Posts Tagged ‘sitting’

Why are some people sharp as a tack at 95 years old, while others begin struggling with mental clarity in their 50s?

A lot of it has to do with genetics, but certain lifestyle factors also play an important role in how our brain ages. So while you can’t control your genes, you can take advantage of the latest science and avoid these seven big brain mistakes:

Mistake No. 1: Eating a standard American diet

Foods high in sugar, unhealthy fats and processed foods — i.e., the typical American diet — can wreak havoc on your brain over time. Studies have shown that excess sugar consumption can impair learning and memory, and increase your vulnerability to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Some scientists have even referred to Alzheimer’s as “Type 3 Diabetes,” suggesting that diet may have some role in an individual’s risk for developing the disease.

A Mediterranean-based diet, on the other hand, can help protect the brain from signs of aging and ward off cognitive decline. A recent study showed that following this type of diet — which is a good source of brain-healthy nutrients and includes a lot of fish, healthy fats, whole grains and vegetables — could slash Alzheimer’s risk by up to 50 percent.

Mistake No. 2: Living next to a highway

Living in a smoggy city might be bad news for your brain. According to research published this month in the journal Stroke, exposure to air pollution is linked with premature aging of the brain.

The researchers found that people who lived closer to a major highway had greater markers of pollution in their lungs and blood, which increased their risk for a form of brain damage known as “silent strokes,” or symptomless strokes. Increased pollution volume was also linked to decreased brain volume — a major sign of aging.

Mistake No. 3: Drinking a few evening cocktails

Don Draper’s daily cigarettes and two-martini lunches might seem glamorous on “Mad Men,” but research suggests that they’re a fast track to neurodegeneration.

It should come as no surprise that excessive drinking and cigarette smoking at any stage of life can have a negative effect on the brain, damaging brain tissue and leading to cognitive impairment. Alcoholism can cause or accelerate aging of the brain.

But just a couple of glasses of wine a night could pose a risk to brain health, even though there are some cardiovascular benefits. A 2012 Rutgers University study found that moderate to binge drinking — drinking relatively lightly during the week and then more on the weekends — can decrease adult brain cell production by 40 percent.

“In the short term there may not be any noticeable motor skills or overall functioning problems, but in the long term this type of behavior could have an adverse effect on learning and memory,” one of the study’s authors, Rutgers neuroscience graduate student Megan Anderson, said in a statement.

Mistake No. 4: Giving in to stress

Living a stressful lifestyle may be the worst thing you can do for your health as you age. Chronic stress is known to shorten the length of telomeres, the sequences at the end of DNA strands that help determine how fast (or slow) the cells in our body age. By shortening telomeres, stress can accelerate the onset of age-related health problems.

What about the brain? Well, some research has suggested that high levels of stress hormones can increase an individual’s risk for age-related brain damage.

“Over the course of a lifetime, the effects of chronic stress can accumulate and become a risk factor for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease,” Howard Fillit, a clinical professor of geriatric medicine at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine, wrote in Psychology Today. “Several studies have shown that stress, and particularly one’s individual way of reacting to stress (the propensity to become ‘dis-stressed’ often found in neurotic people for example), increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.”

If you’re feeling stressed out, try picking up a meditation practice. Research has shown that meditation is effective in lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol and protecting the brain from aging.

Mistake No. 5: Getting by on less sleep than you need

There are a number of scary health effects associated with sleep deprivation, from a higher risk of stroke and diabetes to impaired cognitive functioning. Over the years, losing shut-eye can also accelerate brain aging. In a study conducted last year, researchers from Singapore found that the less that older adults slept, the faster their brains aged.

The study’s lead author explained in a statement that among older adults, “sleeping less will increase the rate their brain ages and speed up the decline in their cognitive functions.”

Mistake No. 6: Sitting all day

It’s a well-established fact that sitting for long periods is terrible for your health. A growing body of research has linked a sedentary lifestyle with health risks including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and early death, even among people who get the recommended daily amount of exercise.

And it turns out that sitting is also pretty bad for your brain. Research has linked physical inactivity with cognitive decline. Moreover, weight gain in older adults — which may result from too much sitting — has been linked with shrinkage in brain areas associated with memory.

So when in doubt, move around. Physical activity has been linked with a number of brain health benefits, including improved learning and memory.

Mistake No. 7: Zoning out

Use it or lose it! If you want to keep your brain sharp, keep it engaged. It doesn’t have to be a challenging intellectual task or a brain-training game, either — simply engaging in everyday activities like reading, cooking or having a conversation (as opposed to vegging out in front of the TV or computer) can make a difference.

But mental exercises like crossword puzzles and sudoku can help, too. A 2013 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that brain exercises are more effective than drugs in preventing cognitive decline.

The bottom line? Doing new and novel things promotes neurogenesis, the creation of new neurons in the brain. So get outside, learn, discover and try something new to keep your brain sharp through the decades.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/30/brain-aging-risk-factors_n_7169912.html

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There’s been a fast growing body of evidence in the last several years that lack of exercise – or sedentariness – is a major risk factor in health. It’s been linked to heart disease, cancer, and to an early death. And now, a new study finds that lack of exercise may actually be even more of a risk than obesity in early mortality: The researchers calculate that a sedentary lifestyle may actually confer twice the risk of death as being obese. That said, the two are both important and, luckily, closely related: So if you start getting active, you’ll probably lose a little weight along the way, which itself is a very good thing.

The new study looked at data from over 334,000 people who participated in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) Study. Over a period of 12 years, the participants’ height, weight, and waist circumferences were tracked, along with self-reports of activity levels, both at work and in free time. All-cause mortality (i.e., death from any cause) was the main outcome of interest.

It turned out that lack of physical activity was linked to the greatest risk of death – and the greatest reduction in death risk was in the difference between the lowest two activity groups. In other words, just moving from “inactive” to “moderately inactive” showed the largest reduction in death risk, especially for normal weight people, but true for people of all body weights. And, the authors say, just taking a brisk 20-minute walk per day can move you from one category to the other, and reduce the risk of death anywhere from 16% to 30%.

Using a statistical model, the team also calculated that being sedentary may account for double the death risk of obesity. According to their math, of the 9.2 million deaths in Europe in 2008, about 337,000 were attributable to obesity, whereas 676,000 were attributable to sedentariness.

Another takeaway from the study, however, is that waist circumference is a bigger player in mortality risk than overall body weight, which has certainly been suggested by previous studies. Belly fat seems to be disproportionately linked to chronic health issues like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and of course, early mortality. So reducing belly fat is always a significant benefit to one’s health.

“This large study is rather complex in its details, but the take-away messages are actually both clear and simple,” says David L, Katz, Director of the Yale University Prevention Research CenterGriffin Hospital. “At any given body weight, going from inactive to active can reduce the risk of premature mortality substantially. At any given level of activity, going from overweight to a more optimal weight can do the same. We have long known that not all forms of obesity are equally hazardous, and this study reaffirms that. Losing weight if you have an excess around the middle, where it is most dangerous, exerts an influence on mortality comparable to physical activity. Losing excess weight that is not associated with a high waist circumference reduces mortality risk, but less — as we would expect.”

But perhaps the main point in all of this is that being active and being a healthy weight are inextricably linked. Though activity by itself can offer an immediate health benefit if you remain overweight, getting active also leads naturally to loss of body weight. “This study reminds that being both fit and unfat are good for health,” says Katz, “and can add both life to years, and years to life. These are not really disparate challenges, since the physical activity that leads to fitness is on the short list of priorities for avoiding fatness as well. The challenge before us now is for our culture to make it easier to get there from here.”

Earlier this month a study showed that the concept of “healthy obesity” may be very misleading, since health markers in an obese person tend to deteriorate over time. Though the current study suggests that fitness may matter more than fatness, the two are really two sides of a coin: It would be silly to become active and not lose weight — and it would be very hard to do, since the one leads to the other. But perhaps given the great benefits of exercise alone, public health campaigns should focus not just on losing weight, but on encouraging people to add just small amounts physical activity to their lives right off the bat, and to see where it goes from there.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/01/15/is-lack-of-exercise-worse-for-your-health-than-obesity/