Friday, February 27, 2015

Living Younger for Longer

Current research is providing a great deal of encouragement for people who want to join live younger for longer, who want to join www.Club 122  Next week we’ll talk about tips for maintaining an optimum weight. Dieting and obsessing about your weight is unhelpful in the long term. Creating a balanced Longevity Lifestyle, incorporating the key components, and maintaining it for the rest of your life typically results in your weight balancing itself as a byproduct of a healthier lifestyle. Take one tip at a time. Incorporate it into your lifestyle. Stop thinking “deprivation “and “can’t have,” and start thinking “This is fun. I’m purchasing insurance for a healthier aging process.” It’s a gift you give yourself—and the people you love. Imagine how much happier they will be when your lifestyle changes help you to avoid brain shrinkage and reduce your risk for diseases and dementia.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Obesity, Brain, and Heart

Obesity is associated with the hyperactivation of the Brain Reward System for high-calorie (HC) versus low-calorie (LC) food cues, which encourages unhealthy food selection and overeating. It is triggered by seeing, smelling, thinking about, and picturing (visualizing) the HC food. The good news is that this learned behavior can be changed and the brain can rewire itself to activate when it sees healthier food choices. The bottom line? It comes down to personal choice. Do you prefer a short-term food and beverage reward or long-term healthier heart and brain? A Longevity Lifestyle recommends giving your heart and brain a break today. Overweight and obesity happens an ounce at a time—so does weight loss and prevention. The good news is that when you lose a pound, your body will dissolve and re-absorb the now unnecessary blood vessels. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Obesity Epidemic and the Heart

Obesity doesn't impact just the brain, it impacts your heart, as well. Following are some examples:

  • People with increased belly fat had a 30% higher risk of AAA (Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm)

  • Overweight and obesity puts you at a higher risk for high blood pressure, increased blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and heart disease. As your BMI rises, so does your risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD)

  • Estimates are the body contains from 60,000 to 100,000 miles of blood vessels—each pound of excess fat requires anywhere between 7 and 100 miles of new vessels. Do the math. Even taking the lowest estimate of 7 miles, 50 pounds of excess fat translates into 350 miles!

No wonder obesity and heart disease go hand in hand, your heart having to work harder to pump blood through extra miles of blood vessels

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Obesity Epidemic and the Brain, #2

Studies have shown that being overweight or obese can be lethal for any brain, but it may be even more dangerous to the female brain. For example:

  • Women who are obese throughout life are more likely to lose brain tissue—linked to cognitive decline in the temporal lobe, involved with language, memory, and hearing. As their BMI (Body Mass Index) increased, their risk of brain atrophy (shrinkage) also increased from 13 to 16 percent.

  • Adult obese women showed increased risk of brain atrophy (shrinkage), which increases their risk for brain damage. A higher BMI was associated with shrinkage in every region of the cortex.

  • The higher a woman’s weight and BMI, the worse off she was in terms of brain function

Monday, February 23, 2015

Obesity Epidemic and the Brain

Scientists have identified an obesity epidemic that spans the globe. Obesity is bad for the brain, period. Big may be beautiful but it is not beautiful for the brain. Take a look at these study results:

  • Studies of 8,000 twins showed that being overweight doubled the risk of dementia, and being obese quadrupled it. A higher BMI (Body Mass Index) was associated with shrinkage in every region of the cortex.

  •  Individuals with excess belly fat are more than 3 times as likely to develop memory loss and dementia later in life compared with those with a svelte waistline.

 More tomorrow

Friday, February 20, 2015

Three Stress Categories, #3

The third general category of stressors is known as Eustress, a desirable type of stress. Eustress enables you to learn and grow. When you participate in choosing, undesirable consequences to your brain and body are reduced and negative, chronic effects tend not to accumulate. Eustress can include events such as: vacation, college, marriage, childbirth, promotion, retirement, travel, learning new skills, family gatherings, holiday / anniversary events, rewarding hobbies (music, sports, and learning), et cetera. To the extent possible, include lots of Eustress in your life, while at the same time, identify and avoid or minimize Distress and Misstress, The outcomes of this can reduce the amount of stress hormones triggered by the stressors and enhance many areas of your life.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Three Stress Categories, #2

Misstress can be defined as unidentified stressors. You may miss the impact to your life of these hidden stressors—at least initially. The bad news is that misstress can be cumulative and can produce greater negative results over time than distress. Misstress can include worry, anxiety, unrealistic expectations, inaccurate perceptions, mis-eating, lost keys, lack of sleep, long commutes, high alcohol intake, dehydration, lack of sleep, excessive computer usage, arguing, unmanaged emotions and feelings, and so on. Increase your awareness of your life and identify misstress. Over half the factors that impact aging are within your partial or not complete control. You can choose to manage how much you worry, sleep, drink, eat, and exercise, and so on.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Three Stress Categories, #1

In order to manage stressors effectively, so you avoid accelerating your biological age, identify each stressor and place it into one of three general categories. Distress can be defined as undesirable and often outright negative stressors. You want to avoid as many of these negative stressors as possible. Distress includes events and situations such as: being fired or laid off, bankruptcy, earthquake or other natural disaster, divorce, any type of abuse, accidents, chronic illness, death, wars, recession, and serious addictions. Think ahead. Identify distress in your life. Some of it you can prevent. Some of it you cannot. For stress in the distress category that you cannot avoid, you will need to have good stress-reducing skills in place to minimize damage to your brain and body.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tackle Those Stressors

In an article entitled “Psychological Stress and Accelerated Aging,” Dr. Benjamin B. Treadwell points out that studies have shown there is a dramatic association between psychological stress and physical markers of cellular stress and aging. In fact, you may accelerate your biological age by as many as 17 years by being exposed to what you perceive to be a high psychological stress for prolonged periods of time. To some degree, stress perception is somewhat subjective. Meaning, that 100 people can experience the same stressful situation and there will be a whole range of responses from a few who shrug it off to those who perceive it is nearly the end of the world. It is critically important to learn to identify and manage your stressors.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Human Versus Animal Brains

The size of the brain’s frontal lobes appear to differentiate humans from other members of the creature kingdoms. For example, a human’s frontal lobes comprise about 30 percent of the brain. In dogs, a comparable portion of their brain comprise about 7 percent (some dogs are capable of learning several hundred words but they do not articulate words as do humans). The comparable portion of the brain in cats is about 3 percent of the brain. Many people perceive they are able to have a more reciprocal relationship with a member of the canine family (as compared with the cat family). This perception may be related to the size of the brain area devoted to frontal lobes in relationship to the total brain size. In addition, humans have a pre-frontal cortex (right behind the forehead), which contains complex functions that it appears non-human brains do not contain. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Feline Genome

It’s not just about people. Researchers are working to unravel not only the human genome but also the genome of other species, as well. Cats, for example, seeing as they have shared households with humans for an estimated 9,000 years. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis led an international team that sequenced and analyzed the cat genome to better understand the animal’s domestication. Their report appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition. They found changes in the genes of domestic cats that other studies have shown are involved in behaviors such as memory, fear, and reward-seeking. Cats rely less on smell to hunt than dogs—and scientist found fewer genes for smell in cats than dogs. However, they identified genes related to an alternate form of smell that detects chemicals called pheromones, which allow cats to monitor their social environment, including seeking out the opposite sex. This ability is not as important to dogs, which tend to travel in packs. But it is crucial in cats, which are more solitary and may have more difficulty finding mates.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Genes and your Hippocampi

ENIGMA researchers reported noticing genetic differences in the hippocampus (there are two of them). The name hippocampus reportedly came from the fact that the shape of these little brain organs resemble that of a sea horse. They are linked to memory formation and organization (the hippocampi, not sea horses!)  A gene sequence called rs7294919 on chromosome #12 reportedly has been linked with variations in hippocampus volume: Every instance of a genetic variant called a T-allele in this region was linked to lower hippocampus volume equivalent to 3.9 years of aging. (DNA is made up of four bases—A, C, T and G.) The location on the chromosome (a threadlike structure that holds a DNA molecule) occurred between genes associated with the regulation of cell death and with cellular brain development and the cleaning up of proteins, including tau, which becomes defective in Alzheimer's disease. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Genes, Brain Volume, and IQ

ENIGMA researchers reported that a genetic sequence, located within the HMGA2 gene on chromosome 12, was linked with intracranial volume. Meaning, how large your brain can get inside the outer limits of your bony skull. At this spot, every C-allele variant was linked to not only lower intracranial (inside your skull) volume, but also to lower IQ scores on the Multidimensional Aptitude Battery, a measure of intelligence. (DNA is made up of four bases—A, C, T and G.) Lead ENIGMA researcher Paul Thompson, a neurologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine, was quoted as saying: "This is a really exciting discovery: that a single letter change leads to a bigger brain.”

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Genes and Brain Size

Researchers working with the ENIGMA project reportedly have uncovered specific genes that are linked to both brain volume and IQ (Intelligence Quotient). Lead researcher Paul Thompson, a neurologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine, said they found fairly unequivocal proof supporting a genetic link to brain function and intelligence. Many factors impact intelligence (e.g., number of connections between neurons, an individual’s personal experiences) and brain size may be one of them, although Thompson pointed out that brain size is not 100 percent correlated with a person's intelligence. Einstein reportedly had a smaller than average brain but the number of connections between neurons was much greater than in the average brain. Decreased brain volume is seen, however, in disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, depression, and schizophrenia (reported in the journal Nature Genetics).

Monday, February 9, 2015

Brain Genetic Variations

You may recall that DNA consists of a 64-letter (codon) alphabet and that a mutation involves a change in the 'spelling' of one or more genes. ENIGMA researchers screened millions of 'spelling differences' in the genetic codes they analyzed trying to identify which ones impacted the size of key parts of the brain. They used magnetic resonance images (MRIs) from 30,717 individuals. This MRI analysis focused on genetic data from seven regions of the brain that coordinate movement, learning, memory, and motivation. The researchers identified eight genetic variants associated with decreased brain volume. Apparently, individuals who carry one of those eight mutations had, on average, smaller brain regions than brains without a mutation but of comparable age. Some of the genes appear to be implicated in cancer and mental illness.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Brain's Genetic Code

According to Paul Thompson, PhD., Keck School of Medicine of USC professor and principal investigator of ENIGMA, scientists screened brain scans and genomes worldwide for factors that help or harm the brain. He reportedly said that “This crowd-sourcing and sheer wealth of data gives us the power to crack the brain's genetic code.” ENIGMA’s global team discovered eight genes that may erode or boost brain tissue in people worldwide. Any change in those genes appears to alter one’s mental bank account or brain reserve by 2 or 3 percent. Through the sharing of brain data with Project ENIGMA, a sufficiently large sample was created to reveal clear patterns in genetic variation and show how these changes physically can alter the brain and its functions. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Genetic Mutations Impacting the Brain

Preliminary results from the largest collaborative study of the brain to date—ENIGMA—were recently reported in the peer-reviewed journal Nature. About 300 researchers representing a consortium of 190 institutions around the world collectively have identified eight common genetic mutations that appear to age the brain in an average of about three years. Knowing about these eight common genetic mutations could form the basis for developing targeted interventions and/or therapies for neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and conditions on the Autism Spectrum.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

ENIGMA and the Aging Brain

No surprise in this 21st Century—the age of the brain—scientists and researchers are very interested in figuring out more about DNA mutations and about the genes that may contribute to mental decline and other brain-related symptoms sometimes seen in the aging brain. Enter ENIGMA, an acronym for Enhancing Neuro Imaging Genetics through Meta Analysis. ENIGMA researchers have pooled over 30,000 brain scans and genetic data from individuals in 33 countries, attempting to pinpoint genes that enhance or break down key brain regions in the human brain. Initial results were released in the peer-reviewed journal Nature. This largest collaborative study of the brain to date was led by researchers from the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC).

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Mitochondria and Mutations

The mitochondria are rod-shaped organelles – the  power generators (energy factories) of the cell. They convert oxygen and nutrients into adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the chemical energy "currency" of the cell that powers your cell's metabolic processes.  An estimated 1 percent of all your DNA is found in these mitochondria. Unlike chromosomal DNA that is inherited from both parents, you get all your mitochondrial DNA from your mother. Mutations accumulate in mitochondrial DNA more quickly than in chromosomal DNA, so it's possible to trace your maternal ancestry way back beyond any relatives you may know by name—by tracking the inheritance of mutations in mitochondrial DNA. According to Dr. John Stamatoyannopoulos, for over 40 years the assumption has been that DNA changes affecting the genetic code solely impact how proteins are made—but this basic assumption about reading the human genome missed half of the picture. These new findings highlight that DNA is an incredibly powerful information storage device, which nature has fully exploited in unexpected ways.

Monday, February 2, 2015

DNA Outside Your Chromosomes

An estimated 90 percent of all your DNA is located in your chromosomes. According to Dr. John Stamatoyannopoulos, U Washington associate professor of genome sciences and of medicine, about 15% of the 64-letter(codon) DNA  alphabet are dual-use codons known as duons. This relatively small group of duons simultaneously specify both amino acids and transcription factor (TF) sequences. This means that many DNA changes that appear to alter protein sequences may actually cause disease by disrupting gene control programs or even both mechanisms simultaneously. In human cells, 1% of DNA (about three-dozen genes) is located in the mitochondria, the energy factories in the cell that produce the energy-rich molecule known as ATP or adenosine triphosphate. Scientists are now linking mitochondrial DNA mutations with a wide range of age-related diseases including neurodegenerative disorders, some forms of heart disease, diabetes, and various cancers.