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A recent large study found another great reason for being physically active. The researchers found that physical fitness is linked to  atrial fibrillation (AFib) and stroke.

Atrial fibrillation is a heart rhythm disorder, and having it is linked to a much higher risk of having a stroke. The researchers found that being physically fit (exercise! physical activity!) is linked to lower rates of atrial fibrillation, stroke, and MACE (major adverse cardiovascular events, such as stroke or heart attack leading to death).

There was an eleven year follow up of the approximately 15,450 participants, all of whom did not have atrial fibrillation at the start of the study. The study tested the  physical fitness of the participants (average age 55 years) on an exercise treadmill.

Bottom line: Physical activity and physical fitness are important for reducing the risk of developing heart problems, including atrial fibrillation. Yes, even taking walks (brisk is best) will improve physical fitness.

From Science Daily: Keep fit to avoid heart rhythm disorder and stroke

A study in more than 15,000 people has found that physical fitness is linked with a lower likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation and stroke. The research is presented at ESC Congress 2023.
...continue reading "Being Physical Fit Is Linked To A Lower Risk of Atrial Fibrillation and Stroke"

Great news! A recent study found that older adults who get routine vaccinations have a  lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. Other studies looking at adults over the age of 60  and routine vaccinations (flu, pneumonia) have had similar findings.

The vaccinations that were looked at in this study were: the shingles (herpes zoster) vaccine, pneumococcal vaccine, and tetanus-diphtheria vaccine. Each of the vaccines lowered the risk of getting AD - the tetanus-diphtheria (Tdap/Td) by 30%, the shingles vaccine by 25%, and the pneumococcal vaccine by 27%. The adults were at least 65 years of age at the start of the study.

Why would vaccines be protective? There  are multiple theories, including that infection may play a role in the development of Alzheimer's disease (AD), and vaccines reduce the risk for infections. Or that vaccines may activate the immune system in such a way that alters the risk for developing AD.

Bottom line: In persons over the age of 60, getting routine adult vaccinations (including the flu vaccine) may lower the risk of developing AD. So simple!

From Medical Xpress: Several vaccines associated with reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease in adults 65 and older

Prior vaccination against tetanus and diphtheria, with or without pertussis (Tdap/Td); herpes zoster (HZ), better known as shingles; and pneumococcus are all associated with a reduced risk for developing Alzheimer's disease, according to new research from UTHealth Houston. ...continue reading "Routine Vaccines Associated With A Reduced Risk of Developing Alzheimer’s Disease"

Great news for people who don't have the time or the desire to engage in exercise routines, gym visits, or sports. A recent large study found that several very short bursts of physical activity (each less than a minute or two) during the day are beneficial to health. They lower cancer risk!

Researchers followed 22,398 non-exercising adults (average age 62 years) for 7 years. The participants wore tracking devices (wrist accelerometers) for 1 week at the beginning of the study to measure their activity levels. Starting at year 2 their cancer incidence was looked at.

They found that several short bursts of vigorous physical activity (each lasting less than 1 or 2 minutes) each day was associated with lower rates of cancer. And it was a dose response - the more of these little bursts of physical activity over the day, the lower the rates of cancer, especially physical activity related cancer.

About 3 1/2 minutes a day of vigorous activity was associated with a 17 to 18% reduction in cancer risk, but 4 1/2 minutes a day was associated with a 31% to 32% reduction in physical activity-related cancers (e.g., breast, endometrial, and colon cancers).

Bottom line: Engage in a little huffing and puffing physical activity every day and lower your risk of cancer. Run up those stairs! Dance to a song! Carry those heavy groceries! Every bit counts. This could be because short bursts of physical activity improve cardiorespiratory fitness and lower inflammation.

Excerpts from Science Daily: Short bursts of daily activity linked to reduced cancer risk

Promising new research suggests a total of just 4.5 minutes of vigorous activity that makes you huff and puff during daily tasks could reduce the risk of some cancers by up to 32 percent. ...continue reading "Short Bursts of Physical Activity Associated With Lower Cancer Risk"

One fear people have is of developing problems with their memory in their later years, called age-related memory loss. A recent study finding a possible way to maintain memory in older adults is intriguing and offers hope. And best of all, it's fairly easy to do - just increase the intake of flavanol rich foods.

A large Columbia University study of adults over age 60 found that daily flavanol supplementation (cocoa extract with 500 mg flavanols) over a 3 year period improved the memory of persons whose diet was low in flavanol intake from foods, but not in persons with high intake of flavanols. The researchers suggest that a low flavanol diet is one of the drivers of age-related memory loss.

The researchers stated that flavanols only improved memory processes governed by the hippocampus, and did not improve memory mediated by other areas of the brain.

Flavanols are natural substances found in certain fruits and vegetables, especially berries, onions, kale, lettuce, tomatoes, apples, grapes, and cocoa. Flavanols are a type or class of flavonoids, all of which have health benefits. Eat a variety of plant foods (includes tea and wine) to ensure you're eating a variety of flavonoids.

Some other benefits of flavonoids: they are anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, have anti-mutagenic and anti-carcinogenic properties, lower heart disease death rates, and prevention of heart disease.

From Medical Xpress: Low-flavanol diet drives age-related memory loss, large study finds

A large-scale study led by researchers at Columbia and Brigham and Women's Hospital/Harvard is the first to establish that a diet low in flavanols—nutrients found in certain fruits and vegetables—drives age-related memory loss. ...continue reading "Eating A Diet Rich in Flavanols May Help With Memory"

Another important nutrient for brain health is magnesium. A recent study found that ingesting higher levels of magnesium from foods (dietary magnesium) is associated with better brain health and brain volume. Brains normally shrink a little with age, but ingesting higher levels of dietary magnesium resulted in less age-related shrinkage.

The researchers found that the effects were especially beneficial for postmenopausal women. It is important to note that all study participants had recommended or higher levels of magnesium intake from foods. No one had a magnesium deficiency. Recommended dietary allowances are 400–420 mg for men and 310–320 mg for women - but the results from this study suggest that ingesting even more from foods is better.

In other words, consider magnesium important for a healthy brain. Try to increase intake of magnesium rich foods. The researchers point out that recent studies suggest that dietary magnesium is associated with better cognitive function and may reduce the risk of dementia.

Foods rich on magnesium: pumpkin seeds, almonds, spinach, cashews, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, peanuts, shredded wheat cereal, quinoa, soymilk, black beans, edamame, dark chocolate, bread, whole wheat, avocado, potato, nuts, bananas.

From Medical Xpress: A higher dose of magnesium each day keeps dementia at bay

More magnesium in our daily diet leads to better brain health as we age, according to scientists from the Neuroimaging and Brain Lab at The Australian National University (ANU). ...continue reading "Magnesium Is Important For Brain Health"

Want to improve your odds of not getting a chronic disease, such as heart disease or diabetes? A recent study found that following any healthy dietary pattern, whether Mediterranean or DASH or Diabetes Risk Reduction Diet or other similar healthy dietary styles, are all linked to a lower risk of chronic diseases.

These healthy dietary patterns all stress fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts legumes, but they vary in minor ways, e.g., whether salt, coffee, tea, or wine is allowed. People weren't following specific diets over the 3 decades of the study, but it's how they generally ate - their dietary pattern.

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers found that persons who were in the top 10% of a healthy dietary pattern, no matter which one, were compared to persons in the bottom 10% of that dietary pattern. Overall they found that being near the top of any of the healthy dietary patterns was associated with a lower disease risk.

Interestingly, larger amounts of coffee, whole grains, wine and desserts had lower risk of associated major chronic diseases.

Eating some foods frequently were associated with developing major chronic diseases, such as processed meats, energy drinks, french fries, red meat, and eggs.

From Medical Xpress: Adhering to recommended diets lowers risk of chronic diseases, 32-year study finds

Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, have good news for anyone sticking to a healthy diet: Good food choices are associated with a lower risk of developing a chronic disease. ...continue reading "Eating Healthy Foods Lowers Risk of Chronic Diseases"

Another large study found that eating a Mediterranean diet is beneficial to health - specifically, that it is associated with a decreased risk for dementia. As much as 23% lower (compared to those who didn't eat a Mediterranean style diet)! It didn't matter if a person had a genetic risk for dementia or not - diet was more important.

By the way, other studies also find that eating a Mediterranean style diet has benefits for the brain and body.

A Mediterranean style diet is one rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans, lentils), nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, and olive oil. Some lean meat, especially chicken, and fish. This way of eating is high in fiber (good for health!). Try to avoid processed meats, highly processed foods, fast food, and hydrogenated oils. Eat less meat in general.

From Science Daily: Mediterranean diet associated with decreased risk of dementia

Experts at Newcastle University found that individuals who ate a Mediterranean-like diet had up to 23% lower risk for dementia than those who did not. ...continue reading "A Mediterranean Style Diet Is Associated With A Lower Dementia Risk"

Memory declines over the years as we age. For some it can be mild (being forgetful), but very severe for some others.  The good news is that there are things we can all do to prevent, slow, or even reverse (!!) the memory decline. Studies suggest the key is adopting healthy lifestyle habits.

A large study found that there are six healthy lifestyle habits that were linked to a slower decline in cognitive decline (memory) in older adults followed for a decade. The more healthy habits, the slower the memory decline. The average age of participants was 72 years when the study started.

The six healthy lifestyle habits are a healthy diet, cognitive activity (use your brain!), regular physical exercise, not smoking, and and not drinking alcohol. Having a healthy diet (e.g., Mediterranean style diet) was the most important thing one can do, followed by cognitive activity (e.g., reading, writing, playing cards) and physical exercise or activity.

Excerpts from Medscape: Six Healthy Lifestyle Habits Linked to Slowed Memory Decline

Adhering to six healthy lifestyle behaviors is linked to slower memory decline in older adults, a large, population-based study suggests. ...continue reading "Six Lifestyle Habits Associated With Less Memory Decline In Older Adults"

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"