Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


Leave a comment

5 Ways to Get Healthier & Happier With Age

Care2    Megan, selected from Experience Life

In our culture, everything happens at the speed of youth. Whether it’s cell phones, computers, songs, movies, books or opinions, it seems that only the newest models and latest releases matter. Whatever it is, if it’s been around for a while, it’s probably lost some value along with its straight-out-of-the-package luster.

And that might be inevitable when it comes to the latest iPad. But it makes no sense when it comes to people. Because while our culture is inclined to associate aging with a downgrade in beauty, vitality and appeal, aging done well has the potential to be something else entirely: an enjoyable and inspiring upgrade of self.

Unlike the boundless energy of youth, the treasures of aging don’t just arrive at our doorsteps, though. While it is entirely possible to become more interesting, attractive and dynamic as you age, it rarely happens without some conscious striving.

That said, it’s well worth the effort. Done right, living brings wisdom, emotional maturity and insight. With age comes experience, skill, discernment and perspective. We become more empathetic. We develop the compassion to fully know and love others, and the confidence to relax into our best attributes. We gain the ability to know — and even strut — our own stuff.

Seen in this light, getting older can be downright sexy. But how does one go about engaging in artful aging? One of the best ways is to start early.

Knowing at 20, 30 or 40 that you can, and fully intend to, become cooler, smarter and potentially hotter as you age gives you an important advantage, because it can help you keep your goals and priorities in line over the long haul. It also helps you focus on the end game, so you don’t get stuck thinking that midlife achievements are the highest markers of a life well lived.

But at whatever age you suddenly realize that you are, in fact, getting older, it is still possible to age gracefully from there on out. All it takes is smart choices, well-directed energy and a desire for self-renewal. As best-selling author and journalist Gail Sheehy puts it, we need to “remain open to new vistas of learning and imagination and anticipate experiences yet to be conquered and savored.”

1. Connect With Others

One of the most important things you can do to enrich your life at any age is to connect with other people. Meeting, talking, collaborating, sharing — none of these personal-growth essentials happens when an individual is isolated. The people around us (friends, lovers, family, mentors and even enemies) can all provide important insights and become catalysts that aid us in our quest to evolve.

Developing relationships with older folks whom you admire and perceive as good role models, whether for their enduring physical fitness, their perspective and experience, or simply their joie de vivre, can be especially inspiring. So can connecting with younger people. Older men and women gain a deeper appreciation of their accumulated knowledge by sharing it. And feeling gratitude for one’s wisdom and previous life experiences is itself a powerful factor in remaining happy and inspired as we age.

Linking with others has huge health benefits as well. Edward M. Hallowell, MD, an adult and child psychiatrist based in Boston, cites landmark research from Harvard University School of Public Health, that showed people with no close ties to friends, relations or other community were three times more likely to die over a nine-year period than those with at least one source of social support. “Social isolation is as much a risk factor [for early death] as smoking,” he says.

The value of connection increases with years and experience. As lives and relationships deepen, there’s more to share.

A Minneapolis resident, Scotty Gillette was in her early 40s when she and a group of four other childhood friends decided to meet for dinner once a month. Nearly 40 years later, they’re still doing it. “We’ve supported each other through divorces, widowhood, and issues with our children and grandchildren,” she says. “We’ve nursed each other through operations, helped out when husbands have gotten sick, and celebrated at the weddings of our children and the births of our grandchildren.” Each woman is a crucial beam in her friends’ emotional architecture.

Community can be as simple as three or four people getting together for focused conversation once a week, says Parker Palmer, an educator, community activist and author of Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (Jossey-Bass, 1999). “It requires, more than anything else, intentionality.” The form matters less than the function; joining a bowling league, volunteering to tutor at the local high school, starting a band, taking an acting class — all will connect you with something you love, as well as a vital group of friends.

2. Look and Learn

To recognize life’s continuing possibilities, you must constantly survey the world with an open, inquisitive mind. “Lifelong learning expands our horizons and helps us see a life beyond our current roles,” says Pamela McLean, PhD, a clinical psychologist and coauthor of Life Launch: A Passionate Guide to the Rest of Your Life (Hudson Press, 2000).

The Harvard Study of Adult Development found that pursuing education throughout your adult years is a key factor to a rich life and healthy aging. Research has also found that learning can make your brain function better.

For many years, neuroscientists thought that the body stopped building new neural connections after childhood. But landmark studies in the early 21st century showed that the adult brain continues to grow new cells and create new neural connections. And learning helps trigger the growth of those new cells.

“Long-held assumptions that our brains are in a state of gradual decline from a youthful peak have been proven untrue,” notes Barbara Strauch in The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind (Penguin, 2011).

If you maintain only one interest in your life — whether it’s work, children, athletics or a hobby — you risk losing your source of identity and satisfaction when change comes. Conversely, if you polish many facets of yourself, you will shine no matter what.

“The demands of the 30s and 40s are so pressing that it’s almost impossible to imagine how you can diversify your interests,” says McLean. “But it’s important not to become a one-string guitar. Don’t give all your life to work. Allow yourself to try adventures you normally wouldn’t.”

The opportunities to learn are endless. You can choose a structured activity, like taking a class or starting a book club. Or you can take a more free-form approach: Learn about local history or sports teams; listen to public radio while going to work and books on tape during the commute home; commit to visiting a new place every year, even if it’s on the way to your annual vacation spot.

As your life path proceeds, keep an eye out for life’s teachers. McLean suggests seeking out role models who are living in a way that inspires you. Then learn about their lives by asking questions about how they got there.

One person who has made a career out of interviewing his mentors is Bill Moyers, the host of the public-television news program Moyers & Company. “All the septuagenarians I’ve interviewed through the years have taught me something,” he says. “They lived long enough to turn their experience into wisdom, and to share it.”
3. Explore Within

Perhaps the best way to integrate valuable life experiences into your aging process is to regularly evaluate where you are and what’s calling next. “It’s a challenge for anyone, regardless of their age, to know where they want to go,” says McLean. “It’s easy to wander or, in our media-oriented society, to be led. But satisfaction only comes with a direction that is truly your own.”

Palmer agrees, and points out that instead of becoming more set in their ways, aging adults need to remain nimble. “One of the keys to aging gracefully is to acknowledge that you have as much need for discernment now about the best next steps in life as you did at 32 or 45 or 56. There’s a mythology that by 72 you’re pretty well settled, but we have wiggle room as long as we’re drawing breath.”

Developing and following your own evolving sense of purpose takes mindfulness, says McLean, which requires regular doses of reflective thinking. “Look for opportunities to think outside the moment and ask what you want to be,” she advises.

There are opportunities everywhere. Take a vacation, journal, meditate, try yoga, get a coach. Resist the invented busyness that keeps most of us distracted from our feelings: Stop compulsively checking your email or your phone; go on a weeklong media fast; sit still on your couch for five full minutes and don’t write a “to-do” list or schedule a dentist’s appointment or rearrange your sock drawer. If you feel uncomfortable, that’s the point. You’re starting to listen to your inner self.

Allowing our internal compass to guide us toward meaningful pursuits brings its own set of benefits. The Longevity Project, a long-term study launched by a Stanford psychologist at the turn of the last century, followed 1,500 people born around 1910 and found that passionate people who believed they were living up to their potential and engaged in meaningful work lived longer, healthier lives than their less reflective and less engaged peers.

The inner journey itself can be a wellspring of energy and inspiration for daily life. “I’ve found that if a person has a way of being introspective while aging, it creates an acceptance of life,” says Stephan Rechtschaffen, MD, a cofounder of the Omega Institute, a holistic learning center based in Rhinebeck, N.Y. “Maintaining vitality can be aided by spiritual processes. They allow us to access our inner landscapes and to see life with wonder.”

4. Play Creatively

Embracing the pleasures of uninhibited expression — whether we find that in art, music, dance, woodworking, Scrabble or poker — enriches and regenerates our souls no matter how old we are. “Any healthy activity where your brain lights up helps plant the seeds of happiness,” says Hallowell.

Those bits of happiness enrich our brains now and can continue to pay off in the decades to come, bringing satisfaction and continual self-renewal. In fact, time often enhances the end results of creative endeavors. In her book The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life (Simon & Schuster, 2005), choreographer Twyla Tharp explains that she didn’t feel like a “master” of her craft until she had completed 128 works and was 58 years old.

“Why did it take 128 pieces until I felt this way?” Tharp asks rhetorically. “A better question would be, why not? What’s wrong with getting better as you get more work under your belt?” She cites Verdi, Beethoven, Dostoyevsky, Kurosawa and Balanchine as a few of her personal role models. All had stunning early triumphs, to be sure. Yet what interests Tharp is that all of these artists kept raising the bar for their achievements throughout their middle and later years.

How, in the face of deteriorating memories and aching backs, did they do it? In Tharp’s view, they were able to integrate what they had learned and put it into perspective.

“As we age, it’s hard to recapture the recklessness of youth, when new ideas sparked off us like light from a pinwheel sparkler,” she writes. “But we more than compensate for this with the ideas we do generate, and with our hard-earned wisdom about how to capture, and, more importantly, connect those ideas.” The results of this mature brand of ideation and creative expression, Tharp asserts, can be richer, deeper and just as satisfying as the spontaneity of youth.

5. Mind Your Body

Whether you’re 18 or 88, you feel better when you maintain a healthy weight, a high level of physical vitality, and a commitment to daily movement. As the years pass, though, it becomes increasingly important to examine specific aspects of your daily routine and environment.

For instance, according to Mark Hyman, MD, recent research shows that balancing blood sugar is one of the best ways to inoculate against certain age-related diseases, such as dementia, cancer and adult-onset diabetes.

Besides reducing our sugar intake, Hyman, author of The Blood Sugar Solution (Little, Brown and Company, 2012), advises people to take a few key steps: (1) Avoid flours and starches (“They act just like sugar in the bloodstream,” he explains); (2) include healthy proteins (such as fish, beans, nuts, lean animal protein) with every meal to fuel metabolism and maintain muscle; (3) liberally consume high-fiber foods (nuts, berries, beans, non-starchy vegetables and seeds); (4) enjoy healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to activate a critical cell-signaling system related to blood-sugar control.

Hyman also wants us to mind our mitochondria, which are the microscopic components of each of our cells that turn food and 90 percent of the oxygen we breathe into energy. We have more than 100,000 trillion of these little energy factories in our bodies, and according to recent lab tests, rats with the healthiest and most plentiful mitochondria had greater endurance and aerobic capacity, experienced increased fat burning, didn’t develop prediabetes, and lived to be the equivalent of 120 human years old.

The trouble is that, over time, mitochondria are sensitive to poor diet, sedentary habits, toxins, allergens, and high levels of stress. This is why Hyman urges us to emphasize whole foods, limit our overall exposure to pollutants, find time to relax and rejuvenate, and enjoy plenty of physical activity. Interval training is especially helpful, he notes, since high-intensity activity interspersed with periods of rest increases the efficiency and function of mitochondria. Strength training also increases the amount of mitochondria in muscle cells.

Beyond all these practical recommendations for healthy, graceful aging, though, success is ultimately rooted in self-honesty — the ability to see yourself clearly and then take action on the parts of your life that are asking for investment and attention.

For example, the Harvard Study on Aging tells us that having a healthy marriage before age 50 is an indicator of successful aging. Do you have a strong partnership? If you do, what sorts of steps can you take to fortify that bond? If not, what can you do to change your situation?

If you are severely overweight, chain smoking, or abusing alcohol or drugs, what resources are available to help you face down the demons? What role do you play in the dysfunction?

Ignoring problems not only leads to physical and mental deterioration, but also leads to avoiding solutions that have the potential to connect you to the larger community and your better self.

In other words, you’re never too old to leave behind old habits, to embrace new rituals, or to discover new vistas in the search of happier, healthier and higher terrain.

source: Care2.com
Advertisements


Leave a comment

Learning music early builds up brain’s reserves

Elderly who knew music were protected from normal decay in discriminating sounds

CBC News       Jan 09, 201

Childhood music lessons could pay off in protecting the brain against dementia decades later, even in those who don’t continue to play, researchers are learning. 

In one study, children who played instruments performed better on memory tests even decades later.  

Music training benefits the brain’s cognitive function. Neuroscientists in Illinois tested for delays in how the brain responds to fast-changing elements of speech.

In November, they published their findings that four to 14 years of music training early in life was associated with faster processing, 40 years after the music training stopped. None of the subjects reported practising an instrument, performing or instruction after age 25.

Dr. Luis Fornazzari of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, has also studied musicians’ memory in relation to dementia.

“The elderly who knew music or they were a musician at one point in their life, they were protected from this normal decay in the discrimination of the sounds,” Fornazzari said.

music

Learning to play an instrument early in life
can help the brain decades later,
even if the instrument isn’t played during adulthood.


“The brain becomes absolutely trained in the discrimination of the sounds, the human voice and the different instruments, the different notes and that lasts.” 

The advantage of learning to read music is it activates many areas of the brain, scientists say.

It’s thought that learning music or a second language builds up reserve capacity in the brain to help hold dementia at bay.  

“If the disease occurs and you have good brain reserve capacity, you can tolerate the effect of the disease for longer so not showing the symptoms until later,” Fornazzari said.

The findings are music to the ears of Renita Greener of Toronto.

“I had one of those teachers who was very sort of old school and it was all about doing, doing, doing.  There wasn’t a lot of fun so I sort of dropped it,”  Greener recalled.  

With files from CBC’s Kim Brunhuber and Melanie Glanz

Source: CBC


Leave a comment

It’s never too late to get fit, study on ‘healthy aging’ finds

Relaxnews  Tuesday, November 26, 2013

PARIS (AFP) – People who start exercise even late in life can reap the benefit in good health, a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine said on Monday.

Researchers tracked the health of nearly 3,500 Britons whose average age was 64, for more than eight years.

People who had a record of sustained and regular exercise – meaning vigorous activity at least once a week – boosted the likelihood of “healthy ageing” sevenfold compared to a lifestyle of persistent inactivity.

The gain among newcomers to exercise was roughly triple.

“Significant health benefits were… seen among participants who became physically active relatively late in life,” the paper said.

“Healthy aging” was rated by an absence of major diseases and disabilities, good mental health – the lack of depression or cognitive decline – and the ability to maintain social connections.

Around a fifth of the volunteers fell into this category at the eight-year followup mark.

source: www.ctvnews.ca


Leave a comment

Eat Nuts, Live Longer?

Study linked a daily handful of any nut to 20 percent reduction in death risk over 30 years

WebMD News from HealthDay     By Serena Gordon     HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 20, 2013 (HealthDay News) – If you like nuts – and it doesn’t seem to matter what kind is your personal favourite – you might be cutting your risk of early death by eating a handful of them every day.

New research found that people who ate a 1-ounce serving of nuts each day showed a 20 percent reduced risk of dying from any cause over three decades, compared to those who didn’t eat the tasty snacks.

“We looked at nut consumption in approximately 119,000 Americans over the past 30 years,” said study senior author Dr. Charles Fuchs, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. “People who were regular nut consumers had a significant reduction in [death from all causes].”

“This is an observational study, so it’s not absolute in terms of proof,” Fuchs said. “But prior studies suggest health benefits like a lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and lower cholesterol, among other health outcomes.”

The study was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation, a nonprofit institute that represents nine different nut industries.

The findings were published in the Nov. 21 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Nuts are nutrient-dense foods, according to background information included in the study. They contain unsaturated fatty acids, fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Previous research has linked nut consumption to a lower risk of heart disease, as well as improvements in risk factors for heart disease such as high cholesterol, according to the study.

The researchers looked at how nut consumption might affect all causes of death, as well as whether nuts were linked to death risk from specific conditions, such as heart disease.

The study included more than 76,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study and more than 42,000 men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Anyone with a history of heart disease, stroke or cancer was excluded from the study.

nuts

Nut consumption was verified at the start of the study, and then every two to four years during the study. During about 30 years of follow-up, more than 16,000 women and more than 11,000 men died.

When the researchers compared people who ate nuts to people who never ate nuts, they found a 7 percent reduced risk of dying from any cause during the 30-year study. People who consumed more nuts had an even lower risk of dying. Those who had nuts once a week had an 11 percent lower risk of death, while people who had two to four servings of nuts a week saw their risk drop by 13 percent. Those who consumed the most nuts — at least seven 1-ounce servings weekly — reduced their overall death risk by 20 percent, according to the study.

Eating more nuts also was linked to a lower risk of death due to cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease.

The study uncovered an association between eating nuts and living longer, but it didn’t prove cause-and-effect.

Fuchs said a 1-ounce serving was equal to about 16 to 24 almonds, 16 to 18 cashews or 30 to 35 peanuts.

People who ate nuts tended to be healthier overall, according to the study. They were leaner, had lower rates of obesity, had lower cholesterol, had less high blood sugar, had smaller waist circumferences, ate more fruits and vegetables, and exercised more than people who ate fewer or no nuts.

Fuchs and his team controlled the data to account for these factors.

One expert said what people who are eating nuts aren’t eating instead is also important.

“This study adds to the research that nuts are part of an overall healthful diet, especially if people are choosing to have nuts instead of chips or candy,” said Alice Bender, associate director for nutrition programs with the American Institute for Cancer Research.

“Nuts provide quality protein, fiber, good fats [and] B vitamins,” she said. “Nuts are a whole package of health, and they’ve shown some cancer-protective qualities.”

“But nuts aren’t a magic bullet,” she said. “They’re just one part of all the wonderful foods we have. It’s important to eat foods that are minimally processed.”

“The best thing to do is to substitute nuts for other foods that may be crunchy or sweet,” Bender said. “Replace some of those foods that don’t contribute much to our diets with nuts. You’ll be replacing empty calories with a whole food.”

source: www.webmd.com


1 Comment

5 Reasons Why Music Is the Real Fountain of Youth

Society is obsessed with youth — so much so that one of the largest technology companies in the world, Google, recently acquired a new company, called Calico, devoted to tackling the issues of aging.

But can science really turn back the clock’s hands, or is humanity still searching for Herodotus’ magical “waters of life”?

One key to re-connecting with our youth may be closer than it seems. A series of recent studies lend credence to the idea that music could be the next best thing to finding the real “Fountain of Youth.”

Here are 5 incredible ways music helps us stay young and healthy:

Improves immunity: Listening to upbeat music for less than an hour is enough to decrease immunity-suppressing stress hormones and increase the number of antibodies in the blood, according to a study conducted by Sussex University and the Max Planck Institute. Researchers only tested the effects of lively music, and theorize that personal preferences and exposure to other genres might impact an individual’s response; “We’d expect that different kinds of music might show different physiological and immunological effects,” says Ronny Enk, study author and neurocognition expert at Max Planck. “Not only the music itself is important but probably the personal appraisal of the listener will also be important.”

Combats cognitive decline: McGill University researchers found that the human brain releases dopamine—a neurotransmitter linked to feelings of reward and pleasure, and facilitates the creation of long-term memories—both during, and in anticipation of, jamming out to good tunes. Natural decreases in the number of dopamine-producing cells is thought to contribute to age-related decline in memory and cognition. But studies have shown that artificially increasing the supply of dopamine in an elderly individual’s brain can help them form stronger memories.

Keeps depression at bay: People with major depressive order age faster than their non-depressed counterparts. But a review of 17 different studies on music and depression led analysts from the National University of Singapore to conclude that jamming out just once a week may reduce symptoms of depression.

Beefs up the brain‘s circuits: Individuals exposed to even a minor amount of musical training in their youth may derive benefit years later, according to Northwestern University researchers who found that even individuals who hadn’t touched an instrument in decades were able to process sounds faster than those who’d never played a tune. Hearing troubles are one of the most prevalent problems of aging, but study authors believe that music training could be the key to helping older adults hold onto their hearing for longer.

Enlivens those with Alzheimer‘s: Alzheimer’s is one of the most feared diseases of aging. Individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia face the gradual erosion of their mental abilities. But recent research from George Mason University indicates that singing along—not just listening—to hits from classical movies, such as The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music and Oklahoma, may increase cognitive functioning in Alzheimer’s patients. The positive effects were especially profound in those in the moderate to severe stages of the disease. The power of music to help people with Alzheimer’s has long been acknowledged. Check out the video above that shows how a simple song can make all the difference in the world to someone with Alzheimer’s.

Music won’t reverse all the ravages of aging, nor can it stave off deadly disease, but it can dampen the effects of the encroaching years, and has an innate power to uplift and inspire that should not be ignored.

AgingCare.com    December 3, 2013

source: care2.com


Leave a comment

Today’s elderly may be mentally sharper than yesterday’s

By Kathryn Doyle   NEW YORK  Tue Dec 3, 2013

(Reuters Health) – Elderly people today might be more mentally nimble than their counterparts were a decade or two ago, according to a new European study.

Researchers found people who were in their 80s when they took thinking and memory tests in the late 2000s performed similarly to others who were tested more than 10 years earlier while in their 70s.

General health in old age is probably improving for most people, Dallas Anderson said.

“People are better educated than they used to be, their economic wellbeing may be better compared to previous groups,” Anderson said. He studies dementia at the National Institute on Aging in Bethesda, Maryland, and was not involved in the new study.

“All these various factors working together lead to an improved situation.”

For their study, researchers tested the thinking and memory skills of 204 elderly French men and women selected from the memory clinic of a Paris hospital between 1991 and 1997. They compared their test scores to those from 177 similar people tested at the same clinic in 2008 and 2009.

None of the participants had dementia at the time.

As expected, people under age 80 performed better on the cognitive tests than older participants during both study periods, researchers led by Jocelyne de Rotrou from Hôpital Broca in Paris wrote in PLOS One.

The 2000s group as a whole also did better than the 1990s group. Participants tested more recently scored an average 83.2 out of a possible 100 on the exams, compared to 73.5 for their earlier counterparts.

The differences were consistent across almost every component of the tests, including how well people remembered stories and pictures and their ability to separate objects into different categories.


The authors said this trend might simply parallel increased life expectancies: the longer you live, the more good years you have.

But there could be something else going on too, Anderson told Reuters Health, like improvements in the average person’s education and socioeconomic status.

These new results may also indicate that better drug regimens for controlling blood pressure and heart problems are having a positive effect on aging, he said.

“This is consistent with other studies, especially a couple already published from Europe, in Denmark and the UK,” and it’s likely happening in the U.S. as well, he said.

But Louis Bherer, who studies cognitive decline at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, believes it is too soon to generalize the Paris results more broadly.

“France is a country in which education is free and open to everyone, and where everyone has access to free medical care,” he told Reuters Health. “Generalization to countries that do not offer the same social advantages would be misleading.”

It’s possible that more careful screening for early stages of dementia in 2008 and 2009 led to a more mentally sound group, said Bherer, who didn’t participate in the new research.

As often happens, it’s hard to tell whether researchers are sensing a true trend in the population, or tools have improved and changed what they can see.

Bherer and Anderson agreed these types of studies need to be replicated before any larger conclusions can be drawn.

A recent editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine highlighted evidence of declining dementia rates in the U.S.

“The idea that some people will get extra years of healthy living before they get demented, that’s important,” Anderson said. “When you look at it from a public health perspective, it’s huge.”

But the trend might not continue, he said, especially in the U.S. as more obese, diabetic generations age into retirement. Their health problems could help speed mental decline.

Dementia is still a public health issue, especially with the baby boomer generation getting older, he said.

“Even if the rates go down, the numbers are still going to go up.”

SOURCE: bit.ly/1cjcZTW PLOS One, online November 11, 2013.        Reuters



Leave a comment

Being Web-Savvy Tied to Better Health in Seniors: Study

Nonusers were less likely to exercise, eat a healthy diet or get colon cancer screening.

By Mary Elizabeth Dallas, HealthDay News

TUESDAY, Oct. 22, 2013 (HealthDay News) — Older men and women who use the Internet frequently are more likely to have a lifestyle that includes many cancer-preventive behaviors, according to a new study.

Compared to their peers who don’t use the Internet, online aficionados were screened for colorectal cancer more often and were more likely to be physically active, eat a healthy diet and smoke less. Researchers also found that the more time older adults spent on the Internet, the more likely they were to engage in these healthy behaviors.

The study appeared Oct. 22 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

The findings held even after researchers accounted for people’s socioeconomic status, physical abilities and mental function, study author Christian von Wagner, a senior lecturer in behavioral research in early diagnosis of cancer at the University College London, said in a journal news release.

“The interesting aspect here is a dose-response relationship between Internet use and cancer-preventive behaviors,” von Wagner said. “Intermittent users were more likely to have cancer-preventive behaviors than [nonusers], and consistent users were more likely to have cancer-preventive behaviors than intermittent users.”

The study involved nearly 6,000 men and women aged 50 and older who completed surveys every two years between 2002 and 2011, on their demographics, mental abilities, physical activity and diet. They also were asked about their Internet and email usage and colorectal and breast cancer screenings.

The researchers found that 41 percent of those surveyed said they did not use the Internet, 38 percent reported using the Internet sporadically and 20 percent were online regularly.


Although Internet use didn’t affect women’s decisions to be screened for breast cancer, those who regularly used the Internet were twice as likely to be screened for colorectal cancer, the study revealed.

Both male and female regular Internet users were 50 percent more likely to exercise and 24 percent more likely to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, according to the study. People who used the Internet consistently also were 44 percent less likely to smoke.

The study also revealed that demographics play a role in how much people use the Internet. Use was more prevalent among those who were younger, white and had more money and education. Men also were online more than women. Meanwhile, Internet use was much less prevalent among the disabled and those who were older, less wealthy and nonwhite.

“It is important that policymakers recognize the role Internet use plays in influencing inequalities in cancer outcomes, and help increase access to the Internet among this demographic,” von Wagner said.

Although the study showed an association between Internet usage and cancer-preventive behaviors, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

source: HealthDay