Our Friday Song of the Week – I Put a Spell on You
Our Friday Song of the Week – I Put a Spell on You
Exercise May Help Keep Seniors Moving Longer Despite Old Age Brain Decline
Older people who are physically active may be protecting themselves from the effects of small areas of brain damage that can affect their movement abilities, according to a study published in Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
Many older people have small areas of damage in their brains seen on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as white matter hyperintensities. Higher levels of this damage have been linked to more problems with movement, such as difficulty walking. But this new study found that people who were the most physically active did not have a drop-off in their movement abilities, even when they had high levels of brain damage.
“These results underscore the importance of efforts to encourage a more active lifestyle in older people to prevent movement problems, which is a major public health challenge,” said study author Debra A. Fleischman, PhD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “Physical activity may create a ‘reserve’ that protects motor abilities against the effects of age-related brain damage.”
The study involved 167 people with an average age of 80. The participants wore movement monitors on their wrists for up to 11 days to measure both exercise and non-exercise activity. They also took 11 tests of their movement abilities. MRI scans were used to determine the volume of white matter hyperintensities in the brain.
Fleischman noted that the study does not determine whether physical activity causes people to preserve their movement abilities; it only shows the association.
Taking Antidepressant? Could Help Your Heart.
I am not sure I really like this study. A new study found that screening for and treating depression could help to reduce the risk of heart disease in patients with moderate to severe depression. I am all for treating depression but I also know that antidepressants are the most prescribed medication in this country. And I would hate to see studies like this unnecessarily increase the use of them.
Researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City analyzed the health records and rates of death, coronary artery disease and stroke of more than 26,000 patients treated in the statewide network of health centers over a three-year period. Patients completed a nine-question depression screening questionnaire, which assessed such factors as mood, sleep and appetite, to determine their level of depressive symptoms. Based on the questionnaires, researchers identified 5,311 patients as having moderate to severe depression and 21,517 patients as having no to mild depression.
The study found patients with moderate to severe depression who took antidepressants alone had a lower risk of death, coronary artery disease and stroke than patients with moderate to severe depression who did not take antidepressant or statin medications. Taking statins alone or in combination with antidepressants was not associated with a significant risk reduction in this group of patients.
“What I take away from this study is that screening and treatment of depressive symptoms should be a high priority,” said Heidi May, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., a cardiovascular epidemiologist at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, Salt Lake City, and the study’s lead author. “Antidepressants were not associated with a reduced cardiovascular risk in people with little or no depression, but in moderately to severely depressed people, antidepressants were shown to significantly improve cardiovascular outcomes.”
Depression is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
The researchers excluded from the analysis patients with known cardiovascular disease such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or a previous heart attack or stroke. They also excluded those who were already taking antidepressants when they completed the questionnaire.
Although the study did not directly investigate how antidepressants might improve cardiovascular health, May said the link could be related to behavioral changes.
“Antidepressants might have relevant physiological benefits, but I also think that improving a person’s mood can contribute to a cascade of behavioral changes that improve cardiovascular health,” May said. “For example, people who are having depressive symptoms may not be as inclined to exercise, practice good health habits or comply with health advice. Using an antidepressant to reduce depressive symptoms might also help people better take care of their heart health.”
An estimated one in 10 adults suffers from depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Patients with depression have a two- to four-times greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared to those without depression.
Our Friday Song of the Week – Come Fly With Me
Turn Down the Music I Can’t Think; Background Music Hinders Memory
A Georgia Institute of Technology study challenged younger and older adults to listen to music while trying to remember names. College-aged participants had no problems – the music didn’t affect their performance. But the older adults remembered 10 percent fewer names when listening to background music or musical rain as compared to silence. The findings could have implications for senior living centers and people who prefer to hold meetings away from the office.
The Georgia Tech researchers wanted to replicate everyday life because music and background noise are everywhere. Their study tested the effects on associative memory, which includes the ability to put a face with a name and remember it.
Study participants looked at a series of faces and names and were asked if the person “looked like” the assigned name. The faces were shown again a few minutes later. Participants had to determine whether the name and face combinations were the same as before. Sometimes people did the test in silence. Other times they listened to musical rain or non-lyrical rock music, including lesser-known songs from Eric Clapton, Jefferson Airplane and Rush.
“Both age groups agreed that the music was distracting,” said Sarah Reaves, the Georgia Tech psychology graduate student who led the study. “But only the older adults struggled while it was playing in the background.”
Reaves and her advisor, School of Psychology Assistant Professor Audrey Duarte, linked the results with the well-known cocktail party effect, a phenomenon that allows people to solely focus their attention on one conversation even while surrounded by multiple conversations or loud music.
“Older adults have trouble ignoring irrelevant noises and concentrating,” says Duarte, who oversees Georgia Tech’s Memory and Aging Lab. “Associative memory also declines with age. As we get older, it’s harder to remember what name went with a face or where a conversation took place.”
Reaves notes that the study could help workers in assisted living centers as they plan activities.
“They should be mindful of their surroundings. Maybe employees should turn off music during learning activities or hold them in a quiet room,” she said. “Similarly, older adults who struggle to concentrate while meeting with co-workers at a coffee shop, for example, should schedule meetings in quieter locations. When people get lost while driving, it’s probably best to turn off the radio.”
The article, “Turn Off the Music! Music Impairs Visual Associative Memory Performance in Older Adults,” is published in The Gerontologist journal.
Mindfulness Meditation Appears to Help Improve Sleep Quality
Mindfulness meditation practices resulted in improved sleep quality for older adults with moderate sleep disturbance in a clinical trial comparing meditation to a more structured program focusing on changing poor sleep habits and establishing a bedtime routine, according to an article published online by JAMA Internal Medicine.
Sleep disturbances are a medical and public health concern for our nation’s aging population. An estimated 50 percent of individuals 55 years and older have some sort of sleep problem. Moderate sleep disturbances in older adults are associated with higher levels of fatigue, disturbed mood, such as depressive symptoms, and a reduced quality of life, according to the study background.
David S. Black, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and coauthors conducted the small clinical trial in Los Angeles in 2012 and their analysis included 49 individuals (average age 66). The trial included 24 individuals who took part in a standardized mindful awareness practices (MAPs) intervention and 25 individuals who participated in a sleep hygiene education (SHE) intervention.
Participants in the MAPs group showed improvement relative to those in the SHE group. The MAPs group showed improvement relative to the SHE group on secondary measures of insomnia symptoms, depression symptoms, fatigue interference and fatigue severity. However, differences between the groups were not seen for anxiety, stress or inflammatory signaling, a measure of which declined in both groups over time.
“According to our findings, mindfulness meditation appears to have a role in addressing the prevalent burden of sleep problems among older adults by remediating their moderate sleep disturbances and deficits in daytime functioning, with short-term effect sizes commensurate with the status quo of clinical treatment approaches for sleep problems. … ,” the study concludes.
Hot Flashes, Night Sweats Last for 7+ Years in Many Midlife Women
Frequent menopausal vasomotor symptoms (VMS), including hot flashes and night sweats, lasted for more than seven years during the transition to menopause for more than half of the women in a large study and African American women reported the longest total VMS duration, according to an article published online by JAMA Internal Medicine.
VMS are the hallmark of the menopausal transition and they can affect the quality of women’s lives. Up to 80 percent of women experience VMS during the transition to menopause and, despite the pervasiveness of these symptoms, robust estimates about how long VMS last are lacking.
Nancy E. Avis, Ph.D., of Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, N.C., and coauthors analyzed data from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN), a multiracial/multiethnic study of women transitioning to menopause that was conducted from February 1996 through April 2013. The analyses included 1,449 women with frequent VMS, which was defined as occurring at least six days in the previous two weeks.
Study results indicate that the median (midpoint) total VMS duration was 7.4 years. Women who were premenopausal or early perimenopausal when they first reported frequent VMS had the longest total VMS duration (median greater than 11.8 years) and persistence of frequent VMS after a final menstrual period (median of 9.4 years). Women who were postmenopausal at the onset of VMS had the shortest total VMS duration after a final menstrual period (median of 3.4 years).
Compared with women of other racial/ethnic groups, African American women reported the longest total VMS duration (median of 10.1 years) and Japanese and Chinese women had the shortest VMS duration (median of 4.8 years and 5.4 years, respectively). The median total VMS durations were 6.5 years for non-Hispanic white women and 8.9 years for Hispanic women, according to the results.
Additional factors related to longer duration of VMS were younger age, lower educational attainment, greater perceived stress, greater sensitivity to symptoms, and higher depressive symptoms and anxiety at first report of VMS.
Consult your doctor particularly asking about long-term therapies as this new evidence suggests menopause might be a long haul.
Our Friday Song of the Week – I’ve Got You Under My Skin
Red Grapes, Red Wine Good for the Brain (Video)