4 WAYS TO MAINTAIN BALANCE WHEN THINGS GET HECTIC (ACE Healthy Living Feb 2019)
It seems as though the pace of life continues to gain speed. Constant events, deadlines, goals and to-do lists fill the calendar. This pace of life can become stressful. Unfortunately, stress is one of the primary causes of disease, unhappiness and anxiety. When you are really busy, it’s likely you don’t have time for a shower, much less a massage or a vacation. So, how do you make time for de-stressing? Let’s get right to the point, because time is of the essence. Try any of the following actions to improve your ability to reduce stress, maintain balance and enhance resiliency. Each idea can be implemented daily with little time commitment.
- Change the way you think – Shift your focus to abundance rather than lack. Focus on what you have rather than what you don’t. This simple mindset shift evokes gratitude and a sense of peace. We inherently fear failure and rejection. We worry about trying to control every outcome in our lives. We compare ourselves to other people, and we believe that we are always behind. As easy as it is to compare ourselves to others, it really is something to avoid. Each person has his or her own challenges, feelings of lack and bouts of unhappiness. We all have our own story, each is unique and different. It’s O.K. to be content with where you are right now and be grateful for what you have in the present.
Action: Start a gratitude journal – For one week, each night before bed, write down three things for which you feel grateful, proud, happy or content. Note how these things came into your life. At the end of the week, assess how you feel. It’s likely a mood shift may have occurred, and you feel less stressed.
- Take a break – In the midst of an overwhelming schedule, a selfish break can feel irresponsible. However, a short five- to 10-minute break will clear the mind, help with fatigue and provide a much-needed pause during a busy day. If possible, go for a short walk outdoors. Nature provides grounding energy, and movement improves blood flow and produces mood-enhancing hormones. Better yet, pair regular breaks with a daily bout of exercise. Maintaining a consistent exercise program, even when life is hectic, will enhance your physical and emotional abilities to deal with stress.
Action: Walk in the present – In the next hour, take a five-minute break for a walk. Notice your surroundings and pay attention to how your body feels. Take inventory of how you feel prior to the walk and again after the walk.
- Be a superhero – Physical activity, smiling, power postures and deep breathing are quick fixes for stress-related physical symptoms. Our bodies display stress in external ways—headaches, gastrointestinal issues, sleeplessness, general aches and pains can often be attributed to stress. Even if you don’t experience severe symptoms, it’s likely you have experienced fatigue, general tightness around the neck and shoulders, and a slouchy, tired posture. You can trick your body into feeling fewer physical symptoms of stress by changing your physical posture. Stand up straight, align the spine and smile. This power posture is an instant boost.
Action: Pose like a superhero – During moments of stress or general tiredness, stand up and place your hands on your hips. Pretend you are a superhero and puff up your chest. Take five deep breaths. Fill your lungs and belly to capacity. Next, smile for 10 seconds. The simple act of smiling sends a positive signal to the brain and allows the body to relax a bit. This power posture can be helpful before presentations and difficult conversations, and for those times when you just feel overwhelmed.
- Practice mindfulness – When life is overwhelming, your mind naturally spins with multiple thoughts. Focusing your thoughts on the past can create feelings of regret and depression, and focusing on the future can foster feelings of anxiety. The only place we can be without worry is truly in the present. That means letting go of expectations of anything except what happens right now. Most of us have future deadlines, goals and ambitions. Being mindful in the moment does not mean that we let go of those things. It simply means we turn our attention to the task at hand, and really place our focus and energy with it. For some, mindfulness is being fully immersed in work. Taking the time to eat slowly, taste and enjoy food is a form of mindfulness. Paying attention to how your body feels during movement is mindfulness. Mindfulness might also take the shape of paying attention to the breath, something that occurs all day long without you giving it a second thought. Whatever form mindfulness takes for you, the point is that it can be done anytime, anywhere, and it provides immediate results. In as little as 60 seconds, your body and mind can become calm, and a sense of balance can be restored.
Action: Breathe – Assume a comfortable position with a tall posture, standing or seated. Set a timer for one to three minutes. Close your eyes and pay attention to your breath. Follow the inhale, follow the exhale. Try to inhale for the same duration as you exhale. Notice how you feel before this exercise and after.
It takes conscious effort and commitment to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. These four ideas are quick and efficient ways to navigate stress and maintain balance when life gets hectic.
WAYS TO PREVENT FALLING (From Washington Post, Lean and Fit, Feb 27, 2019)
The author of this article had taken a fall and was apprehensive about falling again. She was 53 years of age. She consulted several people about how to prevent falls, and here are excerpts from that article regarding the advice she received.
- Practice the following:
Level 1. Balance on one foot. Start by doing it near a doorway or chair so there is something to grab for support.
Level 2. Use your non-dominant hand to stir a pot.
Level 3. Use your non-dominant hand to stir a pot while standing on one foot.
- If you are going to fall, the best way to do it is to bend a knee and roll at an angle over one shoulder to protect your hip and your noggin.
- Tuck your head, use your strength to direct your fall, and roll so that you take most of the impact on your backside, the upper back and/or gluts being the most resistant parts of your body.
- Wear “minimal” shoes with thin, flexible soles for both sports and everyday living. The information we get from the bottoms of our feet (the technical term is plantar neurosensory input) helps us maintain balance. This input, coupled with muscle strength and agility, is essential for generating a “good correctional movement” should we fall.
Debora’s Note: I recently took a fall while walking fast on a dark street. I tripped on uneven pavement and when I realized that I was not going to be able to regain balance, the one thing I told myself as I was falling, was, “Don’t hit your head on the sidewalk”. I did hit my nose and head, but I was able to keep from hitting hard by bracing myself with my arms. Despite a lot of facial bruising, I was unharmed. But I learned that walking in the dark requires one to pay extra attention to the surface you are walking on.
SOMETHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING (From ACE Healthy Living Jan 16, 2019)
A key barrier to being physically active is an all-or-nothing mindset. Unless there is time for a full workout, why bother to start it at all? What is the point of eating carrots for dinner if I ate two cupcakes at work today? It’s Friday and I didn’t get one workout in this week—why bother doing one now? I have forgotten to drink water all day—well, I might as well have another soda. This type of thinking subconsciously drives disengagement in positive behaviors.
Although it doesn’t work with everything, the idea of “something is better than nothing” nicely applies to healthy behaviors. In other words, it is better to do something good—however small or seemingly insignificant—for your health and well-being than nothing at all.
Not convinced? Consider, for example, that a five-minute exercise interval performed once an hour may improve glucose and insulin levels in obese individuals better than one single longer session (Holmstrup et al., 2014).
Another study found that people who rode 10 minutes on a stationary bike had a sharper cognitive response to specific tests compared to individuals who read a magazine for the same amount of time (Samani and Heath, 2018). And immune function may be significantly enhanced with a 20-minute bout of exercise (Dimitrov, Huelton and Hong., 2017). As you can see from this small sample, the research confirming that something (in this case, a small amount of exercise) is better than nothing is encouraging.
Specifically, some movement is better than none. Standing is better than sitting. Walking or moving around is better than standing still. The same is true for other health behaviors that often feel challenging for some people. For example, drinking some water each day is better than drinking none. Eating some fruits and vegetables is better than eating none. Getting some sleep is better than getting none.
Here are some practical ideas for adding small doses of physical activity and movement into your daily life:
- Walk around your house while you are brushing your teeth.
- Every time the phone rings, go for a walk or do some wall-sits.
- Stand up once every 30 minutes and breathe deeply for 2 minutes while doing standing squats.
- Dance your way through household chores (it’s way more fun!).
- Convert your work station into a standing/active station.
- Make family time an active time.
- Anytime you have to wait for something, do squats or calf raises.
- Every time you have to use the restroom, do five push-ups (after might be best!).
- Perform standing lunges while fueling up your car.
- Go for a brisk 10-minute walk after dinner.
Adopting a few small healthy habits has the potential to progress into more healthy patterns over time and gives you the opportunity to experience what reaching your goal might feel like. Doing something rather than nothing also provides a sense of accomplishment, which initiates positive self-talk and self-empowerment.
YOU NEVER AGE OUT OF HAPPINESS AND HEALTH (from Guest Writer, Jason Lewis. Jason is passionate about helping seniors stay healthy and injury-free. He created StrongWell to share his tips on senior fitness. His website is strongwell.org )
Happy, healthy seniors have one thing in common: they never give up on life. And thanks to modern medicine and advanced technology, seniors are aging healthier than ever.
Pay attention to your gut – You already know that you shouldn’t ignore your “gut” feelings. But new research suggests that your intestines have a bigger role in your health than previously thought. Researchers have found that the healthiest seniors are those with a diverse microbiota. Eating fermented foods, taking a probiotic supplement, and abstaining from antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, are all ways to improve gut health and the population of good bacteria in your gut’s microbiome.
Up your energy levels – There are several ways to improve your energy levels, such as getting enough sleep and eating foods that are high in protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, and vitamins. If you find that lifestyle changes aren’t enough, talk to your doctor about adding an energy supplement to your daily routine. Don’t just grab the first bottle off the shelf, however. Take the time to evaluate your actual needs and the options available.
Exercise for 30 minutes each day – According to Genesis Health + Fitness, 30 minutes is all it takes to change your life. Half an hour of exercise each day can help you lose weight, reduce stress, and lower your chances of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Plus, exercising can help keep your memory sharp.
Avoid brittle bones – Osteoporosis is a condition that leaves you with bones that can break without warning, and you may have to limit physical activities. The Mayo Clinic explains, however, that physical activity is one way to keep your bones healthy. Getting enough calcium is also important. If you’re not a milk drinker, make a point to eat calcium-fortified foods, dark green leafy vegetables, and salmon.
Thwart loneliness – Senior loneliness is an epidemic that, according to the Washington Post, is just as harmful as being a lifelong smoker. While it’s perfectly normal to feel lonely sometimes, don’t be afraid to drag yourself out of the house to attend church, visit the senior center, or volunteer reading to children at your local elementary school.
Don’t let age get in the way of your well-being. By implementing small changes, such as keeping tabs on your gut health and social activities, you’ll make your health a priority all year long.
NOT TOO LATE TO JOIN THE FREE WALKING CLINIC – Monday & Thurs. 5:30pm-6:30pm- Gillson Park
HUNGER AND ANGER = HANGER (from ACE Health eTips June 27, 2018)
Most of us have experienced the overwhelming grouchiness that takes over when we’ve gone too long without food. Turns out, there’s some science to explain why this happens. Here’s what you need to know and how you can help your clients cope when hanger strikes.
The official definition of hanger is “a feeling or showing of anger due to hunger.” As humans, we have the choice to listen to our hunger. Yet, in our busy and overbooked lives, we often choose to ignore this signal, waiting far too long to feed our empty stomachs. The body’s response to being ignored is to cause an emotional reaction (like anxiety and stress) to prompt a reaction. And the longer the body is deprived, the greater the emotional response.
It’s important to realize that the stomach and brain are connected to one another, and part of the communication is related to signals of hunger and satiety. In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found a correlation between hunger, feeling angry and having low blood sugar. Basically, when you’ve gone too long between meals, your blood sugar level drops, signaling the release of a cascade of hormones.
Ghrelin – Ghrelin is a hormone produced in the stomach that stimulates feelings of hunger. It can also produce anxiety in the brain, which is where hanger starts. When you’re hungry, you’re more more irritable and more aware of your emotions because it reinforces the drive to seek food and to satisfy nutrition needs. A release of ghrelin causes you to be hungry and should be the motivation for you to begin seeking out food. When you eat, ghrelin disappears and so does the anxiety. However, if this hunger signal is ignored, it can cause a disruption of other hormones in your body.
Cortisol and Adrenaline – A low blood sugar level also triggers the release of stress-related hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. As these two hormones increase, the body goes into a fight-or-flight response. From there, the effects of hanger are expressed mentally, emotionally and physically.
When you’re hungry, your prefrontal cortex doesn’t function at a high capacity. This can affect personality, self-control, planning and even temporarily shut down long-term memory. Emotionally, your mind begins to feel anxiety and stress. This can lead you to lose patience and focus, or even act abnormally. Physically, your heart rate, blood pressure and respiration all increase.
Neuropeptide Y – If you continue to ignore the ghrelin and the spike in cortisol and adrenaline, your body will go into a panic mode and you will experience hanger in its full effects. At this point, the body releases neuropeptide Y, which has been found to make people behave more aggressively toward those around them. Additionally, this neuropeptide stimulates food intake with a preference for quickly digestible carbohydrates. Lastly, a release of neuropeptide Y increases your motivation to eat large amounts of food, while also delaying how long it takes for that food to make you feel satisfied. In a nutshell, hanger causes you to have a larger-than-normal appetite, especially for carbs, so you end up overeating.
Real-life Effects of Hanger
Example #1: One study that attracted attention a few years ago found that judges are less likely to set lenient sentences the closer it gets to lunch. Turns out, their hunger led to hanger, which impacted their decision-making skills.
Example #2: A classic study of married couples asked them to stick pins into “voodoo dolls” that represented their loved ones, to reflect how angry they felt toward them. They found that when people had lower blood sugar levels, the more pins they stuck into their dolls. Ouch!
HOW TO PREVENT HANGER
Be Mindful – Listen for clues. If you notice yourself getting more irritable, hunger may be the cause. Take a break and find a snack that contributes to healthy eating. Most people should not go more than four to five hours between meals. This type of healthy eating pattern will help relieve your hunger and balance out your blood sugar levels to prevent riding the emotional rollercoaster of hanger.
Be Prepared – Keep snacks on hand that are travel-friendly, so you have them readily available. A snack should contain a blend of carbs, proteins and fats. Whole-grain carbs that are high in fiber (5 grams or more per serving) raise serotonin levels to give your blood sugar a quick boost, while the fiber keeps your stomach full. Proteins and fats are digested more slowly to give you staying power and keep you feeling full for longer. By having your own stash of healthy and fresh foods within reach, you’ll be less tempted to indulge in less-healthy fare that lack the nutrition your body craves.
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR AND WEIGHT LOSS? (from IDEA Fitness Journal July 2018)
Apple cider vinegar has a cure-all reputation for helping with weight loss, cholesterol, diabetes, acne, digestive problems and other issues. The truth is somewhat less impressive, but apple cider vinegar does have proven health benefits.
Some small studies have found that vinegar can aid weight loss (Kondo et al. 2009). The vinegar may reduce food intake either by increasing satiety (Ostman et al. 2005) or by leaving people feeling nauseated (Darzi et al. 2014), which seems like a pretty miserable way to lose weight.
Vinegar has long been a folk remedy for diabetes, and recent science supports the association. Drinking about a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before a meal helps to control blood sugar in healthy adults as well as adults with diabetes (Johnston et al. 2013). The effect seems to happen because vinegar reduces the digestion of carbohydrates (Johnston et al. 2010).
Apple cider vinegar has impressive antibacterial and antifungal properties, including against pathogens like Salmonella and E. coli that cause foodborne illness (Yagnik, Serafin & Shah 2018). Vinegar has been used for centuries to clean wounds and disinfect surfaces.
One caution: Vinegar is quite acidic (about 5% acetic acid) and can irritate the skin, mouth and throat. It can also harm tooth enamel. If you drink it, dilute a tablespoon in at least a cup of water. Better yet, use vinegar as an ingredient in food: vinaigrettes for grain salads, green salads and other vegetables.
Unpasteurized vinegar still contains the “vinegar mother,” or the bacteria that converts wine into vinegar. Consider looking for unpasteurized brands, as those probiotic bacteria may have additional benefits.
WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR FITNESS (that you may not have considered) (from Eat this, Not That, as referenced in ACSM newsletter)
Aside from exercise, stretching, keeping a journal and the usual fitness improvement suggestions, here are a few interesting ones, which you probably haven’t thought about.
Order Your Coffee Black – Drinking java (with no cream or sugar) has been linked to lowering your risk of depression, providing migraine relief, curbing cravings, improving skin elasticity, and relieving migraines. And the glorious benefits don’t just end there: According to a study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior, participants who sipped caffeinated coffee had a 16 percent higher metabolic rate on average than those who drank decaf.
Look Up Restaurant Menus – Before RSVPing to that birthday dinner and texting “yes” in all caps in response to a brunch invite, make sure to spend a few minutes reviewing the restaurant’s menu. If you take the time to decide what you’ll order before you sit down to a meal, you’ll maximize your chances of making a more informed decision and order healthily.
TIP – Another pro tip: Volunteer to order first! If you wait for the waiter to take everyone else’s orders first, you’re more likely to rethink your healthy decision.
Clean your Kitchen – When was the last time you cleaned out your salt and pepper shakers? These shocking findings may convince you that it’s spring cleaning time: University of Virginia researchers tested the surfaces of salt and pepper shakers belonging to 30 participants who had cold-like symptoms and found that all had traces of the cold virus. Other gross things in your kitchen are likely also contaminated with bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella. Another reason to keep your eating space organized? A study published in the journal Environment and Behavior discovered that people eat 40 percent more food when they’re in a messy kitchen.
Snap a Selfie – Sure, stepping on a scale may help you stay accountable for your weight-loss plan, but snapping a selfie may be a more effective method. According to researchers at the University of Alicante in Colombia, taking full-body pictures and documenting waist circumference helped over 71 percent of dieters reach their goal weight. And a smaller waist circumference correlates to a reduced risk of metabolic diseases. Next time you’re at the gym, don’t be shy to snap a selfie—it may help you crush those summer body goals after all.
Vacuum – You’ll burn calories, reduce allergies, and transform the most-dreaded household chore into your new favorite pastime. How? Just by plugging in your Dyson. Researchers at the UCLA Department of Medicine found that dust mites that occupy your home’s hidden spaces can trigger allergies and cause you to pop antihistamines, which, if used frequently, can increase your appetite and carbohydrate cravings.
Boil Some Eggs – Taking less than 10 minutes to boil some eggs for the week ahead will help pack your diet with lutein and zeaxanthin, two nutrients that work to promote eye health. And forking the orbs for breakfast may even help you keep your tummy tight. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that participants who ate eggs for breakfast experienced a 65 percent greater weight loss and a 34 percent greater reduction in waist circumference than those who bit into a bagel bright and early.
Follow the 20/20/20 Rule – If you spend the day staring at blue-light-emitting screens (hello, iMac and iPhone) like the majority of Americans, you likely suffer from watery, bloodshot eyes by end of day. Combat your iDevices’ peeving side effects by investing in computer glasses (we especially like Pixel‘s) and try the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break from your screen and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away. It’ll help you reduce eye strain and fatigue, according to the Canadian Association of Optometrists.
KETOGENIC DIET (from ACE Health Tips 4/19/18)
The ketogenic diet is a hot topic in nutrition today. Keto recipes are everywhere, and everyone knows someone who has at least tried the keto diet. But what exactly are “exogenous ketones,” where are they found, and how do they impact health and performance?
What are Ketones? – Ketones (also referred to as ketone bodies) are metabolites of fat oxidation and are produced in the liver. The foremost circulating ketones in the blood are acetoacetate (AcAc) and 3-beta-hydroxybutyrate (3HB). Their primary function is providing brain fuel because the brain can only utilize glucose and ketone bodies for energy. Additionally, ketones can function as hormone signalers and be oxidized in muscles during exercise.
Nutritional Ketosis – Nutritional ketosis (i.e., increased ketone levels in the body) can be achieved in multiple ways, including fasting, following a carbohydrate-restricted diet (<50 grams/day), prolonged exercise without carbohydrate intake, or by consuming exogenous ketones. Exogenous means consuming a product (produced outside of the body), whereas endogenous describes breaking down stored fuels in the body (typically carbohydrate, fat and protein).
The terms ketosis and ketogenic have slightly different meanings. Ketosis describes elevated blood ketone levels from either endogenous or exogenous ketones (i.e., produced from the liver or taken as a supplement). Ketogenic describes a state of elevated ketone bodies from following a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet (such as the ketogenic diet).
Proponents believe that the potential benefits of exogenous ketones stem from an improvement in overall substrate metabolism. Exogenous ketones may preserve endogenous fuel; that is, limit (or possibly suppress) the breakdown of carbohydrate for energy during exercise. Unlike the conventional model of fat utilization during exercise, ketones are oxidized at high intensities. Additionally, ketones do not impact insulin as carbohydrate and amino acids do; thus, they may be a preferential supplement for individuals with insulin resistance.
The possible disadvantages of exogenous ketones are their palatability and tolerance. Supplemental ketone esters are very bitter and cause significant gastric upset in some subjects.
Ketone salts and esters likely have no effect on body composition, because they still provide calories. They may be mis-marketed as fat-burning supplements (which is technically correct as ketones are derived from fat), but exogenous ketones will likely not produce the same body composition-improving results as an energy-restricted or ketogenic diet.
Summary: During exercise, exogenous ketones may essentially function as a fourth fuel source. Based on limited research, they do not necessarily provide an advantage over other exogenous fuels (carbohydrate, fat or protein). If you can afford and tolerate them, exogenous ketones likely do not decrease performance (as the only side effects thus far are high cost and gastrointestinal upset) and may preserve endogenous fuels.
MOMENTUM OR NO-MENTUM (from ACE Healthy Living 3/28/18)
It’s easier to continue doing what you’ve been doing most consistently. If you have been successful with health behaviors, it easier to keep eating healthfully and integrating enjoyable physical activity and exercise into your life. You’ve got momentum. Likewise, if you have been in a pattern of moving less, skipping workouts, and eating poorly, it is also easier to keep doing that. You’ve got no-mentum—an increased likelihood of continuing to not follow health behaviors.
Blame it on inertia—expressed as resistance to change—which means a body at rest tends to stay that way while a moving body tends to keep moving. It’s Newton’s first law of motion, and it’s just as applicable to a ball rolling downhill as it is to your life.
Further, the law says the body will continue in its present state until it is acted on by an outside force. An outside force is like an external motivator, and could be anything from bad results from a blood test, a spouse or partner who wants you to lose weight, or someone making fun of you for being out of shape. These external factors might get you started, but they almost never keep you going over the long-term. To do that, you need to use your internal force. It’s your inner motivation and strength.
Gather Your Inner Forces – Answer these questions to help identify the internal forces that keep you motivated:
Identity: What kind of person are you? What do you stand for? Your sense of who you are as a person and what you stand for gives you a connection to what is truly important to you. For what matters most, you often find it easy to do what you need to do. When you care enough, the effort becomes almost effortless. Whatever your best qualities are, consider using them in the area of health behaviors. When health is something you “should” do—a chore, task or obligation—you will be more likely to struggle. When you make health a part of your identity, you will more easily follow through on it.
Strength: What is something you excel at doing? You’re awesome at something. Perhaps even multiple things. All of the qualities that make you a terrific parent, manager, business owner, hard worker, community leader, etc., can also be used to ensure success with health. It is not unusual to meet people who own successful businesses, work in very demanding fields and successfully manage family needs, and yet are crippled when it comes to following through on a health plan.
You already have a lot of skills and abilities to organize complex and challenging tasks and achieve them—just use those same skills to improve your health instead of compartmentalizing them to the areas in which you are successful.
Meaning: What do you most care about in life? Why bother? Why do any of it? Why work hard at anything? What and/or who truly motivates you in this life? Whatever you care most about in life, you will enjoy it more and do it more effectively if you do it in a healthy body. Whoever matters most to you in life—your friends, partner, spouse, pets—whatever time you spend with them will be richer and more enjoyable when you live in a healthy body.
Health has an almost magical ability to elevate almost all other experiences you have and to expand your view of the world. As the saying goes, “A healthy person has many goals; an unhealthy person has one.”
Enjoyment: What is something you have done (or would like to try) that puts a smile on your face while you are exerting yourself physically? Stop engaging in forms of exercise, physical activity or classes that you do not enjoy. Just stop. Forcing yourself to do things you don’t enjoy because you think you should never works. Haven’t we been trying this for long enough to know this? No one naturally hates physical activity (or vegetables). We learn it. There are no fish born that hate swimming in water.
Find healthy foods you enjoy and don’t eat the ones you don’t enjoy. Try different forms of physical activity until you find some you enjoy. Consider getting back into a sport or activity you used to love but stopped when you got married/had kids/got busy at work (i.e., lost yourself in other things and people) or try an activity that you have always wanted to.
The hardest part of health is getting started. If that’s where you are, let’s make this the last time you ever start again and turn “no-mentum” into momentum.
MUSCLE LOSS IN OLD AGE LINKED TO FEWER NERVE SIGNALS (from BBC News-Health March 2018)
Researchers say they may have worked out why there is a natural loss of muscle in the legs as people age – and that it is due to a loss of nerves. In tests on 168 men, they found that nerves controlling the legs decreased by around 30% by the age of 75. This made muscles waste away, but in older fitter athletes there was a better chance of them being ‘rescued’ by nerves re-connecting. The scientists published their research in the Journal of Physiology.
As people get older, their leg muscles become smaller and weaker, leading to problems with everyday movements such as walking up stairs or getting out of a chair. It is something that affects everyone eventually, but why it happens is not fully understood.
Prof Jamie McPhee, from Manchester Metropolitan University, said young adults usually had 60-70,000 nerves controlling movement in the legs from the lumbar spine. But his research showed this changed significantly in old age.
“There was a dramatic loss of nerves controlling the muscles – a 30-60% loss – which means they waste away,” he said. “The muscles need to receive a proper signal from the nervous system to tell them to contract, so we can move around.”
The research team from Manchester Metropolitan University worked with researchers from the University of Waterloo, Ontario, and the University of Manchester. They looked at muscle tissue in detail using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and they recorded the electrical activity passing through the muscle to estimate the numbers and the size of surviving nerves.
The good news is that healthy muscles have a form of protection: surviving nerves can send out new branches to rescue muscles and stop them wasting away. This is more likely to happen in fit people with large, healthy muscles, Prof McPhee said.
Although it is not known why connections between muscles and nerves break down with age, finding out more about muscle loss could help scientists find ways of reversing the condition in the future.
Happy Spring! Soon you can get outdoors again, and enjoy all the things that nice weather allows.