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Choline appears to be a neglected nutrient. It is essential for healthy brain functioning, yet researchers of a recent study say the great majority of us do not get the recommended daily intake of choline in our diet. They suggest that this could be causing harm to our health, including the brain.

They also pointed out that since eggs and meat are the best dietary source, people on restricted or vegan diets are especially at risk of a choline deficiency. It is not found in most multivitamins.

The  Arizona State Univ. researchers found that choline deficiency is involved with multiple health problems throughout the body (e.g., inflammation, insulin production, cardiovascular disease, brain function) and even Alzheimer's disease. Their study was conducted on mice, but they felt similar processes occurred in humans.

Good dietary sources of choline: eggs, meat, dairy products, poultry, and fish. Lower amounts are in nuts, beans, potatoes, and cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli).

Related to all this is that one should also try to lower intake of anti-cholinergic medications, if possible. Studies find that their use is linked to cognitive decline and dementia - they block the action of the brain neurotransmitter acetylcholine (which is produced by choline).

Excerpts from Science Daily: Study explores effects of dietary choline deficiency on neurologic and system-wide health

Choline, an essential nutrient produced in small amounts in the liver and found in foods including eggs, broccoli, beans, meat and poultry, is a vital ingredient for human health. A new study explores deficiency in dietary choline adversely affects the body and may be a missing piece in the puzzle of Alzheimer's disease.  ...continue reading "The Nutrient Choline Is Necessary For Brain Health"

Walking may be the best way to deal with arthritis pain in the knees (knee osteoarthritis) and to slow its progression. Yes, rather than resting arthritic knees, the best treatment appears to be walking.

A study of individuals over the age of 50 found that walking for exercise prevented flare ups of arthritis knee pain from becoming persistent pain. This might be because consistent movement can help create muscle mass, strengthening ligaments around the joints that have osteoarthritis.

The study also found that walking for exercise is an effective way to slow the damage that occurs within the knee joint. Who would have guessed?

From Science Daily - Walking Towards Healthier Knees

A new study published in Arthritis & Rheumatology led by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine reveals that walking for exercise can reduce new frequent knee pain among people age 50 and older diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis. Additionally, findings from the study indicate that walking for exercise may be an effective treatment to slow the damage that occurs within the joint. ...continue reading "Walking Is A Good Treatment For Knee Arthritis"

Some good news. A study found that frequent consumption of foods and beverages containing flavonoids by elderly women had health benefits. Flavonoids are compounds found naturally in plants, and that have health-promoting effects.

The 881 women (aged 78 to 82 years) in the Australian study were less likely to have abdominal aortic calcification (AAC) if they ingested high levels of flavonoids in their diet. This is significant because AAC is a major predictor of cardiovascular disease events, such as heart attacks, strokes, and death.

Drinking black tea daily was their major source of flavonoids. Drinking 2 to 6 cups a day lowered the risk of having extensive AAC.

Good flavonoid sources are: black tea, green tea, wine, apples, nuts, citrus fruits, berries, grapes, onions, broccoli, kale, parsley, and dark chocolate. There are different types of flavonoids, each with different health-promoting effects. This is why it's good to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.

From Science Daily: Put the kettle on! How black tea (and other favorites) may help your health later in life

A daily cup of tea could help you to enjoy better health late in life -- however if you're not a tea drinker, there are other things you can add to your diet. ...continue reading "Drinking Tea Every Day Has Health Benefits"

One of the fears about aging is the possibility of developing dementia. Even in healthy older adults it is normal for the brain to slowly shrink with increasing age, and thinking processes can deteriorate. A recent study lasting 78 weeks offers hope to persons already diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

In older adults with MCI, there is an increased risk it can progress to dementia, especially Alzheimer's disease. Studies are finding that doing complex mental activities that stimulate the brain may decrease the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

In this study, researchers found that doing crossword puzzles was better than doing computer games in improving memory loss and thinking processes, and slowing the progression of decline in persons already diagnosed with MCI. The crossword puzzle group also showed less decline in daily activities, and MRIs showed fewer decreases in brain size (hippocampal volume and cortical thickness).

Persons (average age 71.2 years) were randomized to either of the groups, and they did the online games or crossword puzzles (provided by Lumos Labs) at home. Total time spent each day: 30 minutes four times per week.

Are online crossword puzzles better than computer games for persons without any cognitive impairment?  This is where it gets interesting - the answer is no. One study found that computer games were better in a group of 18 to 80 year olds, even though doing either results in improvement.

By the way, numerous "brain training" claims by a computer mind games company such as Lumos Labs were viewed as deceptive by the FTC ($2 million fine back in 2016 for all sorts of unsupported claims).

What to do for brain health? The reality is that activities that stimulate the mind (reading, art, computer games), getting vaccines in adulthood, and exercise/physical activity are all good for the brain. And of course, eating well (especially more fruits, berries, nuts, and eggs) and getting enough sleep. Avoid anticholinergic medicines and smoking.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) can even improve on its own without any special treatments - even in adults 65 years or older.

From Medical Xpress: Crossword puzzles beat computer video games in slowing memory loss

A new study by researchers from Columbia University and Duke University published in the journal NEJM Evidence shows that doing crossword puzzles has an advantage over computer video games for memory functioning in older adults with mild cognitive impairment. ...continue reading "Crossword Puzzles Are Good For the Brain"

Many of us do not get enough sleep at night. Unfortunately, this is bad for our health. Another large study just confirmed this - they found that consistently getting 5 or fewer hours per night during mid-life or later in life is linked to developing several diseases.

Sleeping 9 or more hours at 60 or 70 years of age (but not at age 50) was also associated with developing multiple chronic diseases. No association was found between sleep duration and early death among those with existing chronic diseases.

The study, conducted in the UK, looked at sleep amounts in more than 7000 persons over a 25 year span (when they were 50, 60, and 70 year old). Persons with short sleep duration (5 or fewer hours) had a higher risk of developing not just one chronic disease, but multiple chronic diseases.

The possible chronic diseases were: diabetes, cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, depression, dementia, mental disorders, Parkinson's disease, arthritis/rheumatoid arthritis.

From Science Daily: Five hours' sleep a night linked to higher risk of multiple diseases

Getting less than five hours of sleep in mid-to-late life could be linked to an increased risk of developing at least two chronic diseases, finds a new study led by UCL researchers. ...continue reading "Sleeping Less Than Five Hours A Night Ups the Risk For Health Problems"

People have been saying this for years, but now a big study confirmed it: women and girls are better than men and boys at verbal fluency and remembering words. The difference may be small, but it is consistently there over the lifetime.

In other words, women have better verbal abilities. By the way, girls generally start talking earlier and with more complex speech than boys.

From Medical Xpress: Are women really better at finding and remembering words than men? Large study settles score

Textbooks and popular science books claim with certainty that women are better at finding words and remembering words, but is this really a fact?

"Women are better. The female advantage is consistent across time and life span, but it is also relatively small," says Marco Hirnstein, professor at The University of Bergen, Norway. ...continue reading "Large Study Finds Women Have Better Verbal Abilities Throughout Life"

It seems that every so often another study finds that daily coffee consumption is healthy for a person. A recent large study found that daily drinking of 2 to 3 cups coffee is associated with a lower risk of early death (from any cause) and lower risk of cardiovascular  disease, when compared to non-coffee drinkers.

The University of Melbourne researchers also found that drinking ground and instant coffee, but not decaffeinated coffee, was associated with a reduction in arrhythmias including atrial fibrillation. In this study cardiovascular disease included heart disease, congestive heart failure, and ischemic stroke.

More good news - it applied to all types of coffee (ground, decaffeinated, and instant). However, when looking at the study results, ground coffee appears to be more beneficial than decaf or instant coffee. Two to three cups of coffee per day appeared to be the most beneficial.

The researchers point out that coffee contains more than 100 biologically active components, which are contributing to its health effects.[Other coffee studies] They also said that mild to moderate coffee consumption should be considered part of a heart healthy lifestyle. Great news!

From Science Daily: Coffee drinking is associated with increased longevity

Drinking two to three cups of coffee a day is linked with a longer lifespan and lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared with avoiding coffee, according to research published today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the ESC.1 The findings applied to ground, instant and decaffeinated varieties. ...continue reading "Coffee Drinking Linked to Longer Life and Lower Risk of Heart Disease"

Foot massage Credit: Lubyanka, Wikipedia.

Could getting foot massages be a way to deal with some of the symptoms bothering women during menopause? A small study found that women getting foot massages during menopause had increased sleep duration (up to 1 hour), and it reduced fatigue and anxiety levels.

Hey, it's a small study with nice results. But thinking about it - wouldn't we all benefit from daily foot massages? After a massage one is typically more relaxed and feeling better. The study results are really not surprising...

From Medical Xpress: Foot massage effective in improving sleep quality and anxiety in postmenopausal women

The therapeutic benefits of massage have long been recognized. A new study suggests that foot massage, in particular, can help minimize a number of common menopause symptoms, including sleep disruption, effectively extending sleep duration by an average of an hour per day. Study results are published online today in Menopause.  ...continue reading "Foot Massages May Help With Menopausal Symptoms"

For a long time we thought that our genes determine how long we will live (longevity). A new study says not so fast - how we live is more important than our genes. Specifically, how much physical activity and sedentary time (time spent sitting) both have an effect on whether we die early or later, no matter our genetic make-up.

Researchers found that among older women - having higher weekly amounts of light, moderate, or vigorous physical activity was associated with a lower risk of early death. Having higher amounts of sedentary (sitting) time was associated with a higher risk of early death. It didn't matter if there was a genetic predisposition for longevity or not - the findings applied to everyone.

Bottom line: Get off the sofa or out of your chair and move, move, move. All types of physical activity are good for longevity and to lower risk of disease. While this study looked at older women, the findings are also thought to apply to older men.

From Science Daily: Physical activity may have a stronger role than genes in longevity

Previous research has shown that low physical activity and greater time spent sitting are associated with a higher risk of death. Does risk change if a person is genetically predisposed to live a long life? ...continue reading "Physical Activity May Be More Important Than Genes In Longevity"

Y chromosome (in red). Credit: Wikipedia

Did you know that a significant percentage of men lose the male sex chromosome in some of their cells as they age? About 40% of 70 year olds! This loss may explain why so many men die several years before women.

The loss of the male Y chromosome in some cells (mosaic loss) has health effects. It is associated with an increased risk of early death and some age-related diseases in men, such as heart disease and heart failure. This loss mainly happens in cells with a rapid turnover, such as blood cells, and does not happen in male reproductive cells.

A recent two part study in both mice and human males found that this Y chromosome loss resulted in heart muscle scarring (fibrosis), which led to increased risk of heart problems and heart failure. The researchers discuss a drug (pirfenidone) that may help with treatment.

Why is this happening? The researchers point out that as we age, more and more gene mutations are occurring, that is, the DNA of our cells accumulate mutations as we age. Some of them are due to our own choices, such as smoking, exposures to toxic chemicals, radiation, our lifestyle. Others are out of our control (e.g., aging).

From Science Daily: Loss of male sex chromosome leads to earlier death for men

The loss of the male sex chromosome as many men age causes the heart muscle to scar and can lead to deadly heart failure, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine shows. The finding may help explain why men die, on average, several years younger than women. ...continue reading "Many Men Lose the Male Sex Chromosome As They Age"