June 22nd, 2012

Table of Contents:

Let Go of Regrets (Interesting science!)

Lean Forward (Nutrition)

Temperature Fluctuation Concerns (Harvard study)

Exercise to Reduce the Pain of Neuropathy (Healthy coping)

Research to Help Seniors Stay Healthy (University of Florida)

A No-Regrets Outlook (Reflection)

Let Go of Regrets

by American Senior Fitness Association

A recent study published in the journal Science suggests that persons who don’t dwell on missed opportunities may have more satisfying later years. The German study involved healthy young people in their twenties, depressed older adults in their sixties, and healthy older adults in their sixties.

Using functional MRI brain scans, the researchers gauged their subjects’ responses to missing opportunities while playing a computerized game-based test. Winning or losing at the game was largely a matter of chance. When the young adults and depressed older adults realized they had missed opportunities earlier in the game, they typically began taking greater risks as the game continued. The healthy older adults, however, reacted more calmly without greatly changing their game-playing strategies. The brain scans revealed that the healthy older adults were feeling less regret and were better able to control their emotions. They seemed better able to keep in mind that luck played an important role in the game’s outcome, whereas the depressed subjects seemed more likely to blame themselves.


Lean Forward

by American Senior Fitness Association

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends looking for certain words on meat labels in order to purchase leaner cuts. Good-bet words include:

  • Round,
  • Loin, and
  • 95 percent lean.

The academy also advises trimming off visible pieces of fat prior to cooking and then using cooking methods that minimize fat. These include:

  • Braising,
  • Stewing,
  • Stir-frying, and
  • Grilling.

Temperature Fluctuation Concerns

by American Senior Fitness Association

Research conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston suggests that temperature swings may place elderly persons who have chronic conditions (for example, diabetes, heart failure and lung disease) at a higher risk for death during the summer months. Published recently in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study found that for every 1-degree Centigrade* increase in summer temperature variability, there was a corresponding increase of from 2.8 to 4 percent in the death rate of elderly people with chronic diseases.

In a news release about the study, Harvard researcher Antonella Zanobetti stated: "We found that, independent of heat waves, high day-to-day variability in summer temperatures shortens life expectancy. This variability can be harmful for susceptible people."

The study’s lead author Joel Schwartz said in the news release: "People adapt to the usual temperature in their city. That is why we don’t expect higher mortality rates in Miami than in Minneapolis, despite the higher temperatures. But people do not adapt as well to increased fluctuations around the usual temperature. That finding, combined with the increasing age of the population, the increasing prevalence of chronic conditions such as diabetes and possible increases in temperature fluctuations due to climate change, means that this public health problem is likely to grow in importance in the future."

Additional, more specific study findings included:

  • The risk of death for persons with diabetes rose 4 percent for each 1-degree C increase in summer temperature variability.
  • The risk of death for persons with a previous heart attack rose 3.8 percent for each 1-degree C increase in summer temperature variability.
  • The risk of death for persons with chronic lung disease rose 3.7 percent for each 1-degree C increase in summer temperature variability.
  • The risk of death for persons with heart failure rose 2.8 percent for each 1-degree C increase in summer temperature variability.
  • Temperature-related mortality risk was 1 to 2 percent higher for persons living in poverty and for black persons.
  • Risk of death was greater for elderly persons living in hotter climes.

The researchers concluded that greater summer temperature variability in the U.S. alone could result in over 10,000 additional deaths per year. Areas that may be particularly affected include the mid-Atlantic states. Elsewhere in the world, areas that may be particularly affected include parts of France, Spain and Italy.

*approximately 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit


Exercise to Reduce the Pain of Neuropathy

by American Senior Fitness Association

American Senior Fitness Association author Jim Evans is a 45-year veteran of the health-fitness industry and an internationally recognized fitness consultant. Today Jim offers hope to an older adult seeking guidance in managing a prevalent health concern, neuropathy.

DEAR JIM: I am 75 years old, and for the past seven years I have been afflicted by painful neuropathy in my feet. It usually comes on at night when I am trying to sleep and, as you can imagine, I haven’t been sleeping very well. Sometimes my feet feel as if they are on fire! My doctor has told me repeatedly that I should be more physically active, but I don’t see how that would help. In the meantime, he keeps giving me pain medication, but it hasn’t helped very much either. What do you

DEAR DOUBTING DEBBIE: It’s a funny thing about doctors. We believe everything they say unless it is something we don’t want to hear. For seven years you have been taking pain medication with very little relief, and for seven years your doctor has been telling you to exercise, but you have ignored his advice. You must be a glutton for punishment!

According to the Neuropathy Association, more than 20 million people suffer from neuropathy in the U.S., so you are not alone in your misery. Neuropathy — or peripheral neuropathy, as it is more commonly known — is pain, tingling or numbness caused by nerve damage and usually occurs in the hands and feet. It is difficult to treat and is most often seen in patients with trauma, diabetes and certain other conditions. In fact, more than half of all diabetics suffer from neuropathy. Neuropathey is often associated with poor nutrition, too.

Exercise is commonly recommended for patients with chronic pain, and a recent study published in Anesthesia & Analgesia, the official journal of the International Anesthesia Research Society, provides evidence that exercise helps to ease neuropathic pain by reducing inflammation. Running (or walking) on a treadmill or swimming were the specific forms of exercise used in the study. Is there any reason why you cannot do one or the other, or both?

Exercise is not going to eliminate your neuropathic pain entirely, but patients in the study experienced a 30 to 50 percent reduction in pain. Sounds pretty encouraging to me.

The bottom line is that your doctor is right about exercise as a way to reduce the pain of neuropathy, so start listening to him for a change — and not just what you want to hear! You might also have your blood tested for any nutritional deficiencies because certain vitamins can sometimes help to relieve your symptoms, too.


Research to Help Seniors Stay Healthy

by American Senior Fitness Association

For the latest good news on staying healthy while growing older, enjoy this recent news release from the University of Florida’s Institute on Aging:

The University of Florida Institute on Aging has been awarded a major grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging that is expected to total $5.2 million over five years. The award, in renewed support of the UF Pepper Older Americans Independence Center, will fund studies to better understand the biological and behavioral processes that lead to physical disability in older adults, and to develop and test disability prevention and rehabilitation therapies.

The new award comes on the heels of $3.9 million in NIH funding that established Florida’s first Pepper Center at UF in 2007.

“We are honored by this strong, continued support as we use scientific tools to tackle the issue of aging,” said principal investigator Marco Pahor, M.D., director of the UF Institute on Aging and chairman of the department of aging and geriatric research in the UF College of Medicine. “Each grant and each resulting research finding brings us one step closer to providing older adults with the means to maintain their health, independence and dignity as they age.”

UF is one of just 15 institutions in the nation to receive the award, which is named for the late Claude D. Pepper, a U.S. senator-turned-representative from Florida. Pepper advocated for the rights of the elderly and championed laws aimed at improving the health and well-being of older Americans.

“The UF Pepper Center has long been interested in maintaining and improving function of older adults in the community,” said Basil Eldadah, M.D., Ph.D., acting chief of the geriatrics branch of the National Institute on Aging. “It has made several significant contributions to our understanding of aging processes, particularly in the areas of prevention and rehabilitation of disability in older people.”

Aging takes its toll in varied ways, affecting many different organs. It can show up as acute effects such as hip fracture or stroke, or as chronic health conditions such as heart disease, osteoarthritis or mental decline. But although aging reveals itself in so many ways, mounting research points to one main process — muscle loss — as having a hand in all those changes.

The work of the UF Pepper Center focuses on understanding age-related muscle loss from different perspectives, and the potential role of skeletal muscle as a key target for therapies to counteract age-related damage to the body. The center’s researchers work in a wide range of scientific disciplines, including molecular biology, gerontology, epidemiology and behavioral sciences.

“The UF Institute on Aging has demonstrated its commitment to easing the burden of age-related illnesses, and has taken a lead role in finding research-based ways to help older adults maintain the best possible quality of life,” said David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president for health affairs and president of the UF&Shands Health System. “The Pepper award is a recognition of the world-class, patient-centered research being carried out at UF.”

Since 2007, the center’s researchers have conducted several basic science and clinical studies and published more than 450 scientific papers in noted journals such as Nature, The Journals of Gerontology and the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The researchers have discovered that higher levels of physical activity are associated with longevity, better mood and improved strength among older adults; that low levels of an enzyme found in white blood cells are linked to better survival in frail older adults, and that a cancer drug can extend the lives of older mice, among other findings. Pepper-funded preliminary studies have formed the basis of 36 pending grant proposals totaling $38 million, for larger studies.

In addition to conducting basic, clinical and translational studies of age-related changes in the body, another central part of the center’s mission is to train the next generation of researchers and help them develop skills in both aging research and leadership. Junior faculty selected for the Pepper scholars career development program hail from various disciplines, including medicine, dentistry and public health, as well as from affiliated institutions such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“This invaluable research training complements national efforts to increase the number of physicians and other clinical professionals who are specially trained in the area of geriatrics,” said UF College of Medicine Dean Michael L. Good. “These physicians and scientists will develop tomorrow’s medical tools and therapies that their clinical colleagues will use to care for patients in community practices and health care organizations.”


A No-Regrets Outlook

by American Senior Fitness Association

For many years, thoughtful writers have encouraged us to keep looking forward:

"A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams."
– John Barrymore

"It’s like this. Father Time keeps pitching the years at us. We swing and miss at a few. We hit a few out of the park. We try not to take any called strikes."
Robert Brault

"Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many."
– Author Unknown

"In the central place of every heart is a recording chamber. So long as it receives a message of beauty, hope, cheer and courage — so long are you young. When the wires are all down and our heart is covered with the snow of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then, and only then, are you grown old."
– Douglas MacArthur

"When grace is joined with wrinkles, it is adorable. There is an unspeakable dawn in happy old age."
– Victor Hugo