Medical and scientific knowledge doubles every 3.5 years or less. Within 16 years, we will know 32 times more about how and why we age, and how to treat it. Become educated, and stay atop of the newest breakthroughs, and you too can live a long and healthy life. Assemble a handy list of reliable resources. We recommend:
It’s not enough to know your cholesterol level. While cholesterol is the molecule responsible for causing fatty buildups inside arteries, scientists now suspect that it is only part of the portrait of heart disease. Inflammation, which can weaken blood vessels and cause cholesterol plaques to loosen and create blockages, is the new marker. Insist that your doctor test your C-reactive protein (CRP), which should be at or below 8 micrograms/milliliter (anti-aging physicians would prefer it to be half that or lower).
Dietary factors, second only to tobacco as a preventable cause of cancer, account for about 30 percent of all cancers in Western countries and approximately 20 percent in developing countries. Announcing findings in 2005 of its twenty-year-long study tracking 150,000 Americans, the American Cancer Society found that men and women who ate the most amounts of red meat (compared with those who ate more poultry, fish, and non-meats) had a 53 percent higher risk of distal colon cancer.
Cigarette smoking is a major, preventable risk factor for stroke. The nicotine and carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke reduce the amount of oxygen in your blood. They also damage the walls of blood vessels, making clots more likely to form. Indeed, a study by University of Minnesota researchers published in 2011 warns that smoking causes genetic damage within minutes of inhaling. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), compounds present in tobacco smoke, quickly form toxic substances that prompt DNA mutations that cause cancer.
Fortunately, when smokers quit, the body begins a series of positive changes. According to the American Lung Association: At 20 minutes after quitting, blood pressure decreases and pulse rate drops. At 8 hours after quitting, carbon monoxide levels in your blood drop to normal, and oxygen levels increase to normal. In as little as 24 hours you cut your risk of having a stroke or heart attack.
A 2005 study by researchers at University of Newcastle upon Tyne (United Kingdom) found that men and women with a higher body fat and higher waist-hip ratio adults are more likely to have increased insulin resistance, a risk marker for type 2 diabetes. Childhood factors, such as birth weight and nutrition, were found to have little impact in the risk for developing diabetes, discounting the notion that poor health in later life can result from earlier experiences.
Worldwide, a substantial number of men and women who have coronary artery disease die within 28 days after experiencing symptoms; of these, two-thirds die before reaching a hospital. It is critical that everyone recognizes the warning signs of a heart attack, which may include:
- Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
- Shortness of breath. Often comes along with chest discomfort. But it also can occur before chest discomfort.
- Other symptoms. May include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness.
A 2005 Finnish study revealed that middle-age men and women who exercise at least twice a week and eat a healthy diet can reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease (AD) by 50% in old age. Previous studies have shown that people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and who are overweight/obese could have a greater risk of AD than those with a more active, healthy lifestyle.
A compound found in everyday foods can slow the development of cancerous tumors. A 2005 study conducted by scientists at the University College of London's Sackler Institute (United Kingdom) found that inositol pentakisphosphate, present in beans, nuts, and cereals, can inhibit an enzyme that is necessary for tumors to grow.
Each day, try to eat foods rich in inositol pentakisphosphate: 1 cup (226 gm) of beans (such as lentils and peas), 1⁄2 cup (113 gm) of nuts (almonds, and hazelnuts [filberts] are also good sources of Vitamin E - see Tip 31) and 6 ounces (170 gm) of whole-wheat cereals (for the wheat bran).
Treating hypertension (high blood pressure) can reduce the risk of a stroke by up to 40%, reports the World Health Organization. High blood pressure (generally, 140/90 mm Hg or higher; however, anti-aging physicians aim for readings less than 120/80) is the most important risk factor for stroke. The US government's "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension" (DASH) diet can help, providing menus low in salt and calories and high in nutrients. Consume a variety of nuts, seeds, and beans, watch your intake of meats, poultry, and fish, and expand your repertoire of vegetables. Go easy on processed foods, salty snacks, and cured meats.
Diabetics with a particular form of a blood protein, called haptoglobin, have as much as a 500% increased risk of developing heart disease. In a study by Technion-Israel Institute of Technology (Israel), researchers found that Vitamin E supplements helped diabetic men and women who have the 2-2 form of haptoglobin to reduce their risk of heart attacks and dying from diabetes-related heart disease. It is estimated that 40% of diabetics have this blood protein variant, so as many as 2 of every 5 diabetics could benefit from taking Vitamin E supplements.
In 2005, researchers from Rush University Medical Center (USA) reported that people who tend to worry or feel stressed out may be more likely to develop Alzheimer's Disease (AD) later in life. The team surveyed 1,064 men and women age 65 and over about their tendencies towards worry and stress. Those who appeared prone to feeling distressed were twice as likely to develop AD within the 3- to 6-year follow-up timeframe.
Men and women with heart disease can reduce their likelihood of dying by up to 30% by enjoying a Mediterranean-style diet, reports a 2005 study co-authored by researchers at Harvard University (USA) and Athens Medical School (Greece). Opt for colorful vegetables (such as lycopene-rich tomatoes) and fruits (like antioxidant-rich red and purple grapes), cut your consumption of meat and dairy products, and boost your consumption of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (such as olive oil and omega-3 rich foods like fish, soy, grains, and green leafy vegetables).
Prostate cancer is a major cause of death among men. It has claimed the lives of 56,000 European men (1998), along with 29,900 American men (2004). To-date, there have been no obvious preventive strategies, however in 2005 scientists from the Northern California Cancer Center (USA) proposed that Vitamin D may cut prostate cancer risk. The researchers found that in men with certain gene variants, high sun exposure reduced prostate cancer risk by as much as 65%. Previous research has shown that the prostate uses Vitamin D, which the body manufactures from exposure to sunlight, to promote the normal growth of prostate cells and to inhibit the invasiveness and spread of prostate cancer cells to other parts of the body. The scientists propose that men may benefit by increasing Vitamin D intake from diet and supplements (whereas excessive exposure to sunlight may result with the negative effect of sun-induced skin cancer). Foods rich in Vitamin D include egg yolks, liver, and cod liver oil, and margarine and cereals are often fortified with this nutrient as well.
Tracking the diet of 4,775 adults for 12 years, in 2005 Harvard University (USA) scientists revealed findings on the association between different types of fish meals and the risk of stroke in men and women aged 65 and older. They found that eating broiled or baked fish one to four times per week lowered stroke risk by 28% and dining on the same for five or more times per week reduced the risk by 32%. By comparison, fried fish and fish sandwich consumption was associated with a 37% increased risk of stroke.
New data models derived from the Diabetes Prevention Project by the University of Michigan Health System (USA) show that men and women who walked briskly for 30 minutes five days a week, lowered their fat and calorie intake, and achieved a weight-reduction goal of 7% of body weight over a three-year period were able to cut their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58%.
A study by University of Kentucky researchers establishes tooth loss as a predictor for the onset of dementia later in life. The researchers analyzed dental records and brain function test results amassed over a twelve-year period for 144 participants in the Nun Study, a longitudinal study of aging and Alzheimer disease. Among the subjects who were free of dementia at the first cognitive exam, those with no teeth or fewer than nine teeth had a two-fold or greater increased risk of dementia, as compared to those having 10 or more teeth.
Young men and women who are fit (guys who are able to complete 10-12 minutes of treadmill exercise, gals who are able to complete 6-9 minutes of the same) are half as likely to develop high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease, reports a study sponsored by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. As side benefits, fit youths cut their risk of developing diabetes by 50% and tend to gain far less weight (as compared to their less-fit counterparts) over the long term.
While the Pap Smear is a test that doctors routinely conduct to check women for cervical cancer, the Pap may not find abnormal cells in the cervix until cancer already has developed. A new test, the human papilloma virus (HPV) test, detects elevated levels of the infectious pathogen that is the cause of nearly all cases of cervical cancer. HPV is harbored by an estimated 80% of sexually active adults, but the majority of infections clear up without incident. If you are younger than 30, experts now recommended that you have the HPV test if your Pap Smear test is unclear. If you are 30 or older, experts recommend you have the HPV test at the same time as your Pap test. A new vaccine for cervical cancer is now available. The vaccine targets HPV types 16 and 18, thought to cause 70% of cervical cancers, and HPV types 6 and 11, associated with 90% of genital warts cases.
Physical activity can help diabetics control their blood glucose, weight, and blood pressure, raise their “good” cholesterol (HDL) and lower their “bad” cholesterol (LDL). It can also help prevent heart and blood flow problems, reducing the risk of heart disease and nerve damage, which are often problems for people with diabetes. Generally, diabetics should engage in moderate-intensity physical activity for at least 30 minutes on 5 or more days of the week. Some examples of moderate-intensity physical activity are walking briskly, mowing the lawn, dancing, swimming, or bicycling. If you are not accustomed to physical activity, you may want to start with a little exercise, and work your way up. As you become stronger, you can add a few extra minutes to your physical activity. Do some physical activity every day, rather than an extended period of activity once a week.
A Japanese study reported that compounds found in wine may inhibit Alzheimer's Disease (AD). Small pre-proteins (peptides) found in red and white wines inhibit an enzyme implicated in the production and accumulation of amyloid plaques, which deposit in the brain and cause memory loss. The greatest concentrations of these AD-busting peptides are found in Merlot (California), Sauvignon Blanc (Bordeaux) and Pinot Noir wines, and was also detected in the juice and pulp parts of grapes. Tee-totallers may wish to try the nutritional supplement, resveratrol, the active therapeutic ingredient in wine.
A 50-year long tobacco study of smoking and death in the United Kingdom found that on average, cigarette smokers die 10 years younger than non-smokers. But stopping at age 50 cuts the risk in half, and stopping at age 30 avoids almost all of it. Similar findings were published in a 2005 study of Americans. Researchers from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health (USA) tracked 5,887 middle-age smokers with mild lung disease for 14 years. Those who were able to quit smoking experienced a 46% lower death rate, and those who simply tried to quit also experienced lower death rates (as compared to those who continued to smoke). Quitting smoking reduces your risk of stroke (see Tip 4).
Researchers from Memorial University (Newfoundland) found that a dietary supplement containing 18 vitamins, minerals, and trace elements helped healthy men and women age 65 and over to improve their short-term memory, problem-solving ability, abstract thinking, and attention span. The supplement also improved immunity, reducing the rate of infection-related illness by more than 50% (as compared to those who did not take it). This study demonstrates that people who take a daily multivitamin, multimineral supplement enhance their ability to live independently and without major disability. The researchers also calculated that for every $1 US spent on the supplement, $28 US could be saved in healthcare costs by preventing or delaying illness and functional decline.
Potatoes are among the foods richest in potassium, a mineral that fights high blood pressure. One baked potato with skin contains 903 mg of potassium, nearly one-third of the recommended Daily Value. And, in 2005 researchers from the Institute of Food Research (United Kingdom) found that the potato contains natural compounds known as kukoamines, that in an herbal remedy (Lycium chinense) are associated with blood-pressure reducing properties.
Sunburn most commonly happens between 10 am and 3 pm, when ultraviolet (UV) rays are at their strongest. Wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater, when you expect to be out in the sun for more than 15 minutes (a little sun is good for you, see Tip 45). Ladies will also benefit by wearing facial makeup containing SPF. Sunlight can damage the sensitive cells of the macula (the central part of the eye that is responsible for most of our vision), so, be sure to wear sunglasses (pick shades that block 99% of UV-A and UV-B rays), and wear a wide-brim hat.
Antioxidant supplements (Vitamin A, C, E, and selenium) protect cells by neutralizing free radicals, atomic fragments that cause cellular destruction and produce metabolic waste.
Numerous studies point to the value of Vitamin A in boosting immunity, as it enhances Th2 [T-helper cell type 2] mediated immune responses, necessary for fighting bacterial and parasitic infections. In addition, several studies have shown that vitamin A is a potent stimulator of growth hormone production.
Preserved and cured meats (bacon, sausage, deli meats, etc.) are the largest source of nitrites in our diet. Nitrites cause the body to form nitrosamines, which are environmental oxidants and powerful carcinogens. Scientists have established a significant association between nitrosamines and stomach cancer.
A 2005 study of middle-aged men and women living in the United Kingdom found that people who are happier in their daily lives have healthier levels of key body chemicals that those who have few positive feelings. This University College London (UK) study is the first to link everyday happiness with lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, and reduced levels of the blood protein fibrinogen, which causes red blood cells to clot and may contribute to coronary heart disease.
Antioxidant supplements (Vitamin A, C, E, and selenium) protect cells by neutralizing free radicals, atomic fragments that cause cellular destruction and produce metabolic waste.
Okinawa, a prefecture in Japan, has the highest proportion of centenarians in the world, with more than 33% aged 100 years or older. Okinawans have 80% fewer heart attacks than Americans, and 75% fewer cancers, including breast cancer and cancer of the ovaries in women and prostate cancer in men.
Older adults with a bright outlook on the future live longer than those who have a dimmer view. A nine-year long study conducted by Netherlands researchers found that men and women with the highest levels of optimism at the start of the study had the lowest death rates than those in the most pessimistic group. Considering all factors in-total, the risk of death was 29% lower among highly optimistic men and women. In addition, the most optimistic study participants experienced 77% less likelihood of dying of a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular cause (as compared to the most pessimistic group).
Antioxidant supplements (Vitamin A, C, E, and selenium) protect cells by neutralizing free radicals, atomic fragments that cause cellular destruction and produce metabolic waste.
A compound found in olive oil, called oleocanthal, has anti-inflammatory properties much like those associated with the painkiller ibuprofen, an NSAID (see Tip 40), found U.S. researchers in 2005. Oleocanthal inhibits COX enzymes responsible for the inflammatory response implicated in headaches and joint pain. This study not only supports that regular consumption of olive oil might have some of the long-term health benefits of ibuprofen, but may help explain olive oil's widely reported health benefits such as in lowering the rates of heart disease and cancer in populations that consume it in large quantities (such as Mediterranean countries). The study authors conclude that "Our findings raise the possibility that long-term consumption of oleocanthal may help to protect against some diseases."
People with a close circle of friends may outlive those who merely have strong family ties. From the Australian Longitudinal Study of Aging, involving 1,477 men and women aged 70 or more, researchers from Flinders University (Australia) determined in 2005 that greater networks of friends protected against death during a ten-year study period. Having a small circle of confidants, or a social network comprised of solely of relatives, were far weaker contributors to longevity.
Antioxidant supplements (Vitamin A, C, E, and selenium) protect cells by neutralizing free radicals, atomic fragments that cause cellular destruction and produce metabolic waste.
Tomatoes are rich lycopene, an antioxidant nutrient which has been associated with heart health, and, in men -- prostate health. Enjoy fresh tomatoes from local growers when in season. Other times of the year, reach for processed tomatoes knowing that ketchup, tomato paste, and pasta sauces pack even more lycopenes because they are concentrated during the reduction process. Opt for low-sugar, low-salt varieties when choosing processed tomato products.
Water is a critical component of your optimal health program. Man can go many days, even weeks, without food -- but deprived of water, life can end within three days. Water composes more than half our bodies, one quarter of our bones, and one third of our brains. It is present in every cell and tissue of the body and every bodily function, from breathing to eating to thinking -- is utterly dependent upon it. Drink one 8-ounce (236 milliliter) glass of distilled water, with a pinch of salt (for electrolytes), every 1 to 2 hours that you are awake. You may need to drink more when you are physically active.
Aspirin can lower a person's risk of death from any cause, even in men and women who are so inactive that their inactivity increases their risk of death. A daily low dose of aspirin (81 mg) can cut the risk of death in people known or thought to have heart disease by as much as 30-40%, by preventing platelet aggregation.
"Fatty" fish, rich in essential fatty acids (omega-3 fats) which help to lower cholesterol and prevent blood platelets from sticking to artery walls, have gained much positive attention as health-promoting foods. Some fish should be avoided due to high levels of the potential cancer-causing agent, methylmercury. To shop smart for fish, heed the following:
- Salmon (both farmed and wild) is especially low in methylmercury. However, farmed salmon (due to the feed they receive) may contain as much as 16-times the level of PCBs, an industrial polllutant linked to cancer, neurological impairment, and developmental delays in children, as the wild version.
- Flounder, cod, and haddock are also low in methylmercury, and also great sources of lowfat protein and high in B vitamins.
- Trout, tuna, and halibut, while rich in omega-3s, iron, and magnesium, are also fairly high in methylmercury. Limit your consumption.
- Swordfish and shark are extremely high in methylmercury. Best to be totally avoided.
Alcohol in moderation promotes cardiovascular health by boosting concentrations of good cholesterol and inhibiting the formation of dangerous blood clots. Additional compounds in red wine seem to benefit the heart and blood vessels. Drinking also appears to guard against macular degeneration, an incurable eye disease. Alcohol in moderation can also help sustain brain function. A Netherlands study tracking 5,395 men and women age 55 and older who were free of dementia (abnormal mental deterioration in old age) at the start of the study. Those categorized as "moderate drinkers" (having 1 to 3 alcoholic beverages each day) showed only 58% of the risk of dementia calculated for nondrinkers. Tee-totallers may wish to try the nutritional supplement, resveratrol, the active therapeutic ingredient in wine.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) reduce inflammation and are effective against pain and fever (they work by inhibiting prostaglandin synthesis). NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and ketoprofen.
Presently, there are over one dozen ongoing studies that are evaluating NSAIDs for their role in reducing the inflammatory response that may cause or contribute to cancer.
NSAIDs may be beneficial in preventing or treating Alzheimer's disease:
- They have been shown to prevent the build-up of amyloid-beta 42, a protein linked to the disease.
- A study has shown that men and women taking NSAIDs for two years or longer were 80% less likely to develop the Alzheimer's (compared with people who used the drugs for shorter periods or those who did not take them at all). In addition, the longer the participants took the drugs, the greater the decrease in their risk of Alzheimer’s..
IMPORTANT: Check with your doctor before starting any new medications including NSAIDs therapy.
Citrus fruits -- oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, tangerines, and kumquats -- support heart health and may help ward off cancer, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. Eat one a day to enjoy good health.
Fiber soaks up fat. A high-fiber diet can improve your digestion, relieve the strain on your liver and gall bladder, and reduce your risk of large bowel cancer, gallstones, diabetes, arteriosclerosis, colitis, hemorrhoids, hernia, and varicose veins. Your body will benefit from both soluble fiber (sources include dried beans, oats, barley, apples, citrus fruits, and potatoes) and insoluble fiber (found in whole grains, wheat bran, cereals, seeds, and the skins of many fruits and vegetables). Aim for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's recommended intake of 25 to 30 grams of daily fiber a day.
Starting at age 20 or so, the body's level of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) begins to decline, so that by the time we are age 65, many of us have little or no HGH. The decline of HGH is accompanied by many of the miseries we associate with aging, from saggy skin to a potbelly, to a lack of vitality.
For years, scientists have been tapping our kitchens for creative ways to ward off disease and discomfort. Capsaicin, the main chemical in chili pepper, is used in topical creams to provide relief from arthritis. Alllicin, the main ingredient in garlic, can, when consumed in large quantities, reduce cholesterol and blood pressure.
Roll up your sleeves and enjoy 5 to 15 minutes of sunshine each day. The body needs this exposure in order to manufacture Vitamin D (skin cells derive it from sunshine). Vitamin D enhances the absorption of calcium from the intestine and the utilization of calcium and phosphorus in the body, so sunshine indirectly contributes to maintaining strong and healthy bones. Keep other body parts covered with sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher) or clothing, and limit the unprotected exposure to 15 minutes.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is the most abundant hormone in the human body. It is involved in the manufacture of testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, and corticosterone. The decline of DHEA with age parallels that of HGH (see Tip 43), so by the age of 65, our bodies make only 10 to 20% of what they did at age 20.
According to the U.S. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, automobile crashes were the No. 1 cause of death for every age of Americans from age 3 through age 33. For ages 34 through 44, car crashes were the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Don't assume that massive vehicles deliver massive protection: there is more to safety than just brute strength during a collision. Instead of automatically buying the largest possible vehicle, look instead at its overall safety profile (see the weblinks below).
Known best as the "sex drive" hormone in men, testosterone levels in men decrease gradually over time, due to factors such as reduced activity, nutritional deficiency, diabetes, and HGH deficiency. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as andropause. By age 60, many men have less than half the level of testosterone as they did when they were in their teens.
The crusts of bread (and bread-type foods, like pizza) may have cancer-fighting potential. Baking flour changes the amino acid lysine into a compound called pronyl-lysine. Not only does the pronyl-lysine help darken and sweeten a bread's crust, but also activates enzymes that inactivates free radicals. Pronyl-lysine is eight-times more abundant in cooked crusts than in original, uncooked doughs.
Donating your blood can actually do you more good than anyone else who might receive it. Excess iron is thought to be a leading contributor to cancer and heart attacks. An excessive level of iron in your body is one of the most potent ways that your body oxidizes, or prematurely ages (think of your body as an apple, and the iron causing the discoloration when the fruit is exposed to air).
Replenishing the hormones that decline in menopause may help alleviate some of its symptoms. For these women, either combination hormone replacement therapy (HRT, as estrogen with progesterone) or estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) may be appropriate.
In 2005, researchers at Athens Medical School (Greece) found that dark chocolate may decrease key markers of cardiovascular performance implicated in heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. In the study, consumption of dark chocolate decreased wave reflections, exerted a beneficial effect on the lining of blood vessels and the lymphatic system, and did not stiffen arteries. Citing the high flavonoid (a type of antioxidant) content in dark chocolate, along with its observed ability to dilate (relax) arteries after consumption, the researchers concluded that “Chocolate may exert a protective effect on the cardiovascular system.” Previous research by University of California-Davis (USA) scientists found that as little as a handful (25 grams) of semi-sweet chocolate chips caused an increase in blood levels of flavonoids.
Melatonin is most notably known as the hormone of sleep: it is produced in the dark by the pineal gland in the brain. Melatonin production peaks when we are ten or younger, and decreases sharply as we age.
Age-appropriate screening tests lead the list among all the things you can do to prevent yourself from getting sick. Screening tests can find diseases early when they are easier to treat. The age at which you will start having regularly scheduled screenings will vary, based on your sex, your age, your medical and family history, and other factors.
In a single year, an estimated 1.5 billion people travel by commercial airplane. So, it's not too difficult to imagine how easy it could be to become sick while in an airport or aboard an aircraft. To keep the skies friendly to your health, consider following these ten travel-savvy tips:
Avoid eating fried foods for three reasons:
1. All fried foods can contain trans fatty acids (trans fat), formed when vegetable oils are hardened in the cooking process, also hardens arteries. Trans fat increases blood levels of "bad" (LDL) cholesterol, and lowers "good" (HDL) cholesterol. Trans fats have been shown to contribute to the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
2. Fried foods often use vegetable oils (nut and see oils such as canola, soybean, safflower, and corn), which can become rancid and produce large amounts of free radicals that can damage cells, possibly contributing to inflammatory diseases, cancer, obesity, and aging itself.
3. Fried foods contain high levels of a chemical called acrylamide, a by-product of cooking starchy foods at high temperatures. Maastricht University (The Netherlands) researchers found that women who consumed acrylamides were at 29% increased risk of endometrial cancer by 29%, and 78% increased risk of ovarian cancer. As well. The team revealed that the risks were even more pronounced in people with no history of smoking, where the highest acrylamide intakes were associated with a 99% increase in risk of endometrial cancer and 122% increase in risk of ovarian cancer.
Char-broiling meats so they have a dark crust can change proteins and amino acids into substances that can alter the diner's DNA. Cooking meats at very high temperatures for long periods of time can also be risky. The Iowa Women's Health Study found that women who consistently ate meats very well done were 4.6-times more likely to have breast cancer (compared to those who ate meats cooked medium or rate). Adding rosemary extract to precooked ground beef may cut carcinogens (cancer causing compounds) from forming during grilling by up to 80%, reports Kansas Sate University researchers in 2005.
Worldwide cellular connections exceed 5 billion, and some estimates project a steady growth of over 8% annually through 2015. With such broad usage, cellular phone technology is giving rise to important questions about possible long-term health consequences associated with its use. Cellular phones emit low frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs), which have been linked to health conditions such as:
- immune system dysfunction
- male sexual and reproductive issues
- changes in the central nervous system and cardiovascular system
- changes in memory, cognition, attention, and other brain functions
- elevations in blood pressure
- changes in red blood cells
Obesity and overweight are defined by Body Mass Index (BMI), the measure of body fat defined as body weight divided by the square of your height. Calculate your BMI by using the interactive U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's Body Mass Index calculator, at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health (look under "Health Assessment Tools," and select "Body Mass Index (BMI) Calculator") [provides both Metric and US measurements]. A BMI over 25 kg/m2 is defined as overweight, and a BMI of over 30 kg/m2 as obese.
Berries, in general, show great promise in slowing and reversing many of the degenerative diseases associated with an aging brain. With a high ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) value, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries can offset antioxidant damage that may cause vascular damage leading to memory and thinking impairments.
Humans express feelings, and as such, these emotions become the fine lines seen with aging. Squinting leads to crow's feet (lines radiating from the corners of the eyes), frowning causes frown lines (furrows between the eyebrows), and laughing leads to laugh lines (arc-shapes around the mouth). Wrinkles are a result of age-related weakening of the skin's collagen and elastin, the fibers that keep the skin firm in youth. To prevent and minimize fine lines and wrinkles, wear sunblock with an SPF 15 or greater, whenever you venture outdoors for more than 15 minutes. Skin moisturizers containing pregnenolone, a hormone, may help to hydrate the skin and improve visible wrinkles. In 2005, Canadian researchers proved that beta glucan, the soluble fiber found in the cell walls of oat kernels and an ingredient in some skincare products, can penetrate the skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
Libido, or sexual desire and arousal, is a symphony of biochemical signals:
- DHEA (see Tip 46): In animals, DHEA promotes libido, orgasms, and sex appeal.
- Dopamine: A neurotransmitter, it is a primary brain chemical responsible for desire and arousal. By prompting the release of Lutenizing Hormone Release Hormone, dopamine causes men to produce testosterone.
- Testosterone: The key hormone necessary for sexual desire in both men and women, and is critical for men to achieve erection.
- Oxytocin: A protein produced in the brain, it reaches peak levels during orgasm.
Substantial health benefits occur with regular physical activity that is aerobic in nature (such as 30-60 minutes of brisk walking, 5 or more days of the week). Additional health benefits can be gained through greater amounts of physical activity, but even small amounts of activity are healthier than a sedentary lifestyle. Regular exercise in middle age can help men and women prolong their physical prowess as they grow older.
Researchers from the University of Alberta (Canada) found in 2005 that for 90% of the population, keeping the brain sharp as we age can be as simple as being and staying mentally inquisitive. The team found that people who are curious at a young age are more likely to be mentally active, and stay that way, as they age. In addition, people in their 70s and 80s who started incorporating activities to improve mental capacity at those ages could enjoy similar benefits to brain health. Some of the best activities that keep the mind active and curious include: reading, traveling, memorizing poetry, playing card games, doing crossword puzzles, learning how to play a musical instrument, taking classes, and surfing the Internet.
Blotches in which small patches of skin appear to have a different color than the main skin area become common as we age. It is important for you and your dermatologist to watch your skin discolorations carefully. For liver spots (also known as age spots), which are harmless, try cosmetics and skincare products containing one or more of these ingredients:
- Hydroquinone, an antioxidant that has been found to be helpful in breaking down and preventing the accumulation of browned pigment cells that form age spots (lipofuscin).
- Kojic acid, which is derived from mushrooms and soy, and has been used by the Japanese to fight age spots.
- Glycyrrhiza glabra, an herb that breaks up clumps of brown skin cells so that they can be shed by the body’s natural cycle of exfoliation, and fights free radicals, which contribute to the production of lipofuscin.
Researchers from Victoria University (Australia) tracked 3,000 elderly men and women for 15 years, and reported in 2005 that married men lived, on average, 11 months longer than their single counterparts. Marriage, however, was found to have little effect the lifespan of married women. A previous study, by a team at University of Victoria (Canada), that followed 9,775 men and women, found that men and women report a decrease in physical or mental health when they ended a marriage or stopped living with their partner.
While aerobic exercise (see Tip 63) is important to keep weight within a healthy range and improve the cardiovascular system, strength training is just as important. Strength training, also referred to as resistance training, enables men and women at any age to improve their overall health and fitness by increasing muscular strength, endurance, and bone density. This particular type of physical activity also improves insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism.
Giving your time to help others can pay off in real health reasons for yourself. Volunteering increases your cognitive and mental well-being, promoting skills such as thinking, reasoning, remembering, imagining, and learning words. Volunteering helps keep the brain engaged, which helps protect the memory as you age. Volunteers also are physically healthy. Several studies show that people who volunteer have fewer medical problems, and stay physically active, thereby possibly reducing their risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other cardiovascular problems.
We've all heard the adage that "When you sleep with someone, you sleep with everyone they've ever slept with." with regard to the risk of catching an infectious disease from your sex partner, we can only practice -- and encourage our partner to practice -- safer sex. Fluids involved in sex (saliva, blood, vaginal secretions, and semen) can harbor the pathogens that cause sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), which include HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, chancroid, genital herpes, human papilloma virus, Hepatitis B, and trichomoniasis. Some tips for safer sex:
For men and women weighing 155 pounds (70.5 kg), everyday home- and house-related tasks can burn off the excess pounds:
Homocysteine, a marker for cardiovascular disease risk, is associated with lower scores on tests that evaluate cognitive skills (thinking, reasoning, remembering, imagining, and learning words). In a 2005 analysis of data from the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study, tracking men aged between 50 and 85 years, researchers at Tufts University found that men with higher blood levels of folate (folic acid), pyridoxine (Vitamin B6), and cobalamin (Vitamin B12) were able to retain their verbal skills and spatial perception skills. High homocysteine levels were found to decrease recall memory skills. To help prevent against age-related mental decline and reduce homocysteine levels, eat green leafy vegetables (rich in folate and B vitamins), and take a Vitamin B complex supplement.
As we age, the skin becomes papery thin, and suffers from a decrease in oil gland activity (which also may cause skin to become dry). Largely a function of hormonal decline, you may benefit from a hormone replacement regimen. Consult an anti-aging physician, who will follow these guiding principles to design your hormone replacement therapy (HRT) regimen:
- Use natural, not synthetic, agents
- Select bioidentical hormones, which the body is able to use safely and efficiently
- Prescribe proper dosing (as stipulated by laboratory testing for deficits), not supraphysiologic dosing
- Conduct regular follow-up office visits and lab tests, to monitor progress
Kissing is a human expression of emotion that can range in intensity from energetic to erotic, platonic to passionate. As sensually enjoyable as the activity may be, kissing exchanges saliva, microbes and all, from kisser to kissee. Kissing can spread:
- the herpes virus (1 and 2)
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan (USA) should inspire men and women in their 50s and 60s to become physically active -- especially those who have conditions or habits that endanger the heart, like diabetes, high blood pressure, or smoking. Tracking 9,611 older adults, the researchers found that those who were regularly active in their 50s and 60s were 35% less likely to die in the next 8 years than those who were sedentary. The reduction in the risk of early death was achieved in study participants who engaged in very moderate physical activity (leisurely walking, gardening, and dancing). Even those who were obese had a lower risk of dying if they were regularly active. The team concluded that "across all ranges of cardiovascular risk, everybody got a benefit from regular activity, but the biggest absolute benefit, the biggest reduction in deaths, was among high risk people." Commenting on their findings, the lead researcher suggested that, in men and women with cardiovascular issues, the risk of remaining sedentary is far greater than the risk of having an acute problem brought on by exercise.
Broccoli is high in lignans, a phytoestrogen compound that has been shown to benefit cognitive kills (thinking, reasoning, remembering, imagining, and learning words. A 2005 study by researchers at King's College London (United Kingdom) revealed that broccoli also is high in glucosinolates, a group of compounds that can halt the decline of the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, which is necessary for the central nervous system to perform properly (low levels of acetylcholine are common in those with Alzheimer's Disease). If you're not fond of broccoli, try other glucosinolate-rich foods such as: potatoes, oranges, apples, radishes and other cabbage-family vegetables like Brussels sprouts.
As we age, skin becomes drier. Actually, "xerosis," the medical name for dry skin, affects only the very outermost layer of the epidermis – the stratum corneum. Causing the skin to become flaky, itchy, or ‘tight,' discomfort is often the prevailing complaint. Genetics, disease, lifestyle, and the environment can all cause the skin to become dry. Drink 1 8-ounce glass of distilled water, with a pinch of salt (for electrolytes), every 1-2 hours that you are awake. By flushing toxins from the body with liquid that is free of deleterious metals and bacteria, you permit your skin to remain well hydrated.
Physically active adults have higher concentration skills, which may help maintain memory and combat dementia. A study by researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine (USA) found that sedentary lifestyles directly contribute to the decline in cognitive abilities and quality of sleep as we age. In this study, men and women ages 67 to 86, who were functionally independent, participated in a two-week study involving a regimen of 30 minutes of mild physical activity, 30 minutes of social interaction, and a final 30 minutes of mild to moderate physical activity. Sessions began with warm-up stretching and mild to moderate physical activity (walking, stationary upper and lower body exercises). The final period of mild to moderate physical activity included rapid walking, calisthenics or dancing. A 10-minute cool-down concluded the 90-minute regimen. At the end of the two-week period, all participants demonstrated a 4 to 6% improvement in cognitive performance, and improved sleep quality (including deeper sleep and fewer awakenings).
Rough skin is commonly caused by the accumulation of dead skin cells on the skin’s surface. These dead cells are usually discarded by the body via a natural process called exfoliation, where newer cells push older skin cells to the surface and the uppermost layer of dead cells flake off to reveal the newer cells underneath. However, for some reason exfoliation does not always happen. The resulting build-up of dead skin cells causes the skin surface to appear bumpy and rough in texture. Invest in a body brush or loofah. Body brushing is a good way to stimulate blood circulation, which in turn can help to eliminate toxins, and get rid off dead skin cells. Brush the skin in a circular motion, paying particular attention to the elbows, knees, shoulders, back, and thighs. For the best results, brush every day before bathing or showering.
A 2005 study by researchers at Stanford University (USA) tracked 900 adults ages 50 and up for 14 years. They found that the men and women who routinely exercised were less likely to develop pains in their joints and muscles, as well as rheumatoid arthritis. Men and women who ran, swam, walked briskly, biked, or did aerobics experienced 25% less joint and muscle pain. The pain-free men and women who engaged in brisk aerobic exercise completed upwards of 6 hours of activity per week.
Therapeutic touch is a healing modality employed by health practitioners and nurses to help relieve pain, depression, and anxiety. Various scientific experiments have shown that touch causes measurable and positive physiological changes in both the person doing the touching and the one receiving the touch. Hugging can be considered as a two-way version of therapeutic touch. It is a safe alternative to kissing (see Tip 73) and a wholesome, feel-good activity.
Men and women who are hum-drum about exercise might benefit by experimenting with Asian fitness programs.
Forty- to sixty- year olds who practiced soo bahk do, an ancient Korean martial art similar to karate, were found by a group of researchers at the Institute of Technology (USA) to be in much better shape after three years (as compared to sedentary men and women). Those participating in martial arts enjoyed greater aerobic capacity, muscle strength, and endurance, less body fat, better balance, and increased heart and breathing capacities. Soo bahk do also promotes flexibility, strength, speed, and mental focus.
Up to the age of 14, the skin on the face exfoliates naturally every 14 days. This quick rate of renewal leaves the youngster with a healthy-looking glowing complexion. However, as we get older the rate of natural exfoliation slows down. By the age of 25 and over the skin will exfoliate every 28 days or so. The resulting build up of dead skin cells can leave the skin looking dull. Establish a twice-daily skin routine of cleansing, toning, and moisturizing. Look for products that contain alpha and beta hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs), because they can help promote the natural process of exfoliation. Those with sensitive skin may wish to opt for products containing poly hydroxy acid (PHA), as it is non-irritating.
Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health studied data from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, involving 31,742 men ages 53 to 90. They found that men who were physically active reported experiencing better erections. In addition, men who walked briskly for 30 minutes most days of the week reduced their risk of erectile dysfunction by 15 to 20%. The researchers posit that exercise, which benefits overall vascular health, has specific value for the small arteries involved in erections, suggesting that "what happens to the penis may be an early warning of what could happen to the heart, such as a heart attack."
Scientists from the Medical Research Center (Germany) have suggested that having sex regularly can make people smarter. During foreplay and intercourse, large quantities of adrenalin and hydrocortisone are secreted. These compounds stimiulate the grey matter of the brain, which in turn stimulates intellelctual activity, the team explains.
Men and women who have been inactive for a while should start a physical fitness routine sensibly. Speak with your doctor before embarking on an exercise regimen. Some suggestions for the inactive:
- Begin by choosing moderate-intensity activities you enjoy the most. By choosing activities you enjoy, you'll be more likely to stick with them.
- Gradually build up the time spent doing the activity by adding a few minutes every few days or so until you can comfortably perform a minimum recommended amount of activity (30 minutes per day).
- As the minimum amount becomes easier, gradually increase either the length of time performing an activity or increase the intensity of the activity, or both.
- Vary your activities, both for interest and to broaden the range of benefits.
- Explore new physical activities.
- Reward and acknowledge your efforts.
Acne, America's #1 skin disease, is caused by a disorder of the sebaceous glands (glands in the skin that produce oil) that blocks pores, thus producing an outbreak of skin lesions we've nicknamed as zits, pimples, and other less-flattering names. Use oil-free skin care products and wear oil-free cosmetics and oil-free sunblock to reduce the risk of clogged pores. Do not pick or squeeze acne eruptions, as doing so may cause the blockage to be bushed further into the skin. If you suffer from acne use a lotion or gel that contains 2.5% benzoyl peroxide to kill off acne-causing bacteria. If you see no improvement in two months, see a dermatologist.
People who eat breakfast are less likely to catch a cold or the flu, found researchers from Cardiff University (United Kingdom). The team speculates that a hearty breakfast fuels the immune system with cellular energy. Additionally, people who routinely miss breakfast are more likely to have more stressful, hectic lives, which may weaken immune defenses and increase the chances of getting an infection. Start your day with fresh fruit (oranges or berries) or unsweetened juice, dairy foods (low-fat milk or yogurt), and whole grains (whole-grain hot or cold cereals, whole-wheat toast).
Physical exercise promotes faster time to sleep and improves progress through the stages of sleep:
- Moderate aerobic exercise three days a week has been found to promote sound sleep.
- Strength training exercise (including weightlifting) prompts the release of Human Growth Hormone (HGH), rising levels of which at night coincide with sleep (see Tip 43).
- Exercise strengthens bones and joints, thereby helping to alleviate pain that can be bothersome in falling or staying asleep
NOTE: It is best to avoid exercising within the 2-4 hours before bedtime because of the hormone-releasing (and thus possibly stimulating) effect.
Stress is an insidious trigger of disease. People who are unable to relieve daily stress suffer a variety of health consequences, most commonly fatigue, frequent headaches, and stomach upset. The emotional response of stress is a function of the release of the hormone, cortisol. In times of stress, the adrenal glands atop the kidneys release cortisol. Unfortunately, long-term cortisol release accelerates the aging process. Unrestrained cortisol secretion can inhibit immunity, slow protein synthesis (necessary for tissue repair), lead to loss of nerve cells, brain damage, bone loss, muscle wasting, increase in abdominal fat, psychosis, and premature aging and death. Long-term oversecretion of cortisol due to chronic prolonged stress can lead to hypertension and hypoglycemia, both with deadly consequences.
People who maintain a physically active lifestyle enjoy the benefits of a stronger immune system into older age. University of Colorado-Boulder (USA) researchers found that there is an age-related decline in the antibody response to signals that elicit the immune response. Physical activity helps to maintain a more optimal T cell-mediated response, and is especially important in those in their 50s, 60s, and beyond, because older people tend to be immunocompromised.
People who maintain a physically active lifestyle enjoy the benefits of a stronger immune system into older age. University of Colorado-Boulder (USA) researchers found that there is an age-related decline in the antibody responese to signals that elicit the immune response. Physical activity helps to maintain a more optimal T cell-mediated response, and is especially important in those in their 50s, 60s, and beyond, because older people tend to be immunocompromised.
A lifetime of low-level exposure to lead in the environment may contribute to mental decline as we age, reported researchers at Harvard School of Public Health in 2005. Tracking 466 men averaging 67 years of age, the team found that the higher the men's level of lead present in the kneecap, a bone marker of cumulative lead exposure, the worse they scored in tests of memory, attention, language, and other mental functions. A separate study by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (USA) found that accumulated lead exposure increases the risk of cataracts, a leading cause of age-related blindness. The team tracked 642 men aged 60 and older for five years, finding that those who developed cataracts had increased levels of lead in their bones.
Among the ways to reduce your stress levels, some of the top ways involve being good to yourself:
- Avoid negativity: Poor morale and outlook can be contagious. Avoid people who speak and behave negatively. Rather, stick with friends who find that silver lining and share your enthusiasm for life.
- Reward yourself with meditation and self-reflection. Set aside a focused period of quiet time each day during which you contemplate inner peace and mind-body wellness.
- Enjoy the pleasures of deep breathing. Clear both mind and body of stress-inducing blockages by fully inhaling and exhaling for ten minutes at a time, three times daily.
People spend about 90% of their time indoors. Consequently. the risks to health may be greater due to exposure to air pollution indoors than outdoors. Cut down on indoor triggers of allergies and asthma by following these simple tips:
- Remove pets from the home and thoroughly clean to eliminate their dander.
- Opt for leather furniture rather than upholstered pieces, since leather is an impervious material that is resistant to breeding dust mites.
- Eliminate carpet and drapes.
- Dust both vertical and horizontal surfaces weekly.
- Keep indoor humidity below 50% year round.
- Open windows for an hour each day during dry seasons to improve ventilation.
- Use a HEPA air filter in the bedroom
- Clean mold off shower curtains, bathroom and basement walls and other surfaces with a solution of bleach, detergent and water.
- Use a dehumidifier if your basement is damp or musty.
- Never allow smoking in the house.
At the gym, you're sharing equipment with some friends and mostly strangers, and germs with everyone. Along with the standard wipe-down, you can take important steps to cut down your risk of picking up an unwanted gym buddy:
A sleep debt is the accumulated amount of lost sleep over time. Those who need 7 hours of sleep a night, can, over a week, amass a sleep debt of 7 hours if only get 6 hours of sleep nightly. A sleep debt robs us of quality of life, deteriorating our physical and cognitive acuity slowly until we are overwhelmed by powerful and sudden sleepiness. The nationwide sleep debt, resulting in fatigue, has been reported to cost the American economy about $120 million annually in both health expenditures, lost worker productivity, and property destruction.
Social and productive activities provide equivalent advantages to staying alive as do physical fitness activities. Harvard Medical School researchers found that people with a chronic medical condition that makes physical exertion difficult may greatly benefit from participating in social activities. Spend an afternoon tea with your friends, play bridge on Friday night, or have an impromptu get-together with neighbors. When you spend quality time with those who share your interests, you establish the basis for a social network that helps you to maintain a positive outlook on life.
A 2005 study by researchers at the Federal Research Centre of Nutrition and Food (Germany) found that those men and women who took daily vitamins and minerals with probiotics (bacteria that can activate the immune system, particularly T-cells) for at least three months reported reported reduced cold symptoms than those suffered by people who took only vitamins and minerals. The men and women taking a combination of vitamins, minerals, and probiotics experienced:
- Colds that lasted almost two days less (than an average otherwise of nine days)
- Less time with a fever, reduced to 6 hours (rather than the average otherwise of 24 hours)
- Less severe headaches, coughing, and sneezing
We spend just about a third of our days sleeping, so it is important that the air in your bedroom be as pristine as possible. Some tips to minimize bedroom allergens:
- Vacuum often with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter vacuum, which prevents dust particles from recirculating.
- Wash bedding weekly in hot water (130°F) and dry in a hot dryer.
- Replace bedding made of natural materials like down and cotton with bedding made of synthetic fibers.
- Encase mattresses and pillows in dust mite-proof covers. Wash blankets and pillowcases which aren't encased once a week in hot water.
- Do not allow pets into the bedroom. A study by Dr. Shepard of the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center (USA) reported that 53% of pet owners permitting the animal in the sleeping room had disrupted sleep every night. Pet allergies can also contribute to problems breathing during sleep.
- Leave dust-prone plants, knick-knacks, and fuzzy stuffed toys out of the bedroom.
Minimize your odds of experiencing poor sleep by the following:
- Reduce sources of electromagnetic fields (EMFs), waves of electric and magnetic energies that are produced by electronic and electrical equipment. They can affect brainwaves so as to alter mental acuity and change mood and sleep patterns. EMFs are produced by electric clocks and clock radios, televisions and computers, cellular phones and cordless phones, lamps, and ionization–type smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Keep these items at least 15 feet (4.6 meters) away from the bed.
- Reduce chemical irritants that may cause breathing difficulties that can interfere with getting to sleep or getting a continuous night's sleep:
- Remove home furnishings made with synthetics or that are chemically treated (carpeting, furniture, draperies)
- Do not bring freshly dry cleaned clothes (high in vapors of the solvents used in the cleaning process) into the bedroom until aired out in a separate room for several days. Close the closet door before sleeping.
- Use natural, non-treated cotton or silk sheets. Avoid "permanent press" sheets as these are treated with chemicals (most notably, formaldehyde).
Thanks to today’s contemporary lifestyle of fast foods, our 24/7/365 accessibility, and the growing pressures of many of us in our professional and personal lives, we have become a population of toxemics. “Toxemia” is the medical term that defines a condition in which our bodies accumulate poisonous substances to such a point that levels exceed the ability of our body systems to cleanse them away. Medical conditions associated with toxemia include:
- Hepatitis A, B, C, D, E, F, and G
- Liver damage, including cirrhosis
Include fiber in your everyday diet, because fiber can promote the digestive and elimination processes to help your body get rid of toxins (see Tip 42).
In 2005, the American Society for Microbiology (USA) reported that while 91% of American adults say they always wash their hands after using public restrooms, in actuality only 83% actually did so. Women were more likely to wash their hands (90%) as compared to men (75%). The same survey also revealed these other lackluster handwashing habits:
- Only 21% of men and women say they always wash their hands after handling money
- Only 24% of men and 39% of women say they always wash their hands after coughing or sneezing
The bed is not merely a home furnishing, it is an integral part of your sleep environment:
- If you share a bed, both of you may sleep best in a king-size bed, particularly if your bed partner is prone to tossing and turning or has restless leg syndrome. Two adults in a double- or queen- size bed have as much horizontal space as a baby does in a crib!
- A properly selected and maintained mattress provides positive resistance to the sleeper’s body weight. Goldilocks was right:
- A mattress that is too firm will not provide even body support, tending instead to support only at the body’s heaviest parts (shoulders and hips).
- A mattress that is too soft will not keep the spine in proper alignment with the rest of the body. As a result, your muscles will work throughout the night to straighten the spine, leading to aches and pains in the morning.
- Rotate your mattress and turn it over every 2 to 3 months to reduce sags, imprints, bumps, and valleys.
- The foundation part of the bed (box spring) extends the life of the mattress. It absorbs the major portion of the stress and weight placed on the sleep surface.
The hormone cortisol is produced during times of stress by the adrenal glands (located atop the kidneys). You can reduce cortisol production by restoring adrenal balance, including by boosting the adrenal gland production of DHEA (see Tip 46):
- Go outdoors: a lack of natural light causes seasonal depression and may lead to an imbalance in adrenal function. Go outside for at least one hour each day, making sure to splash on the sunscreen that's appropriate for your skin protection needs.
- Go whole: Eat a whole foods diet. Minimize (preferably, eliminate) caffeine, sugar, and alcohol -- substances that elevate adrenal function.
- Supplement the adrenals: Consider taking a daily nutritional supplement of DHEA or Siberian Ginseng, which contains a compound that the body uses to manufacture pregnenolone, the precursor to DHEA. Consult an anti-aging physician to determine the best dose for you.
- Identify possible food allergies: With the help of an anti-aging physician, find food triggers of stress and develop a proper food rotation diet, keep the physical demands on the adrenal glands to a minimum.
Fine particles, that is particulate matter in the air measuring less than 2.5 microns in diameter, can cause serious health problems. According to the American Lung Association, "tens of thousands of premature deaths each year are attributed to fine particle air pollution," microscopic substances such as acid aerosols, organic chemicals, metals, and carbon soot.
Children in families with cats or dogs have fewer pet allergies than new pet owners or those who had only exposed earlier in life. A 2005 study by researchers at the Central Hospital of Norrbotten (Sweden), which tracked 2,454 children for four years, found that, in all cases where allergies were not a result of genetics, exposure to animal allergens protected boys and girls from developing allergies. A previous study, conducted by researchers at the Institute for Social Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (Germany) found that children who were continually exposed to pets (in this study, cats) were 67% less likely than other kids to develop asthma and 45% less likely to develop hayfever.
If you experience trouble falling asleep, or staying asleep, consider the following:
- An irregular or inconsistent schedule of being awake/asleep sets the biological stage for poor sleep. Set a regular schedule, particularly for the time at which you get up everyday.
- Avoid caffeine (commonly found in soda, soft drinks, coffee, and tea), which is a stimulant, for six hours before bedtime, longer if you know these substances give you trouble sleeping. Also avoid hidden sources of caffeine, such as chocolate and some over-the-counter pain and cold remedies.
- Avoid nicotine (from cigarettes or a skin patch), also a stimulant, for at least six hours prior to bedtime.
- Avoid alcohol after dinnertime. While a drink may help you fall asleep, it will probably cause you to awaken in the middle of the night.
- If you are on any prescription or over-the-counter medications, ask your doctor if any of them could be keeping you awake or causing you not to get a refreshing sleep.
Low levels of a chemical found in plastic containers and tin cans increases the risk for prostate abnormalities, reports a 2005 study conducted at the University of South Dakota School of Medicine (USA). While the study was conducted on mice, researchers warn the same findings could hold true for men, because exposure levels by the lab animals in the study were far lower than that of a human baby. Blood levels of the compound Bisphenol A, BPA, at levels well below thresholds deemed safe by the US Environmental Protection Agency area were found to cause malformations of the prostates of developing animals, and these malformations were suspected to predispose these animals to prostate cancer as adults. The study also found that male mouse fetuses exposed to Bisphenol A developed abnormally enlarged prostate ducts, putting them at risk for a condition similar to benign prostate hypertrophy (BPH).
Before a natural disaster strikes, create your Emergency Plan. It should include the following features:
- Call for the Basics: Contact your State Emergency Management Office to find out:
- What kinds of natural disasters might happen in your area
- what type of warning system(s) are in place
- What your local evacuation route options are
- What special help would be available for the elderly or disabled
- Also, find out from your workplace, your partner's workplace, and your childrens' school or daycare, what their Emergency Plans are.
- Meet with the family to brief them on what you found. Collect their questions and be sure to incorporate the answers into your Plan.
- Be familiar with, and make sure all adults in the home are familiar with, switches to turn off water, gas, and electricity that supplies the house.
- Teach children how and when to call 911, police, and fire departments.
- Establish evacuation routes from your home and a meeting place a safe distance from your home. Practice your evacuation at least twice a year.
- Post emergency telephone numbers near each phone.
- Keep family records and important documents in a safety deposit box at a bank.
- Pick one out-of-state and one local friend or relative for family members to contact if separated during a disaster.
- Be sure to include instructions to address elderly or disabled family members if they reside in your home.
- Have a Disaster Supplies Kit always at-the-ready (see Tip 112).
The kitchen can be a germination ground that breeds bacteria that may contaminate food and can then get us sick. There are about 76 million cases of food-borne illnesses a year, and most of them occur from bugs in our very own homes. While no kitchen will ever be germ-free, here are some tips that can help reduce the bacteria that might transfer into food:
- Wash your hands (see Tip 102) before beginning to prepare food. Wash them again after you touch raw meat, fish, or vegetables, and between touching these different foods (to reduce cross-contamination).
- Microwave kitchen sponges on high for one minute, every day.
- Launder or microwave discloths regularly, three or more times a week.
- Clean the kitchen sink drain, disposal and connecting pipe once a week. Sanitize them by pouring down the sink a solution of 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) of chlorine bleach in 1 quart (about 1 liter) of water or a solution of commercial kitchen cleaning agent made according to product directions. Food particles get trapped in the drain and disposal and, along with the moistness, create an ideal environment for bacterial growth.
In a study by researchers at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College (United Kingdom), those subjects who worked for a boss they considered as unfair experienced a 15 mm Hg rise in their systolic pressure and a 7 mm Hg increase in their diastolic pressure (as compared to days on which they worked for a boss they considered as more favorable). A rise of just 10 mm Hg systolic pressure and/or 5 mm Hg diastolic pressure is associated with a 16% higher risk of heart disease and 38% increased risk of stroke.
The American Red Cross recommends six basics you should stock for your home in the case of an emergency. Keep the items that you would most likely need during an evacuation in an easy-to carry container (a covered trash container, a camping backpack or a duffle bag) that is kept in a readily accessible location (the guest closet or garage, for example).
Kinston University (United Kingdom) researchers reported in 2005 that an unmade bed, while unattractive to the eyes, is unappealing to house dust mites, tiny bugs (shorter than 1 mm long) that feed on shed human skin cells and produce excretions that, when inhaled by people, can cause allergic reactions and asthma. According to the team, the average bed can house as many as 1.5 million dust mites. When a bed is made immediately or shortly after people get out of it, moisture can become trapped in the sheets and mattress, creating a haven for the mites. Moisture is minimized in unmade beds, and as a result the mites will more be more likely to dehydrate and die than feast and multiply.
The United Nations estimates that at least four million people worldwide have Parkinson's Disease (PD), a type of motor system disorder that is marked by tremor, rigidity, slowness of movement, and postural instability.
In the event of a natural disaster, which may compromise your access to water from your tap or bottle source, follow these techniques to purify water for drinking:
- Boiling -– vigorously, for 10 minutes
- Bleaching -– add 10-20 drops of household bleach per gallon of water, mix well, and let stand for 30 minutes. A slight smell or taste of chlorine indicates water is good to drink. (Note: do not use scented bleaches, colorsafe bleaches, or bleaches with added cleaners.)
- Tablets -– commercially available purification tablets
- Solar disinfection, known as SODIS -- a new technique developed by researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute for Environmental Science and Technology. Clear plastic bottles are filled with water and left in the sun. The heat warms the water and the combination of warm water and ultraviolet radiation kills most microorganisms. The Institute’s tests showed that 99.9% of the E. coli in a sample of contaminated water were killed when the sun heated the water beyond 122F (50C). At that temperature, disinfection takes about an hour, but placing a corrugated metal sheet under the bottle can shorten the time. Additional tests demonstrate SODIS as an effective approach for killing the cholera bacteria, Vibrio cholerae, and that it could inactivate parasites including the diarrhea-causing Cryptosporidium.
The mouth can harbor 500 different kinds of microorganisms, which readily and rapidly reproduce in the warm, dark, moist environment and can enter the body through the body's airways and digestive pathways. Dental problems have been linked to the following diseases:
- Heart Disease: Bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream and may deposit into the vessels that supply the heart. A University of North Carolina (USA) study found that 85% of heart attack victims had severe gum disease.
- Stroke: Studies have found that people with severe gum disease have twice the risk of stroke (as compared to people with good oral health).
- Diabetes: Diabetics with gum disease are three times more likely to have heart attacks (as compared to diabetics without)
- Pneumonia: A University of Buffalo (USA) research study found that germs found in dental plaque can cause pneumonia, as respiratory pathogens in the plaque can readily be inhaled into the lungs.
Stop deadly germs from multiplying and spreading from your mouth:
- Eat a balanced and nutritional diet
- Brush and floss twice a day
- Visit the dentist regularly for preventive checkups and cleanings
Enjoy these foods and beverages that have been shown to promote good oral health:
- Green tea: University of Illinois-Chicago (USA) researchers found that drinking green tea reduced the number of bacteria in the mouth that cause bad breath. In a separate study, Pace University (USA) scientists found that flavorids, a compound in green tea, work with the germ killers in toothpaste and mouthwash, boosting their effectiveness at warding off viruses and preventing cavities.
- Black tea: A study by the Vivekananda Institute (India) reported in 2005 that people who drank black tea for one year had a reduced risk of developing oral cancer.
- Cranberry juice: Researchers at the University of Rochester (USA) have shown that cranberry juice helps to stop bacteria from sticking to teeth, thereby preventing the formation of plaque (the cause of tooth decay and gum disease). Separate research by a team at University of Illinois-Chicago (USA) found that cranberry juice interfered with the viability and growth of oral pathogens.
- Raisins: In 2005, University of Illinois-Chicago (USA) researchers found that two compounds in raisins were successful in fighting bacteria in the mouth that cause cavities and gum disease.
Many of us are not getting the necessary amount or quality of sleep we need each night in order to function at our best the next day (see Tip 96). Napping cannot necessarily make up for inadequate or poor quality nighttime sleep, but taking a short nap does have its benefits. According to the U.S. National Sleep Foundation:
- Naps can restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents. A study by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness by 100%.
- Naps can increase alertness in the period directly following the nap and may extend alertness a few hours later in the day.
- Scheduled napping has also been prescribed for those who are affected by narcolepsy.
- Napping has psychological benefits. A nap can be a pleasant luxury, a mini-vacation. It can provide an easy way to get some relaxation and rejuvenation.
The U.S. National Sleep Foundation offers these smart tips about napping:
- Make your nap the right length: A short nap lasting 20 to 30 minutes can provide significant benefit for improved alertness and performance without leaving you feeling groggy or interfering with nighttime sleep.
- Take your nap in the right environment: Take your nap in a restful place where you are lying down. The temperature in the room should be comfortable. If possible, limit the amount of noise you can hear, and the extent of the light filtering in.
- Take your nap at the right time: Napping late in the day may affect your nighttime sleep patterns and make it difficult to fall asleep at your regular bedtime. Likewise, you may not be able to nap if you try to do so too early in the day.
Saving $100 a month, and presuming a federal tax rate of 25% and state tax rate of 6%, after 20 years your savings will be valued at $128,229.71 ($69,730.59 after adjusting for a 3% inflation rate). It would take 45 years and 6 months for that monthly $100 to reach $1 million (before adjusting for inflation).
A 2005 study by Merrill Lynch found that 77% of men and women ages 40 to 58 plan to work in retirement. Some of these people will become consultants in the industry in which they worked all their lives, while others will embark on a completely new career. A retirement job can boost your nest egg significantly. Assuming you retire at age 65, work two days a week earning 40% of what you earned before retiring, you can increase your savings by 30% over a five-year period (assumes 6% annual return and an annual inflation rate of 3%). Working during retirement also helps to maintain a social network that has been found to be key in maintaining a meaningful life.
The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M) is the leading worldwide medical organization dedicated to the advancement of technology to detect, prevent, and treat aging related disease and to promote research into methods to retard and optimize the human aging process. As a federally registered (USA) non-profit medical organization, A4M is also dedicated to educating physicians, scientists, and members of the public on
anti-aging issues. A4M believes that the disabilities associated with normal aging are caused by physiological dysfunction which in many cases are ameliorable to medical treatment, such that the human lifespan can be increased, and the quality of one's life improved as one grows chronologically older.
Man's best friend can be your ideal personal fitness trainer.
Caffeine may help improve both the effects of your exercise routine, and how well you recover from exertion as well.
Researchers at the Australian Institute of Sport found that athletes who consumed a small intake of caffeine before exercise maintained their stamina far longer than those who did not consume it. The caffeine also boosted the amount of weight lost during physical activity. As well, pre-exercise caffeine raised exercise capacity by 3.5%.
If you are one of the millions with a desk job, be sure to get out of your chair once an hour for 5-10 minutes to do some standing stretches.
Older women living in neighborhoods in which they have access to facilities like parks, trails, or shops have considerably higher levels of activity that those who live outside 20 minutes walking distance of such locations.
Fruits and vegetables with deep, dark hues pack the most ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity). ORAC-rich fruits and vegetables are reported to have more nutrients and greater antioxidant power to scavenge free radicals.
The therapeutic role of vitamin D, "the sunshine vitamin," for bone health, has become well established. A number of recent studies now link vitamin D deficiency to adverse health consequences such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and some infectious diseases.
Manchester University (United Kingdom) researchers observed that brains infected with the herpes simplex virus, HSV-1, also had elevated levels of the beta amyloid protein characteristic of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Previous research has found that HSV-1 is found in the brains of up to 70% of people afflicted with AD. Separately, researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center (New York, USA) found the HSV-1 virus is more likely to cause a problem in people who carry a mutant version of the ApoE4 gene, which is carried by the vast majority of AD patients.
Carrots are rich in beta carotene, a free-radical fighting compound shown to protect against ultraviolet damage and help to enhance the immune system.
Walking is an excellent physical activity for aging men and women. University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (Pennsylvania, USA) researchers reported that older adults who boost their walking speed over time live longer. The team followed 439 adults, ages 65 and over, and found those who improved their walking speed over a one-year period were 18% less likely to die over the next eight years. Interestingly, the study found that walking speed during the first year of study was the only factor to predict the subjects’ long-term survival; other tests of physical health, and self-assessment surveys, did not.
In the western world, people consume on-average 10 to 12 grams of salt daily, mostly unknowingly as salt is frequently added by food producers/manufacturers, if not by the individual when cooking or serving foods. While salt is a vital nutrient involved in many body functions, overconsumption can markedly raise blood pressure, putting people at-risk for a fatal cardiovascular event.
Cardiorespiratory fitness – CRF – is the ability of the body's circulatory and respiratory systems to supply fuel and oxygen to skeletal muscles during sustained physical activity. Researchers from the University of South Carolina (South Carolina, USA) reported that men and women ages 60+ with higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness live longer than unfit adults; this correlation is independent of levels of body fat. The team studied more than 2,600 adults ages 60 years and over, for a 12 year period, and found that those who died were older, had lower fitness levels, and had more cardiovascular risk factors than survivors. With no significant differences in body fat measures, across a wide variance of body fat levels (excluding the most obese) the fit study subjects were found to have lower death rates than unfit subjects. Higher levels of CRF also corresponded to lower all-cause death.
The worldwide epidemic of childhood obesity is progressing at an alarming rate, and the disease is now projected to take its toll on life expectancy. Researchers from the of Preventive Medicine, Center for Health and Society (Denmark) correlated an increased body mass index (BMI) in childhood with an increased risk of heart disease in adulthood, with this risk escalating with increasing age.
A ten-year long European study involving 20,649 men and women found that increased blood levels of Vitamin C reduce the risk of stroke by 42%. University of Cambridge (United Kingdom) researchers revealed that both consumption of Vitamin C-rich foods and dietary vitamin supplements were equivalent in providing stroke-reducing benefits. They found that an optimal blood level of Vitamin C was reached after study subjects ingested five servings of fruits and vegetables.
An increased consumption of legumes, such as peanuts and soybeans, has been shown to markedly reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes. A joint Vanderbilt University (Tennessee, USA) / Shanghai Cancer Institute (China) study followed 64,227 Chinese women for nearly five years. In those study subjects with a high intake of a variety of legumes, the researchers found that diabetes risk was reduced by 38%. In particular, a high intake of soybeans was associated with a 47% risk reduction.
A number of studies validate lifestyle and other modifiable factors to promote a long and healthy lifespan:
• Cambridge University (United Kingdom) researchers report that healthy lifestyle choices can extend lifespan by 14 years. In a study of 20,000 men and women, ages 45 to 79, conducted for 13 years, Kay-Tee Khaw and colleagues found that those study subjects with the lowest number of healthy behaviors were four-times more likely to die, most notably from cardiovascular disease. Specifically, the team found that study participants with the lowest healthy lifestyle scores had the same risk of dying as someone with the highest healthy lifestyle scores who was 14 years older. The lifestyle change with the biggest benefit was smoking cessation, associated with an 80% improvement in lifespan. The second most significant change was increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. Thirdly, moderate drinking; and fourthly, staying physically active, rounded out the four most beneficial lifestyle choices to extend lifespan.
Among middle-aged men aged women, shifting a greater proportion of a day’s total calorie intake to the breakfast meal may help to curb weight gain. Addenbrooke’s Hospital (United Kingdom) researchers studied more than 6,700 men and women, ages 40 to 75 years, for nearly four years, and found that people who ate a greater proportion (22 to 50%) of their total daily calories at breakfast time gained 0.79 kilograms of weight over time. By contrast, those who consumed 11% or less of their total day’s worth of calories at breakfast gained an average of 1.23 kilograms. The team notes that each 10% increase in calorie consumption at breakfast equated to approximately 210 to 320 grams less weight gain on-average over a four-year period.
Telomeres are the endcaps on chromosomes, and telomeric shortening is thought to govern the number of times a cell can divide. In white blood cells (leukocytes), telomere shortening is used as a marker of biological age. King’s College London (United Kingdom) researchers studied 2,401 twins, tracking their physical activity level, lifestyle habits, and examined the length of the telomeres in the subjects’ white blood cells (leukocytes).The team confirmed that telomere length decreased with age; men and women who were less physically active in their leisure time had shorter leukocyte telomeres than those who were more active. The mean difference in leukocyte telomere length between the most active subjects (who performed an average of 199 minutes of physical activity per week) versus the least active subjects (16 minutes of physical activity per week) was 200 nucleotides. This translated to mean that “the most active subjects had telomeres the same length as sedentary individuals up to 10 years younger, on average.”
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of legal blindness for people ages 55-plus in the Western world, causing the loss of central vision. Researchers from the Fondazione G. B. Bietti-Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico (Italy) studied 27 men and women, average age 69.6 years, for one year. Fifteen study participants received daily antioxidant and carotenoid supplements, which provided 180 mg vitamin C, 30 mg vitamin E, 22.5 mg zinc, 1 mg copper, 10 mg lutein, 1 mg zeaxanthin, and 4 mg astaxanthin. The team found that the subjects who received the supplement showed a significant improvement in the function of the central retina (the portion of the eye most adversely impacted in AMD).
Berries are a rich source of polyphenols and other bioactive substances (such as Vitamin C) with antioxidant potential. Researchers from the National Public Health Institute (Finland) studied 77 men and women (average age 58 years). The team found that those who consumed a 100 grams or more of whole berries [or 50 grams or more of berry products (nectars or purees)] daily for two months reduced their systolic blood pressure by 7.3 mm/Hg, and increased their levels of HDL (high-density, or “good”) cholesterol by 5% or more. As well, a berry-rich diet inhibited platelet function (increased rates of which are correlated to blood clotting and atherlesclerosis – hardening of the arteries) by 11%.
Previous studies have suggested that physical activity decreases the risk of certain cancers. University of California, Los Angeles (USA) researchers have found that men who work in jobs that require a continuous level of high physical effort are at reduced risks of developing prostate cancer. The team compared the physical activity of 392 workers who developed prostate cancer with 1,805 men similarly employed and of similar age. Amongst a group of aerospace workers, 64% of whom were involved in work that required sustained and high levels of physical activity, the odds for prostate cancer were 45% lower, as compared to their less active counterparts.
Black tea is made from the Camellia sinesis plant, where the leaves and stems are aged. Containing 2% to 4% caffeine, black tea is a rich source of antioxidants – compounds that fight free radical damage. University of Dundee (Scotland) researchers found that black tea mimics insulin and thus may help prevent Type 2 diabetes. Specifically, two antioxidant compounds present in black tea, theaflavins and thearubigins, were observed to affect insulin-like signaling of a transcription factor that regulates aging in response to dietary factors.
A condition in which a person is unable to maintain alertness during the daytime hours, excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) is characterized by a general lack of energy, even after apparently adequate night time sleep.
Type-2 diabetes affects upwards of 5% of the world’s population, and the number of cases is projected to rise in the coming decades, due to factors such as aging, obesity, and the pervasiveness of a sedentary lifestyle. Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center (Tennessee, USA) researchers followed 64,000 women residing in China, ages 40 to 70 years, for nearly 5 years, assessing their daily fruit and vegetable intakes and tracking the onset of diabetes. Those women who consumed the most vegetables -- averaging 428 grams, or 15 ounces, daily – were at 28% lower risk of developing the disease.
An essential trace element which is necessary for growth and protein synthesis, selenium acts as an antioxidant to protect cells from free radical damage that may contribute to aging and many age-related diseases. Johns Hopkins University of Public Health (Maryland, USA) researchers studied more than 13,800 subjects for 12 years, and found that a modest selenium level, between 130 and 150 ng/mL, associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.
With the gains in life expectancies worldwide creating a swelling aging population, bone health is quickly becoming a major public health issue. The lifetime risk for a woman to have an osteoporotic fracture is 30-40% and men have a 13% risk. Low bone mass, or osteopenia, places many aging adults at increased risk for osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis affects 75 million people in Europe, the United States, and Japan, and will continue to bloom into a major public health crisis as the global population ages.
Leafy greens such as green leafy lettuce, broccoli, and turnip tops contain 10 to 100 times the level of Vitamin A, a potent antioxidant, than other vegetables and fruit. Researchers from the Galician Public Foundation for Health Emergencies (Spain) studied the dietary intakes of 295 Spanish residents with lung cancer and 322 healthy counterparts. The team found that the subjects who consumed at least one portion daily of green leafy vegetables were at a 50% reduced risk for lung cancer. Consumption of other vegetables, such as tomatoes and green beans, showed a protective but non-significant effect; as well, fruit was only nominally protective.
Colorectal cancer is the fourth commonest form of cancer occurring worldwide, representing 12.6% of all incident cancers in westernized nations in men and 14.1% in women. Many researchers believe that a majority of colorectal cancer cases are a result of dietary factors, such as insufficient daily fruit and vegetable consumption. University of Kaiserslautern (Germany) researchers found that apple pectin and apple juice are high in a compound known as butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid. Butyrate not only contributes to the maintenance of healthy colon tissue, but the team also discovered that the compound exerts an anti-cancer effect on the colon, by inhibiting the enzymes necessary for tumors to develop.
A number of studies have established a body of evidence linking nut consumption to potential beneficial effects for heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's Disease, and cancer:
Testosterone levels in men decrease gradually over time, due to factors such as reduced activity, nutritional deficiency, diabetes, and HGH deficiency. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as andropause. By age 60, many men have less than half the level of testosterone as they did when they were in their teens. Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) can help men to:
Studies have suggested that maximum aerobic power in men falls by up to half between the ages of 20 and 60; in women, aerobic power starts to fall by age 35 and drops by up to half by age 60. Researchers from the University of Toronto (Canada) found that those who maintain aerobic fitness through their middle age and beyond delay the aging process by more than a decade. Specifically, the team identified seven studies that document that when aerobic power increases by 25%, 12 years of aging-related loss of fitness can be reversed. The researchers also observed that aerobic fitness warded off risks of serious illness, promoted recovery after injury or illness, and reduced the risk of falls.
Soluble fiber is found in foods such as oat/oat bran, dried beans and peas, nuts, barley, flax seed, fruits such as oranges and apples, vegetables such as carrots, and psyllium husk. It binds with fatty acids and prolongs stomach emptying time so that sugar is released and absorbed more slowly. Researchers from Hospital Universitari de Sant Joan (Spain) randomly assigned 200 overweight or obese study subjects to receive a daily soluble fiber supplement (comprised of Plantago ovata husk and glucomannan) two or three times a day, or placebo, for 16 weeks. At the end of the study, weight loss was higher in both fiber groups (4.52 and 4.60 kg lost, respectively), compared to the placebo group (0.79 kg weight loss). Additionally, LDL (low-density, “bad”) cholesterol levels decreased by 0.38 and 0.24 mmol/l in the fiber-supplemented groups, and the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL (high-density, “good")-cholesterol, and HDL to LDL, were also improved.
Whereas molds are part of the natural outdoor environment -- helping to break down organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead trees, mold growth indoors should be avoided. Indoor molds have the potential to cause health problems. Molds produce allergens, irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances (mycotoxins). Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic responses to mold are common, and may include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis). Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. In addition, mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people.
Whereas the therapeutic role of vitamin D, "the sunshine vitamin," for bone health, has become well established, some studies suggest that vitamin D deficiencies may contribute to cancer, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and some infectious diseases. Researchers from Vrije Universiteit Medical Center (The Netherlands) report a link between insufficient Vitamin D and increased risk of depression. Studying 1,282 men and women, ages 65 to 95 years, the team found that subjects with major and minor depression had blood vitamin D levels 14% lower than participants who were not depressive.
Staying connected with family and friends can beneficially impact memory as we age. Harvard School of Public Health (Massachusetts, USA) researchers studied 16,638 men and women, ages 50 and over, to assess the impact of social integration on changes in memory during a six-year period. The team found that the study participants with high social integration at the start of the study encountered slower rates of memory decline over time, as compared to the less socially integrated subjects. Memory among the least socially integrated declined at twice the rate as that of the most socially integrated.
Try a round of golf. Researchers from the Karolinska Institutet (Sweden) studied data collected on 300,000 Swedish golfers. The team found that the death rate among golfers was 40% lower than that of the rest of the population, equating to an increased life expectancy of five years. The longevity effect was found to be greatest for golfers from blue-collar occupations than those from white-collar professions. Those golfers with the lowest handicap (ie the best golfers) were found to have the lowest death rates.
Thirty percent (30%) of total deaths worldwide are a result of cardiovascular disease (CVD), most prominently heart disease and stroke. Previous studies have demonstrated the therapeutic value of Vitamin C supplementation in reducing total serum cholesterol. National University of Health Sciences (Illinois, USA) researchers found that Vitamin C exerts a beneficial effect on LDL (Iow-density, “bad”) cholesterol, which may be a more reliable predictive measure of coronary heart disease risk than total cholesterol. Conducting a meta-analysis of thirteen randomized controlled trials, involving a total of 405 study participants (average age 58.9 years) with elevated cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia), the team observed that daily supplementation of Vitamin C (at 500 mg/day, for a period of 3 to 24 weeks) resulted in a 7.9 mg/dL (equivalent to 5%) reduction of LDL cholesterol. The researchers submit that this reduction translates to a 6.6% reduction in coronary heart disease risk.
The Mediterranean diet is rich in cereals, fruits, legumes and whole grains, fish and olive oil. Numerous previous studies have shown those who follow the Mediterranean diet live longer, have less heart disease, and a reduced risk of cancers. As well, the Mediterranean diet may be beneficial for:
Certain studies suggest that coffee mitigates disease by reducing inflammation in blood vessels and supporting the normal function of the blood vessel lining. Coffee also is a rich source of antioxidants and magnesium, nutrients that are key in maintaining cardiovascular and circulatory health.
Green tea is made from the Camellia sinesis plant, where the leaves and stems are not aged and undergo very little processing. Containing less caffeine than black tea, green tea is most noted for an antioxidant compound known as epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which has been shown to inhibit an anti-apoptotic protein involved In some types of cancer. Green tea may have a future interventive role in combating a number of diseases:
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (Tennessee, USA) researchers report that an increased intake in minerals such as potassium, magnesium and calcium by dietary means may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and decrease blood pressure in people with hypertension. A high intake of these minerals in the diet may also reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. According to the study, if Americans were able to increase their potassium intake, the number of adults with known hypertension with blood pressure levels higher than 140/90 mm Hg might decrease by more than 10% and increase life expectancy. Similar studies show that diets high in magnesium (at least 500 to 1,000 mg/d) and calcium (more than 800 mg/d) may also be associated with both a decrease in blood pressure and risk of developing hypertension.
More Americans now drink sugar-sweetened sodas, sport drinks and fruit drinks daily. Sugary beverages not only may raise the risk of becoming overweight, but may prompt the onset of chronic disease (such as type-2 diabetes), and may compromise a person’s healthspan – the length of time that we are able to live productively and independently.
University of Tsukuba (Japan) researchers followed 41,526 Japanese men and women (ages 40 to 59 at the study’s start) for a period of 13 years. The team found that those men and women who consumed the highest calcium from all dietary sources lowered their risk of stroke by 30%.
The heart deteriorates with age, primarily as a result of lack of physical activity. Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine (Missouri, USA) studied a group of 6 men and 6 women, ages 60 to 75 years, who were not obese but were living an inactive lifestyle, who were put on an eleven-month program of endurance exercise under trained supervision. Each subject engaged in walking, running, or cycling exercises conducted 3 to 5 days each week, for one hour per session. After three months of exercising to about 65% of their maximum capacity, then several months at 75% of maximum, the participants’ hearts doubled their glucose uptake, as is found in the case of younger hearts – an effect that helps to protect the heart against ischemia (low oxygen) and heart attack.
Stanford University School of Medicine (California USA) researchers studied aged 50-plus members of a nationwide running club (matched against healthy controls), many of whom exercised as much as 200 minutes a week at the start of the study. After a 20-year study period, the team found the runners were half as likely to die, as compared to those who did not run. While running was found to reduce the risk not only of heart disease, but of cancer and neurological diseases including Alzheimer’s, the runners also experienced significantly lower disability levels throughout the study period.
Too little sleep compromises many of the body’s biological processes, most notably the immune system, metabolic function, and cognitive performance (specifically, learning and memory). Researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Massachusetts, USA) reported that sleep is important for the development of episodic memories, and particularly those of an emotional nature. The team studied 88 college students, and found that those subjects who slept a full evening remembered the emotional scene they were shown in far greater detail, as compared to those participants who stayed awake for 12 hours after viewing the scene.
A 50-year long study suggests that men and women who are physically active, emotionally calm, and organized may live longer than people with less positive personality traits such as anxiousness, anger, or fearfulness. Researchers from the National Institute of Aging (Maryland, USA) assessed personality traits among 2,359 generally healthy people who enrolled in 1958 in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. The team found that those men and women who scored above average in measures of general activity, emotional stability, or conscientiousness lived an average of 2 to 3 years longer than those who scored below average.
Cocoa and cocoa products – particularly dark chocolate, contain high levels of flavonols, a potent type of antioxidant.
Researchers from the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California Los Angeles (USA) reported that Internet surfing helps to stimulate, and may quite possibly improve, brain health and cognitive ability. The team studied men and women ages 55 to 76; half of them were experienced in Internet surfing, while the other half had no experience. The participants performed Internet searches and book-reading tasks while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, which tracked the intensity of cell responses in the brain by measuring the level of cerebral blood flow during cognitive tasks. While all study subjects showed significant brain activity during the book-reading task, only the Web-savvy group registered activity in the frontal, temporal and cingulate areas of the brain, which control decision-making and complex reasoning. Most striking, the team found that during Web searching, the study subjects with prior experience registered a twofold increase in brain activation (as compared to those with little Internet experience).
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) typically progresses to the point where physical deterioration adversely impacts the ability to function independently, which in turn affects quality of life. Researchers from the Universidad Europea De Madrid (Spain) studied the a group of 16 men and women with Alzheimer’s Disease, assigning half to undergo a 12-week training program (including resistance, flexibility, joint mobility and balance/coordination exercises), and the other half receiving normal care (no special exercise training). Those subjects in the exercise group showed significant improvements in measures of upper and lower body strength and flexibility, agility and balance, walking abilities, and endurance. The exercise group also was able to perform activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and moving about, with greater independence.
Previously, some studies suggest that chronic exposure to low-dose electromagnetic radiation may cause adverse changes in the biology of the brain. Bern University (Switzerland) researchers studied data collected on 4.7 million people enrolled in the Swiss National Cohort (linking mortality and census data). The team found that those people who lived within 150 feet (50 meters) of an electrical tower were 24% more likely to die from dementia (as compared to those who lived more than 2,000 feet (600 meters) away. Further, the researchers observed that a person’s risks for dementia increased with the length of time that s/he spent near electrical towers. Those who lived in a tower’s shadow for more than 10 years were 78% more likely to die from dementia, and twice as likely if they lived there for more than 15 years.
The incidence of age-related diseases in a centenarian offspring (children of parents who lived to be at least 97 years old) is lower. The New England Centenarian Study (Massachusetts, USA) reported that children of centenarians are at 78% lower risk of heart attack, 83% lower likelihood of stroke, and 86% lower risk of developing Type-2 diabetes. Additionally, centenarian offspring were 81% less likely to die during the 5-year follow-up period (as compared to age-matched counterparts).
As we age, it becomes increasingly important to maintain powerful upper and lower body muscles, as doing so may help to prevent the incidence of age-related falls.
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University (Pennsylvania, USA) studied 153 healthy men and women, ages 21 to 55 years, who reported daily on their sleep duration and quality for two weeks. Participants were then quarantined in separate rooms for 5 days and exposed to rhinovirus (the virus that is responsible for the common cold). As a result, 35.3% of subjects developed a clinical cold and 43.1% self-reported the presence of cold symptoms. The researchers found that those study subjects with shorter duration of sleep and poorer sleep efficiency were at significantly increased risk of developing a cold.
A number of studies suggest that light alcohol consumption may help to promote extended good health:
Researchers from the University of California/Los Angeles (UCLA; California, USA) analyzed data from 4.276 men and women, ages 50+, enrolled in the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey’s Epidemiologic Follow-Up Study. After a five-year follow-up period, healthy moderate drinkers were at a 17.7% chance of becoming disabled or dying within 5 years, as compared with 26.7% for those who did not drink at all, and 21.4% for heavy drinkers. In addition, healthy older study subjects who drank moderately also experienced a 3 to 8% reduction in the odds of developing a disability with each additional drink per week (up to 9 drinks for women, 15 for men).
An easy-going personality may help to forestall cognitive decline as we age. Researchers from the Karolinska Institutet (Sweden) studied 506 older Swedes and found that those men and women who were socially outgoing and not easily distressed by circumstances were 49% less likely to develop dementia over time, as compared to those who were extroverted and neurotic. In addition, a calm personality was also associated with a 49% reduced dementia risk in those who were not socially active compared with those who were stay-at-homes but prone to distress.
Researchers from Queen's University (Canada) completed a four-year long study of 136 sedentary, abdominally obese older men and women (minimum waist circumference was 102 cm for men and 88 cm for women). The subjects were separated into four groups: resistance exercise, aerobic exercise, resistance and aerobic exercise (combined exercise), or nonexercise. The team observed that the combined training regimen led to significantly greater reductions in insulin resistance (as compared to resistance training alone), and was also associated with greater improvements in functional limitations (as compared to aerobic exercise alone). Further, those who participated in the combined resistance and aerobic exercise program experienced an 18% improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness.
Researchers from the University of South Carolina (South Carolina, USA) analyzed data collected on 40,547 men, ages 20 to 90 years, for the period 1971–2003. The team found that swimmers had 53%, 50%, and 49% lower all-cause mortality risk than did men who were sedentary, walkers, or runners, respectively. In addition, swimmers demonstrated greater cardiorespiratory fitness than walkers and sedentary people.
Researchers from the University of Munster (Germany) studied 50 healthy, normal- to overweight elderly men and women (average age 60 years), dividing them into three groups: one that restricted daily caloric intake by up to 30%; the second that increased unsaturated fatty acids consumption by up to 20%; and a third group that made no dietary changes (control group.) The team found the calorie-restricted group demonstrated a 20% average increase in verbal memory scores after 3 months. As well, the researchers observed that the memory improvements in the calorie-restricted group correlated with decreases in insulin levels and markers of inflammation, including high sensitive C-reactive protein (CRP).
Researchers from the Mayo Clinic (Minnesota, USA) studied 197 men and women, ages 70 to 89 years, with mild cognitive impairment, or diagnosed memory loss, and 1,124 people that age with no memory problems. Both groups were surveyed as to their daily activities within the past year and in middle age, when they were between 50 to 65 years old. The team report that during later years, reading books, playing games, participating in computer activities and doing craft activities such as pottery or quilting led to a 30 to 50% decrease in the risk of developing memory loss (as compared to people who did not engage in these activities.)
Harvard School of Public Health (Massachusetts, USA) researchers investigated the intake of zinc in relation to risk of type-2 diabetes in American women. The team assessed data collected on participants in the Nurses’ Health Study, comprised of 82,297 women, ages 33 to 60 years at the study’s start. The researchers found that those women with the highest average daily intake of zinc were 10% less likely to develop type-2 diabetes. Further, those women with the highest average total intakes slashed their risk by 8%. Perhaps most importantly, the researchers showed that an increased intake of zinc was associated with a 28% reduction in type-2 diabetes.
A growing body of evidence suggests that active compounds in cinnamon may improve markers of diabetes:
Researchers from Malmo University Hospital.(Sweden) recruited 15 healthy men and women subjects, average age of 24.6 years, with an average BMI of 22.5 kg/m2 and no history of diabetes. Each subject was assigned to consume 300 grams of rice pudding with either zero, one or three grams of cinnamon added. The team revealed that when the subjects consumed the added cinnamon, their blood insulin levels reduced and the activity GLP-1, a protein that modulates the emptying of the stomach, increased.
Researchers from the University of California/Los Angeles School of Medicine (USA) completed a meta-analysis of nine studies involving a total of 194,965 study subjects. The team revealed that people who drank 2 or more cups daily of tea a day reduced their risk of stroke by 21% (as compared to subjects who drank less than 1 cup a day). Those who drank an additional 3 cups daily, further reduced stroke risk another 21%. Both green and black tea were found to cause these risk reductions: the researchers submit that the polyphenol, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), or the amino acid, threanine, present in varying but significant amounts in both kinds of tea, may be the responsible mechanism of action.
A number of studies have suggested a role for vitamin D in innate immunity, including the prevention of respiratory tract infections (RTIs). Researchers from the University of Colorado (Colorado, USA) analyzed data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which involved 18,883 adults and adolescents between 1988 and 1994. The team found that people with the lowest average levels of Vitamin D in the blood were about 40% more likely to have a recent RTI, as compared to those with the highest Vitamin D blood levels . Further, low Vitamin D levels in people with asthma were associated with a five-time greater risk of RTI; and among COPD patients, RTIs were twice as common among those with Vitamin D deficiency.
Four specific health behaviors have been identified as reducing the risk of stroke in men and women. Researchers from the University of East Anglia (United Kingdom) studied 20,040 men and women, ages 40 to 79 years, with no known stroke or myocardial infarction at the study’s start in 1993. Subjects were followed for 14 years. The team observed clear benefits of four specific health behaviors, namely: current non-smoking, not being physically inactive, moderate alcohol intake (1-14 units a week), and having a plasma concentration of vitamin C levels at/above 50 micromol/L (suggesting a daily fruit/vegetable intake of 5 servings a day). All combined, these four health behaviors combined predict more than a twofold difference in incidence of stroke in men and women.
Dairy and dairy products have been studied extensively for their promising health benefits:
• Combat Heart Disease & Stroke: University of Reading (United Kingdom) researchers studied findings from 324 studies of milk consumption as predictors of coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke and, diabetes. Data on milk consumption and cancer were based on the recent World Cancer Research Fund report. The team found that drinking milk can lessen the chances of dying from illnesses such as coronary heart disease and stroke by up to 15-20%. Separately, researchers from Bristol University (United Kingdom) studied data from the Carnegie (“Boyd Orr”) survey of diet and health in pre-war Britain. Tracking the lives and the dairy intake of 4,374 children between 1948 and 2005, the researchers found that 1,468 (34%) of them had died, and 378 of those deaths were caused by coronary heart disease and 121 were due to stroke. Not only did the study suggest that dairy rich diets in childhood do not contribute to heart problems later, the team found that higher childhood calcium intake was associated with lower stroke mortality. In addition, children who were in the group that had the highest calcium intake and dairy product consumption were found to have lower mortality rates than those in the lower intake groups.
• Maintain Cognitive Health: Researchers from the University of Oxford (United Kingdom) studied whether foods rich in Vitamin B-12 might counter homocysteine, a compound for which high levels are linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cognitive decline including Alzheimer's Disease. The team monitored 5,937 subjects in two age groups (47-49 years, and 71-74 years) participating in the Hordaland Homocysteine Study in Norway, surveying them for their daily food intake patterns. The team observed that those subjects with low B-12 levels suffered twice as much brain shrinkage as compared to those study participants with higher blood levels of the vitamin. The researchers observed two glasses of skim milk daily can help that raise plasma vitamin B-12 levels.
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania USA) have confirmed that optimism promotes a longer, healthier life. The team reviewed data collected on 100,000 women, ages 50 years and older, collected as part of the Women’s Health Initiative Study. They observed that optimistic women were 14% less likely to die from any cause (as compared to pessimists), and 30% less likely to die from heart disease after 8 years of follow-up from the study. Optimists also were less likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes, or smoke cigarettes. Additionally, the researchers found that women who were “cynically hostile,” that is – highly mistrustful of other people, were 16% more likely to die during the study period, and 23% more likely to die from cancer.
Body Mass Index (BMI) is the ratio between height and weight. The number indicates whether a person is underweight, overweight, or within a normal weight range. Individuals with a BMI of 25.0 or greater are considered overweight and those with a BMI of 30.0 or greater are considered obese. Increased BMI is an established risk factor for several causes of death including ischemic heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers.
Researchers from the University of Oxford (United Kingdom) reported that a BMI above the normal range is associated with an increased risk of death. The team reviewed data from 57 prospective studies involving a total of 894,576 patients in western Europe and North America as part of the Prospective Studies Collaboration. Mortality was about 30% higher for each additional 5 kg/m2, and primarily was correlated to 40% increased risk for vascular disease and 60 to 120% raised risks for diabetic, renal, and hepatic diseases, as well as 10% increased risk of neoplastic death and a 20% increased risk of death from respiratory causes. The researchers explain that: “"By avoiding a further increase from 28 kg/m2 to 32 kg/m2, a typical person in early middle age would gain about two years of life expectancy. Alternatively, by avoiding an increase from 24 kg/m2 to 32 kg/m2, a young adult would on average gain about three extra years of life."
As a number calculated from a person's weight and height, Body Mass Index (BMI) is a fairly reliable indicator of body fatness for most people. It is used as a screening tool to identify possible weight problems for adults, and is generally considered one of the best methods for population assessment of overweight and obesity.
Telomeres are the endcaps on chromosomes, and telomeric shortening is thought to govern the number of times a cell can divide. Telomeres seem to be affected by environmental and genetic factors, as well as newly identified considerations:
• Stress: Researchers from the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS; North Carolina, USA) assessed data collected in the Sister Study, involving 50,000 women, ages 35-74 years. The team observed that: “Among women with both higher perceived stress and elevated levels of the stress hormone epinephrine, the difference in telomere length was equivalent to or greater than the effects of being obese, smoking or 10 years of aging."
• Obesity: A separate group of researchers from the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS; North Carolina, USA) observed that women with an overweight or obese body mass index (BMI) before or during their 30s that was maintained subsequently, had shorter telomeres than those who became overweight or obese after their 30s. This team comments that: “Our results support the hypothesis that obesity accelerates the aging process.”
Estimated to affect 125 million people worldwide, psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory condition affecting the immune system that commonly manifests in the form of thick, red, scaly patches on the skin.
Researchers from Harvard Medical School (Massachusetts, USA) found that the risk of coronary disease is almost 30% greater in psoriasis patients, and stroke risk exceeded the rate of the general population by 12%. The risk did not vary by severity of psoriasis, as patients with moderate and severe disease had a similar prevalence of heart disease and stroke. Separately, a Copenhagen University (Denmark) team studied nearly 50,000 patients who had experienced their first heart attack between 2002 and 2006, following the 462 patients with psoriasis for an average of 19.5 months and the 48,935 controls for an average of 22 months. The team found that heart attack patients with psoriasis were 26% more likely to die from cardiovascular disease, or suffer from recurrent heart attacks or strokes, and were 18% more likely to die from all causes than those without the inflammatory skin disease.
Researchers from the University of Chicago (Illinois, USA) report that social isolation may be detrimental to both mental and physical health. The team analyzed data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project, a nationwide US study involving 3,000 men and women, ages 57 to 85 years. They arrived at three key findings regarding the relationships between health and different types of isolation:
• The researchers found that the most socially connected older adults are three times as likely to report very good or excellent health compared to those who are least connected, regardless of whether they feel isolated.
• The team found that older adults who feel least isolated are five times as likely to report very good or excellent health as those who feel most isolated, regardless of their actual level of social connectedness.
• They determined that social disconnectedness is not related to mental health unless it brings feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Among older women, modest amounts of exercise can improve quality of life (QOL). Researchers from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center (Louisiana, USA) completed a six-month study involving 430 sedentary postmenopausal women (BMI of 25.0-43.0, with elevated systolic blood pressure). Each subject was assigned to participate in 1 of 3 exercise groups (exercising 1 hour 15 minutes/week; 2 hours 20 minutes/week, or 3 hours/week) or the nonexercise control group. Women in all three groups that exercised reported making the most gains in self-reported physical and mental well-being (as compared to the nonexercise group), and longer exercise times were associated with greater gains in QOL.
Columbia University (New York, USA) researchers studied 2,136 healthy elderly New Yorkers, assessing their dietary habits and onset of cognitive decline during a four-year study period. The researchers found that a diet rich in foods providing omega-3s, omega-6s, folate, and vitamin E, but low in saturated fat, was strongly associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. Higher intakes of cruciferous vegetables, green-leafy vegetables, fish, nuts, and tomatoes characterized the dietary pattern.
The same researchers completed a follow-up study, in which the dietary patterns of 2,148 men and women, ages 65 and older, were assessed for an 18-month period. The team found that one particular dietary pattern was associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease. Foods in this diet that appeared to ward off Alzheimer's disease were salad dressing, nuts, fish, poultry, tomatoes, fruits, and cruciferous and dark and green vegetables. The researchers submit that saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin B12, and folate present in this dietary pattern may suppress neuronal cell membrane dysfunction and plaque accumulation that typify Alzheimer’s Disease.
Taking care of the needs of others may extend the caregiver’s lifespan. Researchers from the University of California/San Francisco (UCSF; California, USA) assessed the volunteering habits of 6,360 retirees, average age 78 years. The team found that volunteering was strongly associated with lower death rates, with 12% of the study subjects dying by 2006 – as compared to 26% of the non-volunteers. Separately, researchers from the University of Michigan (Michigan, USA) analyzed data from 1,688 couples, ages 70 years and older. Over a seven-year period, the couples were surveyed to ascertain the type and extent of assistance each provided to the other. Those who spent 14 or more hours/week caring for a sick spouse were almost 30% less likely to die during the study period, as compared to those who spent no time helping.
Telomeres are the endcaps on chromosomes, and telomeric shortening is thought to govern the number of times a cell can divide. Telomeres are also thought to be highly susceptible to damage by free radicals. Researchers from the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS; North Carolina, USA) studied multivitamin use and nutrient intakes, as well as telomere length, among 586 women, ages 35 to 74, enrolled in the Sister Study. Compared to non-multivitamin users, the team found that telomeres were 5.1% longer in those who took a daily multivitamin. Further, the researchers observed a positive relationship between telomere length and intakes of vitamins C and E from foods.
Researchers from Rush University Medical Center (Illinois, USA) studied 1,238 dementia-free older men and women, evaluating their purpose in life at the study’s start and during the five-year study period. After controlling for factors such as depression, chronic medical conditions, and disability, the researchers found that those study participants with higher sense-of-purpose scores were half as likely to die during the three-year study follow-up period, as compared to those with a lower sense of purpose.
Researchers from Northwestern University (Illinois, USA) have identified physical fitness in one’s twenties as a potentially protective force to combat the onset of diabetes as one ages. The team studied 3,989 men and women for a period of 20 years, evaluating fitness by treadmill test up to three times during the study period. The researchers found that those subjects who developed diabetes during the study period experienced greater declines in fitness, as compared to those who remained diabetes-free. Women were at a 22% increased risk of developing diabetes and men were at 45% increased risk, for every standard deviation decrease from the mean fitness change. There also was a marked attenuation in the correlation between fitness and diabetes when adjusting for body mass index (BMI); that is, in two persons with a similar level of fitness, the person with a higher BMI was more likely to develop diabetes.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (Maryland, USA) analyzed data from more than 9,100 Americans ages 50 years and older, and found that middle-aged and older Americans who were currently married tended to give higher ratings to their health than their never-married counterparts. Married subjects also reported fewer depression symptoms and limits on their mobility.
For people with a higher body mass index (BMI), a study finds that psychological stress leads to weight gain. Researchers from Harvard Medical School (Massachusetts USA) conducted a study of 1,355 men and women, ages 25 to 74 years, following them from 1995 to 2004. For women, who experience higher levels of baseline psychosocial stress in several areas, waistlines were affected by job-related demands, perceived constraints in life, strain in family relations, and difficulties paying bills. For men, the lack of decision authority at work and difficulties in learning new skills were associated with greater weight gain.
People who stay even moderately fit as they age may live longer than those who are out-of-shape. Researchers from the University of Otago ( New Zealand) studied 4,384 middle-aged and older adults whose fitness levels were assessed via exercise treadmill tests, then whom were followed for nine years. When the team separated the participants into five groups based on fitness levels, they found that one-quarter of the least-fit men and women had died during the study period, as compared to 13% of those who were slightly more in-shape. Among adults in the most-fit group, only 6% died during the follow-up period. Overall, the five groups showed little difference in their reported exercise habits over their adult lives, but those who maintained regular physical activity through life lived longer.
In that a number of studies link unhealthy behaviors to accelerated declines in thinking and memory skills, these also can readily be remedied. Researchers from the Hopital Paul Brousse (France) studied 5,123 men and women civil service office workers in London enrolled in the Whitehall II study. Subjects were surveyed for health behaviors (smoking, dietary habits, daily activity) at 44 years of age, 56 years, and 61 years. The more each of the subjects reported engaging in unhealthy behaviors, the greater the risk of cognitive deficit, namely:
Among women, regular exercise in their 40s slashes breast cancer risk. Among men, routine physical activity exerts a protective effect against prostate cancer.
US National Cancer Institute(Maryland, USA) researchers have found that regular moderate-to-vigorous exercise in the ten-year period preceding menopause may help reduce the risk of breast cancer later in life. Studying 118,899 postmenopausal women, ages 50 to 71 years, the team observed that postmenopausal women who maintained more than 7 hours per week of higher intensity activity over the 10-year period prior to entry into the study were 16% less likely to develop breast cancer. The study authors conclude that: "A high level of recent physical activity of moderate-to-vigorous intensity is associated with reduced postmenopausal breast cancer risk."
University of Southern Denmark researchers report that more than half of the babies born today in developed countries will live to be 100, and the extended lifespan will likely come with fewer disabilities and limitations. Writing that: “If the pace of increase in life expectancy in developed countries over the past two centuries continues through the 21st century, most babies born since 2000 in France, Germany, Italy, the UK, the USA, Canada, Japan, and other countries with long life expectancies will celebrate their 100th birthdays,” the team reports that since the 1950s, and particularly since the 1970s, mortality in people 80 and older has declined. Importantly, the number of life years without disability have increased, and life years with severe disability have declined.
Men and women who stay mentally engaged in their original occupational field fare after retirement fare best mentally. University of Maryland (Maryland, USA) researchers studied 12,189 retired men and women, ages 51 to 61 years at the beginning of the study. The team revealed that those retirees who continued to work in a bridge job experienced fewer major diseases and fewer functional limitations than those who fully retired. In addition, people whose post-retirement jobs were related to their previous careers reported better mental health than those who fully retired.
The way to banish stress may be a sip away. Green tea is rich in catechins, an antioxidant compound, and contains high levels of EGCG, a polyphenol that has been previously found to reduce levels of oxidizing compounds that contribute to physical and mental fatigue. Tohoku University (Japan) researchers analyzed data relating to tea consumption, psychological distress, and lifestyle factors collected on 42,093 Japanese men and women, ages 40 years and older. The team determined that those subjects who drank five cups of green tea daily reduced their levels of psychological distress by 20%.
People who live near a park, wooded area, or other green space reap benefits for both physical and mental health. Researchers from the EMGO Institute VU University Medical Centre (Netherlands) studied the medical records of 345,143 Dutch adults, identifying for the prevalence of 24 health conditions, and classifying each study subject’s residence in relation to a nearby green space. The team discovered that for 15 of the 24 health conditions, the annual prevalence rate was lower in subjects who lived in locations with more green space in a 1-km radius. This impact was greatest for mental health conditions, with people living in areas with the most green space being one-third less likely to have anxiety disorders and one-fifth less to be clinically depressed (as compared to residents of areas with the least green space). Similarly, physical health was improved in those living near more green space, as doing so was linked to protective effects against respiratory diseases (such as asthma and COPD) and upper respiratory infections.
University of California/Los Angeles (UCLA; California, USA) researchers have reported that computer-savvy middle-aged and older adults who regularly search the Internet help stimulate, and possibly improve, brain function. The team studied 24 men and women, ages 55 to 78 years, half of whom routinely used the Internet. The researchers found that web surfing engages complicated brain activity, with the brain scans revealing immediate increased brain activity in regions controlling language, reading, memory, and vision. In-turn, because the increased brain activity is thought to help exercise and improve brain function, the team suggests a potential protective effect of Internet searching to preserve brain health and cognitive ability.
Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School (Israel) researchers studied 1,861 men and women, ages 70 to 88 years, for the effects of continuing, increasing, or decreasing physical activity on levels on survival, function, and health status. Those subjects who are physically active (4 or more hours of physical activity per day) increase their chances of living longer and maintaining functional independence, as compared to their sedentary peers (less than 4 hours physical activity daily). Among active 70-year-olds, the team found that 15% died over the next 8 years, compared to 27% of sedentary 70-year-olds. Eight-year mortality was 26% for active 78-year-olds, and 41% for sedentary peers. Among 85-year-olds, 3-year mortality was roughly 7% for active individuals as compared to 24% for sedentary counterparts. The study authors conclude that: “Physical activity [is] an independent factor in mortality, and not just an indicator of the overall health of the subjects.”
The pomegranate fruit is a rich source of antioxidants, high in three different types of polyphenols – tannins, anthocyanins, and ellagic acid. Emerging research suggests that the pomegranate may confer cancer protection for both men and women.
Individuals who consume a diet high in sodium or artificially sweetened drinks are more likely to experience a decline in kidney function. Brigham and Women's Hospital (Massachusetts, USA) researchers studied data collected on more than 3,000 women participating in the Nurses' Health Study. They found that:“in women with well-preserved kidney function, higher dietary sodium intake was associated with greater kidney function decline, which is consistent with experimental animal data that high sodium intake promotes progressive kidney decline." In a second study by the same researchers involving the same study subjects, the team found "a significant two-fold increased odds, between two or more servings per day of artificially sweetened soda and faster kidney function decline.”
Walnuts are rich in compounds including vitamin E, ellagic acid, flavonoids, and melatonin, all of which confer antioxidant properties. As well, walnuts are a good source of alpha linolenic acid, and thus are an important plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acid. Emerging research suggests a number of potentially beneficial health effects of consuming walnuts.
The home environment is a strong contributing factor for successful, long-term weight control. California Polytechnic State University (California, USA) researchers surveyed 167 men and women who lost at least 10% of their body weight and kept the weight off for at least 5 years, and compared their data to two other groups of people who were overweight or obese. Those men and women who lost weight and kept it off were about three to four times more likely to exercise than those who were obese or overweight. They also were also about 1.4 to 1.6 times more likely to exercise dietary restraint. Noting that the participants who lost weight and kept it off resided in homes with fewer televisions, more pieces of exercise equipment, and fewer high-fat foods in the pantry, the study authors urge that: “Changes in the home environment may help facilitate these behavioral changes.”
Chemicals known as polyfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFCs) are used commonly in commercial applications including food packaging, paper, and textiles. Boston University School of Public Health (Massachusetts, USA) researchers discovered that people with levels of three specific PFCs in the top 25% had higher total and non-HDL cholesterol, as compared to those with levels in the lowest 25%. The study authors warn that: “PFCs may be exerting an effect on cholesterol metabolism at environmentally-relevant exposures.”
It is timely to note that a separate Harvard School of Public Health (Massachusetts, USA) study has reported that children exposed to PFCs may have compromised immune systems.
Dining at a moderate pace helps to achieve a feeling of fullness (satiety). Conversely, eating quickly blunts the hormones that signal satiety, and Greek researchers submit this may prompt overeating. Researchers from Lake General Hospital (Greece) studied 17 healthy adult male subjects, to whom the researchers gave a test meal consisting of 300 ml ice cream (675 kcal), consumed in random order on two different sessions by each subject where each meal took either 5 minutes or 30 minutes. The team found that the subjects who ate in 30 minutes had higher levels of two peptides that signal satiety – namely peptide YY (PYY) and glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1), as compared to the participants who ate their meal in 5 minutes. The study authors conclude that: “Eating at a physiologically moderate pace leads to a more pronounced [satiety] gut peptide response than eating very fast.”
A large-scale study suggests that a person’s risk of cancer may be significantly lower when cholesterol levels are kept low. US National Cancer Institute (Maryland, USA) researchers studied data collected over an 18-year period on 29,093 men enrolled in the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention (ATBC) Study. Higher levels of HDL cholesterol associated with a 14% lower risk of all cancers over the entire study period.
Harvard Medical School (Massachusetts, USA) researchers have reported that people who get enough sleep make healthier food choices. Studying 542 male motor freight workers (average age 49 years), the team found that a lack of job strain and greater supervisor support were significantly associated with adequate sleep; and that the subject’s achieving adequate sleep significantly associated with at least 2 of the 3 healthful eating choices assessed.
Men who eat a lot of red meat and processed meats may have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer than those who limit such foods. Researchers from the US National Cancer Institute (Maryland, USA), studied 175,343 US men, ages 50 to 71 years, following them for a nine-year period. The team found that those men who ate the most red and processed meats had elevated risk of developing any stage of prostate cancer, or advanced cancer in particular.
People who are dissatisfied with their workplace bosses not only take more sick leave, but are at increased risk of suffering a heart attack. Karolinska Institute (Sweden) researchers analyzed data from almost 20,000 employees in Sweden, Finland, Germany, Poland and Italy, working in a range of fields; some of the studies also included a representative selection of Sweden's entire working population and industries in the Stockholm region. They found that male residents of the Stockholm area ran a 25% greater risk of suffering myocardial infarction (heart attack) during the ten-year follow-up period if they had expressed displeasure with their managers at the start of the study; the level of risk increased more sharply with time of employment for subjects that reported "poorer" leadership. Conversely, the researchers determined that Swedish men and women who rated their managers as inspirational, positive and enthusiastic reported less short-term sick leave. The study authors report that: "The bottom line is that our results show that there's a relationship between how employees find their managers and how they feel, physically and mentally, and not just while at work but also later in life."
A person’s cumulative exposure to common infections may raise their stroke risk. A team from Columbia University (New York, USA) studied a group of 1,625 stroke-free men and women, average age 68.4 years, living in a multiethnic urban community, following them for an eight-year period. The researchers found that five common infections -- Chlamydia pneumoniae, Helicobacter pylori, cytomegalovirus, and herpes simplex virus 1 and 2 -- were associated with increased stroke risk. Specifically, the infectious burden index was associated with an increased risk of stroke of 39% per standard deviation.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used for more than three decades to make plastic bottles and is also a component in the lining of canned goods. Certain studies have identified health dangers with exposure to BPA, namely:
Telomeres are the endcaps on chromosomes, and telomeric shortening is thought to govern the number of times a cell can divide. The gradual shortening of telomeres through cell divisions leads to aging on the cellular level and may limit lifetimes. Researchers from Saarland University (Germany) studied two groups of trained professional athletes, one comprised of 32 professional runners, average age 20 years, from the German National Team of Track and Field, and the other composed of middle-aged athletes with a history of continuous endurance exercise since their youth, average age 51 years. The team compared their blood samples with a healthy control group who did not regularly exercise, and found that the blood cells of the study subjects engaging in long-term exercise training exhibited molecular indicators of reduced aging. Submitting that: “physical exercise … [activates] the important enzyme telomerase and stabilizes the telomere, the study authors conclude that: “This is direct evidence of an anti-aging effect of physical exercise. Physical exercise could prevent the aging of the cardiovascular system, reflecting this molecular principle.”
Maintaining a healthy body in young adulthood is linked to achieving academic successes later in life. Sahlgrenska Academy (Sweden) researchers studied 1.2 million Swedish men, born between 1950 and 1976, who were enrolled in military service. The team established a correlation between good physical fitness and better results for the IQ test, with the strongest links found for logical thinking and verbal comprehension. Noting that their findings suggest that only fitness – not strength -- plays a role in the results for the IQ test, the researchers urge that: “These data substantiate that physical exercise could be an important instrument for public health initiatives to optimize educational achievements, cognitive performance, as well as disease prevention at the society level.”
The World Health Organization has estimated that harmful indoor air pollutants can cause a diverse array of serious illnesses, including asthma, cancer, reproductive and neurological disorders, and may be responsible for more than 1.6 million deaths a year. University of Georgia (Georgia, USA) researchers have discovered that certain plants have the ability to drastically reduce levels of indoor pollutants. The team tested 28 plant species and five “super ornamentals”—those displaying the highest rates of contaminant removal, a process called phytoremediation. These include the purple waffle plant (Hemigraphis alternata), English ivy (Hedera Helix), variegated wax plant (Hoya cornosa), Asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus) and the Purple heart plant (Tradescantia pallida). In that the researchers observed: “We found unexpectedly high levels of benzenes and many other contaminants that can seriously compromise the health of those exposed,” they urge that “The idea that plants take up volatile compounds isn’t as much of a surprise as the poor air quality we measured inside some of the homes we tested.”
A study involving more than 1 million subjects suggests that coffee and tea may slash a person’s risks of Type-2 diabetes. A team from the University of Sydney (Australia) reviewed 18 research studies involving a total of nearly 1 million study subjects, to ascertain the associations between lifestyle factors, including coffee and tea consumption, and diabetes risk. The team found that those individuals who drank more coffee, either regular or decaffeinated, or tea lowered their risks of developing Type 2 diabetes. Specifically, each additional cup of coffee consumed per day was associated with a 7% lower risk of diabetes, and those who drank 3 to 4 cups daily lowered their risk by 25%. Additionally, the researchers found that tea drinkers who consumed more than 3 to 4 cups of tea per day had about a one-fifth lower risk of diabetes (as compared to non-tea drinkers). The study authors conclude that: “High intakes of coffee, decaffeinated coffee, and tea are associated with reduced risk of diabetes.”
We all acknowledge that volunteerism benefits the person whom is being provided the time and attention, and data now reports that those who engage in volunteer activities enjoy health benefits themselves.
Pigments known as carotenoids are bountiful in green leafy vegetables and colored fruits, with specific carotenoids known as lutein and zeaxanthin found in kale and spinach and lycopene abundantly present in tomatoes. Univ. of Georgia (Georgia, USA) researchers have reported evidence for the role of lutein and zeaxanthin to reduce vision-related glare effects.
A program of resistance exercise two or three times a week may serve as an effective approach to weight management and metabolic control. Researchers from Democritus University of Thrace (Greece) studied 40 inactive, overweight men, ages 65 to 82 years, randomly assigning them to one of our exercise groups, namely: low-intensity resistance, moderate-intensity resistance, high-intensity resistance, and no exercise (control group). The team found that resting energy expenditure increased at 12 hours and returned to baseline after 48 hours in the moderate-intensity and low-intensity groups and 72 hours in the high-intensity group. Further, the team found that all exercise groups exhibited a peak in cortisol with exercise that remained elevated for 12 hours, and that concentration in the high-intensity exercise group, adiponectin increased after 12 hours and remained elevated for 24 hours. The study authors submit that: “Resistance exercise may represent an effective approach for weight management and metabolic control in overweight elderly individuals."
When considering your options for a snack, reach for a handful of in-shell pistachios. Studies report that the tasty nut:
Containing polyphenols, compounds that confer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and influence neuronal signaling, Concord grape juice daily may enhance memory in older people with mild impairment of brain function. Researchers from the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center (Ohio, USA) studied a group of twelve older adults with memory decline, but not dementia. Subjects consumed Concord grape juice for 12 weeks. Observing “significant improvement in a measure of verbal learning and non-significant enhancement of verbal and spatial recall,” the study authors submit that: “supplementation with Concord grape juice may enhance cognitive function for older adults with early memory decline.”
For men, sex twice a week slashes the risk of heart disease. Researchers from the New England Research Institute (Massachusetts, USA) analyze data collected on men participating in the Massachusetts Male Aging Study (USA), involving men ages 40 to 70 years. The team found that a low frequency of sexual activity (once a month or less) was associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and that men who had sex twice a week or more were at 50% reduced risk of having a heart attack.
Blueberries contain high levels of bioactive compounds such as vitamin C, and the flavonoids known as anthocyanins and flavanols which are associated with free radical scavenging activity. The multitude of reasons to include blueberries in the diet include:
In that sedentary behavior is associated with a higher risk of death, a number of previous studies have suggested that people who watch television may be at increased risk of life-robbing conditions such as cardiovascular disease.
Researchers from the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute (Australia) tracked the lifestyle habits of 3,846 men and 4,954 women, ages 25 and older, and found that each hour spent age 25 and in front of the television absent of physical activity resulted in:
Exercise in one’s 40s may help to forestall cognitive decline later in life. A team from the Mayo Clinic (Minnesota, USA) studied 1,324 men and women, ages 70 to 89 years, who did not have dementia at the study’s start. Study subjects completed a physical exercise questionnaire for a two-year period, after which they were also assessed by a medical team to classify each as having normal cognition or mild cognitive impairment. Those study subjects who reported performing moderate exercise—such as brisk walking, aerobics, yoga, strength training or swimming—during midlife or late life were less likely to have mild cognitive impairment. Specifically, midlife moderate exercise was associated with 39% reduction in the odds of developing the cognitive impairment, and moderate exercise in late life was associated with a 32% reduction.
Telomeres are the endcaps on chromosomes, and the number of times that telomeres divide during cellular replication has been linked to cellular aging and death. Omega-3 fatty acids, compounds present in the oils of fatty fish, may slow telomere shortening. A team from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF; California, USA) studied a group of 608 patients with stable coronary artery disease for a six-year period, measuring telomere length in the subjects’ leukocytes (a type of white blood cell), at the study’s start and at the five-year mark. The researchers then modeled the association of omega-3 fatty acids (docosahexaenoic acid [DHA] and eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA]) with subsequent change in telomere length. The team observed that those subjects in the lowest quartile of DHA+EPA experienced the fastest rate of telomere shortening, whereas those in the highest quartile experienced the slowest rate of telomere shortening. Further, each unit increase in DHA/EPA levels was associated with a 32% reduction in the odds of telomere shortening
Apples are a rich source of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant. Recent study findings reaffirm the adage that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” – or, at least that apples may help to confer a variety of health benefits:
Taking a coffee break at work or school may be a simple approach to provide the brain with an opportunity to process new information and optimize memory. New York University (New York, USA) researchers studied 16 adults, showing each subject assorted pairs of images and permitting a wakeful restful break immediately following. Utilizing functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure brain activity before, during, and after the test, the team found that there was an increase in brain activity between the hippocampus and neocortex, ,two key brain areas involved in memory and processing, both while the participants were shown the images as well as during the break. Additionally, the subjects who had greater increases in activity between these two areas while resting and seeing the images performed better on associative memory tests than those who had weaker responses.
Flexible working arrangements, such as flexitime (self-scheduled work shifts) and telecommuting (working from home), are becoming more commonplace in the US and other industrialized nations. Researchers from Durham University (United Kingdom) reviewed 10 controlled before-and-after studies involving 16,603 participants, which evaluated a variety of flexible working arrangements for the impact on employee health and wellbeing. Flexible working arrangements were found to improve employees’ physical health parameters (including systolic blood pressure and heart rate; tiredness; mental health, sleep duration, sleep quality and alertness; and self-rated health status) and/or wellbeing (co-workers' social support and sense of community), with no ill health effects observed. The team concludes that: “the findings… suggest that flexible working interventions that increase worker control and choice (such as self-scheduling) are likely to have a positive effect on health outcomes.”
People who find joy, excitement, and contentment in their daily lives may be protected from cardiovascular disease. Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center (New York, USA) studied mental. Disposition and tracked cardiovascular events in 1,739 adults enrolled in the 1995 Nova Scotia Health Survey. The team found that those subjects with higher levels of positive affect were at a significantly lower risk of having a cardiovascular event over a 10-year period, even after adjusting for negative emotions. The study authors estimate that: “Increased positive affect was protective against 10-year incident [coronary heart disease].”
Many of us are not getting the necessary amount or quality of sleep we need each night in order to function at our best the next day. University of California/Berkeley (California, USA) researchers report that a short nap can improve learning capacity. The team recruited 39 healthy young adults and randomly assigned them to take a 90-minute early afternoon nap, or stay awake for the same duration. Whereas both groups performed at comparable levels on a learning task completed prior to the nap time, another mental challenge after the naptime was completed markedly better by those who napped than those who stayed awake.
Thanks to modern farming technology advancements, chicken eggs are lower in cholesterol, and higher in Vitamin D, than they were ten years ago.
Jacob Exler, from the US Dept. Of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (Maryland, USA), and colleagues collected a random sample of regular large shell chicken eggs from 12 locations across the country, and sent them to a university laboratory where they were prepared for nutrient analysis at certified nutrient analysis laboratories.
The researchers revealed that large eggs are 14% lower in cholesterol and 64% higher in vitamin D, as compared to eggs assessed in 2002. As well, today one large egg contains 6 grams of protein, or 12% of the Recommended Daily Value.
Enjoying an egg a day can fall within current cholesterol guidelines, particularly if individuals opt for low-cholesterol foods throughout the day. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that eating one whole egg per day does not result in increased blood cholesterol levels and recommend that individuals consume, on average, less than 300 mg of cholesterol per day. A single large egg contains 185 mg cholesterol.
Anxiety often remains unrecognized or untreated among patients with a chronic illness. Researchers from the University of Georgia (Georgia, USA) analyzed the results of 40 randomized clinical trials involving nearly 3,000 patients affected by heart disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer and chronic pain from arthritis. On average, the patients who exercised regularly reported a 20% reduction in anxiety symptoms, as compared to those who did not exercise. Writing that “Exercise training programs lasting no more than 12 weeks, using session durations of at least 30 minutes … resulted in the largest anxiety improvements,” the study authors urge that: “Exercise training reduces anxiety symptoms among sedentary patients who have a chronic illness.”
A number of studies suggest that a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement may confer a wealth of health benefits:
• Reduces Body Weight, Improve Cholesterol Levels: A team from Harbin Medical University (China) enrolled 96 obese Chinese women (body mass index [BMI] of 28 kg/m2), ages 18 to 55 years, for a 26-week long study. The subjects were randomized into three groups, receiving either one tablet of multivitamin/mineral supplement, calcium (162 mg), or placebo, daily. At the end of the study period, the researchers found that the women who took the multivitamin/ mineral supplement had significantly lower body weight, body mass index, fat mass, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, while also demonstrating higher resting energy expenditure and HDL cholesterol. Respiratory quotient and waist circumference also beneficially improved.
• Boosts Memory: Swinburne University (Australia) researchers enrolled 56 elderly women, with subjective complaints of memory loss, in a sixteen-week long study. The team observed that a mixture of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and plant extracts significantly improved spatial working memory. As well, the supplementation decreased levels of homocysteine, a compound implicated in cognitive deficits.
• Improve Alertness and Well-Being: A separate team from Swinburne University (Australia) studied 50 men, ages 50 to 69 years. In their eight-week long study, each subject either received a multivitamin containing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and plant extracts; or placebo.. At the end of the study period, a notable decrease in measures of depression, anxiety, and stress was observed among the men who receiving the vitamin supplement. Significant improvement in alertness was reported by the subjects in the vitamin supplemented group,
Nitric oxide (NO) is an important molecule that helps maintain the contractility and health of vascular smooth muscle cells. A number of previous studies have linked vascular pathology to a decreased level of NO. It is speculated that approaches that increase the availability of NO could help protect vascular health.
NO is synthesized from arginine by an enzyme called nitric oxide synthase (NOS). Brian Zuckerbraun, from the University of Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania, USA), and colleagues, studied a lab animal model of vascular injury. The team found that supplementing the animals with nitrate before inducing vessel injury markedly limited the extent of the damage, whereas a diet low in nitrate exacerbated it. Researchers commenting on these findings point out that high levels of dietary nitrate might in part explain the vascular benefits of diets rich in leafy greens.
US dietary guidelines recommend eating at least five servings of fruit and vegetables each day. Yet, over half of the older American population does not meet this suggested intake.
Texas A&M University (Texas, USA) researchers report that gardeners are more likely to meet the daily recommended intake of vegetables. Aime J. Sommerfeld and colleagues examined and compared fruit and vegetable consumption of gardeners versus nongardeners, obtaining data on 261 men and women, ages 50 years and older.
Finding that gardeners were more likely to consume vegetables, as compared to nongardeners, neither the length of time an individual reported having participated in gardening activities, nor the number of hours per week individuals spent gardening, appeared to affect the number of vegetables and fruits reportedly consumed.
Potato chips are a top culprit in gradual weight gain.
Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, of Brigham and Women's Hospital (Massachusetts, USA), and colleagues report that about half of the average 3.35 pounds a healthy, nonobese American gains over four years may be attributed to eating more potato chips over time (1.69 lb per additional serving per day). Other food strongly associated with weight gain include:
• Potatoes at 1.28 lb
• Sugar-sweetened beverages at 1.00 lb
• Unprocessed red meats at 0.95 lb
• Processed meats at 0.93 lb
Conversely, the researchers observed that four-year weight loss was most associated with intake of:
• Yogurt at -0.82 lb
• Nuts at -0.57 lb
• Fruits at -0.49 lb
• Whole grains at -0.37 lb
• Vegetables at -0.22 lb
A healthy breakfast provides energy for the day's tasks, aids in brain functioning, and kick-starts the body's metabolism, making it crucial for weight loss and maintenance. Previous studies have shown that breakfast is the meal that most successfully regulates ghrelin, the hormone that increases hunger. Yet, only one in three Americans eat breakfast every day, reports a Kellogg Company survey of 14,000 people.
Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts contain high levels of glucosinolates - compounds that are metabolized into antioxidants and anti-cancer agents. The primary metabolite of glucosinolate in broccoli is sulforaphane.
Choosing the right size and color of your bowls and plates could help you eat less. Koert van Ittersum, from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia, USA), and colleagues asked 225 student participants to pour a specified amount of tomato soup into one of seven different sized bowls: three smaller, three larger, and one control bowl. Consistent with researchers' expectations, participants served less than the target serving size of soup into the smaller bowls, and they served more into the larger bowls.
An optical illusion tends to cause a serving on a small plate or bowl to look relatively larger than it actually is, which leads people to underserve. Follow-up experiments showed that the "bowl bias" is nearly impossible to eliminate with education, awareness, or practice. During two summer camps, larger bowls led people to overserve up to 31% more than normal.
The team submits that one of the few ways to reduce bowl bias is through color––such as changing the color of a tablecloth or a plate. In a field study, participants were asked to serve white-sauce or red-sauce pasta on either a large white or a large red plate. On average, changing the color of the plate so it was high contrast reduced how much people served by 21%, and changing the color of the tablecloth reduced how much people served by 10%.
Today, average size of dinner plates is 23% larger, as compared to plates served in the year 1900. The study authors point out that eating only 50 more calories a day could result in a five-pound weight gain each year.
Behavioral mimicry is a process by which people unwittingly imitate the behavior of another person. Roel Hermans, from Radboud University Nijmegen (The Netherlands), and colleagues have found that this phenomenon may be at work when people dine. The team completed a study involving 70 pairs of young women, mean age 21 years, who had dinner together in a supervised replica dining establishment. The team found that the subjects were significantly more likely to take a bite when the person with whom they were sharing a meal drew her fork to her mouth. Such mimicry was more pronounced during the beginning of the meal: women were more than three times as likely to mimic bites at the outset as they were at the end. The study authors conclude that: “behavioral mimicry may partially account for social modeling of food intake.”
Older people who eat properly are likely to live longer. Luis Afonso, from Wayne State University (Michigan, USA), and colleagues assessed eating habits and death rates among 3,884 men and women, ages 65 years and older, enrolled in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), and followed them for 13 years. Those study subjects with a diet meeting the US Department of Agriculture’s Healthy Eating Index, had lower rates of death from all causes and from cardiovascular disease in-particular, as compared to those who ate a poor diet.
University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill (North Carolina, USA) reported that the simple substitution of water or diet soft drinks, for drinks with calories, can help people lose 4 to 5 pounds. The team compared weight loss for 318 overweight/obese men and women, who were divided into three groups: the first group switched to calorie-laden beverages to diet soft drinks; the second group switched to water; and the third group made no beverage change, to receive general information about healthy choices to encourage weight loss. All three groups attended monthly group sessions and had access to an online support website. The subject to switch to water were twice as likely to lose 5% or more of their body weight, as compared to those who were counseled. As well, the water drinkers had lower fasting glucose levels a better hydration levels, as compared to the control group.
Brown University (Rhode Island, USA) researchers have identified a ripple effect whereby social networks can positively influence an individual’s weight loss goals.
Tricia Leahey and colleagues analyzed data collected on 3,330 overweight or obese individuals (BMI of 31.2 or greater), enrolled in the 2009 Shape Up Rhode Island (SURI) campaign, a 12-week statewide online weight loss competition that represented 987 teams across three divisions, averaging between 5 and 11 members each. The researchers found that weight loss outcomes were clearly determined by which team an individual was on. Participants who lost clinically significant amounts of weight (at least 5% of their initial body weight) tended to be on the same teams, and being on a team with more teammates in the weight loss division was also associated with a greater weight loss. Individuals who reported higher levels of teammate social influence increased their odds of achieving a clinically significant weight loss by 20% - an effect that was stronger than any other team characteristic.
Victims of a natural disaster can experience stress and anxiety, and University of Canterbury (New Zealand) researchers report that such effects may also prompt errors in cognitive skills.
William S. Helton and James Head assessed the impact of the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that took place in Christchurch, New Zealand, in September 2010, on 7 men and 9 women. Comparing cognitive performance markers (errors of omission, errors of commission, and reaction time) before and after the incident, the team found that errors of omission rose after the earthquake, and individual stress response influenced the degree to which errors of commission and reaction time were affected.
Phosphate, in the inorganic form, is commonly present in many types of fast food. Its consumption can measurably elevate the serum phosphate concentration, which may pose a health risk among patients with compromised kidney function. German researchers report that because inorganic phosphate is entirely resorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, people with renal disease are at increased risk of death. The study authors warn that: "phosphate additives in food are a matter of concern, and their potential impact on health may well have been underappreciated.”
Smart dietary choices reduce the risk of death, even in older men and women who have pre-existing diseases. Wayne State University (Michigan, USA) researchers assessed the eating habits of 3,884 men and women, ages 65 and older, following them for 13 years, during which the incidence of death was tracked. Subjects who consumed a good diet had lower rates of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, as compared to those who ate a poor diet.
The Mediterranean Diet features cereals, fruits, legumes and whole grains, fish and olive oil. Researchers from the University of Miami (Florida, USA) reported that consumption of a Mediterranean Diet associates with protection against damage to small blood vessels in the brain. The team studied 1,000 men and women, average age 72 years, enrolled in the Northern Manhattan Study. For all the subjects, the researchers conducted MRI imaging scans of the brain, and collected data on dietary behavior via a standardized questionnaire that was subsequently interpreted to establish a Mediterranean Diet score. For each one-point increase in the Mediterranean Diet, the team observed a lower white matter hyperintensity volume, for which they posit the effects to be exerted by the monounsaturated fats, including olive oil, used abundantly in the Mediterranean Diet.
When heated to a temperature suitable for frying foods, oils which are high in polyunsaturated fats – such as sunflower and linseed, produce toxic compounds. Researchers from the University of the Basque Country (Spain) report that a number of harmful aldehydes, which in laboratory studies are linked to different types of cancer as well as neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, are present in heated oils. Adversely, olive oil, which has a higher concentration of monounsaturated fats, generate these harmful aldehydes as well, albeit at a smaller amount.
Married adults who undergo heart surgery are more than three times as likely as single people who have the same surgery to survive the next three months, reports a team from Emory University (Georgia, USA). The study involved more than 500 patients undergoing either emergency or elective coronary bypass surgery. All of the study subjects were interviewed prior to surgery. Data on survival status of the patients were obtained from the National Death Index. Patients who survived more than three months were approximately 70% more likely to die during the next five years if they were single. While the most striking difference in outcomes occurred during the first three months, the study showed that the strong protective effect of marriage continues for up to five years following coronary artery bypass surgery. Overall, the hazard of mortality is nearly twice as great for unmarried as it is for married patients about to undergo the surgery.
A number of previous studies in humans have suggested that exposure to germs at an early age may help to build immunity – a theory that is known as the "hygiene hypothesis." Richard S. Blumberg, from Brigham and Women's Hospital (Massachusetts, USA), and colleagues have completed a study that provides evidence supporting the hygiene hypothesis, and advances a potential mechanism by which it might occur. The researchers studied the immune system of mice lacking bacteria or any other microbes ("germ-free mice") and compared them to mice living in a normal environment with microbes. They found that germ-free mice had exaggerated inflammation of the lungs and colon resembling asthma and colitis, respectively. This was caused by the hyperactivity of a unique class of T cells (immune cells) that had been previously linked to these disorders in both mice and humans. Most importantly, the researchers discovered that exposing the germ-free mice to microbes during their first weeks of life, but not when exposed later in adult life, led to a normalized immune system and prevention of diseases. Moreover, the protection provided by early-life exposure to microbes was long-lasting, as predicted by the hygiene hypothesis. Study authors report that: "These results indicate that age-sensitive contact with commensal microbes is critical for establishing mucosal [natural killer T] cell tolerance to later environmental exposures.”
Avoiding admission to the hospital is a Corollary to the Essential Rules of Anti-Aging Medicine. Previously, researchers from the University College London (United Kingdom) reported that a person has a 10% chance of being harmed during his stay in the hospital. A team from Rush University (Illinois, USA) reports that elderly patients who are hospitalized are likely to experience worsening of overall cognitive decline, along with greater impairments in episodic memory and executive function. Robert S. Wilson and colleagues analyzed the effects on overall cognitive ability and the individual components of cognition using data from the Chicago Health and Aging Project. The researchers assessed 1870 men and women, who were evaluated every three years, for an average follow-up of nine years. During that time, 71.4% had at least one hospitalization, which lasted for a median of 5 days. Standardized tests for global cognition, episodic memory (including immediate and delayed recall), and executive function were administered. The team observed a 3.3-fold increase in decline in episodic memory, which had decreased by 0.014 units before the hospitalization but by 0.046 units subsequently. Similarly, executive function declined by 0.053 units yearly before the hospitalization and by 0.091 units thereafter, which was a 1.7-fold increase. This represented a total decline of 0.075 units -- a more-than 2.4-fold yearly increase. The researchers report that: "In old age, cognitive functioning tends to decline substantially after hospitalization even after controlling for illness severity and prehospital cognitive decline.
Chronic inflammation is suspected to be an overexpression or lack of control of the body’s normal protective mechanisms, and the condition has been linked to a range of conditions linked to heart disease, osteoporosis, cognitive decline and Alzheimer's, type-2 diabetes, and arthritis. Strawberries contain anthocyanins and flavonoids, which are potent antioxidants that may help to combat inflammation.
Cholesterol: Oklahoma State University (Oklahoma, USA) researchers studied 16 women, each of whom exhibited markers of metabolic syndrome, including central obesity, hypertension, and impaired glucose and insulin metabolism. Each study participant drank two cups of a beverage made from a freeze-dried strawberry powder, daily for 4 weeks. At the conclusion of the study period, total cholesterol dropped by 5% and LDL cholesterol levels were reduced by 6%. In addition, levels of malondialdehyde, a marker of oxidative stress, dropped by 14%.
Esophageal Cancer: Team from Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center (Ohio, USA), and engaged 36 study participants to consume 60 grams (about two ounces) of freeze-dried strawberries daily for six months. The researchers obtained biopsy specimens before and after the strawberry consumption. The results showed that 29 out of 36 participants experienced a decrease in histological grade of the precancerous lesions during the study.
Don’t underestimate the humble cup of coffee. A European team reports that a daily cup of coffee helps to minimize the oxidative damage to DNA. Enrolling 38 men and women for a controlled intervention trial where each subject consumed 800 ml of paper-filtered coffee or water daily over 5 days. The researchers found that coffee reduced the oxidative damage to DNA, as measured by a decreased formation of oxidized purines, by 12.3%.
Among the most frequently consumed beverages worldwide, coffee is rich in antioxidants, with one cup providing 350 mg of phenolic compounds. Studies suggest a wide range of potential health effects:
• Stroke: Large-scale UK study finds that just a single cup of coffee a day cuts stroke risk by 30%. Studying data collected on 9,978 men and 12,254 women, ages 39 to 79 years, enrolled in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC)-Norfolk study, the team found that those who drank a single cup of coffee, either regular or decaffeinated, a day, slashed their risk of stroke by 30%. Separately, Swedish researchers report that women who drink coffee daily may be at a reduced risk for stroke. The team assessed data collected on 34,670 women enrolled in the Swedish Mammography Cohort study. The researchers found that those women who drink coffee daily are at a reduced risk for stroke , with the risk being 22% lower with one to two cups a day and 25% lower with three to four cups a day.
• Blood Vessel Health: Greek researchers have found that one to two cups of coffee daily may help to counteract aortic stiffness in older adults with hypertension. The team analyzed coffee consumption patterns among 435 hypertensive individuals, ages 65 to 100 years, enrolled in a larger study involving the permanent inhabitants of Ikaria Island, where many residents reach 90 years and older. As compared to those who rarely drank coffee, moderate consumption of one or two cups a day associated with a lower prevalence of diabetes, lower prevalence of high cholesterol, lower body mass index, lower prevalence of cardiovascular disease, and higher values of aortic distensibility.
• Breast Cancers: Swedish team reports that high daily intakes of coffee may significantly reduce a woman’s risks of anti-estrogen-resistant estrogen-receptor (ER-negative) breast cancer. Assessing data collected on 6,p00 people, Karolinska Institutet found that women who consumed five cups of coffee per day were 57% less likely to develop ER-negative breast cancer, as compared to a low consumption reference group.
• Prostate Cancer: Harvard University (Massachusetts, USA) researchers reported that men who regularly drink coffee may be at a lower risk of developing a lethal form of prostate cancer. Examining the association between coffee consumption and the risk of prostate cancer, particularly the risk for aggressive prostate cancer among 47,911 U.S. men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, the team observed during a four-year study period, 5,035 cases of prostate cancer were reported, including 642 fatal or metastatic cases. The researchers found that men who consumed the most coffee (six or more cups daily) had nearly a 20% lower risk of developing any form of prostate cancer. Importantly, the inverse association with coffee was even stronger for aggressive prostate cancer. Men who drank the most coffee had a 60% lower risk of developing lethal prostate cancer. Noting that the reduction in risk was seen whether the men drank decaffeinated or regular coffee, and does not appear to be due to caffeine, the team observed that drinking one to three cups of coffee per day was associated with a 30% lower risk of lethal prostate cancer.
Having a sense of purpose may slash your risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. Rush University Medical Center (Illinois, USA) followed 900 community-dwelling older men and women, without dementia, enrolled in the Rush Memory and Aging Project, evaluating purpose in life and cognitive function, both at the study’s start and seven years later.
People who feel young for their age are more confident about retaining mental faculties as they age. Surveying almost 500 men and women, ages 55 to 74 years, about their attitudes towards aging as part of the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States, a team from Purdue University (Indiana, USA) sought to ascertain opinions regarding one’s subjective age, comparing that number to that same person’s chronological age, in an effort to determine which parameter more greatly influenced the perceptions of mental faculties in aging.
You may be perplexed the next time you are offered a choice between tea and coffee, because evidence suggests that both beverages have potential health benefits:
• Diabetes: Researchers from the University of Sydney (Australia) completed a review of 18 research studies involving nearly 1 million study subjects, to ascertain the associations between lifestyle factors, including coffee and tea consumption, and diabetes risk. The team found that those individuals who drank more coffee, either regular or decaffeinated, or tea lowered their risks of developing Type 2 diabetes. Specifically, each additional cup of coffee consumed per day was associated with a 7% lower risk of diabetes, and those who drank 3 to 4 cups daily lowered their risk by 25%. Additionally, the researchers found that tea drinkers who consumed more than 3 to 4 cups of tea per day had about a one-fifth lower risk of diabetes (as compared to non-tea drinkers).
• Heart Health: University Medical Center Utrecht (The Netherlands researchers studied beverage habits of 37,514 participants of the Dutch cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), collecting data on the incidence of cardiovascular events during the 13-year long study period, The team calculated that between three and six cups of tea a day may reduce the risk of death from heart disease by 45%, as compared to those people who drank one cup or less per day. Additionally, they found that between two and four cups of coffee daily yielded a 20% lower risk, as compared to those who drank less than two or more than four cups daily.
• Brain Tumor Risk: Team from Imperial College (United Kingdom) studied the association between coffee, tea, or caffeinated beverages and risk of glioma, tumors that originate in the brain’s supportive tissue. They assessed data collected from over half a million people enrolled in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study, finding that daily consumption of more than 100 milliliters (3.4 ounces) of tea or coffee significantly reduced glioma risk, as compared consuming less than 100 ml per day.
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which emphasizes low-fat dairy products, fruits and vegetables, is a common potential dietary recommendation for blood pressure reduction. Duke University Medical Center (North Carolina, USA) researchers have reported that the DASH diet improves mental activity, in overweight adults with high blood pressure. The team enrolled 144 overweight (BMI of 25 to 40 kg/m2) men and women, average age 52 years, with high blood pressure, and assigned each to one of three groups: the DASH diet in combination with an aerobic exercise program (30 minutes of exercise, three times a week); DASH diet alone; no dietary or exercise recommendations, for a four-month long study period. The researchers assessed the subjects’ brain function and mental skills, at the study’s start and conclusion. They found that those participants who followed the DASH diet in combination with aerobic exercise experienced a 30% improvement in brain function as well as lower blood pressure, improved their cardiovascular fitness, and lost an average of 19 pounds by the end of the study.
More Americans now drink sugar-sweetened sodas, sport drinks and fruit drinks daily, and this increase in consumption has led to greater incidences of disease over the past decade:
Rich in polyphehols, a potent type of antioxidant, an ever-growing body of evidence suggests a number of cardiovascular benefits of consuming cocoa:
Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, lingonberries, bilberries, elderberries … berries of all varieties are a good source of antioxidants that appear to associate with a variety of health benefits:
Garlic, onions, shallots and leeks all belong to the allium food group, considered to be a good source of a number of antioxidant compounds. While folklore suggests that garlic repels vampires, there are plenty of scientific studies that demonstrate the heath enhancing value of including garlic in your diet:
Periodontitis is a common inflammatory disease in which gum tissue separates from teeth, causing an accumulation of bacteria and potential bone and tooth loss. Consider supplementing good dental hygiene with the following natural approaches to dental health:
A number of previous studies have shown that foods rich in antioxidants serve an essential role in preventing cardiovascular diseases, cancers, neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and disorders relating to inflammation. In that herbs and spices are excellent sources of antioxidants, researchers from The University of Western Ontario (Canada), and colleagues report that marinating meats and vegetables in preparations that include ingredients such as hot peppers, allspice, sesame and ginger, is a simple and effective way to introduce antioxidants into meals.
Chronic feelings of loneliness can cause a marked increase in blood pressure among men and women ages 50 and up. University of Chicago (Illinois, USA) researchers studied a group of 229 Chicago-area men and women, ages 50 to 68 years, examining how loneliness and co-occurring psychosocial factors (depressive symptoms, perceived stress, social support, and hostility) were related to indices of cardiovascular and endocrine functioning. During the five-year study, the team found a clear connection between feelings of loneliness reported at the beginning of the study and rising blood pressure over that period. Even people with modest levels of loneliness were impacted. Among all the people in the sample, the loneliest people saw their blood pressure go up by 14.4 mm more than the blood pressure of their most socially contented counterparts over the four-year study period.
What’s good for the planet is good for people. Researchers from Arizona State University (Arizona, USA) completed a meta-analysis of 120 peer-reviewed publications on the health effects of plastics and plasticizers in lab animals and humans. This study reiterates the fact that the effects to the environment from plastic waste are acute. In the U.S., the average person produces a half-pound of plastic waste every day, and as such, adverse effects to human health are a potential area for grave concern. Two broad classes of plastic-related chemicals are of critical concern for human health -- bisphenol-A (BPA), and phthalates, additives used in the synthesis of plastics. Further, plastics accumulate in garbage dumps and landfills and are sullying the world's oceans in ever-greater quantity.
Previously, a number of studies have suggested that people who are optimistic tend to enjoy better health. A team from the University of Kentucky (Kentucky, USA) has found that people with optimistic attitudes may have a stronger positive immune response. The team enrolled 124 first-year law school students, and assessed them at five times over six months. Each subject was surveyed as to their levels of optimism and injected with a substance to summon an immune response; two days later, the subjects returned to have the injection site measured. The researchers considered a larger bump in the skin to imply a stronger immune response, thereby a marker of cell-mediated immunity.
Similarly, University of Illinois (Illinois, USA) researchers report a compelling connection between a positive state of mind and overall health and longevity. The team completed a review of 160 published studies, finding that study subjects who reported high subjective well-being (such as life satisfaction, absence of negative emotions, optimism, and positive emotions) enjoyed better health and longer lives.
One of the lesser known vitamins, Vitamin K is essential for the formation of clotting factors, proteins that regulate the blood clotting response. Vitamin K can be found in yogurt, kefir, acidophilus milk, alfalfa, spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, pork liver, lean meat, peas, carrots, soybeans, potatoes, and egg yolk. Emerging science suggests that Vitamin K is necessary for:
• Bone Health: Universitat Rovira i Virgili (Spain)researchers report that a diet rich in vitamin K may benefit bone mineral density, particularly among elderly men and women. Performing a cross-sectional analysis involving 200 elderly people, average age 67 years, who completed a food frequency questionnaire and were followed for two years, the team estimated the subjects’ vitamin K intakes. Various measures of bone health, including bone mineral density (BMD), were performed using quantitative ultrasound assessment in 125 subjects. With the average intake was calculated to be 334 micrograms per day for men, and 300 micrograms per day for women, the researchers observed that every 100 microgram increase in vitamin K intake associated with 0.008 g/m2 increase in BMD. High dietary vitamin K intake was associated with superior bone properties. Moreover, an increase in dietary vitamin K was significantly related to lower losses of bone mineral density and smaller increases in the porosity and elasticity attributed to aging.
• Anti-Diabetes: Team from Tufts University (Boston, Massachusetts USA) studied 355 older non-diabetic men and women, ages 60 to 80 years. The researchers administered 500 micrograms/day of vitamin K (as phylloquinone, or vitamin K1) for 36 months. In those men who received the Vitamin K supplement, insulin resistance was significantly lower (no effect was seen in women).
• Cancer Protection: Scientists from the German Research Centre for Environmental Health (Germany) studied 24,340 subjects, ages 35 to 64 years, enrolled in the EPIC-Heidelberg study. The participants were following for over 10 years, during which 1,755 cases of cancer were documented, with 458 of these as fatal. The team found that those study subjects with the highest average intakes of vitamin K2 were 14% less likely to develop cancer, as compared to people with the lowest average intakes. Furthermore, increased vitamin K2 intakes corresponded to a 28% reduction in cancer mortality. Separately, a Mayo Clinic (Minnesota, USA) team studied 603 men and women who were newly diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer that starts in the lymphatic system, was approximately 45% lower in people who consumed at least 108 micrograms a day of Vitamin K.
Insufficient Vitamin K is linked to the rise in aging-related diseases. Bruce N Ames, from the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (California, USA) and author of the Triage Theory, which proposes that some functions of micronutrients (essential vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids) are restricted during shortage and that functions required for short-term survival take precedence over those that are less essential, posits that most people fail to consume adequate amounts of Vitamin K, which precipitates undesireable changes to accumulate as a consequence of restriction, which in-turn increases the risk of diseases of aging. Most vitamin and mineral supplements do not contain vitamin K as it is presumed to be consumed via foods.
The flax plant (Linum usitatissimum) is most noted for its oil, which is a rich source of essential fatty acids including linoleic acid and alpha linoleic acid (ALA), as well as for its seeds, which is as rich source of ecoisolariciresinol diglucoside, a type of lignan, an antioxidant plant compound.. Modern-day science reports that flax helps to:
• Reduce Cholesterol: Researchers from Iowa State University (Iowa, USA) enrolled 90 men and women, suffering from elevated cholesterol but otherwise healthy, in a twelve-week long study. Subjects were divided into three groups and randomly assigned to daily consume tablets that contained zero, 150, or 300 milligrams of flaxseed lignans. Men who consumed either quantity of flaxseed lignans reduced their cholesterol levels by 10%.
• Modulate Appetite: A team from the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) recruited 18 men, average age 27 years with an average body mass index (BMI) of 25 kg/m2, and randomly assigned each subject to consume meals supplemented with 1.4 or 2.4 grams of whole flaxseeds per megajoule of energy, or 2.4 or 3.5 g/MJ of flaxseed dietary fiber. During seven hours of study, the team conducted analyses of appetite-regulating hormones and blood sugar and lipid levels. Compared to a control meal, blood levels of triglycerides were reduced significantly after consuming the highest dose of flaxseed fiber. As well, the researchers observed differences in the response of ghrelin, an appetite-regulating hormone, noting that 2.4 grams of flaxseed fiber added to a meal increased the subject’s ratings of satiety and fullness.
• Support Weight Management: University of Copenhagen (Denmark) researcjers completed two studies, the first of which compared the efficacy of a flax drink (2.5 g of soluble fiber), compared to control beverage, and appetite and subsequent food intake. The second study compared the flax drink with flax tablets (both delivering 2.5 g of soluble fiber). The team found that flax beverage improved satiety and fullness by about 30% and reduced food intake by about 8%.
A growing body of evidence supports a link between Vitamin D and optimal immune health. University School of Medicine (Japan) researchers studied 334 schoolchildren, one group of whom received daily supplements of vitamin D3 (1200 IUs) and the other group received placebo. During the course of four months, the incidence of seasonal influenza was 11% in the Vitamin D supplemented group, as compared to 19% in the placebo group.
Past satisfaction with everyday life is a key predictor of happiness in one’s older years. Iowa State University (Iowa, USA) researchers have identified key predictors of happiness among the oldest old (those ages 85 years and older). In a study of 158 Georgia centenarians, the team analyzed the subjects' responses to a series of questions that assessed their happiness, perceived health, social provisions, economic security and life satisfaction. While there was no indication that resources affect happiness, past life satisfaction -- even individual achievements -- was found to have a direct association. In other words, past satisfaction with life -- even if something as simple as recalling isolated career accomplishments – was a major key to happiness in our oldest years.
Happiness may increase with age. Across all major objective markers, people seem to become happier as they get older, finds a team from Princeton University (New Jersey, USA), who compiled data resulting from a 2008 Gallup Survey of 340,847 Americans, ages 18 to 85 years. The general pattern of emotional well-being appeared to feature stress and anger on steep decline beginning in the early 20s, worry elevating through middle age and then declining, and sadness remaining essentially flat throughout life. The team found that enjoyment and happiness, while decreasing gradually until we reach our fifth decade of life, rise steadily from age 50 to 75 years. Separately, scientists from Stanford University (California, USA) report that as people age, they become more emotionally stable, experiencing happier and more productive living. Studying a group of 184 Americans, ages 18 to 94 years at the study’s start in 1993, for an 12-year period, the subjects were surveyed to assess their level of happiness, satisfaction , and comfort at various timepoints. Over the years, the older subjects reported having fewer negative emotions and more positive ones, as compared with their younger days.
“Fatty fish” are fish that are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, most notably docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Omega-3 fatty acids from fish sources have been shown to exert beneficial effects on cardiovascular risk factors. Per 3.5 ounce serving, mackerel contains 2.6 grams of omega-3s, herring 1.7 grams, salmon and canned sardines 1.5 grams, and anchovies 1.4 grams. Studies suggest that consuming fatty fish may associate with reductions in:
• Heart Failure Risk: Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health (Alabama, USA)assessed the relationship of fatty fish and omega-3s contained therein, with heart failure risk among middle-aged and older women. The team analyzed data from 36,234 women, ages 48 and 83 years, who were enrolled in the Swedish Mammography Cohort. Surveying dietary intakes and tracking incidence of heart failure during the eighteen-year long study period. The team found that those who ate one serving of fatty fish per week had a 14% reduction in the risk of heart failure, and those women who ate two servings of fatty fish per week slashed their risk by 30%.
• Deaths from Prostate Cancer McGill University Health Center (Quebec, Canada) researchers completed a meta-analysis of 31 published studies of prostate cancer, including 12 case-control studies involving 5,777 cases. While the team found no link between eating fish and men's risk of developing prostate cancer, they did observe that men who ate more fish were 44% less likely to develop metastatic prostate cancer. Higher fish consumption also was associated with a 63% lower risk of dying from prostate cancer. The researchers suggest that fish consumption may reduce prostate cancer mortality by reducing men's likelihood of developing metastatic disease, positing that the anti-inflammatory effect of the oils present in fish oils may play a critical role.
• AMD Vision Loss: Team from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School (Massachusetts, USA) and colleagues report that regular consumption of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) may significantly reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of the leading cause of blindness in Caucasian Americans.
• Hearing Loss: University of Sydney (Australia) scientists analyzed data collected on 2,956 men and women enrolled in the Blue Mountains Hearing Study, surveying the subjects regarding their dietary intakes of fish. The team found that two servings of fish weekly reduced hearing loss in subjects ages 50 years and older, as compared with people who average less than one serving per week.
Worldwide, the costs of dementia – including Alzheimer’s Disease –exceeded 1% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2010, standing at US$604 billion. “The World Alzheimer Report 2010” also warns that the number of people with dementia will double by 2030, and more than triple by 2050, with the costs of caring for people with dementia posed to rise even faster than the disease’s prevalence. The Report warns that governments worldwide must develop policies and plans for long-term care that anticipate and address social and demographic trends and have an explicit focus on supporting family caregivers and ensuring social protection of vulnerable people with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. Scientists are exploring natural ways to address Alzheimer’s naturally, with some studies suggesting a potential role for dietary interventions.
Columbia University (US) researchers find that a combination of nutrients and foods in a particular dietary pattern reduced the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease. The team assessed the dietary patterns of 2,148 men and women, ages 65 and older. Surveying the subjects as to dietary habits and evaluating for signs of Alzheimer's disease and dementia every 18 months for a four-year period, the team found that one particular dietary pattern was associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease. Foods in this diet that appeared to ward off Alzheimer's disease were salad dressing, nuts, fish, poultry, tomatoes, fruits, and cruciferous and dark and green vegetables. The study authors posit that the saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin B12, and folate present in this dietary pattern may suppress neuronal cell membrane dysfunction and plaque accumulation that typify Alzheimer’s disease.
Temple University (Pennsylvania, USA) scientists report that a diet low in methionine, an amino acid linked to homocysteine, a compound that is considered a risk factor for inflammation, may help to slow or reverse the early-to-moderate stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, in an animal model. In that the team previously demonstrated that a diet rich in methionine could increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease, their new investigation fed one group of mice a diet high in methionine and another group a regular, healthy diet. After five months, they split the group receiving the methionine-rich diet into two, with one group continuing the amino-heavy diet while the second switched to the healthy diet for an additional two months. At the conclusion of the study, the researchers found that the dietary switch reversed the cognitive impairment caused by the methionine-rich diet, as measured by fewer amyloid plaques in the animals’ brains. In addition, the team reports that the cognitive impairment that had been observed in the mice after three months on the methionine-rich diet was completely reversed after two months on the healthier diet, and they were now able to function normally.
Tel Aviv University (Israel) team reports that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and low in cholesterol, may significantly reduce the negative effects of the APOE4 gene, in a lab animal model of Alzheimer’s Disease. The researchers introduced three different kinds of diet: a normal diet, a "bad" diet high in cholesterol, and a "good" diet high in fish oil, to a mouse model of Alzheimer’s Disease, and found that a rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and low in cholesterol, significantly reduced the negative effects of the APOE4 gene.
A review of epidemiological studies and research in animal models has led scientists to posit that caffeine could be used to prevent and treat Alzheimer's disease. Researchers studied the effects of caffeine on a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease, and found that mice given caffeine in their drinking water from young adulthood into old age suffered less memory impairment and had lower brain levels of amyloid-beta, the abnormal protein that is thought to play a key role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease. Further studies revealed that just 1-2 months of treatment with caffeine restored memory and reduced brain levels of amyloid- beta, in "aged" cognitively impaired mice
Women consuming a diet rich in simple carbohydrates, which are quickly transformed into sugar in the blood, may be at increased risk of heart disease. Researchers at Italy's National Cancer Institute investigated dietary patterns of 15,171 men and 32,578 women, who were followed for nearly eight years, and found that those women who consumed the most carbohydrates were at a two-fold greater incidence heart disease, as compared to those who consumed the least carbs. Further detailed analysis showed that the risk was specifically associated with higher intake of high-glycemic foods, that is – simple carbohydrates.
A Temple University (Pennsylvania, USA) team reports that a diet restrictive of carbohydrates markedly improves HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels. In their two-year long study that compared the effects of a low carbohydrate versus low-fat diet, on weight and cardiovascular fitness, the researchers studied 307 men and women, average age 45.5 years, with a mean BMI of 36.1 kg/m2, and followed the subjects’ weight changes, body composition, serum lipids, blood pressure, and other metabolic markers. During the first 6 months of the study, the low-carbohydrate diet group experienced greater reductions in diastolic blood pressure, triglyceride levels, and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, as well as increased HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels; these benefits persisted for the remainder of the study. Most notably, the HDL improvement reached a 23% increase at the 2-year mark.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC; Georgia, USA), each year, one in every three adults age 65 and older falls. Among addults ages 65-plus, falls are the leading cause of injury death. They are also the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma. In 2008, over 19,700 older adults died from unintentional fall injuries. Falls can cause moderate to severe injuries, such as hip fractures and head traumas, and can increase the risk of early death. Thinking “outside the box” may yield effective new therapies to minimize falls and fractures in older men and women.
Dance-based therapy can improve balance and gait in older adults, with the improved functionality thereby decreasing the risks of falls. University of Missouri’s Sinclair School of Nursing (Missouri, USA) team studied 11 seniors who participated in regular dance therapy sessions utilizing The Lebed Method, which includes a combination of low-impact dance steps choreographed to music. The researchers found that dance therapy results in positive functional trends, and posited that dance-based therapy will be useful to decrease fall risks in older persons.
Martial arts techniques may reduce the risks of hip fractures in older persons with osteoporosis. A team from The Sint Maartenskliniek (The Netherlands), assessed the technique on young adults, engaging and extrapolated the resultant data to the osteoporotic older population. The study authors recommended that modified martial arts fall training might be useful to reduce hip fracture risk in persons with osteoporosis.
Sleep is an essential component of the anti-aging lifestyle, as it enables the body’s cells, tissues, and organs to perform restorative functions. Researchers have revealed that learning during the waking hours is dependent on a good night’s rest.
Dreaming during sleep not only consolidates memories, but may help to process newly learned knowledge. Harvard Medical School (Massachusetts, USA) researchers enrolled 99 study participants, asking them to play a video game involving a maze through which they were to navigate via the assistance of a three-dimensional depiction of it. After playing the game, the subjects either stayed awake for two hours or took a nap; they then played the maze game again five hours later. The team noted that four participants reported dreaming about the maze while they napped, and these subjects were among those with the greatest improvement in playing the maze game for the second time, improving 10 times as much as others who napped. The study authors conclude that: “These observations suggest that sleep-dependent memory consolidation in humans is facilitated by the offline reactivation of recently formed memories, and furthermore that dream experiences reflect this memory processing.”
Bursts of brain waves known as "sleep spindles" promote networking between key regions of the brain involved with learning. A team from the University of California/Berkeley (California, USA) have found that these "sleep spindles" are electrical impulses help to shift fact-based memories from the brain's hippocampus – which has limited storage space – to the prefrontal cortex's "hard drive," thus freeing up the hippocampus to take in fresh data. Spindles are fast pulses of electricity generated during non-REM sleep, and they can occur up to 1,000 times a night. The team found that spindle-driven networking was most likely to happen during Stage 2 of non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep, which occurs before we reach the deepest NREM sleep and the dream state known as Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. The researchers conclude that: “We report here a learning interaction, such that … sleep and associated NREM spindle oscillations restore efficient learning ability.”
City dwellers are exposed to high levels of air pollution and are more likely to have higher blood pressure than people who live in the countryside. Researchers from the University of Duisburg-Essen (Germany) analyzed the effects of air pollution exposure on blood pressure in nearly 5,000 individuals for a period of 3 years. Results showed that average arterial blood pressure rose by 1.7 mmHg for an increase of 2.4 ug/m3 in the exposure level to fine particulate matter (<2.5 um), which mostly originates from combustion sources in urban areas, such as traffic, heating, industry, and power plants. A similar association for coarser particulate matter <10 um, which contains more earth crust material and roadway pollution, was also observed. The study’s lead author comments that: “This finding points out that air pollution does not only trigger life threatening events like heart attacks and strokes, but that it may also influence the underlying processes, which lead to chronic cardiovascular diseases. It is therefore necessary to further our attempts to prevent chronic exposure to high air pollution as much as possible."
On a related note, taking just five minutes of exercise in a 'green' space, such as a park or garden, can give mental health a significant boost, say researchers. A team from the University of Essex, England (United Kingdom) analyzed 10 studies involving 1252 participants. Results showed that exercising in a green environment led to significant improvements in mood and self-esteem. A mere five minutes of exercise was found to have the biggest benefit on mental health, with longer periods of green exercise having a diminishing, but still positive, effect. All green environments were found to boost self-esteem and mood; however those that also contained water, such as a river or lake, were found to be even more beneficial.
Not only does maintaining your teeth in good condition lend a good looking smile, doing so may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease:
Brush Your Teeth: University College London (United Kingdom) researchers analyzed data collected on 11,869 men and women, mean age 50 years, enrolled in the Scottish Health Survey. Over the eight-year long study period, the subjects self-reported their frequency of daily toothbrushing, while the researchers assessed hospital records to estimate the risk of cardiovascular disease events or death according to oral hygiene. Accounting for factors that contribute to heart disease risk, the team found that those subjects with the worst oral hygiene were at 70% increased risk of developing heart disease, as compared to those who brushed their teeth twice a day. In addition, the subjects with poor oral hygiene tested positive for increased levels of blood markers of inflammation, namely C-reactive protein and fibrinogen.
Schedule Routine Dental Visits: Team from University of California/Berkeley School of Public Health (California, USA), and colleagues analyzed data collected from nearly 7,000 men and women, ages 44 to 88 years, enrolled in the Health and Retirement Study, comparing those who visited the dentist during the previous two years with those who did not. The researchers found that for women, general dental care leads to fewer heart attacks, strokes, and other adverse cardiovascular outcomes in a causal way, with “women who receive dental care [reducing] their risk of future [cardiovascular disease] events by at least one-third.”
Chili peppers contain capsaicin, the active compound in chili peppers that lends the vegetable’s spicy heat. Capsaicin has been found to:
• Promote heart health: Researchers from Chinese University of Hong Kong determined that capsaicin lowers cholesterol levels by reducing accumulation of cholesterol in the body and increasing its breakdown and excretion. In addition to reducing total cholesterol levels in the blood, capsaicinoids reduced levels of the so-called "bad" cholesterol (which deposits into blood vessels), but did not affect levels of so-called "good" cholesterol. As well, they observed that capsaicin blocked the action of a gene that makes arteries contract, thereby allowing more blood to flow through blood vessels.
• Fight fat: Scientists from Daegu University (Korea) observed that laboratory rats given capsaicin lost 8% of their body weight and showed changes in levels of at least 20 key proteins found in fat, with the altered proteins working to break down fats.
• Slash blood pressure: A team from the Third Military Medical University (China) found that long-term dietary consumption of capsaicin, reduced blood pressure, in genetically hypertensive rats. The effects were resultant from a chronic activation of the transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) channel found in the lining of blood vessels, whereby activation of the channel leads to an increase in production of nitric oxide, a gaseous molecule known to protect blood vessels against inflammation and dysfunction.
Don’t dismiss the potential health benefits of cleaning the house, folding laundry, mowing the lawn, and other everyday tasks. Seemingly mundane chores may help to:
• Raise Your Fitness Level: A team from Indiana University-Purdue University (Indiana, USA) gauged 1,000 subjects for their perceptions of their neighborhood and residences, and rated the interior and exterior of the participants’ dwellings and immediate vicinity, including such things as cleanliness, furnishings, noise, air quality and conditions of the dwelling and those of nearby buildings. They found that the interior condition of their house seemed to be a primary factor affecting the physical activity, and encouraged efforts to increase physical activity rates in the everyday setting.
• Forestall Dementia: University of Florida/Gainesville (Florida, USA) researchers studied a group of 200 older adults, average age 75 years, who were categorized in regard to daily physical activity levels. Those in the most active group burned about 1,000 calories a day during activity, and were 91% less likely to experience declines in memory, concentration and language abilities after five years, as compared to those in the least active group
Experimental psychologists have associated spending time in a nature setting with increased energy and heightened sense of well-being, and have even reported that the activity of simply recalling outdoor experiences increases feelings of happiness and health. Recent studies suggest that:
• Nature boosts vitality: University of Rochester (New York, USA) team conducted a series of five studies, involving 537 college students, and found that across all study situations, subjects consistently felt more energetic when they spent time in natural settings or imagined themselves in such situations. Exposure to the outside nature setting for as little as 20 minutes in a day was sufficient to significantly boost vitality levels.
• Outdoor activities promote well-being: Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry (United Kingdom) researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 11 clinical studies involving 833 adult subjects. They found that most of studies involving outdoor-located activities correlated to improvements in mental well-being: compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. Participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and stated that they were more likely to repeat the activity at a later date.
What’s more, where you exercise may contribute to how successful your regimen is:
• At a national forest: Each year, more than 170 million people visit US national forests for recreation. Experts estimate that the physical activity associated with these visits burns 290 billion food calories. A team from the US Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station (Oregon, USA) found that hiking, walking, downhill skiing, fishing, relaxing, camping, relaxing, and driving for pleasure are among the primary activities – accounting for 68% of all visits to the national forests. Annual energy expenditures in national forest recreation represent 6.8 million adults and almost 317,000 children meeting the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention guidelines regarding regular aerobic physical activity for a year.
• At the shore: Researchers from the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry (United Kingdom) suggest that to reap the full benefits of an exercise regimen, you should head for the coast or the countryside, rather than an urban park. Studying data from 2750 English respondents drawn from Natural England's two-year study of people's engagement with the natural environment, the team found that all outdoor locations were associated with positive feelings (enjoyment, calmness, refreshment), but visits to the coast were most beneficial – and visits to urban parks least beneficial.
Consider replacing short or frequently travelled auto routes with bicycling. Not only do you reduce your carbon footprint, but bicycling may:
• Promote a healthy weight: Harvard School of Public Health (Massachusetts, USA) team examined data collected on 18,414 premenopausal women, who were free from chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, or cardiovascular disease, participating in the Nurses' Health Study II. Observing that the subjects gained an average of 9.3 kilograms (20.5 pounds) over the 16-year study period, the researchers found that those normal-weight women who were bicycling more than four hours a week in 2005, irrespective of their physical activity level in 1989, were 26% times less likely to gain more than 5% of their initial body weight. Overweight and obese women who were bicycling just two or three hours a week were 56% times less likely to gain weight.
• Slash obesity and heart disease: University of Wisconsin (Wisconsin, USA) researchers submit that moving five-mile round trips from cars to bikes during the warmest six months of the year can save $3.8 billion per year from avoided mortality and reduced health care costs for conditions including obesity and heart disease.
Tai chi is a mind-body practice that originated as a martial art in China and combines meditation with slow, gentle movements, weight shifting, breathing exercises, and relaxation. As a Chinese wellness practices, Tai Chi is associated with a variety of physical and mental health benefits, most notably:
• Boosts physical & psychological health: Arizona State University (Arizona, USA) researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 77 peer-reviewed journal articles that reported on the results of Tai Chi, involving data on 6,410 men and women. The team found that study subjects were significantly improved on the health parameters of cardiopulmonary fitness, immune function, bone density, and quality of life, as compared to sedentary counterparts.
• Prevents falls, improves mental well-being: A joint Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine (South Korea) and University of Exeter (United Kingdom) study that reviewed 35 published studies suggests that the deep breathing and relaxation with slow and gentle movements characteristic of tai chi may exert exercise-based general benefits for fall prevention and improvement of balance in older people as well as some meditative effects for improving psychological health.
• Yields cardiovascular, muscle strength benefits: Researchers from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Hong Kong) studied 29 older Tai Chi practitioners, average age 73.7 years, who engaged in the activity for at least 1.5 hours a week for three years, comparing them to 36 healthy control subjects, average age 71.4 years, with no Tai Chi experience. The subjects who practiced Tai Chi showed healthier blood pressure, vascular resistance, and pulse pressure, as well as greater arterial compliance and average muscle strength in knee joints.
• Lessens arthritis pain: A team from the University of North Carolina (North Carolina, USA) studied 354 men and women, ages 18 years and over, with any type of self-reported, doctor-diagnosed arthritis. Subjects were randomly assigned to two groups: the intervention group received the 8-week, twice-weekly Tai Chi course immediately, whereas the other group was a delayed control group (received the Tai Chi course after 8 weeks). At the end of eight week study period, those men and women who had received the immediate intervention showed moderate improvements in pain, fatigue and stiffness. They also had an increased sense of well being, as measured by the psychosocial variables, and they had improved reach or balance.
• Alleviates fibromyalgia: Researchers from Tufts Medical Center (Massachusetts, USA) enrolled 66 patients with fibromyalgia, average age 50 years, in a 12-week long study in which each subject participated in either tai chi or a wellness education/stretching program (control intervention); each intervention was held as an hour-long session taking place twice a week. While both groups showed improvements in scores on the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire, the tai chi participants had an 18.4-point greater reduction in severe symptoms after 12 weeks, with the difference sustained at 24 weeks. There were also significantly greater improvements in sleep quality, depression, and both physical and mental components of quality of life at 12 and 24 weeks, among the tai chi group.
• Improves depression: A team from the University of California/Los Angeles (UCLA; California, USA) combined a weekly tai chi exercise class with a standard depression treatment for a group of depressed elderly adults, finding a greater improvement in the level of depression — along with improved quality of life, better memory and cognition, and more overall energy — than that achieved by a different group in which the standard treatment was paired with a weekly health education class.
Meditation is a technique utilized to focus the mind, often accompanied by a calming or stress-reducing effect. Such mental training has garnered the interest of the scientific community, with data suggesting that meditation may:
• Slow Age-Related Brain Changes: Researchers at the University of California/Los Angeles (UCLA; California, USA) report that people who meditate display stronger connections between brain regions and show less age-related brain atrophy. Having stronger connections influences the ability to rapidly relay electrical signals in the brain. And significantly, these effects are evident throughout the entire brain, not just in specific areas. The greatest differences between meditators vs non-meditators were seen within the corticospinal tract (a collection of axons that travel between the cerebral cortex of the brain and the spinal cord); the superior longitudinal fasciculus (long bi-directional bundles of neurons connecting the front and the back of the cerebrum); and the uncinate fasciculus (white matter that connects parts of the limbic system, such as the hippocampus and amygdala, with the frontal cortex).
• Build Brain Connections: The same team from the University of California/Los Angeles (UCLA; California, USA) have also found that long-term meditators have larger amounts of gyrification ("folding" of the cortex, which may allow the brain to process information faster) than people who do not meditate. Further, a direct correlation was found between the amount of gyrification and the number of meditation years, possibly providing further proof of the brain's neuroplasticity, or ability to adapt to environmental changes.
• Reduce Mind-Wandering: Yale University School of Medicine (Connecticut, USA) researchers observed that experienced meditators exhibited significant deactivation in parts of the brain associated with the Default Mode Network (DMN) – the medial prefrontal cortex and the posterior cingulate corticie of the brain associated with mind-wandering, as well as which may cause lapses in attention and anxiety.
• Promote Attention Span: Buddhist meditation techniques not only confer peace of mind, but can improve sharpen attention skills and the ability to focus, reports a team from the University of California/Davis (California, USA). The researchers found that as the meditation training progressed, the subjects who received specialized training were more skilled at the computerized challenge, suggesting that attention skills became sustained better. The team reports that the improvements in concentration lasted five months after the study period concluded.
• Boost Brain Function: Integrative body-mind training (IBMT) is a Chinese meditation technique that has been found to improve the regulation of emotions and behavior by raising the activity of the anterior cingulate cortex region of the brain. A team from Dalian University of Technology (China) observed that brain scans taken pre- and post- IBMT training showed an increased brain connectivity, which began after six hours of IBMT and became more prevalent after 11 hours of practice.
Lifelong musical experience not only may widen your cultural perspectives, it may lend certain life-improving health benefits. Northwestern University (Illinois, USA) researchers have published a number of studies that suggest that music training may:
• Beneficially Impact the Aging Process: Finding that older musicians not only outperformed their older non-musician counterparts, they encoded the sound stimuli as quickly and accurately as the younger non-musicians, the study authors submit that age-related delays in neural timing are not inevitable and can be avoided or offset with musical training.
• Boost Memory and Learning: Lifelong musicians were more readily able to extract meaningful sounds from a complex soundscape – and remember sound sequences, which the team submits enhances the development of auditory skills. In this way, the brain may be more adaptable to aging and make adjustments for declines in the ability to remember, or ability to separate speech from background noise.
• Promote Learning: In that musicians are trained to hear sounds embedded in a rich network of melodies and harmonies and are primed to understand speech in a noisy background, they may be at a distinct advantage for processing speech in challenging listening environments compared with non-musicians. The researchers submit that the neural connections made during musical training thereby prime the brain for other aspects of human communication, such as skills of language, speech, memory, attention and even vocal emotion.
Too much sitting is bad for your health:
• American Cancer Society (Georgia, USA) scientists explored the causal association between sitting time and mortality. The team analyzed survey responses from 53,440 men and 69,776 women who had no history of cancer, heart attack, stroke, or emphysema/other lung disease enrolled in the American Cancer Society's Cancer Prevention II study, specifically examining examined the amount of time spent sitting and physical activity in relation to mortality for a 13-year follow-up period. The researchers found that more leisure time spent sitting was associated with higher risk of mortality, particularly in women. Women who reported more than six hours per day of sitting were 37% more likely to die during the time period studied than those who sat fewer than 3 hours a day. Men who sat more than 6 hours a day were 18% more likely to die , as compared to men who sat fewer than 3 hours per day. When combined with a lack of physical activity, the association was even stronger. Women and men who both sat more and were less physically were 94% and 48% more likely, respectively, to die compared with those who reported sitting the least and being most active.
• Eight papers appearing in the “American Journal of Preventive Medicine” highlight and analyze current research on sedentary behavior, adding to the growing scientific discussion about whether sedentary behavior may be an independent risk factor for disease. The authors highlight the fact that broad-reach approaches and environmental and policy initiatives are becoming part of the sedentary behavior and health research agenda. With the implementation of such initiatives, positive changes in sedentary time likely will result.
• University of Sydney School of Public Health (Australia) researchers studied 222,497 Australian adults enrolled in the Sax Institute's 45 and Up Study. The team found that adults who sat 11 or more hours per day were at 40% increased risk of dying in next three years, as compared to those who sat fewer than four hours a day, accounting for confounding factors. Further, the data reiterated the benefits of physical activity, with inactive people who sat the most at double the risk of dying, and the most physically inactive at one-third higher chance of dying.
An ever-increasing number of household cleaning products may contain toxins – many of which may not be disclosed – and thus can potentially pose as health hazards:
• Air fresheners & mold/mildew cleaners: The Silent Spring Institute (Massachusetts, USA) assessed 787 women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer (and compared them to a group of 721 women without breast cancer, who served as controls), interviewing each about their frequency and intensity of usage of household cleaning and pesticide products in the past year. The team found that breast cancer risk increased two-fold in those using household cleaning products most heavily (as compared to those using the least), as well as cleaning products combined with air freshener use.
• Fragranced laundry detergents & cleaning products: Widely used fragranced products, such as air fresheners, laundry supplies, personal care products, and cleaners, emit many chemicals that are not listed on the label, including some that are classified as toxic. A team from the University of Washington (Washington, USA) revealed that 25 commonly used scented products emit an average of 17 chemicals each. Of the 133 different chemicals detected, nearly a quarter are classified as toxic or hazardous under at least one federal law. Only one emitted compound was listed on a product label, and only two were publicly disclosed anywhere.
• Dryer sheets, air fresheners & cleaning agents: Fifty-five chemical compounds that are regarded as endocrine disruptors with potential risks to human health were found in 213 commercially available consumer products, including cleaning agents, cosmetics, air fresheners, dryer sheets, shower curtains, and other household goods. Researchers from the Silver Spring Institute (Massachusetts, USA) found that these products contained parabens, phthalates, bisphenol A, triclosan, ethanolamines, alkylphenols, fragrances, glycol ethers, cyclosiloxanes and UV filters. The team noted that many such detected chemicals were not listed on product labels. Importantly, the researchers tested both conventional and "green" products, finding that the distinction of "environmental" products did not affect the levels of endocrine disruptors present.
Among the most widespread illnesses in the world, the common cold is estimated to be responsible for $20 billion per year in lost worker productivity. Tips to help you reduce the odds of contracting a cold:
• Physical Fitness: Appalachian State University (North Carolina, USA) researchers studied data collected on 1,000 adults, 40% of whom were middle aged and one in four of whom was age 60-plus, whose respiratory health was tracked for 12 weeks during the autumn and winter of 2008. Subjects reported their frequency of aerobic exercise and rated their fitness levels; they were also surveyed about their lifestyle, diet and recent stressful events, as these can all affect immune system response. The reserachers observed that number of days with cold symptoms varied considerably between winter and autumn, with an average of 13 days in the winter and 8 days in the autumn. Being older, male, and married, seemed to reduce the frequency of colds, but after taking account of other influential factors, the most significant factors were perceived fitness and the amount of exercise taken. The number of days with symptoms among those who said they were physically active on five or more days of the week and felt fit was almost half (43% to 46% less) that of those who exercised on only one or fewer days of the week. The severity of symptoms fell by 41% among those who felt the fittest and by 31% among those who were the most active.
• Probiotics: Swedish researchers enrolled 272 men and women in a 12-week long study, during which subjects were supplemented daily with supplemented either with 109 cfu (colony forming units) of Lactobacillus probiotics or placebo. The team found that the probiotics reduced the incidence of one or more episodes of the common cold. Among those who received the probiotics, both the total symptom score and number of symptom days among were markedly reduced.
• Adequate Sleep: Team from Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania USA) followed 153 healthy men and women, ages 21 to 55 years, who reported daily on their sleep duration and quality for two weeks. Participants were then quarantined in separate rooms for 5 days and exposed to rhinovirus, resulting with 35.3% developing a clinical cold and 43.1% self-reporting the presence of cold symptoms. The team found that those study subjects with shorter duration of sleep and poorer sleep efficiency had significantly increased risks of developing a cold.
Maintain positive social interactions with non-family peers and enjoy:
• Positive Brain Function: Harvard University (Massachusetts, USA) researchers found that people's brains are more responsive to friends than to strangers, even if the stranger has more in common, thereby suggesting that social alliances outweigh shared interests.
• Enhanced Brainpower: A team from the University of Michigan (Michigan ,USA) studied 192 undergraduate college students, engaging each in a short, 10-minute conversation in which they got to know another person. The team found that this positive conversation helped to boost the subjects’ performance on a variety of cognitive tasks.
• Extended Cognitive Acuity: Researchers from the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center (Illinois, USA) evaluated data from 1,138 older study subjects, mean age 79.6 years, enrolled in the Rush Memory and Aging Project. The researchers found that a 1-point increase in social activity score was associated with a 47% decrease in the rate of decline in global cognitive function. The rate of global cognitive decline was reduced by an average of 70% in persons who were frequently socially active, as compared with persons who were infrequently socially active.
• Goal Achievement: Scientists from the University of Leeds (United Kingdom) report that enlisting a friend can significantly improve a person’s chances of achieving goals in life. The team worked with employees from 15 councils who volunteered to participate in two studies attempting to increase their levels of exercise or improve their diet. Some employees were just left to do it on their own; others were asked to recruit a partner. A third group were encouraged to develop 'if...then...' plans, and a fourth group was told to makes these 'if...then' plans with a partner. At follow-up times at 1, 3, and 6 months, it was clear that working together and joint planning helped significantly, and “the involvement of a partner in planning had a sustained effect that was still noticeable after six months."
Speaking two languages (bilingualism) has been shown by previous studies to improve communication skills: children who learn two languages from birth achieve the same basic milestones as monolinguals, but may do so via different strategies for language acquisition. Researchers from York University (Ontario, Canada) report that bilingualism improves attention and cognitive control and may exert a protective effect against Alzheimer’s Disease. In that bilinguals tend to perform better than monolinguals on exercises that require blocking out distractions and switching between two or more different tasks, bilingual speakers develop advantages in attention and cognitive control that may have important, long-term benefits that may protect the language processing system.
Multilingualism may reduce the risk of developing memory problems. A team from the Public Research Center for Health (Luxembourg) studied 230 men and women, average age 73 years, who had spoken or currently spoke two to seven languages. Of the participants, 44 reported cognitive problems; the rest of the group had no memory issues. Researchers discovered that those people who spoke four or more languages were five times less likely to develop cognitive problems, as compared to those people who only spoke two languages. People who spoke three languages were three times less likely to have cognitive problems compared to bilinguals. In addition, people who currently spoke more than two languages were also four times less likely to have cognitive impairment.
Listening to music may help to:
• Reduce Fall Risks: Researchers from the University Hospitals and Faculty of Medicine of Geneva (Switzerland) studied a group of 134 community-dwelling seniors, average age 75.5 years, who were randomized to six months of one-hour weekly sessions of a music-based exercise program, or to a six-month delay (after which they could participate in the program). The music-based exercise program significantly reduced gait variability -- stride-to-stride fluctuations in walking associated with an increased risk of falls. The improvement in stride length variability was seen even when participants did dual-task exercises, such as walking and counting backwards, to the accompaniment of piano music. The team also observed marked improvements on single-task exercises, such as the one-legged stance task. During the intervention period, participants in the music-based exercise program fell less frequently than controls, and the number of participants who experienced one or more falls also was significantly lower as well. After one year, the researchers found that the participants who took part in the music-based exercise program maintained many of their improvements
• Alleviate Pain: A team from the University of Utah (Utah, USA), and colleagues studied 143 people who listened to music as they received a painful shock in their fingertip, observing that the subjects’ pain decreased as they became more and more absorbed in the tunes. Those who were the most anxious reaped the most pain-relieving benefits when they became engaged in the music.