Health journalist Judy Foreman talks about her new book Exercise Is Medicine: How Physical Activity Boosts Health and Slows Aging
This is Scientific American’s Science Talk, posted on April 24th, 2020. I’m Steve Mirsky. And under our current, often locked-down situation, it’s still really important to try to get some exercise. Judy Foreman is the author of the new book Exercise is Medicine: How Physical Activity Boosts Health and Slows Aging. She’s a former nationally syndicated health columnist for the Boston Globe, LA times, Baltimore Sun and other places, and an author for the Oxford University Press.
Judy Foreman is the author of “A Nation in Pain” (2014), “The Global Pain Crisis” (2017), and “Exercise is Medicine,” (2020), all published by Oxford University Press, and was a staff writer at The Boston Globe for 22 years and the health columnist for many of these years. Her column was syndicated in national and international outlets including the Los Angeles Times, Dallas Morning News, Baltimore Sun and others.
She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Wellesley College and has a Master’s from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She was a Lecturer on Medicine at Harvard Medical School, a Fellow in Medical Ethics at Harvard Medical School and a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She spent six months as a guest reporter for The Times of London. She was also a Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University. She was also host of a live, weekly call-in radio show on Healthtalk.com.
Judy has won more than 50 journalism awards, including a 1998 George Foster Peabody award for co-writing a video documentary about a young woman dying of breast cancer and the 2015 Science in Society award from the National Association of Science Writers.
From a March 5, 2020 American Academy of Neurology release:
“These results are exciting, as they suggest that people may potentially prevent brain shrinking and the effects of aging on the brain simply by becoming more active,” said study author Yian Gu, Ph.D., of Columbia University in New York and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
“Recent studies have shown that as people age, physical activity may reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Our study used brain scans to measure the brain volumes of a diverse group of people and found that those who engaged in the top third highest level of physical activity had a brain volume the equivalent of four years younger in brain aging than people who were at the bottom third activity level.”
Older people who regularly walk, garden, swim or dance may have bigger brains than their inactive peers, according to a preliminary study to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 72nd Annual Meeting in Toronto, Canada, April 25 to May 1, 2020. The effect of exercise was equal to four fewer years of brain aging. The study used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to measure the brains of people with a range of activity levels, including those who were inactive to those who were very active. The scans showed less active people had smaller brain volume.
Eat less, live longer- If you want to reduce levels of inflammation throughout your body, delay the onset of age-related diseases and live longer—eat less food. That’s the conclusion of a new study by scientists from the US and China that provides the most detailed report to date of the cellular effects of a calorie-restricted diet in rats.
(Salk News, February 27, 2020)
While the benefits of caloric restriction have long been known, the new results show how this restriction can protect against aging in cellular pathways, as detailed in Cell on February 27, 2020.
Aging is the highest risk factor for many human diseases, including cancer, dementia, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Caloric restriction has been shown in animal models to be one of the most effective interventions against these age-related diseases. And although researchers know that individual cells undergo many changes as an organism ages, they have not known how caloric restriction might influence these changes.
In the new paper, Belmonte and his collaborators—including three alumni of his Salk lab who are now professors running their own research programs in China—compared rats who ate 30 percent fewer calories with rats on normal diets. The animals’ diets were controlled from age 18 months through 27 months. (In humans, this would be roughly equivalent to someone following a calorie-restricted diet from age 50 through 70.)
On the Mayo Clinic Radio podcast, Dr. Sophie Bakri, a Mayo Clinic ophthalmologist and retina specialist, discusses macular degeneration, a common eye disorder with age. This interview originally aired Feb. 29, 2020.
Dry macular degeneration is a common eye disorder among people over 50. It causes blurred or reduced central vision, due to thinning of the macula (MAK-u-luh). The macula is the part of the retina responsible for clear vision in your direct line of sight.
Dry macular degeneration may first develop in one eye and then affect both. Over time your vision may worsen and affect your ability to do things such as read, drive and recognize faces. But this doesn’t mean you’ll lose all of your sight.
Early detection and self-care measures may delay vision loss due to dry macular degeneration.
Excerpts from a WSJ. Magazine interview (Feb 24, 2020):
Well, when you get older, you are more fabulous, actually. You go through a lot of hard times in your life… and then, at this stage you get out of those bad situations quicker and they are less painful. You figure them out, and you move on. And I’m having the best time ever. I’m 71 now, it’s the best time ever, and I think at 81 it will be great. My mom [had] her best times when she was in her 90s. So I look forward to that.
A model since age 15, Maye Musk was in her 60s when her life took a turn for the fabulous. In her seventh decade, the former dietitian appeared in a Beyoncé music video, signed a contract with top modeling agency IMG and became a CoverGirl spokesperson, setting a record as their oldest yet. At the end of last year, Musk, now 71, added memoirist to her resume. Her book, A Woman Makes a Plan: Advice for a Lifetime of Adventure, Beauty and Success, chronicles her career and experience raising her children—SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon, restaurateur and philanthropist Kimbal and filmmaker Tosca—as a single mother who fled a turbulent marriage.
Born in Canada, raised in South Africa and now residing in L.A., Musk spoke to WSJ. about what she eats for breakfast, how she stays on top of emails and why she doesn’t miss hustling all the time.
From a JAMA Network Open online release (February 21, 2020):
Across the 6 studies of 8699 participants, mean age ranged between 70 and 74 years and mean gait speed ranged between 1.05 and 1.26 m/s. Incident dementia ranged from 5 to 21 per 1000 person-years. Compared with usual agers, participants with only memory decline had 2.2 to 4.6 times higher risk for developing dementia…
Those with only gait decline had 2.1 to 3.6 times higher risk. Those with dual decline had 5.2 to 11.7 times the risk…
Impaired mobility, such as slow gait, is associated with an increased risk of dementia, but the effect size of this association is generally modest.1–6 Identifying persons who experience both mobility decline and memory decline, a main symptom in the early stage of dementia, may have a greater prognostic value in assessing risk of dementia because the combination could identify a group in whom gait speed decline is at least in part caused by neurodegenerative pathologic conditions of the central nervous system rather than local musculoskeletal problems, such as sarcopenia or osteoarthritis.7–9 A recent study of 154 participants with mild cognitive impairment reported that those who declined in both cognition and gait speed had the highest risk of dementia.
We observed that increased adherence to the MedDiet modulates specific components of the gut microbiota that were associated with a reduction in risk of frailty, improved cognitive function and reduced inflammatory status.
Objective Ageing is accompanied by deterioration of multiple bodily functions and inflammation, which collectively contribute to frailty. We and others have shown that frailty co-varies with alterations in the gut microbiota in a manner accelerated by consumption of a restricted diversity diet. The Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) is associated with health. In the NU-AGE project, we investigated if a 1-year MedDiet intervention could alter the gut microbiota and reduce frailty.
Design We profiled the gut microbiota in 612 non-frail or pre-frail subjects across five European countries (UK, France, Netherlands, Italy and Poland) before and after the administration of a 12-month long MedDiet intervention tailored to elderly subjects (NU-AGE diet).
Results Adherence to the diet was associated with specific microbiome alterations. Taxa enriched by adherence to the diet were positively associated with several markers of lower frailty and improved cognitive function, and negatively associated with inflammatory markers including C-reactive protein and interleukin-17. Analysis of the inferred microbial metabolite profiles indicated that the diet-modulated microbiome change was associated with an increase in short/branch chained fatty acid production and lower production of secondary bile acids, p-cresols, ethanol and carbon dioxide. Microbiome ecosystem network analysis showed that the bacterial taxa that responded positively to the MedDiet intervention occupy keystone interaction positions, whereas frailty-associated taxa are peripheral in the networks.
Conclusion Collectively, our findings support the feasibility of improving the habitual diet to modulate the gut microbiota which in turn has the potential to promote healthier ageing.
From a Wall Street Journal Opinion article (Feb 10, 2020):
How to address the elder-care crisis? Ideally, doctors would screen older patients for dementia. An early diagnosis helps patients understand treatment options, plan for the future and receive appropriate care in the hospital.
Other steps include: more preventive care, changes to Medicare’s rehabilitation policies, adopting new reimbursement methods, and developing new measures of success. Primary-care offices can prevent hospital visits, but Americans seeking primary care face an average wait time of 24 days. This might not be a problem for a patient in need of an annual physical, but conditions like chest pain or infections require prompt treatment. Primary-care offices that offer same-day sick visits, home visits for bed-bound older adults, or at-home monitoring of conditions could reduce emergency department volumes.
Challenging widely held assumptions about the diminishing abilities of an ageing brain, leading neuroscientist Daniel Levitin argues that we should view getting older as a beneficial experience rather than a form of cognitive entropy. Persuasively argued and consistently surprising, The Changing Mind will alter your perception of the relationship between age and intellect.
We have long been encouraged to think of old age as synonymous with deterioration. Yet, recent studies show that our decision-making skills improve as we age and our happiness levels peak in our eighties. What really happens to our brains as we get older?
More of us are living into our eighties than ever before. In The Changing Mind, neuroscientist, psychologist and internationally-bestselling author Daniel Levitin invites us to dramatically shift our understanding of growing older, demonstrating its many cognitive benefits. He draws on cutting-edge research to challenge common and flawed beliefs, including assumptions around memory loss and the focus on lifespan instead of ‘healthspan’.
Levitin reveals the evolving power of the human brain from infancy to late adulthood. Distilling the findings from over 4000 papers, he explains the importance of personality traits, lifestyle, memory and community on ageing, offering actionable tips that we can all start now, at any age.
Featuring compelling insights from individuals who have thrived far beyond the conventional age of retirement, this book offers realistic guidelines and practical cognition-enhancing tricks for everyone to follow during every decade of their life. This is a radical exploration of what we all can learn from those who age joyously.