Tag Archives: anti-aging

How Does Diet Affect Brain Aging?

Brain FoodDoes your diet affect how your brain functions? Are there foods you can eat that will delay brain aging? If so, what are they?

There’s a fascinating new study dealing with these sorts of questions that was done at Oregon Health & Science University and published in the December 28, 2011, online edition of the journal Neurology.

The study involved 104 volunteers who were elderly (average age 87) but relatively healthy. Researchers analyzed their blood for a variety of vitamins and nutrients, including vitamins B, C, D and E, saturated fat, carotenoids, omega-3 fatty acids, cholesterol and trans fats.

Then they compared those levels to the participants’ performance on cognitive tests as well as to MRI scans showing the size of their brains.

These are some of the highlights of the study:

  • Participants who had higher blood levels of vitamins B, C, D and E and omega-3 fatty acids scored higher on the mental-function tests, including memory tests, than those with lower levels of these nutrients.

    Vitamins B, C and E are high in fruits and vegetables. Vitamin D and Omega 3 fatty acids are found primarily in the flesh of fatty fish, such as salmon.

  • These participants also tended to have larger brain size.
  • On the other hand, people who had higher levels of trans fats in their blood scored lower on these tests. They took more time overall to complete the tests and had more trouble with memory and language skills.
  • Trans fats come largely from packaged, fried, frozen and fast foods, along with baked goods and margarine spreads.

  • These people also had more brain shrinkage. (Some amount of brain atrophy, or shrinkage, occurs with aging. However, more significant shrinkage is associated with mental decline and Alzheimer’s disease.)

This study is observational. That means that it observed an association between these nutrients and brain size and function, but it did not establish a cause and effect relationship. Therefore, more research is needed.

In the meantime, however, the advice that we get so often is also suggested by this study: Eat more fruits and vegetables and fish, and avoid trans fats.
Fruits and Vegetables

Which Affects Longevity More, Fitness Or Fatness?

For longevity, fit trumps fatTo live a long life, which do you think is more important, keeping your weight down or your fitness up?

According to a recent study that was done at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health and published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, fit trumps fat as far as longevity is concerned.

In the study, those who maintained or improved their fitness level were less likely to die from heart attack or stroke, or anything else for that matter, than those whose fitness level dropped over time. And that was true even if their weight increased.

Stated from the other point of view, participants whose fitness declined were more likely to die than those whose weight increased over time.

According to fitness experts, such as the World’s Greatest Personal Trainer, my wife Kathie Lamir, there are 7 components of fitness.

This study focused on the fitness component of cardiorespiratory endurance.

cardiorespiratory enduranceTo measure endurance, the scientists gave each participant a series of treadmill tests over the course of the study.

In addition to the overall fitness-is-more-important-than-fatness conclusion, the doctors learned something else that is very important.

Every little bit helps!

That is, each increase in endurance level resulted in a lower risk of death.

Conversely, the men who grew less fit were more likely to die from any cause.

The new findings validate previous studies on the health benefits of fitness, says American Heart Association spokesman Richard Stein, M.D. He is the director of the Urban Community Cardiology Program at the New York University School of Medicine. “Fitness is a much greater predictor of [death] than weight,” Stein says.

“If you have been struggling with your weight for years, putting your work into endurance fitness is clearly a very powerful predictor of living longer,” he says.

Here”s the point: For many, increased endurance is not only an easier goal to attain than weight loss but is also pays greater dividends.

For longevity, fitness trumps fatnessThe test subjects were all average weight at the outset of the study. Therefore, without further testing, the doctors are not sure whether the results apply to obese people, too.

What about naturally thin people?

As for them, Dr. Stein says, “don’t fool yourself into thinking, ‘I am skinny and will be fine if I don’t do any exercise.’ You won’t be. Being [inactive] is not OK, even if you are skinny.”

As is often the case when I report on health studies, the takeaway is that, for a long and healthy life, you must stay active and maintain or increase your fitness level over time.

Your Attitude About Aging Affects How You Age

John TurnerIf I ask you to think about the “elderly” or “senior citizens,” what comes to mind?

You probably think about such physical characteristics as wearing dentures, glasses and hearing aids, moving slowly, having gray or white hair. You might also think about such things as bingo, Early Bird Specials, cautious driving, forgetfulness, old-fashioned ideas and unwillingness to try anything new.

All of these are common stereotypes about older people.

Of course, if you assume what a particular senior is like based on a stereotype, and don’t look at that person as an individual, you are likely to be wrong.

The lazy mental habit of making assumptions based on negative stereotypes is always a problem. But stereotypes about older people can cause another, even bigger problem.

The problem occurs when seniors, themselves, believe the stereotypes.

If seniors believe they are limited simply because of their age, this attitude can become their reality . . . even when it doesn’t have to be. If they think old people are, for example, cranky or afraid of new ideas, they are more likely to conform to those perceptions.

How do I know?

Because of research done at Tufts University and reported in the Psychology Today blog on November 20, 2011.

In this research, a group of 70-year-olds did not perform as well on memory tests as a group of 19-year-olds.

That probably does not surprise you.

But you may be surprised, or even shocked, by the next finding.

When the exact same test was performed by other groups of 19-year-olds and 70-year-olds, the results were indistinguishable. Both groups performed equally well on the memory test!

What was the difference? Was the second group of 70-year-olds particularly smart, had they been taking some memory-enhancing supplement, did they cheat?

No, no and no.

Here’s the difference. In the second test, the participants were not told it was a memory test. (Instead, they were told that it was a test of some other capacity.)

That’s right. When the 70-year-olds did not know they were participating in a memory test, their memories were just as good as those of the 19-year-olds.

Without the limiting mindset that they were performing a memory test – and we all know that seniors have poor memories, right – the seniors remembered just as well as the college-age participants.

These test results suggest that what goes on in your head shapes how aging will impact you. Our stereotypes about what it means to grow old contribute to our actual experiences of growing old.

So, as we say here at Forever Young Blog, stay positive!

[BTW, the photo is of 67-year-old John Turner who obviously is not limited by negative stereotypes about senior fitness.]

Study: At 50 You Can Be As Fit As A 20-Year-Old

50 years old and fit

(One message of this blog is that, with persistence, you can be healthy, vibrant and highly productive throughout your life. Here is still another scientific study that proves our point.)

According to Norwegian researchers, a 50-year-old who exercises regularly can be as fit as a 20-year-old who doesn’t exercise.

The study showed that:

  1. Youth is not necessarily the most important factor when it comes to being fit.
  2. Activity is far more important than age in determining fitness.
  3. Both the amount and the intensity of the exercise are important.
  4. These researchers found that by increasing the intensity of exercise, people are able to reduce their risk of metabolic syndrome, the cluster of risk factors that increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular diseases.

  5. The least fit people, no matter what their age, have the poorest measures of cardiovascular health, such as higher blood pressure and high cholesterol.

The process of getting healthy and staying healthy is simple . . . but it’s not always easy. To receive the health benefits of exercise, you have to exercise with intensity.

One way to do this is through interval training where you alternate short bursts of high intensity exercise with short periods of lower intensity exercise.

For example, you might run for 1 to 4 minutes followed by 1 to 4 minutes of walking. Then, when you progress, you could alternate hard running with slower, easier running.

Your goal is to work up to 30 minutes of exercise per day.

Of course, especially if you are a couch potato now, you should consult with your physician before beginning an exercise program . . . and always use common sense. The first rule of exercise is: don’t hurt yourself.

If you are a complete newbie at exercise, or just want some instruction and encouragement, you would be wise to consult a qualified personal trainer.

Study Says Only 15 Minutes of Exercise Each Day Can Add 3 Years To Your Life

Exercise at least 15 minutes a dayThis blog exists to put more years in your life and more life in your years.

One of the best things you can do to achieve those twin goals is free and doesn’t take long, although you will get sweaty (and no, I’m not talking about that!).

It’s exercise. There is overwhelming evidence that increasing physical activity leads to improvements in your health, mood and over-all well-being.

But how much exercise do you need to receive the benefits?

The United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, plus two additional strength-training sessions.

The UK government also recommends that adults get 150 minutes of activity a week.

Exercise at least 15 minutes a dayNow, however, there is evidence that even less exercise than that – as little as 15 minutes per day or about 90 minutes a week – will give you significant health benefits.

A recently-published study, done in Taiwan, involved following more than 400,000 people for an average of 8 years. Based on their self-reports of their weekly exercise, the study participants were placed in one of these five categories: inactive, low, medium, high or very high activity.

Those in the inactive group were couch potatoes who did virtually no exercise. The low activity group exercised an average of 92 minutes a week. Each group above that exercised progressively more each week.

Here comes the good part . . .

Compared to those in the inactive group, those in the low-activity group were 14 percent less likely to die from any cause, 10 percent less likely to die of cancer, and had a three-year longer life expectancy, on average.

And there’s even more good news . . .

Each additional 15 minutes of daily exercise (up to 100 minutes a day) reduced the risk of death by an additional 4%, and people who got 30 minutes of activity a day added about four extra years to their life expectancy, when compared with their sedentary peers.

These findings were the same in men and women and in all age groups. They even apply to people with cardiovascular disease risks.

“You can get good gains with relatively small amounts of physical activity. More is always better, but less is a good place to start”

Professor Stuart Biddle, an expert in exercise psychology at Loughborough University


How vigorously do you have to exercise? Well, you don’t have to throw around heavy weights or run until your tongue hangs out. You can do that if you want, but you will get the health benefits from such moderate exercise as biking, walking briskly or dancing.

There is no upper age limit. This applies to everyone. If you don’t believe me, read this post about a study of weight training by seniors.

Exercise at least 15 minutes a dayConvinced? Do you plan to get off the couch for at least 15 minutes a day and get moving to add bounce to your step and years to your life?

If you still don’t “get it,” let me tell you about even more new research.

A study done in Australia on health risks linked to TV viewing suggests that too much time sitting in front of the box can shorten your life expectancy. In fact, the study showed that watching television for 6 hours a day can shorten your life by 5 years!

The scientists who conducted this study do not know why this is the case, and it may simply be because viewers who watch a lot of telly do little or no exercise.

These new studies were summed up by England’s Chief Medical Officer, Sally Davies, who said: “Physical activity offers huge benefits and these studies back what we already know – that doing a little bit of physical activity each day brings health benefits and a sedentary lifestyle carries additional risks.”

5 Ways To Be Happier

A study by statistician Nic Marks and his organization, the New Economics Foundation, found that you can increase your happiness by doing these 5 things . . .

    1. Connect with your loved ones and build strong social relationships.

    2. Be physically active.

    3. Be aware of the world around you, locally and globally.

    4. Engage your curiosity and keep learning your whole life.

    5. Give. Donate money or time to others.

Actually, these findings were part of a presentation Marks made on the need for countries to increase the well-being and happiness of its citizens without doing environmental damage.

Marks’ statistics show that the countries of the world are becoming less efficient at using the earth’s resources. That is, the use of the earth’s resources is increasing much faster than is our well-being.

The goal of countries, says Marks, should be to increase the well-being and happiness of its citizens in an earth-friendly way.

Right now, one country is doing that better than the others.

Is it the United States? No. Great Britain? No. Another Western country? Nope. How about some super-rich Gulf State? No, again.

The country that is providing the most well-being and happiness with the least environmental cost is . . .

Costa Rica.

According to a recent Gallup poll, Costa Rica is the happiest country in the world. And they achieved this distinction while using about 1/4 of the earth’s resources that the U.S. and other Western nations use.

Perhaps the key is that environmental friendliness is policy in Costa Rica which has a declared goal of being carbon neutral by 2021. Already, 99% of Costa Rica’s electricity comes from renewable sources.

Very interesting, don’t you think?

Laugh Your Way To A Longer, Healthier Life

Humor
Humor

Humor can extend and enhance your life. All the studies show that.

So, be sure to laugh every day, as often as you can.

Look for things to laugh at. Search out humor. See the humorous side of things.

I’ll try to help by posting some of my favorite knee-slappers in the Stay Positive Category. Be sure to comment and add your favorites, too.

A Lifelong Love Affair With Sports

Sports
Sports

To live a Forever Young life, you need interests that excite you. Things that you are passionate about.

It can be anything that you’re really interested in. Art, music, history, quilting, backpacking, computer programming . . . whatever. (Of course, you can have more than one of these fascinations.)

Sports have always been one of my passions.

I have delighted in many different sports as a player, a coach and a fan.

Few activities, if any, have given me more hours of pleasure than sports.

To me, sports represent so many good things . . .

  • A commitment to health and fitness
  • Testing yourself through competition, learning to win with grace and lose with dignity
  • Striving for excellence
  • Developing Life skills such as teamwork, communication and leadership

At the highest levels, athletes represent the physical perfection of our species. The best of the best. Who can’t appreciate that?

Following a lifelong habit, I still start every day by reading the sports page. All that has changed since my youth is that now I read the sports page online, on my iPad. (And, it’s not actually the sports page. It’s ESPN.)

Former Chief Justice Earl Warren once said:

“I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people’s accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man’s failures. “

I feel the same way.