How Fast You Walk Might Show How Fast You’re Aging

Dennis Thompson wrote . . . . . . . . .

Middle-aged folks who worry about healthy aging would do well to keep an eye on their walking speed.

Turns out that the walking speed of 45-year-olds is a pretty solid marker of how their brains and bodies are aging, a new study suggests.

Slow walkers appear to be aging more rapidly, said senior researcher Terrie Moffitt, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. They’ve lost more brain volume in middle-age than folks with a quicker walking pace, and also perform worse on physical and mental tests, she said.

“For those people who were slow walkers for their age group, they already had many of the signs of failing health that are regularly tested in a geriatric clinic,” Moffitt said.

In the study, middle-aged people who walked slower than 3.6-feet per second ranked in the lowest fifth when it comes to walking speed, and those are the individuals already showing signs of rapid aging, said Dr. Stephanie Studenski, a geriatrician with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

“It takes many body systems to have you walk well,” Studenski said. “It takes a good heart, good lungs, good nervous system, good strength, good musculoskeletal system and a variety of other things. Gait speed summarizes the health of all of your body’s systems.”

Gait speed tests are a standard part of geriatric care, and are regularly given to people 65 and older, Moffitt said.

“The slower a person walks, that is a good predictor of impending mortality,” Moffitt said. “The slower they walk, the more likely they will pass away.”

Moffitt and her colleagues suspected that gait tests might be valuable given at an earlier age, figuring that walking speed could serve as an early indicator of how well middle-aged people are aging.

To test this notion, the researchers turned to a long-term study of nearly 1,000 people born in a single year in Dunedin, New Zealand. These people have been tested regularly since their birth in 1972-1973 regarding a wide variety of medical concerns.

This group of study participants recently turned 45, and as they did, the research team tested their walking speed by asking each to repeatedly amble down a 25-foot-long electronic pad, Moffitt said.

Each person walked down the pad at their normal rate, and then again as fast as they could. They also were asked to walk as fast as possible while reciting the alphabet backward, Moffitt said.

All of the participants then were subjected to a battery of aging tests normally used in geriatric clinics.

In addition, they underwent an MRI brain scan to test the volume of their brains, since a shrinking brain has been linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The participants also were given a variety of mental and physical tests. The physical tests involved things like balancing on one foot, standing up out of a chair as fast as they could, or gripping a monitor as tightly as they could to test hand strength.

“All these things are very subtle,” Moffitt said. “They’re not anything that would knock you over with a feather. You have to test them in order to find them.”

The findings showed that people who were in the lowest fifth for walking speed had signs of premature and rapid aging.

Studenski said, “It’s the bottom 20% that’s by far in bigger trouble than the others.”

The slower walkers also looked older to a panel of eight screeners asked to guess each participant’s age from a facial photograph.

The findings were published online in JAMA Network Open.

A gait test could be an easy and low-cost way for primary care doctors to test how well middle-aged patients are aging, said Studenski, who wrote an editorial accompanying the new study.

Doctors could place sensors at the beginning and end of a hallway, and test patients’ walking speed as they head down to the examination room, she added.

However, doctors would need to be taught how to interpret gait speed for middle-aged patients, the same way that geriatricians already are trained to interpret walking speed in seniors.

Middle-aged people with a slower gait could try to slow their aging by eating healthy, exercising, quitting smoking, and maintaining better control over risk factors like high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, Studenski and Moffitt suggested.

An even better use of walking speed could be as an early test of drugs and therapies meant to counter dementia and other diseases of aging, Moffitt said.

These therapies usually are difficult to assess because researchers have to wait years for people to grow old and display the hoped-for benefits, she noted.

“They need something cheap and effective they can do now to evaluate these treatments,” Moffitt said. “If they give it to people and it speeds up their walking, we’ve really got something there.”

Source: HealthDay


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Regular Exercise Is Good for Your Heart, No Matter How Old You Are!

Regular exercise is highly beneficial for all patients with cardiovascular disease regardless of age, report investigators in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, published by Elsevier. Their results showed that the patients who benefited most from cardiac rehabilitation were those who started out with the greatest physical impairment.

Elderly patients are at a higher risk for complications and accelerated physical deconditioning after a cardiovascular event, yet older patients are largely underrepresented in rehabilitation programs. Studies have shown that this might be due to a lack of referral and encouragement to attend cardiac rehabilitation in older patients.

“Aging is associated with several factors such as increased inflammation or oxidative stress that predispose people to cardiovascular diseases. As a result, elderly patients are usually less fit than their younger counterparts, and deconditioning is accelerated once cardiovascular disease is established,” explained lead investigator Gaëlle Deley, PhD, INSERM UMR1093 – CAPS, Faculty of Sports Sciences, University of Burgundy Franche-Comté, Dijon, France. “However, there are few data about the impact of patient age on the physical and psychological effectiveness of cardiac rehabilitation.”

Several studies have looked at the effects of cardiac rehabilitation in older adults. However, these data often focus on patients above the age of 65 with no distinction between old and very old patients and examine either physical or psychological outcomes but not both.

The goal of this study was to compare the effects of an exercise?based cardiac rehabilitation program on physical and psychological parameters in young, old, and very old patients. It also aimed to identify the features that best predicted cardiac rehabilitation outcome.

All patients referred to Cardiac Rehabilitation at the Clinique Les Rosiers, Dijon, France from January 2015 to September 2017 were included in this single-center prospective study. Investigators examined 733 patients who completed a 25-session cardiac rehabilitation program. They were divided into three subgroups: less than 65 years old; between 65 and 80 years old; and 80 years or older. Physical and psychological variables such as scores of anxiety and depression were evaluated for all patients before and after cardiac rehabilitation.

Following the intervention, all patients experienced improvements. “We found a few weeks of exercise training not only significantly improved exercise capacity, but also decreased anxiety and depression. Patients with the greatest physical impairments at baseline benefited the most from exercise,” commented Dr. Deley. “Another interesting result was that patients younger than 65 who were very anxious before rehabilitation benefited the most from exercise training. A similar result was found for depressed patients older than 65. These improvements will surely have a great positive impact on patients’ independence and quality of life and might help both clinicians and patients to realize how beneficial exercise rehabilitation can be.”

In an accompanying editorial, Codie R. Rouleau, PhD, RPsych, Clinical Psychologist, Adjunct Assistant Professor in Psychology, and James A. Stone, MD, PhD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, both at the University of Calgary and TotalCardiology Research Network in Calgary, AB, Canada, point out that the study’s conclusion that age does not limit physical performance outcomes is inconsistent with some previous research showing that advancing age, especially for patients 60 years and older, is associated with smaller cardiorespiratory fitness gains during cardiac rehabilitation. The reasons may relate to different program characteristics, different methods of physical performance measurement, or the exceptional adherence rate reported in the study (average 98.6 per cent prescribed sessions attended).

“Older adults who are eligible for cardiac rehabilitation have a decreased likelihood of receiving a referral compared to their younger counterparts and the present report may serve as a catalyst for clinicians to recognize that older adults with coronary artery disease stand to benefit only if referred and given the opportunity to participate,” commented Dr. Rouleau.

“A strength of this work is the examination of changes in psychosocial well-being during cardiac rehabilitation–an understudied outcome that is often highly valued by patients,” added Dr. Stone. “The work of Deley et al. may help inform strategies to augment the effects of rehabilitation, reach more patients with a greater likelihood of achieving clinical benefit, and derive improved outcomes from higher value healthcare.”

Cardiovascular diseases are the main cause of death globally. Nearly 18 million people died from cardiovascular diseases in 2016, representing over 30 per cent of all global deaths according to the World Health Organization. While cardiovascular diseases increasingly affect young people, the number of people above the age of 65 years, and even more above the age of 80 years, dying from cardiovascular diseases is also increasing.

Source: EurekAlert!

Study Finds Age May Hinder Cancer Development

A new study, published in Aging Cell, has found that human ageing processes may hinder cancer development.

Ageing is one of the biggest risk factor for cancer. However, the biological mechanisms behind this link are still unclear.

Each cell in the human body is specialised to carry out certain tasks and will only need to express certain genes. Gene expression is the process by which specific genes are activated to produce a required protein.

Gene expression analyses have been used to study cancer and ageing, but only a few studies have investigated the relationship between gene expression changes in these two processes.

In an effort to better understand the biological mechanisms researchers from the University of Liverpool’s Integrative Genomics of Ageing Group, led by Dr Joao Pedro De Magalhaes, compared how genes differentially expressed with age and genes differentially expressed in cancer among nine human tissues.

Normally, a healthy cell can divide in a controlled manner. In contrast, senescent or ‘sleeping’ cells have lost their ability to divide. As we age, the number of senescent cells in our bodies increase, which then drive many age-related processes and diseases.

Genetic mutations triggered by things such as UV exposure can sometimes cause cells to replicate uncontrollably — and uncontrolled cell growth is cancer. Cells are often able to detect these mutations and in response go to sleep to stop them dividing.

The researchers found that in most of the tissues examined, ageing and cancer gene expression ‘surprisingly’ changed in the opposite direction. These overlapping gene sets were related to several processes, mainly cell cycle and the immune system. Moreover, cellular senescence changed in the same direction as ageing and in the opposite direction of cancer signatures.

The researchers believe the changes in ageing and cellular senescence might relate to a decrease in cell proliferation, while cancer changes shift towards an increase in cell division.

Dr De Magalhaes, said: “One of the reasons our bodies have evolved to have senescent cells is to suppress cancers. But then it seems that senescent cells accumulate in aged human tissues and may contribute to ageing and degeneration. Importantly, our work challenges the traditional view concerning the relationship between cancer and ageing and suggests that ageing processes may hinder cancer development.

“While mutations accumulate with age and are the main driver of cancer, ageing tissues may hinder cell proliferation and consequently cancer. So you have these two opposite forces, mutations driving cancer and tissue degeneration hindering it. This may explain why at very advanced ages cancer incidence levels off and may even decline.”

However, an alternative explanation comes from evolutionary biology. First author Kasit Chatsirisupachai, explains: “And aged tissue might actually be a better environment for a rogue cancer cell to proliferate because the cancer cell will have an evolutionary advantage.”

Dr De Magalhaes adds: “Our results highlight the complex relationship between ageing, cancer and cellular senescence and suggest that in most human tissues ageing processes and senescence act in tandem while being detrimental to cancer. But more mechanistic studies are now needed.”

Source: University of Liverpool

Walking Slower and Pausing for Rest May Enable Older Adults to Maintain Outdoor Mobility

When functional ability declines, changing the way of walking by, for instance, walking slower, pausing for rest or using walking aids, can facilitate older adults’ outdoor mobility. These were the findings of a study conducted at the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä.

As functional ability declines, older people may start to have difficulties in walking long distances. At this point, older people might change their way of walking consciously or unconsciously.

“Changes may be seen, for instance, in lowering walking speed, pausing walking for rest or even in avoiding long walking distances altogether. These early changes in walking are called walking modifications,” doctoral student Heidi Skantz explains.

Previous research on walking modifications has implicitly considered modifications as an early sign of functional decline and such modifications have been shown to predict walking difficulties in the future. This previous research, however, has emphasized mainly the negative side of the use of walking modifications. We think that the potential positive, enabling, effects of walking modifications should also be considered.

“We wanted to find out if some of these changes in walking would be beneficial in maintaining outdoor mobility,” Skantz says.

Using walking aids, lowered walking speed and pausing for rest were categorized as adaptive walking modifications, since they were considered to reduce the task demand, whereas reduced frequency of walking and avoiding long walking distances were categorized as maladaptive modifications. This categorization was shown to be meaningful.

“Those older people who used maladaptive walking modifications had smaller life-space mobility and they perceived that they lacked possibilities for outdoor mobility,” Skantz says. “As for those older people who had chosen to utilise adaptive walking modifications, they were able to maintain wider life-space mobility and they were also satisfied with their outdoor mobility opportunities.”

As functional ability declines, walking long distances might become a harder and scarier task than before. In such a case, it still remains important to continue covering long distances by walking, even if with walking aids or by pausing walking, in order to maintain outdoor mobility.

“Encouraging older people to opt for adaptive walking modifications might be possible by designing age-friendly environments, for instance by providing opportunities to rest when walking outdoors. However this warrants further studies,” says Skantz.

The study participants were older people between the ages of 75 and 90, who were living in the Jyväskylä and Muurame regions in central Finland. The study was conducted at the Gerontology Research Center and Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä. This study was supported by European Research Council, the Academy of Finland, the Ministry of Education and Culture and the University of Jyväskylä.

Source: EurekAlert!

Evidence Builds That Optimism Might Lengthen Your Life

Alan Mozes wrote . . . . . . . . .

A sunny outlook on life may do more than make you smile: New research suggests it could also guard against heart attacks, strokes and early death.

In the review of 15 studies that collectively involved almost 230,000 men and women, the findings were remarkably consistent, the study authors added.

“We found that optimists had a 35% lower risk for the most serious complications due to heart disease, compared to pessimists,” said lead author Dr. Alan Rozanski, a professor of cardiology at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City.

That mind-body connection held up across all age groups, said investigators, ranging from teenagers to those in their 90s. That “suggests that optimism may be an asset, regardless of age,” Rozanski noted.

The studies also found the more positive one’s outlook, the less one’s risk for heart trouble or death.

Ten of the studies specifically looked at positivity’s impact on heart health, while nine looked at how a person’s outlook affected their risk of dying from a wide range of illnesses.

Many of the investigations asked basic questions touching on expectations of the future. In response, some participants indicated that they generally felt upbeat despite the uncertainty of what’s to come. Others said they never assume that things will pan out well down the road.

Over time, those who held more positive viewpoints were more likely to remain heart-healthy.

Yet, despite suggesting that “the magnitude of this association is substantial,” Rozanski and his colleagues stressed that the review can’t prove that optimism directly protects against heart disease and premature death.

Still, the team pointed to a whole host of potential reasons why positivity — directly or indirectly — may help stave off illness.

Some of the studies in the review indicated that optimistic people are more adept at problem-solving, better at developing coping mechanisms, and more apt to realize goals. And those are the kind of skills that could drive someone to take a more active interest in monitoring and maintaining their health, the researchers said.

“Consistent study has shown that optimists have better health habits,” Rozanski noted. “They are more likely to have good diets and exercise,” and they may be less likely to smoke.

“Increasing data also suggests that optimism may have direct biological benefits, whereas pessimism may be health-damaging,” he added. “This biological connection has already been shown for some other psychological risk factors, such as depression.”

Positivity may also work its magic by lowering inflammation and improving metabolism, the authors suggested.

This is not the first study to find such a link. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in August found an upbeat view of life boosted the odds of living to a ripe old age.

Looking ahead, Rozanski’s team pointed to the potential for developing new mind-body treatments, likely in the realm of behavioral therapy, designed to cut down on pessimism and boost optimism.

“However, further research will need to assess whether optimism that is enhanced or induced through directed prevention or intervention strategies has similar health benefits versus optimism that is naturally occurring,” the report cautioned.

The findings were published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

Dr. Jeff Huffman, director of cardiac psychiatry research at Massachusetts General Hospital, cowrote an editorial that accompanied the study.

The review provides “yet more evidence that optimism seems to be an independent predictor of superior cardiac health,” he said.

As to why that is, Huffman agreed that optimism is “associated with more physical activity, healthier diet, and a range of other healthy lifestyle behaviors, and it is likely this association that explains a lot of the benefit.”

But optimism also impacts biological processes, he added. And ultimately, “the mechanism by which optimism leads to better health is likely a combination of biology and behavior.”

Source: HealthDay