Posts Tagged ‘health’

Lighthearted Findings

Saturday, February 20th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

New research indicates that happiness may have a beneficial effect on heart health. The European Heart Journal, which is the flagship journal of the European Society of Cardiology, has issued the following news release describing the study:

Feb. 18, 2010 —

People who are usually happy, enthusiastic and content are less likely to develop heart disease than those who tend not to be happy, according to a study published in Europe’s leading cardiology journal, the European Heart Journal. The authors believe that the study is the first to show such an independent relationship between positive emotions and coronary heart disease.

Dr Karina Davidson, who led the research, said that although this was an observational study, her study did suggest that it might be possible to help prevent heart disease by enhancing people’s positive emotions. However, she cautioned that it would be premature to make clinical recommendations without clinical trials to investigate the findings further.

“We desperately need rigorous clinical trials in this area. If the trials support our findings, then these results will be incredibly important in describing specifically what clinicians and/or patients could do to improve health,” said Dr Davidson, who is the Herbert Irving Associate Professor of Medicine & Psychiatry and Director of the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University Medical Center (New York, USA).

Over a period of ten years, Dr Davidson and her colleagues followed 1,739 healthy adults (862 men and 877 women) who were participating in the 1995 Nova Scotia Health Survey. At the start of the study, trained nurses assessed the participants’ risk of heart disease and, with both self-reporting and clinical assessment, they measured symptoms of depression, hostility, anxiety and the degree of expression of positive emotions, which is known as “positive affect”.

Positive affect is defined as the experience of pleasurable emotions such as joy, happiness, excitement, enthusiasm and contentment.These feelings can be transient, but they are usually stable and trait-like, particularly in adulthood. Positive affect is largely independent of negative affect, so that someone who is generally a happy, contented person can also be occasionally anxious, angry or depressed.

After taking account of age, sex, cardiovascular risk factors and negative emotions, the researchers found that, over the ten-year period, increased positive affect predicted less risk of heart disease by 22% per point on a five-point scale measuring levels of positive affect expression (ranging from “none” to “extreme”).

Dr Davidson said: “Participants with no positive affect were at a 22% higher risk of ischaemic heart disease (heart attack or angina) than those with a little positive affect, who were themselves at 22% higher risk than those with moderate positive affect.

“We also found that if someone, who was usually positive, had some depressive symptoms at the time of the survey, this did not affect their overall lower risk of heart disease.

“As far as we know, this is the first prospective study to examine the relationship between clinically-assessed positive affect and heart disease.”

The researchers speculate about what could be the possible mechanisms by which positive emotions might be responsible for conferring long-term protection from heart disease. These include influence on heart rates, sleeping patterns and smoking cessation.

“We have several possible explanations,” said Dr Davidson. “First, those with positive affect may have longer periods of rest or relaxation physiologically. Baroreflex and parasympathetic regulation may, therefore, be superior in these persons, compared to those with little positive affect. Second, those with positive affect may recover more quickly from stressors, and may not spend as much time ‘re-living’ them, which in turn seems to cause physiological damage. This is speculative, as we are just beginning to explore why positive emotions and happiness have positive health benefits.”

She said that most successful interventions for depression include increasing positive affect as well as decreasing negative affect. If clinical trials supported the findings of this study, then it would be relatively easy to assess positive affect in patients and suggest interventions to improve it to help prevent heart disease. In the meantime, people reading about this research could take some simple steps to increase their positive affect.

“Like the observational finding that moderate wine consumption is healthy (and enjoyable), at this point ordinary people can ensure they have some pleasurable activities in their daily lives,” she said. “Some people wait for their two weeks of vacation to have fun, and that would be analogous to binge drinking (moderation and consistency, not deprivation and binging, is what is needed). If you enjoy reading novels, but never get around to it, commit to getting 15 minutes or so of reading in. If walking or listening to music improves your mood, get those activities in your schedule. Essentially, spending some few minutes each day truly relaxed and enjoying yourself is certainly good for your mental health, and may improve your physical health as well (although this is, as yet, not confirmed).”

In an accompanying editorial by Bertram Pitt, Professor of Internal Medicine, and Patricia Deldin, Associate Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, both at the University of Michigan School of Medicine (Michigan, USA), the authors pointed out that, currently, no-one knew whether positive affect had a direct or indirect causal role in heart disease, or whether there was a third, underlying factor at work, common to both conditions. Nor was it known for certain whether it was possible to modify and improve positive affect, and to what extent.

“Randomised controlled trials of interventions to increase positive affect in patients with cardiovascular disease are now underway and will help determine the effectiveness of increasing positive affect on cardiovascular outcome and will provide insight into the nature of the relationship between positive affect and cardiovascular disease,” they wrote.

“The ‘vicious cycle’ linking cardiovascular disease to major depression and depression to cardiovascular disease deserves greater attention from both the cardiovascular and psychiatric investigators. … These new treatments [to increase positive affect] could open an exciting potential new approach for treating patients with known cardiovascular disease who develop depression. If Davidson et al.’s observations and hypotheses stimulate further investigation regarding the effect of increased positive affect on physiological abnormalities associated with cardiovascular risk, perhaps it will be time for all of us to smile.”


Take Heart with “Fitgevity”

Saturday, February 20th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

SFA member Rudy Rich is spreading the word about enjoyable, productive aging. "It’s not just about long life or longevity; it’s about a long, fit life, or fitgevity," he explains in his bookFitgevity Lifestyle. An experienced personal trainer in Newport Beach, California, Rudy also holds advanced degrees in English. His illustrated 246-page soft-cover book neatly combines those areas of expertise. It provides interesting historical context regarding the aging process and discusses timely health and fitness issues in a reader-friendly way. Rudy also relates the inspiring personal stories of several individuals who exemplify the fitgevity lifestyle. Highly motivational, Fitgevity Lifestyle would be a fine gift for loved ones who recently made fitness-related New Year’s resolutions — as well as for already-avid physical fitness fans. For more information, click on


Atrial Fibrillation

Monday, February 1st, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

American Senior Fitness Association president Janie Clark, MA, is pleased to be a member of the new AFib Support Team, assisting persons who have been diagnosed with the heart rhythm disturbance atrial fibrillation. Janie serves as the team’s senior fitness specialist and recently joined her fellow team members — a cardiologist, a cardiological nurse, and a lifestyle gerontologist — on a special episode of Retirement Living Television’s "Healthline" series, which was dedicated to the subject of atrial fibrillation.

Led by host Kevin Soden, MD, the "Healthline" special explains the meaning of AFib, includes the touching stories of real-life patients, explores treatment options, and provides practical approaches for living successfully with the condition. For more information about the program, including short video excerpts, visit the Retirement Living Television website at

Below is an exciting news release describing the launch of the AFib Support Team initiative. It features links where you can see and hear support team members briefly discussing atrial fibrillation. It also includes a link to the AFib Support Team website, which supplies detailed information about this prevalent health concern: atrial fibrillation.


The AFib Support Team

Monday, February 1st, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

National Experts Team Up to
Help Americans with Atrial Fibrillation

“AFib Support Team” Offers Insights on Comprehensive
Approach to Management of Serious Heart Condition

Bridgewater, NJ — January 20, 2010 /PRNewswire/ — National medical and lifestyle experts have been brought together by sanofi-aventis U.S. to help aging Americans learn to live life more fully despite a serious and increasingly prevalent heart condition – atrial fibrillation (AFib), a type of irregular heartbeat. The “AFib Support Team,” which comprises a cardiologist, cardiovascular nurse, senior fitness expert and lifestyle gerontologist, will drive a national public awareness campaign that provides concrete guidance to help those with AFib manage their condition.

AFib worsens underlying cardiovascular disease and is associated with a five-fold increased risk for stroke, and doubles the risk of death. Hospitalization associated with AFib has increased dramatically (two-to-three fold) in recent years in the U.S. The condition takes an emotional, physical and financial toll; more than half of Americans with AFib find it disruptive to their lives. The AFib Support Team was created to help patients in the comprehensive management of AFib by offering practical advice and educational resources addressing the medical lifestyle and fitness challenges associated with their condition.

“The impact of atrial fibrillation goes well beyond physical health; it is a condition that affects patients’ everyday life,” said Support Team member and cardiologist Bradley P. Knight, M.D., Director of Cardiac Electrophysiology, Northwestern University. “As healthcare professionals, we understand the need to help patients address all aspects of the condition to effectively manage AFib and improve their overall well-being.”

The Support Team addresses issues including:

  • Understanding the various aspects of the disease
  • Questions to ask healthcare professionals during appointments
  • Preparing for travel
  • Developing a fitness plan with healthcare professionals
  • Managing stress, and balancing a career
  • Avoiding substances that can trigger AFib episodes
  • Working with a cardiovascular nurse to obtain information and support
  • Resources for patients with AFib developed by the AFib Support Team are available online at They include a guide to healthcare professional-patient dialogue and fact sheets to help patients understand how to live life more fully with AFib. Approximately 3.1 million Americans are diagnosed with AFib, and an estimated 13 percent of Americans over the age of 70 are living with the condition.

    “Older Americans with AFib can continue to live a full and active life, but they may need to make some modifications,” said Alexis Abramson, Ph.D., Lifestyle Gerontologist. “Our Support Team offers practical tips and advice for people with AFib to help them manage their disease and continue with their daily activities.”

    About the AFib Support Team

    The Support Team will also participate in events around the country, where people with AFib can interact with Team members and local experts to learn more about managing their condition and build their own local Support Team. The AFib Support team is sponsored by sanofi-aventis U.S LLC. Healthcare professionals and experts providing information on behalf of the AFib Support Team are retained and compensated for their services by sanofi-aventis U.S.

    The national AFib Support Team members are:

  • Bradley Knight, M.D. is a cardiologist specializing in heart rhythm disorders. Dr. Knight is an editorial consultant for a number of scientific cardiology and electrophysiology journals, a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and a Fellow of the Heart Rhythm Society.
  • Kathy Berra, MSN, ANP, FAANP, a cardiovascular nurse, currently serves as clinical director for the Stanford Heart Network at the Stanford Prevention Research Center. She is also a cardiovascular nurse practitioner at Cardiovascular Medicine and Coronary Interventions, Redwood City, California. Kathy is also past president of the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation and the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association where she currently sits on the Board of Directors. She co-authored Heart Attack: Advice for Patients by Patients, which was honored by Yale University Press as one of the top ten books about heart disease in 2002.
  • Alexis Abramson, Ph.D. is often cited as America’s leading, impassioned champion for the dignity and independence of those over 50. Dr. Abramson is an inspiring speaker, corporate consultant, successful author and award-winning entrepreneur and journalist. Abramson has frequently appeared as the on-air expert Gerontologist for NBC’s Today show and Weekend Today. Abramson holds both a master’s and a doctorate in Gerontology, which she received from the University of Southern California, the premier school of Gerontology in the world.
  • Janie Clark, M.A., a leading senior fitness authority, is president of the American Senior Fitness Association (ASFA), winner of the National Council on Aging 2009 Best Practice award for Professional Education Programming. She has more than 25 years’ experience in the senior health-fitness field.
  • About Atrial Fibrillation

    Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, seen by physicians and accounts for about one-third of hospital admissions for cardiac rhythm disturbances. Because the risk of AFib increases with age, the number of people affected is expected to rise dramatically as the U.S. population gets older. It also costs the nation approximately $6.65 billion annually, much of which could be attributed to the increased hospital in-patient, emergency and medical services utilization rates for people with AFib.

    About sanofi-aventis

    Sanofi-aventis U.S. is an affiliate of sanofi-aventis, a leading global pharmaceutical company that discovers, develops and distributes therapeutic solutions to help improve the lives of patients. Sanofiaventis is listed in Paris (Euronext: SAN) and in New York (NYSE: SNY).

    For more information, or


    Trunk Flexibility Linked to Arterial Health

    Saturday, January 16th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    The American Physiological Society (APS), established in 1887, defines physiology as “the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function to create health or disease.” Recently the APS published a study indicating the important relationship between flexibility and health. It suggests a simple way for middle-aged and older adults to assess how stiff their arteries are: Reach for their toes. The following APS press release describes that study, its findings, implications, and potential practical applications:

    BETHESDA, MD — How far can you reach beyond your toes from a sitting position — normally used to define the flexibility of a person’s body — may be an indicator of how stiff your arteries are.

    A study in the American Journal of Physiology has found that, among people 40 years old and older, performance on the sit-and-reach test could be used to assess the flexibility of the arteries. Because arterial stiffness often precedes cardiovascular disease, the results suggest that this simple test could become a quick measure of an individual’s risk for early mortality from heart attack or stroke.

    “Our findings have potentially important clinical implications because trunk flexibility can be easily evaluated,” said one of the authors, Kenta Yamamoto. “This simple test might help to prevent age-related arterial stiffening.”

    Healthy blood vessels are elastic, and elasticity helps to moderate blood pressure. Arterial stiffness increases with age and is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and death. Previous studies have established that physical fitness can delay age-related arterial stiffness, although exactly how that happens is not understood. The authors noted that people who keep themselves in shape often have a more flexible body, and they hypothesized that a flexible body could be a quick way to determine arterial flexibility.

    The researchers studies 526 healthy, non-smoking adults, 20 to 83 years old, with a body mass index of less than 30. They wanted to see whether flexibility of the trunk, as measured with the sit-and-reach test, is associated with arterial stiffness. The researchers divided the participants into three age groups:

  • Young (20-39 years old)
  • Middle-aged (40-59 years old)
  • Older (60-83 years old)
  • The researchers asked the participants to perform a sit-and-reach test. The volunteers sat on the floor, back against the wall, legs straight. They slowly reached their arms forward by bending at the waist. Based on how far they could reach, the researchers classified the participants as either poor- or high-flexibility.

    The researchers also measured blood pressure and the speed of a pulse of blood as it flowed through the body. They measured how long the pulse takes to travel between the arm and the ankle and between the neck and the leg. They also measured aortic pressure in some participants and tested the participants for cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular strength and endurance.

    The study found that trunk flexibility was a good predictor of artery stiffness among middle-aged and older participants, but not among the younger group. In middle-aged and older participants, they also found that systolic blood pressure (the peak pressure that occurs as the heart contracts) was higher in poor-flexibility than in high-flexibility groups.

    Why would the flexibility of the body be a good indicator of arterial stiffness? In the study, the authors speculate on why this would be. One possibility is that there is a cause and effect: the stretching exercises that provide flexibility to the body may also slow the age-related stiffening in the arteries. The study found that arterial stiffness among middle-aged and older people was associated with trunk flexibility but was independent of muscle strength and cardiorespiratory fitness (as measured by performance on an exercycle). In addition, they cited another recent study that found that middle-aged and older adults who began a regular stretch exercise program significantly improved the flexibility of their carotids (found in the neck).

    “Together with our results, these findings suggest a possibility that improving flexibility induced by the stretching exercise may be capable of modifying age-related arterial stiffening in middle-aged and older adults,” Dr. Yamamoto said. “We believe that flexibility exercise, such as stretching, yoga and Pilates, should be integrated as a new recommendation into the known cardiovascular benefits of regular exercise.”

    However, there are other possibilities as to why bodily flexibility should be an indicator of arterial stiffness. One possibility is that it is related to the higher blood pressure that was seen in the poor-flexibility group. Another possibility is that the amount of collagen and elastin, which makes the muscles flexible, also makes the arteries flexible. Further research is needed to understand whether there is a cause-effect relationship between flexibility and arterial stiffness, they said.

    The study “Poor trunk flexibility is associated with arterial stiffening” appears in the American Journal of Physiology — Heart and Circulatory Physiology. The authors are: Kenta Yamamoto of the University of North Texas and the National Institute of Health and Nutrition, Japan; Hiroshi Kawano, Yuko Gando and Mitsuru Higuchi of Waseda University, Japan; Motoyuki Iemitsu of International Pacific University, Japan; Haruka Murakami, Michiya Tanimoto, Yumi Ohmori, Izumi Tabata, and Motohiko Miyachi of the National Institute of Health and Nutrition; and Kiyoshi Sanada of Ritsumeikan University, Japan. The American Physiological Society (APS) published the study. Funding: Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (Japan) and Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (Japan).


    Household Activities Add Up

    Wednesday, January 6th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Paul Donohue, MD, writes a newspaper column named "To Your Good Health" which is published byThe News-Journal of Daytona Beach, Florida. Recently he addressed a question from an 89-year-old man and his 86-year-old wife. For them, running and jogging are not possible and even walking is becoming more difficult. However, both are still able to keep busy around their home and yard. The following information comes from Dr. Donohue’s response:

    In advanced age, exercise does need to be approached with prudent caution, which includes obtaining physician approval to participate. Even so, many forms of physical activity may be beneficial.

    One definition of exercise includes any activity that burns three to six times the number of calories that are spent while sitting quietly. On average, we burn 1.2 calories per minute when at rest (or about 70 calories per hour). How do housework and yardwork stack up when measured against that criterion? Many such tasks approach or exceed three times the resting calorie burn, as follows:

  • Typical general housekeeping chores — 4.8 calories per minute
  • Vacuuming — 3.2
  • Mopping floors — 4.2
  • Scrubbing floors — 7.3
  • Grocery shopping — 4.0
  • Preparing meals — 3.2
  • Raking leaves — 4.5
  • Mowing grass (push lawn mower) — 8.1
  • Exercise should raise one’s heart rate to a faster beat as compared to heart rate at rest. Ideally, this increased rate will be sustained for about 10 minutes at a time. However, if 10-minute bouts are not well-tolerated, then people should simply do what they can, with the goal of gradually building up to longer periods of activity. Eventually, total daily activity should reach 30 minutes, and that can be divided into three 10-minute sessions spaced out over the course of the day.


    Exercise and Knee Osteoarthritis

    Wednesday, January 6th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Muscle activation refers to the level of involvement of the muscle fibers in a skeletal muscle when it is working. Full activation occurs when all of the available fibers are used during a maximum-effort contraction. Many persons with knee osteoarthritis (OA) cannot fully activate their quadriceps (front thigh) muscles, which often are very weak.

    A recent study published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism addressed the problem. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh studied 111 subjects (minimum age: 40) with knee OA. Quadriceps strength and quadriceps activation (QA) were measured at baseline and after six weeks of training. The subjects were assigned to one of two specific training programs, both of which included quadriceps strengthening exercises.

    After six weeks, strength gains were indeed found among the subjects, but one particular hypothesis of the scientists was not confirmed. They had expected baseline QA to be a strong predictor of which participants would respond best to either exercise plan. Instead, there was a broad range of divergence in strength gains, leading the researchers to conclude that variables other than QA score may be more useful in predicting which patients with knee OA are likely to benefit the most from quadriceps strengthening exercises.