Last year I posted The Ravages of Age which I intended as a kind of joke on the reader as I enumerated the toll that age was taking on my 15-year-old dog, not me. The fact is that I enjoy reasonably good health. I feel well-informed on the subject of health as I read and write about it every day of my life. Nonetheless, one of the distinctive aspects of my age is the loss of a sense of context.
I hope that isn’t too vague. What I mean is that since I have outlived many of my friends, family and loved ones, I don’t have many contemporary friends. I have lots of friends and acquaintances 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 years younger than I am. But people within a decade of my age are few and far between.
For that reason I often feel out there and alone when it comes to a lot of the nitty-gritty aspects of daily life.
Research from the Babraham Institute has developed a method to ‘time jump’ human skin cells by 30 years, turning back the ageing clock for cells without losing their specialised function. Work by researchers in the Institute’s Epigenetics research program has been able to partly restore the function of older cells, as well as rejuvenating the molecular measures of biological age. The research is published in the journal eLife and while at an early stage of exploration, it could revolutionize regenerative medicine.
What is regenerative medicine?
As we age, our cells’ ability to function declines and the genome accumulates marks of aging. Regenerative biology aims to repair or replace cells including old ones. One of the most important tools in regenerative biology is our ability to create ‘induced’ stem cells. The process is a result of several steps, each erasing some of the marks that make cells specialized. In theory, these stem cells have the potential to become any cell type, but scientists aren’t yet able to reliably recreate the conditions to re-differentiate stem cells into all cell types.
Regular physical activity promotes general good health, reduces the risk of developing many diseases, and helps you live a longer and healthier life. For many of us, “exercise” means walking, jogging, treadmill work, or other activities that get the heart pumping.
But often overlooked is the value of strength-building exercises. Once you reach your 50’s and beyond, strength (or resistance) training is critical to preserving the ability to perform the most ordinary activities of daily living — and to maintaining an active and independent lifestyle.
The average 30-year-old will lose about a quarter of his or her muscle strength by age 70 and half of it by age 90. “Just doing aerobic exercise is not adequate,” says Dr. Robert Schreiber, physician-in-chief at Hebrew SeniorLife and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Unless you are doing strength training, you will become weaker and less functional.”
Exercising for 20 minutes a day in your 70s appears to be the best way older adults can live longer without heart problems, a new study reveals. Scientists in Italy say the moderate to vigorous physical activity reduced the risk of developing heart disease when these individuals reached their 80s.
Researchers have long known that physical activity lengthens lifespans and reduces the risk from cardiovascular disease, regardless of gender or ethnicity. Until now, however, few studies have probed whether exercise later in life can ward off heart attacks and strokes during old age.
For the study, the team drew on information from the Progetto Veneto Anziani study of 3,099 Italians over the age of 65. Those researchers carried out initial tests including a detailed medical history, physical examination, scans, and a range of blood tests between 1995 and 1997. Scientists conducted two further assessments four and seven years later.
Older women live with more pre-existing conditions
When the study began, women were more likely than men to have more than four co-existing conditions. Osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and chronic kidney disease were more common among women than men, while diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were more common among men.
How fatigued certain activities make an older person feel can predict the likelihood death is less than three years away, according to research published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences by University of Pittsburgh epidemiologists. It is the first study to establish perceived physical fatigability as an indicator of earlier mortality. Older people who scored the highest in terms of how tired or exhausted they would feel after activities were more than twice as likely to die in the following 2.7 years compared to their counterparts who scored lower. Fatigability was assessed for a range of activities using the novel Pittsburgh Fatigability Scale.
“This is the time of year when people make—and break—New Year’s resolutions to get more physical activity,” said lead author Nancy W. Glynn, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health.
“I hope our findings provide some encouragement to stick with exercise goals. Previous research indicates that getting more physical activity can reduce a person’s fatigability. Our study is the first to link more severe physical fatigability to an earlier death. Conversely, lower scores indicate greater energy and more longevity.”
Although all of us senior citizens have our ‘moments,’ recent studies have shown that we can retain our mental clarity by following some basic habits of good health.
Harvard Medical School lists a number of habits that can cut into our chances of suffering from dementia in our old age. They include staying physically active, getting enough sleep, not smoking, having good social connections, limiting alcohol to one drink a day, and eating a balanced diet low in saturated and trans fats.
In addition, they point out several health conditions that can impair cognitive skills, including diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, depression, hypothyroidism, and high LDL (bad) cholesterol. If you suffer from any of these, they recommend that you follow your doctor’s advice.
They list six strategies that Harvard offers to protect and sharpen our memory and our minds.
1. Keep learning According to experts challenging your brain with…
Aging-US published “Iron: an underrated factor in aging” which reported that iron is an essential element for virtually all living organisms, but its reactivity also makes it potentially harmful. Blocking iron absorption through drugs or natural products extends lifespan.
Dr. Dennis Mangan from MTOR LLC in Bakersfield California said, “All life forms require the element iron as a constituent of their biochemical systems, iron being used in producing ATP in mitochondria, in cytochromes and hemoglobin, and in many other uses.”
People often get sicker as they grow older, but new research from Gil McVean of the University of Oxford and colleagues finds that the impact of a person’s genes on their risk of getting sick actually wanes with age. The researchers published their new findings August 26thin the journal PLOS Genetics.
The genes we inherit from our parents influence our risk for almost all diseases, from cancer to heart disease to autoimmune disorders. With new genomic technologies, scientists can now use a person’s genome to predict their future disease risk. However, recent work has shown that the predictive power of a person’s genetics can depend on their age, sex and ethnicity.
In the new study, McVean’s team investigated whether the risk of developing a disease posed by carrying certain genes changes as a person gets older. In other words, they wanted to know if there are windows when people are more or less likely to develop diseases linked to genetics. They used genomic data from 500,000 people in the UK Biobank to look at how their genetics impact their risk of developing 24 common diseases. While different diseases had different risk patterns, the researchers showed that a person’s genetic risk is highest early in life and then drops off for many diseases, including high blood pressure, skin cancer and underactive thyroids.
Currently, the reasons why the risk posed by a person’s genes decreases with age are not clear. The researchers suspect that there may be unknown processes at work, such interactions between a person’s genes and their environment that lead to disease. A better understanding of how age impacts a person’s risk of developing a disease linked to their genes may help researchers make more accurate predictions about whether an individual will ultimately become sick with that condition.
McVean adds, “Our work shows that the way in which genetics affects your risk of getting a disease change throughout life. For many diseases, genetic factors are most important in determining whether you will get a disease early in life, while — as you age — other factors come to dominate risk.”
When it comes to healthy aging and your diet, there are plenty of mixed up “facts” that need to be unraveled, says Johns Hopkins registered dietitian Kathleen Johnson, M.A., R.D., L.D.N. Here, she separates nutrition fact from fiction.
Myth: You should avoid dairy as you get older.
Truth: Only if it aggravates your stomach or digestive system.
Our bodies often become less tolerant of certain foods as we get older, says Johnson. Dairy is one of them because production of the enzyme lactase, which aids in the digestion of dairy, decreases as we age.
But unless you’re not feeling well after having dairy products (symptoms such as gas and bloating), there’s no need to start shunning dairy.
Myth: You can only get calcium from dairy.
Truth: Many other foods are surprisingly good sources.
If you can’t tolerate dairy anymore (see above), you can still meet the daily recommended amount (1,300 milligrams to help prevent osteoporosis) by eating foods such as bok choy (79 milligrams per serving) and white beans (96 milligrams). Other foods with calcium: spinach (146 milligrams), salmon (181 milligrams) and sardines (325 milligrams).
Myth: You should switch to a low-carb, high-protein diet.
Truth: It’s better to follow a well-balanced eating plan that helps you maintain a healthy weight.
Protein does help build muscle mass — something our body naturally loses after the age of 50 (thus the importance of resistance training). However, Johnson says, what’s most important for those over 50 is achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
For that goal, she says, “practicing moderation, and making sure the largest food on your plate is a vegetable, followed by whole grains and protein” is important. One eating plan that most medical experts support for healthy aging is the Mediterranean diet.
Myth: You should avoid saturated fats.
Truth: Some can be good for you. Instead, focus on eating more healthy fats.
“There is good nutrition science supporting the benefits of good monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats,” Johnson says — fats found in foods such as nuts and fatty fish.
“Just don’t make fats — of any type — the largest part of your diet,” she says. Bear in mind that fats help our bodies absorb many key vitamins and minerals for healthy aging.
There are many reasons to avoid getting diabetes, or to keep it controlled if you already have it: Higher risks for heart disease, stroke and for having a foot or leg amputation. But here’s another one: It’s a major risk factor for dementia.
While researchers are still investigating what causes that increased risk, one thing they do know is it’s linked to highs – and lows – in the body’s blood sugar levels.
“Whether it’s Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, glycemic control is very important” for maintaining good brain health, said Rachel Whitmer, chief of the division of epidemiology at University of California, Davis and associate director of the school’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. “This is another motivation to have good control.”
Good management of blood glucose levels is one of seven lifestyle changes people can make to support better heart and brain health, called Life’s Simple 7 by the American Heart Association. It’s a step that could potentially help more than 34.2 million people in the U.S. living with diabetes.
If you believe you are capable of becoming the healthy, engaged person you want to be in old age, you are much more likely to experience that outcome, a recent Oregon State University study shows.
“How we think about who we’re going to be in old age is very predictive of exactly how we will be,” said Shelbie Turner, a doctoral student in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences and co-author on the study.
Previous studies on aging have found that how people thought about themselves at age 50 predicted a wide range of future health outcomes up to 40 years later — cardiovascular events, memory, balance, will to live, hospitalizations; even mortality.
“Previous research has shown that people who have positive views of aging at 50 live 7.5 years longer, on average, than people who don’t,” said Karen Hooker, co-author of the study and the Jo Anne Leonard Petersen Endowed Chair in Gerontology and Family Studies at OSU.
Because self-perceptions of aging are linked to so many major health outcomes, Hooker and Turner wanted to understand what influences those perceptions. Their study looked specifically at the influence of two factors: self-efficacy associated with possible selves, meaning a person’s perceived ability to become the person they want to be in the future; and optimism as a general personality trait.
A new model of aging takes into account not only genetics and environmental exposures but also the tiny changes that randomly arise at the cellular level.
University Professor Caleb Finch introduced the “Tripartite Phenotype of Aging” as a new conceptual model that addresses why lifespan varies so much, even among human identical twins who share the same genes. Only about 10 to 35 percent of longevity can be traced to genes inherited from our parents, Finch mentioned.
Finch authored the paper introducing the model with one of his former graduate students, Amin Haghani, who received his PhD in the Biology of Aging from the USC Leonard Davis School in 2020 and is now a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA. In the article, they propose that the limited heritability of aging patterns and longevity in humans is an outcome of gene-environment interactions, together with stochastic, or chance, variations in the body’s cells. These random changes can include cellular changes that happen during development, molecular damage that occurs later in life, and more.
One picture us worth a thousand words. In this case, I think the infographic counts for even more. I hope this is all old news to you and you are living it fully. As an 81 year old I can tell you that I am certainly glad to have adopted my healthy lifestyle for the past 10 years. It’s never too late. The body is an organic machine which means there is constant regeneration going on. Use it to your advantage.
A new study led by the University of Portsmouth has identified that one of the major factors of age-related brain deterioration is the loss of a substance called myelin.
Myelin acts like the protective and insulating plastic casing around the electrical wires of the brain – called axons. Myelin is essential for superfast communication between nerve cells that lie behind the supercomputer power of the human brain.
The loss of myelin results in cognitive decline and is central to several neurodegenerative diseases, such as Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. This new study found that the cells that drive myelin repair become less efficient as we age and identified a key gene that is most affected by ageing, which reduces the cells ability to replace lost myelin.
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.
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.”