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By Janice Wood

New research has found that older adults who improved their fitness through a moderate intensity exercise program increased the thickness of their brain’s cortex, the outer layer of the brain that typically atrophies with Alzheimer’s disease.

According to a new study from the University of Maryland School of Public Health, the improvements were found in both healthy older adults and those diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), an early stage of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Exercise may help to reverse neurodegeneration and the trend of brain shrinkage that we see in those with MCI and Alzheimer’s,” said Dr. J. Carson Smith, an associate professor of kinesiology and senior author of the study, published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.

“Many people think it is too late to intervene with exercise once a person shows symptoms of memory loss, but our data suggest that exercise may have a benefit in this early stage of cognitive decline.”

For the study, previously inactive people between the ages of 61 and 88 were put on an exercise regimen that included moderate intensity walking on a treadmill four times a week over a 12-week period.

On average, cardiorespiratory fitness improved by about eight percent as a result of the training in all participants, the researchers reported.

The researchers also found that the people who showed the greatest improvements in fitness had the most growth in the cortical layer, including both the group diagnosed with MCI and the healthy participants.

Both groups showed strong associations between increased fitness and increased cortical thickness after the intervention. But the MCI participants showed greater improvements compared to the healthy group in the left insula and superior temporal gyrus, two brain regions that have been shown to exhibit accelerated neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease, the study found.

Smith previously reported that the participants in this exercise intervention showed improvements in neural efficiency during memory recall, and this new data adds to the evidence for the positive impact of exercise on cognitive function.

Other research he has published has shown that moderate intensity physical activity, such as walking for 30 minutes three to four days a week, may protect brain health by staving off shrinkage of the hippocampus in older adults.

Smith noted that he plans future studies that include more participants engaging in a longer-term exercise intervention to see if greater improvements can be seen over time, and if the effects persist over the long term.

The key unanswered question is if regular moderate intensity physical activity could reverse or delay cognitive decline and help keep people out of nursing homes and enable them to maintain their independence as they age, he noted.

Source: University of Maryland

Dec 19

Diet Shown to Slow Cognitive Decline


By Rick Nauert PhD
Although the aging process often includes diminished intellectual capabilities, emerging research suggests eating a group of specific foods may slow cognitive decline.

Rush University Medical Center researchers say a food plan that blend parts of the Mediterranean and DASH diets may retard cognitive decline even among aging adults who are not at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

This finding is in addition to a previous study by the research team that found that the diet may reduce a person’s risk in developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The recent study shows that older adults who followed the diet more rigorously showed an equivalent of being 7.5 years younger cognitively than those who followed the diet least. The results of the study appear online in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

The National Institute of Aging funded study evaluated cognitive change over a period of 4.7 years among 960 older adults who were free of dementia on enrollment.

Study participants were part of the Rush Memory and Aging Project, a study of residents of more than 40 retirement communities and senior public housing units in the Chicago area. Average participant age during the study was 81.4 years.

During the course of the study, participants received annual, standardized testing for cognitive ability in five areas: episodic memory, working memory, semantic memory, visuospatial ability and perceptual speed. The study group also completed annual food frequency questionnaires, allowing the researchers to compare participants’ reported adherence to the MIND diet with changes in their cognitive abilities as measured by the tests.

Martha Clare Morris, Sc.D., a nutritional epidemiologist, and colleagues developed the diet, whose full name is the Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. As the name suggests, the MIND diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets.

Both diets have been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular conditions, like hypertension, heart attack and stroke.

“Everyone experiences decline with aging; and Alzheimer’s disease is now the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., which accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Therefore, prevention of cognitive decline, the defining feature of dementia, is now more important than ever,” Morris says.

“Delaying dementia’s onset by just five years can reduce the cost and prevalence by nearly half.”

The MIND diet has 15 dietary components, including 10 “brain-healthy food groups” and five unhealthy groups: red meat, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried or fast food.

To adhere to and benefit from the MIND diet, a person would need to eat at least three servings of whole grains, a green leafy vegetable and one other vegetable every day. Additionally participants are asked to drink a glass of wine, snack most days on nuts, have beans every other day or so, eat poultry and berries at least twice a week and fish at least once a week.

In addition, the study found that to have a real shot at avoiding the devastating effects of cognitive decline, he or she must limit intake of the designated unhealthy foods, especially butter (less than 1 tablespoon a day), sweets and pastries, whole fat cheese, and fried or fast food (less than a serving a week for any of the three).

Berries are the only fruit specifically to be included in the MIND diet. “Blueberries are one of the more potent foods in terms of protecting the brain,” Morris says, and strawberries also have performed well in past studies of the effect of food on cognitive function.

“The MIND diet modifies the Mediterranean and DASH diets to highlight the foods and nutrients shown through the scientific literature to be associated with dementia prevention.” Morris explains.

“There is still a great deal of study we need to do in this area, and I expect that we’ll make further modifications as the science on diet and the brain advances.”

Source: Rush University Medical Center/EurekAlert

Nov 28

Older Brains Can Still Learn – Maybe Too Much


By JANICE WOOD Associate News Editor

Older people can actually take in and learn from visual information more readily than younger people, according to a new study.

This surprising discovery is explained by a decline in the ability to filter out irrelevant information as we get older, according to researchers at Brown University.

“It is quite counterintuitive that there is a case in which older individuals learn more than younger individuals,” said cognitive scientist Takeo Watanabe, Ph.D.

“Older people take in more at the same time as the stability of their visual perceptual learning declines. That’s because the brain’s capacity to learn is limited,” Watanabe said. When we learn something new, there is always a risk that information already stored in the brain may be replaced with new and less-important information.

For the new study, Watanabe and his research team recruited a group of 10 people between 67 and 79 years old and another group of 10 people between the ages of 19 and 30 for an experiment.

Over a nine-day period, they trained on a simple visual exercise. Shown a quick sequence of six symbols — four letters and two numerals — the volunteers were asked to report the numerals they saw. Their performance on a test at the end of training was compared to their score on a pre-test.

The volunteers were instructed to only bother with spotting the two numerals, but each symbol they saw had a background of moving dots, which would move with varying degrees of cohesiveness of direction. In the pre- and post-tests the researchers also asked the volunteers to report the direction of dot movement when they saw the numerals.

The researchers found that older people improved as much as younger people on the relevant task of identifying the two numerals.

But the researchers also found that the older volunteers also took in more about the directional movement of the irrelevant dots than the younger individuals.

The researchers explained that our brains normally have the ability to detect and suppress our attention to obvious and irrelevant features. As features become harder to pick up on, we simply tend to miss them altogether. As a result, we are usually able to ignore or filter out information that is not pertinent to the task at hand.

The fact that older people continued to pick up on irrelevant information suggests a failure of their brains’ attentional systems to suppress task-irrelevant signals, the researchers said.

Watanabe added that the findings will likely apply in other areas of life, since the ability to filter out irrelevant information is generally important to all forms of learning.

The researchers are now using brain-imaging techniques to observe what’s happening in the brains of older people as they learn. With greater understanding, it may be possible to devise strategies not only to help older people learn more effectively, but also to keep them from learning things they really shouldn’t, the researchers concluded.

The study was published in the Cell Press journal Current Biology.

Reports of insomnia are common among the elderly, but a new study finds that sleep problems may stem from the quality of rest and other health concerns more than the overall amount of sleep that patients get.

An estimated 30 percent of adults report having some symptoms of insomnia, which includes difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up too early and then not feeling well rested during the daytime. Prior studies suggest that nearly half of older adults report at least one insomnia symptom and that lack of restorative sleep might be linked to heart disease, falls, and declines in cognitive and daytime functioning.

The new study found discrepancies between self-reported insomnia and outcomes recorded on a sleep-monitoring device. Older adults’ perception of sleep does not always match what’s actually happening when a more objective assessment is used to monitor sleep patterns and behaviors.

A study, published online by Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, used data from 727 participants in the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project who were randomly invited to participate in an “Activity and Sleep Study.” The activity and sleep study had two components: a self-administered sleep booklet, which included questions about the person’s sleep experience, (e.g., “how often do you feel really rested when you wake up in the morning?”) and 72-hours of wrist actigraphy, which is a wristwatch-like sensor that monitors sleep patterns and movements.

An author on the study, Linda Waite, the University of Chicago Lucy Flower Professor in Urban Sociology and the director of the Center on Aging at NORC at UChicago, said the researchers wanted to objectively evaluate several aspects of older adults’ sleep characteristics, which is why they used the actigraphs in addition to the survey questions.

“Older adults may complain of waking up too early and not feeling rested despite accumulating substantial hours of sleep,” Waite said.

The actigraph measurements showed that most of the older adults got sufficient amounts of sleep.

Even though reported sleep problems are common among older individuals, according to the survey only about 13 percent of older adults in the study said that they rarely or never feel rested when waking up in the morning. About 12 percent reported often having trouble falling asleep, 30 percent indicated they regularly had problems with waking up during the night and 13 percent reported problems with waking up too early and not being able to fall asleep again most of the time.

The actigraph provided data that showed the average duration of sleep period among the study participants was 7.9 hours and the average total sleep time was 7.25 hours. Waite said this indicates that the majority of older adults are getting the recommended amount of sleep and usually not having common sleep problems.

One other unexpected finding for the researchers was that respondents who reported waking up more frequently during the night had more total sleep time. “This suggests that a question about feeling rested may tap into other aspects of older adults’ everyday health or psychological experience,” said Waite.

“Our findings suggest that reports of what seem like specific sleep problems from survey questions may be more accurately viewed as indicators of general problems or dissatisfaction with sleep that may be due to other issues in their lives affecting their overall well-being. These survey questions and actigraphy may measure different aspects of sleep experience.”

Joining Waite as one of the co-authors on the study was Martha McClintock, the David Lee Shillinglaw Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology and the College; Ronald Thisted, professor of health studies and statistics; and colleagues from the University of Missouri and Stanford University School of Medicine. The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging.

Mar 14

Anxiety Also Affects the Elderly


Older people experience anxiety and anxiety disorders, often because of age-related stressors. Here’s how caregivers can help them cope.

By Juhie Bhatia

Feeling anxious or nervous when you’re stressed out is common, but when this anxiety is frequent, overwhelming, and affects daily tasks, social life, and relationships, it may be an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorder can affect anyone at any age, and the elderly are no exception.

In fact, anxiety may affect as many as 10 to 20 percent of the older population, although it is often undiagnosed and often goes hand-in-hand with depression.

Anxiety Disorder: Why the Elderly Are Affected

“Although anxiety disorders beginning in later life are uncommon, the symptoms of anxiety are quite common in older adults,” says George T. Grossberg, MD, professor and director of the division of geriatric psychiatry at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. “The main reason is that older adults are subjected to a variety of stresses and losses, any of which can cause or be accompanied by anxiety symptoms.”

These stresses can include retirement, especially if it is sudden; loss or illness of a loved one; a decline in physical, cognitive, or emotional health; or financial concerns, explains Dr. Grossberg. Many older adults are also afraid of falling, being dependent on others, being left alone, and death.

Anxiety Disorder: Getting Needed Help for Loved Ones

Left untreated, anxiety and anxiety disorders can lead to other problems, such as cognitive impairment, poor physical health, and a poor quality of life. So have your loved one examined by a primary care physician if you suspect that he or she has an anxiety disorder. Fortunately, there are a variety of treatments available if an anxiety disorder is diagnosed:

Psychotherapy or counseling. A mental health professional, such as a geriatric psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker, can help determine what is causing the anxiety disorder and how to deal with its symptoms. “In many cases, a ‘behavioral’ approach, such as cognitive-behavior therapy, will give a person the tools to manage themselves,” says Stephen Read, MD, a geriatric psychiatrist and clinical professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Medication. While drugs won’t cure anxiety disorders, they can help control these disorders while your loved one is in therapy. The main medications used to treat anxiety disorders are antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and beta-blockers. Antidepressants (specifically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs) are preferred over anti-anxiety medication, as they are non-addicting and generally well-tolerated.
Stress reduction. Adopting stress management techniques, such as meditation, prayer, and deep breathing from the lower abdomen, can help lower anxiety. Yoga, progressive relaxation, and tai chi may also be beneficial, says Grossberg.
Getting better-quality sleep. A good night’s rest may also help. “Sleep disorders are of course rampant in those with anxiety, and improving sleep, which often requires medicine, will be a big help,” says Dr. Read.
Staying active. Activity of any kind, be it physical or intellectual, can ease anxiety symptoms. “Encouraging the use of routines, exercise and activity, and socialization may be useful. Relaxing activities and hobbies should be encouraged. Gardening, fishing, art, and music are particularly relaxing for some older adults,” says Grossberg.
Avoiding triggers. Your loved one should avoid things that can aggravate the symptoms of anxiety disorders, such as caffeine, smoking, over-the-counter cold medications, and alcohol.
As a caregiver for an older person with anxiety or an anxiety disorder, the responsibility may be on you to ensure that your loved one is receiving treatment. Fortunately, there is much you can do to help.

Mar 5

In Older Adults, Just One Drink Affects Driving


y TRACI PEDERSEN Associate News Editor

In Older Adults, Just One Drink Affects Driving SkillsHaving a blood alcohol level just under the legal limit of 0.08 — typically just one drink — can still affect the driving abilities of older adults, according to a new University of Florida (UF) study.

Sara Jo Nixon, Ph.D., a professor in the departments of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Florida and doctoral candidate Alfredo Sklar conducted the study to see whether non-intoxicating levels of alcohol would affect the driving skills of 72 participants who fell into one of two age groups: ages 25 to 35 and ages 55 to 70.

The study, published in the journal Psychopharmacology, is the latest in a series of studies by Nixon and her team that looks at how even moderate doses of alcohol affect aging adults.

At the beginning of the study, all subjects (completely sober) were given a simulated driving test. Participants — staring straight ahead at a large computer monitor — felt as though they were driving down a winding three-mile stretch of country road.

Two more monitors were placed on either side, mimicking the side windows of a car and showing the drivers what they would see in their peripheral vision. Driving sounds were played through a stereo system. Occasionally, the drivers would encounter an oncoming car, but they did not encounter other distractions.

“There wasn’t even a cow,” said Nixon, who also is co-vice chair and chief of the division of addiction research in the department of psychiatry in the UF College of Medicine and UF’s Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute.

The driving test assessed the participants’ ability to stay in the center of their lane and maintain a constant speed. Researchers also noted how rapidly the subjects moved their steering wheel.

Later, the participants were divided in smaller groups. The first group was given a placebo — a diet lemon-lime soda spritzed with an insignificant amount of alcohol to mimic the experience of drinking alcohol. A second group’s drink was strong enough to produce a 0.04 percent breath alcohol level, and a third group’s drink gave them a breath alcohol level of 0.065 percent — still below the federal legal level for drinking of 0.08.

Participants then completed the same driving task they had performed while sober. Researchers timed the task so participants’ alcohol levels were declining to imitate a situation in which a person would have a drink with dinner and then drive home.

For the older drivers, even the small, legal levels of intoxication affected their driving skills.

In the younger age group, however, alcohol consumption did not affect their measured driving skills at all — a finding that Nixon called a “bit surprising.” She warned that although there was no difference in the laboratory, this does not necessarily mean that their driving wouldn’t be affected in real life.

Nixon noted that the laboratory setting was simplified compared to real-world driving and that the current data doesn’t address potential problems in more complex environments.

Source: University of Florida

Oct 18

A new discovery in the treatment of degenerative nerve cell disease has been characterized as a “turning point” in the fight against diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s. In tests on laboratory mice, deaths from what is known as prion disease was completely prevented leading Professor Robert Morris from King’s College, London to say that it represents a momentous milestone in the treatment and possible prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. The newly developed compound inhibits a cell’s incorrectly activated defense mechanisms that would otherwise shut down certain protein production activity ultimately killing the nerve cell. Published in Science Translational Medicine (, the study showed that mice with this type of prion disease developed severe memory and movement problems and died within 12 weeks. But when the mice were given the compound, there was no sign of brain tissue wasting away and they survived. Much more work needs to be done. There are side effects that include pancreatic involvement such that it triggered a mild diabetic reaction and associated weight loss. Professor Morris cautioned that a cure for Alzheimer’s was not, “imminent” but if the study results are validated by additional research, it certainly gives a renewed sense of optimism that treatment for nerve disease may be entering a brand new and exciting world of possibilities. – See more at:

Oct 17

ADHD Meds and the Aging


In a small study that was published in the Journals of Gerentology, researchers in Israel gave a 10mg dose of the drug methylphenidate (Ritalin) to fifteen healthy adults, 70 and older who could walk without assistance. They compared this group to 15 others given a placebo. The dosed group showed improved gait and function while performing single tasks (i.e. walking) and when performing dual tasks (i.e. walking and reciting the days of the week in reverse). The drug’s ability to enhance mental focus (it is often given to help those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is suspected of also impacting the area of the brain that controls balance and motor skills. Methylphenidate does have some documented addiction issues and it is not currently recommended for adults 65 and older nor is it for those having cardiac conditions. However the results of this initial work will hopefully result in larger clinical studies that may verify the findings and help to create a safe therapeutic regimen that can reduce the incidence of falls. – See more at:

Jan 4

Suddenly Solo is now available at Amazon!


Divorced? Widowed? Over 50? You’re not alone. The number of mature men who are “Suddenly Solo,” by choice or not, has grown remarkably in the past few years. No matter what the underlying circumstances, many Suddenly Solos find themselves searching for real-life coping skills as they enter into this new (and yes, exciting!) single phase of their lives. Suddenly Solo has real-world answers to questions about dating, housekeeping, finances, sex (by the way, there are more single women out there then there are single men!) and so many other issues that will likely be on your mind. Told in a light-hearted way (but backed by extensive, original research), Suddenly Solo is a welcome traveling companion for the mature divorced or widowed man as they transition into their new world.

By Christine S. Moyer, Three in four adults 65 and older say they would tell their primary care physicians about feelings of anxiety or depression. But doctors don’t always provide appropriate care to older patients with those conditions, says a survey of more than 1,300 seniors issued Dec. 13 by the John A. Hartford Foundation.

Appropriate, evidence-based care for anxiety and depression includes educating patients about their condition, engaging them in medical care and following up to ensure they’re responding properly to treatment, said Christopher Langston, PhD. He is program director at the foundation, which works to improve the well-being of seniors.

“Depression is one of the most common and burdensome issues in older individuals,” Langston said. It’s unfortunate “that so many older people are still receiving mental health care that does not measure up.”

Forty-six percent of older adults who received mental health treatment said their primary care physician didn’t follow up after prescribing treatment. Thirty-eight percent reported not being told about possible treatment side effects of any medications, and 34% received no information on what to do if they felt worse.

Contributing to the problem is that physicians have limited time to attend to mounting demands, said Indiana internist Christopher Callahan, MD. Another challenge for doctors is that seniors often have multiple health problems and various medications that need to be addressed and adjusted during an office visit, he said.

Primary care physicians “are feeling a little burdened by the magnitude of their responsibility for a whole range of conditions, and sometimes it’s hard to get the [physician’s] attention for this very serious condition,” said Dr. Callahan, director of the Indiana University Center for Aging Research.

He encourages doctors to pay the same kind of attention to mental health problems as they do to chronic diseases such as diabetes. And he recommends that physicians involve older patients in decisions about their health.

“There has been a notion in geriatrics that older adults are less demanding of their care than baby boomers” and that they prefer to leave health care decisions to the physician, Dr. Callahan said. “Those days are fading fast.”

Researchers conducted a survey between Nov. 16 and Nov. 26 on a nationally representative sample of 1,318 adults 65 and older. Survey questions focused on participants’ attitudes toward and experiences with mental health issues.

Researchers found that 20% of respondents had been diagnosed with a mental health problem at some time. Of those individuals, 14% were told they had depression, and 11% were diagnosed with anxiety (

More than one in four incorrectly believed that depression is a natural part of aging, and 56% didn’t know that depression doubles the risk of developing dementia.

Among the encouraging findings is that most older adults seem comfortable talking about depression and anxiety, Dr. Callahan said. Two decades ago, that wasn’t the case, he added.

“This survey shows us that older adults are asking for help, and it shows that a lot of primary care physicians and other doctors are initiating treatment,” Dr. Callahan said.

But those who live alone not at increased risk, study shows Feeling lonely, as distinct from being/living alone, is linked to an increased risk of developing dementia in later life, indicates research published online in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. Various factors are known to be linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, including older age, underlying medical conditions, genes, impaired cognition, and depression, say the authors.

But the potential impacts of loneliness and social isolation – defined as living alone, not having a partner/spouse, and having few friends and social interactions – have not been studied to any great extent, they say. This is potentially important, given the ageing population and the increasing number of single households, they suggest. They therefore tracked the long term health and wellbeing of more than 2000 people with no signs of dementia and living independently for three years. All the participants were taking part in the Amsterdam Study of the Elderly (AMSTEL), which is looking at the risk factors for depression, dementia, and higher than expected death rates among the elderly.

At the end of this period, the mental health and wellbeing of all participants was assessed using a series of validated tests. They were also quizzed about their physical health, their ability to carry out routine daily tasks, and specifically asked if they felt lonely. Finally, they were formally tested for signs of dementia.
At the start of the monitoring period, around half (46%; 1002) the participants were living alone and half were single or no longer married. Around three out of four said they had no social support. Around one in five (just under 20%; 433) said they felt lonely.

Among those who lived alone, around one in 10 (9.3%) had developed dementia after three years compared with one in 20 (5.6%) of those who lived with others. Among those who had never married or were no longer married, similar proportions developed dementia and remained free of the condition. But among those without social support, one in 20 had developed dementia compared with around one in 10 (11.4%) of those who did have this to fall back on. And when it came to those who said they felt lonely, more than twice as many of them had developed dementia after three years compared with those who did not feel this way (13.4% compared with 5.7%).

Further analysis showed that those who lived alone or who were no longer married were between 70% and 80% more likely to develop dementia than those who lived with others or who were married. And those who said they felt lonely were more than 2.5 times as likely to develop the disease. And this applied equally to both sexes. When other influential factors were taken into account, those who said they were lonely were still 64% more likely to develop the disease, while other aspects of social isolation had no impact. “These results suggest that feelings of loneliness independently contribute to the risk of dementia in later life,” write the authors.

“Interestingly, the fact that ‘feeling lonely’ rather than ‘being alone’ was associated with dementia onset suggests that it is not the objective situation, but, rather, the perceived absence of social attachments that increases the risk of cognitive decline,” they add. They suggest that loneliness may affect cognition and memory as a result of loss of regular use, or that loneliness could itself be a sign of emerging dementia, and either be a behavioural reaction to impaired cognition or a marker of undetected cellular changes in the brain.

Dec 14

App lets seniors rate ‘age-friendly’ places


— With a new app, seniors can rate the “age-friendliness” of restaurants, libraries, crosswalks, shopping centers, and public transit—and share their ratings with others.

“It empowers older adults to evaluate what’s senior-friendly and what’s not,” says one of the app’s creators, Alex Mihailidis, an associate professor of occupational science and occupational therapy at the University of Toronto.

Users rate locations on things like general accessibility, availability of seating, lighting levels, staff attitudes, and background music levels. Age-CAP (Age-friendly Communities Assessment ApP) then produces an overall rating, based on the World Health Organization’s age-friendly cities guidelines.

The app uses GPS to pinpoint the user’s location, no matter which city they live in worldwide and is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. People can simply browse the database to see which locations and services in a neighborhood are considered “age-friendly” and why.

“This is a new way for seniors to create a crowd-sourced database of age-friendly locations,” says Mihailidis, who is also a core faculty member of the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Computer Science.

The team hopes the app will promote “active” aging and encourage seniors to get out and about in the community. Social isolation in the elderly can lead to depression and physical problems, such as loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping.

There’s also a safety dimension.

“Already, people are using the app to warn others about dangerous crosswalks, and subway stops that don’t have elevators,” says Mihailidis.

Some of the features users can rate, by indicating agreement or disagreement on a scale of one to five, include:
•Restaurants: “The menu and bill were written in a legible font and size.”
•Community centers: “A senior’s discount is offered on classes and memberships.”
•Libraries: “Advertisements for seniors programming were readily displayed.”
•Crosswalks: “I had enough time to cross at the crosswalk during the allotted time.”
•Shopping centers: “There were areas to sit and rest.”
•Public transit: “There was appropriate shade available during my wait.”

People can also offer general comments, and create new categories for locations or services they wish to rate.

Will seniors embrace the app? Mihailidis points to an upward trend in mobile technology use among seniors, citing statistics that suggest between 30 and 70 percent are using smartphone devices.

As the app’s database grows, it can be used to advocate for improvements that make cities more senior-friendly, says Mihailidis. He hopes businesses, including restaurants, and municipal politicians will take note of the ratings.

The app was developed by researchers at University of Toronto and Toronto Rehabilitation Institute with funding from Toronto Rehab, and is owned by Toronto Rehab-UHN.‘age-friendly’-places/

Jun 21

Life Style causes of Dementia


written by Kyle. J. Norton
About 5-8% of all people over the age of 65 have some form of dementia, and this number doubles every five years above that age. Dementia is the loss of mental ability that is severe enough to interfere with people’s every life and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia in aging people. American typical diet contains high amount of saturated and trans fat, artificial ingredients with less fruits and vegetable which can lead to dementia and other kind of diseases

I. Causes of Dementia
H. Life Style causes of Dementia
1. Unhealthy diet
Unhealthy lifestyle choices lead to an increasing incidence of obesity, dyslipidemia and hypertension–components of the metabolic syndrome. These disorders can also be linked to AD. Recent research supports the hypothesis that calorie intake, among other non-genetic factors, can influence the risk of clinical dementia.(1)

2. Psychological and Neurological effects
Researchers at the G.J. Patel Ayurved College, showed that Mind and body are inseparable entities and influences each other until death. Many factors such as stress, anxiety, depression, negative thoughts, unhealthy life style, unwholesome diet etc., disturb mental and physical wellbeing. Senile dementia is the mental deterioration, i.e, loss of intellectual ability associated with old age. It causes progressive deterioration of mental faculties, e.g., memory, intellect, attention, thinking, comprehension and personality, with preservation of normal level of consciousness.(2)

3. Excessive alcohol drinking
Moderate alcohol drinking of less than 2 cups for men and 1 cups for women are said to offers possible health benefits(3), but Binge drinking in midlife is associated with an increased risk of dementia, according to the follow-up, 103 participants had developed dementia. Binge drinking (ie, alcohol exceeding the amount of 5 bottles of beer or a bottle of wine on 1 occasion at least monthly), as reported in 1975, was associated with a relative risk of 3.2 (95% confidence interval=1.2-8.6) for dementia. Passing out at least twice as a result of excessive alcohol use during the previous year, as reported in 1981, was associated with a relative risk of 10.5 (2.4-46) for dementia in drinkers.(4)

4. Smoking
Smoking is a risk factor for several life-threatening diseases, but its long-term association with dementia is controversial and somewhat understudied.In a studyof a total of 5367 people (25.4%) were diagnosed as having dementia (including 1136 cases of AD and 416 cases of VaD) during a mean follow-up period of 23 years. Results were adjusted for age, sex, education, race, marital status, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, body mass index, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and alcohol use, Dr. Rusanen M, and the team at the University of Eastern Finland, said ” heavy smoking in midlife was associated with a greater than 100% increase in risk of dementia, AD, and VaD more than 2 decades later. These results suggest that the brain is not immune to long-term consequences of heavy smoking”(5).

By Janice Wood The molecular structure of a protein involved in Alzheimer’s disease — and the surprising discovery that it binds cholesterol — could lead to new therapies for the disease, according to new research.

Charles Sanders, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry, and colleagues at Vanderbilt University recently determined the structure of part of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) — the source of amyloid-beta, which characterizes Alzheimer’s disease.

Amyloid-beta clumps together into oligomers that kill neurons, causing dementia and memory loss. The amyloid-beta oligomers eventually form plaques in the brain, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s, the researchers note.

“Anything that lowers amyloid-beta production should help prevent, or possibly treat, Alzheimer’s disease,” Sanders said.

Amyloid-beta production requires two “cuts” of the APP protein, he said. The first cut, by the enzyme beta-secretase, generates the C99 protein, which is then cut by gamma-secretase to release amyloid-beta. The Vanderbilt researchers used nuclear magnetic resonance and electron paragmagnetic resonance spectroscopy to determine the structure of C99.

The researchers said they were surprised to discover what appeared to be a “binding” domain in the protein.

Based on previously reported evidence that cholesterol promotes Alzheimer’s disease, they suspected that cholesterol might be the binding partner.

The researchers used a model membrane system called “bicelles” that Sanders developed as a postdoctoral fellow to demonstrate that C99 binds cholesterol.

“It has long been thought that cholesterol somehow promotes Alzheimer’s disease, but the mechanisms haven’t been clear,” Sanders said. “Cholesterol binding to APP and its C99 fragment is probably one of the ways it makes the disease more likely.”

Sanders and his team propose that cholesterol binding moves APP to special regions of the cell membrane called “lipid rafts,” which contain “cliques of molecules that like to hang out together,” he said.

“We think that when APP doesn’t have cholesterol around, it doesn’t care what part of the membrane it’s in,” Sanders said. “But when it binds (to) cholesterol, that drives it to lipid rafts, where these ‘bad’ secretases are waiting to clip it and produce amyloid-beta.”

The findings suggest a new strategy to reduce amyloid-beta production, he said.

“If you could develop a drug that blocks cholesterol from binding to APP, then you would keep the protein from going to lipid rafts,” he said. “Instead it would be cleaved by alpha-secretase — a ‘good’ secretase that isn’t in rafts and doesn’t generate amyloid-beta.”

Drugs that inhibit beta- or gamma-secretase to limit amyloid-beta production have been developed and tested, but they have toxic side effects, the researchers note.

A drug that blocks cholesterol binding to APP may be more effective in reducing amyloid-beta levels and in preventing, or treating, Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers conclude.

by Amy Morin, LCSW Marrying someone whose first spouse passed away is much different than marrying someone who has simply been divorced. It’s important to be aware of your spouse’s needs when entering into a marriage with a widow or widower. Unlike when there’s been a divorce, the first marriage didn’t end because it didn’t work out. Therefore, there are some extra things to take into consideration.

Accept Your Spouse’s Past

Don’t pretend your spouse’s first marriage didn’t exist. You’ll need to embrace your spouse’s previous life. In fact, many people who marry a widow say they feel like their marriage includes the first spouse in some way.

In a divorce, the ex-spouse takes their possessions. When someone is widowed, their first spouse’s belongings are still around. It’s important to recognize that years after someone is widowed, their first spouse’s belongings may still be present.

Recognize the sentimental value in these item. Try to refrain from demanding that they be removed or thrown out. Instead, communicate with your spouse about your needs. For example, if your husband insists of keeping his late wife’s dinner plates and you want to use your own, discuss your options. Perhaps saving the former set for a special occasion or using both sets might be a good compromise. Don’t insist he throw them out or get rid of everything.

Educate Yourself About Grief

Your spouse will grieve even after getting remarried. This isn’t a reflection of not having enough love for you. Instead, it is important to recognize that grief is a process. It is normal to experience grief after the loss of a loved one, even when falling in love with someone else. It is possible to grieve one person and love another simultaneously.

Learn as much as you can about stages of grief and what to expect. Read books about grief. Do some online research. Consider seeing a counselor for yourself if you have questions or concerns.

It is important to know what to expect. For example, although holidays may be a joyous occasion, it may also be hard for your spouse at times. There are also going to be days that you may not be familiar with, such as birthdays, anniversaries, and the anniversary of the death, that may initiate a lot of grief for your spouse. Be patient and ask what you can do to be helpful. Sometimes a spouse may want extra support and at other times, may want extra space.

Give Your Spouse Permission to Talk about Grief

It is important that your spouse be allowed to talk about the grief process and the loss of their first spouse. Your spouse may not feel comfortable bringing this up, so by asking questions sometimes you may be giving your spouse permission to begin talking about it. It may be difficult to hear at times, but know that it can be very helpful to your spouse.

Be Patient with Extended Family

If your spouse has children, they may struggle to accept you. It likely has nothing to do with you. It just may be a difficult part of their grief process.

Be aware that extended family members may struggle to accept you as well. This is especially true of your spouse’s former in-laws. They may have a hard time seeing their son or daughter-in-law in a new marriage.

Fight the Urge to Compete

Remember, that it isn’t a competition. Try not to compare yourself to your spouse’s first husband or wife. Know that you may have to endure hearing stories about how “Jan was the best cook” or “Bill was so funny.” Don’t be offended when you hear these stories. Instead, recognize that it is a good sign that people feel comfortable talking about it and it can be part of the healing process.

It is important to recognize how you may have some similarities but will likely have plenty of differences. It’s unlikely that your spouse was looking for a “clone” of their first spouse. Instead, consider it a compliment that your spouse had such love the first time around that it was worth doing all over again! Know that it’s likely the love and the type of relationship is going to be different and it would be like comparing apples and oranges.

Create New Memories

Don’t be afraid to create new memories with your spouse. If your spouse always vacationed in Europe with his first wife, suggest going to Hawaii instead. Don’t feel pressure to fall into the same old habits. Instead, encourage your spouse to try new things and begin some new adventures together. Create new traditions at holidays and make lots of new memories together.

Communicate About Your Feelings

Be willing to speak up when your feelings are hurt. Discuss how to negotiate certain things that may be bothersome. For example, if you don’t like it when your husband refers to you as his “second wife” or when he often talks about “my first wife” see if you can come up with a plan. Sometimes there are creative yet simple solutions that can solve these problems. If the two of you struggle to talk about these things, consider seeking help from a counselor. A marriage counselor can help you learn how to work together on developing solutions for your marriage.

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