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Mayo Clinic: Some common things you can expect as you age

By Mayo Clinic News Service

Troy Warren 

Dear Mayo Clinic: I am 56 and have noticed a few things are changing as I get older. I know as I age there will be more changes in my body and mind, but can you provide insights on what are some common things that I can expect?

Answer Throughout life, your body is constantly changing, and there are some surprising changes that can occur within your body and mind. As you age, some of those changes become more obvious, like wrinkles or forgetfulness. Learning what to expect as you get older can help alleviate some anxiety with aging.

Below are some common questions from patients about aging:

Q: I used to be 6 feet tall. Now I am 5 feet, 11 inches tall. Why am I shrinking?

A: When looking at height loss, some changes are normal, and some are not. You have 24 bones, or vertebrae, in your spine with discs in between each vertebra. These discs begin to lose strength and thin as you age. This thinning process causes you to start to shrink.

The bone remodeling process becomes more disordered after age 25. This causes you to break down your bones faster than you rebuild them.

You can help prevent bone breakdown to a substantial degree through weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, jogging, aerobics or resistance training, and through a healthy diet rich in calcium and vitamins. Also, speak to your primary health care provider about appropriate screening for your risk of osteoporosis. Though screening recommendations differ, most organizations suggest screening universally at 65 for women and 75 for men. However, other risk factors, such as premature menopause, fractures and hormone deficiency, can warrant earlier testing.

Q: I leak urine when I laugh. What can I do?

A: Urinary incontinence, or urinary leakage, is a common problem, especially for older women. This issue can result from many causes, including pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, overactive bladder muscles, weakened pelvic muscles and nerve damage. The right treatment will require a proper diagnosis. Making the right diagnosis will include a full history of symptoms; a physical exam; urine testing; and possibly more advanced studies, such as urodynamic testing, or ultrasound and X-ray imaging.

Treatments are helpful, and they include behavioral modifications, dietary changes, pelvic muscle strengthening, medications and surgery. Incontinence or voiding difficulties in men can be a sign of an enlarged prostate or prostate cancer. Generally, I would recommend talking with your health care provider about these symptoms.

Q: Why am I in the bathroom again?

A: Nocturia, or getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, is a common problem for many people. About one-third of men over 30 make at least two trips to the bathroom after they’ve gone to bed. This is usually caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, which is an enlarged prostate. However, there are other causes, including medications; alcohol; caffeine; nighttime drinking and dietary habits; diabetes; heart conditions; and sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea.

Treatment for nocturia requires a proper diagnosis by your health care provider. This visit will involve a history, an exam and simple laboratory testing to start. Treatments include behavioral modifications, dietary changes, medications or surgical intervention.

Q: Why do I have so many wrinkles?

A: Wrinkles are a natural part of aging that can be caused by several factors. Some common factors can include stress and sun exposure — both of which break down the elastin fibers and collagen in skin. Exposure to air pollutants and tobacco smoke also can play a significant role.

As you age, skin becomes less elastic, and the natural oil production in skin decreases, causing it to dry out. You start to lose the fat in the deeper layers of your skin, and the crevices and lines become more prominent. Wrinkles are also genetic.

You can slow the effects on the skin by using sunscreen; wearing protective clothing, including hats; using moisturizers; eliminating smoking; and eating a diet full of natural antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables.

If you are interested in treatment beyond these tips, talk to your health care provider or a dermatologist who can suggest more specific cosmetic options.

Q: Every day I seem to lose my reading glasses. Why can’t I remember the simplest things anymore?

A: Just like your joints, muscles and skin, your brain ages, too. While it may seem like your glasses are misplacing themselves, your brain is simply having a harder time with recall. You may notice that you forget names or can’t remember a loved one’s birthday. You also may find it takes longer to learn new things. All of these are usually signs of normal aging.

Just as staying physically fit is important as you age, so, too, is keeping your mind active. You’re encouraged to keep active physically, mentally and socially to the best of your ability.

Certainly, there are other causes of memory loss, including medication interactions; vitamin deficiencies; metabolic conditions, such as a thyroid disorder; depression; anxiety; or ongoing infections. If you or your loved ones have noticed that memory is a problem for you, you’re encouraged to talk with your health care provider to determine if it is normal aging or something more significant.

Aging can be challenging, so continue to maintain regular touch points with your health care provider so you can address any concerns in a timely fashion. Being prepared for the future will make it easier for you to enjoy your upcoming birthdays.

— Dr. Steven Perkins, Family Medicine, Mayo Clinic Health System, La Crosse, Wisconsin


 

 

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How driving behaviors can indicate early signs of dementia

By Kiersten Willis, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Troy Warren

New research shows how early indicators of dementia can be seen in older people’s driving habits.

A study from scientists at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science has used highly accurate algorithms for detecting mild cognitive impairment and dementia in older motorists.

The findings of the study were published last month in the journal Geriatrics.

Using naturalistic driving data, or real-world in-vehicle recordings or other technologies, researchers could take detailed measurements of driving exposure, space and performance. Researchers also used machine learning techniques in the study.

“Based on variables derived from the naturalistic driving data and basic demographic characteristics, such as age, sex, race/ethnicity and education level, we could predict mild cognitive impairment and dementia with 88 percent accuracy,” lead author Sharon Di, associate professor of civil engineering and engineering mechanics at Columbia Engineering said in a press release.

The study involved 2,977 participants from the multisite cohort study Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD). When participants enrolled in the study, which began in August 2015 and ended in March 2019, they were active drivers from 65 to 79 years old. They had no drastic cognitive impairment or degenerative medical conditions.

By April 2019, 33 participants were recently diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment and 31 were diagnosed with dementia. A deeper evaluation showed that age was the most predictive factor of mild cognitive impairment and dementia. That was followed by the percentage of trips taken within 15 miles of home, race/ethnicity, length of trips that began and ended at home, minutes per trip and the number of hard braking incidents with deceleration rates.

“Driving is a complex task involving dynamic cognitive processes and requiring essential cognitive functions and perceptual motor skills. Our study indicates that naturalistic driving behaviors can be used as comprehensive and reliable markers for mild cognitive impairment and dementia,” said senior author Dr. Guohua Li, professor of epidemiology and anesthesiology at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. “If validated, the algorithms developed in this study could provide a novel, unobtrusive screening tool for early detection and management of mild cognitive impairment and dementia in older drivers.”


 

 

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Hometown Hall Health Tip of the Day May 4

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Avocados for leukemia treatment? Study shows how it’s possible

By Kiersten Willis, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Troy Warren 

The key to improved leukemia treatment may be in avocados.

A study from Canada’s University of Guelph focuses on a compound found in the fruit. The study shows that down the line, it may provide a road map toward better treatments for the blood and marrow cancer.

Last year, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society expected 60,530 people to be diagnosed with leukemia. In the U.S., it’s estimated that 376,508 are people living with or in remission from leukemia.

The University of Guelph study was published in the American Society of Hematology’s journal, Blood, in March.

Paul Spagnuolo, Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of food science, said in a press release that the avocado compound avocatin B takes aim at an enzyme that scientists have recognized for the first time as being crucial to cancer cell growth.

The team focused on acute myeloid leukemia (AML), which is most common in older people. According to the American Cancer Society, it is still relatively rare in general. AML accounts for just 1% of all cancers. The National Cancer Institute reported that if this form of leukemia isn’t treated, it typically gets worse quickly.

Spagnuolo, who co-authored the study, said that leukemia cells have greater levels of VLCAD, an enzyme involved in their metabolism.

Noting that the compound is a probable contestant for drug therapy, he said, “the cell relies on that pathway to survive. This is the first time VLCAD has been identified as a target in any cancer.”

Researchers sifted through nutraceutical compounds as they searched for any substance that might repress the enzyme.

“Lo and behold, the best one was derived from avocado,” Spagnuolo said.

The professor’s lab had previously evaluated avocatin B, a fat molecule only found in avocados, for managing obesity and preventing diabetes. Now, they’re evaluating its use with leukemia.

“VLCAD can be a good marker to identify patients suitable for this type of therapy. It can also be a marker to measure the activity of the drug,” Spagnuolo said. “That sets the stage for eventual use of this molecule in human clinical trials.”

Typically, treatments for AML involve chemotherapy, which is sometimes combined with a targeted therapy drug. In special cases, surgery and radiation therapy may be used, according to the American Cancer Society.

“There’s been a drive to find less toxic drugs that can be used,” Spagnuolo said.


 

 

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Study shows how processed foods might increase incidents of diabetes

By Kiersten Willis, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Troy Warren 


 

The study of mice involved a standard grain-based diet and a Western-style diet.

A new Georgia State University study shows the link between processed foods and diabetes.

Researchers at the school’s Institute for Biomedical Sciences found that initially, low-fiber processed diets may decrease the rate of foodborne infectious diseases, but it might boost the rate of diseases such as diabetes. These conditions are characterized by low-grade chronic infection and inflammation.

The findings were published earlier this month in the journal, PLOS Pathogens.

To investigate how switching from a grain-based diet to a highly processed, high-fat diet impacts E. coli infection, researchers conducted a study of mice. They focused on the pathogen Citrobacter rodentium, which resembles E. coli.

The highly-processed, high-fat diet is a Western-style diet.

Processed foods can offer convenience and while not all of them are bad, many of them are filled with hidden fat, sugar and salt.

“Additives such as salt and fat are there to make the food safe for consumption. Preservatives are also added to increase the food’s shelf life. When it comes to sticking to a healthy diet, though, the pros of these additives may not outweigh the cons,” Healthline reported.

The Western-style diet lacks fiber, a carbohydrate that the body can’t digest. That carb is required to support gut microbiota. It’s believed that dietary changes — particularly those without fiber — are thought to have added to the higher pervasiveness of chronic inflammatory diseases. They include metabolic syndrome, cancer and inflammatory bowel disease.

During their study, researchers discovered that changing mices’ diet from a standard grain-based rodent chow to a Western-style diet led to a swift decrease in the number of gut bacteria. Often, mice that consumed the Western-style diet couldn’t clear the pathogen Citrobacter rodentium from the colon. Additionally, they were inclined to develop a chronic infection from the pathogen.

“We observed that feeding mice a Western-style diet, rather than standard rodent grain-based chow, altered the dynamics of Citrobacter infection, reducing initial colonization and inflammation, which was surprising. However, mice consuming the Western-style diet frequently developed persistent infection that was associated with low-grade inflammation and insulin resistance,” Andrew Gewirtz, Ph.D., lead coauthor of the study and professor in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences said in a press release. “These studies demonstrate potential of altering microbiota and their metabolites by diet to impact the course and consequence of infection following exposure to a gut pathogen.”

Added fellow lead coauthor and assistant professor in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences Jun Zou, Ph.D., “we speculate that reshaping gut microbiota by nutrients that promote beneficial bacteria that out-compete pathogens may be a means of broadly promoting health.”


 

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Hometown Hall Health Tip of the Day May 2

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