Exercise, brain training may boost brain health in old age

 Music with a beat makes seniors exercise longer

Exercise, controlling blood pressure and some forms of brain training might preserve brain health.(Kzenon/shutterstock.com)

WASHINGTON — Are you seeking steps to keep your brain healthy in old age?

There are no proven ways to stave off mental decline or dementia. But a new report says there are hints that exercise, controlling blood pressure and some forms of brain training might offer some help.

Without proof, the government should not begin a public health campaign pushing strategies for aging brain health, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine said in a report released Thursday.

But the public should be told the evidence is “encouraging,” though inconclusive, the report concluded. That way, people can use the information in deciding whether to invest time and money on different interventions.

The three highlighted strategies “do no harm,” said neuroscientist Alan Leshner, chairman of the National Academies committee. “At least two of them are really good for you” even if the brain link doesn’t pan out.

Scientists know that risky changes in the brain begin decades before symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other dementias become apparent, suggesting there’s a window when people might bolster their cognitive health. But the report says Americans face a “bewildering” array of products and strategies promoted for brain health despite little if any rigorous science to back them up.

The National Institute on Aging asked the prestigious National Academies to review the field. The committee said three interventions should be more closely studied to prove if they really can help:

— Getting high blood pressure under control, especially in middle age. People with hypertension need treatment anyway to prevent heart disease and strokes.

— Increased physical activity. Similar to the blood pressure advice, what’s good for the heart has long been deemed good for the brain.

— Cognitive training, specific techniques aimed at enhancing reasoning, problem solving, memory and speed of mental processing. While immediate task performance may improve, the committee said it’s not clear whether there’s lasting, meaningful benefit.

This is not merely “brain games” on your computer, Leshner said. The committee isn’t backing those costly computer-based programs. Indeed, the government fined one brain training company last year for misleading consumers.

Instead, the best study to date included training done in groups, providing social engagement too. And cognitively stimulating activities include such things as learning a new language, the report noted.

“Since generally keeping intellectually active appears to be good for you, do that,” Leshner advised, and if you’re considering a commercial program, ask the company to see studies backing it.

The Alzheimer’s Association had been awaiting the recommendations, and agreed that “more research is needed to determine what the optimal interventions should be,” said chief medical officer Maria Carrillo. “In the meantime, we recommend that people challenge their brains to maintain brain health.”

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Sitting for long can age women faster

IANS | Updated: Jan 23, 2017, 02.02 PM IST

Sitting for long can age women faster (Image Courtesy: Thinkstock)Sitting for long can age women faster (Image Courtesy: Thinkstock)
Elderly women who sit for more than 10 hours a day with low physical activity have cells that are biologically older by eight years compared to women who are less sedentary, a new study has found.

Researchers from University of California (UC) found that women who have a sedentary lifestyle have cells that are biologically older and invite cardiovascular diseases and diabetes as compared to women who are active and exercise regularly.

“Our study found cells age faster with a sedentary lifestyle. Chronological age doesn’t always match biological age,” said lead researcher Aladdin Shadyab from UC.

Elderly women with less than 40 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day and who remain sedentary for more than 10 hours per day have shorter telomeres — tiny caps found on the ends of DNA strands that protect chromosomes from deterioration and progressively shorten with age.

As a cell ages, its telomeres naturally shorten and fray and make a body prone to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and major cancers.

“We found that women who sat longer did not have shorter telomere length if they exercised for at least 30 minutes a day, the national recommended guideline,” said Shadyab in a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

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60% women unaware about age to begin heart screenings: Study

IANS | Jan 23, 2017, 05.41 PM IST

60% women unaware about age to begin heart screenings: Study (Image Courtesy: Thinkstock)60% women unaware about age to begin heart screenings: Study (Image Courtesy: Thinkstock)
Sixty per cent of women in US think of heart screenings as necessary only after age 40, whereas health experts recommend that screenings should begin in the 20s, a study has found.

According to the American Heart Associationrecommendations, screenings should start at 20, as the age may cause the onset of various heart-related disease.

“Women cannot wait until they’re 40 to start paying attention to their risk factors. They can begin developing atherosclerosis, plaque in their arteries, in their teenage and early twenties,” Carolina Demori, cardiologist at the Orlando Health Heart Institute in Florida, US, said in a statement.

“Therefore, it is vital to understand risk factors and make appropriate life changes as early as possible,” Demori added.

Screenings beginning at age 20 should include weight and body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, cholesterol levels, glucose levels and waist circumference, all of which are directly associated with heart health and can be controlled to minimise risks.

For the study, the team conducted a survey, in which more than a thousand women participated.

The results showed that the average age women thought they should begin getting heart screenings was 41.

Only 8 per cent of women were aware that screenings should begin at some point in their 20s, though few knew it was at age 20.

In addition to heart screenings, doctors suggests that women should eat a healthy diet and implement an exercise routine.

“The study is a wake-up call that there needs to be more education on heart health and more aggressive screenings to prevent a small issue from developing into life-threatening conditions,” Demori said.

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Having last baby after 35 makes women sharper in old age

IANS | Nov 18, 2016, 05.20 PM IST

Having last baby after 35 makes women sharper in old age (Representative image)Having last baby after 35 makes women sharper in old age (Representative image)
Women have better brainpower after menopause if they had their last baby after age 35, says a study.

“Based on the findings, we would certainly not recommend that women wait until they’re 35 to close their family, but the study provides strong evidence that there is a positive association between later age at last pregnancy and late-life cognition,” said lead author Roksana Karim, Assistant Professor at Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California in the US.

This is the first study to investigate the association between age at last pregnancy, which can be a marker of a later surge of pregnancy-related hormones, and cognitive function in later life, Karim added.

The main hormones at play are estrogen and progesterone. In animal studies, estrogen has a beneficial impact on brain chemistry, function and structure; progesterone is linked with growth and development of brain tissue, Karim said.

An outpouring of estrogen and progesterone, especially in later life, appears to be beneficial, Karim noted.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, included 830 women who, on average, were 60 years old.

Participants were given a series of tests that included assessments of verbal memory, psychomotor speed, attention and concentration, planning, visual perception, and memory.

The researchers found that postmenopausal women who had their last pregnancy after 35 had better verbal memory — remembering a list of words or retelling a story after some distraction.

The study found that other reproductive events were also important to later life cognition. More time between first and last period — longer reproductive life — proved valuable for executive function.

“Starting your period early means you have higher levels of the female sex hormone being produced by the ovaries,” Karim said.

“Girls are receiving the optimal levels early, so it’s possible that their brain structures are better developed compared to those who are exposed to estrogen levels associated with menstrual cycles at a later age,” Karim noted.

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Women are sexually active in old age: Study

Visible signs of ageing may predict risk of heart disease (Thinkstock photos/Getty Images)Visible signs of ageing may predict risk of heart disease (Thinkstock photos/Getty Images)

Age is just a number and it has nothing to do with one’s sexual desire as a recent study has found that older women are sexually active beyond their seventh decade of life.

The research suggested that at least one in seven women aged 65 to 79 years has hypoactive sexual desire dysfunction (HSDD).

In the study, more than 1,500 Australian women were assessed for sexual function and sexual distress as defined by the Female Sexual Function Index and the Female Sexual Distress Scale-Revised.

The group consisted of 52.6 per cent partnered women, with a mean age of 71 years. Within this group, 88 per cent were found to have low sexual desire, 15.5 per cent had sexually related personal distress, and 13.6 per cent had HSDD, which is defined as the presence of both low sexual desire and sexually related personal distress. This percentage was higher than what had previously been reported for women in this age group and similar to the prevalence reported for younger women.

The independent factors included vaginal dryness during intercourse in the past month, having moderate to severe depressive symptoms, and having symptomatic pelvic floor dysfunction.

“This study demonstrates that healthcare providers need to have honest and open discussions with their patients as they age with regard to desire, mood, vaginal dryness, and pelvic floor issues to determine whether these factors are affecting a woman’s desire or ability to be sexual,” says Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton.

The study has been published in Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society.(ANI)

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Men’s,long,working,hours,,short,sleep,may,harm,health,in,old,age

 

Men’s long working hours, short sleep may harm health in old age (Getty Images)Men’s long working hours, short sleep may harm health in old age (Getty Images)

Working long hours and skimping on sleep in midlife may lead to poorer physical health in old age, according to a study from Finland.

A quarter-century study of Finnish businessmen found those who worked more than 50 hours a week and slept less than 47 hours weekly when they were middle aged were in worse physical health as old men than peers who had healthier work and sleep habits when they were in their prime.

“The results are in line with what we hypothesized, but we were not sure if we would be able to detect these long-term associations,” said lead author Dr. Mikaela Birgittavon Bonsdorff of the University of Jyvaskyla.

She and her coauthors examined a very unique cohort of old businessmen, Dr. von Bonsdorff told Reuters Health by email.

The researchers used data from the Helsinki Businessmen Study to follow the health outcomes for more than 3,000 white men born between 1919 and 1934. About 1,500 of the men had provided clinical characteristics of health, self-rated health, working hours and sleep duration in 1974 when they were in their mid to late 40s, on average, and completed health related quality of life surveys in the year 2000, when most were in their 60s and 70s.

During their working years, nearly half of the original group of men had what researchers considered normal working hours of less than 50 hours per week and 352 men worked more than 50 hours a week. Similar proportions of men had normal sleep of at least 47 hours per week, versus shorter sleep totals.

Researchers found that men with long work and short sleep or long work and normal sleep in midlife had poorer scores for physical functioning, vitality and general health than those with normal work and normal sleep, according to the results published October 25 in the journal Age and Ageing.

Midlife smoking and self-rated poor health at that time explained some of the association with the results at older ages, but not all.

“My thought is that official working hours are not that long today but the time that people actually work (e.g. email etc.) is not included in the official working hours and thus my thought is that people actually today work quite long hours,” Dr. von Bonsdorff said. “I think that this is true for several professions, particularly for white-collar jobs, businessmen, entrepreneurs and managers.”

Short sleep increases stress and strain, which are important aspects of quality of life, she said, and sleep problems might be related to an unhealthier lifestyle as well.

Professionals with disturbed sleep or experiencing sleep deprivation will experience physical, cognitive and emotional changes, in addition to a drop in immune function, said Dr. Marco Tulio de Mello of Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, who was not part of the new study.

“This is an exciting study because the follow-up is unusually long, 26 years,” said Dr. Mika Kivimaki at University College London in the U.K. who also was not part of the new study. “It also adds a new element to the research on long working hours as overwork in combination with short sleep captures a stressful lifestyle much better than long working hours alone.”

The effects of working life may persist into older ages and affect the quality of retirement, Dr. Kivimaki told Reuters Health by email.

“The results indicate that it is important to rest if working long hours,” and employers should promote healthy living habits which contribute to better sleep quality, Dr. von Bonsdorff said.

How Human Brains ‘Slack’ With Age, Explains Study

How Human Brains 'Slack' With Age, Explains Study

LONDON: Along with our skin that loses the firmness and elasticity of the youth, our brain too starts to sag as we age, researchers say.

A recent study found that as humans age, their brain folds and the tension on the cerebral cortex — the outer layer of neural tissue in our brains — appears to decrease.

Previous research has shown that this folding of the cortex across mammalian species follows a universal law — that is, regardless of size and shape, they all fold in the same way.

“Our study has shown that we can use this same law to study changes in the human brain,” said lead author Yujiang Wang from the Newcastle University in Britain.

However, this effect was more pronounced in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers said.
“In Alzheimer’s disease, this effect is observed at an earlier age and is more pronounced. The next step will be to see if there is a way to use the changes in folding as an early indicator of disease,” Wang added.

The study also found that male and female brains differ in size, surface area, and the degree of folding.

Indeed, female brains tend to be slightly less folded than male brains of the same age. Despite this, male and female brains are shown to follow exactly the same law, the researchers said.

The study sheds light on the underlying mechanisms which affect brain folding and could be used in the future to help diagnose brain diseases, the researchers observed.

“More work is needed in this area but it does suggest that the effect Alzheimer’s disease has on the folding of the brain is akin to premature ageing of the cortex,” Wang noted in the paper that appeared in the journal PNAS.

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How the new age of antivirus software will protect your PC

cyberattack laptop arrows war fight

Antivirus software ain’t what it used to be. The sneaky, sophisticated security threats your PC faces now have gone far beyond what traditional software can do. The future of protecting your PC will require a multi-pronged approach involving vigilant updates, bug bounties, and artificial intelligence.

Like any software, antivirus is susceptible to bugs. Earlier this summer, Google’s Project Zero discovered serious flaws in enterprise and consumer products from Symantec that allowed malicious actors to take control of a computer. Symantec provided updates for the bugs, but some required manual installation from users, who needed to be in the know.

Symantec isn’t alone. Project Zero regularly publishes findings that reveal security flaws in software made by Kaspersky Lab, McAfee, and FireEye, to name a few. Brian Soldato of NSS Labs, a security product testing organization, says his company has seen “unprecedented numbers” of vulnerabilities that are bypassing security software.

Patch, patch, patch

“Unfortunately, for the average consumer there aren’t steps to take,” said Udi Yavo, CTO of security firm enSilo, which has also been a thorn in the side of AV products through its security research.

It’s up to security vendors to provide updates, but consumers need to make patching a priority, even with AVs. You should raise an eyebrow if your security vendor isn’t providing regular updates.

“One of the biggest problems we find when these threats bypass [the AV] is they’re not patching often enough,” added Soldato. “Most of the time, if they had patched they would never have been infected in the first place.”

Symantec is worth noting for how openly it communicates its patching schedule. But once a particularly nasty bug comes along, these patching practices can be thrown into disarray.

“They’re responding but in my opinion they’re not responding fast enough,” said Soldato. In some cases, vendors are taking weeks to develop complex fixes. “Quite frankly, that’s too long,” he warned, giving bad actors plenty of time to take advantage.

Bug bounties will drive innovation

Security firms are now looking for outside help with bug bounty programs, which motivate the security research community to find vulnerabilities in exchange for money and bragging rights. Kaspersky Lab is the most recent AV maker to implement such a program. A spokesperson for the company said the bug bounty “supplements our overall existing strategy aimed at making our software products more secure.”

By making code available for audit, these companies open their AVs to more criticism. Ultimately, however, greater collaboration on security will lead to a stronger product.

Many AV makers acknowledge the need to innovate. Carbon Black bought “next-generation” AV startup Confer in July, and SparkCognition launched DeepArmor, which meshes “advanced artificial intelligence techniques” into antivirus to prepare for threats around the corner. Machine learning algorithms can differentiate between harmless and malicious binary files, trying to predict their behavior rather than just detecting a bad file that’s already present.

We should expect to see the traditional branding of antivirus fade away, claimed Morey Haber, VP of technology at BeyondTrust, a cyber security consulting firm. He predicts it will be replaced with labels like “endpoint protection platform” and “advanced threat protection.” But flaws will always persist.

“In reality, [security systems] are still written by people, and people make mistakes,” Haber added. “It is just a matter of time before a flaw is found in one of these new systems that will draw us back to the same conversation we are having now.”

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Hyderabad HC recommends MCI to remove minimum 17-year age limit for MBBS admission

MBBS admission age limit to reduce?

The Hyderabad High Court has recommended that the Medical Council of India (MCI) and the central government should revamp the minimum age limit set (17 years) for admission to MBBS course.

Earlier a petition was filed by V.S.V. Dheeraj who had studied a course equivalent to MBBS from a foreign university. He wanted to write the eligibility test conducted by the MCI so that his degree can be recognised by the Indian Medical Association.
According to Deccan Chronicle report, the MCI rejected his eligibility certificate to attend the screening test of the National Board of Examination stating he did not complete 17 years when he joined the MBBS. The judge directed the authorities to permit him to write the eligibility test and advised authorities to reconsider the issue of age limit of 17 years.

This case of the petitioner was rejected on the ground that he had not applied for eligibility certificate before commencing the MBBS.

While allowing the petition, Justice Suresh Kumar said, “The regulations are of the year 1997 and now we are moving towards e-courts, paperless courts and appreciating any of the citizens of this country, who does some out of the routine or anti-stream. Even in sports, boys and girls aged 16 and 17 are bagging medals for their respective countries.

(Read: Delhi High Court seeks AAP government reply to plea on ‘Chunauti 2018’ scheme)

In that case, we appreciate and celebrate that at such a young age, he/she has attained this position. In such a situation, the age of 17 years for admission in MBBS has no meaning.”

The judge then ordered the MCI to issue eligibility certificate to the petitioner within two weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of the order, while directing the registry to send a copy of the same to the Secretary, Public Health System Centres, GoI so that talented students may not face the difficulty faced by the petitioner.

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HPV vaccine can protect women across a broad age range

A research paper published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases reported that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is safe and efficacious across a wide age range of women. The international study found that it protects against HPV infection in women older than 26 years. Vaccination programs worldwide currently target routine vaccination of women 26 years and younger.

The study recruited women in 12 countries across four continents. Cosette Wheeler, PhD, at The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center, was the lead author of the report.

The human papillomaviruses cause cancer of the cervix, anus, and middle throat. Five types of HPV account for about 85 percent of all invasive cervical cancer cases. HPV vaccines are expected to prevent most of these cancer cases.

Many countries routinely vaccinate girls and boys 25 years and younger, although vaccination rates in the United States remain low. In the US, only about 40 percent of girls and 21 percent of boys receive the three-dose vaccination series. The earlier the vaccine is given, the more efficacious it can be.

This study focused on the benefit of vaccinating women 26 years and older. Infection with HPV can take place at any time throughout adulthood and women in this age group may have already been exposed to HPV. The study showed that women in this age group were still protected from HPV infections.

The scientists followed each woman for four to seven years. They found that the vaccine protected the women against HPV infections during the follow-up period and that the women were protected from many types of HPV across a broad age range. These study results are essential to new approaches in cancer prevention, particularly those that are investigating combined approaches of cervical screening and vaccination in adult women.

Cosette Wheeler, PhD is a UNM Regents Professor in the Departments of Pathology and Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. She holds the Victor and Ruby Hansen Surface Endowed Chair in Translational Medicine and Public Health. Her New Mexico research group has contributed for over 20 years to understanding the molecular epidemiology of human papillomaviruses (HPV) in cervical precancer and cancer among Native American, Hispanic and non-Hispanic women of the southwest and on a global basis. She has overseen a number of large-scale multidisciplinary population-based projects that have ultimately enabled advances in primary (HPV vaccines) and secondary cervical cancer prevention (Pap and HPV tests).


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The above post is reprinted from materials provided byUniversity of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center.Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Cosette M Wheeler, S Rachel Skinner, M Rowena Del Rosario-Raymundo, Suzanne M Garland, Archana Chatterjee, Eduardo Lazcano-Ponce, Jorge Salmerón, Shelly McNeil, Jack T Stapleton, Céline Bouchard, Mark G Martens, Deborah M Money, Swee Chong Quek, Barbara Romanowski, Carlos S Vallejos, Bram ter Harmsel, Vera Prilepskaya, Kah Leng Fong, Henry Kitchener, Galina Minkina, Yong Kuei Timothy Lim, Tanya Stoney, Nahida Chakhtoura, Margaret E Cruickshank, Alevtina Savicheva, Daniel Pereira da Silva, Murdo Ferguson, Anco C Molijn, Wim G V Quint, Karin Hardt, Dominique Descamps, Pemmaraju V Suryakiran, Naveen Karkada, Brecht Geeraerts, Gary Dubin, Frank Struyf. Efficacy, safety, and immunogenicity of the human papillomavirus 16/18 AS04-adjuvanted vaccine in women older than 25 years: 7-year follow-up of the phase 3, double-blind, randomised controlled VIVIANE study. The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 2016; DOI:10.1016/S1473-3099(16)30120-7
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