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Exercise is good for memory and the brain. University of Geneva researchers found that even one short bout of moderate or intense exercise improves memory and acquisition of new motor skills.

In a well-designed study, 15 healthy volunteers exercised intensely for 15 minutes, moderately for 30 minutes, or rested, and were given various tests both before and after exercising. They found that exercise had beneficial effects on the hippocampus of the brain, and that physical exercise improves some types of memory. The hippocampus plays a critical role in learning and memory.

Intense physical exercise improves memory functions by increasing neural plasticity in the hippocampus. [Note: increasing plasticity of the brain is good.] The findings of this study match earlier animal research, in that "a single session of physical exercise has been shown to boost anandamide (AEA), an endocannabinoid known to promote hippocampal plasticity".

The researchers felt that this study provided additional evidence that physical exercise could possibly prevent cognitive decline as people age. Typically some cognitive decline, along with a reduction in brain volume, occurs in the aging brain, so slowing down or preventing cognitive decline is desirable. Bottom line: Get out and move, move, move for brain health! By the way, all physical activity is better than no activity.

From Medical Xpress: Sport and memory go hand in hand

If sport is good for the body, it also seems to be good for the brain. By evaluating memory performance following a sport session, neuroscientists from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) demonstrate that an intensive physical exercise session as short as 15 minutes on a bicycle improves memory, including the acquisition of new motor skills. ...continue reading "Some Intense Exercise Is Beneficial For The Brain"

A recent study found that eating higher levels of foods with flavonoids (e.g. berries, apples, and tea) may lower the risk of later development of Alzheimer's disease and other age-related dementias.

Since currently there are no effective drugs that prevent or actual medical treatments for dementia, it is great that what a person eats (the dietary pattern) long-term may be protective. Something we can do to lower our risk for Alzheimer's disease and other dementias!

Tufts University researchers followed 2801 persons (50 years and older) for 20 years and found that those with the lowest intake of flavonoid rich foods (especially 3 flavonoid classes: flavonols, anthocyanins, and flavonoid polymers) had a 20 to 40% higher chance of developing Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, when compared to those eating the most flavonoid rich foods. [Note: The lowest intake group averaged  about 1 1/2 apples, but no berries or tea per month.]

Flavonoids are naturally occurring bioactive pigments, of which there are 7 types, that are found in plant-based foods. Some good sources of different types of flavonoids include berries & red wine (anthocyanin rich), onions & apples, pears (flavonol rich), citrus fruits and juices, teas, dark chocolate, parsley, celery,and soy products.

Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables appears to be best for health benefits. There is no one super-food. Other studies also find that the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fruits and vegetables (thus flavonoid rich), may reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.

Why are flavonoid containing foods protective, specifically "neuroprotective"? Studies suggest that they do the following: antioxidant effects, protect neurons from neurotoxins and combat neuroinflammation, and favorable changes in brain blood flow,

Excerpts from Science Daily: More berries, apples and tea may have protective benefits against Alzheimer's

Older adults who consumed small amounts of flavonoid-rich foods, such as berries, apples and tea, were two to four times more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease and related dementias over 20 years compared with people whose intake was higher, according to a new study led by scientists at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts University.  ...continue reading "Eating More Fruits and Berries Lowers Risk of Dementia"

Could our risk of getting Alzheimer's disease be lowered by something as simple as getting flu and pneumonia vaccines? Two large observational studies suggest just that.

The studies, which were presented at this year's Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC), found that: getting a flu vaccine (with more than one flu shot over the years even better), getting the flu vaccines at a younger age, and additionally getting the pneumonia vaccine between the ages of 65 and 75 years were all associated with a lowered risk of Alzheimer's disease. It's as if they somehow were brain protective.

Excerpts from Medscape: Flu, Pneumonia Vaccination Tied to Lower Dementia Risk

Vaccinations against influenza and pneumonia may help protect against Alzheimer's disease (AD), two large observational studies suggest.

In a cohort study of more than 9000 older adults, receiving a single influenza vaccination was associated with a 17% lower prevalence of AD compared with not receiving the vaccine. In addition, for those who were vaccinated more than once over the years, there was an additional 13% reduction in AD incidence.  ...continue reading "Flu and Pneumonia Vaccinations Linked To a Lower Alzheimer’s Disease Risk"

What you eat is all important for health. A recent study found that eating higher amounts of protein, whether animal or plant protein,  were associated with lower rates of death (from any cause). Eating a diet high in plant protein appeared to be especially beneficial, and was associated with both a lower risk of death (all cause mortality) and deaths from cardiovascular disease. Higher protein intakes, whether animal, plant or combined, were not associated with rates of death from cancer.

The research, which was an analysis of 32 studies, found there was a dose-response association between intake of plant protein and risk of death (from any cause) - the more plant protein in the diet, the lower the risk of death.

What foods are high in plant protein? Legumes (beans,lentils, peas ), whole grains, and nuts. Bottom line: Eat more protein, especially plant protein, for your health. [And this means real foods, not supplements!]

From Science Daily: Diets high in protein, particularly plant protein, linked to lower risk of death

Diets high in protein, particularly plant protein, are associated with a lower risk of death from any cause, finds an analysis of the latest evidence published by The BMJ today.  ...continue reading "Diets High In Protein Are Beneficial For Health"

It is great to find a good news study these days, and this one is especially good news for chocolate lovers. Researchers reviewed 6 large studies from the last few decades and found that chocolate consumption more than once a week is associated with a reduced risk of coronary artery disease (CAD).

Coronary artery disease is the hardening and narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart, and is caused by plaque buildup (cholesterol deposits) on the wall of the arteries.

The researchers think that chocolate could be "cardioprotective" (heart-protecting) because of the nutrients in chocolate, all of which have been found to have beneficial health effects in other studies. These are flavanols, polyphenols,  methylxanthines, and stearic acid. In this study they did not address the issue of types of chocolate (dark, milk) or whether eating chocolate more frequently (e.g. daily) is even better.

In recent years, other studies of chocoalte have found not only cardiovascular benefits, but that it also reduces inflammation, and that there are dose-dependent (the more chocolate, the better) improvements in cognition, attention, and memory.

From Science Daily: Chocolate is good for the heart

Eating chocolate at least once a week is linked with a reduced risk of heart disease, according to research published today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). ...continue reading "Chocolate Appears to Be Good For the Heart"

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Great news for those who enjoy a glass of wine or beer every day! A large study found that light to moderate drinking among middle-aged to older adults may preserve brain function as they age. Over a 10 year period, those who drank a drink or two a day tended to have better test scores in a series of tests that measured cognitive functioning.

Normally there is some cognitive decline as people age. But researchers found that low to moderate drinking (less than 8 drinks per week for women and less than 15 drinks for men) was associated with consistently higher mental functioning and slower rates of cognitive decline (when compared to those who never drank or drank more). They found that these associations were similar for both men and women, but stronger among white participants than black participants.

Just keep in mind that while this and other studies find cognitive benefits from drinking alcohol (in humans and mice), other studies find harms from drinking alcohol, specifically increased risk of many cancers.

From Science Daily: Light drinking may protect brain function

Light to moderate drinking may preserve brain function in older age, according to a new study from the University of Georgia.  ...continue reading "Is A Daily Glass Of Alcohol Good For The Brain?"

Eat dinner earlier, not later. A small study looked at the time dinner was eaten and the interval to bedtime. They found that eating a late dinner affects the metabolism negatively: blood sugar levels were higher, and the amount of ingested fat burned was lower, when compared to those eating an earlier dinner. Dinner was the same foods, just eaten at 2 different times.

The 20 young, healthy participants ate dinner at either 6 pm or 10 pm, and bedtime was at 11 pm. According to the results of the study, eating a late dinner alters metabolic markers during sleep in a way that could lead to obesity or diabetes. "The peak glucose level after late dinner was about 18% higher, and the amount of fat burned overnight decreased by about 10% compared to eating an earlier dinner."

This adds to evidence suggesting that the time meals are eaten can influence the development of obesity and metabolic syndrome. Sleep lowers the metabolic rate. Other studies have also found that eating earlier is better than later: for example, weight loss is greater in those eating the main meal of the day earlier rather than later.

The weird thing was, these effects were found even though the early dinner group was given a 200 calorie snack at 10 pm. So it's not like they had zero calories after their 6 pm dinner. (The late dinner group ate the same snack at 6 pm.) Based on these findings, I wonder how much better the metabolic markers would have been if zero calories were eaten after the 6 pm dinner?

From Science Daily: People who eat a late dinner may gain weight

Eating a late dinner may contribute to weight gain and high blood sugar, according to a small study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.  ...continue reading "Try Not To Eat Dinner Close To Bedtime"

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Normal aging. We all wonder what happens in normal aging, and now a large study confirms what many already thought: kidney function deteriorates as a normal part of aging. It's not an illness, it's normal.

The international study found that whether a person is healthy or has some existing problems doesn't matter - the kidneys normally deteriorate as we age. Just quicker and with more loss in some people, and more so in those with illnesses such as diabetes. Yup, normal aging is tough.

From Medical Xpress: Kidneys deteriorate with age, regardless of health

An international study carried out on nearly 3000 people in Norway, Germany and Iceland shows that human kidney function deteriorates with age regardless of the presence of other diseases. The results from the study have recently been published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN). To discover how kidney function progresses, the researchers examined the kidney function of a group of people between the ages of 50 and 70, and two groups of people between the ages of 70 to 95.  ...continue reading "Kidney Function Normally Deteriorates As We Age"

Does exposure to common PFAS chemicals contribute to an earlier age for menopause? A recent University of Michigan study found an association between blood levels of PFAS (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in women and age at menopause. Women with the highest levels of PFAS in their blood had menopause 2 years earlier than those with lower levels.

PFAS are commonly known as "forever chemicals" because they persist in the environment and in humans. These chemicals have been widely used in many industrial and consumer products, such as non-stick cookware and food packaging, including microwave popcorn bags. They are also endocrine (hormone) disruptors and are thought to have an effect on ovarian aging.

What you can do: Don't microwave food, including popcorn, in the packaging it came in. Use microwave safe dishes instead.  Also, avoid nonstick cookware, and instead use plain stainless steel cookware.

From Science Daily: PFAS exposure may cause early menopause in women

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) exposure may cause menopause to occur two years earlier in women, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.  ...continue reading "Common PFAS Chemical Exposure and Age At Menopause"

More evidence that there are health benefits from physical activity, even minimal amounts. Ohio State University researchers found that physical activity, even 10 minute at a time physical activity or exercise, adds up and is associated with lower amounts of cardiovascular (heart) disease in the next ten years - even for obese and overweight persons.

Being overweight or obese are risk factors for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cancer. About 40% of Americans are obese and 32% are overweight, so having a way to simply and cheaply lower rates of cardiovascular disease is wonderful. Overweight is body mass index (BMI) of 25.0 to 29.9, obesity is BMI 30 or higher, and normal BMI is 18.5 to 24.8 (see CDC guidelines)

The researchers found that physical activity is more important than weight of a person in determining the risk of cardiovascular disease over the next 10 years. Unfortunately 43% of the overweight participants and 53% of the obese participants reported being sedentary (did not engage in at least 10 minutes of continuous physical activity each week) - and these groups had the highest risk of cardiovascular disease.

What counts as exercise or physical activity? Physical activity should be at least 10 continuous minutes or more, and ideally add up to 150 minutes or more each week. All moderate (e.g. brisk walking, light yard work, vacuuming, dancing) and vigorous (e.g. jogging, swimming laps, aerobics, heavy yard work) recreation activities count. The study found that engaging in less than 150 minutes a week also lowered the risk for cardiovascular disease, just not as much as for those with 150 minutes or more each week.

Government guidelines: The Physical Activity Guidelines from the US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults do at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.

Bottom line: Try to move, move, move as much as possible! Yes, a nice 20 minute (1 mile) walk counts!

From Medical Xpress: Not much exercise needed to lower heart disease risk for overweight people

A new study suggests, for obese or overweight adults, that any amount of exercise might lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the next 10 years.  ...continue reading "Any Amount of Physical Activity Is Good For Overweight Adults"