I will repeat, yet again, my extreme interest in the brain aging stemming from the fact that my family has had three cases of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. My grandfather on my father’s side, my mother and her sister all had it.
Although it’s normal for brainpower to decline as people age, it’s not inevitable, studies show. Some people remain cognitively sharp into their 80s, 90s, and beyond, defying the common assumption that cognitive decline is a natural part of aging, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA).
These lucky few, called cognitive super agers, perform demonstrably better on memory tests, such as remembering past events or recalling a list of words, compared with other adults their age. NIA-supported researchers are exploring the factors that set these people apart so the knowledge can be used to help others prevent or reverse age-related cognitive decline.
As we age, the strength and size of our muscles tend to decrease. This loss of muscle mass and function, called sarcopenia, is associated with decreased independence and reduced quality of life. Staying active (and purposefully incorporating muscle-strengthening exercises) is essential, but emerging data suggest that nourishing our gut microbes could be important as well.
The Gut-Muscle Connection: The trillions of bacteria and other microbes that live in our guts are intimately intertwined with our metabolism. These microscopic inhabitants play roles in digestion, nutrient absorption, and amino acid synthesis, and are also involved in maintaining the integrity of the intestinal lining so invading organisms, unwanted food components, and the wrong microbial products cannot slip through. Studying the role of the gut microbiome in health is challenging, but research suggests that the make-up of our personal inner world of tiny organisms could play a role in our risk for a number of common diseases and conditions, including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. “Emerging research in mice and preliminary human studies suggest there may also be a connection between our gut microbiome and our muscles,” says Michael Lustgarten, PhD, a scientist in the Nutrition, Exercise Physiology, and Sarcopenia laboratory at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging.
The National Institute on Aging offered the following infographic on living a healthy and long life. There is nothing new in it, but I think it is good to see simple rules like this that we all know and refresh them in our minds.
People with lower household wealth (or socioeconomic status) have a higher risk of many diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and depression. They also have shorter lifespans. Some lifestyle factors may play a role. For example, people with lower incomes have higher rates of smoking. However, other factors—including chronic stress and reduced access to resources—also likely contribute, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA).
Less is known about how socioeconomic status influences the general aging process. To look more closely at this question, Drs. Andrew Steptoe and Paola Zaninotto from University College London followed more than 5,000 adults, aged 52 and older, for 8 years beginning in 2004. The team broke the study participants into four groups based on household wealth. Continue reading →
By the time people reach a certain age, they’ve accumulated enough life experience to have plenty of stories to tell about life “back in their day.”
However, a new study suggests that the older a person is, the less likely they are to share memories of their past experiences. And when they do share memories, they don’t describe them in as much detail as younger people do.
The results of the study, conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona and published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, echo previous findings from lab-based research suggesting that memory sharing declines with age.
The UArizona study came to the conclusion in a new way: by “eavesdropping” on older adults’ conversations “in the wild.”
Did you get your 10,000 steps today? Many people have adopted this daily walking goal to obtain the recommended amount of physical activity. The 10,000-steps-a-day number comes from the Japanese brand name of a pedometer manufactured in the 1960s, the “10,000 steps meter.” In the Fitbit era, counting daily steps remains appealing to many people as a source of motivation.
In the US, adults are urged to get the equivalent of 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise. Walking is a popular way to meet those recommendations, particularly in older adults or people who are relatively physically inactive.
Although 10,000 steps is a worthy challenge, aiming for more exercise than you normally get—unless you are one of the few who regularly trains for marathons or triathlons—comes with benefits. Any amount or type of physical activity adds to your daily goal. Regularly taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking farther away from your destination, can make a measurable improvement in your health.
There seems to be no limit to the promises on the Internet for foods and dietary supplements that allegedly “boost” or “support” your immune function. There’s more than a grain of scientific truth in it, and the prospect of enhancing immune function with nutrition is a busy area of research—some of it by scientists at Tufts’ Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) and Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.
We know that nutrient deficiencies weaken the immune system and leave people vulnerable to illness. But if your nutrient intakes are adequate, can certain foods and nutritional supplements still improve immune function?
There is no definitive answer yet to this question—although there is reason for optimism. “I would not say it’s entirely an open question,” says Simin Nikbin Meydani, PhD, senior scientist and director of the Tufts’ HNRCA Nutritional Immunology Laboratory. “We do have promising evidence from animal studies and some human clinical trials that specific nutrients might be able to help strengthen an aging immune system. But we need additional research.”
Exercise in older people is associated with a slower rate of decline in thinking skills that occurs with aging. People who reported light to no exercise experienced a decline equal to 10 more years of aging as compared to people who reported moderate to intense exercise, according to a population-based observational study published in the online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
“The number of people over the age of 65 in the United States is on the rise, meaning the public health burden of thinking and memory problems will likely grow,” said study author Clinton B. Wright, MD, MS, of the University of Miami in Miami, Fla., and member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Our study showed that for older people, getting regular exercise may be protective, helping them keep their cognitive abilities longer.”
One of the courses I have taken from The Great Courses is “Lifelong Health: Achieving Optimum Well-Being at any Age” by Doctor Anthony Goodman. It consists of 36 lectures and I would recommend the course to anyone in a second if you want to learn how to live well and be functional to a ripe old age.
Dr. Goodman builds the 36 lectures around a foundation of four themes. Learning these is the key to lifelong health. These are quoted directly from the book that accompanies the lectures.
Rule One: Small changes can make a big difference. A one-degree course change for a big ship eventually makes a significant change in that ship’s trajectory. In the same way, if you start with small positive changes, over time, your efforts will culminate in a substantial positive effect on your health.
Rule Two: Moderation is key. Just as your body is designed to achieve homeostasis, so, too, is it important for you to find balance when making choices regarding food, exercise and other areas that affect your health and well-being. Some parameters and guidelines will tend to serve you well over time and I will encourage you to find the ones that work for you in the long term.
Rule Three: It’s Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature. There are no magical places, times, pills or potions that can keep you eternally young, but there are many things you can do to improve how you feel and you live your life.
Rule Four: Remember the Goldilocks rule. At all times of your life you will have the opportunity to make the best choices that bring you joy and good health and that you can maintain and sustain.
I called this post 4Secrets of Lifelong Health even though these four rules don’t seem to be secrets to anyone. Yet, looking around us we see 66 percent of us overweight and half of them outright obese. That leads me to the conclusion that most of us don’t know how or simply don’t want to be healthy and achieve lifelong health.
If you follow these rules you will be well on your way to conquering your weight problem and being a happier healthier person.
I am a 77 year old senior citizen and can honestly say that I am healthier and happier than any time in my life. You can be, too.