Tag Archives: aging

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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Filed under brain, dementia, Alzheimer's disease, brain function, Healthy brain, aging brain, brain damage

How did we evolve to live longer?

Eat less; move more; live longer is the mantra of this blog. Now, it seems that our bodies are taking it upon themselves to extend our life span.

Research shows a collection of small adaptations in stress activated proteins, accumulated over millennia of human history, could help to explain our increased natural defenses and longer lifespan.

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Publishing in Nature Communications, the team of collaborators from the UK, France and Finland and lead by researchers at Newcastle University, UK explain the importance of a protein called p62.

Many cells in our body, such as those which make up our brain need to last us a lifetime. To do this our cells have developed ways of protecting themselves. One way is through a process called autophagy, which literally means self-eating, where damaged components are collected together and removed from the cell.

This is very important as accumulation of damage in cells has been linked to several diseases including dementia.

Lead author, Dr Viktor Korolchuk from Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing explains: “As we age, we accumulate damage in our cells and so it is thought that activating autophagy could help us treat older people suffering from dementia. In order to be able to do this we need to understand how we can induce this cell cleaning.”

Continue reading

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Filed under aging, stress, stress reduction, successful aging, Uncategorized

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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Filed under aging, aging brain, aging myths, living longer, longevity, normal weight gain, successful aging, weighing

Fitness over 50: Overcoming a sedentary lifestyle – Harvard

I remember 20 years ago when I was in the working world, I definitely lived a sedentary lifestyle. Long hours at the office, a child at home and all the aspects of family life made it difficult for me to exercise a lot. Vedging out in the evening in front of the TV proved a welcome relief from daily demands. In addition, my motivation was elsewhere. Now that I am retired that has all changed, but I understand if you may be where I was back then.

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Here I am riding with Gabi. Cycling is a super form of exercise for both mind and body.

Blame it on a job change, a chronic health issue, or simply a loss of motivation: whatever took you away from your regular exercise routine has led to a sedentary lifestyle. But don’t assume you can jump back into the same exercise regimen you followed when you were younger. “Your body has aged, and things have changed,” says Dr. Clare Safran-Norton, clinical supervisor of rehabilitation services at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

What’s different

Age-related physical changes aren’t always obvious. “We lose muscle mass and strength as we get older, and the muscles become less flexible and less hydrated,” says Dr. Safran-Norton. Arthritis weakens joints. And vision changes, neurological disease, joint pain, or problems inside the ear can throw off your balance. 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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HOW TO LIVE A LONGER AND HEALTHIER LIFE

There are some excellent insights here on the eating aspects of living a long and healthy life.

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Biochemist Valter Longo has devoted decades to discovering connections between nutrition and successful aging. He runs the Longevity Institute at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, where the focus is on extending healthy life spans and finding ways to prevent and treat conditions like cancer and cardiovascular disease that growing older makes us more susceptible to developing. Longo is also a professor of biological science at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Armed with results from the lab — including clinical trials showing that cycles of a five-day fasting-mimicking diet can reduce risk factors for many life-threatening diseases — Longo is calling for change in the kitchen. In this Q&A, he reveals the role that food can play in keeping us youthful and tackles some common misconceptions related to how, what and when we should eat.

How important is food to our health and aging?

Other…

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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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Filed under aging, aging brain, Alzheimer's disease, Alzheimer's risk, dementia, Exercise, exercise benefits, memory, successful aging

Famous people born today – January 26

General Douglas MacArthur, Paul Newman, Angela Davis, Wayne Gretzky, Eddie Van Halen, Jules Feiffer and Ellen DeGeneres were all born on January 26.

Oh, yes, and one not so famous. It’s also my birthday. I am now 78 years old. I am happy to say that I feel great and am healthier than I was 20 years ago when I toiled in the working world.

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This is my birthday picture from last year. It’s the only one I have that’s decorated.

This is from my birthday blog post last year:

One of the main reasons I feel like I have things so together is this blog. I started writing it in March of 2010 with a partner who has since left for other pursuits. From the beginning, I discovered a focus. At first it was simply trying to keep my weight down. I learned portion control and serving size. This Italian guy was surprised to learn that a “serving” of pasta was not a 10 inch plate heaped with spaghetti noodles smothered in tomato sauce. No, a serving of pasta is about the size of a baseball. Incredibly, that was a revelation to me. But I put the information to use. I began to reduce my portions accordingly. I am not going to recount all the lessons I learned in the past nearly eight years, but if you want to get control of your weight, check out my Page – How to Lose Weight – and Keep it Off. Continue reading

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Filed under 78th birthday, aging, cholesterol, Exercise, HDL Cholesterol, LDL Cholesterol, successful aging

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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Why older men should do more housework – Study

As an older guy, I turn 78 in less than two weeks, I am interested in my health and certainly my longevity. So, the subject of older men doing more housework caught my attention. Also, housework does not rank high on my list of fun stuff to do.

The following is what Medical News Today reported:

According to a new study, it seems that elderly adults are stuck in a time when housework was the woman’s job. Researchers have found that every day, older women spend an average of 2 hours more doing household chores than men.

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But it’s not all bad. Older men and women who engage in more housework might have better health. Though if women get too much or too little sleep, the health benefits of housework diminish.

The new study — which was recently published in the journal BMC Public Health — was led by Nicholas Adjei and Tilman Brand, of the University of Bremen in Germany.

The research was designed to get a better idea of how adults spend their time in later life, and how certain day-to-day activities impact their health.

“The percentage of those aged 65 years and above,” explains study co-leader Adjei, “is increasing globally due to higher life expectancy. It is important to understand how older adults spend their time in these later years and the possible positive and negative implications for their health.” Continue reading

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Exercise may reverse heart effects of middle-aged couch potatoes – Study

Eat less; move more; live longer. The mantra persists just as we do if we follow it. An American Heart Association study reports that exercise (moving more) can rejuvenate us even if we have lived a sedentary life in middle age.

Highlights:

Two years of exercise training during middle age may reduce or reverse the cardiac consequences of a sedentary lifestyle.

Two years of exercise training may be an effective lifestyle modification for rejuvenating aging hearts and reducing the risk of heart failure.

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Middle-aged couch potatoes may reduce or reverse the risk of heart failure associated with years of sitting if they participate in two years of regular aerobic exercise training, according to a new study in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.

Study participants who adhered to the aerobic exercise regimen had significant improvements in how their body used oxygen and had decreased cardiac stiffness after two years, both markers of a healthier heart. Aerobic exercises are sustained activities, such as walking, swimming, running, biking and others that strengthen the heart and other muscles and help the body use oxygen effectively.

“The key to a healthier heart in middle age is the right dose of exercise, at the right time in life,” said study author Benjamin D. Levine, M.D., lead author of the study and the founder and director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine, a joint program between Texas Health Resources and UT Southwestern Medical Center Dallas, Texas. 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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The magic of music – Infographic

I am such a music lover it is a wonder that in my 77 years I never learned to play an instrument. One of the happiest discoveries I have made in the past two years was when I found a water bottle with blue tooth speaker on top. It has been an integral part of my bike riding every day since then. Herewith an infographic on music from takelessons.com

Have you ever thought about how awesome music is? The joy of performing and listening to music forms a universal language that connects us across cultures and across time.

And yet despite how universal the experience of music is, there’s still a lot we don’t know about its effects on our bodies and minds. In fact, the famed anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss once said that music is “the supreme mystery of human knowledge.”

Mysterious though it may be, scientists have discovered some interesting theories for the most common musical phenomena that we all experience. For example, why do songs get stuck in your head? What’s the effect of music on memory?

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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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