Friday, March 30, 2007

Grewsome news

Not often that one gets to gain height as an adult instead of weight. But since I started neuro-kinetics therapy--a one-of-a-kind program here in Denver--to unravel the degenerative scoliosis that plagues my lower back, that's one of my goals.

Therapist Bob Gaas claims that these aging curves are more about muscle spasm and scarring then about permanent spinal changes. He hopes this program will not only free me from stiff-woman syndrome--so tightly wound was I that I could scarcely step into my jeans in the a.m.--but also it will give me back a significant portion of the 1&1/2 inches of height I've lost through the years.

Indeed, I grew some after just the first visit. Better yet, early morning jean-stepping is not a problem. And best of all, I'm no longer the only lady in the Jazzercise class who can't shake her hips!

The D-lemma

If you've been reading my newsletters, you know that I have picked up D passion. This vitamin's star is rising not only with respect to its importance to bone density but also its anti-cancer properties. Worries about D toxicity are dropping off; many experts recommend as much as 4,000 units per day during winter months in northern climes. Some UK health experts also recommend a new public health policy of daily sunscreenless interludes outside when there's sun to be had.*

Here in sunny Denver, some of my pasty white patients haven't heard the news. In the last week alone, I checked D levels on two middle-aged ladies in search of bone strength. Their levels were virtually non-existent!

Are you a visual learner? Check out the cancer incidence maps at
Sunlight, Nutrition, and Health Resource Center.

Got sunshine? Got D? Then you got cancer protection.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Pain Matrix

I find that a challenging yoga class brings a little thrill of fear to me which is not necessarily a pleasant sensation. A new study utilizing fancy brain-imaging techniques may explain the connection.

Researchers at the University of Manchester used PET scan imaging to see what parts of the brain lit up when people ached in their arthritic old knees. This technique involves injecting a person with a tagged sugar molecule called F-fluorodeoxyglucose or FDG. FDG is concentrated in neurons as they suck up sugar while at work reacting to the task at hand.

Neurobiologists already know which brain pathways activate when volunteers are pinched or kicked or however it is that researchers induce experimental pain. This same 'pain matrix' is also activated by arthritic pain. These UK scientists were surprised, however, to find that pain from degenerative joints "was associated with increased activity in the cingulate cortex, the thalamus, and the amygdala. These areas are involved in the processing of fear, emotions, and in aversive conditioning."

So if yoga induces pain in degenerating knee joints--and despite all that soothing patter from the instructor, I find it often does--aging yoginis might feel fear.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Silent brain infarctions

Clinically identified stroke represents the tip of the iceberg in terms of cerebral vascular disease by at least an order of magnitude...It is hard to believe, however, that loss of brain tissue should go without consequences. The brain may reorganize functional networks to adapt to lesions and recover function. But with each subsequent stroke, the capacity to do so is diminished.
--Brian J. Murray, MD

Scary new news on SBIs--one-fourth of persons with obstructive sleep apnea (the bedmate who keeps you awake as you wait for him to take his next breath) were found in a Japanese study to have evidence of extensive silent strokes on MRI imaging.

For more information on diagnosing tiny strokes and their devastating consequences, see
The white matter matter.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Relative to those who drink virtually no caffeine per day, old people who toss back more than four cups daily have about half the risk of pitching over dead from cardiovascular disease. This per current year issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

(Soy) Nuts to you!

Too bad soy nuts are so disgusting. Previous research shows they squelch the heat and support the bones. A new study suggests that women on the road to diabetes improve their disordered metabolism by substituting soy nuts for meat protein.

Soy nut meals decreased insulin resistance and fasting blood sugar. Probably all the chewing involved in getting through the meal without choking.

Monday, March 19, 2007

HRT: NAMS is singing a new tune

In this day and age, the life span of any position statement is a maximum of 2 or 3 years. In the face of so much new information, we felt an update was due.
--Dr. Wolf Utian, Executive director of the North American Menopause Society

And their new position is that the benefits of hormone therapy outweigh its risks in healthy perimenopausal and early postmenopausal women with menopause-related symptoms and a low baseline risk of stroke.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

"Oldest old support ratio"

It may take a village to raise a child, but don't forget that part of the village needed to care for the frail elderly.

Swiss investigators, noting that resources to care for the oldest old are increasingly scarce, set out to quantify the problem. They developed a parameter called the oldest old support ratio, defined as the ratio of people aged 50-75 to those aged 85 years and older. This number not only reflects the demographic shift of populations to the older range, but also--as I can personally attest to--the number of aging children in charge of their frail parents.

So what's the scoop on the oldest old support ration in Switzerland? While it stood at 139.7 in 1890 (scads of middle-aged helpers to a smattering of little old people), it had fallen to 13.4 by 2003. Dr. Francis Herrmann and company predict that this ration will fall to around 4 in both Switzerland and the US by 2050.

By my calculations, that won't be near enough helpers and resources to care for 99 year old me.

Friday, March 16, 2007

An Aged Athlete

From a simpler time, when old was old, and physically fit was not (old that is):

An old-time champion pedestrian, whose record 30 or 40 years ago aroused the country, has recently at the age of nearly 70 performed the feat of walking from Philadelphia to New York, a distance of 96 miles, in a little over 23 hours and finished the task in excellent physical condition. This is a good example of the fact that the physical organization of man need not necessarily go to pieces before the allotted three score and ten, when, according to some, the system is worn out and useless. Of course, this man is an exceoptional case, but he shows what the possibilities are, and probably a great man other individuals of as great age could do likewise.

----JAMA, June 23, 1906

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Like fertilizer on a sparse lawn...

...a chemical enticement encourages the skin to fill in hair-growing structures.*

---RJ Davenport

Dr. Davenport goes on to explain why hair gets increasingly pathetic with age. People are born with all the hair follicles they'll ever have. Over time, hair follicle performance 'falters,' and these hair-replenishing structures spend more time resting than growing. Follicles, along with every thing else that's fresh and young in humans, shrink with age.

Is there good news? A molecule called beta-catenin can induce new hair follicles, at least in mice. Dr. Davenport feels that this research may hold hope that hair can be saved as we age.
*R. J. Davenport, Hair Trigger. Sci. Aging Knowl. Environ. 2005 (27), nf54 (2005)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Measuring up on the SSWO score

Fraility in the elderly is all about loss--stamina, weight, muscle mass, energy--all of it yesterday's news as vibrant 70-somethings shrivel into tiny 80-somethings. Dutch researchers examined whether 17 weeks of exercise and micronutrient supplementation could up the SSWO (scale of subjective well-being for older persons) scores for scores of frail, old Dutchmen and women.

Their conclusion? No, it's not enough, or perhaps too little too late. They did find, however, a strong correlation between deficiencies in vitamins B6, D, and folate and crazy low SSWO scores.

In addition, they theorized that the lack of improvement in SSWO scores might reflect that subjective assessments of well-being are stable and relatively insensitive to actual changes in health status. In other words, even though the interventions may have changed the participants health for the better, these little, old people had a fixed notion of how they felt at this stage of the game, and self-appraisals are more about attitude than fitness and nutritional status.