Age Better

June 16, 2010 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

There’s no denying that our bodies and minds change as we age. This is evidenced in our appearance and in the way that our physiology copes with everyday activities. A passing glance in the mirror reveals a thicker midsection than we remember. A conversation at a dinner party is only partially understood because some of the dialog is spoken too softly. Even our favorite meals of yesteryear no longer hold the same appeal. Instead of being a source of comfort food, they’re now just a source of indigestion. Aging is inevitable. But there are some natural ways to slow down the process and, possibly, minimize the unwanted effects of growing older.

My primary goal in writing today’s column is to emphasize two strategic positions: 1) the old Benjamin Franklin adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”; 2) we don’t have to accept that the changes that occur with aging are intractable and/or destined to get worse. There’s plenty that we can do at all stages of our lives.

Hearing loss is ubiquitous in the senior population. But did you know that the odds of hearing loss is substantially lower in those who eat plenty of seafood? A new Australian study examined the diets and hearing capabilities of 2,956 men and women over the age of 50. Researchers from the University of Sydney specifically took into account the amount of omega-3 fatty acids consumed from fish sources.

  • There was an inverse association between omega-3 intake and “incident hearing loss” (-24%) and “prevalent hearing loss” (-11%).
  • The participants who consumed the greatest amounts of fish demonstrated a 42% lower risk of gradual hearing loss (presbycusis) and “progression to hearing loss” (-47%).

Eating more than 2 servings of fish per week appeared to confer the greatest protective effect. The authors of the study concluded that, “Dietary intervention with n-3 PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) could prevent or delay the development of age-related hearing loss”. (1)

One of the more iconic symbols associated with middle-aged men is a “beer belly”. A new paper published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that supplementing with healthy bacteria or probiotics can help prevent this rite of passage. A total of 87 overweight men were enrolled in a “multi-center, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled intervention trial” – the “gold standard” of study designs. The male volunteers were all given one of two fermented milk products over the course of 12 weeks. The intervention product contained a healthy bacterial strain known as Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 (LG2055), while the control product contained no added probiotic. The men receiving the LG2055 fermented milk lost an average of 4.6% of their abdominal fat. Other measures of fat deposition also declined in regions including the hips and waist in comparison to the control group. (2)

Abdominal Obesity is a Significant Health Risk
Source: Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 2008;28:1039 (link)

Aging naturally encourages us to avoid some of the unhealthy foods of our past. For instance, I know I can’t pack away nearly as much food as I used to in my reckless youth. Thank goodness for that! Some might say that this shift in digestive tolerance can be viewed as a bit of physiological wisdom.

The trouble with changes in age-related digestive function is that they often take place when you’re not making poor food choices. In those cases, it makes sense to look for natural ways to support the digestive process. According to an Italian study published in June 2010, one option is phytotherapy. In this instance, the study employed a natural product that was standardized in the following manner: a) Artichoke Leaf Extract – 15% chlorogenic acid (150 mg per capsule); b) Dandelion Radix – 2% insulin (prebiotic) content; c) Rosemary Bud – microencapsulated essential oil; d) Turmeric Rhizome – 95% curcumin. A total of 211 patients with functional dyspepsia (indigestion) took part in a 60 day trial. By day 60, 79% of the participants reported a 50% or greater reduction in dyspepsia symptoms. In addition, there was a significant improvement in LDL and total cholesterol, triglycerides and several measures of liver function (AST, ALT and gamma GT). As is often the case, side-effects were minimal, but “side-benefits” were substantial. The same can rarely be said for conventional treatment options. (3)

In closing here’s how I would apply the above mentioned research. Firstly, I would make sure to eat plenty of healthy seafood and/or supplement with a good source of omega-3 fatty acids throughout my life – in the hope of protecting against hearing loss at any age. Secondly, if diet and lifestyle changes weren’t enough to banish my beer belly, I’d consider supplementing with select probiotics since they’re generally safe and health promoting. The same goes with indigestion. I’d first try to identify and address the root cause of my digestive dysfunction. However, if I required additional support, I’d consider using phytotherapy rather than the numerous over-the-counter and prescriptive medications typically used in the management of dyspepsia. What should you do with this information? That’s up to you and your health care team.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Diet and Weight Loss, Nutritional Supplements

7 Comments & Updates to “Age Better”

  1. Dave Says:

    Good article. I have been doing some heavy research on Candida. I believe as you get older, Candida becomes more prevalent in our systems and it starts to proliferate our bloodstream. As you age, the probiotics are needed to keep the Candida in check. From what I understand, the yogurt is not the best delivery method.

  2. JP Says:

    Thank you, Dave.

    I think that eating a low-starch and low-sugar diet is vital to keeping pathogenic bacteria in check as we age. Dietary fiber, prebiotics and probiotics can certainly help as well.

    Be well!


  3. Mark Says:

    Another well written and informative article. I seem to have the basis covered with my supplementation on both counts. Too bad mother nature can’t provide a supplement to fix “bifocalitis”!

  4. JP Says:

    Thank you, Mark.

    I’ve heard rumors that she’s working on it. 😉

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Updated 11/30/16:

    Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2016 Sep 22.

    Hearing Care Intervention for Persons with Dementia: A Pilot Study.

    OBJECTIVE: Hearing loss is a commonly unmet need among adults with dementia that may exacerbate common dementia-related behavioral symptoms. Accessing traditional audiology services for hearing loss is a challenge because of high cost and time commitment. To improve accessibility and affordability of hearing treatment for persons with dementia, there is a need for unique service delivery models. The purpose of this study is to test a novel hearing intervention for persons with dementia and family caregivers delivered in outpatient settings.

    METHODS: The Memory-HEARS pilot study delivered a 2-hour in-person intervention in an outpatient setting. A trained interventionist provided hearing screening, communication strategies, and provision of and instruction using a simple over-the-counter amplification device. Caregivers (N = 20) responded to questionnaires related to depression, neuropsychiatric symptoms, and caregiver burden at baseline and 1-month postintervention.

    RESULTS: Overall, caregivers believed the intervention was beneficial, and most participants with dementia wore the amplification device daily. For the depression and neuropsychiatric outcome measures, participants with high symptom burden at baseline showed improvement at 1-month postintervention. The intervention had no effect on caregiver burden. Qualitative responses from caregivers described improved engagement for their loved ones, such as laughing more, telling more stories, asking more questions, and having more patience.

    CONCLUSION: The Memory-HEARS intervention is a low-cost, low-risk, nonpharmacologic approach to addressing hearing loss and behavioral symptoms in patients with dementia. Improved communication has the potential to reduce symptom burden and improve quality of life.

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Updated 07/15/17:

    J Nurs Res. 2017 Jul 13.

    The Effects of White Noise on Agitated Behaviors, Mental Status, and Activities of Daily Living in Older Adults With Dementia.

    BACKGROUND: The aging of society is a global trend, and care of older adults with dementia is an urgent challenge. As dementia progresses, patients exhibit negative emotions, memory disorders, sleep disorders, and agitated behavior. Agitated behavior is one of the most difficult problems for family caregivers and healthcare providers to handle when caring for older adults with dementia.

    PURPOSE: The aim of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of white noise in improving agitated behavior, mental status, and activities of daily living in older adults with dementia.

    METHODS: An experimental research design was used to study elderly participants two times (pretest and posttest). Six dementia care centers in central and southern Taiwan were targeted to recruit participants. There were 63 participants: 28 were in the experimental group, and 35 were in the comparison group. Experimental group participants received 20 minutes of white noise consisting of ocean, rain, wind, and running water sounds between 4 and 5 P.M. daily over a period of 4 weeks. The comparison group received routine care. Questionnaires were completed, and observations of agitated behaviors were collected before and after the intervention.

    RESULTS: Agitated behavior in the experimental group improved significantly between pretest and posttest. Furthermore, posttest scores on the Mini-Mental Status Examination and Barthel Index were slightly better for this group than at pretest. However, the experimental group registered no significant difference in mental status or activities of daily living at posttest. For the comparison group, agitated behavior was unchanged between pretest and posttest.

    CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study support white noise as a simple, convenient, and noninvasive intervention that improves agitated behavior in older adults with dementia. These results may provide a reference for related healthcare providers, educators, and administrators who care for older adults with dementia.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Updated 02/17/19:

    Front Psychol. 2019 Jan 30;10:91.

    Long-Term Tai Chi Experience Promotes Emotional Stability and Slows Gray Matter Atrophy for Elders.

    Brain adverse structural changes, especially the atrophy of gray matter, are inevitable in aging. Fortunately, the human brain is plastic throughout its entire life. The current cross-section study aimed to investigate whether long-term Tai Chi exercise could slow gray matter atrophy and explore the possible links among gray matter volume (GMV), long-term Tai Chi experience and emotional stability in a sequential risk-taking task by using voxel-based morphometry. Elders with long-term Tai Chi experience and controls, who were matched to Tai Chi group in age, gender, physical activity level, participated in the study. A T1-weighted multiplanar reconstruction sequence was acquired for each participant. Behaviorally, the Tai Chi group showed higher meditation level, stronger emotional stability and less risk-taking tendency in the sequential risk-taking compared to the control group. Moreover, the results revealed that the GMV of the thalamus and hippocampus were larger in the Tai Chi group compared with the control group. Notably, the GMV of the thalamus was positively correlated with both meditation level and emotional stability. The current study suggested the protective role of long-term Tai Chi exercise at slowing gray matter atrophy, improving the emotional stability and achieving successful aging for elders.

    Be well!


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