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At 101, Frank Iacono still plays the violin. The concertmaster for the Providence Civic Orchestra of Senior Citizens in Rhode Island, he particularly enjoys playing polkas and jigs.
“It keeps my mind active, and it gives me a lot of pleasure,” Iacono said.
The orchestra’s executive director and co-founder, Vito Saritelli, said Iacono is extremely sharp for his age.
“Music has played a good part of his longevity,” said his wife, Mary Iacono, 94. “We’re blessed that we’re both in good health.”
As scientists race to figure out how to promote healthy aging of the brain, and prevent dementia, their preliminary advice for senior citizens has become a chorus of voices: “Stay active! Have hobbies! Be socially engaged!”
Playing music, for some people, is a natural answer to all of those recommendations. Frank Iacono, for instance, has been playing violin since he was 13 — just because he loves it.
But does music playing in particular stave off dementia? What about just listening to music? How many years do you need to engage in music before it benefits your brain?
Early research suggests keeping the brain active — such as by speaking two languages — may hold back dementia symptoms by up to five years. Scientists are hoping to find that the same is true for music playing, said Brenda Hanna-Pladdy, assistant professor of neurology at Emory University, who studies cognitive functioning among musicians
“If you can delay the presentation (of dementia) by five years, then you add an extra five years of functioning to an individual at the end of the life span,” she said. “In terms of fiscal cost and everything, that’s actually quite a lot.”
Hanging out with your grandparents might not only boosts their moods — new research suggests it may also bring psychological benefits to you as well.
A new study shows that a good relationship between grandparents and their adult grandchildren was linked to fewer depression symptoms for both elderly and young adults. The closer the bond, the more anti-depressive benefits were observed.
“The greater emotional support grandparents and adult grandchildren received from one another, the better their psychological health,” Sara M. Moorman, an assistant professor in the department of sociology and the Institute on Aging at Boston College, said in a press release.
Moorman and her team presented the data at the 108th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association in New York. The research is considered preliminary since it hasn’t been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Other studies have shown that older men and women who do not have close contact with their family and friends had a 26 percent higher death risk over a seven-year period compared to those who were more social. The increased risk was still observed even if the person did not consider themselves to be lonely.
The new study involved 376 grandparents and 340 grandchildren, and tracked them from 1985 through 2004. The average grandparent was born in 1917 and the average grandchild was born in 1964, making them 77 and 31-years-old at the midway point of the study, respectively.
The researchers also discovered that grandparents who received “tangible support” but were unable to reciprocate with a grandchild had the most increases in depressive symptoms over time. Tangible support could be something as little as a car trip to the store or giving some money to help with living expenses.
In contrast, grandparents who were able to both give and receive tangible support to a grandchild had the fewest symptoms of depression overall.
That finding suggests just helping your grandparents get around may not be enough to provide the boost in wellbeing seen in those who have close relationships with their adult children.
“Most of us have been raised to believe that the way to show respect to older family members is to be solicitous and to take care of their every need,” Moorman said. “But all people benefit from feeling needed, worthwhile, and independent. In other words, let granddad write you a check on your birthday, even if he’s on Social Security and you’ve held a real job for years now.”
Receiving or giving tangible support ,specifically, did not seem to have an effect on depression rates in the grandchildren.
Moorman said that people should focus on fostering healthy relationships not only within the immediate family but with their extended family members. In addition, grandchildren shouldn’t turn down a gift from their grandparents because it may make older people feel better.
“There’s a saying, ‘It’s better to give than to receive.’ Our results support that folk wisdom if a grandparent gets help, but can’t give it, he or she feels badly. Grandparents expect to be able to help their grandchildren, even when their grandchildren are grown, and it’s frustrating and depressing for them to instead be dependent on their grandchildren,” Moorman explained.
Read original article here.
When it comes to children’s protests about their bedtimes, parents shouldn’t give in. Research suggests that not going to bed at the same time every night may be harmful to the developing brain.
The National Sleep Foundation says that preschoolers between 3 to 5 years old need 11 to 13 hours of sleep, while kids up to the age of 12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep.
“Early child development has profound influences on health and well-being across the life course,” study author Amanda Sacker, professor of lifecourse studies at University College London, said to HealthDay. “Therefore, reduced or disrupted sleep — especially if it occurs at key times in development — could have important impacts on health throughout life.”
The new research, which was published July 8 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, looked at 11,000 children in the U.K. Their families were asked about bedtimes and other routines when their kids were 3, 5 and 7 years old. At the age of 7, the children were also given a test to measure their math and reading skills, and special awareness.
The 3-year-olds were found to have the most irregular bedtimes, with 20 percent of them going to bed at different hours each night. By the age of 7, the children were tucked in between 7:30 and 8:30 P.M. for the most part.
The tests revealed that girls who had irregular bedtimes at the age of 7 were more likely to have lower scores on all three cognitive measures than those who had regular bedtimes. Sleeping patterns did not affect the test scores for boys at this age, however.
Looking further into the findings, if a child had an irregular bedtime at the age of 5, it didn’t seem to affect his or her test scores at a later age. However, both boys and girls who weren’t sleeping at the same time every night at the age of 3 had lower scores in reading, math and spacial awareness.
In addition, girls who had irregular bedtimes at 3, 5 and 7 had significantly lower reading, math and spatial-awareness scores than those who had regular bedtimes throughout childhood. For boys, just having irregular bedtimes at any two of those age markers was linked to lower testing.
The researchers said that sleep may play a big role in the brains “plasticity,” or its ability to learn and store new information. Bad sleep patterns earlier in life may set people up for problems later down the road. They also believe that the evidence shows that 3 might be a crucial age for mental development.
“Age three seems to be where you see the largest effect and that is a concern,” Sacker pointed out to the Guardian.
“If a child is having irregular bedtimes at a young age, they’re not synthesising all the information around them at that age, and they’ve got a harder job to do when they are older. It sets them off on a more difficult path,” she added.
- Study: “Flat head syndrome” found in 47 percent of infants
- Genes play a role in baby’s sleep at night
- Bed sharing may increase risk of SIDS by five times
But, Dr. Robert Scott-Jupp of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health told the BBC that people shouldn’t assume less sleep leads to less-smart children.
“At first glance, this research might seem to suggest that less sleep makes children less intelligent, however, it is clearly more complicated than that,” he said. “While it’s likely that social and biological brain development factors are inter-related in a complex way, in my opinion, for schoolchildren to perform their best, they should all, whatever their background, get a good night’s sleep.”
Volunteering is often recommended for older adults looking to become more active in their communities, but are there health benefits as well? It does according to Stephanie Brown and her colleagues. Brown, an associate professor at Stony Brook University’s Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics, has been at the forefront of research examining the psychosocial benefits of volunteering, especially for older adults.
Though volunteering can cover a wide variety of ways that people can help others, the most typical way that people become volunteers is through formal volunteer agencies or organizations. The nature of the cause, whether it focuses on specific people or the community at large, tends not to matter as much as the spirit of volunteering itself.
The actual percentage of people who donate time to volunteer organizations tends to remain relatively stable. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 64.5 million people volunteered through or for an organization at least once in 2012 (26.5 per cent of the total U.S. population). Though women tend to be more likely to volunteer than men across all age groups, the overall volunteer rate tends to taper off as people grow older with people between 35 and 44 being most likely to volunteer.
“If you’re happy and you know it…” Researchers have studied how “positive psychology” impacts gene expression in humans.
Steven Cole from UCLA led a team who examined the human genome – some 21,000 genes – in light of two different classifications of happiness:
- Eudaimonic well-being – the type of happiness associated with having “a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life”
- Hedonic well-being – the type of happiness associated with unmitigated self-gratification.
The researchers assessed 80 healthy adults for hedonic and eudaimonic well-being, and they took into account potential negative psychological and behavioral elements. They then drew blood from the participants and mapped the varying biological effects of either hedonic or eudaimonic well-being, using a gene-expression profile known as conserved transcriptional response to adversity (CTRA).
The CTRA is a shift associated with an increase of inflammation and a decrease in antiviral activities with the genes. This response, notes Steven Cole, probably evolved to aid the immune system in the wake of changing patterns, such as microbial threats accompanying shifting socio-environmental conditions – for example, social conflict and contact.
The opposite was true for people who had high levels of hedonic well-being – giving high inflammation and low antiviral/antibody expression.
Questions asked by the researchers to determine each kind of happiness, included, for eudaimonic well-being:
- How often did you feel that your life has a sense of direction or meaning to it?
- How often did you feel that you had something to contribute to society?
- How often did you feel that you belonged to a community/social group?
Questions for hedonic well-being included:
- How often did you feel happy?
- How often did you feel interested in life?
- How often did you feel satisfied?
How genes react to the good, the bad and the ugly
Steven Cole and his team have been studying how the human genome reacts to negative psychology, including stress, misery and fear, for the last 10 years.
He notes that “in contemporary society and our very different environment, chronic activation by social or symbolic threats can promote inflammation and cause cardiovascular, neurodegenerative and other diseases, and can impair resistance to viral infections.”
This recent study, which was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is the first of its kind to study positive psychology effects on gene expression.
Although the study participants with eudaimonic well-being had positive gene profiles in their immune cells and those with hedonic well-being had more adverse profiles, Cole notes that both groups did not feel any different.
Both groups had similar levels of positivity but their genomes responded quite differently.
“What this study tells us is that doing good and feeling good have very different effects on the human genome, even though they generate similar levels of positive emotion.
Apparently, the human genome is much more sensitive to different ways of achieving happiness than are conscious minds.”
A recent study located a happiness gene, which researchers say affects people’s satisfaction with life.
Read original article at http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/264105.php
Compared with those who did not have to endure it, men who survived the Holocaust have a longer life expectancy, according to researchers from the University of Haifa in Israel and Leiden University in the Netherlands.
The study, recently published in PLOS ONE, is the first of its kind to analyze the entire Jewish Polish population that fled to Israelbefore and after World War II.
Researchers from both universities worked together to study data from the National Insurance Institute of Israel on 55,220 Polish immigrants. They compared two groups of immigrants who were aged between 4 and 20 years in 1939:
- Pre-World War II, before 1939 (regular immigrants)
- Post-World War II, from 1945 to 1950 (Holocaust survivors).
Results show that the survivors’ life expectancy was 6.5 months longer than that of the immigrants who came to Israel before World War II.
When the researchers looked specifically at differences between men and women, they discovered no major difference in life expectancy between female survivors and regular immigrants. The differences in the male populations, conversely, were compelling: male Holocaust survivors lived an average of 14 months longer than the regular male immigrants.
The researchers note that previous studies, which showed links between traumatic experiences and shorter life expectancy, compelled them to examine lifespan for Holocaust survivors.
Professor Avi Sagi-Schwartz from Haifa University says:
“Holocaust survivors not only suffered grave psychosocial trauma but also famine,malnutrition, and lack of hygienic and medical facilities, leading us to believe these damaged their later health and reduced life expectancy.
Surprisingly, our findings teach us of the strength and resilience of the human spirit.”
Two explanations for the findings are offered by the researchers.
The first is that the “post-traumatic growth” phenomenon – through which survivors had to face traumatic experiences and psychological distress – ultimately encouraged them to develop personal skills and gain new insights, leading to a deeper appreciation for life.
The second involves “differential mortality.” In effect, the people who were “vulnerable to life-threatening conditions” were more likely to die during the Holocaust. The survivors who got through the trauma may have done so because of genetic, physical or psychological factors, which may have prepared them to live to an old age.
The authors conclude that their findings “highlight the importance of public health policies providing socio-emotional and medical support for individuals who managed to survive atrocious circumstances.”
See original article at http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/264229.php
A new study has found that dementia rates among people 65 and older in England and Wales have plummeted by 25 percent over the past two decades, to 6.2 percent from 8.3 percent, a trend that researchers say is probably occurring across developed countries and that could have major social and economic implications for families and societies.
Another recent study, conducted in Denmark, found that people in their 90s who were given a standard test of mental ability in 2010 scored substantially better than people who had reached their 90s a decade earlier. Nearly one-quarter of those assessed in 2010 scored at the highest level, a rate twice that of those tested in 1998. The percentage of subjects severely impaired fell to 17 percent from 22 percent.
The British study, published on Tuesday in The Lancet, and the Danish one, which was released last week, also in The Lancet, soften alarms sounded by advocacy groups and some public health officials who have forecast a rapid rise in the number of people with dementia, as well as in the costs of caring for them. The projections assumed the odds of getting dementia would be unchanged.
Yet experts on aging said the studies also confirmed something they had suspected but had had difficulty proving: that dementia rates would fall and mental acuity improve as the population grew healthier and better educated. The incidence of dementia is lower among those better educated, as well as among those who control their blood pressure and cholesterol, possibly because some dementia is caused by ministrokes and other vascular damage. So as populations controlled cardiovascular risk factors better and had more years of schooling, it made sense that the risk of dementia might decrease. A half-dozen previous studies had hinted that the rate was falling, but they had flaws that led some to doubt the conclusions.
Researchers said the two new studies were the strongest, most credible evidence yet that their hunch had been right. Dallas Anderson, an expert on the epidemiology of dementia at the National Institute on Aging, the principal financer of dementia research in the United States, said the new studies were “rigorous and are strong evidence.” He added that he expected that the same trends were occurring in the United States but that studies were necessary to confirm them.
“It’s terrific news,” said Dr. P visit here. Murali Doraiswamy, an Alzheimer’s researcher at Duke University, who was not involved in the new studies. It means, he said, that the common assumption that every successive generation will have the same risk for dementia does not hold true.
The new studies offer hope amid a cascade of bad news about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Major clinical trials of drugs to treat Alzheimer’s have failed. And a recent analysis by the RAND Corporation — based on an assumption that dementia rates would remain steady — concluded that the number of people with dementia would double in the next 30 years as the baby boom generation aged, as would the costs of caring for them. But its lead author, Michael D. Hurd, a principal senior researcher at RAND, said in an interview that his projections of future cases and costs could be off if the falling dementia rates found in Britain held true in the United States.
Dr. Marcel Olde Rikkert of Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center in the Netherlands, who wrote an editorial to accompany the Danish study, said estimates of the risk of dementia in older people “urgently need a reset.”
But Maria Carrillo, vice president of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association, an advocacy group, was not convinced that the trends were real or that they held for the United States.
The studies assessed dementia, which includes Alzheimer’s disease but also other conditions that can make mental functioning deteriorate. Richard Suzman, the director of the division of behavioral and social research at the National Institute on Aging, said it was not possible to know from the new studies whether Alzheimer’s was becoming more or less prevalent.
The British researchers, led by Dr. Carol Brayne of the Cambridge Institute of Public Health, took advantage of a large study that tested 7,635 randomly selected people, ages 65 and older, for dementia between 1984 and 1994. The subjects lived in Cambridgeshire, Newcastle and Nottingham. Then, between 2008 and 2011, the researchers assessed a similar randomly selected group living in the same areas.
“We had the same population, the same geographic area, the same methods,” Dr. Brayne said. “That was one of the appeals.”
But Dr. Carrillo questioned the data because many subjects had declined to be assessed: the researchers assessed 80 percent of the group it approached in the first round and 56 percent of those approached in the second. Her concern is reasonable, Dr. Brayne said, but the researchers addressed it by analyzing the data to see if the refusals might have skewed the results. They did not.
In the Danish study, Dr. Kaare Christensen of the University of Southern Denmark in Odense and his colleagues compared the physical health and mental functioning of two groups of elderly Danish people. The first consisted of 2,262 people born in 1905 who were assessed at age 93. The second was composed of 1,584 people born in 1915 and assessed at age 95. In addition to examining the subjects for physical strength and robustness, the investigators gave them a standard dementia screening test, the mini-mental exam and a series of cognitive tests.
The investigators asked how many subjects scored high, had scores indicating dementia and were in between. The entire curve was shifted upward among the people born in 1915, they discovered.
Dr. Anderson, of the National Institute on Aging, said the news was good.
“With these two studies, we are beginning to see that more and more of us will have a chance to reach old age cognitively intact, postponing dementia or avoiding it altogether,” he said. “That is a happy prospect.”