February 14th, 2012

Table of Contents:

Exercise and Stroke Recovery (Physical fitness study)

Good for the Heart (AHA meeting notes)

Social Overeating (Weight management)

Tea Time (Nutrition)

Exercises to Improve Hearing? (Successful aging)

Progress for Parkinson’s Patients (Medical research)

Valentine’s Day Thoughts (Beyond the realm of science)

Exercise and Stroke Recovery

by American Senior Fitness Association

Old good news:Regular exercise can help lower one’s risk for stroke. New good news: Physically fit people who do have a stroke have a better chance of recovery. Spanish researchers have found that patients who were more physically active prior to a stroke responded much better to clot-busting medication, sustained less brain damage, and were more likely to regain their motor skills, compared to more sedentary stroke patients.This preliminary study, presented at a recent American Stroke Association meeting, was described by HealthDay, an affiliate of the National Institutes of Health (NIH):

Researchers looked at 159 stroke patients (average age 68), who completed standard questionnaires relating their physical activity level before the stroke. They were divided into three physical activity levels: low, medium and high.

Patients in the highest activity level were more likely to have their blood flow restored within two hours of being given tPA, a drug for dissolving blood clots and reopening arteries. Sixty-two percent of the high-activity patients showed an early response to tPA, compared to 35 percent of the medium-activity patients and none of the low-activity patients.

Eighty-nine percent of the high-activity patients recovered their motor skills, compared to 69 percent of the medium-activity patients and only four percent of the low-activity patients.

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Good for the Heart

by American Senior Fitness Association

Two particularly interesting reports given at a recent American Heart Association meeting were subsequently summarized by Nathan Seppa writing for Science News magazine:

  • Having one’s teeth cleaned by a dentist or dental hygienist may reduce one’s risk for heart attack. Researchers in Taiwan followed the health of more than 100,000 subjects. Over a seven year follow-up period, the rate of heart attack in those who had undergone dental cleaning to remove plaque from their teeth was a fourth lower than in those who did not. Although poor oral hygiene resulting in gum disease has long been linked to heart disease, few studies have investigated the subject specifically in terms of preventing cardiac events.
  • Researchers in Israel studied 50 subjects who had experienced heart attack or unstable angina. All were immediately placed on standard medications, but half were also given 4,000 international units of vitamin D daily. Five days later, the vitamin D group had lower levels of two inflammation-causing compounds that are associated with heart disease: vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (which is involved in the formation of atherosclerotic plaque) and interleukin-6 (which is generally tied to increased coronary risk). Both of the compounds increased in patients who had not received vitamin D.
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    Social Overeating

    by American Senior Fitness Association

    Two new studies explore the tendency to overeat in social situations. Researchers at Radboud University Nijmegen, in the Netherlands, paired women who had not previously met and monitored them as they shared a meal together. The scientists were studying behavioral mimicry, in which a person unwittingly imitates the behavior of another. In this study, the women did mimic each other’s eating behavior virtually bite for bite, including taking bites at the same time. Both members of a pair were influenced by the other member, and the mimicry was stronger at the beginning of the meal, diminishing towards the end of the meal. Since the women were new acquaintances, researchers think they may have unintentionally observed each other’s eating behavior in order to establish a matching pattern, unconsciously seeking to facilitate the social connection. That could shed light on why the mimicry subsided as they got to know each other during the course of the meal.

    Researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, found that "people pleasers" (persons who are sensitive to criticism, who put other people’s needs ahead of their own, and who worry about hurting other people’s feelings) tend to overeat in certain social situations. Each study volunteer was seated alone with an actor posing as just another study volunteer. The actor took a few pieces of candy from a bowl, then offered the candy bowl to the study volunteer. Being a people pleaser was associated with eating more candy. Lead author, psychologist Julie Exline, said, "People pleasers feel more intense pressure to eat when they believe that their eating will help another person feel more comfortable."

    Both of these studies serve as useful reminders to eat mindfully in social settings.

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    Tea Time

    by American Senior Fitness Association

    More and more, the potential health benefits of enjoying a cup of hot tea are coming to be recognized by the scientific community.Writing for the Monterey County Herald, Barbara Quinn recently discussed the topic:

    Green tea and black tea derive from the same Camellia sinensis plant. Health-promoting properties attributed to these types of tea include:

  • Staving off food cravings, which can be especially desirable between meals;
  • Discouraging bad breath by slowing the growth of bacteria in the mouth that can promote halitosis;
  • Warding off infections by doing battle with microrganisms that can cause illness;
  • Lowering LDL ("bad") cholesterol, probably thanks to antioxidant substances contained in tea.

  • Although herbal teas are not considered traditional "tea" (since they come from plants other than the C. sinensis plant), they may offer protective benefits of their own:

  • Hibiscus tea appeared to lower blood pressure in clinical trial subjects who drank three cups per day over a six-week period;
  • Peppermint and chamomile teas may have infection-fighting abilities;
  • Peppermint tea boasts abundant, powerful antioxidants which might help to impede cancer growth.

  • Here is a quick tip for keeping your cup of tea delicious: Don’t squeeze your teabag into the tea, because squeezing the teabag liberates bitter tannins that will taint the flavor.

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    Exercises to Improve Hearing?

    by American Senior Fitness Association

    SFA author Jim Evans is a 45-year veteran of the health and fitness industry and an internationally recognized fitness consultant. Today he shares some helpful — and somewhat surprising — news on how to cope productively with hearing loss.

    DEAR JIM: My hearing has gotten worse over the past few years (I’m 72), and it is frustrating — and embarrassing — in social situations when people have to repeat themselves when I can’t hear what they are saying. It’s my own fault because I haven’t had my hearing checked for a long time, and I really don’t like the thought of having to wear a hearing aid. I know there probably aren’t any "exercises" for hearing loss, but I thought I would ask anyway. SUFFERING IN SILENCE IN SAN DIEGO

    DEAR SUFFERING: Believe it or not, there really are exercises for improving your hearing. Well, sort of.

    While actual hearing loss usually cannot be reversed, sometimes there are "focus exercises" (www.hearingloss.ca/focus-exercises.html)
    that can help you to better concentrate on what you are hearing. In other words, you may not be suffering from hearing loss as much as a lack of focus on what is being said.

    On the other hand, you may only have conductive hearing loss, which according to the Hearing Loss Association of America (hearingloss.org/), is "the most easily treated type of hearing loss, which occurs when the sound vibrations are not being conducted through the outer and middle ears effectively. This can be due to wax build-up or an infection in the ear canal, fluid build-up or an infection behind the eardrum, damage to the eardrum or ossicles [the three tiny bones of the inner ear], or thickening of the eardrum or ossicles. Some of these are remedied easily, some require medication, and others require surgery, which may not be able to fully restore the hearing."

    Of course, the only way you are going to know for sure if you really have hearing loss, or not, is to get checked by your doctor. So what are you waiting for? Even if you do eventually have to wear a hearing aid, it will greatly improve your quality of life, so what’s the downside? Vanity? One of the advantages of today’s modern technology is that the new hearing aids (www.nuear.com/hearing-aids/) are so small and unobtrusive that no one else even knows you are wearing one most of the time anyway.

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    Progress for Parkinson’s Patients

    by American Senior Fitness Association

    For promising news regarding the ongoing battle against Parkinson’s disease, read the following press release from the University of Florida Health Science Center:

    Researchers from the University of Florida and 14 additional medical centers reported results recently in the online version of The Lancet Neurology journal indicating that deep brain stimulation — also known as DBS — is effective at improving motor symptoms and quality of life in patients with advanced Parkinson’s disease.

    The study, sponsored by St. Jude Medical Inc., tested the safety and effectiveness of a constant current DBS device developed by St. Jude Medical to manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The device aimed to reduce tremors, improve the slowness of movement, decrease the motor disability of the disease and reduce involuntary movements called dyskinesia, which are a common side effect of Parkinson’s drugs.

    After treatment, analysis of 136 patient diaries revealed longer periods of effective symptom control — known as “on time” — without involuntary movements. “On time” for patients who received stimulation increased by an average of 4.27 hours compared with an increase of 1.77 hours in the group without stimulation. Patients also noted overall improvements in the quality of their daily activities, mobility, emotional state, social support and physical comfort.

    “I think it is safe to say since dopamine treatment emerged in the 1960s, DBS has been the single biggest symptomatic breakthrough for Parkinson patients who have experienced the fluctuations associated with levodopa therapy,” said Michael S. Okun, M.D., first author of the study, administrative director of the UF College of Medicine’s Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration, and the National Medical Director for the National Parkinson Foundation. “This study validates the use of mild electrical currents delivered to specific brain structures in order to improve Parkinson’s disease in select patients with advanced symptoms, and additionally, it explored a new stimulation paradigm. Future improvements in devices and the delivery systems for DBS will hopefully provide exciting new opportunities for Parkinson’s sufferers.”

    Only patients who have had Parkinson’s disease for five years or more were included in the study.They were randomly assigned to a control group that delayed the onset of stimulation for three months, or a group whose stimulation began shortly after surgery. All patients were followed for 12 months.

    The deep brain stimulation procedure involves surgeons implanting small electrodes into an area of the patient’s brain that controls movement. The electrodes are connected to a device precisely programmed to use mild electrical current to modulate problematic brain signals that result in movement problems.

    Today’s voltage-controlled DBS devices deliver pulses of current that vary slightly with surrounding tissue changes. The DBS devices tested in this study are intended to provide more accurate delivery and control of the electrical pulses.

    “We are committed to driving research that will provide solutions for physicians and their patients whose needs are currently unmet,” said Rohan Hoare, president of St. Jude Medical Neuromodulation Division. “These results are significant as they offer evidence that stimulation with the Libra constant current system enabled patients to have better motor control and an improvement in their quality of life when compared to the control group.”

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of DBS for Parkinson’s disease in 2002. At least 500,000 people in the United States suffer from Parkinson’s with about 50,000 new cases reported annually, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. These numbers are expected to increase as the average age of the population rises.

    “The study answered some very important questions concerning cognition and mood with lead implantation (alone) versus implantation with stimulation. It also refutes the hypothesis that DBS increases depressive symptoms,” said Gordon H. Baltuch, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of neurosurgery in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and a study author. “The group’s results also showed a decrease in the infection rate to 4 percent from previously published 10 percent. It shows that American neurosurgeons and neurologists with their industry partners are improving the safety of this procedure and working in a collaborative fashion.”

    Comparable with other large DBS studies, the most common serious adverse event revealed was infection, which occurred in five patients. Likewise, some participants also reported an increase in the occurrence of slurred speech, known as dysarthria.

    “Technology is on the move, and we expect to see continued improvements to DBS approaches, equipment and materials,” said Okun, who is also affiliated with UF’s McKnight Brain Institute. “DBS has set the bar high for the development of new therapies for advanced Parkinson’s disease patients. DBS will be the standard of care gene therapy and other cell-based therapies that are now being conceived will be measured against, and this will hopefully translate into significant improvements in what we can offer our patients.”

    In addition to UF and Penn, research was conducted at centers affiliated with Baylor College of Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center, Lahey Clinic, Loma Linda University Medical Center, the Medical College of Wisconsin, Mount Sinai Medical Center, Oakwood Hospital and Health Systems, Texas Health Presbyterian, Rush University Medical Center, the University of Miami, the University of Rochester and the University of Virginia Health Systems.

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    Valentine’s Day Thoughts

    by American Senior Fitness Association

    When it comes to understanding love, maybe there are limits to scientific measurement, dietary findings, and all things physical. These writers sure seem to think so:

    "Nobody has ever measured, even poets, how much a heart can hold."
       – Zelda Fitzgerald

    "Ah me! Love cannot be cured by herbs."
       – Ovid

    "Love is the greatest refreshment in life."
       – Pablo Picasso

    "Love is the poetry of the senses."
       – Honore de Balzac

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