Posts Tagged ‘research’

Let Go of Regrets

Friday, June 22nd, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

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.

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Exercise and Stroke Recovery

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

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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Social Overeating

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

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

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

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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    Obesity and Colon Cancer

    Tuesday, January 10th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Here at the start of the new year, many of us pledge to exercise more and shed extra, unwanted inches. Recent research provides some added incentive to stick with those resolutions. Reporting on a study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology, Reuters Health Information has summarized its results as follows: Older persons who are heavy, particularly around the middle, appear to be at higher risk for developing colon cancer than do leaner older adults. There is also evidence that physical exercise plays a significant role regarding that risk, especially in women.

    The project followed approximately 120,000 Dutch subjects (ages 55 to 69) for 16 years, during which roughly two percent developed colorectal cancer and most of those were ultimately diagnosed with colon cancer.

    For men, the findings were rather straightforward:

  • The risk for men who were obese or significantly overweight at the beginning of the study was 25 percent higher than that for men in normal weight range;
  • Men with the greatest belly girth measurements had 63 percent more risk than those with slimmer waistlines.
  • For women, the findings were more complicated:

  • Women of large girth who exercised little were 83 percent more prone to develop colon cancer than those with trimmer middles who exercised more than 90 minutes a day;
  • However, a large middle was only connected with higher risk in women who also exercised little (fewer than 30 minutes a day).
  • "One of our more intriguing observations," the study’s lead author Laura Hughes told Reuters, "was that abdominal fat was associated with colorectal cancer in women only when combined with low exercise levels."

    Exactly why this may be true is not yet well understood. Hughes noted that calorie balance (that is, one’s dietary caloric consumption versus one’s caloric expenditure via physical exercise) could be important. She recommends that women concentrate on living an overall healthy lifestyle, as opposed to focusing mainly on body weight.

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    More on Obesity

    Tuesday, January 10th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Despite the very best of intentions, a New Year’s resolution to lose body fat may be more difficult for some people to fulfill than for others. New brain scan research indicates that in obese persons, neural activity in the brain may encourage over-eating. Writing in a recent issue of Science News, Janet Raloff explained the problem:

    After a hungry person eats a meal, blood sugar glucose levels return to normal. In people of normal weight, this causes the shut-down of a neural system that promotes positive feelings toward food. It is the brain’s way of acknowledging satiation and signaling that the need for calories has been met. At that point, normal-weight persons stop eating.

    But in obese persons, the system may not turn off following a meal. No matter how much they have just eaten, it still lights up at the sight of rich, high-calorie fare. This can occur even though blood sugar glucose levels have returned to normal. It may contribute to the persistence of obesity in some individuals who have tried and failed repeatedly to lose body fat.

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    New Hope for Humans and Horses

    Monday, December 5th, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Like other senior fitness professionals, Janie Clark, president of the American Senior Fitness Association (SFA), has served many clients with osteoarthritis. In addition, Janie’s all-time favorite mare, the late great “Squall Moon,” suffered from the condition during her senior years. So here at SFA we are especially pleased to share the following University of Florida Health Science Center news release describing new progress in the fight against osteoarthritis:

    University of Florida researchers are developing a gene therapy technique that could help both humans and horses fight osteoarthritis, a debilitating condition that causes inflammation and deterioration of the joints. The goal is to create a one-time treatment that works long term.

    The research team received a highly competitive one-year, $900,000 grant from the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease to fund the work. The new effort will expand laboratory studies into trials that better approximate osteoarthritis in humans.

    The work will involve the use of viruses, called adeno-associated viruses, or AAV, as vehicles to deliver genetic material to the joints of horses, where it would produce a therapeutic protein directly at the site of the disease.

    “We’re uniquely poised to do this study, because UF has a leading program in equine medicine and research and is one of the homes of AAV technology,” said principal investigator Steven Ghivizzani, Ph.D., a professor of orthopaedics and rehabilitation in the UF College of Medicine, and a member of the UF Genetics Institute. Researchers at UF’s Powell Gene Therapy Center are among the pioneers of AAV technology and gene therapy applications for a number of diseases./p>

    Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, is a chronic condition that affects large weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the joints that usually allows bones to move smoothly over each other wears away, causing bones to rub. The result is pain, stiffness and swelling. About 27 million Americans age 25 and older have the disease, according to the National Institutes of Health. The economic cost of arthritis and other rheumatic conditions is estimated at close to $130 billion a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    There is no cure for osteoarthritis.

    Joint replacement surgery can help ease the disabling effects of the condition. The few medicines that exist for osteoarthritis mostly offer only limited symptom relief. In addition, those drugs can have unwanted consequences. Corticosteroid injections, for example, which are given to both people and horses, also suppress other healthy activities in the joint, such as processes important for healing. The injections also have to be administered repeatedly, which increases the chance of infection.

    In contrast, the new gene therapies being developed at UF would require a one-time treatment and would not hinder the body’s healing processes.

    Research suggests that the pain, joint inflammation and loss of cartilage associated with osteoarthritis are linked to a protein called interleukin-1. A therapeutic gene used to treat the arthritic joints produces a second protein that naturally counteracts the effects of interleukin-1, but that has not yet translated into effective treatments for patients because of difficulty getting high enough concentrations inside affected joints.

    The UF researchers are devising a gene therapy approach that would allow continued production of therapeutic protein within the joints, directly at the disease site. Unlike existing drugs, the potential one-time treatment would not just address symptoms, but change the course of the disease.

    “Dr. Ghivizzani is at the forefront of trying to develop new technologies for treating osteoarthritis and other joint diseases by gene therapy,” said Christopher Evans, D.Sc., Ph.D., theMaurice Müller professor of orthopaedic surgery at Harvard Medical School, who is not involved in the UF study. “There’s a lot riding on this.”

    Previous studies in small animals such as rats demonstrated that delivery of the gene therapy resulted in meaningful levels of gene expression within affected joints. The researchers will examine how that translates to the larger joints of horses, which are more similar to human joints in terms of size, tissue structure and weight-bearing stance.

    The new studies will determine the therapy dose that can be given safely, how much of the therapeutic protein is produced in the joint — and for how long — and the effectiveness of the therapy.

    The researchers will use techniques such as a minimally invasive procedure called arthroscopy, imaging studies such as MRI and X-ray, as well as hands-on clinical evaluations to check for inflammation and cartilage degradation. Motion capture analysis will help with evaluation of changes in gait, a good measure of pain.

    “We hope that this will be at least the first step in a therapy that will benefit both people and animals,” said Patrick Colahan, D.V.M., a board-certified equine surgeon in the UF College of Veterinary Medicine and co-investigator on the study. “It has the potential to help lots of different species, and from a veterinarian’s perspective, that’s what we’d like.”

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    Short-Term Memory Loss and Alzheimer’s

    Friday, September 30th, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    A study of screening tests for Alzheimer’s disease was recently published in the Archives of General Psychiatry and discussed by MedlinePlus, a publication of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Somewhat surprisingly, the Spanish researchers who conducted the investigation found short-term memory loss to be a stronger predictor of Alzheimer’s disease than variables known as "biomarkers" (for example, changes in the composition of cerebrospinal fluid or in brain volume).

    Short-term memory loss is an important indication of mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Persons with MCI may find it difficult to recall what they did the day before, may frequently lose their train of thought, and/or may feel challenged when trying to find their way around places that are actually familiar to them. These traits may also be accompanied by depression, anxiety, or uncharacteristic irritation and aggression. MCI does not necessarily progress to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, and persons with MCI often can function in a satisfactory manner despite some minor degree of memory loss.

    The study involved more than 500 subjects, as follows:

  • 116 with MCI who developed Alzheimer’s within two years;
  • 201 with MCI who did not develop Alzheimer’s;
  • 197 with no cognitive problems.
  • The methods undertaken included:

  • Conducting measures of delayed memory;
  • Analyzing cerebrospinal fluid samples collected at baseline and then annually for two years;
  • Analyzing blood samples collected at baseline for genes associated with Alzheimer’s disease;
  • Assessing brain volume and cortical thickness through the use of magnetic resonance imaging.
  • Findings included the following:

  • The presence of MCI at baseline was a stronger predictor of Alzheimer’s disease than were most of the biomarkers;
  • Two measures of delayed memory — as well as the cortical thickness of the left middle temporal lobe — were linked with a higher risk of MCI developing into Alzheimer’s disease.
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    Stroke Prevention

    Friday, September 30th, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Here’s more important news on the subject of avoiding stroke: Researchers have discovered that aggressive medical therapy could help prevent stroke, perhaps even more effectively than surgery involving balloon angioplasty and stent insertion. For details, see the following news release from the University of Florida Health Science Center in Gainesville.

    To prevent a common type of stroke, intensive medical therapy could be better by itself than in combination with surgery that props open affected arteries. But it remains to be seen whether the apparent advantage will prove true over the long term.

    The findings, from a national clinical trial conducted by University of Florida researchers and colleagues, were published online in The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday, Sept. 7.

    Against expectations, the short-term risk of stroke and related death was twice as high in some cases for patients whose diseased arteries were widened via balloon angioplasty and stent insertion, compared with patients who received medical therapy alone. Although the 30-day risk of stroke for the stenting patients is concerning, long-term results could be more favorable, the researchers said.

    “Five years from now, who will be doing better — the patients who are being medically managed, or those who received a stent?” said study co-author Michael F. Waters, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Shands at UF Stroke Program, who along with Brian L. Hoh, M.D., the William Merz associate professor of neurological surgery in the College of Medicine, led the UF portion of the trial.

    The study will have a substantial impact on clinical practice and research, the researchers said, because it is the first randomized stroke trial to pit stenting against nonsurgical treatment for symptomatic intracranial atherosclerosis, a type of stroke caused by artery blockage in the brain. Early results clearly show that intensive medical management is key to improving health, the researchers said.

    “This study provides an answer to a longstanding question by physicians — what to do to prevent a devastating second stroke in a high-risk population. Although technological advances have brought intracranial stenting into practice, we have now learned that when tested in a large group this particular device did not lead to a better health outcome,” said Walter Koroshetz, M.D., deputy director of the NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, which funded the clinical trial.
    Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a stroke. Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the U.S. Almost 800,000 people a year have a new or recurring stroke, according to the American Heart Association. With higher than average rates of stroke and related deaths, parts of the southeastern U.S. are together termed the “Stroke Belt.”

    Patients with the type of stroke known as symptomatic intracranial atherosclerosis do not respond well to existing treatments. One-quarter of those patients have another stroke within 12 months, and the risk of additional strokes continues in subsequent years. Doctors are unsure what the best course of treatment is.
    To find out, the UF researchers and colleagues launched a clinical trial, nicknamed SAMMPRIS, at 50 sites around the country, including at the Medical University of South Carolina, the lead site. The study recruited 451 participants age 30 to 80 who had at least 70 percent narrowing in the arteries in the brain, and had experienced symptoms within the previous 30 days. UF recruited the second-highest number of patients among all sites, through its stroke program, which has been designated a Comprehensive Stroke Center by the Agency for Health Care Administration.

    Patients in one group were randomly assigned to receive intensive management involving smoking cessation and medications for blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and blood-clot prevention. A second group of patients had that same medical treatment but also had balloon angioplasty and stent implantation into the affected brain artery to improve blood flow.

    Almost 15 percent of patients who received stents had a stroke or died within 30 days of enrolling in the study, compared with just under 6 percent of patients in the medical therapy group. The stark difference between the groups persisted almost a year, by which time about 21 percent of patients who had received stents had had negative effects, compared with 12 percent in the medical group.

    The researchers initially thought that patients who received stents would have fared better, given the successful use of similar procedures in clinical practice at the Shands at UF Stroke Program and other medical centers.

    But the striking difference between the two patient groups prompted the study’s independent safety monitoring body to call off new recruitment. The researchers will, however, continue to monitor previously enrolled patients for the next two years.

    It’s not unusual for surgical patients to have more complications at first, the researchers said. That’s because the invasiveness of surgery poses an inherent risk regardless of the illness being treated.

    “The real question is, is there a benefit to patients over the long term,” said study co-author and co-principal investigator Hoh, who is an associate professor of radiology and neuroscience in the UF College of Medicine. “If you think about it, when people are concerned about stroke, it’s not just their first month that matters, so we’re waiting to see what the longer-term results will be.”

    Over time, improvement of stent design and honing of surgical techniques could help improve outcomes for patients.
    “This is certainly not the final say on managing this disease,” Waters said. “This is another piece of the puzzle that helps to guide our hand.”

    The University of Florida Health Science Center – the most comprehensive academic health center in the Southeast – is dedicated to high-quality programs of education, research, patient care and public service. The Health Science Center encompasses the colleges of Dentistry, Public Health and Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Veterinary Medicine, as well as the Veterinary Hospitals and an academic campus in Jacksonville offering graduate education programs in dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy. Patient care activities, under the banner UF&Shands, are provided through teaching hospitals and a network of clinics in Gainesville and Jacksonville. The Health Science Center also has a statewide presence through satellite medical, dental and nursing clinics staffed by UF health professionals; and affiliations with community-based health-care facilities stretching from Hialeah and Miami to the Florida Panhandle.

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    Stick With It

    Monday, May 23rd, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    The passage of time can be a good thing under the right circumstances. That’s the take-away from recent research conducted by cardiologist Paul Bhella of the JPS Health Network. He found that a lifelong (or long-term) devotion to physical activity can preserve the heart tissue of senior citizens – to a degree, in fact, that is comparable or superior to that of younger, healthy persons who don’t work out, according to a report by Alex Branch of the McClatchy-Tribune.

    By now most people know that physical exercise is heart-healthy. But some may fear that they started their fitness programs too late in life to do them any good. Over time, the human heart loses mass and elasticity, which increases the risk of heart failure. But here at SFA, we emphasize that it is never too late to get going and reap worthwhile physiological and psychosocial benefits.

    At the annual meeting of the
    American College of Cardiology in April, 2011, Dr. Bhella discussed his research team’s findings. They compared the hearts of subjects over age 65 who had exercised different amounts (if at all) during their lives with the hearts of subjects under 35 who, while healthy, were physically inactive. MRI results showed that youthful heart mass was maintained in the older adults who had habitually exercised four or five times per week. Better still, exercising six or seven times per week not only preserved mass, but also promoted new mass – exceeding that of youngsters (ages 25 to 34) who didn’t exercise. Similar outcomes were observed regarding heart elasticity.

    For the study’s purposes, “exercise” was defined as aerobic activity, such as walking or cycling, generally performed for more than 20 minutes per session. Importantly, a “lifelong” commitment to exercise did not necessarily mean uninterrupted physical activity since childhood – or even since high school. Most of the senior citizens with notably desirable heart mass and elasticity levels had been physically active for about 20 to 25 years. That suggests that middle-aged and older persons can gain greatly by embarking on a regular program of physical exercise.

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