The gut microbiome is an integral component of the body, but its importance in the human aging process is unclear. Institute for Systems Biology (ISB) researchers and their collaborators have identified distinct signatures in the gut microbiome that are associated with either healthy or unhealthy aging trajectories, which in turn predict survival in a population of older individuals. The work was just published in the journal Nature Metabolism,
The research team analyzed gut microbiome, phenotypic and clinical data from over 9,000 people – between the ages of 18 and 101 years old – across three independent cohorts. The team focused, in particular, on longitudinal data from a cohort of over 900 community-dwelling older individuals (78-98 years old), allowing them to track health and survival outcomes.
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.
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.
A new large scale genetic analysis has found biological mechanisms that contribute to making people more susceptible to muscle weakness in later life, finding that diseases such as osteoarthritis and diabetes may play a large role in susceptibility.
As we get older we lose muscle strength, and in some people this severe weakness impacts their ability to live everyday lives, a condition called sarcopenia. Around 10 per cent of people over 50 experience sarcopenia. Many causes thought to impact likelihood of developing this weakness, which is linked to higher death rates.
In a genetic analysis of over 250,000 people aged over 60 from UK Biobank and 21 other cohorts, an international team led by researchers at the University of Exeter looked at hand grip strength, using thresholds of loss of muscle function derived from international definitions of sarcopenia.
The team, including collaborators from the USA and the Netherlands, then conducted a genetic analysis, and found specific biological mechanisms push some people towards sarcopenia, while protecting others. The study, published in Nature Communications identified 15 areas of the genome, or loci, associated with muscle weakness, including 12 loci not implicated in previous analyses of continuous measures of grip strength.
Biomarkers in the blood including red blood cells and inflammation may also share causal pathways with sarcopenia. Together, these results highlight specific areas for intervention or for identifying those at most risk.
Lead author Garan Jones said: “The strongest associations we found were close to regions of the genome regulating the immune system, and growth and development of the muscloskeletal system. However, we also discovered associations with regions not previously known to be linked to muscloskeletal traits.
“We found that our analysis of muscle weakness in older people shared common genetic pathways with metabolic diseases such as type-2 diabetes, and auto-immune conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In subgroups of people with increased risk of these conditions, sarcopenia may be a key outcome to look out for and prevent.
“We hope that by understanding the genetic contributions to muscle weakness with age, we will be able to highlight possible therapeutic interventions earlier in life, which would lead to a happier and healthier old age.”
Evidence is mounting to suggest that some helminth worms are ‘old friend’ commensals that can help us fight inflammation and prevent age-related disease.
Parasitic worms could hold the key to living longer and free of chronic disease, according to a review article published in the open-access eLife journal.
The review looks at the growing evidence to suggest that losing our ‘old friend’ helminth parasites, which used to live relatively harmlessly in our bodies, can cause ageing-associated inflammation. It raises the possibility that carefully controlled, restorative helminth treatments could prevent ageing and protect against diseases such as heart disease and dementia.
“A decline in exposure to commensal microbes and gut helminths in developed countries has been linked to increased prevalence of allergic and autoimmune inflammatory disorders – the so-called ‘old friends hypothesis’,” explains author Bruce Zhang, Undergraduate Assistant at the UCL Institute of Healthy Ageing, London, UK. “A further possibility is that this loss of ‘old friend’ microbes and helminths increases the sterile, ageing-associated inflammation known as inflammageing.”
Many people worry about not being able to move around as well when they get older. They fear they won’t be able to continue their favorite activities, visit their favorite places, or even keep up with everyday tasks.
Mobility — the ability to move or walk freely and easily — is critical for functioning well and living independently. As we age, we may experience changes to our mobility. There are many reasons for these changes, including changes in gait (how we walk), balance, and physical strength.
All of these can increase the number and severity of falls and make it harder for older adults to go out and visit with friends and family and continue doing their activities independently. Older adults who lose their mobility are less likely to remain living at home; have higher rates of disease, disability, hospitalization, and death; and have poorer quality of life.
Researchers are working on this issue because it’s not only a matter of physical health, but also the social and emotional well-being of older adults.
NIA-supported researchers are identifying risk factors for physical disability and developing and testing ways to prevent or reverse loss of mobility to help older adults maintain independence. For example, long-running observational studies, such as the Women’s Health and Aging Study II and the Health, Aging, and Body Composition Study, examine functional decline and how it differs by race and sex.
“There is strong evidence that frailty is both prevented and ameliorated by physical activity, with or without a Mediterranean diet or increased protein intake,” noted Fried. “These model interventions to date are nonpharmacologic, behavioral ones, emphasizing the potential for prevention through a complex systems approach.”
In the inaugural issue of the journal Nature Aging a research team led by aging expert Linda P. Fried, MD, MPH, dean of Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, synthesizes converging evidence that the aging-related pathophysiology underpinning the clinical presentation of phenotypic frailty (termed as “physical frailty” here) is a state of lower functioning due to severe dysregulation of the complex dynamics in our bodies that maintains health and resilience. When severity passes a threshold, the clinical syndrome and its phenotype are diagnosable. This paper summarizes the evidence meeting criteria for physical frailty as a product of complex system dysregulation. This clinical syndrome is distinct from the cumulative-deficit-based frailty index of multimorbiditys. The paper is published online here.
Physical frailty is defined as a state of depleted reserves resulting in increased vulnerability to stressors that emerges during aging independently of any specific disease. It is clinically recognizable through the presence of three or more of five key clinical signs and symptoms: weakness, slow walking speed, low physical activity, exhaustion and unintentional weight loss.
Following these tips can help you maintain a healthy weight, get the nutrients you need, and lower your risk of chronic disease.
Try to eat and drink from these food groups each day: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. Variety is an important part of eating healthfully!
Cut back on foods and beverages that are high in calories and added sugars, sodium, and saturated fats. Shift to healthier options like fresh fruits and vegetables instead.
Instead of high-calorie snacks, such as potato chips, try nutrient-dense snacks, such as carrots.
Instead of fruit products with added sugars, such as fig cookies, try fresh fruit, such as a peach.
Instead of regular cola, try water flavored with fruits or vegetables.
Use a food diary to help you keep track of your total daily calories, carbs, protein, etc., and see if you are making healthy choices. Understand how many calories you need based on your level of daily activity.
Choose a variety of foods that are packed with nutrients and low in calories.
Check the food labels to understand what foods will meet your nutritional needs each day.
The foods we eat may have a direct impact on our cognitive acuity in our later years. This is the key finding of an Iowa State University research study spotlighted in an article published in the November 2020 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
The study was spearheaded by principal investigator, Auriel Willette, an assistant professor in Food Science and Human Nutrition, and Brandon Klinedinst, a Neuroscience PhD candidate working in the Food Science and Human Nutrition department at Iowa State. The study is a first-of-its-kind large scale analysis that connects specific foods to later-in-life cognitive acuity.
As a guy in his early 80’s working every day on making it into his ’90’s, I found it kind of disturbing that here in the States elders aren’t necessarily held in very high regard.
Elders are more respected in Japan and China and not so much in more individualistic nations like the United States and Germany, say Michigan State University researchers who conclude in a pair of studies that age bias varies among countries and even states.
“Older adults are one of the only stigmatized groups that we all become part of some day. And that’s always struck me as interesting — that we would treat so poorly a group of people that we’re destined to become someday,” said William Chopik, assistant professor of psychology and author of the studies. “Making more equitable environments for older adults are even in younger people’s self-interests.”
Consumption of chili pepper may reduce the relative risk of cardiovascular disease mortality by 26%, according to an analysis of diet and mortality data from four large, international studies.
Chili pepper consumption was associated with a 25% reduction in death from any cause and 23% fewer cancer deaths, compared to people who never or only rarely consumed chili pepper.
Individuals who consume chili pepper may live longer and may have a significantly reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or cancer, according to preliminary research to be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2020. The meeting will be held virtually, Friday, November 13-Tuesday, November 17, 2020, and is a premier global exchange of the latest scientific advancements, research and evidence-based clinical practice updates in cardiovascular science for health care worldwide.
The National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association are suggesting changes to the research definition of Alzheimer’s disease. There are new criteria to define what Alzheimer’s disease is and who has it — but only as it relates to clinical trials and research, and not the diagnosis in your doctor’s office, according to Jonathan Graff-Radford, M.D. of the Mayo Clinic.
Previously, Alzheimer’s disease dementia was characterized by symptoms such as memory loss and changes in thinking and cognition. And that’s still the case when your doctor diagnoses Alzheimer’s disease dementia.
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.
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.
We may wish some memories could last a lifetime, but many physical and emotional factors can negatively impact our ability to retain information throughout life.
A new study published in the journal Psychological Science found that people who feel enthusiastic and cheerful—what psychologists call “positive affect”—are less likely to experience memory decline as they age. This result adds to a growing body of research on positive affect’s role in healthy aging.
Balance exercises help prevent falls, a common problem in older adults that can have serious consequences, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA).
Many lower-body strength exercises also will improve your balance. Exercises to improve your balance include Tai Chi, a “moving meditation” that involves shifting the body slowly, gently, and precisely, while breathing deeply.
Examples of balance exercises
Try standing on one foot, then the other. If at first you need support, hold on to something sturdy. Work your way up to doing this movement without support. Get up from a chair without using your hands or arms.
Try the heel-to-toe walk. As you walk, put the heel of one foot just in front of the toes of your other foot. Your heel and toes should touch or almost touch.
Have a sturdy chair or a person nearby to hold on to if you feel unsteady.
Your muscular strength can make a big difference. Strong muscles help you stay independent and make everyday activities feel easier, like getting up from a chair, climbing stairs, and carrying groceries, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA).
Keeping your muscles strong can help with your balance and prevent falls and fall-related injuries. You are less likely to fall when your leg and hip muscles are strong. Some people call using weight to improve your muscle strength “strength training” or “resistance training.”
Strength exercises include lifting weights, even your own body weight, and using a resistance band.
Better heart health, as measured by the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 (LS7) scale, was associated with a significantly lower risk of developing high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) in middle-aged, Black and white adults, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
“High blood pressure is among the most common conditions in the U.S., and it contributes to the greatest burden of disability and largest reduction in healthy life expectancy among any disease,” said Timothy B. Plante, M.D., M.H.S., lead study author and assistant professor in the department of medicine at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont in Burlington. “Even though high blood pressure causes so much death and disability, we don’t know the root cause of it.”