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

Study: Young and Middle-aged Aults with Low Vitamin D levels May Live Shorter Lives

Amy Norton wrote . . . . . . . . .

The findings come from a 20-year follow-up of more than 78,000 Austrian adults. Researchers found that those with low vitamin D levels in their blood were nearly three times more likely to die during the study period than those with adequate levels.

When it came to the cause of death, vitamin D levels were most clearly linked to deaths from diabetes complications.

The findings were to be presented Friday at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, in Barcelona — and are considered preliminary. Experts said they do not prove that low vitamin D levels, per se, cut people’s lives short.

But the results add to a large body of evidence tying inadequate vitamin D to various health effects — beyond the long-recognized consequence of thinner, weaker bones. Studies have also pointed to higher risks of conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, certain cancers, and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

“The role of vitamin D in the body appears to be more than simply assisting calcium absorption and bone health,” said Connie Diekman, a registered dietitian who was not involved in the study.

However, the research is “still evolving,” noted Diekman, who has served as president of the nonprofit Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. That means it’s still unclear whether boosting your vitamin D intake — through food or pills — will prevent various diseases or lengthen your life.

In fact, a recent study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, yielded disappointing results: Researchers found that vitamin D supplements did not help prevent type 2 diabetes in people at high risk of the disease.

But that may be in part because supplements later in life might not be enough to prevent a disease, according to Dr. Rodrig Marculescu, the lead researcher on the current study.

Many health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, get their start earlier in life, said Marculescu, of the Medical University of Vienna in Austria.

On the other hand, he said, vitamin D supplements might have more of an impact on the odds of dying from a disease.

His team found a clear relationship between blood vitamin D levels and the risk of early death — especially among people who were younger than 60: Those with levels of 10 nmol/L (nanomoles per liter) or less had almost a three-times higher risk of dying during the study, versus those with adequate levels (50 nmol/L).

In contrast, middle-aged and younger people with vitamin D levels at or above 90 nmol/L had a lower death risk than those at the 50 mark.

In general, vitamin D concentrations of 50 nmol/L or higher are considered to be high enough for overall health, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

When the researchers zeroed in on causes of death, it turned out that vitamin D levels showed only weak connections to heart disease and cancer. Instead, people with low levels (below 50) had a more than fourfold higher risk of dying from diabetes complications, versus those with adequate levels.

It’s not clear why. But, Marculescu said, there are plausible reasons that vitamin D levels would be particularly linked to diabetes: The vitamin, which acts as a hormone in the body, helps regulate the immune system. That’s relevant to type 1 diabetes, Marculescu noted, because it is an autoimmune disease.

Vitamin D is also important to the cells that produce the hormone insulin — which regulates blood sugar — and to the body’s sensitivity to insulin. That’s relevant to type 2 diabetes, Marculescu pointed out.

For now, he said, the findings “further strengthen the already very strong rationale for intensifying vitamin D supplementation, especially during childhood and at younger ages.”

Specifically, he pointed to recommendations from the Endocrine Society. They suggest that adults get 1,500 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day, while children and teenagers get 600 to 1,000 IU.

The body naturally synthesizes vitamin D when sunlight hits the skin, but cold climates — and concerns about sun exposure — can limit that source.

Diekman suggested that people have their blood vitamin D level checked. If it’s low, she said, talk to your doctor about how to boost it — whether through supplements or foods such as vitamin D-fortified dairy products, juice or cereal.

Source: HealthDay


Today’s Comic

Soda Tied to Higher Risk of Early Death

Serena Gordon wrote . . . . . . . . .

Whether you call it soda, pop or a soft drink, a new study’s findings suggest it would be better for your health to drink water instead.

The large European study found that people who have more than two sodas a day — with or without sugar — had a higher risk of dying over about 16 years than people who sipped the fizzy beverages less than once a month.

“We found that higher soft drink intake was associated with a greater risk of death from any cause regardless of whether sugar-sweetened or artificially sweetened drinks were consumed,” said study senior author Neil Murphy. He’s a scientist with the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France.

“Our results for sugar-sweetened soft drinks provide further support to limit consumption and to replace them with healthier beverages, preferably water,” Murphy said.

How might sodas raise your risk of dying?

Sugar-sweetened beverages may lead to weight gain and obesity. They also may affect the way the hormone insulin is used in the body, which can lead to inflammation, Murphy noted. All of these things can lead to health conditions that may shorten life.

He said more research is needed to understand how artificially sweetened soda might increase the risk of early death.

While it found an association, the current study does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between soda and a higher risk of early death. It’s possible that soda drinkers have other habits that could add to their odds, such as smoking or a less healthy diet.

This study isn’t the first to find a connection between soda and bad health outcomes. Two recent studies — one from BMJ and the other in Circulation — linked drinking soda to cancer and deaths from heart disease.

The current research included more than 451,000 people from 10 European countries. Their average age was 51. Researchers followed the participants’ health for an average of 16 years.

In addition to a higher risk of dying from all causes for those who drank more than two sodas a day, more sodas were also linked to some specific causes of death.

  • People who had more than one soda daily — sugar-sweetened or artificially sweetened — compared to fewer than one a month had a higher risk of dying from colon cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
  • People who had more than one sugar-sweetened soda a day compared to fewer than one a month had a higher risk of dying from digestive diseases.
  • People who had more than artificially sweetened soda a day compared to less than one a month had a higher risk of dying from circulatory diseases like heart disease.

Murphy said researchers tried to account for factors such as body mass index (an estimate of body fat based on height and weight) and smoking, and still found an association between drinking more soda and a higher risk of dying.

Representatives of the beverage and sweetener industries urged people not to overreact to the findings.

Low-calorie and no-calorie sweeteners are “an important tool for weight management and those managing diabetes,” said Robert Rankin, president of the Calorie Control Council.

The council’s medical adviser, Dr. Keri Peterson, added: “The safety of low- and no-calorie sweeteners has been reaffirmed time and time again by leading regulatory and governmental agencies around the world.”

William Dermody Jr., a spokesman for the American Beverage Association, offered a similar view. “Soft drinks are safe to consume as part of a balanced diet and the authors of this study acknowledge their research does not indicate otherwise.”

But Dr. Maria Anton, an endocrinologist at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Forest Hills Hospital, said excess consumption of soft drinks and other high-sugar and artificially sweetened beverages has become the norm for many people.

“These can contribute to weight gain and poor blood sugar control, worsening existing conditions like diabetes,” she pointed out.

Anton added that the findings suggest sugar is probably not the only unhealthy ingredient in soft drinks. “Patients in this study who regularly consumed sugar-free, artificially sweetened drinks were also at an increased risk of death,” she pointed out.

Registered dietitian Samantha Heller, from NYU Langone Health in New York City, said many factors may contribute to the link between soda consumption and risk of death. The bottom line, she said, is that people don’t need to drink soda.

“The consumption of beverages that taste sweet is fueled by marketing and advertising. There really is no need to consume them,” Heller said, suggesting suggested water, seltzer or tea instead.

The study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Source: HealthDay


Today’s Comic

Physical Activity at Any Intensity Linked to Lower Risk of Early Death

Clear evidence that higher levels of physical activity — regardless of intensity — are associated with a lower risk of early death in middle aged and older people, is published by The BMJ today.

The findings also show that being sedentary, for example sitting still, for 9.5 hours or more a day (excluding sleeping time) is associated with an increased risk of death.

Previous studies have repeatedly suggested that sedentary behaviour is bad and physical activity is good for health and long life.

Guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week, but are based mainly on self reported activity, which is often imprecise. So exactly how much activity (and at what intensity) is needed to protect health remains unclear.

To explore this further, researchers led by Professor Ulf Ekelund at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences in Oslo analysed observational studies assessing physical activity and sedentary time with death (“all cause mortality”).

Studies used accelerometers (a wearable device that tracks the volume and intensity of activity during waking hours) to measure total activity in counts per minute (cpm) of wear time. Intensity is usually separated into light, moderate and vigorous — and the time in these intensities is then estimated.

Examples of light intensity activity includes walking slowly or light tasks such as cooking or washing dishes. Moderate activity includes brisk walking, vacuuming or mowing the lawn, while vigorous activity includes jogging, carrying heavy loads or digging.

Data from eight high quality studies involving 36,383 adults aged at least 40 years (average age 62) were included. Activity levels were categorised into quarters, from least to most active, and participants were tracked for an average of 5.8 years.

During follow-up, 2149 (5.9%) participants died. After adjusting for potentially influential factors, the researchers found that any level of physical activity, regardless of intensity, was associated with a substantially lower risk of death.

Deaths fell steeply as total activity increased up to a plateau at 300 cpm, similar to the average activity levels in a population-based sample of US men and about 10-15% lower than that observed in Scandinavian men and women.

A similarly steep decrease in deaths occurred with increasing duration of light physical activity up to a plateau of about 300 minutes (5 hours) per day and of moderate intensity physical activity of about 24 minutes per day.

The largest reduction in risk of death (about 60-70%) was between the first quarter (least active) and the fourth quarter (most active), with approximately five times more deaths in those being inactive compared with those most active. This strengthens the view that any physical activity is beneficial and likely achievable for large segments of the population say the researchers.

In contrast, spending 9.5 hours or more each day sedentary was associated with a statistically significant increased risk of death.

The researchers point to some limitations. For example, all studies were conducted in the US and western Europe, and included adults who were at least 40 years old, so findings may not apply to other populations or to younger people.

Nevertheless, they say the large sample size and device based measures of sedentary time and physical activity provide more precise results than previous studies.

As such, they say their results provide important data for informing public health recommendations, and suggest that the public health message might simply be “sit less and move more and more often.”

These findings are important and easy to interpret, say researchers in a linked editorial. However, questions remain, particularly over whether the effect of physical activity continues above a certain threshold.

They acknowledge that increasing activity at the population level is challenging, but say walking is one promising target for intervention, as it is simple, affordable (free), achievable even for older adults, and rarely contraindicated.

“Developing ways to limit sedentary time and increase activity at any level could considerably improve health and reduce mortality,” they conclude.

Source: Science Daily

Low Muscle Mass in the Limps Increases the Mortality Risk of Seniors

Karina Toledo wrote . . . . . . . . .

Evaluating body composition, especially appendicular muscle mass, can be an effective strategy for predicting longevity in people over 65 years of age, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of São Paulo’s Medical School (FM-USP) in Brazil.

The appendicular muscles are the muscles that move the appendages or extremities – the arms and legs. They also play a key role in stabilizing the shoulders and hips.

The researchers studied a group of 839 men and women over the age of 65 for approximately four years. They observed that all-cause mortality risk increased nearly 63-fold during the follow-up period in women with low appendicular muscle mass and 11.4-fold in men.

An article with results of the study, which was supported by FAPESP, is published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

“We evaluated the body composition of this group, focusing on appendicular muscle mass, subcutaneous fat and visceral fat. We then sought to determine which of these factors could predict mortality in the ensuing years. We concluded that the key factor was the amount of appendicular lean mass,” Rosa Maria Rodrigues Pereira, Full Professor and Head of Rheumatology at FM-USP and principal investigator for the study, told Agência FAPESP.

Body composition was determined by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), also known as bone density scanning, using a densitometer purchased with funding from FAPESP during a previous project led by Pereira to assess the prevalence of osteoporosis and fractures in older women living in Butantã, a neighborhood in western São Paulo city. The same cohort of individuals over 65 years of age was studied in both projects.

“Participants were selected on the basis of the census performed by IBGE [Brazil’s national census bureau]. The sample was representative of the older members of the country’s population,” Pereira said.

The study sample comprised 323 men (39%) and 516 women (61%). The frequency of low muscle mass was approximately 20% for both men and women.

Silent disease

The gradual loss of muscle mass and quality associated with aging is known as age-related sarcopenia. Approximately 46% of Brazilians aged 80 or older have sarcopenia, according to the Brazilian Association of Geriatrics and Gerontology.

Especially when combined with osteoporosis, sarcopenia can increase the vulnerability of older people in that they become more prone to falls, fractures and other physical injuries. Low bone mineral density, particularly in the femur, was shown to correlate with mortality in elderly individuals by research published in 2016.

Pereira and her group developed an equation to determine which individuals can be considered to have sarcopenia based on the characteristics of the community studied.

“According to the most widely used criteria [appendicular lean mass in kg divided by height squared in m], most of the individuals identified as having sarcopenia are lean. However, our sample had a higher-than-average BMI [body mass index], so we substituted muscle mass for fat mass. Subjects with muscle mass that was 20% below average were classified as having sarcopenia,” Pereira said.

The researchers discussed this topic in articles published in Osteoporosis International in 2013 and 2014.

In addition to bone density, the researchers also analyzed blood samples and responses to questionnaires to evaluate diet, physical activity, smoking, consumption of alcoholic beverages, and the presence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and dyslipidemia (abnormally elevated levels of fat in the blood).

At the end of the four-year period, 15.8% (132) of the volunteers had died; 43.2% had died from cardiovascular problems. The mortality rate was 20% for the men and 13% for the women in the sample.

“We then conducted a number of statistical analyses to detect differences between the subjects who died and those who remained alive, particularly, whether it was possible to predict a person’s death on the basis of body composition measured by the DXA examination,” Pereira said.

Differences

Generally, subjects who died were older, exercised less, and suffered more from diabetes and cardiovascular problems than those who remained alive. In the case of the women who died, they also had decreased BMIs. The men who died were more likely to suffer falls. All these variables were fed into the statistical model and adjusted for the end-result to show which body composition factor correlated best with mortality risk.

Only low muscle mass was found to be significant in the women, considering the adjustment variables, while visceral fat was also significant among the men. The mortality risk doubled with each 6 cm2 increase in abdominal fat. Curiously, a higher proportion of subcutaneous fat had a protective effect in the men.

“We found that other parameters also negatively influenced mortality in the men, statistically reducing the significance of appendicular muscle mass. In the women, however, muscle mass stood out as a key factor and hence had more influence,” Pereira said.

Menopause-related hormone changes may help explain the difference between men and women. “The rapid and significant transition from a protective estrogenic environment to a deleterious hypoestrogenic environment, which is particularly adverse for the cardiovascular system, may make the protective metabolic role of skeletal muscles, including the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines, more important in the postmenopause period. This hormone change is far less abrupt in men,” she said.

Loss of muscle mass, which occurs naturally after the age of 40, can be unnoticed owing to weight gain, which is also common in middle age. Between 1% and 2% of muscle mass is lost annually after the age of 50, according to estimates. The factors that may accelerate muscle loss include sedentary habits, a protein-poor diet, chronic diseases and hospitalization.

In addition to their obvious importance in posture, balance and movement, the skeletal muscles have other functions that are essential to the body. They help regulate blood sugar by consuming energy during contraction and maintain the body temperature by trembling when cold. They also produce messenger hormones, such as myokinase, that assist communication with different organs and influence inflammatory responses.

The good news is that sarcopenia is preventable and can even be reversed by physical exercise, especially muscle toning. Attention to protein ingestion is also recommended.

The article “Association of appendicular lean mass and subcutaneous and visceral adipose tissue with mortality in older Brazilians: The São Paulo Ageing & Health Study” by Felipe M. de Santana, Diogo S. Domiciano, Michel A. Gonçalves, Luana G. Machado, Camille P. Figueiredo, Jaqueline B. Lopes, Valéria F. Caparbo, Liliam Takayama, Paulo R. Menezes and Rosa M. R. Pereira can be retrieved from: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/jbmr.3710.
 
Source: Agencia FAPESP