Aging/Exercise & Brain 4

Exercise cuts risk of chronic disease in older adults

July 23, 2018

Science Daily/Westmead Institute for Medical Research

People who engaged in the highest levels of total physical activity were twice as lively to avoid stroke, heart disease, angina, cancer and diabetes, and be in optimal physical and mental shape 10 years later, experts found.

 

Researchers at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research interviewed more than 1,500 Australian adults aged over 50 and followed them over a 10-year period.

 

People who engaged in the highest levels of total physical activity were twice as lively to avoid stroke, heart disease, angina, cancer and diabetes, and be in optimal physical and mental shape 10 years later, experts found.

 

Lead Researcher Associate Professor Bamini Gopinath from the University of Sydney said the data showed that adults who did more than 5000 metabolic equivalent minutes (MET minutes) each week saw the greatest reduction in the risk of chronic disease.

 

"Essentially we found that older adults who did the most exercise were twice as likely to be disease-free and fully functional," she said.

 

"Our study showed that high levels of physical activity increase the likelihood of surviving an extra 10 years free from chronic diseases, mental impairment and disability."

 

Currently, the World Health Organization recommends at least 600 MET minutes of physical activity each week. That is equivalent to 150 minutes of brisk walking or 75 minutes of running.

 

"With aging demographics in most countries, a major challenge is how to increase the quality and years of healthy life," Associate Professor Gopinath said.

 

"Our findings suggest that physical activity levels need to be several times higher than what the World Health Organization currently recommends to significantly reduce the risk of chronic disease.

 

"Some older adults may not be able to engage in vigorous activity or high levels of physical activity.

 

"But we encourage older adults who are inactive to do some physical activity, and those who currently only engage in moderate exercise to incorporate more vigorous activity where possible," she concluded.

 

The research compiled data from the Blue Mountains Eye Study, a benchmark population-based study that started in 1992.

 

It is one of the world's largest epidemiology studies, measuring diet and lifestyle factors against health outcomes and a range of chronic diseases.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180723142920.htm

Everyday activities associated with more gray matter in brains of older adults

Study measured amount of lifestyle physical activity such as house work, dog walking and gardening

February 14, 2018

Science Daily/Rush University Medical Center

Higher levels of lifestyle physical activity are associated with more gray matter in the brains of older adults, according to a new study.

 

The gray matter in the brain includes regions responsible for controlling muscle movement, experiencing the senses, thinking and feeling, memory and speech and more. The volume of gray matter is a measure of brain health, but the amount of gray matter in the brain often begins to decrease in late adulthood, even before symptoms of cognitive dysfunction appear.

 

"More gray matter is associated with better cognitive function, while decreases in gray matter are associated with Alzheimer's disease and other related dementias," said Shannon Halloway, PhD, the lead author of the Journal of Gerontology paper and the Kellogg/Golden Lamp Society Postdoctoral Fellow in the Rush University College of Nursing. "A healthy lifestyle, such as participating in lifestyle physical activity, is beneficial for brain health, and may help lessen gray matter atrophy (decreases)."

 

Study used accelerometer to measure activity of 262 older adults

 

The study measured the levels of lifestyle physical activity by 262 older adults in Rush's Memory and Aging Project, an ongoing epidemiological cohort study. Participants are recruited from retirement communities and subsidized housing facilities in and around Chicago to participate in annual clinical evaluations and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, and to donate their brains and other parts of their bodies for research after their deaths.

 

Participants in the lifestyle study wore a non-invasive device called an accelerometer continuously for seven to ten days. The goal was to accurately measure the frequency, duration and intensity of a participant's activities over that time.

 

Lifestyle physical activity is "more realistic for older adults" than a structured exercise program that might require them to go to a gym, according to Halloway.

 

"Accessibility becomes an issue as one ages," Halloway said. "Transportation can be a problem. Gym settings can be intimidating for any individual, but especially so for older adults."

 

Accelerometers provide more precise measures of activity

 

The use of accelerometers was only one of the ways in which this analysis differed from some other investigations of the health of older people. Most research that explores the effects of exercise relies on questionnaires, which ask participants to "self-report" their levels of activity, Halloway said. She added that questionnaires tend to ask in a fairly non-specific fashion about types and intensity of exercise.

 

The real problem with questionnaires, though, is that "sometimes, we get really inaccurate reports of activity," Halloway acknowledged. "People commonly over-estimate, and on the flip side, some underestimate the lifestyle activity they're getting from things they don't consider exercise, like household chores, for example."

 

As to the accelerometer, she says, "it's not as commonly used (in studies of exercise) as we would like," even though accelerometers provide more precise results than self-reporting.

 

Study provided insights into activity levels of people past 80

 

Another departure in Halloway's study from some other investigations was the opportunity she had to assess the effects of exercise on individuals older than 80. In fact, the mean age in this study was 81 years, compared with 70 years for other studies Halloway used as a reference.

 

"One great strength of the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center is its amazing ability to follow up with participants, and its high retention rates of participants," Halloway says. As a result, the Memory and Aging Project captures a number of participants in that older age group.

 

However, no one was included in Halloway's analysis who had a diagnosis or symptoms of dementia, or even mild cognitive impairment; a history of brain surgery; or brain abnormalities such as tumors, as seen on MRIs.

 

The study compared gray matter volumes as seen in participants' MRIs with readings from the accelerometers and other data, which all were obtained during the same year. Halloway's analysis found the association between participants' actual physical activity and gray matter volumes remained after further controlling for age, gender, education levels, body mass index and symptoms of depression, all of which are associated with lower levels of gray matter in the brain.

 

"Our daily lifestyle physical activities are supportive of brain health, and adults of all ages should continue to try and increase lifestyle physical activity to gain these benefits," Halloway said. "Moving forward, our goal is to develop and test behavioral interventions that focus on lifestyle physical activity for older adults at increased risk for cognitive decline due to cardiovascular disease,"

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180214093828.htm

Try exercise to improve memory and thinking, new guideline urges

December 28, 2017

Science Daily/Mayo Clinic

For patients with mild cognitive impairment, don't be surprised if your health care provider prescribes exercise rather than medication. A new guideline for medical practitioners says they should recommend twice-weekly exercise to people with mild cognitive impairment to improve memory and thinking.

 

The recommendation is part of an updated guideline for mild cognitive impairment published in the Dec. 27 online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

 

"Regular physical exercise has long been shown to have heart health benefits, and now we can say exercise also may help improve memory for people with mild cognitive impairment," says Ronald Petersen, M.D., Ph.D., lead author, director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, Mayo Clinic, and the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging. "What's good for your heart can be good for your brain." Dr. Petersen is the Cora Kanow Professor of Alzheimer's Disease Research.

 

Mild cognitive impairment is an intermediate stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia. Symptoms can involve problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes.

 

Generally, these changes aren't severe enough to significantly interfere with day-to-day life and usual activities. However, mild cognitive impairment may increase the risk of later progressing to dementia caused by Alzheimer's disease or other neurological conditions. But some people with mild cognitive impairment never get worse, and a few eventually get better.

 

The academy's guideline authors developed the updated recommendations on mild cognitive impairment after reviewing all available studies. Six-month studies showed twice-weekly workouts may help people with mild cognitive impairment as part of an overall approach to managing their symptoms.

 

Dr. Petersen encourages people to do aerobic exercise: Walk briskly, jog, whatever you like to do, for 150 minutes a week -- 30 minutes, five times or 50 minutes, three times. The level of exertion should be enough to work up a bit of a sweat but doesn't need to be so rigorous that you can't hold a conversation. "Exercising might slow down the rate at which you would progress from mild cognitive impairment to dementia," he says.

 

Another guideline update says clinicians may recommend cognitive training for people with mild cognitive impairment. Cognitive training uses repetitive memory and reasoning exercises that may be computer-assisted or done in person individually or in small groups. There is weak evidence that cognitive training may improve measures of cognitive function, the guideline notes.

 

The guideline did not recommend dietary changes or medications. There are no drugs for mild cognitive impairment approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

 

More than 6 percent of people in their 60s have mild cognitive impairment across the globe, and the condition becomes more common with age, according to the American Academy of Neurology. More than 37 percent of people 85 and older have it.

 

With such prevalence, finding lifestyle factors that may slow down the rate of cognitive impairment can make a big difference to individuals and society, Dr. Petersen notes.

 

"We need not look at aging as a passive process; we can do something about the course of our aging," he says. "So if I'm destined to become cognitively impaired at age 72, I can exercise and push that back to 75 or 78. That's a big deal."

 

The guideline, endorsed by the Alzheimer's Association, updates a 2001 academy recommendation on mild cognitive impairment. Dr. Petersen was involved in the development of the first clinical trial for mild cognitive impairment and continues as a worldwide leader researching this stage of disease when symptoms possibly could be stopped or reversed.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171228145026.htm

Majority of older adults with probable dementia are likely unaware they have it

Less education and unaccompanied medical visits linked to lack of formal diagnosis or awareness of diagnosis

July 17, 2018

Science Daily/Johns Hopkins Medicine

An analysis of information gathered for an ongoing and federally sponsored study of aging and disability adds to evidence that a substantial majority of older adults with probable dementia in the United States have never been professionally diagnosed or are unaware they have been.

 

A Johns Hopkins Medicine analysis of information gathered for an ongoing and federally sponsored study of aging and disability adds to evidence that a substantial majority of older adults with probable dementia in the United States have never been professionally diagnosed or are unaware they have been.

 

A report of the findings was published in the July issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Most of the findings, the researchers say, confirm previous similar estimates, but unaccompanied visits to a doctor or clinic emerged as a newly strong risk factor for lack of formal diagnosis or awareness of diagnosis.

 

"There is a huge population out there living with dementia who don't know about it," says Halima Amjad, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the study's lead author. "The implications are potentially profound for health care planning and delivery, patient-physician communication and much more," she says.

 

Overall, Amjad says, "If dementia is less severe and people are better able to perform day-to-day tasks independently, symptoms of cognitive loss are more likely masked, especially for patients who visit the doctor without a family member or friend who may be more aware of the patient's symptoms."

 

An estimated 5.7 million people in the United States live with dementia, according to the Alzheimer's Association, but only half of those have a documented, official diagnosis by a physician. Timely diagnosis is important for maintaining or improving health and planning care, says Amjad, so it's important to identify which populations are less likely to be diagnosed or less likely to be aware of their diagnosis.

 

Building on previous research, which identified activities and living conditions linked to dementia diagnosis, Amjad sought this time to pinpoint at-risk populations nationwide.

 

To do so, Amjad and the research team drew on data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study, an ongoing study of Medicare recipients ages 65 and older across the United States, and selected those who met criteria for probable dementia in 2011 and had three years of continuous fee-for-service Medicare claims before 2011. The latter information helped the researchers determine whether participants' physicians had billed for dementia diagnosis and/or care.

 

The research team identified 585 such adults and examined demographic data such as highest level of education attained, race/ethnicity and income, as well as data on whether participants were able to perform activities such as laundry, shopping or cooking on their own.

 

Among those with probable dementia, 58.7 percent were determined to be either undiagnosed (39.5 percent) or unaware of their diagnosis (19.2 percent).

 

Participants who were Hispanic, had less than a high school education, attended medical visits alone or were deemed more able to perform daily tasks were more likely to be undiagnosed. Specifically, those with at least a high school education had a 46 percent lower chance of being undiagnosed compared with those who had less education; and those who attended medical visits alone were twice as likely to be undiagnosed than those who were accompanied.

 

Participants who were diagnosed but unaware of their diagnosis had less education, attended visits alone more often and had fewer functional impairments. Those with at least a high school education had a 58 percent lower chance of being unaware compared with those who had less education. Those who attended medical visits alone were about twice as likely to be unaware than those who were accompanied. Each activity impairment decreased the chance of being unaware of diagnosis by 28 percent.

 

While Amjad acknowledges that the study is limited by potentially inaccurate self-reporting of dementia diagnoses, possible discrepancies between medical record documentation and billing codes, and the use of older data, she says the findings will likely help physicians be more alert to people who may need more careful screening.

 

"There are subsets of people doctors can focus on when implementing cognitive screening, such as minorities, those with lower levels of education and those who come in by themselves," says Amjad.

 

Looking forward, Amjad plans to study whether documentation of a dementia diagnosis is meaningful if patients and family members don't understand what a diagnosis means.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180717094726.htm

Vegetable compound could have a key role in 'beeting' Alzheimer's disease

March 20, 2018

Science Daily/American Chemical Society

A compound in beets that gives the vegetable its distinctive red color could help slow the accumulation of misfolded proteins in the brain, a process associated with Alzheimer's disease. Scientists say this could lead to the development of drugs that could alleviate some of the long-term effects of the disease, the world's leading cause of dementia.

 

The researchers are presenting their work today at the 255th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

 

"Our data suggest that betanin, a compound in beet extract, shows some promise as an inhibitor of certain chemical reactions in the brain that are involved in the progression of Alzheimer's disease," says Li-June Ming, Ph.D. "This is just a first step, but we hope that our findings will encourage other scientists to look for structures similar to betanin that could be used to synthesize drugs that could make life a bit easier for those who suffer from this disease."

 

More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, according to the National Institute on Aging. Its incidence rises with age, affecting one in 10 Americans 65 and older, and one in three by age 85. Scientists are still trying to figure out what causes this progressive and irreversible brain disorder. But one prime suspect is beta-amyloid, a sticky protein fragment, or peptide, that accumulates in the brain, disrupting communication between brain cells called neurons. Much of this damage occurs, Ming says, when beta-amyloid attaches itself to metals such as iron or copper. These metals can cause beta-amyloid peptides to misfold and bind together in clumps that can promote inflammation and oxidation -- a process similar to rusting -- in nearby neurons, eventually killing them.

 

Previous research conducted by other scientists suggests that beetroot juice can improve oxygen flow to the aging brain and possibly improve cognitive performance. Building on this work, Ming, Darrell Cole Cerrato and colleagues at the University of South Florida wanted to find out if betanin, a beet compound used in commercial dyes that readily binds to metals, could block the effects of copper on beta-amyloid and, in turn, prevent the misfolding of these peptides and the oxidation of neurons.

 

In laboratory studies, the researchers conducted a series of experiments involving 3,5 di-tert-butylcatechol, or DTBC, a compound that is used as a model substance for tracking the chemistry of oxidation. Using visible spectrophotometry, the scientists measured the oxidative reaction of DTBC when exposed to beta-amyloid only, beta-amyloid bound to copper, and copper-bound beta-amyloid in a mixture containing betanin.

 

On its own, beta-amyloid caused little or no oxidation of DTBC. However, as expected, beta-amyloid bound to copper induced substantial DTBC oxidation. But when betanin was added to the copper-bound beta-amyloid mixture, the researchers found oxidation dropped by as much as 90 percent, suggesting that misfolding of the peptides was potentially suppressed.

 

"We can't say that betanin stops the misfolding completely, but we can say that it reduces oxidation," Cerrato says. "Less oxidation could prevent misfolding to a certain degree, perhaps even to the point that it slows the aggregation of beta-amyloid peptides, which is believed to be the ultimate cause of Alzheimer's."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180320084414.htm

Feeling young could mean your brain is aging more slowly

The first study to link subjective age to biological age shows that elderly people who feel younger have less signs of brain aging

Science Daily/July 3, 2018

Frontiers

While some people are young at heart, others feel older than their age -- and a recent study finds that this 'subjective age' may reflect brain aging. Researchers found that elderly people who feel younger than their age had a younger estimated brain age, compared with those who felt their age, or older than their age. The study is the first to find a link between brain aging and subjective age.

 

While everyone gets older, not everyone feels their age. A recent study finds that such feelings, called subjective age, may reflect brain aging. Using MRI brain scans, researchers found that elderly people who feel younger than their age show fewer signs of brain aging, compared with those who feel their age or older than their age. Published in open-access journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, this study is the first to find a link between subjective age and brain aging. The results suggest that elderly people who feel older than their age should consider caring for their brain health.

 

We tend to think of aging as a fixed process, where our bodies and minds change steadily. However, the passing years affect everyone differently. How old we feel, which is called our subjective age, also varies between people -- with many feeling older or younger than their actual age.

 

But is subjective age just a feeling or attitude, or does it reflect how our bodies are actually aging? This question intrigued Dr Jeanyung Chey of Seoul National University in Korea.

 

"Why do some people feel younger or older than their real age?" asks Chey. "Some possibilities include depressive states, personality differences or physical health. However, no-one had investigated brain aging processes as a possible reason for differences in subjective age."

 

People frequently experience some cognitive impairment as they age. In fact, the brain shows a variety of age-related changes that are reflective of declining neural health, including reductions in gray matter volumes. Recently developed techniques can help researchers to identify brain features associated with aging, to provide an estimated brain age.

 

Chey and her colleagues applied these techniques to investigate the link between subjective age and brain aging. They performed MRI brain scans in 68 healthy people whose ages ranged from 59-84 years and looked at gray matter volumes in various brain regions. The participants also completed a survey, which included questions on whether they felt older or younger than their age and questions assessing their cognitive abilities and perceptions of their overall health.

 

People who felt younger than their age were more likely to score higher on a memory test, considered their health to be better and were less likely to report depressive symptoms. Critically, those who felt younger than their age showed increased gray matter volume in key brain regions. The researchers used the MRI data to calculate estimated brain ages for the participants.

 

"We found that people who feel younger have the structural characteristics of a younger brain," said Chey. "Importantly, this difference remains robust even when other possible factors, including personality, subjective health, depressive symptoms, or cognitive functions, are accounted for."

 

The researchers hypothesize that those who feel older may be able to sense the aging process in their brain, as their loss of gray matter may make cognitive tasks more challenging.

 

However, at present the researchers do not know for sure if these brain characteristics are directly responsible for subjective age and will need to carry out long-term studies to understand this link further.

 

One intriguing possibility is that those who feel younger are more likely to lead a more physically and mentally active life, which could cause improvements in brain health. However, for those who feel older, the opposite could be true.

 

"If somebody feels older than their age, it could be sign for them to evaluate their lifestyle, habits and activities that could contribute to brain aging and take measures to better care for their brain health," said Chey.

 

The research is part of a special article collection on assessment of brain aging across the lifespan

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180703110014.htm

Sex after 65: Poll finds links to health, gender differences, lack of communication

Majority are satisfied with their sex lives; nearly 1 in 5 older men use medications or supplements, U-M/AARP National Poll on Healthy Aging finds

May 3, 2018

Science Daily/Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan

A new poll busts stereotypes about the sex lives of older Americans -- and reveals gender and health-related divides on key aspects of sexual health, while highlighting the need for more people to talk with their health providers about sexual issues.

 

Forty percent of people between the ages of 65 and 80 are sexually active, according to the new findings from the National Poll on Healthy Aging. Nearly three-quarters of people in this age range have a romantic partner and 54 percent of those with a partner are sexually active.

 

Whether or not they have an active sex life, nearly two-thirds of older adults say they're interested in sex, and more than half say sex is important to their quality of life.

 

And when asked if they are satisfied with their current sex life, 73 percent of the nationally representative sample of 1,002 people polled said they were. The poll was 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.

 

The poll explored how older adults might seek help or advice for sexual problems, and if they've talked with their doctors about their sexual health.

 

In all, 18 percent of older men and 3 percent of older women say they've taken medications or supplements to improve sexual function in the past two years. But only 17 percent of older adults said they have talked with their doctor or other health care provider about sexual health in the past two years. Most who had engaged in such discussions said they brought the topic up, suggesting the need for more proactive conversations by clinicians with their older patients.

 

"Sexual health among older adults doesn't get much attention but is linked closely to quality of life, health and well-being," says U-M's Erica Solway, Ph.D., co-associate director of the poll. "It's important for older adults and the clinicians who care for them to talk about these issues and about how age-related changes in physical health, relationships, lifestyles and responsibilities such as caregiving, affect them."

 

Gender, age and health status divides

 

Solway notes that the poll finds some sharp differences along health, age and gender lines.

 

For instance, compared with the 45 percent of respondents with excellent, very good, or good health who reported they were sexually active, only 22 percent of those who said they are in fair or poor health were sexually active. Only 28 percent of those with fair or poor health said they were extremely or very satisfied with their sex lives.

 

There are also differences within age groups. Those between the ages of 65 and 70 were nearly twice as likely as those in their late 70s to be sexually active. One-third of those in their late 60s said they were extremely or very interested in sex, compared with 19 percent of those in their late 70s.

 

The gender gaps that emerged reveal some differences that may create challenges for relationships. For instance, women were less likely than men to be sexually active -- 31 percent overall, compared with 51 percent of men -- but were more likely to be extremely or very satisfied with their sex lives. And while 84 percent of older men said sex was an important part of a romantic relationship, 69 percent of older women agreed with that statement.

 

But the biggest gender difference was the percentage of those who said they were extremely or very interested in sex. Half of men aged 65 to 80 said they had this level of interest, compared with just 12 percent of women in the same age range.

 

"This survey just confirms that the need for and interest in sexual intimacy doesn't stop at a certain age," says Alison Bryant, Ph.D., senior vice president of research for AARP. "Although most older adults say that they would talk with their doctor about sexual concerns, health care providers should routinely be asking all of their older patients about their sexual health and not assume that bringing up the issue will offend or embarrass them."

 

A key takeaway from the poll, Solway notes, is that there appears to be opportunity for more proactive conversations between providers and their older patients about sexual health.

 

In all, 62 percent of the older adults polled said that if they were having a problem with their sexual health, they would talk with their health provider about it, yet only 17 percent had actually done so in the past two years. The majority (88 percent) of those who had talked with their provider about their sexual health said they were comfortable doing so.

 

The poll results are based on answers from a nationally representative sample of 1,002 people ages 65 to 80. The poll respondents 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 it.

 

A full report of the findings and methodology is available at http://www.healthyagingpoll.org, along with past National Poll on Healthy Aging reports.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180503085606.htm

Medical marijuana could reduce opioid use in older adults

Study shows up to 65 percent of older adults who use medical marijuana significantly reduced their chronic pain and dependence on opioid painkillers

May 1, 2018

Science Daily/Northwell Health

A study shows up to 65 percent of older adults who use medical marijuana significantly reduced their chronic pain and dependence on opioid painkillers.

 

A questionnaire of older men and women suffering from chronic pain who were given medical marijuana found that the drug significantly reduced pain and their need for opioid painkillers, Northwell Health researchers report.

 

The results of the study, "Older Adults' Use of Medical Marijuana for Chronic Pain: A Multisite Community-Based Survey," are scheduled to be presented May 3, 2018 at the annual meeting of the American Geriatrics Society in Orlando, FL.

 

To gauge how effective medical marijuana was at managing chronic pain and reducing opioid use, researchers surveyed 138 medical marijuana users with an anonymous 20-question survey focusing on how often they used the marijuana, in what form they took it, how much it reduced pain and whether or not they were able to cut back their use of other painkillers.

 

When patients were asked if they were able to curb their use of other painkillers after starting medical marijuana, 18 percent reported decreasing their use "moderately," 20 percent "extremely" and 27 percent "completely." An overwhelming number of subjects (91 percent) would recommend medical marijuana to others.

 

Comments from patients tell the tale:

 

"My quality of life has increased considerably since starting medical marijuana," one patient said. "I was on opiates for 15 years, and 6 months on marijuana, and off both completely."

 

Another patient said: "It [medical marijuana] is extremely effective and has allowed me to function in my work and life again. It has not completely taken away the pain, but allows me to manage it."

 

"I was on Percocet and replaced it with medical marijuana. Thank you, thank you, thank you," said another.

 

These patients had been living with chronic pain from osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, hips and knees that could not be replaced, and pain not relieved by steroid injections, said Diana Martins-Welch, MD, a co-author of the study and physician in the Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine, Department of Medicine at Northwell Health.

 

Based on these results, she believes that medical marijuana could be effective in curbing the opioid epidemic now ravaging the United States. "What I'm seeing in my practice, and what I'm hearing from other providers who are participating in medical marijuana programs, is that their patients are using less opioids," said Martins-Welch. "I've even gotten some patients completely off opioids."

 

As effective as medical marijuana can be, it's not widely available or prescribed, Martins-Welch said. Plus, people have to jump through many hoops just to get certified to receive it, she said.

 

Martins-Welch believes medical marijuana should be more widely available and easier to get. Medical marijuana is legal in only 30 states, she said. In addition, because marijuana is federally illegal, it's expensive and not covered by insurance, putting it beyond the reach of many patients who could benefit from it, she said.

 

Medical marijuana can cost on average $300 for a one-month supply, Martins-Welch said. "And it's a cash-only business."

 

"Even the process you have to go through to get certified is expensive," she said.

 

Martins-Welch and colleagues surveyed men and women between the ages 61 to 70 about their use of medical marijuana. Patients responded to 20 questions about their marijuana use. The researchers found that most patients, 45 percent, used vaporized oil, while 28 percent used pills and 17 percent used marijuana-laced oil. Twenty-one percent used marijuana once a day, 23 percent used it twice daily, and 39 percent used marijuana more than twice a day.

 

Using marijuana in these forms dramatically reduces its mind-altering effect, Martins-Welch said.

 

In most cases, a doctor recommended medical marijuana (46 percent) followed by a family member or friend (24 percent) or another health care provider (6 percent), while others did not specify who recommended it (24 percent).

 

When asked how pain levels changed before and one month after starting marijuana, most patients reported that average pain scores dropped from 9.0 on a scale of 0-10 to a more moderate pain threshold of 5.6.

 

However, older patients reported a reduction in the use of other painkillers less often than younger patients (64 percent versus 93 percent), the researchers found. Older patients also recommended medical marijuana less often than younger ones (86 percent versus 100 percent respectively).

 

When patients were quizzed about whether side effects of medications impacted their daily activities, the average score went from 6.9 before starting medical marijuana to 3.5 a month after using the drug.
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180501085137.htm

Daily photography improves wellbeing

Taking a photo each day and posting it online has complex benefits

April 30, 2018

Science Daily/Lancaster University

Taking a photo each day and posting it online has complex benefits say researchers who say it supports improved wellbeing. A study recorded what photos people took, what text they added and how they interacted with others on the photo-a-day site for two months.

 

This is a popular social phenomenon, with Instagram having over 1.5million photos tagged #365 for each day of the year while there are thousands of members of Blipfoto, a key photo-a-day site.

 

A study co-authored by Dr Liz Brewster of Lancaster University and Dr Andrew Cox of the University of Sheffield recorded what photos people took, what text they added and how they interacted with others on the photo-a-day site for two months.

 

They found that taking a daily photo improved wellbeing through:

 

·     Self-care

·     Community interaction

·     The potential for reminiscence

·     Taking a moment to be mindful, and looking for something different or unusual in the day were seen as positive well-being benefits of the practice.

 

One participant said: "My job was a very highly stressful role... There were some days when I'd almost not stopped to breathe, you know what I mean... And just the thought: oh wait a moment, no, I'll stop and take a photograph of this insect sitting on my computer or something. Just taking a moment is very salutary I think."

 

It also led to more exercise and gave a sense of purpose, competence and achievement.

 

Another participant said: "It encourages me out of the house sometimes when I could just sit on my backside with a cup of tea. I'll think maybe I'll take a walk down on to the seafront and before I know it I'm two miles along the coast. "

 

The online contact helped people to manage loneliness and grief as well as meeting new people with shared interests. Several participants had taken early retirement and found that the contact established via photo-a-day replaced some of the daily office chatter that they missed.

 

"There's the banter in the workshop or the office or the place where you work. And perhaps [photo-a-day] offers that... Because I'm having conversations with people that I would perhaps have had in the workplace.

 

The online interactions created a community based on the photos and accompanying text.

 

"It could be a rubbish photograph but if somebody commented on it, it made it worthwhile."

 

The online text was used to provide personal narratives, reminiscences, and explanations of repeated images.

 

"I'm ever feeling down or something it's nice to be able to scroll back and see good memories. You know, the photos I've taken will have a positive memory attached to it even if it's something as simple as I had a really lovely half an hour for lunch sitting outside and was feeling really relaxed."

 

The researchers said the practice is "an active process of meaning making, in which a new conceptualisation of wellbeing emerges."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180430131759.htm

Higher aerobic fitness levels are associated with better word production skills in healthy older adults

April 30, 2018

Science Daily/University of Birmingham

Researchers found that older adults' aerobic fitness levels are directly related to the incidence of age-related language failures such as 'tip-of-the-tongue' states.

 

Healthy older people who exercise regularly are less inclined to struggle to find words to express themselves, research led by the University of Birmingham has discovered.

 

Researchers found that older adults' aerobic fitness levels are directly related to the incidence of age-related language failures such as 'tip-of-the-tongue' states.

 

The research, published today in Scientific Reports, is the first of its kind to investigate the relationship between aerobic fitness levels and temporary cognitive lapses, such as not having a word come to mind when speaking -- known as a 'tip-of-the-tongue' state.

 

People in a tip-of-the-tongue state have a strong conviction that they know a word, but are unable to produce it, and this phenomena occurs more frequently as we grow older.

 

The University of Birmingham study -- carried out in collaboration with the University of Agder in Norway, the University of Leuven in Belgium and King's College London -- measured the occurrence of tip-of-the-tongue states in a psycholinguistic experiment.

 

The study saw a group of 28 healthy adults (20 women with the average age of 70 and 8 men with the average age of 67), being compared in a 'tip-of-the-tongue' language test to 27 young people (19 women with the average age of 23 and 8 men with the average age of 22).

 

The test involved a 'definition filling task', done on a computer. They were asked to name famous people in the UK, such as authors, politicians and actors, based on 20 questions about them. They were also given the definitions of 20 'low frequency' and 20 'easy' words and asked whether they knew the word relating to the definition.

 

The participants' underwent a static bike cycling test -- a gold standard test which quantified their ability to use oxygen during exercise and their resulting individual aerobic fitness levels.

 

Lead author Dr Katrien Segaert, of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology, said: "Older adults free from medical diseases still experience age-related cognitive decline.

 

"Significantly, what we found was that the degree of decline is related to one's aerobic fitness.

 

"In our study, the higher the older adults' aerobic fitness level, the lower the probability of experiencing a tip-of-the-tongue state.

 

"Importantly, our results also showed that the relationship between the frequency of tip-of-the-tongue occurrences and aerobic fitness levels exists over and above the influence of a person's age and vocabulary size."

 

Dr Segaert said that tip-of-the-tongue states are uniquely a problem with language functioning.

 

"Older adults sometimes worry that tip-of-the-tongue states indicate serious memory problems but this is a misconception: tip-of-the-tongue states are not associated with memory loss," she added. "In fact, older adults usually have a much larger vocabulary than young adults. Instead, tip-of-the-tongue states occur when the meaning of a word is available in our memory, but the sound form of the word can temporarily not be accessed."

 

"Accessing the sound forms of words is essential for successful and fluent language production, and its disruption has very noticeable negative consequences for older adults."

 

She said she hoped the study would add gravitas to the public health message that regular exercise is important to ensure healthy ageing.

 

She added: "There are a lot of findings already on the benefits of aerobic fitness and regular exercise, and our research demonstrates another side of the benefits, namely a relationship between fitness and language skills. We were able to show, for the first time, that the benefits of aerobic fitness extend to the domain of language."

 

"Maintaining good language skills is extremely important for older adults. Older adults frequently have word finding difficulties and they experience these as particularly irritating and embarrassing."

 

"Speaking is a skill we all rely on every day. Communication with others helps us maintain social relationships and independence into old age."

 

In future research, the University of Birmingham plans to undertake exercise intervention studies to determine whether regular exercise can successfully increase language abilities.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180430075622.htm

Mental, not physical, fatigue affects seniors' walking ability

April 24, 2018

Science Daily/Experimental Biology 2018

Low 'mental energy' may affect walking patterns in older adults more than physical fatigue. New research shows the relationship between walking ability and self-reported mood.

 

Researchers from Clarkson University in New York observed a group of older adults (average age 75) while they performed physically and mentally tiring tasks. The volunteers performed the physical task -- a timed walking test at normal speed for six minutes -- before and after the cognitive components. LED sensors embedded in the five-meter walking track captured gait speed and stride length. The cognitive portion of the test consisted of several math subtraction activities and visually identifying specific numbers and sequences on a computer screen. The volunteers reported their mood, motivation and energy levels after both the physical and cognitive tests. Vocabulary used to capture the participants' mood included "a list of mood components such as tense, worn out, energetic, confused [and] lively," explained Abigail Avolio, first author of the study.

 

The research team used a well-known correlation formula (Pearson correlation coefficient) to determine the relationship between self-reported mood and physical performance. There was no change in gait in relation to mental fatigue in the first 30 seconds of the follow-up walking test. However, walking speed and stride length later in the test period decreased significantly in people who reported more cognitive fatigue, but not in response to lagging physical energy levels.

 

More study is needed "to further evaluate why feelings of physical energy and fatigue are not related to gait," the researchers wrote.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180424133642.htm

Drinking water may help exercising seniors stay mentally sharp

Hydration boosts performance on test of executive function following exercise

April 22, 2018

Science Daily/American Physiological Society

Older people should drink more water to reap the full cognitive benefits of exercise, new research suggests. The study explores the association between hydration status before exercising and exercise-enhanced cognition in older adults.

 

Dehydration has been shown to impair exercise performance and brain function in young people, but less is known about its impact on older populations. "Middle-age and older adults often display a blunted thirst perception, which places them at risk for dehydration and subsequently may reduce the cognitive health-related benefits of exercise," a team of New England-based researchers wrote.

 

The researchers recruited recreational cyclists (average age 55) who participated in a large cycling event on a warm day (78-86 degrees F). The cyclists performed a "trail-making" executive function test -- quickly and accurately connecting numbered dots using paper and pencil -- before and after the event. Executive function includes the skills needed to plan, focus, remember and multitask. Exercise has been shown to improve intellectual health, including executive function.

 

The research team tested the volunteers' urine before they exercised and divided them into two groups -- normal hydration and dehydrated -- based on their hydration status. The normal hydration group showed noticeable improvement in the completion time of the trail-making test after cycling when compared to their pre-cycling test. The dehydration group also completed their post-cycling test more quickly, but the time reduction was not significant. "This suggests that older adults should adopt adequate drinking behaviors to reduce cognitive fatigue and potentially enhance the cognitive benefits of regular exercise participation," the researchers wrote.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180422123757.htm

Volunteering 2 hours per week reduces loneliness in widowed older adults

April 16, 2018

Science Daily/Georgia State University

Widowed older adults can reduce the loneliness that results from the death of a spouse by volunteering 100 hours per year, which is about two hours per week, according to a recent study.

 

The study examined whether becoming a volunteer at the time of widowhood is associated with reducing the risks of loneliness, which is a significant public health concern, particularly for those who have lost a spouse, linked to poorer physical health, depression and even earlier mortality. The findings are published in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.

 

"Becoming a widow is one of the most difficult transitions that people face later in life," said Dr. Ben Lennox Kail, co-author of the study and assistant professor of sociology at Georgia State University. "We found that for people in general, widowhood was associated with increased loneliness over time. Among people who became widowed, if they started volunteering 100 hours per year, which is about two hours per week, this reduced loneliness to an extent that they almost look exactly like those people who never became widowed at all."

 

The researchers analyzed data from 5,882 married adults, ages 51 and older, who completed the Health and Retirement Study, which was given every two years and collected information on family, health and volunteer engagement. Using data from 2006 to 2014 for individuals who were married and either remained continuously married or became widowed, the researchers determined the relationship between loneliness and becoming widowed and whether the loneliness from losing a spouse was reduced by volunteering.

 

The survey asked questions about volunteer status and how much time was spent volunteering for an organization during the previous year. Participants could choose from three categories: one to 99 hours per year, 100 to 199 hours per year and 200 or more hours per year.

 

The study found loneliness was significantly higher in those who become widowed compared to those who stay continuously married. However, starting to volunteer two or more hours per week resulted in decreased loneliness, with levels of loneliness similar to those of continuously married individuals volunteering at the same intensity. The findings suggest higher intensity volunteering (about two hours per week) as a potential intervention for alleviating loneliness in older adults who have recently become widowed.

 

"Volunteering only matters for people's loneliness when they've experienced the loss of social integration that results from widowhood," Kail said. "It also suggests something that I think is particularly interesting. When you experience loneliness that is because of some kind of loss, even if you're robustly integrated, that loss is meaningful to you. So if you have this robust social network, and you then experience some loss, what you need to do is begin something new. It's the new social integration that can make up for loss."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180416185559.htm

Older adults grow just as many new brain cells as young people

April 5, 2018

Science Daily/Cell Press

Researchers show for the first time that healthy older men and women can generate just as many new brain cells as younger people.

 

There has been controversy over whether adult humans grow new neurons, and some research has previously suggested that the adult brain was hard-wired and that adults did not grow new neurons. This study, to appear in the journal Cell Stem Cell on April 5, counters that notion. Lead author Maura Boldrini, associate professor of neurobiology at Columbia University, says the findings may suggest that many senior citizens remain more cognitively and emotionally intact than commonly believed.

 

"We found that older people have similar ability to make thousands of hippocampal new neurons from progenitor cells as younger people do," Boldrini says. "We also found equivalent volumes of the hippocampus (a brain structure used for emotion and cognition) across ages. Nevertheless, older individuals had less vascularization and maybe less ability of new neurons to make connections."

 

The researchers autopsied hippocampi from 28 previously healthy individuals aged 14-79 who had died suddenly. This is the first time researchers looked at newly formed neurons and the state of blood vessels within the entire human hippocampus soon after death. (The researchers had determined that study subjects were not cognitively impaired and had not suffered from depression or taken antidepressants, which Boldrini and colleagues had previously found could impact the production of new brain cells.)

 

In rodents and primates, the ability to generate new hippocampal cells declines with age. Waning production of neurons and an overall shrinking of the dentate gyrus, part of the hippocampus thought to help form new episodic memories, was believed to occur in aging humans as well.

 

The researchers from Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute found that even the oldest brains they studied produced new brain cells. "We found similar numbers of intermediate neural progenitors and thousands of immature neurons," they wrote. Nevertheless, older individuals form fewer new blood vessels within brain structures and possess a smaller pool of progenitor cells -- descendants of stem cells that are more constrained in their capacity to differentiate and self-renew.

 

Boldrini surmised that reduced cognitive-emotional resilience in old age may be caused by this smaller pool of neural stem cells, the decline in vascularization, and reduced cell-to-cell connectivity within the hippocampus. "It is possible that ongoing hippocampal neurogenesis sustains human-specific cognitive function throughout life and that declines may be linked to compromised cognitive-emotional resilience," she says.

 

Boldrini says that future research on the aging brain will continue to explore how neural cell proliferation, maturation, and survival are regulated by hormones, transcription factors, and other inter-cellular pathways.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180405223413.htm

Negative fateful life events and the brains of middle-aged men

Findings suggest common major midlife adverse events, such as divorce or death of a family member, accelerates aging in the brain

April 5, 2018

Science Daily/University of California - San Diego

Conflict, a death in the family, financial hardship and serious medical crises are all associated with accelerated physical aging. In a new study, researchers found that such negative fateful life events -- or FLEs -- appear to also specifically accelerate aging in the brain.

 

Writing in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, a research team, led by senior author William S. Kremen, PhD, professor of psychiatry and co-director of the Center for Behavior Genetics of Aging at UC San Diego School of Medicine, found that major adverse events in life, such as divorce, separation, miscarriage or death of a family member or friend, can measurably accelerate aging in the brains of older men, even when controlling for such factors as cardiovascular risk, alcohol consumption, ethnicity and socioeconomic status, which are all associated with aging risk.

 

Specifically, they found that on average, one FLE was associated with an increase in predicted brain age difference (PBAD) of 0.37 years. In other words, a single adverse event caused the brain to appear physiologically older by approximately one-third of a year than the person's chronological age, based upon magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

 

The researchers studied 359 men, ages 57 to 66 years old, participating in the Vietnam Era Twin Study of Aging (VETSA). Researchers asked participants to tally a list of life-changing events over the past two years, which were compared to a similar measure collected five years previously when they joined VETSA. The summaries encapsulated stressful midlife events that had occurred in the first two and last two years of the past seven years. All participants underwent MRI exams and further physical and psychological assessments within one month of completing the most recent self-reports.

 

The MRIs assessed physiological aspects of the brain, such as volume and cortical thickness -- a measure of the cerebral cortex or outer layer of the brain linked to consciousness, memory, attention, thought and other key elements of cognition. These neuroanatomical measurements were then analyzed using advanced software to predict brain age.

 

"Having more midlife FLEs, particularly relating to divorce/separation or a family death, was associated with advanced predicted brain aging," said Sean Hatton, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar at UC San Diego School of Medicine and the study's first author.

 

Hatton said exposure to chronic stress has long been associated with biological weathering and premature aging, linked, for example, to oxidative and mitochondrial damage in cells, impaired immune system response and genomic changes. The study's authors said their findings provide a possible link between molecular aging and brain structure changes in response to major stressful life events.

 

They do note that the study was a snapshot of a narrow demographic: older, predominantly white, males. It is not known whether females or other ethnicities would show similar findings.

 

The authors said additional, broader studies involving greater and more diverse numbers of participants were needed to further validate their findings. But they suggest that using tools to predict brain age could be clinically useful in helping patients understand their brain health relative to their age and in clinical trials where it might improve study design and recruitment.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180405120321.htm

Medical marijuana gets wary welcome from older adults, poll shows

Most accept its use with doctor's recommendation, but want more research

April 3, 2018

Science Daily/Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan

Few older adults use medical marijuana, a new national poll finds, but the majority support its use if a doctor recommends it, and might talk to their own doctor about it if they developed a serious health condition. And two-thirds say the government should do more to study the drug's health effects.

 

Four out five of poll respondents between the ages of 50 and 80 said they support allowing medical marijuana if it's recommended by a physician. Forty percent support allowing marijuana use for any reason.

 

And two-thirds say the government should do more to study the drug's health effects, according to the new findings from the National Poll on Healthy Aging.

 

While more than two-thirds of those polled said they thought that marijuana can ease pain, about half said they believed prescription pain medications were more effective than marijuana.

 

The poll was conducted in a nationally representative sample of 2,007 Americans between the ages of 50 and 80 by the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation. It was sponsored by AARP and Michigan Medicine, U-M's academic medical center.

 

"While just six percent of our poll respondents said they'd used marijuana for medical purposes themselves, 18 percent said they know someone who has," says U-M's Preeti Malani, M.D., director of the poll and a specialist in treatment of older patients. "With medical marijuana already legal in 29 states and the District of Columbia, and other states considering legalizing this use or all use, this is an issue of interest to patients, providers and policymakers alike."

 

She notes that the poll results indicate older Americans have a sense of wariness, rather than wholehearted acceptance, around medical use of marijuana. This may be surprising to those who think of the Baby Boom generation -- who are now in their mid-50s to early 70s -- as embracing marijuana use in their youth in the 1960s and 1970s.

 

Marijuana and pain

 

The poll sheds new light on older Americans' attitudes toward the use of marijuana to control pain -- one of the most common conditions cited in state medical marijuana statutes. Just under one-third of respondents said they feel that marijuana definitely provides pain relief, and another 38 percent said it probably does. But only 14 percent thought marijuana was more effective than prescription pain medication, while 48 percent believed the opposite and 38 percent believed the two were equally effective. When it came to controlling dosages for pain relief, though, prescription pain medicine won out: 41 percent thought it would be easier to control dosage with medication.

 

The poll also asked respondents about negative effects of both substances. In all, 48 percent thought prescription pain medicines are more addictive than marijuana, and 57 said that such medicines have more side effects than marijuana.

 

"These perceptions of relative safety and efficacy are important for physicians, other providers and public health regulators to understand," says Malani. Marijuana use, particularly long-term use, has been associated with impaired memory, decision making and ability to perform complex tasks.

 

The widespread support by older Americans for more research on the effects of marijuana is especially significant, she says, given the growing legalization trend in states and the continued federal policy that marijuana use is illegal.

 

"Although older adults may be a bit wary about marijuana, the majority support more research on it," says Alison Bryant, Ph.D., senior vice president of research for AARP. "This openness to more research likely speaks to a desire to find safe, alternative treatments to control pain."

 

Research on marijuana's effects and related issues can be done under carefully controlled circumstances, but few studies have included older adults. The new poll results indicate an appetite for further government-sponsored research, including government-standardized dosing.

 

Malani, a professor of internal medicine at the U-M Medical School who specializes in infectious diseases and geriatrics, notes that providers should be routinely asking older patients about marijuana use.

 

Only one in five poll respondents said their primary health care provider had asked whether they use marijuana. A slightly lower percentage said they thought their provider was knowledgeable about medical marijuana -- but three-quarters said they simply didn't know how much their provider knows about the topic.

 

Still, 70 percent of those who answered the poll said they would definitely or probably ask their provider about marijuana if they had a serious medical condition that might respond to it. That means providers need to be ready to answer questions and provide counseling to patients, especially in states where medical marijuana is legal.

 

The poll results are based on answers from a nationally representative sample of 2,007 people ages 50 to 80. The poll respondents 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 it.

 

A full report of the findings and methodology is available at http://www.healthyagingpoll.org, along with past reports on National Poll on Healthy Aging findings.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180403085044.htm

Can a Mediterranean diet pattern slow aging?

March 30, 2018

Science Daily/The Gerontological Society of America

A series of six articles finds new correlations between a Mediterranean diet and healthy aging outcomes -- while also underscoring the need for careful approaches to the use of data in order to measure the diet's potential benefits.

 

Among their findings, the new articles report on underlying mechanisms of the diet; the positive relationship between the diet and physical and cognitive function; the value of taking a coenzyme Q10 supplement while adhering to the diet; and the role of the diet in reducing inflammation. But in several of the studies, the level of benefit was dependent on how adherence to the diet was measured.

 

"Greater clarity on how this diet is defined, in both interventions and observational studies, will be critical in the aim of achieving a consensus on how to optimally apply this dietary pattern towards maximizing healthy aging," state Michelle A. Mendez, PhD, and Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences Editor-in-Chief Anne B. Newman, MD, FGSA, in an opening editorial.

 

Hallmarks of the Mediterranean diet include: a variety of minimally processed whole grains and legumes as the staple food; plenty of a huge diversity of fresh vegetables consumed on a daily basis; fresh fruits as the typical daily dessert; cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, and seeds as the principal source of fat; moderate consumption of fish; dairy products consumed in low amounts; red and processed meat consumed in very low frequency and amounts; and wine consumed in low to moderate amounts only with meals.

 

There are a number of scales used to measure adherence to the diet. One of the journal's studies, conducted by researchers at the University of Paris 13, found that among test subjects, higher numbers on the Literature-based Adherence Score to the Mediterranean Diet were associated with higher odds of meeting certain healthy aging criteria. Similar results were found with another index, the Mediterranean Diet Score; however, use of the Mediterranean Diet Scale yielded a weaker correlation. In another study by researchers at the Autonomous University of Madrid, closer adherence to the diet was associated with a lower likelihood of physical function impairment in older adults, although in this case using the Mediterranean Diet Adherence Screener provided more significant results than the Mediterranean Diet Score.

 

The exact mechanism by which an increased adherence to the diet exerts its favorable effects is still unknown to scientists. However, writing in one of the new articles, researchers from Washington University in St. Louis state there is accumulating evidence of five important adaptations induced by the Mediterranean dietary pattern. These include lipid lowering; protection from oxidative stress and inflammation; modification of growth factors that can promote cancer; inhibition of nutrient sensing pathways by amino acid restriction and gut microbiota-mediated production of metabolites.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180330145322.htm

Why we struggle to get good night's sleep as we get older

March 27, 2018

Science Daily/University of Kent

New research has identified the way age impairs the ability of the circadian clock in mammals to re-set itself when exposed to light, resulting in disruption to sleeping patterns and consequent threats to wellbeing.

 

Researchers, led by a University of Kent neurophysiologist, found that aging results in a significant reduction in sensitivity to light in the part of the brain that controls circadian rhythms, known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN).

 

The breakthrough could help target treatments that aim to improve both physiological and behavioural circadian clock 're-setting' in older people.

 

Dr Gurprit Lall, of the University's Medway School of Pharmacy, and the other members of the research team explored alterations in one of the pathways in the part of the brain controlling circadian rhythms. They found that a glutamate receptor (NMDA), used to transmit light information, became less effective in resetting the circadian clock as part of the aging process.

 

This structural change in the glutamate receptor was responsible for the decline in light response observed. A subunit of the NMDA receptor exhibited a marked decrease in presence among older mammal, indicating an age-associated change in structural configuration.

 

The study concluded that the aging SCN suffers from a structural reorganisation of its light receiving components; which ultimately impair its function in setting and maintaining a stable circadian rhythm.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180327102829.htm

Perceptions of old age change as we age

February 26, 2018

Science Daily/Michigan State University

Does life really begin at 40? Is 50 the new 30? For people in these age groups, the answer appears to be yes.

 

But for young adults in their teens and early 20s, turning 50 equates to hitting old age.

 

A new study of more than a half-million Americans led by a Michigan State University scholar shows just how skewed views of aging can be -- particularly among the young. The findings come as people are living longer than ever; life expectancy in the U.S. was about 79 years in 2015 -- up nearly nine years from 1965.

 

But perception may not be keeping up with reality. Nearly 30,000 people in the study thought middle age starts at 30.

 

"I find it interesting that there's a ton of people who have skewed perceptions about aging -- mostly young adults," said William Chopik, assistant professor of psychology and principal investigator of the research.

 

The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, is the largest investigation to date of age perceptions, with 502,548 internet respondents ranging in age from 10 to 89.

 

A key finding: People's perception of old age changes as they age. Essentially, the older we get, the younger we feel.

 

"I think the most interesting finding of this study is that our perceptions of aging aren't static -- they change as we change ourselves," Chopik said. "What you consider to be old changes as you become old yourself."

 

Part of this is understandable, he said. People view older adulthood as a negative experience and want to avoid it because it's painful to think of ourselves as old.

 

"But, of course, older adults actually have really enriching lives and some studies suggest that they're happier than young adults," Chopik noted.

 

Interestingly, when asked how long they wanted to live, the different age groups gave different answers. While kids and young adults wanted to live into their early 90s, that ideal age dropped among the 30- and 40-year age groups, hitting a low of about 88. But the ideal age started rising steadily starting with 50-year-olds and reached about 93 among 80-year-olds.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180226122517.htm

A majority of middle-aged people show a high level of mental well-being

February 5, 2018

Science Daily/University of Jyväskylä

A recent study has found a surprisingly high level of mental well-being among middle-aged individuals.

 

The study examined multiple dimensions of mental well-being, including satisfaction with life and psychological and social well-being. Psychological well-being refers to an individual’s sense of having a purpose in life and personal growth, whereas social well-being is characterized by a sense of environmental mastery and acceptance.

 

Research Director Katja Kokko from the Gerontology Research Center at the University of Jyväskylä:

 

“Our analyses provided two new perspectives to the study of mental well-being: First, we included positive dimensions of mental well-being and did not consider it only as an absence of mental distress. Second, while it is common to analyze an average developmental trend of mental well-being over time, we looked for groups of individuals differing in their developmental trajectories.”

 

Mental well-being was assessed when the study participants were 36, 42, and 50 years old. During this follow-up period, four groups of mental well-being emerged. 29% of the participants were classified as having a high level of life satisfaction as well as psychological and social well-being throughout the study period. Further, 47% had a relatively high and 22% a moderately high level of mental well-being. Conversely, about 3% of the participants had a relatively low score in all the well-being dimensions from age 36 to 50.

 

“It was a bit unexpected how stable mental well-being was in mid-adulthood and that a majority of the middle-aged had such a high level of well-being,” Kokko explains. “However, it should be noted that the follow-up intervals were rather long, about 6 to 8 years, and it is possible that within those years mental well-being fluctuated but then returned to an individual’s characteristic level.”  

 

The groups of mental well-being were compared to each other in other areas of functioning as well. The individuals on the trajectories for high, relatively high, and moderate well-being had more satisfying relationships, more favorable working careers, and fewer diseases than those individuals on the low well-being trajectory. Few differences between the groups were observed in physical or cognitive functioning.

 

“We found that only stable low mental well-being, developed over a lengthy period of time, was a risk factor for unfavorable relationships, working career, and health,” Kokko says. “In older adulthood, mental well-being will possibly also relate to physical and cognitive functioning when there is more variation among the individuals in these areas.”

 

The present analyses shed light on the development of multi-dimensionally assessed mental well-being in mid-adulthood. They further help identify those groups of individuals who are at the greatest risk. Improving their mental well-being can contribute to functioning in old adulthood.

 

The article is based on the Jyväskylä Longitudinal Study of Personality and Social Development (JYLS), where the development of the same, age-cohort representative, participants (369 initially) has been followed from age 8 to 50.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180205094305.htm

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