Tag Archives: aging

Orienteering can train the brain, may help fight cognitive decline

The sport of orienteering, which draws on athleticism, navigational skills and memory, could be useful as an intervention or preventive measure to fight cognitive decline related to dementia, according to new research from McMaster University.

Researchers hypothesized that the physical and cognitive demands of orienteering, which integrates exercise with navigation, may stimulate parts of the brain that our ancient ancestors used for hunting and gathering. The brain evolved thousands of years ago to adapt to the harsh environment by creating new neural pathways. 

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Those same brain functions are not as necessary for survival today due to modern conveniences such as GPS apps and readily available food. Researchers suggest it is a case of “use it or lose it.”

“Modern life may lack the specific cognitive and physical challenges the brain needs to thrive,” says Jennifer Heisz, Canada Research Chair in Brain Health and Aging at McMaster University, who supervised the research. “In the absence of active navigation, we risk losing that neural architecture.”

Heisz points to Alzheimer’s disease, in which losing the ability to find one’s way is among the earliest symptoms, affecting half of all afflicted individuals, even in the mildest stage of the disease.

In the study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers surveyed healthy adults, ranging in age from 18 to 87 with varying degrees of orienteering expertise (none, intermediate, advanced and elite).

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AI-powered analysis accurately reflects risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease based on brain age

The human brain holds many clues about a person’s long-term health — in fact, research shows that a person’s brain age is a more useful and accurate predictor of health risks and future disease than their birth date. Now, a new artificial intelligence (AI) model that analyzes magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans developed by USC researchers could be used to accurately capture cognitive decline linked to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s much earlier than previous methods.

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Brain aging is considered a reliable biomarker for neurodegenerative disease risk. Such risk  increases when a person’s brain exhibits features that appear “older” than expected for someone of that person’s age. By tapping into the deep learning capability of the team’s novel AI model to analyze the scans, the researchers can detect subtle brain anatomy markers that are otherwise very difficult to detect and that correlate with cognitive decline. Their findings, published on Tuesday, January 2, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offer an unprecedented glimpse into human cognition.  

“Our study harnesses the power of deep learning to identify areas of the brain that are aging in ways that reflect a cognitive decline that may lead to Alzheimer’s,” said Andrei Irimia, assistant professor of gerontology, biomedical engineering, quantitative & computational biology and neuroscience at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology and corresponding author of the study.

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Cannabis-related emergency department visits rising among older adults

As a growing number of older adults are experimenting with cannabis to help alleviate chronic symptoms, a new University of California San Diego School of Medicine study has identified a sharp increase in cannabis-related emergency department visits among the elderly.

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The study, published Jan. 9, 2023 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, identified a 1,808% relative increase in the rate of cannabis-related trips to the emergency department among California adults ages 65 and older from 2005 to 2019. Researchers used a trend analysis of data from the Department of Healthcare Access and Information and found that cannabis-related emergency department visits went from a total of 366 in 2005 to 12,167 in 2019.

The significant increase is particularly troublesome to geriatricians, given that older adults are at a higher risk for adverse health effects associated with psychoactive substances, including cannabis.

“Many patients assume they aren’t going to have adverse side effects from cannabis because they often don’t view it as seriously as they would a prescription drug,” said Benjamin Han, MD, MPH, the study’s first author and a geriatrician in the Division of Geriatrics, Gerontology, and Palliative Care in the Department of Medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

“I do see a lot of older adults who are overly confident, saying they know how to handle it — yet as they have gotten older, their bodies are more sensitive, and the concentrations are very different from what they may have tried when they were younger.”

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My successful lung cancer surgery

Regular readers know that I learned that I had contracted lung cancer in the first week of November. After undergoing a number of tests, biopsies and scans, I got to meet my ‘cancer team’ on December 20. At that meeting I learned that the tumor in my lung was of a sufficient size that surgery was the best avenue of removal.

My daughter shot this picture of me after I was admitted to the hospital,

Just to back up a step, I want to recall my shock at learning that I was carrying a deadly growth in my left lung. Writing this blog about living a healthy life and pretty much doing everything in my power to accomplish exactly that, I didn’t expect anything of the sort. I don’t smoke. Since my diagnosis, I have learned that 15% to 20% of lung cancer victims are not smokers. So, my ignorance of that fact was costly. Also, lung cancer is very much a disease of the aged. Only about 10% of lung cancer cases occur in people younger than 50 years old. I am 82, another costly oversight.

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It May Be Wise to Screen for Smell Loss to Predict Frailty and Unhealthy Aging – Johns Hopkins

In a study using data from nearly 1,200 older adults, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers have added to a growing body of evidence that loss of the sense of smell is a predictive marker for an increased risk of frailty as people age. Building on previous research showing that olfactory dysfunction is a common early sign of brain-linked cognitive decline, the new findings suggest the link to frailty is likely not just in the brain but also in the nose itself.

If further studies affirm the findings, the researchers say, screening older adults’ ability to smell various scents could be as important as testing hearing and vision over time.

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Results of the study, published Jan. 10 in the Journal of Gerontology, looked at the prevalence of frailty, an age-related syndrome of physiological decline, along with two different ways of assessing the ability to smell: olfactory sensitivity (the ability to detect an odor’s presence) and olfactory identification (the ability to detect and name an odor). Olfactory identification is a central measure of smell function, which has been linked to frailty and relies on higher-order cognitive processing to interpret and classify an odor. This suggests that neurological function may help to explain the relationship between smell and frailty. However, researchers say the ability to merely detect an odor without having to use higher-level neurological processes and the relationship of the ability to detect odors alone with frailty have been understudied.

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Octogenarians should walk 10 minutes a day to prolong life

I realize that writing about 80-year-olds and above is ‘rarified atmosphere,’ but I loved the fact that walking was still a tangible benefit to the person. You can never hear enough about the benefits of exercise or the damage of being sedentary.

One hour of walking per week is associated with greater longevity in people aged 85 years and above, according to research presented at ESC Congress 2022.

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Regardless of age, adults are advised to do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous intensity activity, or an equivalent combination.2 However, in adults, sedentary time tends to increase with age while the amount of physical activity declines.

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Good hydration linked to healthy aging

Adults who stay well-hydrated appear to be healthier, develop fewer chronic conditions, such as heart and lung disease, and live longer than those who may not get sufficient fluids, according to a National Institutes of Health study published in eBioMedicine.   
  
Using health data gathered from 11,255 adults over a 30-year period, researchers analyzed links between serum sodium levels – which go up when fluid intake goes down – and various indicators of health. They found that adults with serum sodium levels at the higher end of a normal range were more likely to develop chronic conditions and show signs of advanced biological aging than those with serum sodium levels in the medium ranges. Adults with higher levels were also more likely to die at a younger age.   

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“The results suggest that proper hydration may slow down aging and prolong a disease-free life,” said Natalia Dmitrieva, Ph.D., a study author and researcher in the Laboratory of Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of NIH.   

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What you can learn from my lung cancer

I have spent the last dozen years writing about living a long healthy, happy life with your brain functioning well the entire time. Not a day goes by when I don’t read about some aspect of living a healthy life. I have taken courses in anatomy, exercise, sleep, nutrition to name only a few since starting this blog.

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And yet, despite all my focus on health, if you had asked me about my chances of getting lung cancer, I would have said – very slim. I would have been wrong.

Here are some basic statistics about the disease. The average age for a lung cancer diagnosis is 70. Only about 10% of lung cancer cases occur in people younger than 50 years old. So, age is a risk factor that I had been unaware of – at 82 years old.

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Do women age differently from men?

The life expectancy of women is significantly higher than that of men. However, women also suffer more often from age-related diseases and adverse drug reactions. “Our long-term goal is to make men live as long as women and also women as healthy as men in late life. But for that, we need to understand where the differences come from,” explains Yu-Xuan Lu, one of the leading authors of the study.

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Rapamycin extends lifespan only in female flies

The researchers gave the anti-ageing drug rapamycin to male and female fruit flies to study the effect on the different sexes. Rapamycin is a cell growth inhibitor and immune regulator that is normally used in cancer therapy and after organ transplantations. They found that rapamycin extended the lifespan and slowed age-related intestinal pathologies in female flies but not in males.

Healthier life due to more autophagy

The researchers observed that rapamycin increased autophagy – the cell’s waste disposal process – in the female intestinal cells. Male intestinal cells, however, already seem to have a high basal autophagy activity, which cannot be further increased by rapamycin. The scientists could also see this effect of rapamycin in mice. Female mice showed increased autophagy activity after treatment with rapamycin. “Previous studies found that females had greater responses to rapamycin on lifespan extension than did males in mice, we now uncover an underlying mechanism of these differences using flies”, says Yu-Xuan Lu.

Sex-specific, personalised treatments

“Sex can be a decisive factor for the effectiveness of anti-aging drugs. Understanding the processes that are sex-specific and determine response to therapeutics will improve the development of personalized treatments”, explains Linda Partridge, senior author of the study.

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Booking my biospy …

Last week I wrote about the unpleasant news that after a chest X Ray and a CT Scan, I likely have some form of lung cancer. If you want details, you can read that post here.

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It has now been a week of dark shadowy uncertainty. When we got my CT Scan results, my doctor told me that they would call me to book a biopsy of my tumor. I waited for the call. The weekend came … and went. No call the following week. I finally sent a message on MyChart to my doctor that I hadn’t heard anything and was I supposed to have done something to get the biopsy scheduled. I received a message back with the phone number for the Radiational Intervention Department. Progress!

I phoned immediately and, of course, got a machine to answer. I recited my name and medical data along with my phone number with the message that I was calling to schedule a biopsy and they had my CT Scan. The machine assured me that my call was important and that someone would get back to me. The machine lied.

The next day, I phoned the department again and caught the same recorded message. I repeated my information. There was no call back.

At this point I was approaching seven days since my CT Scan with no ‘closure’ as far as finding out that nature of my likely cancerous affliction. I phoned my doctor and left a message that I had tried twice calling Radiational Intervention with no response.

Two hours later, Radiational Intervention called me. The nearest date for a biopsy is November 28. I booked it. They explained that I needed to get a COVID test with 72 hours of my procedure. So I booked that, too. I will be there at 1:00 p.m. for the procedure. They said that it would take about an hour to get into it and then I needed to stay there under observation for an additional two hours.

So, I may know on Tuesday, November 29, the condition of the likely cancerous mass on my left lung. Stay tuned ….

Tony

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Study proposes new parameters for diagnosis of sarcopenia

Measuring handgrip strength is one of the main ways of detecting sarcopenia, a syndrome characterized by loss of muscle mass, force and function.

Sarcopenia, a clinical syndrome characterized by progressive and extensive decline in skeletal muscle mass, force and function, is widely considered part of aging. Early diagnosis is extremely important and begins with handgrip measurement using a dynamometer. 

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A recent study by researchers at the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar) in São Paulo state, Brazil, collaborating with colleagues at University College London (UCL) in the United Kingdom, concluded that the diagnosis protocol should be changed by raising the handgrip strength cutoff point used to detect muscle weakness. They say new criteria proposed in their paper would be better predictors of mortality risk in older adults, enabling healthcare professionals to detect the onset of sarcopenia earlier and more accurately.

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Mediterranean diet may not reduce dementia risk – Study

A number of studies have suggested that eating a healthy diet may reduce a person’s risk of dementia, but a new study has found that two diets including the Mediterranean diet are not linked to a reduced risk of dementia. The study is published in the October 12, 2022, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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The Mediterranean diet includes a high intake of vegetables, legumes, fruits, fish and healthy fats such as olive oil, and a low intake of dairy products, meats and saturated fatty acids.

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Coffee drinking is associated with increased longevity

Drinking two to three cups of coffee a day is linked with a longer lifespan and lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared with avoiding coffee, according to research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). The findings applied to ground, instant and decaffeinated varieties.

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“In this large, observational study, ground, instant and decaffeinated coffee were associated with equivalent reductions in the incidence of cardiovascular disease and death from cardiovascular disease or any cause,” said study author Professor Peter Kistler of the Baker Heart and Diabetes Research Institute, Melbourne, Australia. “The results suggest that mild to moderate intake of ground, instant and decaffeinated coffee should be considered part of a healthy lifestyle.”

There is little information on the impact of different coffee preparations on heart health and survival. This study examined the associations between types of coffee and incident arrhythmias, cardiovascular disease and death using data from the UK Biobank, which recruited adults between 40 and 69 years of age. Cardiovascular disease was comprised of coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure and ischaemic stroke.

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Age vs. genetics: Which is more important for determining how we age?

Amid much speculation and research about how our genetics affect the way we age, a University of California, Berkeley, study now shows that individual differences in our DNA matter less as we get older and become prone to diseases of aging, such as diabetes and cancer.

In a study of the relative effects of genetics, aging and the environment on how some 20,000 human genes are expressed, the researchers found that aging and environment are far more important than genetic variation in affecting the expression profiles of many of our genes as we get older. The level at which genes are expressed — that is, ratcheted up or down in activity — determines everything from our hormone levels and metabolism to the mobilization of enzymes that repair the body.

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“How do your genetics — what you got from your sperm donor and your egg donor and your evolutionary history — influence who you are, your phenotype, such as your height, your weight, whether or not you have heart disease?” said Peter Sudmant, UC Berkeley assistant professor of integrative biology and a member of the campus’s Center for Computational Biology. “There’s been a huge amount of work done in human genetics to understand how genes are turned on and off by human genetic variation. Our project came about by asking, ‘How is that influenced by an individual’s age?’ And the first result we found was that your genetics actually matter less the older you get.”

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Coffee drinking associated with increased longevity

“In this large, observational study, ground, instant and decaffeinated coffee were associated with equivalent reductions in the incidence of cardiovascular disease and death from cardiovascular disease or any cause,” said study author Professor Peter Kistler of the Baker Heart and Diabetes Research Institute, Melbourne, Australia. “The results suggest that mild to moderate intake of ground, instant and decaffeinated coffee should be considered part of a healthy lifestyle.”

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There is little information on the impact of different coffee preparations on heart health and survival. This study examined the associations between types of coffee and incident arrhythmias, cardiovascular disease and death using data from the UK Biobank, which recruited adults between 40 and 69 years of age. Cardiovascular disease was comprised of coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure and ischaemic stroke.

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High blood pressure speeds up mental decline – MHL

People with high blood pressure levels face a faster erosion of their ability to think, make decisions and remember information than those with normal blood pressure levels, a new study finds.

The researchers traced high blood pressure’s association with declining brain function over years, in data from six large studies that they pooled and analyzed. They show that blood pressure-related cognitive decline happens at the same pace in people of Hispanic heritage as in non-Hispanic white people.

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The team had set out to see if differences in long-term blood pressure control explained why Hispanic people face a 50% higher overall risk of dementia by the end of their life than non-Hispanic white people in the United States.

But the new findings suggest that other factors may play a bigger role in that disparity.

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