March 25-31, 2011
By Dr Robert Goldman
Longevity News and Review provides readers with the latest information in breakthroughs pertaining to the extension of the healthy human lifespan. These news summaries are compiled by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M; www.worldhealth.net), a non-profit medical society composed of 24,000 physician and scientist members from 110 nations, united in a mission to advance biomedical technologies to detect, prevent and treat aging related disease and to promote research into methods to retard and optimise the human aging process. Dr Robert Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., D.O., FAASP, A4M Chairman, and Dr Ronald Klatz, M.D., D.O., A4M President, physician co-founders of the anti-aging medical movement, distil these headlines and provide their commentary.
Life-Extending Role of Relationships
Previously, studies have suggested that breast cancer patients benefit from engaging in a meaningful emotional support network. Researchers at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and the Shanghai Institute of Preventive Medicine analysed data on women enrolled in the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survivor Study. From 2002 to 2004, a total of 2,230 breast cancer survivors completed a quality of life survey six months after diagnosis and a majority responded to a follow-up survey 36 months after diagnosis. The women were asked about physical issues like sleep, eating and pain, psychological wellbeing, social support and material wellbeing. The answers were converted to an overall quality of life score. During a median follow-up of 4.8 years after the initial quality of life assessment, the researchers documented participants who had died or been diagnosed with a cancer recurrence. Six months after diagnosis, the team found that only greater social wellbeing was significantly associated with a decreased risk of dying or having a cancer recurrence. Compared to women with the lowest scores, women who scored highest on the social wellbeing quality of life scale had a 48% reduction in their risk of a cancer recurrence and a 38-percent reduction in the risk of death. Finding that emotional support was the strongest predictor of cancer recurrence, women reporting the highest satisfaction with marriage and family had a 43-percent risk reduction, while those with strong social support had a 40-percent risk reduction and those with favourable interpersonal relationships had a 35-percent risk reduction. Observing that: “Social wellbeing in the first year after cancer diagnosis is a significant prognostic factor for breast cancer recurrence or mortality, the team submits that their data “[suggests] a possible avenue of intervention by maintaining or enhancing social support for women soon after their breast cancer diagnosis to improve disease outcomes.”
Dr Klatz observes: Finding that breast cancer patients who have a strong social support system in the first year after diagnosis are less likely to die or have a recurrence of cancer, this study underscores the importance of a positive emotional component in life.
Aerobic Exercise Promotes Memory
Previous studies have found that the region of the brain known as the hippocampus shrinks in late adulthood, leading to impaired memory and increased risk for dementia. Kirk I. Erickson, from the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues enrolled 120 sedentary older adults without dementia, in a year-long study. Each subject was assigned to one of two groups: those who began an exercise regimen of walking around a track for 40 minutes a day, three days a week; or those limited to stretching and toning exercises. The team conducted Magnetic Resonance Imaging at the study’s start, at six months, and at the end of the year-long study term. The aerobic exercise group demonstrated an increase in volume of the left and right hippocampus of 2.12 percent and 1.97 percent, respectively. Whereas the same regions of the brain in those who did stretching exercises decreased in volume by 1.40 and 1.43 percent, respectively. In conducting spatial memory tests for all participants at the three intervals, the researchers found that those in the aerobic exercise group showed improved memory function – as compared their performance at the start of the study, an improvement associated with the increased size of the hippocampus. The team also examined several biomarkers associated with brain health, including brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a small molecule that is involved in learning and memory, and found that the increases in hippocampal size were associated with increased amounts of BDNF. The researchers conclude that: “These theoretically important findings indicate that aerobic exercise training is effective at reversing hippocampal volume loss in late adulthood, which is accompanied by improved memory function.”
Remarks Dr Goldman: Moderate physical exercise may increase the size of the brain’s hippocampus in older adults, leading to an improvement in spatial memory. This study reinforces other published data suggesting a positive association between physical activity and cognitive function.
Lower Stress to Aid Heart Health
It is thought that psychosocial factors exert a role in the risk of heart disease, even after adjusting for the effects of traditional risk factors. Mats Gulliksson, from Uppsala University Hospital, and colleagues studied the effects of a cognitive behavioral therapy program, involving 362 men and women discharged from the hospital after a coronary heart disease event within the previous 12 months. A group of 192 patients were randomly assigned to participate in cognitive behavioral therapy, involving the specific components of education, self-monitoring, skills training, cognitive restructuring and spiritual development; and focusing on stress management. Therapy was delivered in 20 two-hour sessions during one year, in small groups separated by sex. The other 170 patients enrolled in the study received traditional care. During an average 94 months of follow-up, 23 participants in the cognitive behavioural therapy group died, 69 (35.9 percent) had a non-fatal cardiovascular event and 41 (21.4 percent) had a non-fatal heart attack. This compares to 25 deaths, 77 non-fatal cardiovascular events (45.3 percent) and 51 non-fatal heart attacks (30 percent) in the traditional care group. Importantly, patients in the cognitive behavioural therapy group had a 41-percent lower rate of both fatal and non-fatal heart events, 45 percent fewer recurrent heart attacks and a lower rate of death (28 percent), compared to those in the traditional care group. Writing that: “A [cognitive behavioural therapy] intervention program decreases the risk of recurrent [cardiovascular disease] and recurrent acute myocardial infarction,” the researchers submit that: “This may have implications for secondary preventive programs in patients with coronary heart disease.”
Comments Dr Klatz: It is estimated that psychosocial factors account for an estimated 30 percent of heart attack risk. In finding that cognitive behavioural therapy focusing on stress management helps to decrease the risk of recurrent heart attacks and other cardiovascular events in patients with heart disease, these Swedish scientists reveal a key approach to managing chronic stressors, factors that may promote atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.
Anti-aging medicine is the fastest-growing medical specialty throughout the world and is founded on the application of advanced scientific and medical technologies for the early detection, prevention, treatment, and reversal of age-related dysfunction, disorders, and diseases. It is a healthcare model promoting innovative science and research to prolong the healthy lifespan in humans. As such, anti-aging medicine is based on solid scientific principles of responsible medical care that are consistent with those applied in other preventive health specialties. The goal of anti-aging medicine is not to merely prolong the total years of an individual’s life, but to ensure that those years are enjoyed in a productive and vital fashion.
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