Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


Leave a comment

These 5 Preventable Conditions Shorten Lives

More bad news for plus-sized Americans: Obesity is the leading cause of preventable life-years lost in the nation, a new study finds.

Obesity steals more years than diabetes, tobacco, high blood pressure and high cholesterol – the other top preventable health problems that cut Americans’ lives short, according to researchers who analyzed 2014 data.

“Modifiable behavioral risk factors pose a substantial mortality burden in the U.S.,” said study lead author Glen Taksler, an internal medicine researcher at the Cleveland Clinic.

“These preliminary results continue to highlight the importance of weight loss, diabetes management and healthy eating in the U.S. population,” Taksler said in a clinic news release.

Obesity was linked with as much as 47 percent more life-years lost than tobacco, his team said.

Tobacco, meanwhile, had the same effect on life span as high blood pressure, the researchers found.

The researchers noted that three of the top five causes of life-years lost – diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol – can be treated. And helping patients understand treatment methods, options and approaches can have a significant effect, the study authors said.

The findings also emphasize the importance of preventive care, and why it should be a priority for physicians, Taksler’s team said.

However, the researchers acknowledged that some people’s situations may be different than those of the general population. For example, for someone with obesity and alcoholism, drinking may be a more important risk factor than obesity, even though obesity is more significant in the general population.

“The reality is, while we may know the proximate cause of a patient’s death – for example, breast cancer or heart attack – we don’t always know the contributing factor(s), such as tobacco use, obesity, alcohol and family history,” Taksler said. “For each major cause of death, we identified a root cause to understand whether there was a way a person could have lived longer.”

The findings were scheduled for presentation Saturday at the annual meeting of the Society of General Internal Medicine, in Washington, D.C. Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Obesity steals the most years of all, researchers say

By Robert Preidt     HealthDay Reporter     MONDAY, April 24, 2017
Sources: Cleveland Clinic, news release, April 22, 2017     WebMD News from HealthDay


1 Comment

The Case For Drinking Coffee Is Stronger Than Ever

There are few things more more ritualistic—and to many, more sacred—than a morning cup of joe. 64% of Americans drink at least one cup a day—a statistic that’s barely budged since the ’90s. Despite warnings from doctors over the years that coffee may be hard on the body, people have remained devoted to the drink.

Luckily for them, the latest science is evolving in their favor. Research is showing that coffee may have net positive effects on the body after all.

Is coffee bad for you?

For years, doctors warned people to avoid coffee because it might increase the risk of heart disease and stunt growth. They worried that people could become addicted to the energy that high amounts of caffeine provided, leading them to crave more and more coffee as they became tolerant to higher amounts of caffeine. Experts also worried that coffee had damaging effects on the digestive tract, which could lead to stomach ulcers, heartburn and other ills.

All of this concern emerged from studies done decades ago that compared coffee drinkers to non-drinkers on a number of health measures, including heart problems and mortality. Coffee drinkers, it seemed, were always worse off.

But it turns out that coffee wasn’t really to blame. Those studies didn’t always control for the many other factors that could account for poor health, such as smoking, drinking and a lack of physical activity. If people who drank a lot of coffee also happened to have some other unhealthy habits, then it’s not clear that coffee is responsible for their heart problems or higher mortality.

That understanding has led to a rehabilitated reputation for the drink. Recent research reveals that once the proper adjustments are made for confounding factors, coffee drinkers don’t seem have a higher risk for heart problems or cancer than people who don’t drink coffee. Recent studies also found no significant link between the caffeine in coffee and heart-related issues such as high cholesterol, irregular heartbeats, stroke or heart attack.

Is coffee good for you?

Studies show that people who drink coffee regularly may have an 11% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than non-drinkers, thanks to ingredients in coffee that can affect levels of hormones involved in metabolism.

In a large study involving tens of thousands of people, researchers found that people who drank several cups a day—anywhere from two to four cups—actually had a lower risk of stroke. Heart experts say the benefits may come from coffee’s effect on the blood vessels; by keeping vessels flexible and healthy, it may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, which can cause heart attacks.

It’s also high in antioxidants, which are known to fight the oxidative damage that can cause cancer. That may explain why some studies have found a lower risk of liver cancer among coffee drinkers.

Coffee may even help you live longer. A recent study involving more than 208,000 men and women found that people who drank coffee regularly were less likely to die prematurely than those who didn’t drink coffee. Researchers believe that some of the chemicals in coffee may help reduce inflammation, which has been found to play a role in a number of aging-related health problems, including dementia and Alzheimer’s. Some evidence also suggests that coffee may slow down some of the metabolic processes that drive aging.

One downside is that people may become dependent on caffeine (no surprise to any regular caffeine-drinker who takes a coffee break). The symptoms—headaches, irritability and fatigue—can mimic those of people coming off of addictive drugs. Yet doctors don’t consider the dependence anywhere close to as worrisome as addictions to habit-forming drugs like opiates. While unpleasant, caffeine “withdrawal” symptoms are tolerable and tend to go away after a day or so.

How much coffee is safe?

Like so many foods and nutrients, too much coffee can cause problems, especially in the digestive tract. But studies have shown that drinking up to four 8-ounce cups of coffee per day is safe. Sticking to those boundaries shouldn’t be hard for coffee drinkers in the U.S., since most drink just a cup of java per day.Moderation is key. But sipping coffee in reasonable amounts just might be one of the healthiest things you can do.

Alice Park   May 05, 2017    TIME 
source: time.com


1 Comment

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: How Perceptions of Aging Affect Our Later Years

“Whether you think you can,
or you think you can’t—you’re right.”

– Henry Ford

Perceptions of aging, or attitudes toward one’s own aging, have important implications for the health and well-being of older adults. Throughout the life span, people encounter many positive and negative stereotypes of older adults and the aging process. Some stereotypes portray common age-related changes, whereas others promote misconceptions about aging. As people grow older, age stereotypes become increasingly self-relevant; these stereotypes are reflected inward and they become incorporated into older adults’ self perceptions of aging.

THE PERCEPTIONS OF AGING LENS

Perceptions of aging can be thought of as a lens that shapes how older adults interpret their daily experiences and establish cause-and-effect explanations for events. For instance, older adulthood can be viewed as a time of continued development and learning (positive perception of aging) or as a time of physical and mental decline (negative perception of aging). Self-perceptions of aging tend to influence thoughts and behaviors without people being consciously aware that this is happening.

Imagine that two older adults, Diane and Nora, slipped on an icy sidewalk and they each sprained an ankle. Throughout her recovery, Diane diligently completed physical therapy, eager to return to full strength and resume her normal daily activities. Her mobility was limited for a while, but Diane took this opportunity to catch up on some books that she wanted to read and she learned new ways to keep in touch with family and friends on her tablet. When Nora fell, she knew that life was just going to get worse from there. Nora didn’t really see the point of the rehabilitation exercises, because she didn’t believe that a full recovery was possible. It was difficult to get around, so Nora started to keep to herself more and she stopped taking her regular walks even after her ankle was healed. Diane made a full recovery, but Nora’s physical health continued to decline because she never returned to the same level of activity. Despite experiencing the same injury, Diane’s and Nora’s perceptions of aging influenced how they responded to the injury and led to a very different chain of events.

OUTCOMES RELATED TO PERCEPTIONS OF AGING

The story above illustrates how self-perceptions of aging can create self fulfilling prophecies leading to long-term consequences for the well-being of older adults. Researchers have found Self-perceptions of aging tend to influence thoughts and behaviors without people being consciously aware that this is happening.

Negative perceptions of aging have harmful consequences for older adults’ bodies, minds, and healthy behaviors, as outlined below:

Longevity. In a 23-year study, older adults who reported more positive self-perceptions of aging lived 7.5 years longer than older adults with more negative self-perceptions of aging . Additional research supports this connection between perceptions of aging and longevity, leading the researchers to conclude that “…those who develop positive perceptions of aging over the life course enter late life with a distinct advantage that may be protective against negative consequences of health change”.

Illness. In a study of 1,286 people (average age of 57 at baseline), participants who indicated that aging is a time of continued learning and development reported decreases (or slower increases) in physical illnesses six years later . In contrast, participants in the same study who believed that aging is a time of physical loss displayed increases in physical illness over six years.

Functional Health. Older adults with more positive perceptions of aging report better future functional health, such as the ability to do household chores and climb stairs, compared to older adults with more negative perceptions of aging. Consistent with these findings, older adults with more negative perceptions of aging displayed greater limitations in activities of daily living (e.g., feeding, bathing) and instrumental activities of daily living (e.g., shopping, managing finances) three years later. None of those participants reported any limitations at the beginning of the study (ages 65 to 70).

Brain Health. Compared to people with more positive views of aging, people who endorsed more negative age stereotypes displayed greater signs of risk factors for Alzheimer’s Disease when their brains were examined decades later. The hippocampus, an area of the brain related to memory, decreased in size at a faster rate and there was an increased presence of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles.

Psychological Well-Being. Older adults with more negative perceptions of aging reported greater increases in depressive symptoms three years later, but high levels of optimism helped protect against this effect. The researchers concluded that positive emotions and optimism may help buffer the harmful effects of negative perceptions of aging. In another study, positive perceptions of aging contributed to better self-reported health and life satisfaction six years later, even for participants who reported a serious health event.

Healthy Behaviors. Older adults with more positive perceptions of aging tend to engage in more preventive health behaviors and physical activity compared to older adults with more negative perceptions of aging. For example, older adults with positive self-perceptions of aging reported engaging in more preventive health behaviors over 20 years. Evidence also links negative perceptions of aging with declines in walking speed two years later. Furthermore, older adults with more positive views of aging reported more frequent walking and sporting activities.

Overall, these findings support the conclusion that perceptions of aging create self-fulfilling prophecies. Older adults who associate aging with ongoing growth and pursuit of meaningful activities are more likely to engage in behaviors and view experiences in adaptive ways. As a result, these beneficial thought and behavior patterns further reinforce older adults’ positive perceptions of aging.

Older adults with positive self-perceptions of aging
reported engaging in more preventive health behaviors
over 20 years.

 

CHANGING PERCEPTIONS OF AGING

Changing perceptions of aging is a challenging issue, because it involves both individual perceptions of aging as well as age stereotypes that are conveyed at societal and cultural levels. Kotter-Grühn (2015) identified several strategies that could be effective at improving perceptions of aging. For example, at a societal level, increasing the presence of older adults in the media and reducing the use of age stereotypes could improve perceptions of aging. In addition, creating more opportunities for intergenerational interactions could help people develop more realistic expectations of aging. Finally, older adults could develop more positive perceptions of aging by learning more about the aging process—correcting misconceptions and increasing awareness of positive age-related changes.

Changing older adults’ expectations related to aging can lead to important behavioral changes. Here are two examples of research studies that increased physical activity in older adults through an intervention designed to improve their perceptions of aging:

  • Example 1. Older adults completed a four-week course designed to change their expectations that people become less active with age. Instructors taught that sedentariness is not a natural part of aging and there are things that the participants can do to control their physical activity levels. Participants also attended an exercise class after each meeting. Three weeks after the last session, participants reported more positive expectations about aging and they also walked approximately 2.5 miles more each week (compared to before the course). In addition, participants reported decreases in limitations to activities of daily living and increases in mental health.
  • Example 2. This study expanded upon a typical physical activity intervention by adding in two behavior change techniques aimed at changing perceptions of aging research-based information on common misconceptions about aging and the connection between positive perceptions of aging and health outcomes; and guidance on how to recognize and counter negative automatic thoughts. Participants who completed this intervention displayed more positive views of aging (e.g., greater satisfaction and optimism related to aging) and increases in physical activity compared to other participants who completed a standard physical activity intervention or who spent time volunteering (the control condition).

If negative perceptions of aging are preventing people from enrolling in programs, positive aging messages may need to be conveyed in recruitment materials or earlier.

CHANGING PERCEPTIONS IN YOUR COMMUNITY

When developing or implementing a program to encourage healthy behaviors, it is important to consider how older adults’ perceptions of aging may influence their thoughts and behaviors. Based on the research described above, here are four recommendations for how to promote more positive perceptions of aging during programs for older adults:

  1.   Identify older adults’ age-related expectations about their ability to complete or benefit from the program. How do the expectations of people with positive perceptions of aging differ from people with more negative views? Keep an eye out for differences in feelings of control and beliefs about the possibility of change.
  2.   Develop communications to counter negative perceptions of aging. Start by focusing on the gap between the positive and negative expectations. Is accurate information needed? Do you need to encourage different patterns of thought? Keep the message targeted to information relevant to the specific healthy behavior that is being promoted.
  3.   Incorporate the message into your program. If negative perceptions of aging are preventing people from enrolling in programs, positive aging messages may need to be conveyed in recruitment materials or earlier.
  4.   Measure the effectiveness of the message. If possible, assess key program outcomes before and after introducing the positive aging messages. Depending on the program, outcomes could include enrollment rates, completion rates, behavior change, attitude change, knowledge attained, and satisfaction levels.

People are often unaware of the extent to which their views of aging shape their expectations and actions. Creating more positive perceptions of aging can motivate people to engage in healthy behaviors. The benefits gained as a result of these healthy behaviors further reinforces positive perceptions of aging and encourages people along the path to wellness.

 

REFERENCES
Kotter-Grühn, D. (2015). Changing negative views of aging:Implications for intervention and translational research.
Annual Review of Gerontology & Geriatrics, 35, 167-186. 
Levy, B. (2009). Stereotype embodiment: A psychosocial approach to aging. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18, 332-336.
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: How Perceptions of Aging Affect Our Later Years Levy, B. R., Ferrucci, L., Zonderman, A. B., Slade, M. D., Troncoso, J., & Resnick, S. M. (2016). A culture–brain link: Negative age stereotypes predict Alzheimer’s Disease biomarkers. Psychology and Aging, 31, 82- 88.
Levy, B. R., & Myers, L. M. (2004). Preventive health behaviors influenced by self-perceptions of aging. Preventive Medicine, 39, 625-629.
Levy, B. R., Slade, M. D., & Kasl, S. V. (2002). Longitudinal benefit of positive self-perceptions of aging on functional health. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 57B, 409-417. Levy, B. R., Slade, M. R., Kunkel, S. R., & Kasl, S. V. (2002).
Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 261-270.
Moser, C., Spagnoli, J., & Santos-Eggimann, B. (2011). Self-perception of aging and vulnerability to adverse outcomes at the age of 65-70 years.
The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 6, 675-680.
Robertson, D. A., Savva, G. M., King-Kallimanis, B. L., & Kenny, R. A. (2015). Negative perceptions of aging and decline in walking speed: A self-fulfilling prophecy. PLoS ONE, 10, e0123260. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0123260
Sargent-Cox, K. A., Anstey, K. J., & Luszcz, M. A. (2014). Longitudinal change of self-perceptions of aging and mortality. Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 69, 168-173.
Sarkisian, C. A., Prohaska, T. R., Davis, C., & Weiner, B. (2007). Pilot test of an attribution retraining intervention to raise walking levels in sedentary older adults. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 55, 1842-1846. Wolff, J. K., Warner, L. M., Ziegelmann, J. P., & Wurm, S. (2014).
What do targeting positive views on ageing add to a physical activity intervention in older adults? Results from a randomised controlled trial.
Psychology & Health, 29, 915-932. Wurm, S., & Benyamini, Y. (2014). Optimism buffers the detrimental effect of negative self-perceptions of ageing on physical and mental health. Psychology & Health, 29, 832-848. Wurm, S., Tesch-Römer, C., & Tomasik, M. J. (2007). Longitudinal findings on aging-related cognitions, control beliefs, and health in later life. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 62B, 156-164.
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: How Perceptions of Aging Affect Our Later Years Wurm, S., Tomasik, M. J., & Tesch-Römer, C. (2008). Serious health events and their impact on changes in subjective health and life satisfaction: The role of age and a positive view on aging. European
Journal of Ageing, 5, 117-127. Wurm, S., Tomasik, M. J., & Tesch-Römer, C. (2010). On the importance of a positive view on ageing for physical exercise among middle-aged and older adults: Cross-sectional and longitudinal findings. Psychology and Health, 25, 25-42.

 

By Jennifer L. Smith, PhD, Senior Research Manager    Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging


Leave a comment

This Fruit Reverses Brain Ageing

A natural compound found in strawberries can reduce the mental effects of ageing.

The antioxidant fisetin, when given to mice, was found to reduce their mental decline with age and inflammation in their body.

Fisetin is also found in many other plants, such as apples, onions, cucumbers and persimmons.

Dr Pamela Maher, who led the research said:

“Companies have put fisetin into various health products but there hasn’t been enough serious testing of the compound.
Based on our ongoing work, we think fisetin might be helpful as a preventative for many age-associated neurodegenerative diseases, not just Alzheimer’s, and we’d like to encourage more rigorous study of it.”

Previous studies in the same lab have found that fisetin can reduce age-related memory loss.

The study was carried out on mice that had been genetically modified to be susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Maher said:

“Mice are not people, of course.
But there are enough similarities that we think fisetin warrants a closer look, not only for potentially treating sporadic AD but also for reducing some of the cognitive effects associated with aging, generally.”

The mice were given food with fisetin in it for 7 months and compared to a control group.

Dr Maher said:

“At 10 months, the differences between these two groups were striking.”

Those given the fisetin had hardly suffered any age-related deficits.

The study was published in the Journals of Gerontology Series A (Currais et al., 2017).

 
JULY 16, 2017
source: PsyBlog


1 Comment

Drinking More Coffee Leads To A Longer Life, Two Studies Say

Greater consumption of coffee could lead to a longer life, according to two new studies published Monday.

The findings have resurfaced the centuries-old conversation on coffee’s health effects.
One study surveyed more than 520,000 people in 10 European countries, making it the largest study to date on coffee and mortality, and found that drinking more coffee could significantly lower a person’s risk of mortality.

The second study was more novel, as it focused on non-white populations. After surveying over 185,000 African-Americans, Native Americans, Hawaiians, Japanese-Americans, Latinos and whites, the researchers found that coffee increases longevity across various races.

People who drank two to four cups a day had an 18% lower risk of death compared with people who did not drink coffee, according to the study. These findings are consistent with previous studies that had looked at majority white populations, said Veronica Wendy Setiawan, associate professor of preventative medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, who led the study on nonwhite populations.

“Given these very diverse populations, all these people have different lifestyles. They have very different dietary habits and different susceptibilities – and we still find similar patterns,” Setiawan said.

The new study shows that there is a stronger biological possibility for the relationship between coffee and longevity and found that mortality was inversely related to coffee consumption for heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease.

The study on European countries revealed an inverse association between coffee and liver disease, suicide in men, cancer in women, digestive diseases and circulatory diseases. Those who drank three or more cups a day had a lower risk for all-cause death than people who did not drink coffee.

Both studies were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“We looked at multiple countries across Europe, where the way the population drinks coffee and prepares coffee is quite different,” said Marc Gunter, reader in cancer epidemiology and prevention at Imperial College’s School of Public Health in the UK, who co-authored the European study.

“The fact that we saw the same relationships in different countries is kind of the implication that its something about coffee rather than its something about the way that coffee is prepared or the way it’s drunk,” he said.

 

The biological benefits – and caveats

Coffee is a complex mixture of compounds, some of which have been revealed in laboratories to have biological effects, Gunter said.

Studies have shown that certain compounds have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce risk for illnesses like Parkinson’s disease.

In the European study, people who were drinking coffee tended to have lower levels of inflammation, healthier lipid profiles and better glucose control compared with those who weren’t. It is still unclear which particular compounds provide health benefits, but Gunter said he would be interested in exploring this further.

Both studies separated smokers from nonsmokers, since smoking is known to reduce lifespan and is linked to various deceases. However, they found that coffee had inverse effects on mortality for smokers too.

“Smoking doesn’t seem to blunt the effects of coffee,” Gunter said. “It didn’t matter whether you smoked or not. There was still a potential beneficial effect of coffee on mortality.”

However, Dr. Alberto Ascherio, professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said people should be wary of this finding.

 

“Even if it was in some way true, it doesn’t make sense to me, because by smoking, you increase your mortality several-fold. Then, if you reduce it by 10% drinking coffee, give me a break,” said Ascherio, who was not involved in the study.

“I think it’s a dangerous proposition because it suggests that a smoker can counteract the effects of smoking by drinking coffee, which is borderline insane.”

The studies complement work that has been done on coffee and mortality, he said, and it has been reasonably documented that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of death.

With all observations from previous studies, however, it’s difficult to exclude the possibility that coffee drinkers are just healthier to begin with, Gunter said.

People who avoid coffee, particularly in places like the US and Europe where drinking the beverage is very common, may do so because they have health problems. Their higher mortality rate could be a result of them being less healthy to begin with.

“I think that the solid conclusion is that if you’re a coffee drinker, keep drinking your coffee and be happy,” Ascherio said. And if you’re not? “I think you can go on drinking your tea or water without a problem.”

Meanwhile, Gunter and Setiawan stand a bit more firmly on coffee as a health benefit.
“The takeaway message would be that drinking a couple cups of coffee a day doesn’t do you any harm, and actually, it might be doing you some good,” he said.

“Moderate coffee consumption can be incorporated into a healthy diet and lifestyle,” Setiawan said. “This studies and the previous studies suggest that for a majority of people, there’s no long term harm from drinking coffee.”

 

By Daniella Emanuel, CNN         Mon July 10, 2017
source: www.cnn.com


1 Comment

10 Secrets to Living a Long, Healthy Life

Super agers are a group of older adults who have cognitive abilities on par with people decades younger than them. From what you should eat to how you should exercise and who you should spend your time with, these are things they’re doing on the regular.

Never smoke

Smoking will trim off up to a dozen years of your life, suggests 2013 research in the New England Journal of Medicine. In fact, if you never smoked, you’re twice as likely as a current smoker to see 80 candles decorate your birthday cake. What’s more, the habit is linked to an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease, says research. If you smoke, there’s no better time than now to quit.

Dine on fish and chicken

When Thomas Perls, MD, MPH, the director of the New England Centenarian Study and a professor of medicine and geriatrics at Boston Medical Center works with patients, he tells them to go easy on the beef and pork. Not only is a high intake of red meat linked with cancer, but the saturated fat in the meat may also harm your brain, per 2012 research in the Annals of Neurology. It’s fine if you’d like to eat it on occasion, of course, but limit it to twice a week, he advises. The rest of the week, lean toward fish, poultry, and heaps of veggies.

Lift weights

Rather than focusing on burning calories with cardio equipment, build strength with weights. There are at least a dozen feel-good benefits that kick in when you pick up a dumbbell. But lifting also maintains muscle and bone mass to protect against frailty—and prevent falls—when you get older. It also keeps your mind limber. One randomized-controlled study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that when women having memory problems did twice-weekly weight training for six months, they improved measures of attention and memory compared to those who did balance exercises.

Pal around

It’s not enough to simply exercise, you have to stay active in general. And one of the ways you can get the most out of it is to pick those that you can do with others. Because taking an evening stroll with neighbors offers far more benefits than stretching your legs: “Socialization is cognitively stimulating,” says Dr. Perls. Chatting with friends, challenging each other, and offering support helps your brain lay down new neural networks that keeps your brain young.

Check your eating

It sounds so boring, right? But if you have a healthy weight, you’re already so far ahead. “Obesity is such a potent and important cause of numerous age-related diseases, like adult-onset diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and stroke,” says Dr. Perls. What’s more, obesity has also been linked with dementias and Alzheimer’s disease, as having a greater fat mass is associated with higher blood levels of amyloid proteins, which are linked to cognitive decline.

Play a mind game

There’s a lesson in always learning something new: It doesn’t just keep life exciting, but it keeps you sharp as you age, studies suggest. Try one of these 14 brain challenges—because “use it or lose it” seems to apply to your brain as much as your muscles. A study in 2013 asked one group of older adults to quilt, another learned digital photography, and a third did both activities for 16 hours a week over three months. Those who took up the “cognitively demanding” task of learning digital photography sharpened their memory more so than those who honed their old quilting skills. What have you always wanted to do but thought you weren’t going to be good enough? That’s exactly what will keep your brain young for years to come.

Eat more berries

Berries are one of the cornerstones of the MIND diet, a hybrid between the Mediterranean diet and DASH diet that can keep your brain 7.5 years younger, shows research. Among all the other fruits, they’ve been singled out thanks to past research that showed intakes of blueberries and strawberries were associated with better brain health. The sweet little fruits are rich in anthocyanins, antioxidant plant compounds that preserves neuronal pathways involved in memory and cognition. Aim to eat at least two servings per week. And if you’re looking for new ways to eat berries, try them in a delicious fruit smoothie.

Ease stress

Stress is a given, but know you have a choice to change your circumstances and limit the bad vibes from festering. “Stress that continues for a long time, a condition known as chronic stress, is toxic to your brain – it literally eats away at critical brain regions,” writes neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett, PhD, in the Guardian. (She’s one of the authors on a new study on super agers published in the Journal of Neuroscience.) Barrett suggests leaving negative things behind. It can be as little as changing jobs or taking relaxing vacations.

Tipple lightly

Do you need these 17 tips to help cut back on alcohol? Consider this: In a study on cognitively healthy 65-year-olds published in PLOS Medicine in 2017, those who reported light or moderate drinking scored higher on a test measuring cognitive functioning compared to teetotalers. The key is light. Another study showed that people who have 14 to 21 drinks per week experienced more shrinkage in the hippocampus, an area of the brain related to memory. What’s more, their research didn’t show that light drinking was protective. Until the research is definitive, stick to the recommended one drink a day for women and two for men.

Keep perspective

It’s all about your attitude, right? It’s easy to brush off health issues as being all about your genes, and something that’s not under your control. But Dr. Perls says the decisions you make every day can have a huge impact on your lifespan. The average life expectancy in the U.S. is about 79 years old, but he says that can be much longer. “I think the vast majority of the reason someone lives to 90 is lifestyle behaviors. That’s a really optimistic view of aging, but it’s possible,” he says. Knowing that your daily choices matter—and can tack on almost a dozen good, sharp years on your life—can help you build on habits that will get you well into your golden years.

BY JESSICA MIGALA
source: www.rd.com


3 Comments

Eating Fried Potatoes Linked to Higher Risk of Death, Study Says

How your spuds are cooked is key to your health. People who eat fried potatoes two or more times a week double their risk of an early death compared to those who avoid them, a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found.

Eating potatoes that have not been fried was not linked to a similar early mortality risk, the researchers noted.

“Fried potatoes consumption is increasing worldwide,” warned Dr. Nicola Veronese, lead author of the study and a scientist at the National Research Council in Padova, Italy.

In 2014, Americans consumed 112.1 pounds of potatoes per person, according to the National Potato Council. Of that total, 33.5 pounds were fresh potatoes, the remaining 78.5 pounds were processed. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the majority of processed potatoes North Americans eat are French fries.

Trans fats in fried potatoes

Veronese and his colleagues have been tracking 4,440 people aged 45 to 79 over a period of eight years to study osteoarthritis. This research team decided to momentarily set aside the main issue of osteoarthritis and look at participants’ consumption of potatoes.

Even though most of us may have assumed that fried potatoes could be unhealthy for us, there is “very limited” scientific data on this issue, Veronese explained in an email.

So the researchers divided study participants into subgroups based on how frequently they ate potatoes each week. Over the eight years, a total of 236 of the participants died. Analyzing the data for each group, Veronese and his team found that those who ate fried potatoes two to three times each week doubled their chance of dying early compared to those who ate no fried potatoes.

French fries, potato chips, hash browns – and any other preparation requiring a fryer – are all included under the umbrella of “fried potatoes,” Veronese explained.

Age or sex of participants did not influence the result, but the data showed men were more likely than women and younger participants were more likely than older participants to enjoy the fried food.

The study is observational, meaning the researchers simply tracked the behavior of a group of people and found an association between one behavior – eating fried potatoes – and another factor – early death. Because it is an observational study, Veronese and his co-authors note it cannot be said that eating fried potatoes directly causes an early mortality – it would require more research to draw such a firm conclusion.

“Even if it is an observational study, we believe that the cooking oil, rich in trans-fat, is an important factor in explaining mortality in those eating more potatoes,” said Veronese. Trans fat has been shown to raise the “bad,” or LDL, cholesterol in the blood, which can lead to cardiovascular disease.

 

Yet, he also added that “other important factors,” including obesity, a sedentary lifestyle and use of high quantities of salt might also play a role in the early death of those eating two or more portions of fried potatoes each week.

National Potato Council CEO John Keeling said the “study isn’t relevant to the general population” since the data was collected for an osteoarthritis study and includes only patients with arthritis. “Potatoes are inherently a very healthy vegetable,” said Keeling in an email. He said a medium-sized potato is 110 calories, has no fat, no sodium, no cholesterol, and provides nearly a third of the daily vitamin C requirement with more potassium than a banana.

“How the potato is prepared will impact the calorie, fat and sodium content,” said Keeling, however the basic nutrients remain “no matter how it is prepared.”

Based on the data in the study, Keeling said, “it is very much a stretch to brand fried potatoes, or any other form of potato, as unhealthy.”

Susanna Larsson, an associate professor at the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, noted that the new study provides “no evidence” that potato consumption in and of itself may increase the risk of an early death. Larsson was not involved in the new study. Instead, it may be the “other factors” suggested by Veronese himself.

“Fried potato consumption may be an indicator of a less healthy (Western) dietary pattern which is associated with increased mortality,” said Larsson, who also conducted a study of potato consumption. Her study did not find an increased risk of cardiovascular disease linked to eating potatoes.

Understanding acrylamide

The potential danger when eating fried starchy foods, such as French fries, is acrylamide, said Stephanie Schiff, a registered dietitian at Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital in Huntington, New York. Schiff was not involved in the study.

Acrylamide is “a chemical produced when starchy foods such as potatoes are fried, roasted or baked at a high temperature,” explained Schiff in an email. The browning process is actually a reaction that produces this chemical one shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals and considered toxic to humans, said Schiff. Acrylamide is also a potential cause of cancer, she said.

“You can reduce your intake of acrylamide by boiling or steaming starchy foods, rather than frying them,” said Schiff. “If you do fry foods, do it quickly.”

She also suggested you “go lighter” since “the darker the food, the more acrylamide it may contain.”

Finally, Schiff said that potatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator because this could lead to producing more acrylamide when the potatoes are later cooked.

“Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables for a healthier alternative,” said Schiff.

Veronese said he hopes his new study will suggest to everyone that consuming fried potatoes “could be an important risk factor for mortality. Thus, their consumption should be strongly limited.”

By Susan Scutti, CNN    Thu June 15, 2017
source: CNN