Aerobic-plus-resistance Combo Workout May Suit Obese Seniors Best

Kathleen Doheny wrote . . . . . .

Older, obese adults need to shed weight, but dieting can worsen their frailty. A new study addresses this conundrum, suggesting seniors take up both aerobic and resistance exercise while slimming down.

Engaging in aerobic and resistance exercise while losing weight enabled study participants to maintain more muscle mass and bone density compared to folks who did just one type of exercise or none at all, the researchers found.

“The best way to improve functional status and reverse frailty in older adults with obesity is by means of diet and regular exercise using a combination of resistance and aerobic exercise training,” said study leader Dr. Dennis Villareal. He’s a professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

More than one-third of people age 65 and older in the United States are obese, according to the study authors. Obesity worsens the typical age-related decline in physical functioning and causes frailty, while weight loss can lead to harmful declines in muscle mass and bone density.

The researchers wanted to see what combination of exercise, along with dieting for weight loss, might be best. They randomly assigned 160 obese and sedentary adults, age 65 or older, to one of four groups: weight loss and aerobic training; weight loss and resistance training; or weight loss and a combination of both types of exercise. The fourth group served as controls and didn’t exercise or try to lose weight.

After six months, physical performance test scores increased by 21 percent in the combination exercise group, but just 14 percent among those who only did aerobic exercise or resistance exercise, Villareal’s team said.

The researchers also found that lean body mass and bone density declined less in the combination and resistance groups than in the aerobic group.

One strength of the study is its evaluation of several regimens, said Miriam Nelson, director of the Sustainability Institute at the University of New Hampshire.

Such research is critical, as ”the majority of [older] people are either overweight or obese,” said Nelson, who wasn’t involved in the study.

While many studies of obese or overweight older adults focus only on exercise and weight loss, “this is really looking at health,” she said.

“Health in aging is really [about] functioning,” Nelson said. Maintaining muscle strength and bone density is essential to remain mobile and functional, she pointed out.

“All these multiple factors are what dictate to a large extent somebody’s ability to be independent, healthy and to live life to its fullest as they age,” Nelson added.

At the outset of the study, participants were mildly to moderately frail, according to the authors.

The researchers assessed the seniors’ physical performance, muscle mass and bone health over the 26-week study.

The overall winners, the combination group, exercised three times a week, from 75 to 90 minutes each session.

Aerobic exercises included treadmill walking, stationary cyclingand stair climbing. Resistance training involved upper-body and lower-body exerciseson weight-lifting machines. All groups also did flexibility and balance exercises.

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Source: HealthDay


Today’s Comic

To Age Better, Eat Better

Liz Mineo wrote . . . . . .

A habitually healthy eater, Frank Hu stocks his refrigerator with fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, and chicken. His pantry holds brown rice, whole grains, and legumes, and his snack cabinet has nuts and seeds. He eats red meat only occasionally, rarely buys white bread, soda, bacon, or other processed meats. He’ll purchase chips and beer, but only now and then, mostly when entertaining friends.

When it comes to eating smartly in ways that can help us keep fit and live longer, Hu knows best.

Hu took over the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in January. His eating habits are greatly informed by his research on what constitutes a healthy diet. While he knows they’re not for everyone, he says people can nonetheless move toward eating patterns that both appeal to them and help them stay well.

“There is no single, fit-for-all diet for everyone,” said Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “People should adopt healthy dietary patterns according to their food and cultural preferences and health conditions. I don’t have a rigid regimen, but I always emphasize healthy components in all my meals.”

And so, according to considerable research, can all those who want to reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and other chronic illnesses, and increase both longevity and quality of life in old age.

We become what we eat

To some extent, when it comes to healthy aging, we become what we eat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four deaths results from heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. Among the top risk factors are obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and poor diet — with the first three often tied to the last. The rise in obesity has hit the United States hard. More than a third of adults and one-fifth of children and adolescents age 2 to 19 are obese.

Research shows that sustained, thoughtful changes in diet can make the difference between health and illness, and sometimes between life and death. For more than 50 years, researchers who have studied the link between diet and health have extolled the virtues of the Mediterranean diet, with its emphasis on vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, whole grains, olive oil, and fish, and its de-emphasis on red meat and dairy.


“The elements of a healthy diet were readily available in the Mediterranean, where people had to eat local fruits, vegetables, and fish.”
— Walter Willett


Pioneering studies, such as one led by nutrition expert Ancel Keys in the late 1950s, helped establish the Mediterranean diet as the benchmark. Keys’ landmark Seven Countries Study, which promoted diets low in saturated fats (beef, pork, butter, cream) and high in mono-unsaturated fats (avocados, olive oil), showed decidedly lower risks of cardiovascular disease.

Research by renowned Harvard nutritionist Walter Willett, who chaired the Nutrition Department for 25 years until this past January, has confirmed the pronounced benefits of the Mediterranean diet. In his 2000 book “Eat, Drink and Be Healthy,” Willett wrote that the “main elements of the Mediterranean lifestyle are connected with lower risks of many diseases.”

Using data from Harvard’s Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), a long-term epidemiological probe into women’s health, Willett also concluded that “heart diseases could be reduced by at least 80 percent by diet and lifestyle changes.”

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Nurses’ Health Study was established by Frank Speizer in 1976 to examine the long-term consequences of oral contraceptives. In 1989, Willett established NHS II to study diet and lifestyle risk factors. The results of that study have heavily influenced national dietary guidelines and the way Americans think about how they should eat.

“The picture that has emerged is that the traditional Mediterranean diet promotes health and well-being,” said Willett, the Fredrick John Stare Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology. “The elements of a healthy diet were readily available in the Mediterranean, where people had to eat local fruits, vegetables, and fish. Back then, most people didn’t have much choice in what to eat.”

Researchers also generally approve of both the vegetarian diet and the Asian diet because they also help increase longevity and decrease the risk of chronic disease. But the Mediterranean reigns supreme, because the Asian diet has salt and starch, and the vegetarian lacks important nutrients.

A design for healthy eating

To publicize everyday ways to eat better, researchers at the Harvard Chan School came up with the Healthy Eating Plate. It suggests eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean poultry, and olive oil, and asks people to limit refined grains, trans fats, red meat, sugary drinks, and processed foods. In addition, it touts staying active.

Harvard’s plate was a response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) MyPlate, which, a comparison by Harvard nutrition experts suggested, could have gone further in detailing information about which foods to favor or limit.

A 2012 Harvard study found that eating red meat led to increased cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality, and that substituting healthier proteins lowered mortality. As for milk, a source of calcium, Willett said there is no evidence that drinking more of it prevents bone fractures as much as physical activity does. Yogurt, because of its positive effects on the intestinal system, proves even more beneficial than milk.

“Most populations along the world don’t drink any milk as adults,” said Willett. “Interestingly enough, they have the lowest fractures. And the highest bone-fracture rates are in milk-drinking countries such as northern Europe and the United States. Calcium is important all through life, but the amount of calcium that we need is probably overstated.”

What is hard to overstate is the importance of eating healthily and mindfully through life, but the good news is that benefits begin as soon as the improved diet does. “If you’re still alive, it’s never too late to make a change in our diet,” said Willett.

Recent studies have found that a healthy diet can also boost the brain and slow cellular aging. Researchers are examining the role of coffee and berries in improving cognitive function and reducing the risks of neurodegenerative diseases. At the same time, researchers keep circling back to the Mediterranean diet as a model of healthy eating.


“The evidence is very encouraging because, even among old people, when they improve their diet quality, the risks of getting chronic diseases and mortality can be reduced, and longevity can be improved.”
— Frank Hu


In a 2015 study in Spain, seniors who ate a Mediterranean diet, supplemented with olive oil and nuts, showed improved cognitive function compared with a control group. Rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, chemicals that help avert the harm of “free radicals” in the body, the Mediterranean diet may even help prevent some degenerative diseases that, to some degree, are caused by vascular aging and chronic inflammation, Hu said.

“Healthy, plant-based foods can improve vascular health, not just in the heart but in the brain,” he said. “And that can slow down the aging of the brain and cellular aging, and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.”

Clues on biomarkers of aging

The research shows promising paths ahead. In a 2014 study, Hu found a correlation between the Mediterranean diet and telomere length, a biomarker of aging. Telomeres — caps at the end of chromosomes that protect them from deterioration — may hold a key to longevity. Their lengthening slows the effects of aging, and their shortening is linked to increased risks of cancer and decreased longevity.

As of now, science says the best prescription to slow the effects of aging is a mix of factors, from regular exercising to a healthy diet to maintaining a healthy body weight.

“Maintaining a healthy diet for a long period of time is more important than having a yo-yo diet,” said Hu. “The evidence is very encouraging because, even among old people, when they improve their diet quality, the risks of getting chronic diseases and mortality can be reduced, and longevity can be improved.”

Hu said his own diet is a fusion of the Mediterranean, Asian, and vegetarian models, and he tries to combine the healthiest elements of each. In general, he avoids the problematic components of the Western diet: sugary foods, processed meats with high amounts of preservatives, sodium, and saturated fats.

Yet he reminds even healthy eaters that it’s fine to indulge in treats occasionally. After all, a long life should be worth living, and food is one of its joys.

Source: Harvard Gazzette

Age-Related Eye Diseases

Age-related eye diseases and conditions

Since your 40s, you probably noticed that your vision is changing. Perhaps you need glasses to see up close or you have more trouble adjusting to glare or distinguishing some colors. These changes are a normal part of aging. These changes alone cannot stop you from enjoying an active lifestyle or stop you from maintaining your independence. In fact, you can live an active life well into your golden years without ever experiencing severe vision loss. But as you age, you are at higher risk of developing age-related eye diseases and conditions. These include: age-related macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic eye disease, glaucoma, low vision and dry eye.

Get a comprehensive dilated eye exam.

Everyone age 50 or older should visit an eye care professional for a comprehensive dilated eye exam. Many eye diseases have no early warning signs or symptoms, but a dilated exam can detect eye diseases in their early stages before vision loss occurs. Early detection and treatment can help you save your sight. Even if you aren’t experiencing any vision problems, visit your eye care professional for a dilated eye exam. He or she will tell you how often you need to have one depending on your specific risk factors.

Common Age-related Eye Diseases and Conditions:

Age-related Macular Degeneration

AMD is a disease associated with aging that gradually destroys sharp, central vision. Central vision is needed for seeing objects clearly and for common daily tasks such as reading and driving. Learn more about AMD.

Cataract

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye. Vision with cataract can appear cloudy or blurry, colors may seem faded and you may notice a lot of glare. Learn more about Cataract.

Diabetic Eye Disease

Diabetic eye disease is a complication of diabetes and a leading cause of blindness. The most common form is diabetic retinopathy which occurs when diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels inside the retina. Learn more about Diabetic Eye Disease.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve and result in vision loss and blindness. It is usually associated with high pressure in the eye and affects side or peripheral vision. Learn more about Glaucoma.

Dry Eye

Dry eye occurs when the eye does not produce tears properly, or when the tears are not of the correct consistency and evaporate too quickly. Dry eye can make it more difficult to perform some activities, such as using a computer or reading for an extended period of time. Learn more about Dry Eye.

Low Vision

Low vision means that even with regular glasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery, people find everyday tasks difficult to do. Reading the mail, shopping, cooking, seeing the TV, and writing can seem challenging. But, many people with low vision are taking charge. Learn more about Low Vision.

Source: National Eye Institute

High Levels of Exercise Linked to Years of Less Aging at the Cellular Level

Despite their best efforts, no scientist has ever come close to stopping humans from aging. Anti-aging creams, lotions, potions, crystals and wizard spells can’t stop Old Father Time.

But new research from Brigham Young University reveals you may be able to slow one type of aging—the kind that happens inside your cells. As long as you’re willing to sweat.

“Just because you’re 40, doesn’t mean you’re 40 years old biologically,” Tucker said. “We all know people that seem younger than their actual age. The more physically active we are, the less biological aging takes place in our bodies.”

The study, published in the medical journal Preventative Medicine, finds that people who have consistently high levels of physical activity have significantly longer telomeres than those who have sedentary lifestyles, as well as those who are moderately active.

Telomeres are the nucleotide endcaps of our chromosomes. They’re like our biological clock and they’re extremely correlated with age; each time a cell replicates, we lose a tiny bit of the endcaps. Therefore, the older we get, the shorter our telomeres.

Exercise science professor Larry Tucker found adults with high physical activity levels have telomeres with a biological aging advantage of nine years over those who are sedentary, and a seven-year advantage compared to those who are moderately active. To be highly active, women had to engage in 30 minutes of jogging per day (40 minutes for men), five days a week.

“If you want to see a real difference in slowing your biological aging, it appears that a little exercise won’t cut it,” Tucker said. “You have to work out regularly at high levels.”

Tucker analyzed data from 5,823 adults who participated in the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, one of the few indexes that includes telomere length values for study subjects. The index also includes data for 62 activities participants might have engaged in over a 30-day window, which Tucker analyzed to calculate levels of physical activity.

His study found the shortest telomeres came from sedentary people—they had 140 base pairs of DNA less at the end of their telomeres than highly active folks. Surprisingly, he also found there was no significant difference in telomere length between those with low or moderate physical activity and the sedentary people.

Although the exact mechanism for how exercise preserves telomeres is unknown, Tucker said it may be tied to inflammation and oxidative stress. Previous studies have shown telomere length is closely related to those two factors and it is known that exercise can suppress inflammation and oxidative stress over time.

“We know that regular physical activity helps to reduce mortality and prolong life, and now we know part of that advantage may be due to the preservation of telomeres,” Tucker said.

Source: Brigham Young University


Today’s Comic

Why Taste Buds Dull As We Age

Natalie Jacewicz wrote . . . . .

Sometimes people develop strange eating habits as they age. For example, Amy Hunt, a stay-at-home mom in Austin, Texas, says her grandfather cultivated some unusual taste preferences in his 80s.

“I remember teasing him because he literally put ketchup or Tabasco sauce on everything,” says Hunt. “When we would tease him, he would shrug his shoulders and just say he liked it.” But Hunt’s father, a retired registered nurse, had a theory: Her grandfather liked strong flavors because of his old age and its effects on taste.

When people think about growing older, they may worry about worsening vision and hearing. But they probably don’t think to add taste and smell to the list.

“You lose all your senses as you get older, except hopefully not your sense of humor,” says Steven Parnes, an ENT-otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor) working in Albany, N.Y.

To understand how aging changes taste, a paean to the young tongue might be appropriate. The average person is born with roughly 9,000 taste buds, according to Parnes. Each taste bud is a bundle of sensory cells, grouped together like the tightly clumped petals of a flower bud. These taste buds cover the tongue and send taste signals to the brain through nerves. Taste buds vary in their sensitivity to different kinds of tastes. Some will be especially good at sensing sweetness, while others will be especially attune to bitter flavors, and so on.

A taste bud is good at regenerating; its cells replace themselves every 1-2 weeks. This penchant for regeneration is why one recovers the ability to taste only a few days after burning the tongue on a hot beverage, according to Parnes.

Aging may change that ability. Though taste buds generally seem to be good at regenerating even with age, older taste buds are less adept at regenerating after injury. In addition, some kinds of medication can interfere with taste. Parnes says based on his clinical observations, the amount of loss varies from one individual to another, but women generally report losing taste in their 50s and men in their 60s.

Parnes sympathizes with people with a dampened sense of taste, because he’s never had a sense of smell. (The condition is called anosmia, and Parnes figured out he had it at 8 years old, when his friends would complain about odors that he couldn’t detect at school.)

“Sometimes people who come in complaining of a loss of taste are actually losing their sense of smell,” says Parnes.

While the tongue only detects a handful of flavors, the nose detects thousands of smells and is intimately related to the ability to detect the tastes we associate with certain foods. But loss of smell is also reported with aging.

For people suffering from a loss of taste or smell, Parnes recommends seeing an ENT to be sure something treatable or dangerous isn’t going on. Sometimes viruses or head trauma can result in cell degeneration or in nerves tearing. But in many cases, Parnes says there’s not a lot aging gourmets can do, except take nasal spray to stay decongested, and seek out bold tastes — Parnes enjoys spicy flavors.

“I’ll gravitate toward things that have a certain texture, too,” says Parnes. “I like filet mignon better than a sirloin in part because of texture.”

And if that fails? Dunking everything in ketchup and Tabasco would probably work, too.

Source: npr