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Exercise Improves Thinking Skills

In Thought

Regular aerobic exercise such as walking, cycling or climbing stairs may improve thinking skills not only in older people but in young people as well, according to a study published in the January 30, 2019, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study also found that the positive effect of exercise on thinking skills may increase as people age.

The specific set of thinking skills that improved with exercise is called executive function. Executive function is a person’s ability to regulate their own behavior, pay attention, organize and achieve goals.

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“As people age, there can be a decline in thinking skills, however our study shows that getting regular exercise may help slow or even prevent such decline,” said study author Yaakov Stern, PhD, of Columbia University in New York, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “We found that all participants who exercised not only showed improvements in executive function but also increased the thickness in an area of the outer layer of their brain.”

“Since a difference of 0.5 standard deviations is equivalent to 20 years of age-related difference in performance on these tests, the people who exercised were testing as if they were about 10 years younger at age 40 and about 20 years younger at age 60,” Stern said.

He added, “Since thinking skills at the start of the study were poorer for participants who were older, our findings suggest that aerobic exercise is more likely to improve age-related declines in thinking skills rather than improve performance in those without a decline.”

Researchers also found an increase in the thickness of the outer layer of the brain in the left frontal area in all those who exercised, suggesting that aerobic exercise contributes to brain fitness at all ages.

“Our research confirms that exercise can be beneficial to adults of any age,” said Stern.

Read more about how “Exercise May Improve Thinking Skills” from ScienceDaily.

One Avocado A Day Helps

Avocado

Move over, apples — new research from Penn State suggests that eating one avocado a day may help keep “bad cholesterol” at bay.

According to the researchers, bad cholesterol can refer to both oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and small, dense LDL particles.

“We were able to show that when people incorporated one avocado a day into their diet, they had fewer small, dense LDL particles than before the diet,” said Penny Kris-Etherton, distinguished professor of nutrition, who added that small, dense LDL particles are particularly harmful for promoting plaque buildup in the arteries. “Consequently, people should consider adding avocados to their diet in a healthy way, like on whole-wheat toast or as a veggie dip.”

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Specifically, the study found that avocados helped reduce LDL particles that had been oxidized. Similar to the way oxygen can damage food — like a cut apple turning brown — the researchers said oxidation is also bad for the human body.

“A lot of research points to oxidation being the basis for conditions like cancer and heart disease,” Kris-Etherton said. “We know that when LDL particles become oxidized, that starts a chain reaction that can promote atherosclerosis, which is the build-up of plaque in the artery wall. Oxidation is not good, so if you can help protect the body through the foods that you eat, that could be very beneficial.”

After five weeks on the avocado diet, participants had significantly lower levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol than before the study began or after completing the low- and moderate-fat diets. Participants also had higher levels of lutein, an antioxidant, after the avocado diet.

The researchers added that because the moderate-fat diet without avocados included the same monounsaturated fatty acids found in avocados, it is likely that the fruit has additional bioactives that contributed to the benefits of the avocado diet.

Read more about how “One Avocado A Day Helps” from ScienceDaily.

Muscle Weakness And Obese Greater Fall Risk

As our society continues to age, experts project that falls and the health complications that can come with them will also rise. In fact, about two-thirds of all hospital costs ($34 billion) are connected directly or indirectly with falls among older adults.

Falls can be especially challenging for older people who are obese and who also have sarcopenia (the medical term for a loss of muscle strength as we age). Currently, 5 percent to 13 percent of adults older than 60 have sarcopenia. Those rates may be as high as 50 percent in people 80-years-old and older.

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Older adults who gain weight may increase their risk for muscle weakness and falls. Having sarcopenia and obesity, or “sarcopenic obesity,” is linked to a decline in your ability to function physically, and to an increased risk of fractures.

A team of researchers writing for the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society suggested that it is important to identify people at risk for falls related to obesity and muscle weakness so that healthcare providers can offer appropriate solutions.

Read more about how “Does Having Muscle Weakness…” from ScienceDaily.

Cost Of Heart Attack And Stroke

The full financial cost of a heart attack or stroke is twice as much as the medical costs when lost work time for patients and caregivers is included.

That’s the finding of research published today, World Health Day, in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology. The study concludes that victims of heart attack and stroke who return to work are 25% less productive in their first year back.

In the year after the event, heart patients lost 59 workdays and caregivers lost 11 workdays. After stroke, 56 workdays were lost by patients and 12 by caregivers.

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Study author Professor Kornelia Kotseva, of Imperial College London, UK, said: “Patients in our study returned to work, meaning their events were relatively mild. Some still had to change jobs or careers, or work less, and caregivers lost around 5% of work time. Not included in our study are those with more severe events who quit work altogether and presumably need even more help from family and friends.”

Reasons for lost productivity were consistent across countries: 61% was the initial hospitalization and sick leave after discharge; 23-29% was absence from work after the initial sick leave (for medical appointments and shorter sick leave); 9-16% was being unable to work at full capacity because of feeling unwell.

Even more workdays were lost in the first year after the event for patients with previous events or established cardiovascular disease

In the study, 27% of heart patients and 20% of stroke patients were obese, while 40% of heart patients and 27% of stroke patients were current smokers.

Read more about how “Real Cost Of Heart Attacks And Strokes” from ScienceDaily.

Food Is Thy Medicine

A team of researchers modeled the health and economic effects of healthy food prescriptions in Medicare and Medicaid. The study, published today in PLOS Medicine, finds that health insurance coverage to offset the cost of healthy food for Medicare and/or Medicaid participants would be highly cost effective after five years and improve health outcomes.

“We found that encouraging people to eat healthy foods in Medicare and Medicaid — healthy food prescriptions — could be as or more cost effective as other common interventions, such as preventative drug treatments for hypertension or high cholesterol,” said co-first author Yujin Lee, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts.

“Healthy food prescriptions are increasingly being considered in private health insurance programs, and the new 2018 Farm Bill includes a $25 million Produce Prescription Program to further evaluate this approach,” she continued.

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The study estimated the economic and health benefits that would accrue if 30 percent of the cost of healthy food purchases in supermarkets and grocery stores were covered through Medicare and Medicaid, through an electronic debit card. Two scenarios were modeled: 30 percent coverage of fruit and vegetable purchases; and 30 percent coverage of purchases of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts/seeds, seafood, and plant-based oils.

“Our findings support implementation and evaluation of healthy food prescriptions within healthcare systems to improve the diet and health of Americans,” said co-senior author Renata Micha, R.D., Ph.D, research associate professor at the Friedman School.

“Medicare and Medicaid are the two largest healthcare programs in the U.S., together covering one in three Americans and accounting for 1 in every 4 dollars in the entire federal budget,” said co-first author Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H, dean of the Friedman School.

“These new findings support the concept of Food is Medicine: That innovative programs to encourage and reimburse healthy eating can and should be integrated into the healthcare system,” he continued.

Read more about how “Prescribing Healthy Foods” from ScienceDaily.

Smell And Cognition Test Predict Brain Health

Smell

A new study has found that performing well on two brief tests measuring cognitive ability and ability to identify odors indicates very low risk for Alzheimer’s. We know that these tests can help predict the risk of developing dementia, but didn’t know if they could help rule out those unlikely to develop Alzheimer’s.

Clinicians use cognitive tests to screen patients for dementia, but they aren’t always able to predict which patients with mild cognitive impairment will develop Alzheimer’s disease.

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Another test, which measures ability to identify odors, is also used to identify dementia, and this test can be abnormal in both Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Without a definitive screening test to predict which patients with mild cognitive problems will develop Alzheimer’s disease, many individuals often undergo difficult and expensive diagnostic workups.

The researchers found that nearly all (96.5%) of the participants who performed well on both tests failed to develop dementia during the period studied. Among those with good scores on these tests, no one aged 70-75 or 81-83 years was found to transition to dementia during the study period.

Further research in primary care is needed to confirm and evaluate the practical applicability of these findings that were obtained in a community cohort.

Read more about how “Cognitive Screen Paired With Odor…” from ScienceDaily.

Brain Thinning Linked To Larger Waist Lines As We Age

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more about how “Extra Weight in 60’s Maybe” from ScienceDaily.

Dog Owners May Live Longer

Dog Owner

Dog ownership may be associated with longer life and better cardiovascular outcomes, especially for heart attack and stroke survivors who live alone, according to a new study and a separate meta-analysis published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, a journal of the American Heart Association.

“The findings in these two well-done studies and analyses build upon prior studies and the conclusions of the 2013 AHA Scientific Statement ‘Pet Ownership and Cardiovascular Risk’ that dog ownership is associated with reductions in factors that contribute to cardiac risk and to cardiovascular events,” said Glenn N. Levine, M.D., chair of the writing group of the American Heart Association’s scientific statement on pet ownership. “Further, these two studies provide good, quality data indicating dog ownership is associated with reduced cardiac and all-cause mortality. While these non-randomized studies cannot ‘prove’ that adopting or owning a dog directly leads to reduced mortality, these robust findings are certainly at least suggestive of this.”

Compared to people who did not own a dog, researchers found that for dog owners:

  • The risk of death for heart attack patients living alone after hospitalization was 33% lower, and 15% lower for those living with a partner or child.
  • The risk of death for stroke patients living alone after hospitalization was 27% lower and 12% lower for those living with a partner or child.

Researchers found that compared to non-owners, dog owners experienced a:

  • 24% reduced risk of all-cause mortality;
  • 65% reduced risk of mortality after heart attack; and
  • 31% reduced risk of mortality due to cardiovascular-related issues.

In the study, nearly 182,000 people were recorded to have had a heart attack, with almost 6% being dog owners, and nearly 155,000 people were recorded to have had an ischemic stroke, with almost 5% being dog owners. Dog ownership was confirmed by data from the Swedish Board of Agriculture (registration of dog ownership has been mandatory since 2001) and the Swedish Kennel Club (all pedigree dogs have been registered since 1889).

The lower risk of death associated with dog ownership could be explained by an increase in physical activity and the decreased depression and loneliness, both of which have been connected to dog ownership in previous studies.

“We know that social isolation is a strong risk factor for worse health outcomes and premature death. Previous studies have indicated that dog owners experience less social isolation and have more interaction with other people,” said Tove Fall, D. V. M., professor at Uppsala University in Sweden. “Furthermore, keeping a dog is a good motivation for physical activity, which is an important factor in rehabilitation and mental health.”

Read more about how “Dog Ownership Associated With Longer Life” from ScienceDaily.

Weight Training Targets Visceral Fat

Barbell

Scientists know that the type of fat you can measure with a tape isn’t the most dangerous. But what is the most effective way to fight internal, visceral fat that you cannot see or feel? The answer: exercise.

Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center analyzed two types of interventions — lifestyle modification (exercise) and pharmacological (medicine) — to learn how best to defeat fat lying deep in the belly. The study is published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

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“Visceral fat can affect local organs or the entire body system. Systemically it can affect your heart and liver, as well as abdominal organs,” said senior author and cardiologist Dr. Ian J. Neeland, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine. “When studies use weight or body mass index as a metric, we don’t know if the interventions are reducing fat everywhere in the body, or just near the surface.”

“The location and type of fat is important. If you just measure weight or BMI, you can underestimate the benefit to your health of losing weight,” said Dr. Neeland, a Dedman Family Scholar in Clinical Care. “Exercise can actually melt visceral fat.”

Read more about how “The Dangers Of Hidden Fat” from ScienceDaily.

Sugary Drinks Increases Risk

A study published by The BMJ today reports a possible association between higher consumption of sugary drinks and an increased risk of cancer.

While cautious interpretation is needed, the findings add to a growing body of evidence indicating that limiting sugary drink consumption, together with taxation and marketing restrictions, might contribute to a reduction in cancer cases.

The consumption of sugary drinks has increased worldwide during the last few decades and is convincingly associated with the risk of obesity, which in turn is recognized as a strong risk factor for many cancers.

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Daily consumption of sugary drinks (sugar sweetened beverages and 100% fruit juices) and artificially sweetened (diet) beverages were calculated and first cases of cancer reported by participants were validated by medical records and linked with health insurance national databases.

Several well known risk factors for cancer, such as age, sex, educational level, family history of cancer, smoking status and physical activity levels, were taken into account.

The results show that a 100 mL per day increase in the consumption of sugary drinks was associated with an 18% increased risk of overall cancer and a 22% increased risk of breast cancer. When the group of sugary drinks was split into fruit juices and other sugary drinks, the consumption of both beverage types was associated with a higher risk of overall cancer. No association was found for prostate and colorectal cancers, but numbers of cases were more limited for these cancer locations.

Read more about how “Possible Link Between Sugary Drinks and Cancer” from ScienceDaily.