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brain

Neuroplasticity and the Aging Brain

One of the greatest concerns for the aging population is cognitive decline which leads to loss of independence as well as an extreme burden on the caretakers.  Individuals worldwide are fearful of being diagnosed with any of the various cognitive issues: Dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and other forms of cognitive debilities.  In 2015 there was an estimated 47 million people living with dementia and this number is expected to triple by 2050.  In 2014, the Alzheimer’s Association reported that they believe there is sufficient evidence to support the link between several modifiable risk factors and a reduced risk for cognitive decline and sufficient evidence to suggest that some modifiable risk factors may be associated with reduced risk of dementia. Specifically, that regular physical activity and management of cardiovascular risk factors (diabetes, obesity, smoking, and hypertension) reduce the risk of cognitive decline and may reduce the risk of dementia. The Association also believes there is sufficiently strong evidence to conclude that a healthy diet and lifelong learning/cognitive training may also reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

Positive association between aerobic exercise or CV fitness and executive functions is highly consistent but cannot determine causality.  Aerobic exercise (AE) has shown moderate to medium sized effects on executive function and memory. Resistance Training (RT) has improved executive function and memory. Combined AE and RT has the biggest (potentially synergistic) effect. It has been proposed that the physical and cognitive exercise might interact to induce larger functional benefits.  Larger benefits on cognitive test performance were noted for combined physical and cognitive activity than for each activity alone.  “Claims promoting brain games are frequently exaggerated and at times misleading. … To date, there is little evidence that playing brain games improves underlying broad cognitive abilities, or that it enables one to better navigate a complex realm of everyday life (Consensus statement, 2014).

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize and rebuild itself by forming new neural connections. The more neural pathways you have, the more resilient your brain is. Neurogenesis is the process of creating new neurons (brain cells).

Contrary to popular belief, neurogenesis continuously occurs in the adult brain under the right conditions such as with exercise.  Substantial benefits on cognitive test performance were noted for combined physical and cognitive activity than for each activity alone. It was also noted that the physical and cognitive exercise together might interact to induce larger functional benefits.  “We assume, that physical exercise increases the potential for neurogenesis and synaptogenesis while cognitive exercise guides it to induce positive plastic change” (Bamidis, 2014).  To maximize cognitive improvement, combine physical exercise with cognitive challenges in a rich sensorimotor environment that includes social interaction and a heaping dose of fun.

Brain health is becoming extremely important as individuals live longer.  Today there is much more information available on how to train the aging brain.

Some great resources are:


Dianne McCaughey Ph.D. is an award winning fitness specialist with more than 35 years experience in personal training, group exercise, coaching, and post-rehabilitation. She is a master trainer for multiple companies and practices and teaches optimal wellness emphasizing the mind, body and spirit. She works with special populations and focuses on posture, gait, balance and corrective exercise programs for better function and health.

Cody Sipe, PhD, has an extensive background in the fitness industry with 20 years of experience as a personal trainer, fitness instructor, program director, exercise physiologist and club owner. He is currently an Associate Professor and Director of Clinical Research in the physical therapy program at Harding University. He is the co-founder and vice president of the Functional Aging Institute (FAI).

 

new year

Fitness New Year’s Resolution Tips

The holidays were here and there was plenty of running around and parties to attend. As we said goodbye to this year, we are ready to take on the new year. Many individuals have decided to make fitness a resolution and made the commitment with themselves to get into better shape.

Many individuals do not plan for this transition and end up stopping within three months. There are some things you can do to be successful if fitness is on your list of resolutions.

The first thing you want to do is to choose a fitness facility where you feel comfortable. By comfortable I mean, do you like the atmosphere? Is the gym to big or small for you? When you look into fitness facilities, make sure they’re not too far from your home. If the gym is too far, you’re less likely to go consistently. Try to plan for when the best time would be to go. Decide if morning, afternoon or evening works better for you and your schedule.

When you find your gym and figure out a time, make an appointment for an assessment and consultation. There are some people who decide to do this after a couple months of joining. Try to see a fitness professional within the first two weeks. We are able to help you figure out a plan for your workout and keep you on track. Some fitness centers call new members after the first week to see how everything is going.

It’s also important to not have an “all or nothing” mentality. If you decide to go to the gym three days a week, but sometimes fall short, it’s OK! Just get back to your schedule the following week. It will take about three months to adapt to your new transition.

Another tip is to have fun! Look at class schedules and try new classes. If you are new to classes, don’t worry about keeping up with everyone else. I always suggest that clients show up to class ten minutes early. This enables you to speak with the instructor about any injuries or concerns you may have. You can also leave class early if you need to. Some new students may only be able to do a warm up and have to leave. Remember that everyone in the class was in the same boat as you at some point.

It may seem tough to add fitness to your life at first, but it will get easier. You will start to feel better overall. Many people are able to sleep much better, bring down their blood pressure and cholesterol, reduce stress, and prevent osteoporosis. The benefits are really endless! The best thing is that you are setting the stage for a healthy lifestyle as you get older. You will be able to do more and live independently longer.

Good luck to everyone this year who has fitness as one of their resolutions. You will be able succeed if you keep positive and plan for success. Have a happy and healthy new year!


Robyn Caruso is the Founder of The Stress Management Institute for Health and Fitness Professionals. She has 15 years of experience in medical based fitness.

holidays-xmas

Surviving the Holiday Season

The hardest time of year for weight management is from Halloween until Valentine’s Day – temptations are everywhere from home to the workplace and everywhere else you go, people wear more clothes and are more covered up because of the weather, and people tend to exercise less because they are stressed, exhausted, it is cold, and they have very little time. Here are some tips to manage weight during the holiday season:

Plan ahead

  • Eat something before you go out so that you are not inclined to eat everything or anything in sight.
  • Stock your home, office, and/or car with healthy snacks such as fruit in your home, almonds in your office, and a nutrition bar in your car.
  • Plan on making healthy choices for your meals such as mustard instead of mayonnaise or light Italian rather than ranch dressing.

Manage stress

  • Make a list of stress relieving activities that do not include food or eating such as getting a massage, exercising, listening to music, or talking on the phone.

Party responsibly

  • If you are attending a pot-luck party, bring something healthy so you know there will be at least one healthy choice at the party.
  • Eat small portions of your favorite sweets at parties.
  • Try to fill your plate with mostly fruits and veggies at parties.
  • If you want to try new dishes, only take a taster size portion so that you are not tempted to eat more than you should. Then go back and get more of what you like if you are still hungry.
  • Drink a glass of water after each glass of soda or alcoholic beverage in order to cut beverage calories in half.
  • Focus on socializing with other guests rather than eating the food available.

Keep moving

  • If you know you will not have time to exercise, try to fit other small activities into your day such as parking farther away, taking the stairs, and putting the shopping cart away instead of putting it to the side.
  • If you have a stationary bicycle or a treadmill that you haven’t used for a while, take it out and put it in front of the TV, so you can watch TV when you work out.
  • Take a walk alone or with your spouse, kids, or other family and friends after dinner.

Kristy Richardson is a dietitian and exercise physiologist, specializing in sports nutrition and weight management, She is the founder of OC Nutrition and also works as a nutrition professor at Fullerton College.

References

Cleveland Clinic. (2009). 8 Steps to Surviving the Holiday Weight Gain. Retrieved December 22, 2009 from: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/nutrition/holidayeating12_01.aspx

Zamora, Dulce. (2007). Holiday weight management; Surviving the Feasting Season. Retrieved December 22, 2009 from: http://www.medicinenet.com/holiday_weight_management/article.html

DNA-puzzle

The Evolution of Truly Personalized Medicine: Epigenetics, Food, and Fitness

Most would not argue that there is ongoing transition in how our healthcare is being delivered. This article will examine some of these transitions as a result of breakthroughs in technology, as well as how genetic information, exercise, and diet will play an increasingly greater role.

When medical science was first getting its start, a more holistic philosophy was taken on how to treat illness and maintain health. Hippocrates is often deemed the father of modern medicine, and even today the allopathic physicians (M.D.s) take the Hippocratic Oath – to do no harm to their patients. Hippocrates knew, even in 400 B.C., that the best healer of the body is the body itself. For the most part, the best treatment is to create a strong body and get out of the way. Five guiding principles used in his philosophy for treatment include:

  1. Walking is man’s best medicine.
  2. Know what person the disease has, rather than what disease the person has.
  3. Let food be thy medicine.
  4. Everything in moderation.
  5. To do nothing is also a good remedy.

The second and fifth principles emphasize the power of knowing the individual and getting out of the way! The first and third principles show the power of exercise and food for healthy living. Even the genius, Thomas Edison, realized that a health maintenance organization (HMO) approach was the best method of healthcare both practically and financially. His quote, “The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease,” is evidence that a holistic, preventative approach is what he advocated. He is also quoted, “…you can’t improve on nature.”

One size does not fit all

Personalized medicine is now on the forefront and it utilizes the genetic and epigenetic data of a person to guide medicines and treatment plans. Cancer drugs have probably harnessed this advantage to the greatest extent, thus far. Former President Jimmy Carter received Keytruda (pembrolizumab) for his brain cancer and it boosted his immune system and beat the cancer. While most of America (71%), still doesn’t even know about personalized medicine, those who were familiar with it did not know it would yield better results with fewer side effects. The different directions of personalized medicine are still being realized, but the field of pharmacogenetics is the first to really jump on the bandwagon of highly effective, precision-based treatment.

The reasons some drugs work for some people and not for others, or why side effects occur in some individuals and not others, is due to individual variability in metabolism. Why are some people lactose tolerant, or some can drink alcohol with no problem, and others have severe issues? It is usually because of enzyme differences, which are under the control of our genes. Interestingly, our enzyme genes can often be turned on or off by “inducible sequences” known as promoters or suppressors of operons, respectively. These “switches” can be repressed or induced depending on our environmental stimuli. Thus, we actually have some control over our gene expression, and this field is known as epigenetics.

Knowing what gene variants someone possess or not will guide the personalized medicine physician on which drug to use or not. By knowing allergic reactions in advance or which medicines may have side effects will help physicians to not make a bad situation worse. Unfortunately, the cost of personalized medicine drugs is much higher than alternative treatments. There is still a lot of exploration to be done on all the various applications of this technology, but the bottom line is that understanding individual variations and enabling the body to do what it is designed to do is a very good thing! Companies like Toolbox Genomics is one of many companies that use your genetic information to then tell you what foods and supplements to eat or avoid, and which exercises may help you the most, and ones that you may not respond to so well. The reason physicians do an intake on family history, or run various tests is to collect information that will guide their treatment. A genetic test on certain gene variants is simply taking this a step further.

How does exercise and diet apply to our epigenetics?

Did you know that exercise is highly beneficial to not only help with fighting cancer once it is already present, but also to never getting it? Physical exercise or movement in general will shift the epigenetics so that genes that suppress tumors are increased, and genes that cause cancer (oncogenes) are decreased. It does this by changing the amount of certain reactions called methylations. Things go wrong when there is too much or too few methylation reactions. Exercise has been shown to reduce or even reverse the epigenetic mutations that often result in tumorigenesis or tumor production. Exercise has also been shown to reduce genetic factors associated with aging like telomere length.

The fields of proteomics and metabolomics as well as pharmacogenomics, are all emerging because of the knowledge on how our genetics affects proteins, metabolism, and reactions to drugs, respectively. The field of nutrigenomics is rapidly expanding, and several companies are capitalizing on studying the relationship of how our genes affect how we process and utilize foods, as well as how food can affect our genes. Vitamins A and D, certain fatty acids, especially medium and short chain, some sterols (derived from cholesterol) and zinc have been shown to directly influence gene transcription. In direct effects include how diet affects gut bacteria, which in turn influences gene expression. Soon when nutritional recommendations are given, it will likely be “for this individual.”

The future of medicine will be taking our genetic information to a whole new level. Soon “smart” watches, clothes, hats, and other common devices will collect information that can benefit our health in many ways as the way healthcare is delivered continually evolves.

This article was featured in MedFit Professional Magazine summer 2019 issue.

Subscribe to MedFit Professional Magazine to read more great content like this!


Dr. Mark P. Kelly has been involved with the health and fitness field for more than 30 years. He has been a research scientist for universities and many infomercial projects. He has spoken nationally and internationally on a wide variety of topics and currently speaks on the use of exercise for clinical purposes and exercise’s impact on the brain. Mark is a teacher in colleges and universities in Orange County, CA., where Principle-Centered Health- Corporate Wellness & Safety operates.