Category Archives: Aging

Air Pollution: Shorter Life, More Dementia Risk, Worse Thinking

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Three recent studies have demonstrated that breathing polluted air has significant negative effects, including a shorter lifespan, greater risk of dementia, and diminished cognitive capacity.


Life Expectancy
Airborne PM(Particulate Matter)2.5 is material less than 2.5 micrometers, which can be seen only with electron microscopes. Being so small, they can travel deeply into our lungs with quite harmful effects. They are produced from car & truck exhausts, industrial plants include coal-fired powerplants, and also include dust produced by windstorms. Averaged across the globe, breathing them typically cuts up to a year off lifespans, and in areas of greater pollution, up to two years.

Here are three links to media articles on the work:
Air pollution reduces global life expectancy by more than one year
Air pollution is shaving a year off our average life expectancy
Lowering air pollution just a bit would increase life expectancy as much as eradicating lung and breast cancer

Here is the research publication:
Ambient PM2.5 Reduces Global and Regional Life Expectancy
These links have been added to Aging


Dementia Risk

This study involved a sample of 130,978 adults living in London between 2005 and 2013. The participants were between 50 and 79 years old. Broadly, even after making adjustments for factors such as smoking and social status/class, those from the most polluted areas of London were much more at risk of dementia (40% more) than those from the least polluted areas.

Here are two links to media articles on the research:
Is air pollution tied to higher dementia risk?
Air pollution linked to much greater risk of dementia

Here is the research publication:
Are noise and air pollution related to the incidence of dementia? A cohort study in London, England


Diminished Cognitive Capacity
Living with air pollution very likely reduces your intelligence, as measured by test scores for arithmetic and language. The effect can, on average, be as if one had lost a year of eduction. For people over 64, for men, and for those with lower education, the effect can be even greater.

An international research team carried out the research in China using 20,000 people, between 2010 and 2014. People who were exposed longer to polluted air had greater damage to their intelligence. Language ability was hurt more than mathematical ability, and men were harmed more than women.

Here are three links to media articles on the research work:

Air Pollution Exposure Harms Cognitive Performance, Study Finds
Study shows air pollution may be causing cognitive decline in people

Here is the research publication:
The impact of exposure to air pollution on cognitive performance

The last two groups of links have been added to Alzheimer’s > Risk Factors

Your Heart And Your Brain

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One is in your head, the other in your chest. But of course they’re deeply interconnected. Looking at it from your brain’s point of view, what’s good for your heart is also good for your head. A major French study reported in August quantifies that, using the American Heart Association (AHA)’s notion of Life’s Simple 7:

Blood pressure
Blood sugar
Cholesterol
Diet
Exercise
Smoking status
Weight management

The better one manages each of these, the lower one’s risk of dementia.

Here are links to media articles about heart health and dementia:
The more you do to promote your cardiovascular health, the lower your risk of dementia
Midlife heart health shows a link with future risk of dementia
Better heart health may mean lower dementia risk in older people
These 7 heart-healthy factors could cut your risk of dementia, a new study finds

Here are two health organization posts on heart health and dementia:
Dementia and Heart Health: Are They Related?
Risk factors for heart disease linked to dementia

Research article:
Association of Cardiovascular Health Level in Older Age With Cognitive Decline and Incident Dementia

All links have been added to Aging, Alzheimer’s > Amelioration/Prevention and Alzheimer’s > Risk Factors

Exercise Is Best For Survival

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A massive long-term study from Cleveland Clinic, published two days ago, shows that there is no such thing as too much exercise, and that too little exercise is a mortality risk factor greater than smoking or diabetes. The study followed 122,007 patients who underwent exercise treadmill testing at Cleveland Clinic between Jan. 1, 1991, and Dec. 31, 2014, to measure the association between aerobic fitness and mortality due to any cause.

The researchers found that there is a direct relationship between greater aerobic fitness and lower risk of mortality:

  • The higher a person’s level of fitness, the lower their risk of dying, with very high levels of fitness having very strong positive effects for people over 70, and
  • The lower a person’s level of fitness, the greater their risk of dying, with the most sedentary persons have a greater risk of mortality than the risks produced by coronary artery disease, smoking, or diabetes.

 
Here are links to three media articles about the study, together with a link to the original research publication:
Researchers show better cardiorespiratory fitness leads to longer life
Confirmed: Higher Cardiorespiratory Fitness Predicts Lower Mortality
New study says not exercising is pretty much the worst thing you can possibly do
Research article:
Association of Cardiorespiratory Fitness With Long-term Mortality Among Adults Undergoing Exercise Treadmill Testing

The links have been filed under Health > Physical Exercise and Aging

Mediterranean Diet Appears to Prolog Life in Elderly

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It’s already well-known that the Mediterranean Diet appears to be quite beneficial for heart health, and to aid in resisting atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes:

Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan

What’s to know about the Mediterranean diet?

In addition, the Mediterranean Diet has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of dementia:

Mediterranean Diet: Better than ever for your Brain

Mediterranean/MIND Diet Seriously Fights Alzheimer’s/Dementia

Now, a new study has suggested that adopting the Mediterranean Diet, even in old age, can prolog life. Here are two media articles on the study, together with a link to the study abstract:

Adopting Mediterranean diet in old age can prolong life, study suggests

Mediterranean Diet Could Help Older Adults Prolong Life, Study Says

Mediterranean diet and mortality in the elderly: a prospective cohort study and a meta-analysis

All three links have been added to Aging and Health > Diet

Category: Aging, Diet, Health

Sleep, Aging, and Dementia

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We’ve added links to two broad extensive guides about sleep: for aging in general, and for dementia in particular. Although appearing on a bedding manufacturer’s site, these are well-done, and the level of advertising is restrained.

The first link to a guide is:
Sleep and Aging – Senior Sleep Guide
This link has been added to Aging

The second link to a guide is:
Dementia and Sleep Disorders.
This link has been added to Alzheimer’s > Risk Factors

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.