Brain News Bonanza: Quite a few interesting reports on brain health, today. First, a study published in Psychology and Aging found that challenging older adults’ brains can also lead to personality changes—in a good way. In a test of adults ages 60 to 94, those who took part in a 16-week program designed to improve cognitive skills also showed increases in openness and receptiveness to new experiences. Lead researcher Elizabeth Stine-Morrow said:
This is novel because “there’s a lot of research that suggests as we get older… people don’t change radically in their personality … so the fact that we could, with a small cognitive intervention, increase this openness to experience, which in the long run may affect cognition, it’s exciting and a little bit different.”
Meanwhile, British researchers have found that almost a quarter of the changes in a person’s intelligence level over the course of a lifetime may be due to genes, which could partly explain why some people’s brains stay sharper with age than others. The genetic component is greater than ever before estimated, the researchers say—though environmental factors, like diet, exercise, education, and stress, likely play a larger lifetime role in brain health.
Speaking of exercise and education: A ‘cautiously encouraging’ new study suggests that a daily walk or jog could decrease your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, or change the course of the disease if it does start to develop. And researcher Margie E. Lachman, a psychologist who specializes in aging and is working on a mega-study of boomers’ brain health, claims a college degree appears to slow the brain’s aging process by up to a decade. “Education seems to be an elixir that can bring us a healthy body and mind throughout adulthood and even a longer life,” she said.
Osteoporosis Develops Slowly: A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine today recommends women whose bone density tests are normal at age 65 wait up to 15 years before having a second test, even though Medicare pays for a screening every two years. But bone loss and osteoporosis develop very slowly in most women. In the study, which followed nearly 5,000 women for more than a decade, less than 1 percent with normal bone density at the start of the study developed osteoporosis in next 15 years, and less than 5 percent with mildly-low bone density did.
“Bone density testing has been oversold,” lead researcher Steven Cummings said.
That first bone density test is still important, though—of the women with substantially low bone density at the first test, 10 percent went on to develop osteoporosis in about a year. Osteoporosis puts people at risk for broken bones, collapsing spines and fractures.
Thursday Quick Hits:
- TSA offers a partial apology for partially strip-searching two elderly women with medical devices at New York’s JFK airport last November.
- Giving dementia patients a newer class of antidepressants could triple their risk of injuries from falls, a new British study claims.
- The latest national survey finds 20 percent of American adults have mental health problems, and 5 percent suffer from a ‘serious mental illness.’
- And Paula Deen’s diabetes announcement: Inspirational or hypocritical?
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