A large clinical study showed that following a moderate physical activity program, which is balanced and carefully structured, can help prevent mobility disability in older peopleand reduce/delay our risk of losing the ability to walk without assistance. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Florida along with seven other facilities across the country. Findings were published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association" – June 18, 2014, Volume 311.
Results of a 10-year study show that training to improve cognitive skills in older people can improve our ability to think, reason and learn and may even help extend our length of independent living. Findings of “The Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) study” appeared in the January 2014 issue of the"Journal of the American Geriatrics Society." The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR).
Much research is being done to better understand the process of aging and to find ways to help prolong our healthy, active years. Below are some interesting contributions in the study of aging.
Our summaries do not contain all the relevant information concerning each study, and there is the possibility that the summaries could include inaccuracies. If you are interested in learning more about these studies and their findings, please reference the listed publications and/or sources.
NEW - Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found a relationship between poor sleep and Alzheimer's disease. Study findings suggest that older people who have less slow-wave or deep sleep have higher levels of a brain protein named “tau.” Elevated tau levels is an indicator of Alzheimer's disease, brain damage, and cognitive decline. The study’s outcomes suggest that sleep monitoring may be an easy and affordable way to screen earlier for Alzheimer’s disease. The study was published in January 9, 2019 in “Science Translational Medicine.”
Researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine have completed a study that suggests that ongoing "positive, warm and trusting friendships" might contribute to a "slower decline in memory and cognitive functioning." The study looked at aspects of life related to psychological well-being, such as “autonomy, positive relations with others, environmental mastery, personal growth, purpose in life and self-acceptance" in people with various degrees of cognitive functioning. Study findings were published on Oct. 23, 2017 in the journal "PLOS ONE"
A study by researchers from the University of Exeter and Bangor University found that attending weekly “self-management” groups may benefit people with dementia. The study looked at people with early stage dementia who attended 90-minute self-management group sessions over an eight-week period. When compared to similar people who did not attend sessions, study participants were found to be better able to care for themselves and offer support to others who also had dementia. Comparisons were made after three months and six months. Researchers noted that further study is needed to provide more definitive evidence. The study was published in January 2016 in the journal “International Psychogeriatrics.”
Study findings published online in January 2016 in the journal"JAMA Psychiatry"suggest that premature menopausemay increase a woman's later risk of depression. Researchers from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece, analyzed the results of 14 studies including nearly 68,000 older women. They found that women in the study who were 40 and older when menopause began had a lower risk of depression later in life than those with premature menopause. Researchers theorize this may be because women who are older when menopause begins have a longer reproductive life and a greater exposure to the hormone estrogen. While the study found an association between early menopause and depression, it did not prove cause-and-effect.
A research study published in February, 2016, in the journal "Nature"has determined that mice live healthier longer lives without a certain type of cell that accumulates in the body with age. These cells remain in the body although they are not needed and can have a negative impact on health and reduce lifespan. Researchers from Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester found a way to cause the cells to self-destruct in mice and found it improved the mice were healthier as they aged and lived longer. Researchers acknowledge that the process and result will be much more difficult to achieve in humans, and it may be quite some time before it will be possible.
"U.S. News & World Report" ranked a diet called the MIND diet, which is thought to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, as the easiest diet to follow, the second best overall diet, and the third best diet for healthy eating for 2016. The diet tied with other diets in all three categories. MIND stands for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.” Findings of the study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center, were published in "The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association" in 2015, and suggested that following the diet lowered the risk of Alzheimer's by as much as 53 percent in participants who followed the diet strictly and by about 35 percent in those who followed it moderately.
Genetic researchers have reversed signs of ageing in mice by manipulating the mitochondria within cells, reducing/reversing wrinkles, gray hair, and hair loss. Scientists were able to induce signs of aging in mice by adding the antibiotic doxycycline to their diet and then were able to reverse the signs by stopping doxycycline. Although research in animals does not always produce the same results in humans, the research team believe their findings opens the door to further investigation and could eventually lead to erasing the signs of aging in humans. The study was published July 20, 2018 in the journal “Cell Death and Disease.”
Research by a team from Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences suggests that spicy food may increase longevity. The eating habits of 485,000 people in China were studied to identify any connections between diet, disease, and mortality. Study participants who ate spicy foods one or two days per week had a 10 percent reduced risk of overall mortality, compared to those who consumed a spicy meal less than once a week. Researchers cautioned that it is too early to draw a final conclusion on the life-lengthening benefits of spicy foods and that further research is needed. Study findings were published in the British Medical Journal in August 2015.
Findings in a study by researchers from New York University determined that people with sleep apnea are diagnosed with early onset of memory and cognitive problems an average of 10 years before people who do not have breathing issues while they sleep. However, the onset of memory and cognitive problems in study participants with sleep apnea that were treated for their breathing issues was about the same as in the study’s participants who never had apnea or nighttime breathing problems.The study was published in April 2015 in the online issue of "Neurology," the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
A study conducted by Saint Louis University (SLU) suggests that dancing may improve quality of life in later years. The study compared a group of seniors that danced for 45 minutes up to two times a week for 12 weeks with a group that refrained from dancing. At the end of 12 weeks, the dancing seniors showed improved movement, better functioning, and reduced pain. They were even able to walk faster than before they started dancing. Findings were published in Spring 2014 in "Geriatric Nursing."
A study by scientists at Harvard may have found a reason why some of us are at risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia while others are not. Researchers found that a protein – called RE1-Silencing Transcription factor (REST) – that protects aging neurons in the brain may be absent in key areas of the brain in individuals with Alzheimer’s as well as mild cognitive impairment. The absence of REST may be why some people suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia while others don’t. If this is indeed the case, the findings of this study may led to new medications and treatments in the future. The study was published in the March 2014 issue of the journal "Nature."
A study published in the“Journal of Consumer Research” in June 2014looked at how much happinesspeople of different ages derived from both the ordinary and extraordinary experiences of life. While participants across all age groups reported finding happiness in extraordinary experiences, the study found that people in their later years tend to get more joy out of the “little things” in life. The study was authored by Amit Bhattacharjee and Cassie Mogilner, PhD.
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Findings in a study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago suggest that eating one serving of leafy green vegetables each day may aid in preserving memory and thinking skills as people grow older. The study involved 960 people with an average age of 81 and no signs of dementia at the start of the study. Participants were divided into five groups based on how often they ate green leafy vegetables and assessed annually. At the end of 10 years, the memory function and cognitive decline of individuals who ate the most leafy greens was slower by 0.05 standardized units per year than the rate for those who ate the least leafy greens. According to the research team, study findings suggest that those who ate at least one serving of leafy greens showed an equivalent of being 11 years younger cognitively. Researchers also note that the study results do not necessarily prove that eating green, leafy vegetables slows brain aging, but do show an association. The study findings were published in December 2017 in "Neurology," the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
Research reported in the “Journal of the American Heart Association” suggests that people who develop asthma as adults (late onset asthma) may be at greater risk of developing heart disease and having a stroke. Researchers followed 1,269 adults over 14 years tracking cardiovascular events, including heart attack, stroke, heart failure, angina, cardiac revascularization, and cardiovascular death. They found people in the study with late-onset asthma were 57 percent more likely to suffer a cardiovascular event than those without asthma. Participants with early-onset asthma had no difference in cardiovascular disease events compared to non-asthmatics. Researchers believe the results indicate that doctors and other healthcare providers should pay particular attention to heart disease risk factors in patients with late-onset asthma.
A recent study by the Michigan State University found that older people who use social media find the technology easy to use, feel social media helps them feel less lonely, and believe may even benefit their health. The study, published in the Journal of “Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking” in September of 2016, surveyed close to 600 older Americans with the average age of 68 who used social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Skype, online chatting or instant messaging, and email as well as smartphones. More than 95 percent were either very or somewhat satisfied with technology, 77 percent found that the technology either “not difficult at all” or “not very difficult to use,” and 72 percent s were not opposed to learning new technologies. Findings also appeared to show a link between participants who used social technology and a higher level of satisfaction with life, fewer depressive symptoms, less feelings of loneliness, and fewer chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. Of course, the study does not definitively prove that using social media will definitely lead to better physical and mental health or prevent feelings of isolation or loneliness.
Researchers from Harvard Medical School (HMS) and the University of New South Wales School of Medicine (UNSW) have identified a critical step in a molecular chain of events that allows cells to mend damaged DNA. The discovery could lead to revolutionary therapies with the potential to repair DNA damage caused by aging and radiation treatments.The knowledge may even prove useful to NASA’s Mars mission, because space travel causes accelerated aging and other related issues. Study findings were published in March 2017 in"Science" Magazine.
A study led by Harvard Medical School researchers suggests that staying active can help slow the decline of brain function and improve thinking skills as we age. Researchers found that virtually any kind of exercise done consistently on an ongoing basis can contribute to improved cognitive performance. To come up with their findings, the team looked at many different existing studies that focused on the connection between exercise and brain function. The most significant improvement in brain function was found in people who exercised about 52 hours over about a six month period. The study was published in the journal "Neurology: Clinical Practice," an official journal of the American Academy of Neurology, in May 2018
Feelings of envy decline with age according to a University of California, San Diego paper published in the journal "Basic and Applied Social Psychology." The study surveyed more than 1,700 people between the ages of 18 and 80 about their feelings of envy over the past year. Although more than three quarters of study participants said they had experienced envy, the percentage dropped from 80 percent in those younger than 30 to 69 percent in those over 50. The study found that the targets of people’s envy also change across adulthood.
Some people would probably be surprised by the findings of an interesting study submitted by a Seasoned Times visitor. The study, published in June of 2015 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that fingerprints actually do change somewhat over the course of a lifetime. Not a lot, but there are detectable variations. The study examined “10-print fingerprint” records (ink prints of all 10 fingers) entered into the Michigan State Police database. The study analyzed “10-print fingerprint” records generated by the same 15,500 repeat offenders over a five to twelve year span, which allowed researchers to look for changes over time. Although study results did show slight changes in the fingerprints with the passing of time, the differences were not significant enough to cause the database system to misidentify which prints taken over the years belonged to which person.
Research from the University of Missouri suggests that older adults who have trouble sleeping might benefit from participating in more social activities. The study looked at data collected during a five year time span from the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project. Data on social participation was compared to data on sleep outcomes. According to study findings, older adults who were engaged in more social participation slept better. Researchers note, however, that the link does not necessarily mean increased social participation will lead to better sleep, because participants who already slept well felt physically able to be more socially actively. The study "Social Participation and Older Adults' Sleep" was published in the "Journal of Social Science and Medicine."
A study by researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that certain forms of exercise are able to counteract some of the effect aging has on muscles. Findings are based on an experiment involving men and women under 30 or older than 64. Participants took part in three different exercise programs, including high-intensity interval biking, strength training with weights, and combined strength training and interval training. Biopsies from the thigh muscles of participants were compared to samples from sedentary research participants. One of the most significant findings was that high-intensity exercise seems to have a positive effect on the cellular decline of muscles caused by aging. The study was published in March 2017 in “Cell Metabolism.”
A study by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh suggests there is a link between neighborhood quality and faster aging. The study focused on telomeres, which protect DNA strands on genes and naturally shorten with age. This shortening process can be accelerated by physical or mental stress. Study participants living in neighborhoods with high levels of noise, crime, and vandalism were determined to be biologically 12 years older than those of similar chronological age living in other areas. Although the study established a connection between aging and socioeconomic conditions, it was not designed to prove a "cause and effect" relationship.The study was published in the online journal “PLOS One.”
A study by researchers at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonia showed a direct correlation between an increase in diet soda consumption among older adults and abdominal obesity. Over a 10 year period, researchers followed the diets and health outcomes of 749 adults 65 years and older. Researchers looked at diet soda habits, waist circumference, height, and weight. Over the course of the study, the waist circumference of study participants who did not drink diet soda showed an average increase of 0.8 inches. Participants who drank diet soda occasionally had an increase of 1.83 inches, while the waists of daily diet soda drinkers grew 3.16 inches. The study was published in March 2015 in the "Journal of the American Geriatrics Society."
Findings by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that having a positive attitude is good for the heart. The study, which analyzed data from more than 5,100 participants, determined that people who are the most optimistic have higher odds of being in ideal cardiovascular health compared with the least optimistic. The optimists in the study were between 50 percent and 76 percent more likely to have total heart health scores in the intermediate or ideal ranges. Optimists were also found to have better blood sugar and cholesterol levels, a healthier BMI status, and more rigorous physically activity habits than those in the least optimistic group. The research team discussed their findings in the Jan/Feb issue of "Health Behavior and Policy Review."
Researchers from Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging and published a study in the journal "NeuroImage" suggests that hearing impairment has an effect on the brain. The study compared brain changes over time between adults with normal hearing and adults with impaired hearing. Scientists found that overall those with impaired hearing lost more than an additional cubic centimeter of brain tissue each year compared with those with normal hearing. Those with impaired hearing also had significantly more brain shrinkage in particular regions, including the superior, middle and inferior temporal gyri, brain structures responsible for processing sound and speech. Susan Resnick, Ph.D., of the National Institute on Aging was the study's senior investigator. Michael A. Kraut, M.D., Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins; and Luigi Ferrucci, M.D., Ph.D., and Yang An, M.S., both of the National Institute on Aging, also contributed to this research.
According to a study conducted by Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore (Duke-NUS), the less sleep older adults get, the quicker their brains may age. After analyzing data from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, questionnaires, and blood tests, researchers determined that study participants who slept fewer hours showed evidence of faster brain shrinkage and declines in cognitive performance. Findings were published the journal “Sleep” in July2014.
A research study published in the journal"Cell" (December 19, 2013) discovered an aging processwithin the body’s cells that may be reversed by administering a molecule naturally produced by the human body. Working with mice, researchers were able to make tissue in older mice resemble that of tissue in much younger mice. The study was a joint project between Harvard Medical School, the National Institute on Aging, and the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.
A study by U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) suggests that most non-health-related senior deaths are caused by falls. Nearly three-quarters of the senior deaths associated with consumer products reported to the CPSC from 2009 to 2011 involved falls. Deaths not related to falls most frequently involved drowning in pools or bathtubs and fires in the home.
A research team from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), Mayo Clinic, and other institutions identified a new class of drugs that dramatically slows the aging process in mice, “alleviating symptoms of frailty, improving cardiac function, and extending a healthy lifespan.” The study’s authors caution that more testing is needed before use in humans. They also note that the drugs used in the study have possible side effects with long-term treatment. Study findings were published in March 2015 by the journal “Aging Cell.”
A study published in the January 2014 edition of "The American Journal of Preventive Medicine" looked at adults in the U.S. who did and did not have an advance directive. Researchers were interested in what factors may be barriers to completing an advance directive. Lack of awareness was one of the most common reasons people cited for not having an advance directive. The study was conducted by Dr. Jaya Rao, while an associate professor in the division of pharmaceutical outcomes and policy at the University of North Carolina.
Findings from a study conducted by UCLA and the Centre for Research on Aging Health and Wellbeing, Australia, suggest that meditating may slow aging-related loss of gray matter in the brain. Researchers looked at the relationship between age and gray matter by comparing the brains of 50 people who had meditated for years with 50 who did not meditate. Both groups showed a loss of gray matter as they aged, however, there was less of a decline among those who meditated. The study builds upon previous research by the same team, which showed that meditation may reduce age-related atrophy in the brain’s white matter as well. Findings from the recent study were published in January 2015 in the online edition of“Frontiers in Psychology.”
A small study by scientists atMcMaster University, Ontario, suggests that exercise may not only keep skin younger, but may also be able to reverse skin agingwhen started in later years. Researchers compared skin samples from volunteers and found that men and women over age 40 who exercised frequently had healthier outer and inner layers of skin. In addition, the study determined that the skin of people over the age of 65 who began jogging or cycling for 30 minutes looked decades younger when examined microscopically. Study findings were presented at the 2014 annual American Medical Society for Sports Medicine meeting in New Orleans. (Please speak with your physician before beginning a new exercise plan.)
The findings of a study conducted by researchers at the University of Liege in Belgium suggests the quality of contact young people have with their grandparents and the relationships between the generations have a strong influence on their feelings about senior citizens and their opinions about growing old. Researchers spoke with 1,150 children and adolescents ages 7 to 16 about their thoughts about aging and older people. Those who described contact with their own grandparents as good or very good tended to have more positive feelings toward older people than those who described the contact they had with their grandparents in a less favorable light. The study was published in the December 2017 journal "Child Development."