Aging Well News

June 17, 2011 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

I’ve used the term “anti-aging” before, but I’ve never been entirely comfortable with it. To me, there’s something slightly strange about the concept. After all, I’m not opposed to the process of growing older. In fact, one of my greatest hopes is to live a long and rich life with Mrs. Healthy Fellow and those we love. This steadfast desire remains constant despite my implicit knowledge that our bodies and minds will change as time goes by. But in health and all things, not all change is created equal.

Railing against all forms of aging is a futile act. It’s as much a waste of time as pleading with the night not to come. Aging will happen as sure as darkness will fall at the end of the day. What we should do is become more aware of the modifiable contributors to premature aging and disease.

Ensuring optimal Vitamin D levels is a hot topic in medicine these days. This is especially so in senior populations because hypovitaminosis D is known to contribute to many of the negative aspects typically ascribed to old age. Recent publications in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Archives of Ophthalmology and Rheumatology International report that administering Vitamin D via injection or oral supplements can improve a broad spectrum of seemingly unrelated symptoms including: general and mental health, physical capacity and pain, and social functioning. What’s more, a higher concentration of Vitamin D or 25-OH-D via sun exposure or supplementation has been linked to a lower incidence of chronic pain syndromes (fibromyalgia, osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis), heart disease in men and macular degeneration in women. Optimal Vitamin D levels of 50 ng/mL or higher are frequently recommended, but rarely achieved by the population at large. For example, a current analysis from the University of Saskatchewan found that as many as 1/3 of Canadian adults are falling short of their D goals, particularly in the winter months. (1,2,3,4,5)

If exercise could be patented and prescribed, it would probably be the best selling drug on the market. Using exercise judiciously allows both men and women to defy some of the stereotypes that accompany gender-related aging. In men, regular exercise has been shown to benefit endothelial function and insulin sensitivity. The former assists with proper blood flow throughout the body. The latter supports healthier testosterone levels. The net result is improved cardiovascular health and sexual performance. Select supplements such as a combination of the amino acids aspartic acid, l-arginine and pine bark extract (Pycnogenol) may provide additional support in stubborn cases of mild to moderate erectile dysfunction. (6,7,8)

If you’re a postmenopausal woman there are many negative messages sent in your direction. “After a certain age, it’s nearly impossible to lose body fat and weight.” “If you don’t use bisphosphonate drugs you’ll develop osteoporosis”. “Herbal remedies for menopause don’t work and they’re often dangerous”. Three new studies refute all of these assertions. The first examined the impact of 6 months of diet and exercise in a group of 76 postmenopausal women. By the conclusion of the study, a significant reduction in body weight (up to 7%) and fat mass (-11% to 15%) was achieved. The second trial followed 85 women, also postmenopausal, who engaged in an exercise program which included “high-intensity bone-specific exercises” over the course of 12 months. Bone mineral density was significantly improved in the lumbar spine. Finally, a just published Italian safety review determined that the popular, herbal menopause aid known as black cohosh is not harmful to the liver. Previous inquiries support this point of view and also make a case for the use of black cohosh when hormone replacement isn’t advisable.  (9,10,11,12,13)

Exercise May Halt the Neurodegenerative Process

Source: Front Neurol. 2011;2:28. Epub 2011 May 6. (link)

The next time you debate whether or not to have that extra cup of coffee, consider this: coffee may very well protect your brain from Alzheimer’s disease (AD) over the long term and support short term memory in acute situations. For starters, researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine explain that a “caffeinated-herbal chewing gum” effectively improved memory in a series of tests used to asses cognitive functioning. But there’s more to coffee than just caffeine. Scientists from the USF/Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute in Tampa, Florida describe a still unidentified component of coffee that increases the amount of GCSF (granulocyte-colony stimulating factor) in animal models of AD. This is of vital importance because treating AD mice with GCSF counters the effects of the neurodegenerative disease. The finding lead the authors of the experiment to “conclude that coffee may be the best course of caffeine to protect against AD”. It could also partially explain why some research indicates that heavy coffee drinkers exhibit fewer brain lesions associated with cognitive impairment. (14,15,16)

Aging can be approached like any other obstacle or opportunity. In areas where you can reasonably exert positive influence such as adjusting your Vitamin D levels, exercising more and/or modifying your diet – by all means do so. Anything that improves your overall well being will likewise support a healthier aging process. But don’t forget the power you possess in your attitude toward aging as well. It is indeed possible to view aging as a precious gift that isn’t afforded to all. As the brilliant psychologist William James once said, “Man can alter his life by altering his thinking”.

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, Men's Health, Women's Health

8 Comments & Updates to “Aging Well News”

  1. JP Says:

    Update 04/20/15:

    Am J Clin Nutr April 2015

    Brain atrophy in cognitively impaired elderly: the importance of long-chain ω-3 fatty acids and B vitamin status in a randomized controlled trial

    Background: Increased brain atrophy rates are common in older people with cognitive impairment, particularly in those who eventually convert to Alzheimer disease. Plasma concentrations of omega-3 (ω-3) fatty acids and homocysteine are associated with the development of brain atrophy and dementia.

    Objective: We investigated whether plasma ω-3 fatty acid concentrations (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid) modify the treatment effect of homocysteine-lowering B vitamins on brain atrophy rates in a placebo-controlled trial (VITACOG).

    Design: This retrospective analysis included 168 elderly people (≥70 y) with mild cognitive impairment, randomly assigned either to placebo (n = 83) or to daily high-dose B vitamin supplementation (folic acid, 0.8 mg; vitamin B-6, 20 mg; vitamin B-12, 0.5 mg) (n = 85). The subjects underwent cranial magnetic resonance imaging scans at baseline and 2 y later. The effect of the intervention was analyzed according to tertiles of baseline ω-3 fatty acid concentrations.

    Results: There was a significant interaction (P = 0.024) between B vitamin treatment and plasma combined ω-3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid) on brain atrophy rates. In subjects with high baseline ω-3 fatty acids (>590 μmol/L), B vitamin treatment slowed the mean atrophy rate by 40.0% compared with placebo (P = 0.023). B vitamin treatment had no significant effect on the rate of atrophy among subjects with low baseline ω-3 fatty acids (<390 μmol/L). High baseline ω-3 fatty acids were associated with a slower rate of brain atrophy in the B vitamin group but not in the placebo group.

    Conclusions: The beneficial effect of B vitamin treatment on brain atrophy was observed only in subjects with high plasma ω-3 fatty acids. It is also suggested that the beneficial effect of ω-3 fatty acids on brain atrophy may be confined to subjects with good B vitamin status. The results highlight the importance of identifying subgroups likely to benefit in clinical trials.

    Be well!


  2. JP Says:

    Update 06/02/15:

    Front Hum Neurosci. 2015 May 12;9:281.

    Neuroprotective effects of yoga practice: age-, experience-, and frequency-dependent plasticity.

    Yoga combines postures, breathing, and meditation. Despite reported health benefits, yoga’s effects on the brain have received little study. We used magnetic resonance imaging to compare age-related gray matter (GM) decline in yogis and controls. We also examined the effect of increasing yoga experience and weekly practice on GM volume and assessed which aspects of weekly practice contributed most to brain size. Controls displayed the well documented age-related global brain GM decline while yogis did not, suggesting that yoga contributes to protect the brain against age-related decline. Years of yoga experience correlated mostly with GM volume differences in the left hemisphere (insula, frontal operculum, and orbitofrontal cortex) suggesting that yoga tunes the brain toward a parasympatically driven mode and positive states. The number of hours of weekly practice correlated with GM volume in the primary somatosensory cortex/superior parietal lobule (S1/SPL), precuneus/posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), hippocampus, and primary visual cortex (V1). Commonality analyses indicated that the combination of postures and meditation contributed the most to the size of the hippocampus, precuneus/PCC, and S1/SPL while the combination of meditation and breathing exercises contributed the most to V1 volume. Yoga’s potential neuroprotective effects may provide a neural basis for some of its beneficial effects.

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Updated 1/7/16:

    Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Oct;102(4):897-904.

    Dietary inflammatory index and telomere length in subjects with a high cardiovascular disease risk from the PREDIMED-NAVARRA study: cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses over 5 y.

    BACKGROUND: Dietary factors can affect telomere length (TL), a biomarker of aging, through oxidation and inflammation-related mechanisms. A Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII) could help to understand the effect of the inflammatory potential of the diet on telomere shortening.

    OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to determine the association of the DII with TL and to examine whether diet-associated inflammation could modify the telomere attrition rate after a 5-y follow-up of a Mediterranean dietary intervention.

    DESIGN: This was a prospective study of 520 participants at high cardiovascular disease risk (mean ± SD age: 67.0 ± 6.0 y, 45% males) from the PREDIMED-NAVARRA (PREvención con DIeta MEDiterránea-NAVARRA) trial. Leukocyte TL was measured by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction at baseline and after 5 y of follow-up. The DII was calculated from self-reported data by using a validated 137-item food-frequency questionnaire.

    RESULTS: Longer telomeres at baseline were found in participants who had a more anti-inflammatory diet (lowest DII score) (P-trend = 0.012). Longitudinal analyses further showed that a greater anti-inflammatory potential of the diet (i.e., a decrease in the DII) could significantly slow down the rate of telomere shortening. Moreover, the multivariable-adjusted OR for short telomeres (z score ≤20th percentile) was 1.80 (95% CI: 1.03, 3.17) in a comparison between the highest (proinflammatory) and the lowest (anti-inflammatory) DII tertiles. Similarly, a greater DII (greatest proinflammatory values) after a 5-y follow-up was associated with almost a 2-fold higher risk of accelerated telomere attrition compared with the highest decrease in DII (greatest anti-inflammatory values) during this period (P-trend = 0.025).

    CONCLUSIONS: This study showed both cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between the inflammatory potential of the diet and telomere shortening in subjects with a high cardiovascular disease risk. Our findings are consistent with, but do not show, a beneficial effect of adherence to an anti-inflammatory diet on aging and health by slowing down telomere shortening. These results suggest that diet might play a key role as a determinant of TL through proinflammatory or anti-inflammatory mechanisms.

    Be well!


  4. JP Says:

    Updated 1/26/16:

    Qual Life Res. 2016 Jan 21.

    Relationship of moderate alcohol intake and type of beverage with health behaviors and quality of life in elderly subjects.

    PURPOSE: This work was aimed to study the relationships of moderate alcohol intake and the type of beverages consumed with health behaviors and quality of life in elderly people.

    METHODS: In this observational study, 231 subjects (55-85 years) voluntarily answering to advertisements were enrolled and divided in three study groups: abstainers and occasional consumers (ABS; n = 98), moderate drinkers of beer (BEER; n = 63) and moderate drinkers of all sorts of alcoholic beverages (MIXED; n = 70). Variables assessed included physical activity, activities of daily living, Mediterranean diet-adherence score, tobacco consumption, quality of sleep, body composition, medication and perception of health through the SF-36 questionnaire. Their relationship with alcohol consumption was assessed through general linear models including confounding variables (age, sex, chronic disease prevalence and socioeconomic status). ABS were also compared to moderate drinkers (MOD = BEER + MIXED).

    RESULTS: The mean daily alcohol consumption in each group was (mean ± SD): ABS: 0.7 ± 1.1; BEER: 12.7 ± 8.1; MIXED: 13.9 ± 10.2 g/day. MOD and MIXED showed significantly higher physical activity (metabolic standard units; METs) than ABS (p = 0.023 and p = 0.004, respectively). MOD spent significantly less time doing housework activities than ABS (p = 0.032). Daily grams of alcohol consumption were significantly associated with METs (B = 21.727, p = 0.023). Specifically, wine consumption (g/day) was associated with METs (B = 46.196, p = <0.001) and showed borderline significant relationships with mental health (B = 0.245, p = 0.062) and vitality perception (B = 0.266, p = 0.054).

    CONCLUSION: Moderate alcohol consumption, and in particular wine consumption, is associated with a more active lifestyle and better perception of own health in the Spanish elderly subjects studied.

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Updated 2/6/16:

    Front Aging Neurosci. 2016 Jan 14;7:254.

    Effects of Long-Term Mindfulness Meditation on Brain’s White Matter Microstructure and its Aging.

    Although research on the effects of mindfulness meditation (MM) is increasing, still very little has been done to address its influence on the white matter (WM) of the brain. We hypothesized that the practice of MM might affect the WM microstructure adjacent to five brain regions of interest associated with mindfulness. Diffusion tensor imaging was employed on samples of meditators and non-meditators (n = 64) in order to investigate the effects of MM on group difference and aging. Tract-Based Spatial Statistics was used to estimate the fractional anisotrophy of the WM connected to the thalamus, insula, amygdala, hippocampus, and anterior cingulate cortex. The subsequent generalized linear model analysis revealed group differences and a group-by-age interaction in all five selected regions. These data provide preliminary indications that the practice of MM might result in WM connectivity change and might provide evidence on its ability to help diminish age-related WM degeneration in key regions which participate in processes of mindfulness.

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Updated 06/02/16:

    Res Sports Med. 2016 Jun 1:1-14.

    Effects of wheelchair Tai Chi on physical and mental health among elderly with disability.

    A 12-week Wheelchair Tai Chi 10 Form (WTC10) intervention was conducted among elderly with disability to examine the effect of this WTC10 intervention on selected physical and mental health variables. Thirteen (age 87.23 ± 6.71) in the WTC10 intervention group and 15 (age 89.73 ± 6.31) in the control group completed the study. Independent t-tests and paired t-tests were employed to examine the differences between groups and within groups, respectively, at pretest and post-test. The WTC10 intervention group showed significant improvements in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, shoulder external rotation, left trunk rotation and total trunk rotation after the intervention. A 12-week WTC10 intervention had positive effects on blood pressure, range of motion at the shoulder and trunk, physical activity, and mental health among the elderly with disability. WTC10 is a feasible and safe exercise for the elderly with disability.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Updated 07/28/16:

    Acta Med Iran. 2016 Jul;54(7):430-6.

    Effect of Progressive Muscle Relaxation on the Fatigue and Quality of Life Among Iranian Aging Persons.

    Since the elderly population is increasing rapidly in developing countries which may decrease the physical activity and exercise and in turn could affect the elderly’s quality of life, this study aimed to investigate the effect of progressive muscle relaxation on the elderly’s quality of life in Iran. In a randomized clinical trial, participants were randomly divided into intervention and control groups. For the intervention group, muscular progressive relaxation was run three days per week for three months (totally 36 sessions). In relaxation, a patient contract a group of his/her muscles in each step and relaxes them after five seconds and finally loosens all muscles and takes five deep breaths. Each session lasts for 45 minutes. The instrument of data gathering consisted of questionnaires on individual’s demographic data and quality of life SF-36. After intervention, quality of life increased significantly in the patients undergoing muscular progressive relaxation and fatigue severity decreased significantly in the intervention group compared to prior to intervention. In addition, there was a statistically significant difference in mean score of physical performance, restricted activity after physical problem, energy, socially function, physical pain, overall hygiene, and quality of life between intervention and control groups. By implementing regular and continuous progressive muscle relaxation, quality of life could be increased in different dimensions in the elderly and the context could be provided to age healthily and enjoy higher health and autonomy. Therefore, all of the therapeutic staffs are recommended to implement this plan to promote the elderly’s quality of life.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Updated 10/28/18:

    Int J Yoga Therap. 2018 Oct 24.

    iRest Meditation for Older Adults with Depression Symptoms: A Pilot Study.

    Older adults, a rapidly growing population in the United States, have fewer physiological reserves and are more likely to be affected by stress, making them especially susceptible to depression symptoms. Meditation offers promising potential as an effective treatment; however, few studies have evaluated meditation interventions for this demographic. The objectives of this pilot study were to evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of an iRest meditation program in older adults with depression symptoms and to collect preliminary data on its effect on depression and depression- related symptoms compared to a vacation control. The study occurred at the Institute of Noetic Sciences EarthRise Retreat Center and participants’ homes. Thirty generally healthy older adults, aged 55-90, with depression symptoms were recruited. Participants were randomly assigned to a 2-day retreat of either iRest meditation training or vacation. After the retreat, participants were asked to complete 20 minutes of home practice per day for 6 weeks; this consisted of either guided meditations (iRest) or music (vacation). Data were collected pre- and post-retreat and then 6 weeks later. Measures included depression-related variables (expectancy, depression symptoms, perceived stress, resilience, pain, sleep quality, and spirituality) and biomarkers (voice stress analysis, heart rate, heart rate variability). We found the iRest intervention for older adults with depression symptoms to be feasible and acceptable. Preliminary results at 6 weeks demonstrated improvements in sleep impairment in older adults compared to the control group and promising trends in improvements in depression symptoms and pain severity.

    Be well!


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