Institute on Aging.

I thought it was nice to see how our life span has increased since the turn of the century.  On the other hand, check out the fact that nearly two out of three of us over 65 have multiple chronic conditions. There are some very simple – and easy – suggestions that can help seniors to live longer. But, you don’t have to wait till you are in your 60’s or even late 50’s to work on your health. As I have said dozens of times here, eat less; move more; live longer.

Start today no matter how young you are. Tomorrow is closer than you think.

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Tony

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Dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain – Study

Use it or lose it continues to reverberate as I learn about work done trying to understand aging and its effect on the human brain. Here is a study published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

“Exercise has the beneficial effect of slowing down or even counteracting age-related decline in mental and physical capacity,” says Dr Kathrin Rehfeld, lead author of the study, based at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, Germany.

From animal research, it is known that combining physical activity with sensory enrichment has stronger and longer-lasting effects on the brain than either treatment alone. For humans dancing has been suggested to be analogous to such combined training. Here we assessed whether a newly designed dance training program that stresses the constant learning of new movement patterns is superior in terms of neuroplasticity to conventional fitness activities with repetitive exercises and whether extending the training duration has additional benefits.

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The study was designed as an 18-month controlled intervention. It was approved by the ethics committee of Otto-von-Guericke University, Magdeburg. Some 52 healthy elderly individuals (63–80 years) recruited via announcements in local newspapers were screened for the study. They were then randomly assigned to either the dance or the sport group. Assessments were performed at baseline, after 6 and after 18 months of training. Continue reading

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