Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital have found that higher levels of daily physical activity may protect against cognitive decline and brain tissue loss in adults who are believed to be at greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The best results were found among the research participants who took more than 8,900 steps per day.
Traci Pedersen, writing in PsychCentral:
“One of the most striking findings from our study was that greater physical activity not only appeared to have positive effects on slowing cognitive decline, but also on slowing the rate of brain tissue loss over time in normal people who had high levels of amyloid plaque in the brain,” said Jasmeer Chhatwal, M.D., Ph.D. of the MGH Department of Neurology, and corresponding author of the study.
The results suggest that physical activity might reduce b-amyloid (Ab)-related cortical thinning and preserve gray matter structure in regions of the brain that have been associated with episodic memory loss and Alzheimer’s-related neurodegeneration.
The underlying processes of Alzheimer’s disease can begin decades before clinical symptoms appear and is characterized by early accumulation of b-amyloid protein.
The new study is among the first to demonstrate the protective effects of physical activity and vascular risk management in the preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease, while there is an opportunity to intervene prior to the onset of substantial neuronal loss and clinical impairment.
“Because there are currently no disease-modifying therapies for Alzheimer’s disease, there is a critical need to identify potential risk-altering factors that might delay progression of the disease,” Chhatwal said.
The new research published in the journal JAMA Neurology.
It’s never too late to start exercising. Even if you already have have a serious chronic condition.
Lisa Rapaport, writing for Reuters Health »
… researchers assessed activity levels several times over eight years for 14,599 men and women who were between 40 and 80 years old at the outset. After the first eight years, researchers started tracking mortality for another 12.5 years, on average. During that period, there were 3,148 deaths, including 950 from cardiovascular disease and 1,091 from cancer.
The researchers measured both work and leisure-time physical activity in terms of energy expended per kilogram of body weight. Activity increases over time that were equivalent to going from sedentary to meeting the World Health Organization’s recommendation of at least 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity were associated with a 24% lower risk of death from any cause, a 29% lower risk of cardiovascular death and an 11% lower risk of cancer death compared to those who remained inactive.
“This sends a strong message to all of us, irrespective of what our current life circumstances may be, since it is never too late to build physical activity into your daily routine in order to enjoy a longer healthier life,” said Soren Brage, senior author of the study and a researcher at the University of Cambridge in the UK.
“Everybody benefitted from becoming more active,” Brage said by email. “This was also true for the subgroup of people who already had a serious chronic condition such as heart disease and cancer at baseline.”
Read the whole story …
Working with our hands may be key to maintaining a healthy mood, and may lessen feelings of irritability, apathy, and depression.
Susan Biali Haas M.D. writing in Psychology Today:
First, when we use our hands on a task that doesn’t demand much cognitively, it gives the mind a chance to relax and rest. As a knowledge worker (I’m a doctor, writer, coach, speaker, etc.), I’m constantly using my brain. It’s gotten worse with the advent of the smartphone, as I spend so much of my downtime reading interesting articles. I also love reading novels. My brain rarely catches a break.
Second, when my brain is “offline,” it gives it a chance to work on problems behind the scenes. From a number of essays and articles that I read on this topic, it’s not uncommon for people to have breakthrough ideas while mindlessly working on something with their hands.
Third, working productively with our hands is profoundly pleasurable. There is something primal about this. We are made to be active, and have actively used our hands as part of our daily survival for thousands of years. With the advent of so much technology, many of us move through our days with minimal physical effort. We push a button instead of scrubbing dishes or laundry. Overall, we get far less physical activity than would be optimal for our bodies and minds.
We all know that walking (and regular physical activity) has a positive effect on our lives. Now there’s evidence that waking faster live longer.
Robert Roy Britt, writing on Medium:
People who described themselves as brisk walkers (versus steady or slow) live notably longer, the researchers reported in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings. The study involved 474,919 people with data across seven years. And while the data relied on self-reporting of activity, the results were surprising in one respect: They held regardless of body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage or waist size.
“Fast walkers have a long life expectancy across all categories of obesity status, regardless of how obesity status is measured,” Yates says.
Stress and stressful events are part of everyone’s life. Learning to cope well with them is therefore a good skill and strategy.
Western Washington University researchers conducted a study to learn if even short-term mindfulness meditation could help deal with stress.
Researchers concluded that indeed mindfulness meditation increases the ability to monitor and modify coping strategies during times of stress, even after only one week of meditation. And that those that meditated more performed better.
Various studies how shown that mindfulness meditation is linked to better coping flexibility. This is the first study showing that as little as one-week of mindfulness intervention can improve coping and reduce perceived stress.
Results further suggested that the gains in coping flexibility that were evident at post-test were not only maintained but increased in the two weeks after the intervention.
Previous research has shown that people who can shift and adapt their responses to stress are more optimistic, and have less depression and anxiety. This latest study shows that meditation may help build long-lasting flexible coping skills that enable us to problem solve effectively in the face of stressful events.
Learn more about this latest study.
Julia Belluz writing for Vox:
In two new papers published in the BMJ, the more ultraprocessed — or industrially manufactured — foods a person ate, the more likely they were to get sick and even die. In one study, they were more likely to suffer from cardiovascular problems. The other linked an ultraprocessed diet to a higher risk of death from all causes.
Those studies followed a first-of-its-kind randomized controlled trial, out of the National Institutes of Health: Researchers found people following an ultraprocessed diet ate about 500 more calories per day than those consuming minimally processed, whole foods.
Sure, potato chips, cookies, and hot dogs are chock-full of salt, sugar, fat, and calories. They can cause us to gain weight and put us at a higher risk of diseases such as diabetes and obesity. But why? What if there’s something unique about ultraprocessed foods that primes us to overeat and leads to bad health?
Ultraprocessed foods are created in factories. They’re pumped full of chemicals and other additives for color, flavor, texture, and shelf life. This processing generally increases the flavor and caloric density of the foods, while stripping away the fiber, vitamins, and nutrients. So these foods are distinct from whole foods (like apples and cucumbers) and processed foods (like vegetables pickled in brine, or canned fish in oil) that rely on only salt, sugar, and oil — rather than a range of complicated additives — to preserve them or make them tastier.
Stephen Harridge & Norman Lazarus writing for the BBC:
The greater health of older exercisers compared to their sedentary counterparts can lead people to believe physical activity can reverse or slow down the ageing process.
But the reality is that these active older people are exactly as they should be.
In our distant past we were hunter-gatherers, and our bodies are designed to be physically active.
So, if an active 80-year-old has a similar physiology to an inactive 50-year-old, it is the younger person who appears older than they should be, not the other way around.
Stephen Rodrick writing for Rolling Stone:
The Centers for Disease Control recorded 47,173 suicides in 2017, and there were an estimated 1.4 million total attempts. Many of society’s plagues strike heavier at women and minorities, but suicide in America is dominated by white men, who account for 70 percent of all cases. Middle-aged men walk the point. Men in the United States average 22 suicides per 100,000 people, with those ages 45 to 64 representing the fastest-growing group, up from 20.8 per 100,000 in 1999 to 30.1 in 2017. The states with the highest rates are Montana, with 28.9 per 100,000 people; Alaska, at 27 per 100,000; and Wyoming, at 26.9 per 100,000 — all roughly double the national rate. New Mexico, Idaho and Utah round out the top six states. All but Alaska fall in the Mountain time zone.
Last summer, I began a 2,000-mile drive through the American West, a place of endless mythology and one unalterable fact: The region has become a self-immolation center for middle-aged American men. The image of the Western man and his bootstraps ethos is still there, but the cliché has a dark turn — when they can no longer help themselves, they end themselves. I found men who sought help and were placed on a 72-hour hold in a hospital ward, and say they were sent home at the end of their stay without any help, collapsing back into the fetal position — the only thing accomplished was everyone in the small town now knew they were ill. I found men on both sides of the Trump divide: One whose anger toward his abusive parents was exacerbated by hours in his basement watching Fox News and Trump while drinking vodka; the other was a Buddhist mortician whose cries for help were met by scorn in a cowboy county that went 70 percent for Trump.
You already know you should eat fruits and vegetables for the nutrients they provide the body. But a new British study has again shown that the health benefits of produce don’t end there. Researchers at the University of Leeds have shown that eating fruits and vegetables can also improve your mood and mental well-being.
Researchers found that people whose diets included more fruits and vegetables reported being happier. Those who ate even just one extra portion of produce a day reported better life satisfaction than those who ate less. Researchers estimated that the extra portion could have the same effect on your mood as walking an additional 10 continuous minutes or more eight days a month.
Previous research conducted in Australia and New Zealand, and published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, showed a diet rich in fruits and vegetables makes people feel happier.
The latest study, entitled Lettuce Be Happy was published in Social Science and Medicine. It is based on a larger group of people who were followed for a longer period of time.