Category Archives: Amelioration/Prevention

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

Nine Factors Contributing to Dementia — You Can Manage Them

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The Lancet publishing group organized a commission of medical experts to address the state of Prevention, Intervention, and Care of Dementia. The report was presented in July of 2017:
The Lancet International Commission on Dementia Prevention and Care.
(The document is only http, not https; just tell your browser to go ahead anyway.) Nine specific contributing factors to the risk of dementia were listed, all of them manageable by individuals. Collectively, these factors accounted for more than a third of the risk of dementia. The report groups these factors by early-/mid-/late-life periods of major effect, and assigns a percentage number indicating the reduction in dementia risk that would be achieved by properly handling that factor. These factors, grouped and with assigned risk reduction values, were:

Factor % responsible for risk
Early-Life:
Failing to complete secondary education – –  8%
Mid-Life:
Hearing loss – –  9%
High blood pressure – –  2%
Obesity – –  1%
Late-Life
Smoking – –  5%
Failing to seek early treatment for Depression – –  4%
Physical inactivity (lack of exercise) – –  3%
Social isolation – –  2%
Type 2 diabetes – –  1%


Total potential risk reduction: 35%

The report also mentioned several additional lifestyle factors or life events for which conclusive data were not available, but which are likely to be significant for risk reduction:

  • Adhering to the Mediterranean diet
  • Limiting alcoholic intake to only moderate amounts
  • Avoidance of head injuries
  • Management of sleep disorders
  • Bilingualism
  • Living away from major roads

The following excellent info graphic about the factors appears in the report:

It is definitely worth noting that the three major interventions recommended by the expert panel of the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) were:

Exercise, Manage Blood Pressure, Engage in Brain Training.

These solidly overlap with the Lancet recommendations. (See 3 Good Things To Do For Your Brain: Exercise, Manage Blood Pressure, Brain Training).

Here are four media articles about the Lancet report:
Nine lifestyle changes can reduce dementia risk, study says
Lifestyle changes could prevent a third of dementia cases, report suggests
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170720094907.htm
Is Dementia Preventable?

All links have been added to Alzheimer’s > Amelioration/Prevention.

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

3 Good Things To Do For Your Brain: Exercise, Manage Blood Pressure, Brain Training

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The National Institute on Aging (NIA) commissioned the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to create an expert panel to review the evidence for interventions to prevent age-related cognitive decline and dementia. The panel found promising evidence that cognitive training, managing your blood pressure if you have hypertension, and increasing your physical activity can do much to reduce the risk of decline or dementia, even though they could not call for a widespread public campaign yet — more evidence will need to be accumulated. The panel’s report was published June 22, 2017.

Here are links to three articles about the report:
Expert Panel: Three Things May Save Your Brain

These few things may help stave off dementia, scientists say

Cognitive decline may be prevented using interventions but may be inadequate says report

And here are links to the abstract of the report together with the full report:
Abstract:
Preventing Cognitive Decline and Dementia: A Way Forward (Report At A Glance)

Published research (the complete report as pdf — upper right corner of page):
Preventing Cognitive Decline and Dementia: A Way Forward

All five links have been added to Alzheimer’s > Amelioration/Prevention

Active Sex Life Strengthens Brain Power For Older Adults

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Now that is welcome news! A pair of studies has shown that certain cognitive functions are strengthened by a more frequent sex life for both men and women. Both studies found significant relationships, after adjusting for age, education, wealth, physical activity, depression, cohabiting, self-rated health, loneliness and quality of life.

The earlier (2016) study (Sex on the brain! Associations between sexual activity and cognitive function in older age) utilized 6,833 participants aged 50–89 (3,060 men and 3,773 women) from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging. This research studied the relationship between certain cognitive functions and whether or not the participants had been sexually active at all in the previous 12 months, where sexual activity was defined as including intercourse, masturbation, petting or fondling. There were two cognitive tests: recall and number sequencing. For the recall task, respondents heard a list of 10 everyday words and were asked to recall them immediately and after a short delay. The number sequencing task required completion of a number sequence such as 1, 2, __, 4, where the correct answer would be ‘3’.

This study found that there were significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing and recall in men, but that in women there was a significant association between sexual activity and recall, but not with number sequencing.

The later (2017) study (Frequent Sexual Activity Predicts Specific Cognitive Abilities in Older Adults) built on the earlier study. The goals of this research were to extend the earlier findings to a range of cognitive domains, and to determine whether increasing frequency of sexual activity is associated with increasing scores on a variety of cognitive tasks. As with the first study, sexual activity was defined as including intercourse, masturbation, petting or fondling. The study utilized 73 participants (28 males, 45 females) aged 50–83 years old, and demonstrated that overall cognitive scores were consistently higher in those who are sexually active compared to those than those who are not. Moreover, it shows increasing scores on two specific cognitive domains (fluency and visuospatial ability with increasing frequency of sexual activity (from never to monthly to weekly).

Here are two articles about the latest study, together with the study itself:

An active sex life improves brain power in older adults

Frequent Sexual Activity Can Boost Brain Power in Older Adults

Published research:
Frequent Sexual Activity Predicts Specific Cognitive Abilities in Older Adults

And here are two articles about the first (earliest) study, together with the study itself:

Sex on the brain! Associations between sexual activity and cognitive function in older age.

Sex linked to better brain power in older age

Published research:
Sex on the brain! Associations between sexual activity and cognitive function in older age

All the links have been added to Aging.

Yoga, Meditation, Running: Possible Help for Brains

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Spend a few minutes on the web searching for “benefits of yoga”, and you’ll keep coming up with phrases like these:

Stress relief, inner peace
Create strength, awareness and harmony in both the mind and body
Gives you peace of mind, gives you inner strength
Improves Brain Function
Yoga may help bring calm and mindfulness to your busy life
Yoga also helps to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol

Obviously, most of these indicate an effect on the mind/brain. This led researchers at UCLA to investigate the effects of using yoga in a small study (split into control and experimental subgroups) involving 25 participants over 55. Both groups had positive improvements, but the experimental group’s improvements were greater.

Links to stories about the study, as well as to the published study itself, are listed below and have be included in Alzheimers > Amelioration/Prevention.

Yoga May Be Good for the Brain
Could Yoga Help Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk?

Published research:
Changes in Neural Connectivity and Memory Following a Yoga Intervention for Older Adults: A Pilot Study.


Meditation is one component of yoga, and was practiced by the experimental subgroup in the yoga study above together with the more physical yoga exercises. In a related study, a group at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J investigated combining meditation with running as a means of alleviating depression. Working with a group of 52 people, 22 of which had been diagnosed as depressed, the program had clear benefits. The 22 participants with depression had a 40% reduction in depression symptoms, while the healthy control group reported feeling happier than they had felt at the start of the study. Since depression is a very common component of the onset of dementia, this study has clear applicability to management of dementia.

Links to stories about the study, as well as to the published study itself, are listed below and have be included in Alzheimers > Amelioration/Prevention.

Combining Aerobic Exercise and Meditation Reduces Depression
Exercise and meditation together help beat depression

Published research:
MAP training: combining meditation and aerobic exercise reduces depression and rumination while enhancing synchronized brain activity

Three Broad Links in Amelioration/Prevention of Alzheimer’s

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Three Broad Links in Amelioration/Prevention of Alzheimer’s

In Alzheimers > Amelioration/Prevention:
Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease: What Do We Know? The Search for Alzheimer’s Prevention Strategies

9 Factors May Be Key to Alzheimer’s Risk Healthy lifestyle important but no guarantee against most common form of dementia

Dos and don’ts to preserve your brainpower From changing your diet to partying like you’re 21, here are six tips for protecting your brain from the ravages of time