Tag Archives: successful aging

Tufts on the benefits of walking

I have written repeatedly about the health benefits of walking. For a good rundown, check out my Page – Why you should walk more. Herewith further elucidation on the benefits of what I call ‘the Cinderella of the exercise world-‘ walking from Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter.

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Did you get your 10,000 steps today? Many people have adopted this daily walking goal to obtain the recommended amount of physical activity. The 10,000-steps-a-day number comes from the Japanese brand name of a pedometer manufactured in the 1960s, the “10,000 steps meter.” In the Fitbit era, counting daily steps remains appealing to many people as a source of motivation.

In the U.S., adults are urged to get the equivalent of 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise. Walking is a popular way to meet those recommendations, particularly in older adults or people who are relatively physically inactive.

Although 10,000 steps is a worthy challenge, aiming for more exercise than you normally get—unless you are one of the few who regularly trains for marathons or triathlons—comes with benefits. Any amount or type of physical activity adds to your daily goal. Regularly taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking farther away from your destination, can make a measurable improvement in your health.

A recent study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that the benefits of walking on longevity were equivalent whether people got their steps in one long walk, a few shorter ones, or even brief walk breaks of a few minutes—as long as the physical activity was regular.

Preserving Mobility: Among the most important benefits of walking for older adults is preserving physical mobility—the ability to walk without assistance. In 2014, a study involving Tufts researchers called Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) trial provided evidence for the benefits of physical activity in older adults at risk of immobility and disability and other associated health problems.

“This study, for the first time, showed conclusively that a regular program of physical activity can preserve independence among older men and women,” says Roger A. Fielding, PhD, director of the HNRCA Nutrition, Exercise, Physiology and Sarcopenia Laboratory, who led the Tufts portion of the study.

The LIFE trial was designed to test the ability of physical activity to prevent major mobility disability, defined as the inability to walk for about a quarter-mile (400 meters) within 15 minutes, without sitting and without the help of another person or walker. Use of a cane was allowed. The study involved 1,635 men and women, ages 70 to 89, at 8 universities and research centers across the country, including Tufts.

On a practical level, the walking test gauges a person’s general fitness to perform ordinary activities like shopping, household chores and travel. Not being able to pass the test is a harbinger of future immobility.

Participants were relatively sedentary at the start of the study, having reported less than 20 minutes per week of physical activity in the previous month. The volunteers were randomly assigned to either weekly health education classes with 10 minutes of gentle stretching, or to a program consisting of exercises for strength, flexibility and balance, as well as walking. Participants were told to set as their goal 30 minutes a day of walking at moderate intensity.

Over the average 2.6-year study period, participants in the exercise program were 28% less likely to develop major mobility disability, compared with the control group that just received health education. Increased regular exercise was particularly potent in participants who started the study with the lowest level of physical functioning.

“We think that one of the reasons older people lose their independence is because of some problem they have with their muscle function,” Fielding explains. “Therefore, if you can design an intervention that can help slow the rate of muscle loss or restore some of the muscle function, it may help to prevent individuals from ultimately becoming disabled. We’ve shown that pretty well with exercise.”

How Many Steps to Health? More recently, Fielding used the data from the LIFE study to pin down the amount of physical activity it takes to prevent disability in the at-risk individuals who participated in the LIFE trial. Is 30 minutes a day of walking and other exercise the required buy-in to prevent immobility?

Fielding and his colleagues reanalyzed the LIFE data to see what impact incremental “doses” of physical activity over the first two years of the trial had on physical function (based on tests of balance and leg strength) and walking speed. They found that an increase in physical activity of just over 45 minutes per week reduced the chance of mobility disability by about 70%. That’s equivalent to a single session of exercise training used in the LIFE trial.

It all adds up to this: Even people who are relatively sedentary and start late in the game can benefit from increasing physical activity. Walking is a great entry-level physical activity—simple, free and safe unless you have a balance problem or other risk factor for falling. A brisk walk, combined with a light aerobic workout and strength training, can increase the odds of staying active and independent with aging.

“Understanding the minimal dose of physical activity required to improve physical function and reduce the risk of disability may inform future public health recommendations about physical activity for older adults,” Fielding says. “A reduced risk of disability can be seen with substantially less physical activity than is currently recommended for most inactive older adults.”

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Higher Fitness Level Can Determine Longer Lifespan After Age 70 – Study

I am always happy to pass along another example of how valuable my eat less; move more; live longer mantra is in daily practice.

Researchers have uncovered one more reason to get off the couch and start exercising, especially if you’re approaching your golden years. Among people over age 70, physical fitness was found to be a much better predictor of survival than the number of traditional cardiovascular risk factors in a study being presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session.

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While high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking are closely linked with a person’s chance of developing heart disease, these factors are so common in older people that the total number of risk factors becomes almost meaningless for predicting future health, researchers said. The new study suggests doctors can get a better picture of older patients’ health by looking at how fit they are, rather than how many of these cardiovascular risk factors they have. Continue reading

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Consider Tai Chi …

I have had great success with yoga over the years, but tai chi comes heavily recommended by people whose opinions I respect. I took some classes in it and enjoyed them, but never felt as totally exercised as I did with yoga. Herewith a breakdown of this gentle martial art.

Tai chi is a non-competitive martial art known for its self-defense techniques and health benefits. As a form of exercise, it combines gentle physical exercise and stretching with mindfulness.

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Research has produced mixed results but appears to show that tai chi can improve balance control, fitness, and flexibility, and might cut the risk of falls in older people.

Tai chi also appears to reduce pain and the symptoms of depression in some cases.

The martial art is an ancient Chinese tradition that has evolved over centuries. To its advocates, it has become a means of alleviating stress and anxiety, a form of “meditation in motion.” Its supporters claim that it promotes serenity and inner peace.

It is safe for people of all ages, as it does not put too much stress on the muscles and joints.

This article explores the documented evidence for the benefits of tai chi.

Benefits

Various research suggests the benefits of tai chi might include improved balance, pain management, and cognitive function in people with and without chronic conditions.

Other possible benefits include improved sleep quality and an enhanced immune system. Continue reading

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6 Tips for successful aging

Simple, but not easy, is a common description that I seem to hear all the time. I have accumulated some simple, and I hope easy, tips for successful aging. These are from Dana Corp.’s Brain in the News.

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1. Be physically active – 30 minutes a day – three days a week. Easy peasy.

2. Reduce your cardiovascular risk factors – including hypertension, diabetes and smoking.

3. Manage your medications by reviewing them with a clinician and learning about their effects on your cognitive health.

4. Be socially and intellectually active.

5. Get enough sleep. I can’t stress this enough. If  you want to know more about this utterly simple step, please check out my Page – How important is a good night’s sleep?

6. Guard against delirium, a decrease in cognitive function that can be triggered by hospitalization, medications and certain illnesses.

 

Tony

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Uncovering a “smoking gun” of biological aging

I have always been fascinated by the dichotomy between chronological age and biological age.

There are two types of age: chronological age, or the number of years a person or animal has lived, and biological age, which accounts for various lifestyle factors that can shorten or extend lifespan, including diet, exercise, and environmental exposures. Overall, biological age has been shown to be a better predictor of all-cause mortality and disease onset than chronological age.

A newly discovered ribosomal DNA (rDNA) clock can be used to accurately determine an individual’s chronological and biological age, according to research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The ribosomal clock is a novel biomarker of aging based on the rDNA, a segment of the genome that has previously been mechanistically linked to aging. The ribosomal clock has potentially wide applications, including measuring how exposures to certain pollutants or dietary interventions accelerate or slow aging in a diversity of species, including mice and humans.

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“We have hopes that the ribosomal clock will provide new insights into the impact of the environment and personal choices on long-term health,” said senior author Bernardo Lemos, associate professor of environmental epigenetics. “Determining biological age is a central step to understanding fundamental aspects of aging as well as developing tools to inform personal and public health choices.”

The study was published online in Genome Research on February 14, 2019. Continue reading

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FDA takes action against 17 companies for illegally selling products making Alzheimer’s disease claims

As I have written here numerous times, both sides of my family have a history of Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common form of dementia. As a guy in his late 70’s this is a critical subject for me. And I am not the only one. I live near Northwestern Memorial Hospital, a major Chicago health establishment. They have a Healthy Transitions program there for folks over 50 which provides programs explaining the changes we are experiencing and can expect to experience. The most popular are the ones dealing with cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s and dementia. We are all concerned.

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That’s why I hope there is a special place in hell for companies who prey on the fears of seniors about their mental health and capacities. I found this item from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) most satisfying. Continue reading

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I’m 79 and feeling fine …

General Douglas MacArthur, Paul Newman, Angela Davis, Wayne Gretzky, Eddie Van Halen, Jules Feiffer and Ellen DeGeneres were all born on January 26.

Oh, yes, and one not so famous. It’s also my birthday. I am now 79 years old. I am happy to say that I feel great and am healthier than I was 20 years ago when I was toiling away in the working world.

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This is my birthday picture from a while back. It’s the only one I have that’s decorated. Also, my pup is in it, too.

This is from my birthday blog post last year:

One of the main reasons I feel like I have things so together is this blog. I started writing it in March of 2010 with a partner who has since left for other pursuits. From the beginning, I discovered a focus. At first it was simply trying to keep my weight down. I learned portion control and serving size. This Italian guy was surprised to learn that a “serving” of pasta was not a 10 inch plate heaped with spaghetti noodles smothered in tomato sauce. No, a 200 calorie serving of pasta is about the size of a baseball. Incredibly, that was a revelation to me. I put the information to use. I began to reduce my portions accordingly. I am not going to recount all the lessons I learned in the past nearly nine years, but if you want to get control of your weight, check out my Page – How to Lose Weight – and Keep it Off. Continue reading

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Tips for my senior friends … Infographic

I am fortunate to live in a big city and have lots of social outlets. For my senior readers, here are some suggestions from the National Institute on Aging for dealing with situations which are less hospitable.

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This infographic says to get moving. I can’t stress enough how beneficial my daily bike riding is for me. I get out of the apartment and enjoy flying across the pavement. In the good weather I put my dog in the basket. But, I always bring my water bottle with the bluetooth speaker on top. I get to listen to my favorite songs from my iPhone the whole time, not to mention enjoying being out in nature. Don’t forget: the law of the body is – use it or lose it.

Tony

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Physical Activity, Any Type or Amount, Cuts Health Risk from Sitting

Eat less; move more; live longer just got further support from a recent study. I remain convinced that a sedentary lifestyle is one of the great unnoticed killers in our midst – particularly of senior citizens.

A new study of around 8,000 middle-aged and older adults found that swapping a half-hour of sitting around with physical activity of any intensity or duration cut the risk of early death by as much as 35 percent. The findings highlight the importance of movement—regardless of its intensity or amount of time spent moving—for better health.

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The study was published online in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

“Our findings underscore an important public health message that physical activity of any intensity provides health benefits,” says Keith Diaz, PhD, assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and lead author of the paper. Continue reading

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5 Life skills aid longevity – Study

Life skills, such as persistence, conscientiousness and control, are as important to wealth and well being in later life as they are when people are much younger, according to new research led by University College of London (UCL).

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Five life skills – emotional stability, determination, control, optimism and conscientiousness – play a key role in promoting educational and occupational success in early life but little has been known about their importance in later life. Continue reading

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Nutrients in Older Adults’ Blood Linked to Better Cognition and Brain Connectivity – Study

Summary: Investigating 32 key nutrients in the Mediterranean diet, researchers report aging individuals with more abundant key nutrients in their blood had better functional connectivity and improved cognitive performance than those lacking the nutrients. Source: University of Illinois.

A new study links higher levels of several key nutrients in the blood with more efficient brain connectivity and performance on cognitive tests in older adults.

The study, reported in the journal NeuroImage, looked at 32 key nutrients in the Mediterranean diet, which previous research has shown is associated with better brain function in aging. It included 116 healthy adults 65-75 years of age.

“We wanted to investigate whether diet and nutrition predict cognitive performance in healthy older adults,” said University of Illinois postdoctoral researcher Christopher Zwilling, who led the study with U. of I. psychology professor Aron Barbey in the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.

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The analysis linked specific patterns of a handful of nutrient biomarkers in the blood to better brain health and cognition. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

The analysis linked specific patterns of a handful of nutrient biomarkers in the blood to better brain health and cognition. The nutrient patterns included omega-3 fatty acids, which are abundant in fish, walnuts and Brussels sprouts; omega-6 fatty acids, found in flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts and pistachios; lycopene, a vivid red pigment in tomatoes, watermelon and a few other fruits and vegetables; alpha- and beta-carotenoids, which give sweet potatoes and carrots their characteristic orange color; and vitamins B and D.

The researchers relied on some of the most rigorous methods available for examining nutrient intake and brain health, Barbey said. Rather than asking participants to answer food-intake surveys, which require the accurate recall of what and how much participants ate, the team looked for patterns of nutrient “biomarkers” in the blood. The team also used functional magnetic resonance imaging to carefully evaluate the efficiency with which various brain networks performed.

“The basic question we were asking was whether diet and nutrition are associated with healthy brain aging,” Barbey said. “And instead of inferring brain health from a cognitive test, we directly examined the brain using high-resolution brain imaging.”

Functional MRIs can indicate the efficiency of individual brain networks, he said. 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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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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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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