Monday, June 28, 2010

Exercize Reduces Cellular Aging Among Older Women

The study published online in the open access journal PLoS ONE reports that telomere length is increasingly considered a biological marker of the accumulated wear and tear of living, integrating genetic influences, lifestyle behaviors, and stress.

Telomeres are protective strips of DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes and stop them unravelling, not unlike the plastic sheaths on the ends of shoelaces. The researchers found that even a moderate amount of vigorous exercise appears to provide a critical amount of protection for the telomeres.

There is also growing evidence that short telomeres are linked to several health problems, including diabetes and coronary heart disease, as well as early death.

The researchers built on previous UCSF-led studies that found psychological stress causes overall wear and tear in the body at a deep level in cells by promoting cell aging through shortening telomere length.

According to the study as little as 42 minutes of vigorous exercise over a 3-day period, similar to levels recommended by federal health authorities in the US, seems to protect individuals from the effects of stress by reducing its effect on telomere length.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults undertake 75 minutes of vigorous, or 150 minutes of moderate activity, plus weight-bearing exercise, every week notes Jesse Slome, executive direxctor of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance.

The results confirmed earlier findings from research on premenopausal women that found psychological stress promoted immune cell aging through shortening of telomeres.

But when they analysed the results for the highly stressed women in terms of sedentary and inactive participants (the active participants included all those who met or exceeded the federally recommended 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week), they found only the sedentary high stress participants had shorter telomeres.

The active, high stress participants did not have shorter telomeres. In other words, it appears that high stress predicted shorter telomeres in the sedentary but not the active group.

The researchers suggested that for this group of older women, the CDC recommended level of vigorous exercise is enough to buffer the effect that psychological stress has on telomere length.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Aging Baby Boomers Will Need To Innovate Care Support

This is the conclusion of Jacques Légaré, professor at the Université de Montréal, who studies aging baby-boomers. The study notes that this is a generation for whom children are relatively rare and stable couples almost an exception.

In a paper presented at the 2010 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, held this week at Concordia University in Montreal, Mr. Légaré shows how the family circle available to the elderly will evolve from now until 2030.

It is usually the elderly person’s family circle that provides care. Mr. Légaré notes that about 70 per cent of the care provided for frail seniors comes from the informal network – essentially the spouse or the children. This is only possible because today’s elderly – baby-boomers’ parents – have more children to care for them and generally live in stable couples.

This situation will soon change. Divorce, common-law unions, blended families and relatively few children per couple are factors to consider. In addition to this, death rates have declined considerably, to the point where average life expectancy has grown considerably. Couples who have not split up will be living together longer.

Tomorrow’s elderly – today’s boomers – had far fewer children. Who will take care of them? “Millions of boomers have their head buried in the sand when it comes to long-term care planning,” states Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance. “That’s what forced the government to try a voluntary plan (the CLASS Act) with the hope that at least a small percentage will do some planning.” Without funds to pay for care, millions will find themselves in difficult circumstances and have to turn to the public system to pay their way.

According to professor Légaré, new programs must be developed to model these extended families and new support systems.

If informal services change, the public system must also adapt. “Boomers have done nothing like the others,” Mr. Légaré points out. “They stand out from the other cohorts, and we believe they will do so again.”

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Long Sleep Linked To Increased Health Risks In Older Adults

Metabolic syndrome is a group of obesity-related risk factors that increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. A person with at least three of these five risk factors is considered to have metabolic syndrome: excess abdominal fat, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar according to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance which tracks health conditions impacting the aging American public.

According to a research abstract presented at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies participants who reported a habitual daily sleep duration of eight hours or more including naps were 15 percent more likely to have metabolic syndrome.

This relationship remained unchanged after full adjustment for potential confounders such as demographics, lifestyle and sleep habits, and metabolic markers. Removing participants with potential ill health from the analysis slightly attenuated the observed association. Although participants who reported a short sleep duration of less than six hours were 14 percent more likely to have metabolic syndrome in the initial analysis, this association disappeared after controlling for potential confounders.

Researchers noted that the most surprising aspect of the study was that long sleep – and not short sleep – was related to the presence of the metabolic syndrom.

The study involved over 29,000 adults, making it the largest study to assess the relationship between sleep duration and the presence of metabolic syndrome. Participants were 50 years of age or older. Total sleep duration was reported by questionnaire.

We can recommend that long sleepers reduce the amount of overall sleep they achieve, which may in turn have beneficial effects on their health one medical expert noted. Programs can be developed to modify sleep in an attempt to reduce the health burden on elderly populations, who are already at higher risk of disease.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Researchers Find Cause Of Cognitive Decline In Seniors

According to scientists at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, these spines receive an important class of synapses that are involved with the process of learning. The discovery provides the medical community with a new therapeutic target to help prevent this loss of function.

“Millions of aging seniors suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,” explains Jesse Slome, director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance. These conditions account for the longest and most costly causes for long term health care.

When a person ages they lose certain spines the researchers noted. We did not know which ones and how their loss impacted cognition. The new study shows which spines are lost and what their impact is on brain function, giving us a foundation to research treatment interventions to protect against age-related cognitive decline.

The research team studied six young adult and nine older rhesus monkeys as they participated in a delayed response test. The monkeys watched as food was baited and hidden, and then a screen was put in front of them so they could no longer see the location of the hidden reward.

At the beginning of the test, the screen was raised immediately and the monkeys were able to find the food reward right away. The subject’s memory was tested by increasing the time that the reward was blocked from view to test if the monkeys retained where the reward was placed over longer intervals of time. Aged monkeys performed significantly worse on the tests than young monkeys, especially as the time intervals increased.

The researchers determined that the older monkeys lacked the thin spines but retained the larger spines, indicating that the loss of the thin spines may be responsible for the monkeys’ inability to learn and retain information during the test. For the first time, the researchers determined that the large spines were stable, which provides a synaptic basis for the observation that expertise and skills learned early in life are often maintained into old age.

The study is published in the June 2 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.