Stop the clocks: Brisk walking may slow biological aging process
University of Leicester, April 21, 2022
A new study of genetic data published Wednesday April 20 of more than 400,000 UK adults has revealed a clear link between walking pace and a genetic marker of biological age. Confirming a causal link between walking pace and leucocyte telomere length (LTL)—an indicator of biological age—the Leicester-based team of researchers estimate that a lifetime of brisk walking could lead to the equivalent of 16 years younger biological age by midlife. Telomeres are the “caps” at the end of each chromosome, and they hold repetitive sequences of non-coding DNA that protect the chromosome from damage, similar to the way the cap at the end of a shoelace stops it from unraveling. Each time a cell divides, these telomeres become shorter—until a point where they become so short that the cell can no longer divide, known as “replicative senescence.” Therefore, scientists consider LTL a strong marker for “biological age,” independent from when an individual was born.
Could This be the Key to Better Heart Health?
Cleveland Clinic and UCLA, April 16, 2022
Neutralizing the breakdown of gut microbes may be the key to maintaining a healthy heart. How? A compound in some red wines, olive oils, balsamic vinegars, and grape seed oils known as DMB can alter gut microbes in a way that might help prevent heart disease. In a recent study, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic and UCLA’s division of cardiology targeted mice’s gut microbes with DMB, and found the compound suppressed atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) from developing in the rodents without any serious side effects. “This new approach shows that one can target microbes to inhibit atherosclerosis,” said study senior author Dr. Stanley Hazen, section head of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. The findings might explain why people who eat a Mediterranean diet appear to have a lower risk of heart disease and better gut health. The Los Angeles Times explains that when we eat eggs, meat, and high-fat dairy products, they are broken down by a group of microorganisms in our guts. This results in trimethylamine, which is then “attacked” by a group of liver enzymes, producing a byproduct called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). People who have had heart attacks often have high levels of TMAO. This byproduct is also a sign that someone’s arteries have narrowed and they are at risk for having a heart attack.
Measuring nature’s effects on physical and mental health
Texas A&M University, April 20, 2022
A study recently published in BMC Psychology outlines two scales created to measure factors related to time spent in nature, a first step in exploring how this affects health and well-being. A body of evidence has shown that time spent in nature, or TSN, is associated with physical and mental health, yet most American adults spend very little time in green or natural spaces. Two strong predictors of health behaviors are self-efficacy and intentions. “Self-efficacy” was defined as “a person’s confidence in his or her ability to take action and to persist in that action despite obstacles or challenges pertaining to spending time in nature.” Next, “Intentions” were defined as “planning to engage in certain nature-related behaviors over the next three months.” The first phase also involved initial generation of items to include in a survey to measure these factors. Spending more time in nature was found to correlate with both self-efficacy and intentions, suggesting that future interventions to improve TSN should have increasing confidence to spend time in nature as a goal.
Most US adults say today’s children have worse health than in past generations
University of Michigan, April 18, 2022
More than half of adults believe children today are more stressed, experience less quality family time and have worse mental and emotional health than children in past generations, according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health. “We have seen major advances in medicine and public health over the last century that have greatly reduced children’s illness and death. On the other hand, conditions like childhood obesity, asthma and behavior problems have become more common. Among the key results, 55 percent of adults polled believe kids’ mental and emotional health is worse today than when they were children. Coping and personal friendships for children were also widely viewed as worse than for children in the past. “The dominant view from this poll is that children’s health is worse today than it was for generations past, and we need to more urgently address these challenges,” said Mark Wietecha, CEO and president of Children’s Hospital Association, which collaborated on the poll. In addition to the perception of diminished emotional and mental health, the poll found adults perceive children as having worse physical health as well. Forty-two percent of adults say kids today are in worse physical health compared to their own childhoods.