Category Archives: Aging

Living longer is in your hands

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Here is an excellent article, from one of the best online medical correspondents, summarizing the best ways to strongly improve the likelihood of living longer, and living well:

Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Forget science (for now); living longer is in your hands

This link has been added to Aging.

Category: Aging

High Blood Pressure In Older People Raises Alzheimer’s Risk

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High blood pressure is known to lead to heart attack/failure, stroke, and kidney disease or failure, among other bad consequences. Now, a recently reported study shows that high blood pressure appears to be linked to higher risk of (silent)infarcts (brain lesions/dead brain tissue) and a higher number of Alzheimer’s tangles (but not plaques — yet), and overall, a higher risk of Alzheimer’s. The study group consisted of nearly 1,300 individuals — 2/3 of whom had high blood pressure — followed for an average of 8 years before their deaths, after which their brains were autopsied to determine the effects of the high blood pressure. Yet another reason to attempt to manage hypertension.

Links to media articles about the work:
Blood pressure linked to lesions, signs of Alzheimer’s in autopsied brains
High blood pressure may increase dementia risk
High blood pressure threatens the aging brain, study finds
Late-Life BP Tied to Brain Infarcts, Tangles
Here is a link to the research article:
Late-life blood pressure association with cerebrovascular and Alzheimer disease pathology

All links have been added to Alzheimer’s > Risk Factors

Advance Directive for Dementia

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Advance Care Directives concerning general medical care are recognized throughout all the states (for example, see the American Bar Associations list Links to State-Specific Advance Directive Forms). More recently, advance care directives specifically aimed at dementia have begun to appear. The point of advance directives is to have a plan in place and to have discussed your wishes with family, potential caregivers, and your doctors — while you are still capable.

A fairly simple straight-forward dementia-oriented directive has been developed by a Washington state internist, and is available as a pdf download at Health Directive for Dementia. The directive was documented by an essay in the JAMA at Advance Directives for Dementia – Meeting a Unique Challenge. Both of these links are available at ADVANCE DIRECTIVE FOR DEMENTIA. A media article about this work appeared at One Day Your Mind May Fade. At Least You’ll Have a Plan.

A more extensive dementia-oriented directive, with detailed directions, can be found at Alzheimers Disease and Dementia Advance Directive , with a general introduction at Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Mental Health Advance Directive. This directive apparently has legal weight in Washington state. It is not clear whether Advance Directives for Dementia have yet gained legal weight in other states.

Whatever the legal status of these Advance Directives for Dementia, it is important for anyone at any risk for dementia to engage in discussions of advance care with family, friends, and doctors, and to make their wishes known while they are able.

All the links above have been added to the top of Alzheimer’s > Coping & Caregivers and to the top of Alzheimer’s > General & Resources

Exercise: Again & Again, Like Notorious RGB

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Boring? Sometimes. Worthwhile? Sure. Benefits while aging? Can be fantastic.

One of the sad and unpleasant effects of aging for a great many people is the gradual loss of muscle mass. But apparently it doesn’t have to be that way. Two studies of master athletes in their 60s and 80s show that such athletes preserve a greater number of “motor units” in their legs: pairs of muscle fibers together with neurons connecting them to the spinal cord. With age, there is a tendency for the neurons to die. In younger people, new neurons are generated to replace the ones that die. However, in older people, they are not replaced, leading to the death of the originally attached muscle fiber. Two studies of older master athletes show that serious exercise can resist this scenario.

Here are links to two media articles about the research on both 60- and 80-year old master athletes:
Can the inevitable age-related decrement in motor unit number and stability be out run?
Exercise Makes Our Muscles Work Better With Age
Here is a link to the research based on 60-year-olds:
Motor unit number estimates in masters runners: use it or lose it?
And here is a link to the research based on 80-year olds:
Motor unit number and transmission stability in octogenarian world class athletes

So — master-level athletes can maintain muscle mass. But, you say, they must spend an awful lot of time at it. Well sure, as the saying goes: No pain, no gain, including the pain of time spent. But what if you’ve gotten into middle or advanced age masquerading as a couch potato? Is it all over for you? Fortunately, not.

A recent media article describes how intense strength training, combined with good nutrition, can hold the line or even reverse it:
How to build muscle as age tears it down

Here’s the research report mentioned in the article above about counteracting muscle weakness and physical frailty in very elderly people by using high-intensity resistance exercise training:
Exercise Training and Nutritional Supplementation for Physical Frailty in Very Elderly People

And now for the inspiration! Ruth Bader Ginsburg (the notorious RGB) is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, is 85 years old, and works out twice-weekly in the Supreme Court gym with her personal trainer. “She attributes her long career as a liberal legal icon to the sweat time she puts in with her trainer.” Her trainer has written an “exercise along with RGB” book:
The RBG Workout: How She Stays Strong . . . and You Can Too!

Here’s a media article about the book:
Get fit with the Ruth Bader Ginsburg workout

And just for fun, here’s a video of Stephen Colbert trying to workout out with the notorious RGB:
Colbert attempts Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s workout

All links have been added to Health > Physical Exercise

Too Many Hours Sitting Shrinks A Brain Memory Area

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The medial temporal lobe (MTL) includes the hippocampus, and is essential to the processing and storage of long-term memories. Recent research demonstrates that in people over 45, the number of hours spent sitting per day is inversely related to the thickness of the MTL. Crudely put, too many hours sitting can reduce your ability to remember. Since it is already known that sedentary behavior is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and premature death in middle-age and older adults, this most recent work adds another disturbing element to the argument against sitting too much.

While the research appears to show that physical activity, even at high levels, is insufficient to offset the harmful effects of sitting for extended periods, the work is preliminary in that the study focused on hours spent sitting, and did not take into consideration whether participants took breaks during long stretches of sedentary behavior. The researchers said that this could be a limitation of their results.

Here are links to two media articles on the work:
Sitting Too Much Can Change Your Brain & Impact Your Memory, A New Study Says
Too Much Sitting May Shrink the Part of Your Brain Tied to Memory
Here is a link to the research article:
Sedentary behavior associated with reduced medial temporal lobe thickness in middle-aged and older adults

All the links have been added to Aging, Physical Exercise, and Alzheimers > Risk Factors.

Serious Exercise May Seriously Defer Aging

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We’ve previously posted a number of links in Health > Physical Exercise about the value of physical exercise, and more information about that value just keeps rolling in. And it’s not just physical benefits provided by exercise —- the second part of this post describes cognitive benefits from exercise. So choose some form of fairly intense exercise, and get with it!

Exercise In Old Age: Preserve The Immune System & Muscle Mass

Two recently reported studies show that serious exercise into the 80’s can maintain an immune system similar to a 20-year old’s, and can also significantly reduce loss of muscle mass. Here are two media articles about the studies:
How exercise in old age prevents the immune system from declining
A lifetime of regular exercise slows down aging, study finds

And here are the two original studies:
Major features of immunesenescence, including reduced thymic output, are ameliorated by high levels of physical activity in adulthood
Properties of the vastus lateralis muscle in relation to age and physiological function in master cyclists aged 55–79 years

Exercise To Delay Cognitive Decline

In the last several years, a number of studies have shown that typical cognitive decline due to aging can be delayed by exercise. Here are a links to a number of media articles dealing with groups of the research studies:
Intensive Exercise May Delay Cognitive Decline by 10 Years
xercise May Slow Down Brain Aging By 10 Years: Study
Taking The Stairs Can Slow Down Brain Aging: Study
Exercise May Slow Brain Aging by 10 Years for Older People
Exercise might slow rate of mental decline by 10 years for older people
Study: Exercise may slow mental decline by 10 years
Intensive Exercise May Delay Cognitive Decline by 10 Years

Here are links to the research articles:
Leisure-time physical activity associates with cognitive decline. The Northern Manhattan Study (Abstract)
Ideal Cardiovascular Health and Cognitive Aging in the Northern Manhattan Study
Differences between chronological and brain age are related to education and self-reported physical activity
Effect of Physical Exercise on Cognitive Performance in Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment or Dementia: A Systematic Review

All the links mentioned in this post have been added to both
Health > Physical Exercise and Aging.

Why Fiber is Good For You

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Dieticians have maintained that fiber (typically from fruits and vegetables) is an essential part of our diet, and that a high-fiber diet has many health benefits, including lower risk for developing coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, as well as lowering blood pressure and serum cholesterol levels (Health benefits of dietary fiber). Now evidence is coming in as to why that is the case: fiber (that resists digestion by the body’s digestive system) is readily eaten by bacteria in the gut — fiber feeds the gut’s microbiome. Keeping the microbiome in good shape is essential for the proper functioning of the gut.

Here are two media article discussing both studies (which were carried out with mice, but will apply to human systems too):
Fiber Is Good for You. Now Scientists May Know Why.

PSA from your gut microbes: Enjoy the holidays, but don’t forget your fiber

And here are the two original studies:
Bifidobacteria or Fiber Protects against Diet-Induced Microbiota-Mediated Colonic Mucus Deterioration

Fiber-Mediated Nourishment of Gut Microbiota Protects against Diet-Induced Obesity by Restoring IL-22-Mediated Colonic Health

All four links have been added to Aging and Health > Diet.

Category: Aging, Diet

It’s About Time!

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The well-known tech startup incubator and venture capital firm Y Combinator has announced a new special program named YC Bio. It is aimed at early-stage life science biotechnology startups which are still in laboratory mode. The first sub-area of biology in which the program will focus is healthspan and age-related disease, where ‘healthspan’ denotes the amount of time person is healthy as opposed to the time they are alive but unhealthy. Startups accepted into the program will be provided with free lab space, and will participate the standard Y Combinator program. Successful ‘graduates’ will be offered (by YC) between $500,000 and $1 million for 10 to 20 percent ownership of the startup (as opposed to $120,000 for 7 percent ownership for non-YC Bio companies in the YC class).

Hopefully this program, and potentially others like it, will help accelerate the development of everything from drugs to devices which will help people ward off the ravages of aging.

Below is a link to the YC announcement, together with a short recap of it:

YC Bio
Y Combinator is launching a biotech track

Both links have been added to Aging

Category: Aging

Age, Sleep & Memory

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While sleep is still a great mystery, researchers continue to chip away at aspects of it. A recent study has revealed a mechanism involved in something important to most of us: why we get more forgetful as we grow older. The study showed that the key appears to be the synchronization between slow (one every second or two) and fast (up to 12 per second) brainwaves during non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. When well synchronized, recent, short-term memories are consolidated, while when poorly synchronized (off by as little as 50 milliseconds), memories tend to be lost.

The study utilized 20 young adults and 32 people in their 60s and 70s; none showed any evidence of any form of dementia. They memorized 120 pairs of words, and then slept while monitored by electrodes on their heads. Then the next morning, the subjects were tested to determine how many of the word pairs they recalled. The results were that the young people had much better brain wave synchronization, and recall of the word pairs, than the older people.

The poor coordination of brain waves appears to be due to atrophy of the medial brain cortex, the area of the brain involved in producing deep sleep. Unfortunately, such atrophy occurs normally as one ages. There are plans to explore improving brainwave coordination in older people by applying magnetic or electrical stimuli to the scalp during sleep. But at present there appear to be no remedies available.

Here are three media articles on the study:
Older Adults’ Forgetfulness Tied To Faulty Brain Rhythms In Sleep
Older adults forget more because their brain rhythms don’t sync during sleep, study says
This keeps older adults from ‘saving’ memories during sleep

And here is the original study article:
Old Brains Come Uncoupled in Sleep: Slow Wave-Spindle Synchrony, Brain Atrophy, and Forgetting.

All four links have been added to Aging.

Category: Aging

Mediterranean/MIND Diet Seriously Fights Alzheimer’s/Dementia

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Striking findings from two large-scale studies and two smaller studies show that following the Mediterranean diet or the related MIND diet can reduce the risk of dementia by one-third! The studies were reported at the recent 2017 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London.

The first study (Neuroprotective Diets …. abstract, full text) looked at the eating habits of almost 6,000 older adults (average age of 68) enrolled in the Health and Retirement Study, sponsored by the U.S. National Institute on Aging. The study is representative of the total US population, and as such, the results are widely applicable to the general public. Specifically, following the Mediterranean or MIND diet in general leads to 30%–35% lower risk of cognitive impairment during aging. Especially notable is the fact that the benefits appear to be a ‘sliding scale:’ “The more people stayed on those diets, the better they functioned cognitively,” said lead researcher Claire McEvoy.

The second study (The Mind Diet and Incident Dementia, Findings from the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study; sponsored by National Institutes on Aging) examined the MIND diet’s effectiveness for more than 7,000 women. Similar to the first study, women closely following the MIND guidelines were 34% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, while those moderately following the guidelines were 21%–24% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

An important observation is that these diets were originally developed to help improve cardiovascular health. Thus, following these diets will provide potential protection for both brain and heart health.

The third study (from Sweden: Which Dietary Index May Predict Preserved Cognitive Function in Nordic Older Adults?) enrolled more than 2,000 people and found that those eating a healthy diet called the Nordic Prudent Dietary Pattern (a diet related to the Mediterranean and MIND diets) for more than six years experienced better brain health.

The fourth study looked at the problem in the opposite direction. It looked at 330 people (average age 80) who followed a dietary pattern encouraging inflammation (so a diet “opposite” to the Mediterranean/MIND diets). These people performed poorly on brain games, and MRI scans showed that they also had a smaller total volume of brain gray matter. So this study negatively corroborates the outcomes of the first 3 studies.

Here is the Alzheimer’s Association Press Release about the four studies:
Healthy Eating Habits May Preserve Cognitive Function And Reduce The Risk Of Dementia

And here are several media stories about the presentations:
Mediterranean style diet may prevent dementia
Mediterranean-style diet linked to lower risk of dementia
Fight Dementia With Food: Following A Mediterranean Diet May Improve Brain Health, Studies Suggest
Could the Mediterranean Diet Help Fight Dementia? Here’s What We Know

All the links have been added to Health > Diet