Tag Archives: aging

Drawing is Better than Writing for Memory Retention – Study

Regular readers know that I am a senior citizen, turning 79 next month. My family has a history of dementia in general and Alzheimer’s Disease in particular. SO, I am interested in anything that affects the brain and relates to brain function. This study at the University of Waterloo captured my attention.

Researchers report older adults who take up drawing are better able to retain new information than those who write notes.Source: University of Waterloo.

Older adults who take up drawing could enhance their memory, according to a new study.

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As part of a series of studies, the researchers asked both young people and older adults to do a variety of memory-encoding techniques and then tested their recall. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

Researchers from the University of Waterloo found that even if people weren’t good at it, drawing, as a method to help retain new information, was better than re-writing notes, visualization exercises or passively looking at images. Continue reading

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Study Finds Biases in Widely Used Dementia Identification Tests

Dementia can be a real snake lurking in the brain of seniors who happen to be our loved ones. Is their memory merely slipping with their added years, or do they really have a cognitive impairment? It’s a tough question for many families. As a member of a family with several instances of dementia, I can attest to that.

Quick tests used in primary care settings to identify whether people are likely to have dementia may often be wrong, according to a study published in the November 28, 2018, online issue of Neurology® Clinical Practice, an official journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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The tests, called brief cognitive assessments, evaluate thinking and memory skills. They help doctors decide who may benefit from a full diagnostic assessment for dementia. The three tests examined in this study were the Mini-Mental State Examination, which looks at orientation to time and place and the ability to remember words, the Memory Impairment Screen, which focuses on the ability to remember words, and Animal Naming, which involves naming as many animals as possible in 60 seconds. Continue reading

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Guidelines for feeling good and functioning well into senior years – GCBH

I just ran across this newly-published set of guidelines for helping seniors succeed in retaining their mental function and well-being as they age. As a senior myself who has a family with a history of Alzheimer’s and dementia I found it to be on point with my own situation.

The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) is an independent collaborative of scientists, health professionals, scholars, and policy experts from around the world who are working in areas of brain health related to human cognition. The GCBH focuses on brain health relating to people’s ability to think and reason as they age, including aspects of memory, perception and judgment.

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We believe the following suggestions will increase the chances for people to experience or optimize mental well-being. If you are already engaging in these healthy activities, continue to do so, and consider trying something new as well.

FOR INDIVIDUALS:

1. Take the time to develop and strengthen relationships with family and friends. For more about the brain health benefits of strong social ties, see the GCBH report, The Brain and Social Connectedness: GCBH Recommendations on Social Engagement and Brain Health.

Continue reading

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Eyes provide new lens for Alzheimer’s screening

At the risk of repeating myself I have a strong interest in any form of dementia and especially Alzheimer’s Disease as I have had at least three close family members succumb – and I am a senior citizen.  the folowing is from the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Alzheimer’s disease is difficult to diagnose as well as treat,  but researchers now have a promising new screening tool using the window to the brain:  the eye.

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A study of 3,877 randomly selected patients found a significant link between three degenerative eye diseases – age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma – and Alzheimer’s disease.

The results offer physicians a new way to detect  those at higher risk of this disorder, which causes memory loss and other symptoms of cognitive decline. Continue reading

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Program of personalized physical exercise reverses functional decline in the over-75s

Eat less; move more; live longer. It works every time. Here is more good news. This time from a program specifically for very seniors – over 75s.

A program of personalized physical exercise implemented over a three-year period and involving 370 people over the age of 75 admitted to the Geriatric Service of the Hospital Complex of Navarre (CHN) has turned out to be “safe and effective” in reversing the functional deterioration associated with hospitalization to which patients in this age group are subjected. Other aspects such as cognitive status and life quality also benefited.

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This is the conclusion of a research project coordinated by Nicolás Martínez-Velilla and Mikel Izquierdo-Redín, researchers at Navarrabiomed, the biomedical research centre of the Government of Navarre and the Public University of Navarre (NUP/UPNA); its results have just been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA Internal Medicine).

These findings open up the possibility of medical hospitalization units changing their traditional paradigm to focus on functional status as a clinical sign that may be negatively affected by traditional hospitalization classically based on bed rest. Continue reading

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Meditation and Music May Alter Blood Markers of Cellular Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease in Adults with Early Memory Loss

A research team led by Dr. Kim Innes, a professor in the West Virginia University School of Public Health, has found that a simple meditation or music listening program may alter certain biomarkers of cellular aging and Alzheimer’s Disease in older adults who are experiencing memory loss. Study findings, reported in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, also suggest these changes may be directly related to improvements in memory and cognition, sleep, mood, and quality of life.

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Sixty older adults with subjective cognitive decline (SCD), a condition that may represent a preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease, participated in the randomized, clinical trial. While SCD has been linked to increased risk for dementia and associated with certain neuropathological changes implicated in Alzheimer’s disease development, including elevated brain levels of beta amyloid, this preclinical period may also provide a critical window for therapeutic intervention.

In this trial, each participant was randomly assigned to either a beginner meditation (Kirtan Kriya) or music listening program and asked to practice 12 minutes/day for 12 weeks. At baseline and 3 months, blood samples were collected. Two markers of cellular aging were measured: telomere length and telomerase activity. (Telomeres serve as protective caps on chromosomes; telomerase is an enzyme responsible for maintaining telomere length). Blood levels of specific beta-amyloid peptides commonly linked to Alzheimer’s Disease were also assessed. In addition, memory and cognitive function, stress, sleep, mood, and quality of life were measured. All participants were followed for a total of 6 months. Continue reading

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The brain diet – Study

Scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) have uncovered mechanisms by which high levels of a hormone called FGF23 can reduce brain health.

In results published in the journal PLoS ONE, high levels of fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23) were associated with structural changes in the brain’s frontal lobes. High FGF23 levels are thought to lead to the vascular calcification seen in patients with chronic kidney disease. The study showed that such a process may also affect the brain in patients without chronic kidney disease but with elevated cardiovascular risk factors, according to Leonardo Bonilha, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neurology in the MUSC Department of Medicine and director of the study.

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“We found that there is a relationship between high levels of FGF23 and a form of structural compromise in the brain,” said Bonilha.

FGF23 is produced in the bone. Normally, FGF23 works in the kidneys and the gut to regulate levels of calcium and phosphate in the body. It is thought to be increased in people who eat a diet high in phosphates, which are often found in foods with preservatives. In people with chronic kidney disease or in those who consume a diet high in phosphates, can be a calcification of their arteries, which can cause heart attack or stroke. FGF23 may be the reason. Continue reading

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Even mild physical activity immediately improves memory function, study finds

As a senior, I consider this to be very good news.

People who include a little yoga or tai chi in their day may be more likely to remember where they put their keys. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine and Japan’s University of Tsukuba found that even very light workouts can increase the connectivity between parts of the brain responsible for memory formation and storage.

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In a study of 36 healthy young adults, the researchers discovered that a single 10-minute period of mild exertion can yield considerable cognitive benefits. Using high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging, the team examined subjects’ brains shortly after exercise sessions and saw better connectivity between the hippocampal dentate gyrus and cortical areas linked to detailed memory processing.

Their results were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Continue reading

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Cycling for the elderly – Video

I stumbled across this and thought it might interest you. As regular readers know I am a 78-year-old guy who lives in Chicago and rides his bike daily. I am most grateful for the ability to do just that. There are many seniors, perhaps someone in your family, who have lost some mobility. In the course of writing this blog I have become aware of just how damaging a sedentary lifestyle can be. I thought there were some interesting ideas expressed in the video (less than 3 minutes) which was produced by the BBC in Britain.

To read further on the effects of a sedentary lifestyle check out the following posts:

Combat that sedentary lifestyle with more movement – Harvard

Fitness over 50 – Overcoming a sedentary lifestyle – Harvard

A physiologic link between heart disease and a sedentary lifestyle

Exercise may help counter health risks of a sedentary lifestyle

Physical activity cuts heart disease risks for seniors – AHA

Tony

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About that aging brain …

They say you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but new research shows you can teach an old rat new sounds, even if the lesson doesn’t stick very long.

For the record I wrote a post on that damaging cliche about teaching old dogs new tricks. You can read it here – Of cats and dogs and cliches ….

Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro) of McGill University examined the effects of aging on neuroplasticity in the primary auditory cortex, the part of the brain that processes auditory information. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to modify its connections and function in response to environmental demands, an important process in learning.

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Plasticity in the young brain is very strong as we learn to map our surroundings using the senses. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

Plasticity in the young brain is very strong as we learn to map our surroundings using the senses. As we grow older, plasticity decreases to stabilize what we have already learned. This stabilization is partly controlled by a neurotransmitter called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), which inhibits neuronal activity. This role of GABA was discovered by K.A.C. Elliot and Ernst Florey at The Neuro in 1956. Continue reading

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Retirement blues – Taking it too easy can be hard on you – Harvard

I am now in my 18th year of retirement, so I think I have the retirement game down. But I know that a lot of you are on the other side and that barrier and getting closer by the day. Here are some good tips from Harvard.

Newly retired men face some typical difficulties. One is creating a new routine after leaving behind the nine-to-five grind. “During that phase of going from a lot of structure to almost no structure, men can exhibit the same signs as someone who is overworked,” explains Dr. Randall Paulsen, a psychiatrist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

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Riding through my retirement at Chicago’s Northerly Island

Retirement can also come with changes in a man’s relationship with a spouse or partner. “If you have a partner at home who is not used to you being around all the time, there has to be a recalibration,” says Dr. Michael Craig Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Continue reading

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Older People Less Apt to Recognize Their Mistakes – Study

The older you get, the less apt you may be to recognize that you’ve made an error. As a senior citizen I find that statement slightly annoying and also probably to a large extent true.

In a new study, University of Iowa researchers devised a simple, computerized test to gauge how readily young adults and older adults realize when they’ve made a mistake.

Older adults performed just as well as younger adults in tests involving looking away from an object appearing on the screen. But younger adults acknowledged more often than older adults when they failed to look away from the object. And, older adults were more likely to be adamant that they did not made a mistake.

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The research offers new insight how older people perceive their decisions, and especially how they view their performance–whether judging their own ability to drive or how regularly they believe they’ve taken medications.

“The good news is older adults perform the tasks we assigned them just as well as younger adults, albeit more slowly,” says Jan Wessel, assistant professor in the UI Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and the study’s corresponding author. “But we find there is this impaired ability in older adults to recognize an error when they’ve made one.” Continue reading

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Exercise: Better starting later than never – Harvard

Eat less; move more; live longer. It’s never too late to start.

Exercising regularly throughout life is the best way to keep your heart healthy. But starting to exercise even in late middle age may lessen the risk of heart failure, according to a report in the May 15 issue of Circulation. Heart failure, a gradual decline in the heart’s ability to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs, affects about 6.5 million people in the United States.

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The study involved more than 11,000 people who were part of a long-running project begun in the late 1980s, the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. Every six years, participants got medical testing and filled out questionnaires about their physical activity.

People who followed federal recommendations for physical activity (see How much physical activity do you need?) for the first 12 years of the study had the lowest risk of heart failure—31% lower than people who didn’t exercise at all. But people who increased their physical activity levels starting around age 60 over a period of just six years lowered their risk by 12%.

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Cognitive and motor training combined may slow progress of dementia or even reverse it – Study

I have written repeatedly about the benefits of exercise on the brain’s health. Now, it seems that you can combine exercise with cognitive training for positive results.

Researchers at York University’s Faculty of Health found that just 30 minutes of visually-guided movements per week can slow and even reverse the progress of dementia. Those in the early stages of dementia who were exposed to 30 minutes a week to a game which used rules to make visually-guided movements, were able to slow down the progress of dementia and for some, even reverse their cognitive function to healthy status.

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Previous approaches have used cognitive training alone or aerobic exercise training alone. This study published in Dementia and Geriatric Disorders, is the first to investigate the impact of combining both types of approaches on cognitive function in elderly people with various degrees of cognitive defects.

“We found cognitive-motor integration training slows down the progress of dementia, and for those just showing symptoms of dementia, this training can actually revert them back to healthy status, stabilizing them functionally,” says lead researcher, Lauren Sergio, professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Science and Centre for Vision Research at York University. Continue reading

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The difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia – Mayo Clinic

I have talked a lot about Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia over the past eight years, so when I ran across this explanation from the Mayo Clinic, I thought I would share it with  you.

These terms are often used interchangeably, but they actually have very different meanings. Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an overall term, sometimes referred to as an umbrella term, which describes a wide range of symptoms. These symptoms impact a person’s ability to perform everyday activities independently. Common symptoms include:

A decline in memory
Changes in thinking skills
Poor judgment and reasoning skills
Decreased focus and attention
Changes in language and communication skills

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Alzheimer’s disease is one type of dementia, but it’s not the only one. There are many different types and causes of dementia, including:

Lewy body dementia
Frontotemporal dementia
Vascular dementia
Parkinson’s disease dementia
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
Huntington’s disease
Mixed dementia

Alzheimer’s disease, however, is the most well-known and common form of dementia but not everyone with dementia has Alzheimer’s disease.

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Virus May Boost — Not Weaken — Our Immune Systems

Finally some good news about being a senior comes from these University of Arizona researchers.

Lifelong cytomegalovirus infection may boost the immune system in old age, when we need it most, according to a study led by University of Arizona researchers.

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Our immune system is at its peak when we’re young, but after a certain age, it declines and it becomes more difficult for our bodies to fight off new infections.

“That’s why older people are more susceptible to infections than younger people,” explained Dr. Janko Nikolich-Žugich, co-director of the University of Arizona Center on Aging and chairman of the Department of Immunobiology at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson.

In search of a way to rejuvenate the immune system of older adults, Nikolich-Žugich and Megan Smithey began researching cytomegalovirus, or CMV. The virus, which is usually contracted at a young age, affects more than half of all individuals. Because there is no cure, the virus is carried for life and is particularly prevalent in older adults. Continue reading

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