A recent article on CNN.com reports on a new large study appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association that shows a connection between slower walking speeds (or gait) and development of dementia. The research seems to show that a decrease in the speed at which older adults walk year to year may be an early indicator of cognitive decline and dementia. The study looked at the pace of walking as well as the ability of participants to answer certain cognitive/memory questions, then drew conclusions about their relationship.
Although it was a large study (17,000 subjects), more research should follow. As I read the article, I wondered about a chicken and egg question. Did walking speed decrease because of lower cognition, or did cognition somehow decrease because of slower walking? If the second is the case, then it would make sense that we should regularly monitor people to see if they are literally slowing down; if so, they should be put on a program to increase the velocity of their gait. The research does show that when both factors (slower walking and cognitive decline) are present, there is a much greater chance of dementia–as opposed to mild cognitive impairment, which is a “normal” part of the aging process.
The study seems to indicate that the connection may exist in the right hippocampus–the area of the brain associated with memory. Believe it or not, the size of the right hippocampus can actually be increased with regular aerobic exercise (the kind that elevates heart and breating rates). It is not as if we simply have to accept the fact that once we slow down we are on a slippery slope to dementia; keeping up the pace of our exercise can have a positive impact. Even stretching exercises were shown to make a difference.
More research will surely be forthcoming. This study will certainly become an important tool in assessing the risks of dementia. It also provides another reason why it is so important for older adults to remain active and engage in regular exercise. It is not just about our physical health, but about our mental well-being too!
CNN recently reported on a difference you might see the next time you see your doctor. Instead of just getting weighed and perhaps calculating your BMI (Body Mass Index), the nurse may measure your waist circumference. Why?
Weight that is carried around the abdomen is especially dangerous. It is an indicator of VAT (Visceral Adipose Tissue). This is more than just the “jelly” you see around your waist; VAT often wraps itself around internal organs and is associated with higher levels of cardiovascular disease.
This is not news per se; we have long known that this kind of fat is dangerous. What is new is the increase that has been seen over the last year–many assume due to the COVID-19 “nineteen.” Some people may have actually put on 19 pounds during the pandemic (due to sitting at home with a house full of food coupled with less activity); even if we have put on less, it is important to realize that the added weight is not just a matter of changing how our clothes fit or our appearance. It has serious health consequences–which is why doctor’s offices are increasingly measuring waist circumference.
We also have different body types. Some folks carry their weight in their bottoms or legs. In any case, eating properly and maintaining a healthy weight and BMI is always a good idea. For those of us–myself included–who are relatively slim but put on weight right in the belly, though, we should be especially cognizant of the risks of VAT.
The article is definitely worth the read. It is not long and it gives easy instructions on how to measure waist circumference and how to interpret what you find.
Knowledge is power…and, in this case, it is also a tool for reaching better health outcomes. Check that spare tire!
An interesting article appeared on http://www.cnn.com a few days ago with the following headline: “Vegetarians might have higher risk of stroke than meat eaters, study says.” NOOOOOOOO!
I have been a pescatarian for nearly 15 years and this news was shocking to me…or, at least, the headline was. Read the article, and one gets a very different story.
Although there is a higher risk of stroke (which some believe was a conclusion reached incorrectly by the researchers due to their misuse of “weighting” in the study), vegetarians are at a much lower risk of heart disease. In fact, the lower risk to heart health far outweighs the risk of stroke.
What was the “weighting?” The study took into account in classifying study subjects that vegetarians are, in general, more healthy than meat-eaters. Well, duh. The study comes from BMJ, a very well-respected journal out of London, UK. The article from CNN, though, suggests that more research is needed. So, nothing like publishing a misleading headline about an inconclusive and possible flawed study. I guess that is what they mean by click-bait.
By the way, pescatarians are not at the same risk of stroke and reap most of the benefits with regard to heart health. So you may still want to put those ribs down and reach for some halibut or salmon.
A warning: don’t just get your news from reading headlines–be they about health or any other topic–spend the few minutes needed to read the article–especially before you post it online or share it with friends.
Well, it’s not really “news” since it is simply reconfirming what we already have seen in recent research.
There are studies recently shared at Alzheimer’s Association International Conference last week that show that there are five factors that have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of developing dementia later in life.
Both studies pointed to:
A healthy diet
At least 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous physical activity
Light to moderate drinking (alcohol)
Engaging in mentally stimulating activity
Engaging in all five decreased risk of Alzheimer’s by 60% compared to those who only had one healthy behavior. Those who added only one of the habits above saw their risk lowered by 22%!
It is becoming more and more clear every day that the decisions we make about our lifestyles at every point in our lives have implications downstream. There is no point at which we are “too late” to add healthy behaviors, and when we do add them the impact is noticeable.
Judaism teaches us that we are to pursue life. This means we cannot simply wait around and see what is in store for us health-wise. We must at every moment, make healthy decisions; not only will we sense the difference now, but in the years ahead as well.
This global study of diet shows that we are at risk not from eating unhealthy foods alone. It is that at the same time we are not eating healthy foods. The reasons are numerous, and this article explains the global and regional implications.