Aging/Exercise & Brain 2

Taking hour-long afternoon naps improves thinking and memory in older Chinese adults

January 5, 2017

American Geriatrics Society

Study participants who took an hour-long nap after lunch did better on the mental tests compared to the people who did not nap. Those who napped for about an hour also did better than people who took shorter or longer rests. People who took no naps, short naps, or longer naps experienced decreases in their mental ability that were about four to six times greater than people who took hour-long naps.


Preserving your memory, as well as your ability to think clearly and make decisions, is a key goal for people as they age. Researchers have a growing interest in the role sleep plays in helping older adults maintain their healthy mental function.


Recently, researchers examined information provided by nearly 3,000 Chinese adults aged 65 and older to learn whether taking an afternoon nap had any effect on mental health. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.


Nearly 60 percent of the people in the study said they napped after lunch in the afternoon. They napped between about 30 minutes to more than 90 minutes, with most people taking naps lasting about 63 minutes.


The participants took several tests to assess their mental status. They answered simple questions -- such as questions about the date, the season of the year, etc. -- and they did some basic math problems. Participants also were asked to memorize and recall words, and were asked to copy drawings of simple geometric figures. Finally, these older Chinese adults were asked questions about their napping and nighttime sleep habits.


According to the study's results, people who took an hour-long nap after lunch did better on the mental tests compared to the people who did not nap. Those who napped for about an hour also did better than people who took shorter or longer rests. People who took no naps, short naps, or longer naps experienced decreases in their mental ability that were about four-to-six times greater than people who took hour-long naps.


The people who did not nap, and those who took shorter or longer naps, experienced about the same decline in their mental abilities that a five-year increase in age would be expected to cause.


This summary is from "Afternoon Napping and Cognition in Chinese Older Adults: Findings From the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) Baseline Assessment." It appears online ahead of print in the January 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study authors are Junxin Li, PhD; Pamela Z. Cacchione, PhD; Nancy Hodgson, PhD; Barbara Riegel, PhD; Brendan T. Keenan, MS; Mathew T. Scharf, MD, PhD; Kathy C. Richards, PhD; and Nalaka S. Gooneratne, MD.

Use it or lose it: Active learning improves cognitive learning in active adults

January 23, 2015
Science Daily/Canisius College
Older adults who learn a new, mentally demanding skill can improve their cognitive function, according to research. "When we see all these media reports that tell people that they should get involved socially, or do crossword puzzles or Sudoku, they are just not as beneficial as learning something new where you really have to put that effort in,” says one investigator. “You have to want to change and work hard to see real benefits.”

"At the end of three months, we found that only the group who learned digital photography grew in their memory skills," says Lodi-Smith. The participants were computer novices, they had to remember a series of steps, learn to use Adobe Photoshop, and mount their photos. The key, adds Lodi-Smith, is that the group was productively engaged and consistently challenged during their activity.

Other participants were asked to participate in more familiar activities such as crossword puzzles, watch documentaries and listen to classical music. To account for the possible influence of social contact, some participants were assigned to a group that included field trips and entertainment.

"So when we see all these media reports that tell people that they should get involved socially, or do crossword puzzles or Sudoku, they are just not as beneficial as learning something new where you really have to put that effort in," says Lodi-Smith. "You have to want to change and work hard to see real benefits."

Next steps for further research, says Lodi-Smith, include potential methods for improving psychological function for older adults. "My current research examines identity in older adults, specifically how we understand who we are, how that changes as we age, and if we can maintain that identity long-term."
Science Daily/SOURCE :

Chronic loneliness in older adults leads to more doctors' office visits

March 31, 2015
Science Daily/University of Georgia
Experiences of loneliness and social isolation can lead to increased health care use among older adults, according to new research. The study found that the frequency of physician visits was particularly influenced by chronic loneliness -- and suggests that the identification and targeting of interventions for lonely elders may significantly decrease physician visits and health care costs.

The study, published online in the American Journal of Public Health, found that the frequency of physician visits was particularly influenced by chronic loneliness--and suggests that the identification and targeting of interventions for lonely elders may significantly decrease physician visits and health care costs.

"Logically, it makes sense that people who are in poorer health because of loneliness would use health care more," said study co-author Kerstin Gerst Emerson, an assistant professor of health policy and management. "But we wondered, could people also be visiting their doctor or making those extra appointments because they were lonely?"

To answer this question, Emerson and co-author Jayani Jayawardhana, also an assistant professor in health policy and management, looked at how loneliness impacted the number of physician visits and hospitalizations reported by senior adults living among the general population and not in a retirement community. Their analysis relied on data from the 2008 and 2012 University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study, a national survey of Americans over the age of 50.

To gauge loneliness, study participants were asked how often they felt they lacked companionship, how often they felt left out and how often they felt isolated from others. Their responses, ranging from "often" to "some of the time" to "hardly ever or never," were then used to create an index of loneliness, where higher scores on the scale equaled higher loneliness. Respondents who were identified as lonely in both years of the study were considered to be chronically lonely.

"We often assume that if a person has enough friends and relatives they are doing OK. But loneliness is not the same as being alone. You can be lonely in a crowded room. It's very much about how you feel about your actual social relationships," said Emerson, who is also a faculty member in the college's Institute of Gerontology.

Emerson and Jayawardhana reviewed responses from 3,530 community-dwelling adults aged 60 and older, comparing their loneliness scores with their self-reported hospital stays and physician visits.

The researchers found that while loneliness experienced at only one time point did not predict health care use, chronic loneliness--being lonely in both 2008 and 2012--was significantly associated with an increased number of doctor visits. Although Emerson and Jayawardhana had hypothesized that chronic loneliness would impact both physician visits and hospitalizations, only physician visits were significant in their sample of older adults.

"This finding made sense to us," Jayawardhana said. "You build a relationship with your physician over the years, so a visit to the doctor's office is like seeing a friend. Hospitalizations, on the other hand, require a referral from a doctor, and you don't know who you will see."

The study's findings support a growing body of research establishing loneliness as a significant public health issue among older adults. Over half of study respondents reported being lonely, with that percentage increasing from 53 percent to 57 percent four years later. Lonely respondents also reported more problems with daily living tasks and a greater number of depressive symptoms. They also were less likely to count their health as good, very good or excellent.

Despite its high prevalence of among seniors and its clear implications on both health outcomes and health care use, Emerson said, public health officials and medical professionals pay little attention to loneliness.

The UGA study suggests that since chronically lonely older adults are likely to turn to physicians for social contact, health care workers should take loneliness into consideration as a factor when seeing patients for other illnesses and complaints.

"Loneliness is something that is easily preventable and with little cost compared to other chronic illnesses," Jayawardhana said. "With an interventions as simple as a phone call, home visit or community program, you can avoid unnecessary health care utilization and additional expenditures that ultimately cost all of us as a society."
Science Daily/SOURCE :

Older people can learn to spend less time sitting down

April 8, 2015
Science Daily/Group Health Research Institute
Older adults spend 8.5 waking hours a day sitting or lying down -- time linked to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and death -- even if they're physically active at other times. A new study showed it was feasible to coach older people to spend less time sitting: an average of a half hour less per day. They reported feeling more able to accomplish everyday tasks -- and they walked faster and had fewer depression symptoms.

I feel lethargic when I sit all day," said Gerald Alexander, an 82-year-old retired social service worker among the 25 Group Health patients who participated in the Take Active Breaks from Sitting (TABS) pilot study. "I feel much peppier when I stand and take walks.”

Retirement may be more golden if less of it is spent in a resting position. Yet older adults spend an average of 8.5 waking hours a day sitting or lying down, according to TABS study leader Dori Rosenberg, PhD, MPH, an assistant scientific investigator at Group Health Research Institute. More of this kind of time has been linked to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and death--even if people are physically active at other times of the day.

"We're not sure whether older people can improve their health by reducing the time they spend sitting," Dr. Rosenberg said. "To prove that, we need randomized trials--and none have been done yet in older adults." As a first step toward such a trial, she conducted the TABS study, which showed that it was feasible to coach adults aged 60 and older to spend less time sitting: an average of 27 minutes less per day. They reported feeling more able to accomplish everyday tasks. And data suggested that after coaching, they also walked faster and had fewer symptoms of depression.

Health Education & Behavior published the new study's quantitative results: "The Feasibility of Reducing Sitting Time in Overweight and Obese Older Adults." And The Gerontologist published its results from interviews with participants: "Motivators and Barriers to Reducing Sedentary Behavior Among Overweight and Obese Older Adults."

How coaching worked

In the TABS study, health coaches talked by phone with each participant five times during eight weeks. The coaches used motivational interviewing to engage participants in setting personalized goals to sit less by standing and moving more--and to take more breaks from sitting throughout the day. Participants tracked how much they thought they were sitting. And at baseline, midway through the study, and at its end, participants used two devices for a week to measure how much they were sitting. They also received charts showing feedback from these measurements. Participants found the feedback charts most helpful, followed by the coaching phone calls.

"The feedback was like a reward for standing up and moving," Mr. Alexander said.
Science Daily/SOURCE :

Can arts, crafts and computer use preserve your memory?

April 8, 2015
Science Daily/American Academy of Neurology (AAN)
People who participate in arts and craft activities and who socialize in middle and old age may delay the development in very old age of the thinking and memory problems that often lead to dementia, according to a new study.

People age 85 and older make up the fastest growing age group in the United States and worldwide.

"As millions of older US adults are reaching the age where they may experience these memory and thinking problem called Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), it is important we look to find lifestyle changes that may stave off the condition," said study author Rosebud Roberts, MB, ChB, MS, of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "Our study supports the idea that engaging the mind may protect neurons, or the building blocks of the brain, from dying, stimulate growth of new neurons, or may help recruit new neurons to maintain cognitive activities in old age."

The study involved 256 people with an average age of 87 who were free of memory and thinking problems at the start of the study. The participants reported their participation in arts, such as painting, drawing and sculpting; crafts, like woodworking, pottery ceramics quilting, quilling and sewing; social activities, such as going to the theater, movies, concerts, socializing with friends, book clubs, Bible study and travel; and computer activities such as using the internet, computer games, conducting web searches and online purchases.

After an average of four years, 121 people developed mild cognitive impairment. Participants who engaged in arts in both middle and old age were 73 percent less likely to develop MCI than those who did not report engaging in artistic activities. Those who crafted in middle and old age were 45 percent less likely to develop MCI and people who socialized in middle and old age were 55 percent less likely to develop MCI compared to those who did not engage in like activities. Computer use in later life was associated with a 53 percent reduced risk of MCI.

On the other hand, risk factors such as having the APOE gene, having high blood pressure in middle age, depression and risk factors related to blood vessels increased the risk of developing MCI.
Science Daily/SOURCE :

Civic engagement may stave off brain atrophy, improve memory

April 14, 2015
Science Daily/Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Instead of shrinking as expected, as part of the normal aging process, the memory center in the brains of seniors maintained their size and, in men, grew modestly after two years in a program that engaged them in meaningful and social activities, new research suggests.

At the same time, those with larger increases in the brain's volume over two years also saw the greatest improvements on memory tests, showing a direct correlation between brain volume and the reversal of a type of cognitive decline linked to increased risk for Alzheimer's disease.

The research, published online in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association, studied participants in the Baltimore Experience Corps, a program that brings retired people into public schools to serve as mentors to young children, working with teachers to help them learn to read in understaffed school libraries.

"Someone once said to me that being in this program removed the cobwebs from her brain and this study shows that is exactly what is happening," says study leader Michelle Carlson, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "By helping others, participants are helping themselves in ways beyond just feeding their souls. They are helping their brains. The brain shrinks as part of aging, but with this program we appear to have stopped that shrinkage and are reversing part of the aging process."

For the study, Carlson and her colleagues randomized 111 men and women to either participate in the Experience Corps (58) or not (53). They took MRI scans of their brains at enrollment and then again after 12 and 24 months. They also conducted memory tests. Participants were an average of 67.2 years old, predominantly African-American, were in good health, came from neighborhoods with low socioeconomic status and had some college education.

The control arm of the study, those not involved in Experience Corps, exhibited age-related shrinkage in brain volumes. Typically, annual rates of atrophy in adults over age 65 range from .8 percent to two percent. The men who were enrolled in Experience Corps, however, showed a .7 percent to 1.6 percent increase in brain volumes over the course of two years. Though not statistically significant, women appeared to experience small gains, as compared to declines in the control group of one percent over 24 months.

Carlson notes that many cognitive intervention studies last one year or less. One strength of this study, she says, is that the participants were followed for two years, which in this case was long enough to see changes that wouldn't have been detected after just one year.

The researchers were particularly interested in the results, considering that people with less education and who live in poverty are at greater risk for cognitive decline.

Carlson says it's not entirely clear which elements of Experience Corps account for the improved memory function and increased brain volumes. She says the program increases involvement in so many different kinds of activities that retired people may not have engaged in otherwise. Participants need to get out of bed, walk to the bus, and walk up and down stairs inside the schools. They work in teams. They work with young people. They share their knowledge and know they are doing good in the world. They engage in problem solving and they socialize in ways they wouldn't have if they stayed at home.

"We're not training them on one skill, like doing crossword puzzles," she says. "We're embedding complexity and novelty into their daily lives, something that tends to disappear once people retire. The same things that benefit us at 5, 10, 25, 35 -- contact with others, meaningful work -- are certain to benefit us as we age."

Experience Corps is a national program, however it can be costly and isn't available everywhere. But Carlson says she believes finding purpose and civic engagement may forestall some of the damage of aging on the brain.
Science Daily/SOURCE :

Housework keeps older adults more physically, emotionally fit

April 16, 2015
Science Daily/Case Western Reserve University
Older adults who keep a clean and orderly home -- because of the exercise it takes to get the job done -- tend to feel emotionally and physically better after tackling house chores, according to new findings.

"House cleaning kept them up and moving," said Kathy D. Wright, PhD, RN, CNS, a postdoctoral KL2 Scholar at the university's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. "A clean environment is therapeutic."

Wright and a research team set out to test a theory called House's Conceptual Framework for Understanding Social Inequalities in Health and Aging. It's considered a blueprint for understanding how factors such as income, education, environment and health behaviors, like smoking and exercise, influence an older person's health.

The study's 337 participants, from 65 to 94 years old, had to have at least one chronic illness, be enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid, have physical restrictions that prevented them from doing at least one basic daily task, such as bathing and dressing, and be unable to manage such responsibilities as taking medicines, handling finances or accessing transportation. All lived in Ohio's Summit and Portage counties.

They discussed their backgrounds and physical and emotional well-being in interviews. The researchers then used the University of Utah's Digit Lab, where Wright earned her doctorate degree while working for the Summa Health System, to link geographic and socioeconomic information on the neighborhoods with health data.

Wright said she was surprised to learn that housework and maintaining their property affected the participants' physical and mental well-being more than such factors as neighborhood or income.

"What I found was that neighborhood poverty did not directly affect mental or physical health," she said.

The study provided evidence that Wright had observed in her visits: people living in a chaotic environment seemed less satisfied than those in a place that was neat and tidy.

Wright hopes the study shows how important it is for sedentary older adults with disabilities and chronic illnesses to continue physical activities, such as doing reaching exercises while sitting, arm curls and standing up and sitting down in a chair.

Wright and her team's findings were reported in the recent Geriatric Nursing article, "Factors that Influence physical function and emotional well-being among Medicare-Medicaid enrollees."
Science Daily/SOURCE :

Long-term exposure to air pollution may pose risk to brain structure, cognitive functions

April 23, 2015
Science Daily/Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Air pollution, even at moderate levels, has long been recognized as a factor in raising the risk of stroke. A new study suggests that long-term exposure can cause damage to brain structures and impair cognitive function in middle-aged and older adults.

Writing in the May 2015 issue of Stroke, researchers who studied more than 900 participants of the Framingham Heart Study found evidence of smaller brain structure and of covert brain infarcts, a type of "silent" ischemic stroke resulting from a blockage in the blood vessels supplying the brain.

The study evaluated how far participants lived from major roadways and used satellite imagery to assess prolonged exposure to ambient fine particulate matter, particles with a diameter of 2.5 millionth of a meter, referred to as PM2.5. These particles come from a variety of sources, including power plants, factories, trucks and automobiles and the burning of wood. They can travel deeply into the lungs and have been associated in other studies with increased numbers of hospital admissions for cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes.

"This is one of the first studies to look at the relationship between ambient air pollution and brain structure," says Elissa Wilker, ScD, a researcher in the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research Unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "Our findings suggest that air pollution is associated with insidious effects on structural brain aging, even in dementia- and stroke-free individuals."

Study participants were at least 60 years old and were free of dementia and stroke. The evaluation included total cerebral brain volume, a marker of age-associated brain atrophy; hippocampal volume, which reflect changes in the area of the brain that controls memory; white matter hyperintensity volume, which can be used as a measure of pathology and aging; and covert brain infarcts.

The study found that an increase of only 2µg per cubic meter in PM2.5, a range commonly observed across metropolitan regions in New England and New York, was associated with being more likely to have covert brain infarcts and smaller cerebral brain volume, equivalent to approximately one year of brain aging.

"These results are an important step in helping us learn what is going on in the brain," Wilker says. "The mechanisms through which air pollution may affect brain aging remain unclear, but systemic inflammation resulting from the deposit of fine particles in the lungs is likely important."

"This study shows that for a 2 microgram per cubic meter of air (μg/m3) increase in PM2.5, a range commonly observed across major US cities, on average participants who lived in more polluted areas had the brain volume of someone a year older than participants who lived in less polluted areas. They also had a 46 percent higher risk of silent strokes on MRI," said Sudha Seshadri, MD, a Professor of Neurology at Boston University School of Medicine and Senior Investigator, the Framingham Study.

"This is concerning since we know that silent strokes increase the risk of overt strokes and of developing dementia, walking problems and depression. We now plan to look at more the impact of air pollution over a longer period, its effect on more sensitive MRI measures, on brain shrinkage over time, and other risks including of stroke and dementia."
Science Daily/SOURCE :

Moderate drinking in later years may damage heart

May 26, 2015
Science Daily/American Heart Association
Moderate to heavy alcohol intake later in life may be associated with subtle changes in the structure and efficiency of the heart. Women may be particularly vulnerable to negative cardiac effects of alcohol at moderate to higher levels of consumption.

Drinking two or more alcoholic beverages daily may damage the heart of elderly people, according to research in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging. The study correlated weekly alcohol consumption among 4,466 people -- average age 76 -- to the size, structure and motion of various parts of the heart.

Researchers found:
The more people drank, the greater the subtle changes to the heart's structure and function.
Among men, drinking more than 14 alcoholic beverages weekly (heavy drinking) was linked with enlargement of the wall of the heart's main pumping chamber (left ventricular mass).
Among women, moderate drinkers had small reductions in heart function.
"Women appear more susceptible than men to the cardiotoxic effects of alcohol, which might potentially contribute to a higher risk of alcoholic cardiomyopathy, for any given level of alcohol intake," said Scott Solomon, M.D., senior author of the study and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of noninvasive cardiology at Brigham and Women's in Boston.

Previous research has shown that light to moderate drinking may protect against some cardiovascular disease, while heavy drinking has been linked with a higher risk for cardiomyopathy -- in which the heart muscle becomes larger, thicker, more rigid, or is replaced by scar tissue.

"In spite of potential benefits of low alcohol intake, our findings highlight the possible hazards to cardiac structure and function by increased amounts of alcohol consumption in the elderly, particularly among women. This reinforces the U.S. recommendations stating that those who drink should do so with moderation," said Alexandra Gonçalves, M.D.; Ph.D., lead author of the study and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Brigham and Women's in Boston.

Moderate drinking is generally defined as two drinks a day (beer, wine or liquor) for men and one drink a day for women. The American Heart Association guidelines and 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting alcohol intake to up to one drink a day for women and up to two for men.
Science Daily/SOURCE :

As baby boomers age, do their decisions get better or worse?

June 5, 2015
Science Daily/West Virginia University - Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
In 2050, the total number of Americans aged 65 and older will be 88 million, double the number estimated for 2010.As an economic and political force, researchers say that older adults hold a tremendous amount of social power in the United States. A new study is examining what factors contribute to older adults’ decisions.

"Most of the research that has been done has utilized younger adults as participants," said Natalie Shook, principal investigator on the project and assistant professor in the WVU Department of Psychology. "We've got a lot of information regarding the psychological decision-making processes that guide younger adults' behavior. But very little work has explored older adults."

The study is supported by a three-year, $458,547 National Science Foundation grant. JoNell Strough, also a professor in the Department of Psychology, serves as co-principal investigator.
WVU researchers use an activity that explores attitude formation called "Bean Fest." The game uncovers how people process positive and negative information by presenting them with novel stimuli, referred to as beans. Points are rewarded for identifying good and bad beans correctly.

Research has shown that decision-making changes by age. Many have attributed this to causes such as declines in cognitive processing and health associated with age. But not all decisions get worse with age. Some get better.

Understanding how people perceive positive and negative information may provide a window into age-related differences in decision-making. Young adults typically focus on the negative rather than the positive, using it diagnostically to inform their decisions.

This negativity bias doesn't necessarily generalize, Shook said. Data indicate that as we age, we start to shift to have a positivity bias, and this could affect decisions.

"There is unprecedented growth in the population that's going to be 65 and older," Strough said. "People that age tend to control a lot of the assets in the U.S. -- a lot of the finances and wealth are held by older people. The types of decisions they make with their money, about their health, are going to have implications on society as a whole."
Science Daily/SOURCE :

Over 95% of the world’s population has health problems, with over a third having more than five ailments

June 8, 2015
Science Daily/The Lancet
Just one in 20 people worldwide (4•3%) had no health problems in 2013, with a third of the world's population (2•3 billion individuals) experiencing more than five ailments, according to a major new analysis.

Moreover, the research shows that, worldwide, the proportion of lost years of healthy life (disability-adjusted life years; DALYS [1]) due to illness (rather than death) rose from around a fifth (21%) in 1990 to almost a third (31%) in 2013.

As the world's population grows, and the proportion of elderly people increases, the number of people living in suboptimum health is set to rise rapidly over coming decades, warn the authors.

The findings come from the largest and most detailed analysis to quantify levels, patterns, and trends in ill health and disability around the world between 1990 and 2013.

In the past 23 years, the leading causes of health loss have hardly changed. Low back pain, depression, iron-deficiency anemia, neck pain, and age-related hearing loss resulted in the largest overall health loss worldwide (measured in terms of YLD -- Years Lived with Disability -- ie, time spent in less than optimum health [2]) in both 1990 and 2013.

In 2013, musculoskeletal disorders (ie, mainly low back pain, neck pain, and arthritis) and mental and substance abuse disorders (predominantly depression, anxiety, and drug and alcohol use disorders) accounted for almost half of all health loss worldwide.

Importantly, rates of disability are declining much more slowly than death rates. For example, while increases in rates of diabetes have been substantial, rising by around 43% over the past 23 years, death rates from diabetes increased by only 9%.

"The fact that mortality is declining faster than non-fatal disease and injury prevalence is further evidence of the importance of paying attention to the rising health loss from these leading causes of disability, and not simply focusing on reducing mortality," [3] says Theo Vos, lead author and Professor of Global Health at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington, USA.

The GBD 2013 Disease and Injury Incidence and Prevalence Collaborators analysed 35,620 sources of information on disease and injury from 188 countries between 1990 and 2013 to reveal the substantial toll of disabling disorders and the overall burden on health systems from 301 acute and chronic diseases and injuries, as well as 2337 health consequences (sequelae) that result from one or more of these disorders.

Key findings include:
In 2013, low back pain and major depression ranked among the top ten greatest contributors to disability in every country, causing more health loss than diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and asthma combined.

Worldwide, the number of individuals with several illnesses rapidly increased both with age and in absolute terms between 1990 and 2013. In 2013, about a third (36%) of children aged 0-4 years in developed countries had no disorder compared with just 0•03% of adults older than 80 years. Furthermore, the number of individuals with more than ten disorders increased by 52% between 1990 and 2013.

Eight causes of chronic disorders -- mostly non-communicable diseases -- affected more than 10% of the world population in 2013: cavities in permanent teeth (2•4 billion), tension-type headaches (1•6 billion), iron-deficiency anemia (1•2 billion), glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency trait (1•18 billion), age-related hearing loss (1•23 billion), genital herpes (1•12 billion), migraine (850 million), and ascariasis (800 million; giant intestinal roundworm).

The number of years lived with disability increased over the last 23 years due to population growth and aging (537•6 million to 764•8 million), while the rate (age-standardised per 1000 population) barely declined between 1990 and 2013 (115 per 1000 people to 110 per 1000 people).

The main drivers of increases in the number of years lived with disability were musculoskeletal, mental, and substance abuse disorders, neurological disorders, and chronic respiratory conditions. HIV/AIDS was a key driver of rising numbers of years lived with disability in sub-Saharan Africa.

There has also been a startling increase in the health loss associated with diabetes (increase of 136%), Alzheimer's disease (92% increase), medication overuse headache (120% increase), and osteoarthritis (75% increase).

In central Europe, falls cause a disproportionate amount of disability and health burden, ranking as the second leading cause of disability in 11 of 13 countries. In many Caribbean nations anxiety disorders ranked more highly, and diabetes was the third greatest contributor to disability in Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Venezuela. Disability from past war and conflict was the leading contributor to health loss in Cambodia, Nicaragua, Rwanda, and ranked second in Vietnam.

According to Professor Vos, "Large, preventable causes of health loss, particularly serious musculoskeletal disorders and mental and behavioural disorders, have not received the attention that they deserve. Addressing these issues will require a shift in health priorities around the world, not just to keep people alive into old age, but also to keep them healthy."

This study was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
[1] Years of healthy life lost are measured in terms of disability adjusted life years (DALYS). These are worked out by combining the number of years of life lost as a result of early death and the number of years lived with disability.

[2] Years lived with disability (YLD) calculated by combining prevalence (proportion of the population with the disorder in any given year) and the general public's assessment of the severity of health loss (disability weight).
Science Daily/SOURCE :

Study links lower life satisfaction to sleep problems during midlife

June 8, 2015
Science Daily/American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Lower life satisfaction is linked to sleep problems during midlife, a new study suggests. Sleep onset delay among those with low life satisfaction could be the result of worry and anxiety, as reported elsewhere. These findings support the idea that life satisfaction is interlinked with many measures of sleep and sleep quality, suggesting that improving one of these variables might result in improving the other.

Respondents with higher life satisfaction reported shorter sleep onset latency (SOL). Sleep onset delay among those with low life satisfaction could be the result of worry and anxiety, as reported elsewhere. These findings support the idea that life satisfaction is interlinked with many measures of sleep and sleep quality, suggesting that improving one of these variables might result in improving the other.

"These findings support the idea that life satisfaction is interlinked with many measures of sleep and sleep quality, suggesting that improving one of these variables might result in improvement in the other," said lead author Hayley O'Hara, recent graduate of Ohio Northern University.

The research abstract was published recently in an online supplement of the journal Sleep and will be presented June 8, in Seattle, Washington, at SLEEP 2015, the 29th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC.

The study group comprised 3,950 adults. Fifty-five percent were female and ranged in age from 17 to 74. A 6-item life satisfaction survey was used to code participants as having low, medium, and high levels of satisfaction, and a subjective measure of minutes it takes to fall asleep was used to measure SOL.
Science Daily/SOURCE :

Partial sleep deprivation linked to biological aging in older adults

June 10, 2015
Science Daily/American Academy of Sleep Medicine
One night of partial sleep deprivation promotes biological aging in older adults, a new study suggests. One night of partial sleep deprivation activates gene expression patterns in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) consistent with increasing accumulation of damage that initiates cell cycle arrest and increases susceptibility to senescence, the scientists report.

Results show that one night of partial sleep deprivation activates gene expression patterns in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) consistent with increasing accumulation of damage that initiates cell cycle arrest and increases susceptibility to senescence. These findings causally link sleep deprivation to the etiology of biological aging, and further supports the hypothesis that sleep deprivation may be associated with elevated disease risk because it promotes molecular processes involved in biological aging.

"Our data support the hypothesis that one night of not getting enough sleep in older adults activates important biological pathways that promote biological aging," said lead author Judith Carroll, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral science at the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology in Los Angeles, Calif.

The research abstract was published recently in an online supplement of the journal Sleep and will be presented June 10, in Seattle, Washington, at SLEEP 2015, the 29th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC.

The study group comprised 29 community-dwelling older adults. They were age 61-86 years and 48 percent were male. Participants underwent an experimental partial sleep deprivation protocol over four nights, including adaptation, an uninterrupted night of sleep, partial sleep deprivation (restricted 3 a.m. -- 7 a.m.) and another uninterrupted night of sleep (recovery). Blood samples were obtained each morning to assess PBMC gene expression using Illumina HT-12 arrays.
Science Daily/SOURCE :

Light-intensity exercise could prove beneficial to older adults

June 10, 2015
Science Daily/Oregon State University
An easy walk, slow dancing, leisurely sports such as table tennis, household chores and other light-intensity exercise may be nearly as effective as moderate or vigorous exercise for older adults -- if they get enough of that type of activity.

New research indicates that 300 minutes a week of light exercise provides some significant health benefits for people over age 65, said Brad Cardinal, a professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University.

'You get a nice array of health benefits by doing five hours of light physical activity per week,' said Cardinal, who is a national expert on the benefits of physical activity and a co-author of the study. 'There appears to be some real value in devoting at least three percent of the 168 hours available in a week to these light forms of physical activity.'

Current medical recommendations suggest that all adults engage in 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. The researchers wanted to know whether exercise of less intensity, done more often, would produce similar health benefits.

Light exercise is more appealing to people over 65, and such activities do not generally require the approval of a physician, Cardinal said. Older adults, in particular, may be more reluctant to participate in moderate to vigorous exercise because of health concerns, including fear of injury.

The researchers examined data from the 2003 to 2006, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or NHANES, which is conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics and is a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population. The 2003 to 2006 results are the only available cycles that use objectively measured physical activity data.
They found that older adults who participated in light intensity exercise activities for 300 minutes or more were 18 percent healthier, overall, than peers who did not log that much light activity. They had lower body mass index (BMI), smaller waist circumference, better insulin rates and were less likely to have chronic diseases, Cardinal said.

'These findings highlight that, in addition to promoting moderate-intensity physical activity to older adults, we should not neglect the importance of engaging in lower-intensity, movement-based behaviors when the opportunity arises,' said lead author Paul Loprinzi, who earned his Ph.D. at Oregon State and now is an assistant professor of exercise science and health promotion at the University of Mississippi.

'For example, instead of talking on the phone in a seated position, walking while talking will help increase our overall physical activity level.'

The study was published in the current issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion. Co-author Hyo Lee also earned his doctorate at OSU and now works at Sangmyung University in Seoul, South Korea.

The findings are part of a growing body of evidence that indicate light activity can lead to improved health, but more study is needed to better understand how the two are connected, Cardinal said. It may also be time to rethink current exercise guidelines, with new recommendations geared specifically to adults over age 65 that emphasize the benefits and ease of participation in light activity, he said.

'This research suggests that doing something is dramatically better than doing nothing,' he said. 'For the average, every day person, that is a much more palatable message than the current guidelines that emphasize moderate to vigorous exercise.'
Science Daily/SOURCE :

Sleep disturbances are common, influenced by race and ethnicity

High prevalence of sleep disturbances, undiagnosed sleep apnea among racial/ethnic minorities may contribute to health disparities

June 19, 2015
Science Daily/American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Sleep disturbances and undiagnosed sleep apnea are common among middle-aged and older adults in the US, and these sleep problems occur more frequently among racial/ethnic minorities, a new study shows.

Results show that 34 percent of participants had moderate or severe sleep-disordered breathing measured by polysomnography, and 31 percent had short sleep duration with less than 6 hours per night measured by actigraphy. Validated questionnaires also showed that 23 percent reported having insomnia, and 14 percent reported excessive daytime sleepiness. Only 9 percent of participants reported being told by a doctor that they had sleep apnea.

After adjustment for sex, age, and study site, blacks were most likely to have short sleep duration of less than six hours, and they were more likely than whites to have sleep apnea syndrome, poor sleep quality, and daytime sleepiness. Hispanics and Chinese were more likely than whites to have sleep-disordered breathing and short sleep duration, but Chinese were least likely to report having insomnia.

"Our findings underscore the very high prevalence of undiagnosed sleep disturbances in middle-aged and older adults, and identify racial/ethnic disparities that include differences in short sleep duration, sleep apnea and daytime sleepiness," said lead author Dr. Xiaoli Chen, research fellow in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

Study results are published in the June issue of the journal Sleep.

The study population was recruited from six U.S. communities and comprised 2,230 racially/ethnically diverse men and women who were between the ages of 54 and 93 years. Data gathered by polysomnography, actigraphy and validated questionnaires were obtained between 2010 and 2013.

According to Dr. Chen and her colleagues, this is the first study that has comprehensively evaluated objective measures of sleep apnea, short sleep, and poor sleep, as well as subjective measures of habitual snoring, insomnia, and daytime sleepiness in a multi-ethnic U.S. population that includes Chinese Americans. Results suggest that sleep disturbances may contribute to health disparities among U.S. adults.

"As sleep apnea has been implicated as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and mortality, our findings highlight the need to consider undiagnosed sleep apnea in middle-aged and older adults, with potential value in developing strategies to screen and improve recognition in groups such as in Chinese and Hispanic populations," said senior author Dr. Susan Redline, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Division of Sleep Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and an award from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).
Science Daily/SOURCE :

Road traffic noise linked to deaths, increased strokes

June 23, 2015
Science Daily/London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Living in an area with noisy road traffic may reduce life expectancy, according to new research
Research has found a link between long-term exposure to road traffic noise and deaths, as well as a greater risk of stroke, particularly in the elderly.

The findings suggest a link between long-term exposure to road traffic noise and deaths, as well as a greater risk of stroke, particularly in the elderly. The research was led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in partnership with Imperial College London and King's College London.

Researchers analysed data for 8.6 million people living in London between 2003 and 2010. They looked at levels of road traffic noise during the day (7am-11pm) and at night (11pm-7am) across different postcodes, comparing this to deaths and hospital admissions in each area for adults (aged 25 and over) and the elderly (aged 75 and over).

Deaths were 4% more common among adults and the elderly in areas with daytime road traffic noise of more than 60dB compared to areas with less than 55dB. The researchers say the deaths are most likely to be linked to heart or blood vessel disease (cardiovascular disease). They say this could be due to increased blood pressure, sleep problems and stress from the noise.

Adults living in areas with the noisiest daytime traffic (more than 60dB) were 5% more likely to be admitted to hospital for stroke compared to those who lived in quieter areas (less than 55dB), which went up to 9% in the elderly. Night time noise (55-60 dB) from road traffic was also associated with a 5% increased stroke risk, but only in the elderly.

Lead author Dr Jaana Halonen from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: "Road traffic noise has previously been associated with sleep problems and increased blood pressure, but our study is the first in the UK to show a link with deaths and strokes. This is the largest study of its kind to date, looking at everyone living inside the M25 over a seven-year period. Our findings contribute to the body of evidence suggesting reductions in traffic noise could be beneficial to our health."

In London more than 1.6 million people are exposed to daytime road traffic noise levels above 55dB, which the World Health Organization defines as a level of community noise that causes health problems.

Co-author Dr Anna Hansell from the MRC-PHE Centre for Environment & Health at Imperial College London, added: "From this type of study, we can't tell for certain what the risks of noise are to an individual, but these are likely to be small in comparison with known risk factors for circulatory diseases like diet, smoking, lack of exercise, and medical conditions such as raised blood pressure and diabetes. However, our study does raise important questions about the potential health effects of noise in our cities that need further investigation."

During 2003-10 a total of 442,560 adults died from all causes, of which and 291,139 were elderly. A total of 400,494 adults were admitted to hospital for cardiovascular problems during the same period, of which 179,163 were elderly. The researchers estimated the link between road traffic noise on these deaths and admissions, taking into account other factors such as individuals' age and sex, as well as neighbourhood characteristics like ethnicity, smoking rate, air pollution, and socioeconomic deprivation.

As the researchers looked at area-level data, they note their findings may not apply to individuals living in those areas as they may have different individual-level cardiovascular risk factors, length of residence in the particular area, time activity patterns including commuting to work, and the direction in which the windows on their residence face varies. However, the researchers say the findings are consistent with a large number of studies linking road traffic noise and hypertension, which is a leading cause of stroke.
Science Daily/SOURCE :

Exercise can improve brain function in older adults

July 15, 2015
Science Daily/University of Kansas Medical Center
Older adults can improve brain function by raising their fitness level, new research suggests. The research indicated that the intensity of the exercise appeared to matter more than the duration.

Jeffrey Burns, M.D., professor of neurology and co-director of the KU Alzheimer's Disease Center, led a six-month trial conducted with healthy adults ages 65 and older who showed no signs of cognitive decline. The results of the study were published on July 9 in the journal PLOS ONE.

The randomized controlled trial attempted to determine the ideal amount of exercise necessary to achieve benefits to the brain. Trial participants were placed in a control group that did not have monitored exercise, or they were put into one of three other groups. One group moderately exercised for the recommended amount of 150 minutes per week, a second exercised for 75 minutes per week, and a third group exercised for 225 minutes per week.

All groups who exercised saw some benefit, and those who exercised more saw more benefits, particularly in improved visual-spatial processing -- the ability to perceive where objects are in space and how far apart they are from each other. Participants who exercised also showed an increase in their overall attention levels and ability to focus.

"Basically, the more exercise you did, the more benefit to the brain you saw," Burns said. "Any aerobic exercise was good, and more is better."

The research indicated that the intensity of the exercise appeared to matter more than the duration.

"For improved brain function, the results suggest that it's not enough just to exercise more," said Eric Vidoni, PT, Ph.D., research associate professor of neurology at KU Medical Center and a lead author of the journal article. "You have to do it in a way that bumps up your overall fitness level."

Marjorie Troeh, of Independence, Mo., participated in the trial. Troeh, 80, was placed in the lowest level of exercise group. She said she signed up for the study in part to motivate herself to exercise more.

"I love exercising my mind, but I hate exercising my body," she said, adding that the findings about the exercise being linked to better brain function were new to her. "I knew about the evidence that said exercise was good for endurance and agility, but I really didn't make any connection with that and brain health."

Troeh, who lives an independent living facility, said she was glad to have the opportunity to contribute to the fight against Alzheimer's by participating in a trial, as she had a grandmother and an aunt who battled the disease.

"I'm surrounded by people who face memory problems," she said. "I'm really anxious to do anything I can to further knowledge in this area."

Scientists at the KU Alzheimer's Disease Center have focused on the relationship between exercise and brain metabolism for years and are conducting a number of research studies on how exercise may help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer's.
Science Daily/SOURCE :

Pet ownership and its potential benefits for older adults

June 23, 2015
Science Daily/Taylor & Francis
Research published in Activities, Adaption & Aging calls for increased understanding about older adults, the relationship between pet ownership and health, and the current barriers which limit older adults' chances to own a pet. The study, Fostering the Human-Animal Bond for Older Adults, goes into detail about physical and financial risks for older adult pet ownership and how it can be diminished.

Medical problems that arise with older adults, such as physical illness and emotional issues, have the potential to be mitigated by companionship of pets because it reduces social isolation and enhances physical activity. But illnesses that are often associated with aging, ranging from arthritis to diabetes, make it hard or impossible for older adults to provide routine care for their pets. Financial barriers are another issue that older pet owners face.

In the article, the researchers describe these common issues affecting older adults, particularly those living alone. They tell a story about Janet, a 75-year old obese woman who has diabetes and arthritis, but really wants a cat for company. Though she described herself as a "cat lady," she worries about the monetary investment and the fate of the feline should she fall ill or pass away.

When asked about what sparked the study, author Keith Anderson from the University of Montana commented "As a geriatric social work researcher, I've always been interested in finding creative, cost effective ways to improve the lives and well-being of older adults…My co-authors direct the Veterinary Outreach Program, affiliated with The Ohio State University, which provides mobile wellness care for the pets of older adults and/or homebound residents. Our interests overlapped and we began to discuss ways in which we could link pets in shelters with older adults who may benefit from pet ownership." The study was funded by the WALTHAM Foundation.

The researchers found that programs are beginning to arise to overcome these obstacles. "Programs are emerging that facilitate the adoption of pets by older adults. These programs match older adults with adult shelter animals and provide support throughout the adoption and ownership processes." Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks that these programs need to overcome, but the authors seem hopeful about finding potential solutions: "Lower-income older adults often live in buildings where there are fees and deposits associated with owning pets. We need creative solutions to address these financial barriers."

"Future researchers should continue to explore the human-animal bond for older adult populations, particularly for those with cognitive, physical, and financial limitations. There is so much potential benefit here for both pets and potential pet owners" wrote the research team.
Science Daily/SOURCE :

Scientists discover link between common medications and serious falls in older men

Falls causing injury were more than twice as likely in older men taking a particular group of commonly used medicines

July 28, 2015
Science Daily/Trinity College Dublin
A significant link between serious falls causing injury in older men and a particular group of commonly used medicines has been identified by a group of researchers. Many medicines which are commonly prescribed for older people for bladder problems, depression, psychosis, insomnia, and respiratory problems, have anti-cholinergic effects. The medications affect the brain by blocking a key chemical called acetylcholine which is involved in passing messages between nerve cells. This can lead to side effects including blurred vision, increased heart rate, sedation and confusion.

Many medicines which are commonly prescribed for older people for bladder problems, depression, psychosis, insomnia, and respiratory problems, have anti-cholinergic effects. The medications affect the brain by blocking a key chemical called acetylcholine which is involved in passing messages between nerve cells. This can lead to side effects including blurred vision, increased heart rate, sedation and confusion.

Previous studies have shown an impact on cognitive function and mortality from taking multiple anti-cholinergic medicines. In this important new study, the researchers led by Dr Kathryn Richardson who carried out the research at the Department of Gerontology in Trinity and at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of East Anglia, examined whether the use of such medicines increased the risk of subsequent serious falls (which caused injury) in people aged over 65 years in Ireland.

Using the TILDA data which recorded the medications the participants were taking and the number and type of falls they had experienced, the team found that falls resulting in injury were more than twice as likely in men taking medicines with potent anti-cholinergic activity. The effect remained even after accounting for differences in health and other risk factors for falls. A greater use of such medicines increased the risk for these men further. There was no such association for women, however.

Speaking about the significance of these findings for prescribing practices in older people, lead author Dr Kathryn Richardson, a former PhD student at Trinity, who is now a Research Fellow at the University of East Anglia said: "Our findings indicate the importance for doctors, pharmacists and healthcare professionals to regularly review the appropriateness of medications taken by their older patients. It is however, important that people don't stop taking any medications before speaking with their GP. It is not fully clear why the same link was not found in women and further research is needed to explore this and the reasons behind the findings in men."

Dr Richardson continued: "Experiencing a fall can have a devastating impact on older people's lives and is a major contributor to care home admission and hospitalisation, so it is vitally important for us to find ways to reduce the risk of falls or their severity."

Senior author and Principal Investigator of TILDA Professor Rose Anne Kenny said: "Falls are one of the leading causes of loss of independence as people get older and the principal reason given for admission into nursing home care in Europe. If early risk factors are identified and modified, falls can be prevented. This paper highlights important new risk factors for falls."

Dr Chris Fox, Clinical Reader/Honorary Consultant Psychogeriatrician at the University of East Anglia said: "With the rising levels of frailty in older people we must develop strategies to maintain health and avoid prescribing medicines which could cause a deterioration- such an approach could be simply implemented using tools available"

Dr Ian Maidment, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Pharmacy at Aston University said: "After a fall, an older person may never regain the same quality of life. This research helps us to understand how medication is linked to falls. It is vital that doctors, nurses and pharmacists review medication if someone has suffered a recent fall."
Science Daily/SOURCE :

Dream of feeling less tired? The trick comes with age

August 17, 2015
Science Daily/Taylor & Francis
The elderly are doing something right. New research into the effects of age on sleep suggests our older community sleep less, but report better quality sleep, and feel more awake during the day.

"Although sleep is a biomarker for general health and pathological conditions, its changes across age and gender are poorly understood." Researchers from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, have responded to this gap in sleep research in a recent paper published in Annals of Medicine: 'Age and gender variations of sleep in subjects without sleep disorders'.

To assess individuals' sleep patterns Gianina Luca et al. carried out a mixture of subjective and objective evaluation of sleep, ranging from questionnaires to sleep study. This enabled them to examine both the physical differences in sleep and whether individuals of different ages interpreted their sleep quality differently. The research team studied 6733 participants, aged 35-75 years, all of whom were "randomly selected between 2003 and 2006 from the adult general population of Lausanne." They were also keen to exclude individuals who had declared sleep disorders, in order to focus their study on the sleep changes of healthy individuals over the years.

The research resulted in a number of fascinating findings. It firstly revealed that "Aging was associated with a gradual shift towards morningness," with the older population going to bed earlier and rising earlier than their younger counterparts. It was also observed that they slept for less time. Despite this reduced sleep-time, the paper informs us that "Older subjects complain less about sleepiness, and pathological sleepiness is significantly lower than younger subjects," suggesting that they actually require less sleep.

Sleep latency, the length of time it takes you to fall asleep at night, is shown to increase with age, but only for women, with little difference in men's speed of getting to sleep. However "sleep efficiency decreases with age in both genders," with older people more restless during sleep and more likely to wake up than younger individuals. Although they experienced decreased sleep efficiency, the older participants themselves reported better sleep quality and daytime functioning. Luca et al. suggest that "One possible explanation for better rating of daytime and sleep quality is an adaptation of expectations about sleep in older populations, or an acclimatization to sleep changes over time."

Whilst we may not actually get a better night's sleep as we grow older, the research suggests that we will be more satisfied with our sleep patterns and quality, will feel less tired, and consequently will function better during the day. The authors conclude that "Sleep complaints in older subjects are not normal and should prompt the identification of underlying causes."
Science Daily/SOURCE :

Member Login
Welcome, (First Name)!

Forgot? Show
Log In
Enter Member Area
My Profile Not a member? Sign up. Log Out