Healthy Aging

Common medicines tied to changes in the brain

Commonly used drugs for problems like colds, allergies, depression, high blood pressure and heart disease have long been linked to cognitive impairment and dementia. Now researchers have some fresh evidence that may help explain the connection.

These drugs, known as anticholinergics, prevent the chemical acetylcholine from acting properly in the nervous system. Some of the drugs are “Benadryl for allergies, the antidepressant Paxil and the antipsychotic Zyprexa, Dimetapp for colds and the sleep aid Unisom.”

Use of these drugs may have more benefits than drawbacks for particular patients, and the authors acknowledge that the study has limitations.

Always consult your health care professional before starting or stopping any treatment.

The Secrets to a Happy Life, From a Harvard Study

Findings from “the Harvard Study of Adult Development, a research project that since 1938 has closely tracked and examined the lives of more than 700 men and in some cases their spouses,” demonstrate that an “important barometer of long term health and well-being is the strength of your relationships with family, friends and spouses.”

This is one reason why it’s important to replace workplace friends and colleagues with new associations after retirement.

Fruits and Vegetables to Fight Cataracts

Cataracts that cloud the lenses of the eye develop naturally with age, but a new study is one of the first to suggest that diet may play a greater role than genetics in their progression.

Among about 1,000 pairs of female twins in Britain, “researchers found that women who consumed diets rich in vitamin C and who ate about two servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables a day had a 20 percent lower risk of cataracts than those who ate a less nutrient-rich diet.”

There are two interesting findings here:

(1) Women who consumed twice the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 75 milligrams a day of vitamin C had a 33% lower risk of progression of cataracts than those who ate less vitamin C. (The RDA of vitamin C for adult men is 90 milligrams a day, but this research involved only women.)

(2) The study found no benefit from vitamin C supplements, only from vitamin C in the diet.

“Foods high in vitamin C include oranges, cantaloupe, kiwi, broccoli and dark leafy greens.”

Walk, Jog or Dance: It’s All Good for the Aging Brain

According to a study published in March in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease:

regular walking, cycling, swimming, dancing and even gardening may substantially reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

A Fun, New Exercise Trend for People Over 50

Outdoor playgrounds for older people are popping up across the country. Popular in Europe, the facilities typically feature low-impact exercise equipment designed to promote flexibility, balance and coordination. These play spaces — most built over the last decade — can now be found in Miami, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle, Cedar Rapids, New York City and scores of other communities across the country.

And fitness isn’t the only potential benefit. Because these playgrounds appear in parks and other public areas, they encourage social interaction that can help fight the isolation many people encounter as they age. Most of the standard equipment is also appropriate for all ages, which leads to interaction between adults and children.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

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