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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
“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.
Like all adults, older adults should avoid or limit alcohol consumption. In fact, aging can lead to social and physical changes that make older adults more susceptible to alcohol misuse and abuse and more vulnerable to the consequences of alcohol. Alcohol dependence or heavy drinking affects every organ in the body, including the brain.
A comprehensive study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism shows that alcohol consumption among older adults, especially women, is on the rise. The researchers also found evidence that certain brain regions show signs of premature aging in alcohol-dependent men and women. In addition, heavy drinking for extended periods of time in older adults may contribute to poor heart health, as shown in this 2016 study. These studies suggest that stopping or limiting the use of alcohol could improve heart health and prevent the accelerated aging seen with heavy alcohol use.
Eat less; move more; live longer … How many times have you read that on these pages? Now comes the National Institutes of Health with more of the same.
Physical activity is vital for your health. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight and prevent chronic diseases ranging from heart disease to diabetes. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get a minimum of 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week, or at least half that amount of vigorous-intensity activity.
Previous studies have found that a wide variety of leisure-time physical activities can provide health benefits. But these studies have largely been done in younger adults. And many did not track different levels of various types of activities.
Link found between physical function and cardiovascular disease risk in older adults, according to new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association
Among people older than age 65 who were assessed using a short physical function test, having lower physical function was independently associated with a greater risk of developing heart attack, heart failure and stroke, according to new research published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access, peer-reviewed journal of the American Heart Association.
The Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB) used in this study is considered a measure of physical function, which includes walking speed, leg strength and balance. This study examined physical function, which is different from physical fitness.
“While traditional cardiovascular disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking or diabetes are closely linked to cardiovascular disease, particularly in middle-aged people, we also know these factors may not be as predictive in older adults, so we need to identify nontraditional predictors for older adults,” said study senior author Kunihiro Matsushita, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Division of Cardiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. “We found that physical function in older adults predicts future cardiovascular disease beyond traditional heart disease risk factors, regardless of whether an individual has a history of cardiovascular disease.”
Perhaps not the number, but how we age might be. A growing body of research suggests a person’s mindset – how they feel about growing old – may predict how much longer and how well they live as the years go by.
Several studies over the past 20 years suggest people with more positive attitudes about aging live longer, healthier lives than those with negative perceptions of the aging process. Recently, a large nationwide study of nearly 14,000 adults over age 50 took an even deeper look into the ways in which positive thinking about aging could impact a person’s physical health, health behaviors and psychological well-being.
Published in JAMA Network Open, the study found those with the highest satisfaction with aging had a 43% lower risk of dying from any cause during four years of follow-up compared to those with the lowest satisfaction. People with higher satisfaction also had a reduced risk for chronic conditions such as diabetes, stroke, cancer and heart disease, as well as better cognitive functioning. People with a more positive attitude about growing old also were more likely to engage in frequent physical activity and less likely to have trouble sleeping than their less-satisfied peers. They also were less lonely, less likely to be depressed, more optimistic and had a stronger sense of purpose.
Research is adding further weight to the argument that prolonged sitting may be hazardous to your health. An international study surveying more than 100,000 individuals in 21 countries found that people who sat for six to eight hours a day had a 12-13 per cent increased risk for early death and heart disease, while those who sat for more than eight hours daily increased that to a sobering 20 per cent.
The study, co-led by Simon Fraser University health sciences professor Scott Lear and Wei Li of Beijing’s Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, is published today in the journal Jama Cardiology. Their research followed individuals over an average of 11 years and determined that high amounts of sitting time were associated with increased risk of early death and cardiovascular disease. While sitting was problematic in all countries, it was especially so in low-income and lower-middle-income countries.
“The overarching message here is to minimize how much you sit,” says Lear. “If you must sit, getting in more exercise during other times of the day will offset that risk.”
Not surprising, those who sat the most and were the least active had the highest risk—up to 50 per cent—while those who sat the most but were also the most active had a substantially lower risk of about 17 per cent.
“For those sitting more than four hours a day, replacing a half hour of sitting with exercise reduced the risk by two per cent,” Lear notes. “With only one in four Canadians meeting the activity guidelines there’s a real opportunity here for people to increase their activity and reduce their chances of early death and heart disease.”
The study found a particular association in lower income countries, leading researchers to speculate that it may be because sitting in higher income countries is typically associated with higher socio-economic status and better paying jobs.
Clinicians should focus on less sitting and more activity as it’s a low-cost intervention that can have enormous benefit, Lear notes.
But while clinicians need to get the message out about countering sitting with activity, individuals need to better assess their lifestyles and take their health seriously, Lear adds. “Our study found that a combination of sitting and inactivity accounted for 8.8 per cent of all deaths, which is close to the contribution of smoking (10.6 per cent in Lear and Li’s study). “It’s a global problem that has a remarkably simple fix. Scheduling time to get out of that chair is a great start.”
Older people who overestimate their health go to the doctor less often. This can have serious consequences for their health, for example, when illnesses are detected too late. By contrast, people who think they are sicker than they actually are visit the doctor more often. This is what a new study by Sonja Spitzer from the Institute for Demography at the University of Vienna and Mujaheed Shaikh from the Hertie School in Berlin found based on data from over 80,000 Europeans aged 50 and older. The results were published in The Journal of the Economics of Aging.
Our confidence affects our behavior. People who overestimate their abilities earn more, invest their money differently, and are more likely to be leaders. But they also act riskier, have more accidents, and live less healthy by drinking more alcohol, eating less healthily, and sleeping too little.
“As I reported here, after the age of 50 men are as likely to get osteoporosis as prostate cancer. More to the point, older people of both sexes have great vulnerability to it.”
Now comes a new study that explains how weight-bearing exercises affect our bone structure and fight that disease.
Osteoporosis affects more than 200 million people worldwide and is a serious public health concern, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Now, Pamela Hinton, associate professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, has published the first study in men to show that long-term, weight-bearing exercises decrease sclerostin, a protein made in the bone, and increase IGF-1, a hormone associated with bone growth. These changes promote bone formation, increasing bone density. Continue reading →
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.”