Double trouble as cardio-renal-metabolic disease is on the rise
Nick Cannon has Lupus nephritis, which happens when lupus autoantibodies attack the kidney. Susan Lucci had two severely blocked arteries opened by stents. Tom Hanks has Type 2 diabetes. They’re not alone. One in four U.S. adults has chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular disease (CVD), atherosclerotic CVD or heart failure, and/or Type 2 diabetes.
That’s the finding of a study that looked at more than 9,000 folks age 20 and older. Chronic kidney disease and Type 2 diabetes affected 3.2 percent of those studied; CVD and kidney disease showed up in 2.1 percent and CVD and Type 2 diabetes in 1.9 percent. And those numbers increased dramatically when the researchers looked at people age 65 and older! Almost 60 percent had at least one of those conditions, 24.5 percent had two or more. The combo of CVD and kidney problems was the most common.
These statistics sound a couple of messages loud and clear. 1. If you’re age 20 to 65 and have any of these conditions, act now to control or reverse them. A lifestyle upgrade, including daily stress management and exercise, frequent strength-building workouts, a plant-based diet, control of blood pressure and blood glucose, and no smoking or vaping, as well as medication if needed, can change your future. 2. If you are age 65 or older, get aggressive about controlling or reversing these conditions. Work with your doctors, an exercise physiologist, nutritionist and a diabetes educator. No matter what your age, your best steps are outlined in my book “The Great Age Reboot.” You can live younger longer starting today.
The gut feeling that friendships are good for your gut
LeBron James tries to stick with the advice that he got from his friend Warren Buffett: “Always follow your gut. When you have that gut feeling, you have to go with it, don’t go back on it.”
Researchers from the University of Oxford suggest that LeBron’s gut instincts — and his gut microbiome — can benefit from Buffet’s friendship. These researchers found that friendships often improve the healthy balance of bacteria and other microbes that live in the intestinal tract — either through stress reduction or by social sharing of microbes with those near and dear. At least that’s how it works for some primates! Their study, published in Frontiers in Microbiology, found that, in monkeys, friendships improve their gut health and improved gut health boosts their capacity for friendships. Win, win!
The benefits are far-reaching. A healthier gut improves immune strength and emotional well-being (the microbes directly influence brain function), and helps you dodge Type 2 diabetes and dementia. But, the researchers fear, humans’ increasingly virtual interactions are robbing us of our chance to have friendships make us healthier and happier. They suggest that when we humans (we are primates) substitute online interactions for real-life ones, we’re missing out on the microbial support that physical interaction with friends provides.
So, hang out with friends (who are vaccinated and boosted). If you’re feeling disconnected, volunteer for in-person charitable activities; join a walking club. When you get that gut feeling that you’ve really connected with another person, your guts, immune and cardiovascular systems — even your brain — will thank you!
Get a grip!
All kinds of folks know that you have to get a grip. Carl Sagan once said: “Science is an attempt, largely successful, to understand the world, to get a grip on things …” And Tupac once rapped, “Gotta get a tight grip, don’t slip …” Researchers from Michigan Medicine agree.
They tracked more than 1,200 middle-age and older adults for eight to 10 years and found that muscle weakness — measured by grip strength — accelerates aging. They looked at biological clocks known as DNA methylation that can track, on a molecular level, whether you are age-defying or aging prematurely. Their conclusion: Older men and women showed an association between weak grip strength and biological age acceleration across those DNA methylation clocks. This confirms another study that found that grip strength is a better predictor of the risk for a heart attack than systolic blood pressure.
If you have trouble carrying grocery bags for more than a few minutes without putting them down for a break; your hands and forearms get tired when you’re shoveling snow, walking your dog or typing on the keyboard; or your hands often cramp, your grip is subpar.
How do you maintain and improve grip strength? Use a squeeze ball or grippers (a handheld spring device) to do contractions — 10 squeezes in each hand three times daily. Also, work to build overall muscle strength: Strength training exercises twice a week and moderate and vigorous aerobics five days a week combat age-related muscle weakness. So, get a grip on your health.
To avoid bone fractures, get your thyroid function checked
There are athletes like Tiger Woods and Barcelona soccer star Cesc Fabregas who manage to achieve moments of greatness despite severe injury. Tiger had a double stress fracture in his left tibia when he played and won the 2008 U.S. Open, and Fabregas had a fractured leg when he scored a penalty kick against Birmingham in 2010.
But for most people, a fractured bone is nothing to shrug off. In the U.S., there are about 2 million fractures annually. Vertebral or spinal fractures occur in 30 percent to 50 percent of people age 50 and older. Hip fractures may be less common, but more than 20 percent of folks who have a hip fracture never recover and die within six months.
A study published in JAMA Network Open reveals a previously unrecognized risk factor that may account for many fractures — subclinical hyperthyroidism. This means your body is producing a bit too much thyrotropin (also called thyroid-stimulating hormone or TSH), a hormone that stimulates the production of two main thyroid hormones. Having too much thyroid hormone can speed resorption of bone without increasing rebuilding of it. Compared to folks with normal thyroid function, those with subclinical hyperthyroidism have a 34 percent higher risk of a bone fracture over a couple of decades. High blood pressure, diabetes, current smoking and being Black were identified as the most common risk factors for subclinical hyperthyroidism.
The researchers recommend that everyone age 65 and older have their TSH levels checked periodically so that, if necessary, they can take medication to protect their bones and avoid getting benched.
You are never too old to exercise your rights to a healthy brain
Hugh Laurie, who starred as a curmudgeonly doctor in “House” from 2004 to 2012, started out as a comic. That may explain his claims about exercising: “I run 6 to 8 miles a day, plus weights and aerobics in the lunch hour. I also lie a lot, which keeps me thin.”
Everyone has their own way of dodging a workout — but at some point, you just have to admit that making sure you get deep-breathing, sweat-producing activity most days is essential if you want to protect against brain drain as you age. You see, smooth, well-oxygenated blood flow to the brain is essential for keeping your neurons firing and your observational powers, focus and memory strong.
A new study in the Journal of Applied Physiology looked at the benefit of brisk walking and jogging for a full year on brain blood flow in a group of 60- to 80-year-olds. The participants went from working out for 20 to 30 minutes three days a week for 26 weeks to doing it five days a week for the next 26 weeks, and they increased intensity as they could. The result was that the blood flow in their brains was less affected by arterial stiffening and restriction; and pulse pressure in the carotid artery was lower. That means that they had a better chance of retaining their cognitive powers throughout their lifespan. So, talk to your doctor about what’s smart for you to do and then get out there. Going with the flow will keep you in the know.
Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.
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