Aging/Exercise & Brain 5

One in 10 older American adults currently binge drinks

Men, cannabis users more likely to engage in this risky behavior

July 31, 2019

Science Daily/New York University

More than a tenth of U.S. adults age 65 and older currently binge drink, putting them at risk for a range of health problems, according to a study by researchers at NYU School of Medicine and the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research (CDUHR) at NYU College of Global Public Health.

 

The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, also finds certain factors -- including using cannabis and being male -- are associated with an increase in binge drinking.

 

Binge drinking is a risky behavior, particularly for older adults due to aging-related physical changes (for instance, an increased risk of falling) and the likelihood of having chronic health issues. Despite the potential for harm, little research has focused on binge drinking among older adults.

 

"Binge drinking, even episodically or infrequently, may negatively affect other health conditions by exacerbating disease, interacting with prescribed medications, and complicating disease management," said Benjamin Han, MD, MPH, the study's lead author and an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine's Division of Geriatric Medicine and Palliative Care, and the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Health.

 

In this study, Han and his colleagues used the most recent national data to determine the current prevalence and factors that may increase the risk of binge drinking among adults. The researchers examined data from 10,927 U.S. adults age 65 and older who participated in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2015 and 2017. They looked at the prevalence of current (past-month) binge alcohol use, defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as five drinks or more on the same occasion for men and four drinks or more for women. They also compared demographic and health factors of past-month binge drinkers with people who drank within the past month, but below the binge drinking threshold.

 

The authors estimate that more than one in 10 (10.6 percent) older adults have binge drank in the past month -- an increase compared to earlier studies. In the decade leading up to the data used in this study (2005-2014), binge drinking among adults 65 and older was between 7.7 and 9 percent.

 

Binge drinkers were more likely to be male, current tobacco and/or cannabis users, African American, and have less than a high school education. They were also more likely to visit the emergency room in the past year. Similar to previous studies, the study did not find associations between binge drinking and other mental health disorders.

 

"The association of binge drinking with cannabis use has important health implications. Using both may lead to higher impairment effects. This is particularly important as cannabis use is becoming more prevalent among older adults, and older adults may not be aware of the possible dangers of using cannabis with alcohol," said CDUHR researcher Joseph Palamar, PhD, MPH, the study's senior author and an associate professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Health.

 

The researchers also examined chronic disease profiles of older binge drinkers, and noted that binge drinkers had a lower prevalence of two or more chronic diseases compared to non-binge drinkers. The most common chronic disease among binge drinkers was hypertension (41.4 percent), followed by cardiovascular disease (23.1 percent) and diabetes (17.7 percent).

 

"Binge drinkers were less likely to have most chronic diseases compared to alcohol users who did not binge drink. This may be because some people stop or decrease their drinking when they have an illness or alcohol-related disease," said Han, who is also a CDUHR researcher. "Clinicians must be aware that some older adults with chronic disease still engage in binge drinking behaviors, which can worsen their health issues. This may explain why binge drinkers were more likely to report visits to the emergency room."

 

The researchers note that while the study uses the NIAAA's recommended threshold for binge drinking, the same organization also suggests lower drinking limits for adults over 65: no more than three drinks a day. Since the current analysis used the higher cutoff for binge drinking, the study may underestimate the prevalence of binge drinking among older adults.

 

"Our results underscore the importance of educating, screening, and intervening to prevent alcohol-related harms in older adults, who may not be aware of their heightened risk for injuries and how alcohol can exacerbate chronic diseases," said Han.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190731102212.htm

Extra weight in 60s may be linked to brain thinning years later

July 24, 2019

Science Daily/University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

Having a bigger waistline and a high body mass index (BMI) in your 60s may be linked with greater signs of brain aging years later, according to a study published by a leading University of Miami neurologist researcher in the July 24, 2019, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study suggests that these factors may accelerate brain aging by at least a decade.

 

"People with bigger waists and higher BMI were more likely to have thinning in the cortex area of the brain, which implies that obesity is associated with reduced gray matter of the brain," said study author Tatjana Rundek, M.D., Ph.D., a UHealth neurologist, professor of neurology, epidemiology, and public health and scientific director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Research Institute.

 

"These associations were especially strong in those who were younger than 65, which adds weight to the theory that having poor health indicators in mid-life may increase the risk for brain aging and problems with memory and thinking skills in later life," said Dr. Rundek,

 

The study involved 1,289 people with an average age of 64. Two-thirds of the participants were Latino. Participants' BMI and waist circumference were measured at the beginning of the study. An average of six years later, participants had MRI brain scans to measure the thickness of the cortex area of the brain, overall brain volume and other factors.

 

A total of 346 of the participants had a BMI of less than 25, which is considered normal weight; 571 people had a BMI of 25 to 30, which is considered overweight; and 372 people had a BMI of 30 or higher, which is considered obese.

 

For waist circumference, which can be different for men and women, the normal weight group, which was 54 percent women, had an average of 33 inches, the overweight group, which was 56 percent women, had an average of 36 inches, and the obese group, which was 73 percent women, had an average of 41 inches.

 

Having a higher BMI was associated with having a thinner cortex, even after researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect the cortex, such as high blood pressure, alcohol use and smoking. In overweight people, every unit increase in BMI was associated with a 0.098 millimeter (mm) thinner cortex and in obese people with a 0.207 mm thinner cortex. Having a thinner cortex has been tied to an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease.

 

Having a bigger waist was also associated with a thinner cortex after adjusting for other factors.

 

Rundek said, "In normal aging adults, the overall thinning rate of the cortical mantle is between 0.01 and 0.10 mm per decade, and our results would indicate that being overweight or obese may accelerate aging in the brain by at least a decade."

 

"These results are exciting because they raise the possibility that by losing weight, people may be able to stave off aging of their brains and potentially the memory and thinking problems that can come along with brain aging," Rundek said. "However, with the rising number of people globally who are overweight or obese and the difficulty many experience with losing weight, obviously this is a concern for public health in the future as these people age."

 

Rundek noted that the study does not prove that extra weight causes the cortex to get thinner; it only shows an association.

 

A limitation of the study was that, like many studies of older people, it is possible that the healthiest people are more likely to live longer and take part in studies, so that may affect the results. 

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190724161155.htm

Hearing loss tied with mental, physical, and social ailments in older people

July 19, 2019

Science Daily/University of Tsukuba

Hearing loss is the world's fourth-leading cause of years lived with disability. The condition may worsen an array of mental, physical, and social complications. As over 90% of hearing loss is age-related, its burden is notably growing amid aging populations.

 

Hearing ability is integrally tied with communication, and hearing loss leads to communication barriers. This in turn increases stress and restricts the ability to venture outdoors. It may also be tied with cognitive decline and dementia.

 

A team of Japanese researchers centered at the University of Tsukuba sought to shed further light on the relation of hearing loss and other illnesses among older people. They examined three key areas and found hearing loss had a clear link with all three, especially memory loss. The researchers reported their findings in the journal, Geriatrics & Gerontology International.

 

The team took advantage of the large-scale 2016 Comprehensive Survey of Living Conditions of Japan, a nationwide, population-based cross-sectional questionnaire of more than 220,000 households. From this, they targeted 137,723 survey respondents aged 65 or older and without dementia. The survey's self-reported responses on conditions including hearing loss allowed valuable comparisons to be made.

 

"Japan is the world's most rapidly aging country, and this is a large and compelling data set of its citizens," lead author Masao Iwagami says. "It was a solid foundation for examining correlations between hearing loss and three key problems: outdoor activity limitations, psychological distress, and memory loss."

 

About 9% of the 137,723 survey respondents examined had reported hearing loss. Their responses also showed the condition increased with age. The researchers further adjusted and refined their analysis to account for factors such as smoking, alcohol intake, and income. The differences between those with and without hearing loss were quite telling.

 

Of those reporting limitations in outdoor activities such as shopping or travel, 28.9% of those with hearing loss were affected vs. just 9.5% of those without. For psychological distress it was 39.7% vs 19.3%. For memory loss, the gap was the most profound: 37.7% vs 5.2%. These patterns were similar irrespective of age or sex.

 

"Hearing loss takes an enormous toll on older people in so many ways, physically and mentally, while limiting activities of daily living," study co-author Yoko Kobayashi says. "Greater awareness of the burden of hearing loss will help improve their quality of life. Measures such as hearing aids and social support by volunteers in the community can also provide them with assistance."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190719102138.htm

Weighing risks and benefits of drug treatment for major depression

June 12, 2019

Science Daily/American Geriatrics Society

For some people, medication is an effective part of treatment for depression. However, when considering whether to prescribe antidepressant medication for older adults, healthcare providers must weigh the safety risks these medications pose against the often modest benefits they can provide compared to other options.

 

Depression is a common and serious problem for older adults. Some 15 to 20 percent of people aged 65 and older who live independently deal with symptoms of major depressive disorder. For residents of nursing homes, the rates of depression may be as high as 50 percent.

 

For some people, medication is an effective part of treatment for depression. However, when considering whether to prescribe antidepressant medication for older adults, healthcare providers must weigh the safety risks these medications pose against the often modest benefits they can provide compared to other options.

 

For example, tools like the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) Beers Criteria® for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults recommended that healthcare providers avoid prescribing certain antidepressant medications to older adults who have a history of falls or fractures. These include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). That's because these medications may actually increase the risk of falls and fractures.

 

Understanding these and other risks associated with "potentially inappropriate medications" is key to building better care for us all as we age. That's why a team of researchers recently reviewed and analyzed studies to learn more specifically about the harmful effects of antidepressants for treating major depressive disorder in adults 65 years of age or older. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

 

The systematic review was performed at the University of Connecticut Evidence-based Practice Center (EPC). The researchers reviewed studies that examined how many older adults experienced a harmful event during the study.

 

The researchers looked at patients 65 years of age or older who are prescribed serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) to treat the acute phase of major depressive disorder (the earliest stage of the condition, when the goal is to address the symptoms associated with an episode of depression). They found that taking SNRIs led to a greater number of harmful events compared to people who took a placebo (a harmless sugar pill that has no effect on health and is prescribed to some study participants to help with comparing their results to results from people who were treated with actual medication). Older adults who took SSRIs experienced about the same number of harmful events as did people who took a placebo.

 

The researchers said that taking either SSRIs or SNRIs led to a greater number of people leaving the study due to harmful events of the drugs compared to placebos. They also noted that the drug duloxetine, an SSRI, increased the risk of falls.

 

"Some of the antidepressants have not been studied in older patients with major depression, and studies don't often describe specific side effects. Future research in this field is critical to better inform how the safety profiles of different antidepressants compare in older adults," said study co-author Diana M. Sobieraj, Pharm.D., FCCP, BCPS, Assistant Professor, University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190612141302.htm

The death of a close friend hits harder than we think

May 13, 2019

Science Daily/Australian National University

The trauma caused by the death of a close friend endures four times longer than previously believed, according to new research.

 

The researchers warn a lack of recognition about the time it takes people to mourn a close friend is leading to inadequate support being made available during the grieving process.

 

The study shows the death of a close friend will significantly affect a person's physical, psychological and social well-being up to at least four years.

 

Previous studies suggested the grieving period lasted for around 12 months.

 

The study analysed longitudinal data and indicators of health from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey of 26,515 Australians, of whom 9,586 had experienced the death of at least one close friend.

 

Lead author Dr Wai-Man (Raymond) Liu said the study found people grieving a close friend suffered a significant decline in physical health, mental health, emotional stability and social life.

 

"These findings raise serious concerns with the way we manage the recovery for people dealing with the loss of a close friend," said Dr Lui.

 

"We found there are serious declines in the health and wellbeing of people who had experienced the death of a close friend any time in the last four years.

 

"We all know that when someone loses a partner, parent or child, that person is likely to suffer through a significant grieving period.

 

"Yet death of a close friend, which most of us will experience, is not afforded the same level of seriousness by employers, doctors, and the community.

 

"The death of a friend is a form of disenfranchised grief -- one not taken so seriously or afforded such significance"

 

"This is leaving people without the support and services they need during a very traumatic period of their lives."

 

Dr Liu has called on medical practitioners and policy makers to rethink the way they approach dealing with people's grief after the loss of a friend.

 

"We need to recognise the death of a close friend takes a serious toll, and to offer health and psychological services to assist these people over an adequate period of time."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190513143835.htm

Anger more harmful to health of older adults than sadness

Associated with increased inflammation, which can lead to chronic disease

May 9, 2019

Science Daily/American Psychological Association

Anger may be more harmful to an older person's physical health than sadness, potentially increasing inflammation, which is associated with such chronic illnesses as heart disease, arthritis and cancer, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

 

"As most people age, they simply cannot do the activities they once did, or they may experience the loss of a spouse or a decline in their physical mobility and they can become angry," said Meaghan A. Barlow, MA, of Concordia University, lead author of the study, which was published in Psychology and Aging. "Our study showed that anger can lead to the development of chronic illnesses, whereas sadness did not."

 

Barlow and her co-authors examined whether anger and sadness contributed to inflammation, an immune response by the body to perceived threats, such as infection or tissue damage. While inflammation in general helps protect the body and assists in healing, long-lasting inflammation can lead to chronic illnesses in old age, according to the authors.

 

The researchers collected and analyzed data from 226 older adults ages 59 to 93 from Montreal. They grouped participants as being in early old age, 59 to 79 years old, or advanced old age, 80 years old and older.

 

Over one week, participants completed short questionnaires about how angry or sad they felt. The authors also measured inflammation from blood samples and asked participants if they had any age-related chronic illnesses.

 

"We found that experiencing anger daily was related to higher levels of inflammation and chronic illness for people 80 years old and older, but not for younger seniors," said study co-author Carsten Wrosch, PhD, also of Concordia University. "Sadness, on the other hand, was not related to inflammation or chronic illness."

 

Sadness may help older seniors adjust to challenges such as age-related physical and cognitive declines because it can help them disengage from goals that are no longer attainable, said Barlow.

 

This study showed that not all negative emotions are inherently bad and can be beneficial under certain circumstances, she explained.

 

"Anger is an energizing emotion that can help motivate people to pursue life goals," said Barlow. "Younger seniors may be able to use that anger as fuel to overcome life's challenges and emerging age-related losses and that can keep them healthier. Anger becomes problematic for adults once they reach 80 years old, however, because that is when many experience irreversible losses and some of life's pleasures fall out of reach."

 

The authors suggested that education and therapy may help older adults reduce anger by regulating their emotions or by offering better coping strategies to manage the inevitable changes that accompany aging.

 

"If we better understand which negative emotions are harmful, not harmful or even beneficial to older people, we can teach them how to cope with loss in a healthy way," said Barlow. "This may help them let go of their anger."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190509092729.htm

Why a smell test should become part of a regular doctor visit

April 30, 2019

Science Daily/Michigan State University

A new Michigan State University study suggests that older adults with poor sense of smell may see an almost 50% increase in their risk of dying within 10 years -- surprisingly in healthier individuals.

 

The research is published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

 

"Poor sense of smell becomes more common as people age, and there's a link to a higher risk for death," said Honglei Chen, an epidemiologist who's focused his research on this sensory deficit in older adults. "Our study is the first to look at the potential reasons why it predicts a higher mortality."

 

Using data from the National Institute on Aging's Health ABC study, Chen and his research team reviewed information from almost 2,300 participants between 71 and 82 years old over a 13-year period. Participants included men and women, black and white, who completed a smell test of 12 common odors. Researchers then classified participants as having good, moderate or poor sense of smell.

 

Compared with older adults with a good sense of smell, those with poor smell were at a 46% higher risk for death at 10 years and 30% at 13 years.

 

Results were minimally affected by sex, race or other demographic and lifestyle factors. However, the surprising revelation was that the healthier participants at the start of the study were found to be largely responsible for the higher risk.

 

Poor sense of smell is known as an early sign for Parkinson's disease and dementia and is associated with weight loss. However, these conditions only explained 28% of the increased risk, leaving most of it unexplained.

 

"We don't have a reason for more than 70% of the increased risk. We need to find out what happened to these individuals," said Chen, who plans to pursue the mystery in future studies.

 

He added that poor sense of smell may be an early and sensitive sign for deteriorating health before it's even recognized in the doctor's office.

 

"It tells us that in older adults, impaired sense of smell has broader implications of health beyond what we have already known," Chen said. "Incorporating a sense of smell screening in routine doctor visits might be a good idea at some point."

 

So, what should people do if they think they're having trouble smelling? Talk to a doctor.

 

"It's always prudent to talk to a physician about your health concerns," he said.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190430103426.htm

Morning exercise can improve decision-making across the day in older adults

Study shows how simple changes to your daily routine is key to good brain health

April 29, 2019

Science Daily/Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute

A study of older Australians has found a morning bout of moderate-intensity exercise improves cognitive performance like decision-making across the day compared to prolonged sitting without exercise.

 

Furthermore, the study showed that a morning bout of exercise combined with brief light-intensity walking breaks to frequently disrupt sitting throughout an 8-hour day can boost your short-term memory compared to uninterrupted sitting, according to the study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

 

The 'Brain Breaks' study, led by the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute and The University of Western Australia, also shows that the distinct responses in cognitive performance to exercise versus exercise and sitting breaks point to different patterns of physical activity being able to enhance distinct aspects of cognition.

 

The study of more than 65 males and females aged 55 -- 80 years examined the effects of acute morning exercise on a treadmill with and without brief 3 minute walking breaks during an 8-hour day of prolonged sitting, and assessed aspects of cognition and concentration including psychomotor function; attention; executive function such as decision-making; visual learning and working memory.

 

Central to mediating the benefits of exercise on learning and memory is brain-derived neurotropic growth factor, a protein which plays an important role in the survival and growth of information-transmitting neurons in the brain. The results demonstrated that this protein was elevated for 8 hours during both exercise conditions, relative to prolonged sitting.

 

Physical activity researcher, Michael Wheeler says the study highlights that uninterrupted sitting should be avoided to maintain optimal cognition across the day, and that moderate-intensity exercise such as a brisk walk should be encouraged for the daily maintenance of brain health.

 

He says the study also reveals that not all aspects of cognition respond in the same way to a given dose of exercise and that it may be possible to manipulate the pattern of activity across the day to optimise specific cognitive outcomes.

 

"With an ageing population which is looking to live healthier for longer, these studies are critical to people enjoying a productive and satisfying quality of life," Wheeler says.

 

"This study highlights how relatively simple changes to your daily routine could have a significant benefit to your cognitive health. It also reveals that one day we may be able to do specific types of exercise to enhance specific cognitive skills such as memory or learning."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190429154529.htm

Light, physical activity reduces brain aging

April 19, 2019

Science Daily/Boston University School of Medicine

Incremental physical activity, even at light intensity, is associated with larger brain volume and healthy brain aging.

 

Considerable evidence suggests that engaging in regular physical activity may prevent cognitive decline and dementia. Active individuals have lower metabolic and vascular risk factors and these risk factors may explain their propensity for healthy brain aging. However, the specific activity levels optimal for dementia prevention have remained unclear.

 

The new 2018 Physical Activity-Guidelines for Americans suggest that some physical activity is better than none, but achieving greater than 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous (MV) physical activity per week is recommended for substantial health benefits.

 

Using data from the Framingham Heart Study, researchers found that for each additional hour spent in light-intensity physical activity was equivalent to approximately 1.1 years less brain aging.

 

According to the researchers, these results suggest that the threshold of the favorable association for physical activity with brain aging may be at a lower, more achievable level of intensity or volume.

 

"Every additional hour of light intensity physical activity was associated with higher brain volumes, even among individuals not meeting current Physical Activity-Guidelines. These data are consistent with the notion that potential benefits of physical activity on brain aging may accrue at a lower, more achievable level of intensity or volume," explained Nicole Spartano, PhD, research assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM).

 

"We have really only just begun to uncover the relationship between physical activity and brain health." Spartano emphasizes the need to explore the impact of physical inactivity on brain aging in different race, ethnic, and socio-economic groups. She is leading a team effort to investigate these patterns at multiple sites all over the country. "We couldn't do this research without the commitment of the Framingham Heart Study participants who have given so much to the medical community over the years. Our research also hinges on the multi-disciplinary team of investigators at Boston University and external collaborators." She also acknowledges the importance of funding for research in this area and is grateful for support from the National Institute on Aging, American Heart Association, and Alzheimer's Association.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190419112331.htm

Poll: Pets help older adults cope with health issues, get active and connect with others

For some, time commitment, cost and allergies stand in the way of pet ownership

April 3, 2019

Science Daily/Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan

Pets help older adults cope with mental and physical health issues, according to a new national poll. But pets can also bring concerns, and some people may even put their animals' needs ahead of their own health, the poll finds. Three-quarters of pet owners aged 50 to 80 say their animals reduce their stress and give them a sense of purpose. But 18 percent also said having one puts a strain on their budget.

 

A curled-up cat, a tail-wagging dog, a chirping parakeet or even a serene goldfish may help older adults cope with mental and physical health issues, according to a new national poll.

 

While pets come with benefits, they can also bring concerns, and some people may even put their animals' needs ahead of their own health, the poll finds.

 

In all, 55 percent of adults ages 50 to 80 have a pet, according to the new findings -- and more than half of those have multiple pets. More than three-quarters of pet owners say their animals reduce their stress, and nearly as many say pets give them a sense of purpose. But 18 percent also said having a pet or pets puts a strain on their budget.

 

Two-thirds of all pet owners, and 78 percent of dog owners, said their pet helps them be physically active, according to the new findings from the National Poll on Healthy Aging. The poll is conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, and sponsored by AARP and Michigan Medicine, U-M's academic medical center.

 

For those who reported that their health was fair or poor, pet ownership appeared to offer even more benefits. More than 70 percent of these older adults said their pet helps them cope with physical or emotional symptoms, and 46 percent said their pets help take their mind off of pain.

 

"We have long known that pets are a common and naturally occurring source of support," says Cathleen Connell, Ph.D., a professor at the U-M School of Public Health who has studied the role of companion animals in older adults' lives. "Although the benefits of pets are significant, social connections and activities with friends and family are also key to quality of life across the lifespan. Helping older adults find low cost ways to support pet ownership while not sacrificing other important relationships and priorities is an investment in overall mental and physical health."

 

Poll director Preeti Malani, M.D., who has training in caring for older adults, says the poll results indicates a need for physicians and other health care providers to ask older adults about the role of pets in their lives.

 

"More activity, through dog walking or other aspects of pet care, is almost always a good thing for older adults. But the risk of falls is real for many, and six percent of those in our poll said they had fallen or injured themselves due to a pet," she says. "At the same time, given the importance of pets to many people, the loss of a pet can deal a very real psychological blow that providers, family and friends should be attuned to."

 

"This study highlights the many physical, psychological, and social benefits that pets can have for older adults," says Alison Bryant, Ph.D., senior vice president of research for AARP. "In recognition of these health benefits, more assisted living facilities today are allowing residents to have pets."

 

Pet positives

Companionship and social connection were positive side effects of pet ownership for many poll respondents.

 

In fact, more than half of those who owned pets said they did so specifically to have a companion -- and a slightly higher percentage said their pets sleep in bed with them. Sixty-five percent of pet owners said having a pet helps connect them to other people, too.

 

"Relationships with pets tend to be less complicated than those with humans, and pets are often a source of great enjoyment," says Mary Janevic, Ph.D., M.P.H., an assistant research scientist at the U-M School of Public Health who helped design the poll. "They also provide older adults with a sense of being needed and loved."

 

Pet problems

Other concerns about pet ownership emerged in the poll results. More than half of pet owners said that having a pet also made it difficult to travel or enjoy activities outside the home.

 

And one in six said that they put their pet's needs ahead of their own health needs -- a figure that was closer to one in four among those with health issues.

 

"Later life is often a time when people have more freedom to travel, and a long list of things they want to do with their free time, and sometimes having a pet can get in the way,"says Janevic. "For people living on a fixed income, expenses related to health care for pets, and especially pets that have chronic health issues, can be a struggle. Older adults can also develop health problems or disabilities that make pet care difficult."

 

The non-pet owner perspective

The 45 percent of older adults who said they don't have pets gave many reasons for not keeping a dog, cat, fish, lizard, bird or small mammal around. Among non-pet owners, 42 percent said they didn't want to be tied down. Twenty percent said they didn't have time, and 23 percent gave cost as the reason, while 16 percent said their own allergies, or those of someone in their household, were the reason.

 

For those who can't own pets due to allergies, budget constraints, housing circumstances or schedules, there's often a need for volunteers at local animal shelters or pet-sitting for friends and family, the researchers say. They note that health care providers and family may even want to recommend these options to older adults who have no pets and wish to have one.

 

The National Poll on Healthy Aging results are based on responses from a nationally representative sample of 2,051 adults aged 50 to 80 who answered a wide range of questions online. Questions were written, and data interpreted and compiled, by the IHPI team. Laptops and Internet access were provided to poll respondents who did not already have them.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190403080514.htm

Sexual satisfaction among older people about more than just health

Health care workers need to take holistic approach that considers lifestyles and needs when discussing sexual problems with older people

March 28, 2019

Science Daily/London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Communication and being in a happy relationship, along with health, are important for sexual satisfaction among older people, according to new research published in PLOS ONE.

 

Sexual expression is increasingly recognised as important throughout the life course, in maintaining relationships, promoting self-esteem and contributing to health and well-being. Although health care professionals are being urged to be more proactive in helping older patients achieve a satisfying sex life, there is a distinct lack of evidence to help guide practitioners.

 

Led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), the University of Glasgow and UCL, the study is one of the first to look at how health, lifestyle and relationship factors can affect sexual activity and satisfaction in later life, and examine how people respond and deal with the consequences.

 

The researchers carried out a mixed methods study combining survey data from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3) and in-depth interviews with older men and women. Out of nearly 3,500 people aged between 55-74, the survey found that one in four men and one in six women reported having a health problem that affected their sex life. Among this group, women were less likely than men to be sexually active in the previous six months (54% vs 62%) but just as likely to be satisfied with their sex life (42% vs 42%).

 

Follow up interviews with a sample of participants revealed that older people found it difficult to separate the effects of declining health from those of increasing age. Ill health impacted sexual activity in many ways but most crucially it influenced whether individuals had a partner with whom to have sex. Some older people were more accepting of not having a sex life than others.

 

For those in a relationship, sexual satisfaction was strongly associated with both the quality of communication with their partner and contentment with their relationship. The impact of health issues was not always negative; some men and women found themselves having to experiment with new ways of being sexually active and their sex lives improved as a result.

 

Natsal-3 is the largest scientific study of sexual health and lifestyles in Britain. Conducted by LSHTM, UCL and NatCen Social Research, the studies have been carried out every 10 years since 1990, and have involved interviews with more than 45,000 people to date.

 

Bob Erens, lead author and Associate Professor at LSHTM, said: "Looking at the impact of health on sexual activity and satisfaction as we age is important, however few studies have examined the relationship between the two

 

"Health can affect an individual's sex life in various ways, from having or finding a partner, to physical and psychological limitations on sexual expression.

 

"We identified that not many people who reported experiencing problems or lack of satisfaction sought help. Although this could be an individual choice or because of a perceived lack of support, it is vital that individuals feel able to make enquiries with health care professionals. In particular, discussing problems can often lead to identification of underlying medical conditions."

 

Although some individuals the research team spoke to were not affected by not being sexually active, it seemed to be important that health professionals make sensitive enquiries for patients who might want to access help, which can lead to significant improvements in their wellbeing and quality of life.

 

Kirstin Mitchell, co-author and Senior Research Fellow in Social Relationships and Health Improvement at the University of Glasgow, said: "We're seeing numerous, interconnected factors influencing sexual activity in older people. Not being in good health can influence mood, mobility and whether a person has a partner, which in turn impact on sexual activity. Medication taken for health conditions often compounds the problem.

 

"The study findings suggest that pharmacological approaches, like Viagra, do not always help to resolve sexual difficulties, which need to be seen in the wider context of older people's lives."

 

The authors acknowledge the limitations of the study, including that Natsal had an upper age limit of 74 years, and so the study is unable to describe the sexual health and wellbeing of people at older ages.

 

Natsal-3 is the largest and most comprehensive study of sexual attitudes and lifestyles in the world, and is a major source of data informing sexual and reproductive health policy in Britain. Natsal-3 was funded by the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust, with additional funding from the UK Research and Innovation and Department of Health and Social Care.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190328102612.htm

Attitudes about health affect how older adults engage with negative health news

March 5, 2019

Science Daily/North Carolina State University

To get older adults to pay attention to important health information, preface it with the good news about their health. That's one takeaway from a study that found older adults are more willing to engage with negative health information when they have a positive attitude about their health.

 

"There's a lot of research showing that older adults prefer positive information, often avoiding or ignoring negative information," says Tom Hess, a professor of psychology at North Carolina State University and co-author of a paper on the new findings. "That can have consequences for older adults, particularly when it comes to information regarding their health. We wanted to see if there was a way to overcome this positivity bias when it comes to health news."

 

To that end, the researchers conducted a study of 196 adults between the ages of 65 and 80. A quarter of the study participants were shown images to put them in a negative mood. A quarter were shown images to put them in a positive mood. A quarter were asked to complete a health checklist designed to make them feel bad about the healthiness of their lifestyle choices. And a quarter were asked to complete a checklist designed to make them feel good about their lifestyle choices.

 

Study participants were then shown the headlines of six articles about health. Three of the headlines were negative, but offered information relevant to the health of the study participants. The other three headlines were positive, but were less likely to provide participants with useful information. Participants were asked to pick any three of the six articles to read.

 

Study participants who completed the "positive" health checklist read more than 50 percent more of the articles that had negative headlines, as compared to participants who completed the "negative" checklist.

 

"Specifically, study participants who completed the checklist giving them a positive attitude toward their health chose to read, on average, about 60 percent of the negative articles, whereas participants who completed the negative checklist chose only 37 percent of the negative articles," says Claire Growney, a Ph.D. student at NC State and lead author of the paper. "There was no effect for participants who did not complete the health checklist and whose moods were only influenced by images. We also ran the same study with a group of 201 younger adults, and there was no effect with any of the groups there. This tells us that having a positive attitude toward health may primarily affect the willingness of older adults to engage with negative health news.

 

"We also asked the study participants what their motivations were before reviewing the health articles, and found that older adults with positive attitudes toward their health were more likely to seek out health-related news that was relevant to their own lives."

 

To confirm the finding, the researchers repeated the study with 199 adults between the ages of 65 and 85. This time they focused solely on the negative and positive health checklists. One difference with this second study was that the health article headlines were split into four categories: positive and informative; negative and informative; positive and not informative; and negative and not informative.

 

"In this second study, we found participants who completed the positive checklist were over 30 percent more likely to select articles with negative headlines to read -- but only if the headlines were also informative," Growney says. "Specifically, the group with positive attitudes toward their health again chose to read about 60 percent of the negative/informative articles, while the group with negative attitudes toward their health chose only about 40 percent of the negative/informative articles."

 

"These findings have practical value in terms of how we share negative information with older adults regarding their health," Hess says. "For example, it may be useful for a health care provider to say 'here's what looks good' before talking to a patient about recommendations regarding diet or exercise."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190305112826.htm

Poll shows many older adults, especially those with health issues, feel isolated

Physical and mental health issues, hearing problems, and poor diet, exercise and sleep all linked to feeling isolated

March 4, 2019

Science Daily/Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan

One in four older adults say they feel isolated from other people at least some of the time, and one in three say they lack regular companionship, according to a new national poll. Those feelings of loneliness showed up most in people aged 50 to 80 who also reported they had health issues and unhealthy habits. The findings amplify research showing links between chronic loneliness and health issues ranging from memory loss to shorter lives.

 

Those feelings of loneliness showed up most in people aged 50 to 80 who also reported they had health issues and unhealthy habits, the poll shows. The new findings amplify research that has shown links between chronic loneliness and health issues ranging from memory loss to shorter lives.

 

In the new poll, people who said they had fair or poor physical health, mental health, or hearing loss were more likely to report that they felt isolated or lacked companions.

 

Meanwhile, people who said they ate healthy diets, exercised, got enough sleep or didn't use tobacco were less likely to report feelings of loneliness.

 

The new findings come from the National Poll on Healthy Aging, conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, and sponsored by AARP and Michigan Medicine, U-M's academic medical center.

 

"More than a quarter of poll respondents said they only had social contact once a week, or less, with family members they don't live with, or with friends and neighbors," says Erica Solway, Ph.D., the co-director of the poll and a social science researcher. "These results indicate the importance of proactively reaching out to those in your community who may be at risk of feeling isolated and disconnected, especially those with or at risk of health issues."

 

Poll director Preeti Malani, M.D., who has training in caring for older adults, notes that a growing body of research points to strong connections between health and loneliness -- and to positive effects on health from increased social contact through volunteering, taking part in religious or community groups, and other activities.

 

"As we grow older, and mobility or hearing becomes more of a barrier, these poll data show the importance of maintaining and strengthening our ties to other people," says Malani. "It also suggests that caregivers, spouses and partners, adult children and others involved in older adults' lives have a role to play in encouraging and facilitating these connections."

 

"We know that social isolation and loneliness are as bad for our health as obesity and smoking," says Alison Bryant, Ph.D., senior vice president of research for AARP. "AARP's own research shows that older adults who are unpaid caregivers, are low-income, or that identify as LGBT are at an increased risk for chronic loneliness. This is such an important public health issue that AARP Foundation launched Connect2Affect to help combat isolation and loneliness among older adults."

 

Other key findings

 

The poll explored many aspects of social connection and health and asked about feelings of companionship, feelings of social isolation, and social contact among people age 50 to 80. It found:

 

·     Those who were unemployed, lived in lower-income households, lived alone and/or had one or more children living with them were more likely to say they lacked companionship

·     Living alone was highly associated with feeling lonely; 60 percent of those who lived alone reported feeling a lack of companionship, and 41 percent felt isolated

·     36 percent of women said they lacked companionship often or some of the time, compared with 31 percent of men

·     26 percent of adults who said they lacked companionship also said they were in fair or poor physical health, while 13 percent of people who said they hardly ever lacked companionship reported fair or poor physical health

·     Of those who reported feeling isolated, 17 percent had fair/poor mental health, compared to only 2 percent of those who hardly ever felt isolated.

·     One in five respondents who reported feeling socially isolated said they had fair or poor hearing compared to about one in 10 of those who said they hardly ever feel isolated.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190304095901.htm

With age comes hearing loss and a greater risk of cognitive decline

But study suggests higher education might counter effects of milder hearing impairment

February 12, 2019

Science Daily/University of California - San Diego

In a new study, researchers report that hearing impairment is associated with accelerated cognitive decline with age, though the impact of mild hearing loss may be lessened by higher education

 

Hearing impairment is a common consequence of advancing age. Almost three-quarters of U.S. adults age 70 and older suffer from some degree of hearing loss. One unanswered question has been to what degree hearing impairment intersects with and influences age-related cognitive decline.

 

In a new study, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine report that hearing impairment is associated with accelerated cognitive decline with age, though the impact of mild hearing loss may be lessened by higher education.

 

The findings are published in the February 12, 2019 issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Series A Medical Sciences.

 

A team of scientists, led by senior author Linda K. McEvoy, PhD, professor in the departments of Radiology and Family Medicine and Public Health, tracked 1,164 participants (mean age 73.5 years, 64 percent women) in the longitudinal Rancho Bernardo Study of Healthy Aging for up to 24 years. All had undergone assessments for hearing acuity and cognitive function between the years 1992 to 1996 and had up to five subsequent cognitive assessments at approximately four-year intervals. None used a hearing aid.

 

The researchers found that almost half of the participants had mild hearing impairment, with 16.8 percent suffering moderate-to-severe hearing loss. Those with more serious hearing impairment showed worse performance at the initial visit on a pair of commonly used cognitive assessment tests: the Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE) and the Trail-Making Test, Part B. Hearing impairment was associated with greater decline in performance on these tests over time, both for those with mild hearing impairment and those with more severe hearing impairment.

 

However, the association of mild hearing impairment with rate of cognitive decline was modified by education. Mild hearing impairment was associated with steeper decline among study participants without a college education, but not among those with higher education. Moderate-to-severe hearing impairment was associated with steeper MMSE decline regardless of education level.

 

"We surmise that higher education may provide sufficient cognitive reserve to counter the effects of mild hearing loss, but not enough to overcome effects of more severe hearing impairment," said McEvoy.

 

Degree of social engagement did not affect the association of hearing impairment with cognitive decline. "This was a somewhat unexpected finding" said first author Ali Alattar. "Others have postulated that cognitive deficits related to hearing impairment may arise from social isolation, but in our study, participants who had hearing impairment were as socially engaged as those without hearing loss."

 

The findings, said the authors, emphasize the need for physicians to be aware that older patients with hearing impairments are at greater risk for cognitive decline. They also emphasized the importance of preventing hearing loss at all ages, since hearing impairment is rarely reversible. One important way to protect hearing, they said, is to minimize loud noise exposure since this is the largest modifiable risk factor for hearing impairment.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190212134802.htm

 

Women's brains appear three years younger than men's

May explain why women more likely to stay mentally sharp in later years

February 4, 2019

Science Daily/Washington University School of Medicine

Women's brains appear to be three years younger than men's of the same age, according to a new study on brain metabolism. The findings could explain why women maintain their cognitive skills longer than men.

 

A new study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis finds that women's brains appear to be about three years younger than men's of the same chronological age, metabolically speaking. The findings, available online the week of Feb. 4 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could be one clue to why women tend to stay mentally sharp longer than men.

 

"We're just starting to understand how various sex-related factors might affect the trajectory of brain aging and how that might influence the vulnerability of the brain to neurodegenerative diseases," said senior author Manu Goyal, MD, an assistant professor of radiology at the university's Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology. "Brain metabolism might help us understand some of the differences we see between men and women as they age."

 

The brain runs on sugar, but how the brain uses sugar changes as people grow and age. Babies and children use some of their brain fuel in a process called aerobic glycolysis that sustains brain development and maturation. The rest of the sugar is burned to power the day-to-day tasks of thinking and doing. In adolescents and young adults, a considerable portion of brain sugar also is devoted to aerobic glycolysis, but the fraction drops steadily with age, leveling off at very low amounts by the time people are in their 60s.

 

But researchers have understood little about how brain metabolism differs between men and women. So Goyal and colleagues, including Marcus Raichle, MD, the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Distinguished Professor of Medicine and a professor of radiology, and Andrei Vlassenko, MD, PhD, an associate professor of radiology, studied 205 people to figure out how their brains use sugar.

 

The study participants -- 121 women and 84 men, ranging in age from 20 to 82 years -- underwent PET scans to measure the flow of oxygen and glucose in their brains. For each person, the researchers determined the fraction of sugar committed to aerobic glycolysis in various regions of the brain. They trained a machine-learning algorithm to find a relationship between age and brain metabolism by feeding it the men's ages and brain metabolism data. Then, the researchers entered women's brain metabolism data into the algorithm and directed the program to calculate each woman's brain age from its metabolism. The algorithm yielded brain ages an average of 3.8 years younger than the women's chronological ages.

 

The researchers also performed the analysis in reverse: They trained the algorithm on women's data and applied it to men's. This time, the algorithm reported that men's brains were 2.4 years older than their true ages.

 

"The average difference in calculated brain age between men and women is significant and reproducible, but it is only a fraction of the difference between any two individuals," Goyal said. "It is stronger than many sex differences that have been reported, but it's nowhere near as big a difference as some sex differences, such as height."

 

The relative youthfulness of women's brains was detectable even among the youngest participants, who were in their 20s.

 

"It's not that men's brains age faster -- they start adulthood about three years older than women, and that persists throughout life," said Goyal, who is also an assistant professor of neurology and of neuroscience. "What we don't know is what it means. I think this could mean that the reason women don't experience as much cognitive decline in later years is because their brains are effectively younger, and we're currently working on a study to confirm that."

 

Older women tend to score better than men of the same age on tests of reason, memory and problem solving. Goyal, Raichle, Vlassenko and colleagues are now following a cohort of adults over time to see whether people with younger-looking brains are less likely to develop cognitive problems.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190204172217.htm

Exercise reduces stress, improves cellular health in family caregivers

October 3, 2018

Science Daily/University of British Columbia

Exercising at least three times a week for six months reduced stress in a group of family caregivers and even appeared to lengthen a small section of their chromosomes that is believed to slow cellular aging.

 

"I am hoping that a new focus on the family caregiver will emerge out of this research," said Eli Puterman, a professor in the University of British Columbia's school of kinesiology and lead author of the study. "We need to design interventions that help caregivers take care of their bodies and their minds, and provide the type of support that's needed to maintain that long-term."

 

The population of seniors in the U.S., where Puterman and colleagues from the University of California conducted the study, is expected to nearly double by 2050. Younger family members will increasingly be providing this type of care and it can take a toll on their health.

 

"What caregivers need is support for healthy behaviours, because that is one of the first things to drop when you become a family caregiver," said Puterman. "The time to take care of yourself just goes out the window."

 

The researchers recruited physically inactive people who care for family members with Alzheimer's disease and dementia, and who reported feeling high levels of stress. The 68 participants were divided randomly into two groups. One group undertook 40 minutes of aerobic exercise three to five times per week, while the others were asked not to alter their level of activity. Those in the exercise group had free access to a gym, and a fitness coach for weekly conversations. Eighty-one per cent of them adhered to at least 120 minutes of exercise per week for the duration of the study.

 

At the end of the study, not only had the caregivers improved their cardiorespiratory fitness, reduced their body mass index and trimmed their waistlines, they also reported lower levels of perceived stress.

 

At the cellular level, the researchers observed longer telomeres in the participants' white blood cells after the program. Telomeres protect the ends of chromosomes, much like the aglets that protect the ends of shoelaces. Without them, chromosomes shorten to the point where they either die or enter a state called "senescence," in which they stop replicating. Senescent cells have been shown to be predictive of future health problems such as cardiovascular disease.

 

The study's findings suggest that in addition to reducing stress, exercise can slow or even reverse telomeric aging in a highly stressed, at-risk group.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181003090339.htm

Stress can impair memory, reduce brain size in middle age

October 25, 2018

Science Daily/University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

Stress may be causing impaired memory and brain shrinkage in middle-age adults, even before symptoms of Alzheimer's or other dementia begin, according to a new study.

 

Adults in their 40s and 50s with higher levels of cortisol -- a hormone linked to stress -- performed worse on memory and other cognitive tasks than peers of the same age with average cortisol levels, research found. Higher cortisol in the blood also was associated with smaller brain volumes, according to the study, published Oct. 24 in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

 

"In our quest to understand cognitive aging, one of the factors attracting significant interest and concern is the increasing stress of modern life," said study senior author Sudha Seshadri, M.D., professor of neurology at UT Health San Antonio and founding director of the university's Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer's and Neurodegenerative Diseases. "One of the things we know in animals is that stress can lead to cognitive decline. In this study, higher morning cortisol levels in a large sample of people were associated with worse brain structure and cognition."

 

The cognitive data are from 2,231 participants in the Framingham Heart Study, for which Dr. Seshadri is a senior investigator; 2,018 participants also underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure brain volume. The team included Framingham collaborators at Harvard Medical School; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; Boston University School of Medicine; the University of California, Davis, at Sacramento; and UT Health San Antonio.

 

Blood serum cortisol, which varies in level throughout the day, was measured in early morning (between 7:30 and 9 a.m.) in each fasting participant. The study featured a relatively young sample of male and female participants (mean age 48.5).

 

"Cortisol affects many different functions, so it is important to fully investigate how high levels of the hormone may affect the brain," said study lead author Justin B. Echouffo-Tcheugui, M.D., Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School. "While other studies have examined cortisol and memory, we believe our large, community-based study is the first to explore, in middle-aged people, fasting blood cortisol levels and brain volume, as well as memory and thinking skills."

 

Memory loss and brain shrinkage were found in the study's middle-age participants before the onset of any symptoms, Dr. Echouffo-Tcheugui noted. He said it is important for physicians to counsel people with higher cortisol levels on ways to reduce stress, such as getting enough sleep and engaging in moderate exercise.

 

"The faster pace of life today probably means more stress, and when we are stressed, cortisol levels increase because that is our fight-or-flight response," Dr. Seshadri said. "When we are afraid, when we are threatened in any way, our cortisol levels go up. This study adds to the prevailing wisdom that it's never too early to be mindful of reducing stress."

 

Findings were adjusted for factors including age, sex, smoking and body mass index. The team asked whether having APOE4, a genetic risk factor for cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer's disease, might be associated with higher cortisol level. This did not prove to be the case.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181025084043.htm

Dutch study estimates 1 in 2 women and 1 in 3 men set to develop dementia/parkinsonism/stroke

Preventive strategies could, in theory, more than halve lifetime risk for those aged 85-plus, say researchers

Science Daily/October 1, 2018

BMJ

One in two women and one in three men will likely be diagnosed with dementia, Parkinson's disease, or stroke in their lifetime, estimate Dutch researchers in an observational study.

 

But preventive strategies, which delay the onset of these common diseases by even a few years, could, in theory, cut this lifetime risk by between 20 and more than 50 per cent, they say.

 

The global costs of dementia, stroke, and parkinsonism are thought to amount to more than 2 per cent of the world's annual economic productivity (GDP), a figure that is set to rise steeply as life expectancy continues to increase.

 

But while the lifetime risks of other serious illnesses, such as breast cancer and heart disease are well known and used to raise public awareness, the same can't be said of dementia, stroke, parkinsonism, say the researchers.

 

To try and redress this, they tracked the neurological health of more than 12,000 people taking part in the Rotterdam Study between 1990 and 2016. This study has been looking at the incidence of, and influential factors behind, diseases of ageing in the general population.

 

All the participants were aged at least 45 years old when they were recruited, and more than half (just under 58 per cent) were women.

 

When they joined, participants were given a thorough health check, which was repeated every four years. Family doctor health records were also scrutinised for signs of disease or diagnoses arising between the four yearly check-ups.

 

Monitoring for dementia, parkinsonism, and stroke continued until death, or January 1 2016, whichever came first.

 

Between 1990 and 2016, 5291 people died, 3260 of whom had not been diagnosed with any neurological disease. But 1489 people were diagnosed with dementia, mostly Alzheimer's disease (just under 80%); 1285 had a stroke, nearly two thirds of which (65%) was caused by a blood clot (ischaemic); and 263 were diagnosed with parkinsonism.

 

A higher prevalence of high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythm (atrial fibrillation), high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes was evident at the start of the monitoring period among those subsequently diagnosed with any of the three conditions.

 

Unsurprisingly, the risk of developing any of them rose steeply with age, but based on the data, the overall lifetime risk of a 45 year-old developing dementia, parkinsonism, or having a stroke was one in two for a woman (48%) and one in three for a man (36%).

 

This gender difference was largely driven by women being at heightened risk of developing dementia before men. But there were other gender differences in risk.

 

While 45 year-olds of both sexes had a similar lifetime risk of stroke, men were at substantially higher risk of having a stroke at younger ages than women.

 

And women were twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with both dementia and stroke during their lifetime.

 

The researchers calculated that if the onset of dementia, stroke, and parkinsonism were delayed by 1 to 3 years, the remaining lifetime risk could, in theory, be reduced by 20 per cent in 45 year-olds, and by more than 50 per cent in those aged 85+.

 

A delay of only a few years for one disease could also have a significant impact on combined lifetime risk, suggest the researchers.

 

"For instance, delaying dementia onset by 3 years has the potential to reduce lifetime risk of any disease by 15 per cent for men and women aged 45, and by up to 30 per cent for those aged 85 and older," they write.

 

The researchers point out that their study included only people of European ancestry with a relatively long life expectancy, so might not be applicable to other ethnicities/populations, and that they weren't able to measure the severity of any of the diagnosed conditions.

 

This research is observational, so no definitive conclusions can be drawn. But the researchers nevertheless conclude: "These findings strengthen the call for prioritising the focus on preventive interventions at population level which could substantially reduce the burden of common neurological diseases in the ageing population."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181001190712.htm

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