It ought to be a no-brainer, so to speak: Research has pinpointed seven ways people can achieve ideal heart and brain health. And – bonus – if Americans did those things, they also could help prevent many other chronic illnesses, According to the American Heart Association News.
But most people don’t, at least not consistently. What’s stopping them?
“Most of these steps require a great deal of self-regulation and self-control,” said Dolores Albarracin, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “It’s not just getting one thing done, like going to get a vaccine, where you can do it and forget about it for a year.”
Volumes of research point to at least seven behaviors, called Life’s Simple 7, that can dramatically lower the burden of heart disease, stroke and dementia. Not smoking, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and keeping blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels in a healthy range have the potential to collectively wipe out a vast majority of heart disease and stroke and prevent or delay a significant number of dementias.
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.
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.
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.”
When it comes to living to the ripe old age of 100, good genes help but don’t tell the full story. Where you live has a significant impact on the likelihood that you will reach centenarian age, suggests a new study conducted by scientists at Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.
Published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health and based on Washington State mortality data, the research team’s findings suggest that Washingtonians who live in highly walkable, mixed-age communities may be more likely to live to their 100th birthday. They also found socioeconomic status to be correlated, and an additional analysis showed that geographic clusters where the probability of reaching centenarian age is high are located in urban areas and smaller towns with higher socioeconomic status, including the Seattle area and the region around Pullman, Wash.
As a senior, I want to stress to you that we seniors are more vulnerable to dehydration than our younger associates.
The hot summer months are upon us, but sweating in the sun is not the only factor that raises risk for dehydration. This potentially dangerous drop in body fluid affects everything from blood pressure to the brain, so knowing the causes, signs, and symptoms of dehydration—as well as how to avoid it—is critical.
Dehydration Basics: Any situation that involves either not taking in enough fluid or losing too much fluid can cause dehydration. “We don’t drink enough if fluids are unavailable, or if we lack an adequate thirst response,” says Roger Fielding, PhD, director and senior scientist at the Nutrition, Exercise Physiology, and Sarcopenia Laboratory at Tufts’ Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging. “We lose fluid through sweat, diarrhea, vomiting, or blood loss. Medications like diuretics (water pills), or medical conditions like uncontrolled diabetes, can also cause too much water to leave the body. These factors, alone or in combination, can lead to dehydration.”
Older adults with depression may be at much higher risk of remaining depressed if they are experiencing persistent or worsening sleep problems, according to a study from researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The researchers, who published their findings online April 30 in the journal Sleep, analyzed data from almost 600 people over 60 years old who visited primary care centers in the Northeast U.S. All patients met clinical criteria for major or minor depression at the outset of the study. Continue reading →
This guide focuses on cognitive health and what you can do to help maintain it. The following steps can help you function every day and stay independent—and they have been linked to cognitive health, too.
A study just released by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health researchers is reporting a blood-DNA-methylation measure that is sensitive to variation in the pace of biological aging among individuals born the same year. The tool—DunedinPoAm—offers a unique measurement for intervention trials and natural experiment studies investigating how the rate of aging may be changed by behavioral or drug therapy, or by changes to the environment. Study findings are published online in the journal e-Life.
“The goal of our study was to distill a measurement of the rate of biological aging based on 12 years of follow-up on 18 different clinical tests into a blood test that can be administered at a single time point,” says lead author Daniel Belsky, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School and a researcher at the Butler Columbia Aging Center.
I have written repeatedly about the benefits of walking, calling it the ‘Cinderella of the exercise world.’ Now, according the the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it seems that quantity equals quality in walking.
UNIGE researchers have shown that the decline in cognitive abilities after 50 years of age results in a decline in physical activity, and that – contrary to what has been suggested by the literature to date – the inverse relationship is much weaker.
Someone dies somewhere in the world every 10 seconds owing to physical inactivity – 3.2 million people a year according to the World Health Organization (WHO). From the age of 50, there is a gradual decline not just in physical activity but also in cognitive abilities since the two are correlated. But which of them influences the other? Does physical activity impact on the brain or is it the other way around? To answer this question, researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, and the NCCR Lives Swiss National Center of Competence in Research used a database of over 100,000 people aged 50-90 whose physical and cognitive abilities were measured every two years for 12 years. The findings, which are published in the journal Health Psychology, show that – contrary to what was previously thought – cognitive abilities ward off inactivity much more than physical activity prevents the decline in cognitive abilities. All of which means we need to prioritize exercising our brains. Continue reading →
Healthy aging researchers at Flinders University say certain characteristics of mindfulness seem more strongly evident in older people compared to younger people – and suggest ways for all ages to benefit.
“This suggests that mindfulness may naturally develop with time and life experience,” says behavioral scientist Associate Professor Tim Windsor, who co-authored a recent study based on an online community survey of 623 participants aged between 18 and 86 years. Continue reading →