Tag Archives: aging brain

Leisure activities may improve seniors’ longevity – NIH

Eat less; move more; live longer … How many times have you read that on these pages? Now comes the National Institutes of Health with more of the same.

Physical activity is vital for your health. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight and prevent chronic diseases ranging from heart disease to diabetes. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get a minimum of 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week, or at least half that amount of vigorous-intensity activity.

Photo by Leandro Boogalu on Pexels.com

Previous studies have found that a wide variety of leisure-time physical activities can provide health benefits. But these studies have largely been done in younger adults. And many did not track different levels of various types of activities.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Social stress contributes to accelerated aging of the immune system – NIH

Exposure to social stress was associated with accelerated aging of the immune system, according to an NIA-funded study recently published in PNAS. The body’s immune system changes as people age, and there’s large variability in these changes. The study, led by researchers at UCLA, investigated whether social stressors added to immune system decline.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The researchers analyzed data from more than 5,500 people enrolled in the Health and Retirement Study, a long-term, nationally representative study of Americans over age 50. The researchers measured stress by analyzing responses to questions about exposure to various types of social stress, including discrimination, trauma, and other life events, such as unemployment. They also analyzed the participants’ immune profiles — a snapshot of immune system function — by drawing blood and measuring white blood cell levels, specifically T lymphocytes (also called T cells). T cells are an essential part of the immune system and help the body fight off infection.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Higher antioxidant levels tied to lower dementia risk

People with higher levels of antioxidants in their blood may be less likely to develop dementia, according to a new study.

Photo by Mark Stebnicki on Pexels.com

People with higher levels of antioxidants in their blood may be less likely to develop dementia, according to a study published in the May 4, 2022, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Leave a comment

Filed under dementia, leafy green vegetables

New research identifies blood biomarker for predicting dementia before symptoms develop

New research from NUI Galway and Boston University has identified a blood biomarker that could help identify people with the earliest signs of dementia, even before the onset of symptoms.

Photo by Roger Brown on Pexels.com

The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The researchers measured blood levels of P-tau181, a marker of neurodegeneration, in 52 cognitively healthy adults, from the US-based Framingham Heart Study, who later went on to have specialised brain PET scans. The blood samples were taken from people who had no cognitive symptoms and who had normal cognitive testing at the time of blood testing. 

1 Comment

Filed under dementia

“Good cholesterol’ particles may have a role in Alzheimer’s prevention

First-ever study to measure high-density lipoprotein particle numbers in spinal fluid led by Keck School of Medicine of USC

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Medical guidelines meant to reduce risk for heart disease focus on levels of cholesterol in the blood, including low-density lipoproteins (LDL), labeled “bad cholesterol,” and high-density lipoproteins (HDL), labeled as “good.” Now, a new study suggests an important connection between good cholesterol particles in cerebrospinal fluid and brain health as well.

Researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of USC took samples of cerebrospinal fluid from people aged 60 and older and measured the amount of small HDL particles in each sample. The team found that a higher number of these particles in the fluid is associated with two key indicators that the particles might have a protective effect against Alzheimer’s disease.

One indicator is better performance on cognitive tests. The other indicator is higher circulating levels in the cerebrospinal fluid of a particular peptide — like a protein, but smaller — called amyloid beta 42. Although that peptide contributes to Alzheimer’s disease when it misfolds and clumps onto neurons, an increased concentration circulating around the brain and spine is actually linked to lower risk for the disease.

“This study represents the first time that small HDL particles in the brain have been counted,” said Hussein Yassine, M.D., an associate professor of medicine and neurology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “They may be involved with the clearance and excretion of the peptides that form the amyloid plaques we see in Alzheimer’s disease, so we speculate that there could be a role for these small HDL particles in prevention.”

Leave a comment

Filed under aging brain, brain, brain function, cholesterol, HDL Cholesterol

What about ‘senior moments?’

Merriam Webster defines a senior moment as follows an instance of momentary forgetfulness or confusion that is attributed to the aging process.

For the record, senior moments are not restricted to senior citizens. Everyone gets them. However, they are more troubling to us seniors. Younger people just think it is funny forgetting something momentarily. Older folks are scared spitless because they fear they have Alzheimer’s.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As a SuperAger, I have to go in to Northwestern University for about a two hour battery of tests every year to measure my brain functions including memory. Mine was last week.

Our local hospital had a program called Healthy Transitions for folks over 55. It explained aspects of aging and what we could do to prepare the coming changesin our bodies – physical and mental. I attended numerous presentations, but the ones that were standing room only had to do with cognitive decline. It was clear to me that everyone ‘of a certain age’ is concerned about their brain functioning into old age.

One of the questions I was asked at the SuperAger test was whether my memory seemed to have declined or was it the same as 10 years ago. I said that I honestly couldn’t say. What I could say was that I had developed certain techniques that helped me to ‘not forget’- or have senior moments.

The first technique concerns, for example, forgetting where I put my keys. I don’t ever forget because I always put my keys on my dresser. I never throw them carelessly on the counter, or the table or whatever surface is handy when I come home. That is a recipe for disaster. When I come in from riding my bike, the first thing I do is to take my keys out of my back pocket and go put them on my dresser. Then I finish with my transitioning into being home, or showering, etc. Because of that technique I always know where my keys are.

2 Comments

Filed under aging brain, brain function, Healthy brain, mental health, seniors

Memory formation influenced by how brain networks develop during youth

  • As our brains mature, two key memory regions’ precise communication boost formation of lasting memories
  • Study suggests how ‘your brain is learning to multitask as you get older’
  • ‘By understanding how something comes to be — memory, in this instance — it gives us windows into why it eventually falls apart’

In a new, rare study of direct brain recordings in children and adolescents, a Northwestern Medicine scientist and colleagues from Wayne State University have discovered as brains mature, the precise ways by which two key memory regions in the brain communicate make us better at forming lasting memories. The findings also suggest how brains learn to multitask with age. 

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

The study was published Feb. 15 in Current Biology.

Historically, a lack of high-resolution data from children’s brains have led to gaps in our understanding of how the developing brain forms memories. The study innovated the use of intracranial electroencephalogram (iEEG) on pediatric patients to examine how brain development supports memory development. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Gene linked to cognitive resilience in seniors

Many people develop Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia as they get older. However, others remain sharp well into old age, even if their brains show underlying signs of neurodegeneration.

Among these cognitively resilient people, researchers have identified education level and amount of time spent on intellectually stimulating activities as factors that help prevent dementia. A new study by MIT researchers shows that this kind of enrichment appears to activate a gene family called MEF2, which controls a genetic program in the brain that promotes resistance to cognitive decline.

Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com

The researchers observed this link between MEF2 and cognitive resilience in both humans and mice. The findings suggest that enhancing the activity of MEF2 or its targets might protect against age-related dementia.

“It’s increasingly understood that there are resilience factors that can protect the function of the brain,” says Li-Huei Tsai, director of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory. “Understanding this resilience mechanism could be helpful when we think about therapeutic interventions or prevention of cognitive decline and neurodegeneration-associated dementia.”

Tsai is the senior author of the study, which appears today in Science Translational Medicine. The lead authors are recent MIT PhD recipient Scarlett Barker and MIT postdoctoral fellow and Boston Children’s Hospital physician Ravikiran (Ravi) Raju.

Protective effects

A large body of research suggests that environmental stimulation offers some protection against the effects of neurodegeneration. Studies have linked education level, type of job, number of languages spoken, and amount of time spent on activities such as reading and doing crossword puzzles to higher degrees of cognitive resilience.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Research links personality traits and hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease

New research from the Florida State University College of Medicine found that changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease are often visible early on in individuals with personality traits associated with the condition.

The study focused on two traits previously linked to the risk of dementia: neuroticism, which measures a predisposition for negative emotions, and conscientiousness, which measures the tendency to be careful, organized, goal-directed and responsible.

Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

“We have done studies showing who’s at risk of developing dementia, but those other studies were looking at the clinical diagnosis,” said Antonio Terracciano, professor of geriatrics at the College of Medicine. “Here, we are looking at the neuropathology; that is, the lesions in the brain that tell us about the underlying pathological change. This study shows that even before clinical dementia, personality predicts the accumulation of pathology associated with dementia.”

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Young Athletes with History of Concussions May Have More Changes to Their Brains

Despite my advanced years, with my family’s history of Alzheimer’s and dementia, I confess that anything that affects the brain gets my attention.

A new study suggests athletes with a history of concussion may show more brain injury from a later concussion, particularly in middle regions of the brain that are more susceptible to damage, when compared to athletes with no history of concussion. The research is published in the August 25, 2021, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The athletes participated in sports like football, volleyball and soccer.

Photo by David Morris on Pexels.com

We know concussions may have long-term effects on the brain that last beyond getting a doctor’s clearance to return to play,” said study author Tom A. Schweizer, PhD, of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada. “It is unclear, however, to what extent the effects of repeated concussion can be detected among young, otherwise healthy adults. We found even though there was no difference in symptoms or the amount of recovery time, athletes with a history of concussion showed subtle and chronic changes in their brains.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The ravages of age …

As a sports fan, I have often heard the announcer say of a great athlete, “He can beat anyone but Father Time.” So, it seems with the rest of us non-great-athletes, too.

Who better to talk about the ravages of age than a guy who turns 82 in January?

Here is my perspective: Some 15 years ago I adopted my daughter’s puppy. It had been behaving wildly at her house and I feared that its life with my daughter was going to be cut short. You can read the entire story of my adoption of Gabi in this post I wrote in 2012 – Anatomy of an act of kindness .

This is Gabi as a pup in 2006.

So, puppy Gabi is now senior citizen Gabi. At 15 plus years, she qualifies. I know that the “rule of thumb” is one dog year = seven human ones. That would put Gabi at 105 years old, likely circling the drain. Thankfully, a vet explained to me that for a dog Gabi’s size – 11 pounds – the first year is 17 years and each year after that (14 years) is four. So, at 15, Gabi is closer to 77 years old. Just four short of my 81.

Here she is on 2021 July 4.

Up until the last few years, Gabi weighed just over 12 pounds at her annual physical. Now, however, she is down to a little under 11 pounds. The vet explained that as a senior, she is experiencing sarcopenia – shrinkage of the muscles due to lack of use.

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The sense of smell in older adults declines when it comes to meat, but not vanilla

TASTE AND SMELL

Contrary to what science once suggested, older people with a declining sense of smell do not have comprehensively dampened olfactory ability for odors in general – it simply depends upon the type of odor. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen reached this conclusion after examining a large group of older Danes’ and their intensity perception of common food odors.

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels.com

That grandpa and grandma aren’t as good at smelling as they once were, is something that many can relate to. And, it has also been scientifically demonstrated. One’s sense of smell gradually begins to decline from about the age of 55. Until now, it was believed that one’s sense of smell broadly declined with increasing age. However, a study from the University of Copenhagen reports that certain food odors are significantly more affected than others.

The Department of Food Science’s Eva Honnens de Lichtenberg Broge and her fellow researchers have tested the ability of older Danes to perceive everyday food odors. The researchers measured how intensely older adults perceived different food odours, as well as how much they liked the odours.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Activities in youth impact brain as it ages

Because of the Alzheimer’s and dementia in my family in previous generations, the subject of any activity that might help (or have helped) my aging brain is high on my list of priorities.

Human DNA – and this also applies to mice – contains thousands of genes. However, it is not only the genetic blueprint that is decisive for the function of a cell and whether it is healthy or not, but above all which genes can be switched on or off. Aging, living conditions and behavior are known to influence this ability to activate genes. The phenomenon, referred to as “epigenetics”, was the focus of the current study. For this, researchers including Dr. Sara Zocher and Prof. Gerd Kempermann examined mice that had grown up in different environments: One group of animals experienced, from a young age, an “enriched” environment with toys and tunnel tubes. The rodents of a second group did not have such occupational opportunities.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Attachments to the DNA

When the scientists examined the genome, they found that in those mice that grew up in the stimulating environment, there was, with age, only a relatively small change in certain chemical tags of the DNA. In mice from the low-stimulus environment, these changes were much more pronounced – in comparison between young and older animals. “We registered so-called methyl groups, which stick to the DNA,” explains Gerd Kempermann, speaker for the DZNE’s Dresden site, DZNE research group leader and also a scientist at the CRTD. “These chemical attachments do not alter the genetic information per se. Rather, they influence whether individual genes can be activated or not.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Primary care doctors can help preserve brain health – AHA

Primary care doctors can play an important role in helping to preserve brain health by encouraging healthy behaviors and addressing risk factors associated with cognitive decline, according to a new scientific report.

The American Heart Association statement published in the journal Stroke outlines seven lifestyle targets and six risk factors for brain health that primary care doctors should address in adults of all ages. The statement also has been endorsed by the American Academy of Neurology as an educational tool for neurologists.

Photo by Kathy Jones on Pexels.com

As the nation ages, preserving brain health has become a growing concern. Mild cognitive impairment affects an estimated 1 in 5 Americans age 65 and older; 1 in 7 has dementia – a number expected to triple by 2050.

“Primary care is the right home for practice-based efforts to prevent or postpone cognitive decline,” Ronald Lazar, chair of the scientific statement writing group, said in a news release. Lazar directs the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“Prevention doesn’t start in older age; it exists along the health care continuum from pediatrics to adulthood,” he said. “The evidence in this statement demonstrates that early attention to these factors improves later life outcomes.”

The statement asks primary care doctors to integrate brain health into their treatment of adults guided by the AHA’s Life’s Simple 7, a collection of lifestyle targets shown to help achieve ideal heart and brain health. These include managing blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels; increasing physical activity; eating a healthy diet; losing weight; and not smoking.

The statement also asks them to assess their patients’ risk factors for cognitive health, including depression, social isolation, excessive alcohol use, sleep disorders, lower education levels and hearing loss.

“Scientists are learning more about how to prevent cognitive decline before changes to the brain have begun,” Lazar, a professor of neurology and neurobiology, said. “We have compiled the latest research and found Life’s Simple 7 plus other factors like sleep, mental health and education are a more comprehensive lifestyle strategy that optimizes brain health in addition to cardiovascular health.”

Dr. Deborah Levine, one of the statement’s co-authors, said it is never too soon to target risk factors for ideal heart and brain health. It’s also never too late.

“For example, lower blood pressure levels reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia in older adults,” she said. “In adults of all ages, the metrics in Life’s Simple 7 prevent stroke, and stroke increases the risk of dementia by more than twofold.”

Additional risk factors can help physicians identify which patients may need special attention, said Levine, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor.

For example, “Primary care doctors can help their patients reduce dementia risk by identifying and aggressively treating vascular risk factors like high blood pressure. Black and Hispanic individuals, women and individuals with lower educational levels appear at higher risk for dementia, so these high-risk groups are a top priority,” Levine said.

According to the statement, recent research shows high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking in adulthood and midlife increase the odds of cognitive decline in middle age. And they accelerate cognitive decline in older age.

“Many people think of high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and other risk factors as affecting only heart health, yet these very same risk factors affect our brain health,” Lazar said. “Patients might be more likely to pay attention to the importance of addressing modifiable risk factors if they understood the links.”

The statement defines brain health using the term cognition, which includes memory, thinking, reasoning, communication and problem-solving.

Together, these functions enable people to navigate the everyday world, according to the report. The ability to think, solve problems, remember, perceive and communicate are crucial to successful living; their loss can lead to helplessness and dependency.

“Studies have shown that these domains are impacted by factors that are within our control to change,” Lazar said. “Prevention and mitigation are important, because once people have impaired cognition, the current treatment options are very limited.”

4 Comments

Filed under aging, aging brain, brain function, brain health, brain research

Employment may slow memory decline for women – NIA

Working in the paid labor workforce may have cognitive benefits later in life for U.S. women. For a study supported in part by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), researchers looked at the influence of social, employment, and gender-related factors on memory decline with implications for dementia risk. Their findings, recently published in Neurology, show that women in the workforce during early adulthood and midlife experienced slower rates of memory decline than those who had not worked for pay.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

A team of University of California (UC), Los Angeles; UC San Francisco; Harvard; and Boston College researchers analyzed the employment patterns, family structure, and demographic characteristics of U.S. women. More than 6,000 women at least age 55 in the Health and Retirement Study reported their past work-family statuses of employment, marriage, and parenthood between ages 16 and 50. They also participated in word recall memory assessments every two years over an average of 12 years. The study team then evaluated rates of later-life memory decline, which is a measure associated with dementia.

The average rate of memory decline after age 60 was slower for women who had worked, regardless of marriage and parenthood status. Taking time off from work when their children were young did not seem to decrease the cognitive benefit in married working mothers. Among nonworking mothers, rates of memory decline were similar for single and married women. Demographic characteristics, such as race, childhood socioeconomic status, and level of education, did not explain the relationship between work-family status and memory decline.

This study adds to evidence that participation in the workforce may be a protective factor for cognitive health later in life. The researchers did not look at volunteer work, the types of paid labor among women, or possible differences among genders. Future research on effects of participating in the workforce, such as cognitive stimulation and social engagement, may help explain how employment can decrease the rate of memory loss.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

How the Aging Brain Affects Thinking

The brain controls many aspects of thinking — remembering, planning and organizing, making decisions, and much more. These cognitive abilities affect how well we do everyday tasks and whether we can live independently.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Some changes in thinking are common as people get older. For example, older adults may:

  • Be slower to find words and recall names
  • Find they have more problems with multitasking
  • Experience mild decreases in the ability to pay attention

Aging may also bring positive cognitive changes. For example, many studies have shown that older adults have more extensive vocabularies and greater knowledge of the depth of meaning of words than younger adults. Older adults may also have learned from a lifetime of accumulated knowledge and experiences. Whether and how older adults apply this accumulated knowledge, and how the brain changes as a result, is an area of active exploration by researchers.

4 Comments

Filed under aging, aging brain, successful aging