from the world's big
Researchers at University College London link waist circumference with dementia.
- Researchers at University College London have discovered a link between waist circumference and dementia.
- Seventy-four percent of volunteers that developed dementia were overweight or obese.
- Women with central obesity had a 39 percent greater risk of dementia.
Mediterranean Diet Has Huge Health Benefits, New Study Finds | The New York Times<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f003c82b77eb38381dedb83ebf2e802a"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_JiKXdZwiIg?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Co-author Andrew Steptoe, a professor of psychology and epidemiology at the university, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/23/health/belly-fat-dementia-link-wellness/index.html" target="_blank">sums up</a> the team's work:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Dementia is one of the major health challenges of the 21st century that could threaten successful aging of the population. Our findings suggest that rising obesity rates will compound the issue."</p><p>Dr. Dorina Cadar, a senior fellow at UCL and corresponding author of the study, suggests monitoring both BMI and WC status. Her suggestions include following a Mediterranean diet, reducing alcohol consumption, and regular exercise. </p><p>Dr. Richard Isaacson, the director of the Alzheimer's Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/23/health/belly-fat-dementia-link-wellness/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> that brain health and waist size are linked, especially for women.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Based on emerging data from studies like this, we are now able to clarify sex differences in dementia risk. Combining these findings with my clinical experience, I have seen greater impact on visceral fat on memory function in women, likely mediated by metabolic pathways."</p><p>This is another in a long list of studies linking obesity to cognitive problems, and serves as a reminder as to why <a href="https://bigthink.com/21st-century-spirituality/does-lack-of-exercise-lead-to-dementia" target="_self">exercise</a> and <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/intermittent-fasting" target="_self">nutrition</a> remain your best defense against dementia. Regardless of the conveniences of modern society, human beings evolved during times of scarcity. We're not built for excess. Our brains pay the price when we indulge. </p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Did you know that shifting to a positive perspective on aging can add 7.5 years to your life? Or that there is a provable U-curve of happiness that shows people get happier after age 50?
Volunteering can feel great and make good things happen. Now we know it promotes your health too.
- A new study has confirmed that volunteering is good for your health.
- The researchers found that volunteering two hours a week reduced the risk of death in older adults.
- The test subjects also reported a greater sense of meaning, more optimism, and got more exercise.
Volunteering is great for you. Who knew?<p>In line with previous <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/aging-well-meaningful-life" target="_self">studies</a>, the researchers found that adults over 50 who volunteer at least 100 hours a year – a mere two hours a week – enjoyed a variety of mental health benefits.</p><p>People who volunteered at this level reported higher levels of optimism, positive affect, and a sense of meaning in their lives. They also reported fewer cases of depressive symptoms and loneliness. The data also showed these individuals had a lower risk of death or physically limiting impairments throughout the study.</p><p>Those who volunteered less saw reduced variations of these benefits, if any. </p><p>However, volunteering did not have much of an effect when it came to a variety of specific physical health outcomes including stroke, heart disease, arthritis, obesity, cognitive impairment, or chronic pain. While it was associated with more physical exercise, it did not affect rates of binge drinking, smoking, or sleep problems.</p><p>Frequent volunteers also reported little difference from non-volunteers on psychosocial outcomes such as life satisfaction, financial mastery, or depression.</p>
How is this different from previous studies?<p>This study was carried out, in part, to correct for the limitations of previous studies.</p><p>First of all, this study looked into reports on the well-being of a large number of nationally representative older adults. Many previous studies focused on younger people, small sample sizes, or groups that were not reflective of the general senior population. This study had a sample size of around 13,000 adults.</p><p>The researchers also paid attention to these people longer than previous efforts did. The data was collected three times over the course of eight years. Previous studies often stopped at the four-year mark. Those earlier studies also often failed to look closely enough to determine if the effect was causal, rather than correlational, for a variety of reasons. This time around, the study was structured to explicitly examine which of the previously noted health benefits were caused by time spent volunteering. </p>
Should we all be volunteering all the time then?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="4IZTgo0X" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="298481aadf519109f3929425ea890e8e"> <div id="botr_4IZTgo0X_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/4IZTgo0X-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/4IZTgo0X-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/4IZTgo0X-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The study found that the health benefits at 200+ hours of volunteering per year, about four hours a week, were very similar to the benefits of 100 hours per year. This is in line with previous studies suggesting that the 100-hour mark is a "threshold" point where the health benefits of volunteering fully manifest.</p><p>There are limits to this study that must be considered. Most of the data were self-reported and subject to self-report bias. It also focused purely on time spent volunteering and did not investigate the nature of that volunteer work. The authors suggest that future studies should look into how the quality of volunteer time, the motivations for volunteering, the kind of work being done, and other factors influence the results.</p><p>Despite these limits, the authors are enthusiastic about the potential applications of these findings. </p><p>They suggest that "The growing older adult population possesses a vast array of skills and experiences that can be leveraged for the greater good of society via volunteering. With further research, policies and interventions aimed at encouraging more volunteering it might be an innovative way of simultaneously enhancing society and fostering a trajectory of healthy aging (on some indicators) in the large and rapidly growing population of older adults." They also suggest that one day doctors might suggest volunteering as a means to improve health outcomes. </p><p>That might be an excellent initiative to follow up on after this pandemic subsides. When that day comes, you can check out <a href="https://www.volunteermatch.org/" target="_blank">this list</a> of available spots for volunteering. Options for volunteering virtually are also <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/11/health/volunteering-pandemic-health-benefits-wellness/index.html" target="_blank">available</a>. </p>
A joint study by two England universities explores the link between sex and cognitive function with some surprising differences in male and female outcomes in old age.
- A joint study by the universities of Coventry and Oxford in England has linked sexual activity with higher cognitive abilities in older age.
- The results of this study suggest there are significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing/word recall in men. In women, however, there was a significant association between sexual activity in word recall alone - number sequencing was not impacted.
- The differences in testosterone (the male sex hormone) and oxytocin (a predominantly female hormone) may factor into why the male cognitive level changes much more during sexual activity in older age.
Study links sexual activity to higher cognitive function in old age<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM2NTkxOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NTY3Nzk3M30.IsAFwfT6eY3zB7MhnRBj_Kdf4OPVW3wZmL0VX7CW3Xk/img.jpg?width=980" id="9e3a9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fd1267b47b651effb578ccfb29aada64" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="concept of elderly brain cognitive function healthy brain" />
The results of this study suggest there are significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing/word recall in men and a significant association between sexual activity in word recall in women.
Image by Jirsak on Shutterstock<p>Cognitive function has been associated with various physical, psychological, and emotional patterns in older adults - from <a href="https://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-alzheimers-disease/jad110377" target="_blank">lifestyle</a> to <a href="https://academic.oup.com/ageing/article-abstract/37/6/685/40745" target="_blank">quality of life</a>, loneliness, and <a href="https://n.neurology.org/content/59/3/364.short" target="_blank">mood changes</a> as well as <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/1471-2458-14-510" target="_blank">physical activity</a> levels.</p><p><a href="https://academic.oup.com/ageing/article/45/2/313/2195326" target="_blank">A 2016 joint study</a> by the universities of Coventry and Oxford in England has linked sexual activity with higher/better cognitive abilities in older age.</p><p>This longitudinal study used a newly available wave of data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing to explore the connections between sexual activity in the older population (50+) with cognitive function. </p><p>The study consisted of 6,833 participants between the ages of 50-89 years old. </p><p><strong>Two different cognitive function tests were analyzed: </strong></p><ul><li>Number sequencing, which broadly relates to the brain's executive functions.</li><li>Word recall, which relates to the brain's memory functions.</li></ul><p>The results of these tests were then adjusted to account for each person's gender, age, education level, wealth, physical activity, and mental health. The reason for this is that the researchers noticed there are often biases in other studies that examine the links between sexual activity and overall health.</p><p>For example, in this scenario, without taking those things into account, healthy older Italian men with a continued interest in sex would score higher on these tests. Women, who are more likely to become widowed and lose their sexual partner, would score lower. </p><p><strong>The results...</strong></p><p>While studying the impact of sexual activity on overall health, there are not many studies that focus on the link between sexual activity and cognitive function, and no other study that focuses on sexual activity and cognitive function in older adults. </p><p>The results of this one-of-a-kind study suggest there are significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing/word recall in men. In women, however, there was a significant association between sexual activity in word recall alone - number sequencing was not impacted. </p><p>You can see the breakdown of this information <a href="https://academic.oup.com/view-large/35418872" target="_blank">here</a>. </p>
Why were the results for males and females so different?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM2NTkyMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxODA1OTMwMX0.HkKUez-IPp81XFBYgiaXsb1uKlZieq1ePU95wm4roKI/img.jpg?width=980" id="691df" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="42ae93bafe6d56bbc095ad17d4d9f06a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="old women drawing concept of cognitive ability in older women" />
One of the highlights of this study was exploring the differences sexual activity has in cognitive function in older males and older females.
Photo by Gligatron on Shutterstock<p>Exploring the differences when it comes to the improved cognitive ability between the older males and the older females in this study was one of the highlights of the research.</p><p><strong>Testosterone versus oxytocin</strong></p><p>Testosterone, which is the male sex hormone, reacts very differently to the brain than oxytocin, which is released in females during sexual activity. </p><p><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-testosterone" target="_blank">Testosterone</a> plays a key role in many different areas such as muscle mass, facial and pubic hair development, and mood changes. It also impacts your sex drive and your verbal memory and thinking ability. </p><p>Testosterone belongs to a class of male hormones, and although the ovaries of a woman do produce <a href="https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/normal-testosterone-and-estrogen-levels-in-women#1" target="_blank">minimal amounts of testosterone</a>, it's not enough to compare the impacts on the male and female bodies.</p><p><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/love-hormone#biologicalsex-and-oxytocin" target="_blank">Oxytocin</a>, on the other hand, is produced in the male and female bodies <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9361803/" target="_blank">quite similarly</a>, but ultimately the hormone reacts differently in the female body, triggering the portion of the brain responsible for emotion, motivation, and reward. </p><p>These differences in testosterone and oxytocin may factor into why the male cognitive level changes much more during sexual activity in older age. </p><p><strong>Women's ability for memory recall remains a mystery…</strong></p><p>Another study, this time <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9421566/" target="_blank">back in 1997</a>, looked at the relationship between gender and episodic memory. The results of this study proved that women have a higher level of performance on episodic memory tasks (for example, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10101879/" target="_blank">recalling childhood memories</a>) than men. The reason for this was not further explored in this study and has remained something of a mystery, even now. </p><p><strong>The female brain deteriorates during menopause.</strong></p><p>Women very commonly struggle with memory-related problems during and post-menopause. This could be the reason why the original study proved older men had a higher cognitive ability in number sequencing than older women. </p><p>Along with menopause-related cognitive decline, women are also at a <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161109112447.htm" target="_blank">higher risk for memory impairment</a> and dementia compared to men. </p><p>Lead researcher of the original 2016 study, Dr. Hayley Wright, from Coventry University, explains:</p><p><em>"Every time we do another piece of research we are getting a little bit closer to understanding why this association exists at all, what the underlying mechanisms are and whether there is a 'cause and effect' relationship between sexual activity and cognitive function in older people." </em></p>
It may be easiest when you're young, but the proven benefits of learning a new language at any age cannot be ignored.
- We have two main memory systems that influence learning: declarative memory, which consists of facts that can be consciously recalled, and procedural memory, which consists of different "procedures" we learn that are more instinctual to recall.
- Young children are able to access their procedural memory systems without the distraction of a declarative memory system. That means they can pick up grammar and language faster.
- There are many ways you can make it easier to learn a second or third language as an adult, and there are many benefits to doing so.
Declarative memory versus procedural memory<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzI3MjAxMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxOTA0NTUyM30.BVSxs2ZJKbi7uI-TICDCuVghQoIjQtcKIWeohOV8lYE/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C52%2C0%2C52&height=700" id="71a03" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="81df1517b4d5f8435e28701c24db73e5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="a child and a woman sitting on a bench reading concept of learning" />
Why is it seemingly easier for children to learn languages?
Image by bokan on Shutterstock<p><strong>We have two main memory systems that influence how we learn things:</strong></p><ol><li>Declarative memory system</li><li>Procedural memory system </li></ol><p><strong><a href="https://www.livescience.com/43153-declarative-memory.html" target="_blank">Declarative memory</a></strong>, also referred to as explicit memory, consists of facts and events that can be consciously recalled. Declarative memory is made of episodic memories and semantic memories. </p><p>For example: The name of your favorite pet from childhood or the name of a teacher who was kind to you are episodic memories. They are based on specific events (or episodes) in your life that are a part of your own unique history. </p><p>Semantic memories come from the distinct ability to recall certain facts and concepts that are often referred to as common knowledge, for example, understanding the difference between a cat and dog or being able to recall how to use a telephone. </p><p><a href="https://www.livescience.com/43595-procedural-memory.html" target="_blank"><strong>Procedural memory</strong></a> is a part of our long-term memory and is responsible for how we learn to do things (motor skills). Procedural memory is about how we perform different "procedures," as the name suggests. </p><p>Examples of this could be how to ride a bike, climbing stairs, or how to play an instrument. </p><p>The difference between the two is, for example, that procedural memory will allow you to ride a bike with little effort even if you haven't done so in years, while declarative memory will allow you to find the route from the corner store back to your home. </p><p><strong>Declarative memory takes longer to form, making it easier to access unchallenged procedural memory as young children. </strong></p><p>We use procedural memory (which develops early in life) to learn complex things such as grammar or language. Declarative memory, on the other hand, is a system that builds over a number of years and takes a longer time to develop. </p><p>Young children are able to access their procedural memory systems without the distraction of a declarative memory system, which makes learning a language a faster process. </p>
How can I make it easier to learn a second language as an adult?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzI3MjAwNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjI5MjM1OH0._y9yAsdlIpKZlm1XhVeaez4O7D84TWfDhP6t0E7U_qE/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=304%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=700" id="3f2db" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="03262df9c88a33b75a4d7fe57d96ed13" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="pink note on blue background concept of using color coded notes during study" />
Using color coded notes during your study can improve your learning.
Photo by Nicole Lienemann on Shutterstock<p><strong>You may actually be trying too hard.</strong></p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0101806" target="_blank">According to a 2014 study</a>, adults who struggle to learn new languages may be trying too hard. The research proved that concentrating and trying to learn helped adults master basic vocabulary in a foreign language, but in the end it hindered their ability to learn the grammar of the new language. </p><p>"Still, this does not mean aspiring bilinguals should necessarily scale back how much effort they put into learning," researchers on the project <a href="https://www.livescience.com/46938-why-adults-struggle-with-new-languages.html" target="_blank">explained</a>. </p><p>While more research needs to be done into easier and more effective ways for adults to learn languages, one of the things you can do to improve how much you're learning might be to add a relaxing activity to your educational sessions. </p><p><strong>Studies show coloring or drawing can lead to more intense focus and relaxation, which can make learning a second language much easier.</strong> </p><p>Allowing your brain to participate in a low-stress activity such as coloring while you listen to a language lesson online may make it easier to retain knowledge about the language. Coloring has been shown to calm the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that is related to fear/stress response. It also has been shown to stimulate the part of the brain that is responsible for creativity and logic. </p><p>Color therapy has shown benefits for helping those who struggle with anxiety. Introducing this activity into your learning process can help you retain more information, according to practical strategy and leadership expert <a href="https://neenjames.com/3-ways-to-increase-focus-with-adult-coloring/" target="_blank">Neen James</a>.</p><p><strong>Allow your mind to wander and come back to task—don't force it.</strong></p><p>According to <a href="https://www.livescience.com/12824-distract-interruptions-boost-performance-concentration.html" target="_blank">LiveScience</a>, attempting a task over and over again can quite literally be mind-numbing and very counterproductive. Instead, you may find it more helpful to take breaks or distract yourself to pay attention to something else. </p><p>The article suggests that brief interruptions can actually keep you functioning at higher levels. </p><p><strong>Organizing your notes (and your studies) with colors can help you retain more information. </strong></p><p>The benefits of organizing your work cannot be overstated when it comes to productivity and learning. According to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563205000105?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">this 2006 study</a> published in Computers in Human Behavior, color-coding your notes helps you process new information easier as you're learning it. </p><p>According to <a href="https://kuscholarworks.ku.edu/handle/1808/10026" target="_blank">this 2009 paper</a>, color coding new words from a language you don't understand can help you learn those words easier and faster. As an added resource, Effectiviology has some really helpful information on how to best <a href="https://effectiviology.com/color-coding-techniques-vocabulary-learning/" target="_blank">color-code your learning</a>. </p><p><strong>Learning a new language at any age is good for you—keep trying!</strong></p><p>According to a <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ana.24158" target="_blank">more recent study</a> led by Edinburgh's School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences lecturer Dr. Thomas Bak, learning a language at any age is beneficial. The research from this study suggests that bilingualism improves later-life cognition and can delay the onset of dementia in some cases.</p>