April 1-7, 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.
Meditation Yields Psychological Improvements
The practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation. Sara W. Lazar, from Massachusetts General Hospital, and colleagues studied the role of a mindfulness meditation programme on brain structure, and resultant psychological changes. Sixteen men and women were enrolled in an eight-week mindfulness meditation programme. The researchers conducted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the subjects’ brains, two weeks before and after they participated in the meditation programme. In addition to weekly meetings that included practice of mindfulness meditation – which focuses on non-judgmental awareness of sensations, feelings and state of mind – participants received audio recordings for guided meditation practice and were asked to keep track of how much time they practiced each day. A set of MRIs were also taken of a control group of non-meditators over a similar time interval. The team found that the meditation group participants spent an average of 27 minutes each day practicing mindfulness exercises, and their responses to a mindfulness questionnaire indicated significant improvements compared with pre-participation responses. When the researchers analyzed the MRIs, they found increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection. Participant-reported reductions in stress also were correlated with decreased grey-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress. Noting that none of these changes were seen in the control group, indicating that they had not resulted merely from the passage of time, the team concludes that: “Participation in [Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction] is associated with changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.”
Dr Klatz observes: Finding that an eight-week mindfulness meditation programme makes measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress, these researchers reveal a potentially important behavioural approach to improve mental wellbeing.
Exercise, Weight Management Promote Mobility
Older adults with cardiovascular and cardiometabolic disorders often experience significant limitations of mobility, which in-turn can profoundly curtail independent living. W. Jack Rejeski, from Wake Forest University, and colleagues enrolled 288 men and women, ages 60 to 79 years, who were overweight or obese and had cardiovascular disease or were at-risk for cardiovascular disease. For the 18-month study, subjects were divided into three groups: a control group who received education on successful aging, a physical activity only group, and a physical activity and weight loss group. The mode of physical activity was set as the 400-metre walk, a widely used measure of mobility disability in older adults because for those who cannot walk this distance the likelihood of losing their independence increases dramatically. While the physical activity group did well on the 400-metre walk, researchers observed the most dramatic mobility improvement among those participants who combined an increase in physical activity with weight loss. On average, those subjects improved their mobility by 5 percent, with those with the most limited mobility improving by as much as 20 percent. Observing that: “Existing community infrastructures can be effective in delivering lifestyle interventions to enhance mobility in older adults in poor cardiovascular health with deficits in mobility,” the team urges that: “Attention should be given to intervening on both weight and sedentary behaviour since weight loss is critical to long-term improvement in mobility.”
Remarks Dr Goldman: By revealing that walking regularly and losing weight can improve mobility as much as 20% in older, obese adults with poor cardiovascular health, these scientists underscore the importance of simple measures to achieve and maintain independent living as we age.
Fruits, Vegetables Ward Off Heart Disease
In that previous studies have shown that a higher intake of fruits and vegetables associates with a lower risk of ischaemic heart disease, the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Heart Study Collaborators studied data collected on more than 300,000 European men and women during a study period averaging just over eight years. The team found that those people who consumed at least eight portions (80 grams each) of fruits and vegetables a day had a 22-percent lower risk of fatal ischaemic heart disease compared with those consuming fewer than three portions a day. Specifically, the researchers calculated that each one-portion (80g) increment in fruit and vegetable intake lowered the risk of fatal heart disease by 4 percent. The team concludes that: “Results from this large observational study suggest that a higher intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of [ischaemic heart disease] mortality.”
Comments Dr Klatz: A large-scale European study finds that increased dietary consumption of fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 22 percent, reaffirming the anti-aging benefits of a healthy diet.
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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