Jun
13
2020

Mediterranean Diet Reduces Heart Attacks and Strokes in Diabetes

A recent publication came to the conclusion that a Mediterranean diet reduces heart attacks and strokes in diabetes. This Canadian and Spanish study compared prospective cohort studies and randomized trials (RCT). 41 reports (3 RCTs and 38 cohorts) formed the basis for this analysis.

Details of the study

Metaanalysis showed that a Mediterranean diet reduced the cardiovascular disease incidence by 38%. It also reduced myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) by 35%. Next the authors compared the highest to the lowest adherents to the Mediterranean diet (Med diet). The highest Med diet adherents showed the following reductions:

Cardiovascular disease mortality: 21%

Coronary heart disease incidence: 27%

Coronary heart disease mortality: 17%

Stroke incidence: 20%

Stroke mortality: 13%

The conclusion was that the Mediterranean diet is beneficial to prevent heart disease and strokes in people with diabetes.

Other studies

In a study from the United Kingdom dated March 2019 several clinical trials were analyzed regarding non-diabetic populations. Again, the question came up, what the effect of a Mediterranean diet was on cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality. The authors reviewed 30 RCTs (49 papers) with12,461 randomized participants and seven ongoing trials. In one study the observation time was 46 months. A Mediterranean diet reduced the cardiovascular disease mortality by 65%!

Another study from Spain published in 2019 examined 7356 older adults (average 67 years) and followed them for 6.8 years. The investigators kept track of the physical activity and put everybody except the controls on a Mediterranean diet. The group on the lightest leisure-time physical activity consuming a Mediterranean diet had the lowest mortality. The all-cause mortality of this group was 73% lower than the control group.

What is so healthy about the Mediterranean diet?

Despite a wide variation between all the 15 countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, there are common characteristics: an abundance of vegetables and fruit, along with nuts and legumes. Cereal products are largely whole grain. Olive oil is the principal fat source, and people eat fish, seafoods and poultry in moderation. They consume red meat rarely. Cheese and yogurt can be part of the diet, depending on the region.

The first clinical evidence supporting the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet came from the Lyon Heart Study. The researchers placed patients who had a heart attack either on the diet designed by the American Heart Association or a Mediterranean style diet. After a follow-up of 27 months, the group eating the Mediterranean diet had a reduction of heart attacks by 73% and a decreased mortality by 70% compared to the other group.

More detail on the ingredients of the Mediterranean diet

An analysis of the various foods of the Mediterranean diet shows the reasons for the health benefits clearly. The fats that people on a Mediterranean diet eat are heart-healthy monounsaturated fats like olive oil or fats that contain omega-3 fatty acids. They come from fish (tuna, salmon, trout, sardines) or from plant sources (walnuts, other tree nuts and flax seed).

As there is an emphasis on natural foods, the diet is extremely low in trans fatty acids (hydrogenated fats), which increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. As people consume more than 300g of vegetables per capita daily, the contents of antioxidants and other beneficial plant chemicals is much higher in comparison to Western diets. There are many individual components of the Mediterranean diet that contribute to the reduction of disease. This is particularly true for heart disease. It also is apparent, that it is not one single food or nutrient that is responsible for the health benefits. What matters are the interactive effects of all the nutrients that lead to the health benefits.

No processed food means healthier living

The practical application does not mean deprivation and starvation, but a move away from processed fats (margarine), baked goods (donuts, muffins, pastries), and high saturated fat snacks and trans fats (chips, crackers, cookies, pies). Food choices move towards those of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, fish, and olive oil. Portions or servings have to be adequate to maintain a healthy weight.

Mediterranean food is not the heaping plate of pasta with an afterthought of vegetables. It also is not the super-size fast food pizza with pepperoni and cheese. Mediterranean food incorporates fresh food rather than the fast food. It entails a shift from large portions of red meat to smaller portions of fish, a transition from highly processed foods to ample helpings of dark green vegetables with a dose of olive oil. Low amounts of alcohol, especially red wine can make a meal enjoyable, which means one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men. And after dinner go for a walk!

Olive oil is one of the reasons why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy

In the past it was thought that the monounsaturated fatty acids in olive oil would be the reason why it is protective of the heart. However, newer studies have shown that it is the polyphenols and among these in particular hydroxytyrosol that lower blood pressure and protect you from hardening of the arteries.

In a 2012 study from Spain it was found that mortality from heart attacks was 44% lower than that of a control group who did not incorporate olive oil in their diet.

How polyphenols in olive oil work for you

Only two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day protect you from heart disease. It does so by reducing the total cholesterol level in the blood as well as the LDL cholesterol level. When there is more polyphenol in olive oil (such as in extra virgin olive oil), the body produces more HDL, which is essential to extract oxidized LDL from arterial plaque. On top of that polyphenol rich olive oil will increase the size of the HDL particles (these larger particles are called HDL2), which are more efficient in extracting oxidized LDL from arterial plaques. A Sept. 2014 study in humans showed that higher polyphenol olive oil as found in extra virgin olive oil caused an increase in the more effective HDL2 particles, which cleans out plaques from arteries more efficiently than the regular, cheaper olive oil.

Endothelial function

The endothelium is the lining of the arteries. Normal endothelial functioning involves widening of the arteries and maintaining its flexibility. The body achieves this through production of a signal molecule, called nitric oxide; the endothelial cells that line our arteries from inside produce it. Exercise increases the production of nitric oxide as well (Ref.1).

In a group of patients with poor endothelial function 2 tablespoons of olive oil (polyphenol rich) per day given over 4 months (the time of the study) showed a significant improvement of endothelial function.

The authors suggested that an enzyme in the endothelial cells, called nitric oxide synthase is being stimulated by components of polyphenol-rich olive oil. This leads to protracted release of nitric oxide, which in turn keeps blood vessels flexible and wide open. Other investigators found that olive oil can influence even a hereditary gene variant of endothelial nitric oxide synthase found in people with a history of premature heart attacks. This high-risk group of people should take extra virgin olive oil regularly to prevent premature heart attacks and strokes.

Endothelial dysfunction occurs when the arteries no longer can deliver adequate amounts of blood to vital organs like the heart or the brain. Endothelial dysfunction is also present in patients with type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome. Introducing extra virgin olive oil in the diet of these patients will help restore their endothelial function.

Lowering blood pressure

In a study on 23 hypertensive patients it was shown as far back as in 2000 that extra virgin olive oil over 6 months allowed physicians to reduce high blood pressure medications by 48%. When the study was crossed over, the reverse was the case for the control group on sunflower oil. The polyphenols of olive oil released nitric oxide, which is known to lower blood pressure. This is an important finding. High blood pressure is a risk factor for the development of hardening of the coronary arteries. This leads to heart attacks, congestive heart failure, but also stroke. Regular intake of 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil often will reverse high blood pressure and restore normal endothelial function.

Preventing heart attacks and strokes

In April of 2013 The New England Journal of Medicine published a Spanish diet study that showed that a participants on a Mediterranean diet with olive oil or nuts had 30% less heart attacks over 5 years than people on a low fat control diet. Other studies have also shown that olive oil and omega-3 fatty acids play a big role in preventing heart attacks and strokes. We also know that regular exercise reduces the risk further; so does keeping your body mass index below 25.0. Extra virgin olive oil is part of the protection from heart attacks and strokes. The study did not show any protection against cancer.

Mediterranean Diet Reduces Heart Attacks and Strokes in Diabetes

Mediterranean Diet Reduces Heart Attacks and Strokes in Diabetes

Conclusion

A Mediterranean diet reduced heart attacks and strokes in diabetic patients, but also in patients without diabetes. Here I attempted to show what the ingredients of a Mediterranean diet are that lead to such astounding positive effects. There is an emphasis on vegetables and fresh ingredients of food. In addition, olive oil and a lack of processed food are also important. With these wholesome ingredients the lining of the arteries works best. The body reduces cholesterol and lowers blood pressure. The end result is that there are less heart attacks and strokes, and people live longer.

Note: Part of this was previously published here and also here.

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May
09
2020

Vitamin D Is the Definitive Link

Vitamin D deficiency caused rickets in the past, but now we know that vitamin D is the definitive link for other health problems. The lack of it is the reason for numerous illnesses. A search in my website gives you more than 170 blogs where I am discussing the effect of vitamin D. These describe how vitamin D is the definitive link in a lot of different diseases. In a 2015 study from Brazil the authors noted that a critical vitamin D blood level was 12 ng/mL. All these critically ill patients received treatment in an ICU setting. In vitamin D blood levels of 12 ng/mL the mortality rate was 32.2%. A control group of ICU patients with more than 12 ng/mL had a mortality rate of only 13.2%. The authors concluded that a low vitamin D level on ICU admission was an independent risk factor for mortality in this critically ill patient group.

A few diseases where low vitamin D is the definitive link for a poor outcome

In patients, who have arthritis, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, influenza and others, the laboratory tests that shows their 25-hydroxy vitamin D level, are usually below 15 ng/mL. This link has 269 peer reviewed references.

2015 Italian study showed that microvascular complications in diabetes patients were high, if the vitamin D3 blood levels were low. If patients had high levels of vitamin D, there were no complications such as retinopathy or nephropathy. But if levels were below 20 ng/mL, damages were significant in the capillaries of the eyes and kidneys.

Multiple sclerosis

It has been known for some time that in the northern hemisphere MS is more common because of the lack of sunshine, which in turn leads to less vitamin D3 production in the skin. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease where immune cells attack the lining of nerves. Both nerve cells and immune cells have vitamin D receptors. It appears that vitamin D calms down immune cells and remission of an MS relapse is more likely.

Dr. Fitzgerald and colleagues published a study in JAMA Neurology in 2015. Results of this study showed marked differences between MS patients with high and low vitamin D levels.

Multiple sclerosis rates with high and low vitamin D levels

Patients with the highest vitamin D blood levels (more than 40 ng/mL) had the lowest rates of new MS lesions. Previous studies found that a low blood level of vitamin D (less than 25 ng/mL) had an association with a higher risk of developing MS. Dr. Fitzgerald’s study showed that a 20 ng/mL (50.0-nmol/L) increase in serum vitamin D levels associated with a 31% lower rate of new MS lesions. Patients with the highest vitamin D level of more than 40 ng/mL (100 nmol/L) had the lowest amount of new MRI lesions (47% less than the patients with the lowest vitamin D levels).

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

A 2014 study showed that patients with a low vitamin D level had a connection with a high risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Specifically, the researchers found the following observations.

  • Vitamin D level of less than 10 ng/mL: 122% increased risk of Alzheimer’s
  • A vitamin D level of 10 to 20 ng/mL: 51% increased risk of Alzheimer’s

Vitamin D is the definitive link for the immune system

In a publication of 2006 Dr. John Cannell and co-workers have reviewed why influenza has seasonal outbreaks. They found that the innate immune system was very dependent on vitamin D. Those who did not get enough sunlight in the northern hemisphere during January, February, March and April have an average 25-hydroxy vitamin D level of only 15 to 17 ng/mL. In contrast, from July to September the same volunteers had vitamin D levels of 24 to 29 ng/mL. The authors stressed that this was the reason why spring flus in the late winter/early spring season are common, but disappear in summer.

Vitamin D requirements for immune system is 2000 IU or more per day

Vitamin D is essential for the functioning of the innate and adaptive immune system. They also are the reason why children are not as affected by influenza viruses as adults are. Dr. Cannell said: “The innate immunity of the aged declined over the last 20 years due to medical and governmental warnings to avoid the sun. While the young usually ignore such advice, the elderly often follow it”. Had the older patients taken higher doses of vitamin D3 every day, their immunity would have been as strong as the children’s immunity. The publication cites another paper that found that 2000 IU per day or more will strengthen the immune system. Note that this is a higher dose than  treating rickets. Treatment of rickets responds to only 400 IU of vitamin D3 per day.

Mechanism of action of vitamin D in infectious diseases like influenza or Covid-19 coronavirus

Here is evidence from US researchers that states that higher doses of vitamin D3 will mitigate the course of influenza and of Covid-19 coronavirus. The researchers outlined that vitamin D has 3 effects:

  1. Maintaining tight epithelial junctions making it more difficult for the Covid-19 coronavirus to penetrate them.
  2. “Killing enveloped viruses through induction of cathelicidin and defensins.” These powerful antiviral polypeptides can kill viruses that have invaded the bloodstream within 1 to 2 days.
  3. “…And reducing production of proinflammatory cytokines by the innate immune system, thereby reducing the risk of a cytokine storm leading to pneumonia.” People who get viral pneumonia are at a high risk of death. By bringing the vitamin D blood level up to the higher range of normal, between 50 and 80 ng/mL, patients that have encountered Covid-19 coronavirus are more likely to survive.

Criticism of high dose vitamin D treatment

A common criticism of treatment with higher doses of vitamin D is that people would develop high blood calcium levels and would get kidney stones. Three recent studies have demystified this. A 2012 study looked at patients who were in the higher range of calcium levels, but deficient in vitamin D. They were treated with vitamin D3 und closely supervised. The calcium levels did not change after 1 year of high doses of vitamin D.

This 2018 study observed that there is a small amount of kidney stone formers who will form kidney stone with or without vitamin D3 treatment.  However, the large majority of patients do not form kidney stones with vitamin D treatment and their blood calcium levels stay the same before and after vitamin D treatment.

Toxic vitamin D blood levels

Toxic levels of vitamin D blood levels are above150 ng/mL, or 375 nmol/L. The therapeutic levels discussed here are well below these toxic levels.

Placebo controlled New Zealand study fails to show kidney stones

A placebo-controlled study from New Zealand went on for 3.3 years. 100,000 IU of vitamin D3 monthly (3333 IU per day on average) in the experimental group were compared to a placebo group. There were no vitamin D induced kidney stones and also no changes in calcium levels.

In past studies regarding vitamin D toxicity were done. But with these investigations there were many confounding factors that led to false results.  The investigators at those times mistakenly thought that they were side-effects of vitamin D. Up to this day conventional medicine often warns of hypercalcemia and kidney stones with vitamin D treatment. While the patient is on higher vitamin D levels, the physician can do blood and urine tests to see whether or not there is any concern.

Polypeptides released by vitamin D

There are more than 100 polypeptide hormones that are controlled by vitamin D. The most important ones for control of bacterial and viral infections are the defensin family and the cathelicidin family of polypeptides. They are instrumental in preventing the cytokine storm with a Covid-19 coronavirus infection treated with high vitamin D doses.

Decades after the original description of vitamin D researchers found out that vitamin D actually is a hormone.

There are vitamin D hormone receptors on almost every cell of the body. Vitamin D integrates the body cells and they respond as one unit. It is only recently that researchers found out about the release of polypeptides, particularly defensin and cathelicidin. They are  vital in the defence against the Covid-19 Coronavirus and the various flu types.

Vitamin D Is the Definitive Link

Vitamin D Is the Definitive Link

Conclusion

The detection of vitamin D originally occurred when rickets was examined. But later researchers found that vitamin D has hormone qualities.

You can prevent several diseases, like arthritis, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and influenza. But you must take adequate amounts of vitamin D to bring the vitamin D blood level up. 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood levels are now recognized as the standard test to measure whether you have enough vitamin D on board. When it comes to fighting infections the vitamin D blood level has to be above 30 ng/mL (above 75 nmol/L). At this level the immune system will release defensin and cathelicidin polypeptides. These are powerful antiviral and antibacterial substances that can even fight Covid-19 coronavirus.

High vitamin D therapy is safe

With careful monitoring of blood vitamin D levels side effects of high vitamin D dosages were not found. Conventional medicine keeps on repeating old studies with confounding errors. This scares people, and as a result they don’t want to take enough vitamin D for prevention. Hypercalcemia and kidney stones were NOT found in randomized newer studies. As long as the vitamin D level does not exceed 50-80 ng/mL (or 125-200 nmol/L) vitamin D therapy is perfectly safe.

Mar
28
2020

Fasting Can Prevent Cardiovascular Diseases

Dr. Joel Kahn gave a lecture in Las Vegas in which he explained that fasting can prevent cardiovascular diseases. Dr. Kahn is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine. He spoke at the 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas. The conference took place from Dec. 13 to 15th, 2019.

According to the CDC cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes are hitting the middle age adults in large numbers. Part of the problem is obesity and diabetes, both of which cause an increase of cardiovascular diseases. Heart attacks, strokes, heart failure and other related cardiovascular conditions caused 2.2 million hospitalizations in the US in 2016. This resulted in 415,000 deaths and a health care cost of $32.7 billion.

Fasting can improve the risk for cardiovascular disease

Dr. Kahn asked whether fasting can reduce the aging pathways, build up resilience and protect the heart from aging and heart disease. In a few words: eat less, live more! He showed with slides that fasting can indeed do that. One heart catheterization study showed that a fasting group had only 64% coronary artery disease compared to a non-fasting control group with 76%.

Another study showed that fasting patients had only 10.3% diabetes compared to controls with 22.0%. With heart catheterization 63.2% of fasting patients had cardiovascular disease while 75.0% of non-fasting control patients did have lesions in their coronary arteries.

Animal experiments confirmed that fasting had beneficial effects on heart health as well. In rats, researchers showed that fasting reduced infarct size and inflammation. It also preserved left ventricular function. With mice fasting produced less inflammatory response and less tissue damage.

Alternate day fasting shows benefit in clinical human trial

A 2019 publication reported about a 4-week randomized clinical trial on 60 healthy non-obese human subjects. The effect of alternate day fasting was compared to controls. On average there was a 37% calorie reduction in the alternate fasting group. The fasting group had improved fat mass, improved fat-to-lean ratio and cardiovascular markers. There was a reduction of age-associated inflammatory markers and low-density lipoprotein.

Fasting mimicking diet

A newer form of fasting is the fasting mimicking diet (FMD), which was invented and researched in depth by Dr. Valter Longo. Both animal experiments as well as human trials have shown that the FMD is safe and effective. It can be followed 5 days out of every month and will lead to some weight loss, an increase of telomeres, stem cells and lowered inflammatory markers.

My own experience with the fasting mimicking diet

My wife and I heard about the FMD from Dr. Longo when he spoke about it at the 2017 Anti-Aging Conference in Las Vegas. We immediately started the FMD in December of 2017 and have done it every month for 5 days since. But we never ordered the expensive meal kit. Instead, we calculated calories and use regular food to do the calorie-restricted diet. We eat 600 to 700 calories every day during the FMD days. In between we have unrestricted calories, but we noticed that we are more careful about our meal choices. I find that the result of the FMD is more energy, an improved sleep pattern and an easier way to keep my body-mass index in the 21.0 to 22.0 range. Here is a description of the effects of the FMD.

Use of FMD in high-risk patients

Dr. Khan said that the FMD is an ideal diet that the high-risk population of the US should use. 34% of the US population has a compromised metabolic condition. They are obese and at a high risk to develop diabetes. But on the FMD they gradually lose abdominal obesity, lower their cholesterol and triglycerides levels, which otherwise causes a high risk for heart attacks and strokes. The fasting blood sugar is lowering reducing the risk to get diabetes. The systolic and diastolic blood pressure comes down. And the C-reactive protein, which is a general inflammatory marker, becomes lower.

In non-obese patients the main effect of the FMD is a stimulation of stem cell release and telomere elongation. This postpones the aging process and with it delays the onset of cardiovascular diseases.

Fasting Can Prevent Cardiovascular Diseases

Fasting Can Prevent Cardiovascular Diseases

Conclusion

Dr. Joel Kahn gave a lecture at a Las Vegas conference that fasting can prevent cardiovascular diseases. He compared alternate day fasting with the fasting mimicking diet (FMD). The FMD was more effective in reducing danger markers, abdominal girth measurements and blood markers of cardiovascular diseases. Ultimately, he said, it was easier to follow an FMD where you only reduce your calorie intake to 600 to 700 calories per day for 5 days in one month. In those who are wanting to do this just for good health, the FMD increases stem cells and elongates telomeres. This postpones the aging process and keeps a person younger for longer. At the same time, it delays the onset of cardiovascular diseases.

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Dec
29
2018

Fasting Mimicking Diet Is Very Relevant For Health And Longevity

Several speakers in Las Vegas said that the fasting mimicking diet is very relevant for health and longevity. This happened on day 1 of the 26th Annual A4M World Congress 2018 in Las Vegas.

What were the findings that are relevant?

Dr. Longo has done a lot of animal experiments with intermittent fasting and studying longevity. He repeated what he has learnt over the years from animal experiments and from research on humans. Here are the results that he shared already at last year’s Anti-aging Conference in Las Vegas.

Effects of fasting mimicking diet

  • Obesity diminishes, because of the weight loss effect due to missing calories.
  • Diabetes: insulin resistance becomes lower and blood sugar levels drop.
  • High blood pressure reduced: many patients were able to reduce their medications or discontinue them
  • Pain conditions improve as all kinds of pain disappears, an effect for which there is no explanation at this point
  • Autoimmune diseases like MS and rheumatoid arthritis improve, likely because of the effect of increased stem cell circulation
  • Prevention of heart attacks and strokes because of reduction of LDL, triglycerides and CRP
  • Cancer cure rates improve by protecting normal cells and the bone marrow
  • Longevity improved in mice with a 3-fold increase of their life span. Telomere length in humans was increased. Increased stem cells will find defective areas that need repair. This effect leads to less disease in older age.

Increased life span, less heart attack and cancer rates

We know from these animal experiments that mice have a threefold increase in life span. But when heart attack rates and stroke rates improve in humans, cancer cure rates improve and telomere length in humans increase, there is strong evidence that it increases human life expectancy as well. It may take another 10 to 20 years before we have better statistics about the real survival advantage on this diet versus the Standard American diet. But what we know now is a significant start.

Patients on chemotherapy and FMD have much better healing rates than controls

The lecture by Dr. Longo on Dec. 13, 2018 did provide more human data. Patients undergoing chemotherapy tolerate and survive chemotherapy much better when combined with the fasting mimicking diet (FMD). The human data is very similar to the previous mouse model data. This human research was done at the Charité Hospital in Berlin, Germany. Dr. Longo is starting to engage in clinical trials by partnering with physicians, but the publication of this will take several years. In the meantime the FMD is an effective way to rejuvenate on an ongoing basis. Since last year I underwent 12 courses of 5-day FMD every month. Dr. Longo says that even 3 to 4 courses of FMD per year would have a lasting rejuvenating effect.

About the right food intake and getting enough sleep

Dr. La Valle gave a talk in the afternoon of the first conference day where he pointed out several important things. He started his talk by saying that North Americans eat the wrong foods, they eat too much of it and they often eat it at the wrong time (in the middle of the night when the body wants to rest). This can interfere with our diurnal hormone rhythm, which in turn will eventually lead to inflammation in the body. Fasting overnight rests our hormone receptors so they are fully active the following day.

Preventing Alzheimer’s disease

Dr. La Valle praised the FMD as being able to elevate brain derived neurotropic factor. Newer research is pointing at the importance of this factor for preventing Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. He pointed out that the FMD is a good start to change other things in a patient’s life. Such things like exercise, bioidentical hormone replacement and taking vitamins and supplements. All of these all in combination will build up a patient’s health.

More human data about anti-aging

The internist, Dr. Kurt Hong said that he is seeing 200 patients every week. He has done clinical studies on various forms of fasting. The FMD, he said he liked best as it is easy to do (5 days out of one month 500 calories on each of the FMD days). Dr. Hong has seen amazing improvements in patients with MS, Hashimoto’s disease and Crohn’s disease. His talk concentrated on how fasting improved the metabolic syndrome, improved inflammation in the body and improved immune diseases. The FOXO pathway involves transcription factors that are important to regulate cell death (apoptosis). A variant of FOXO3 is responsible for longevity in humans and has been found in centenarians.

Dr. Hong pointed out that self-cleaning (autophagy) is an important rejuvenation process in the body. The FMD stimulates this process. In a 2017 study Dr. Longo and Dr. Hong compared 100 regular patients with 100 patients on the FMD. Only the patients on the FMD showed that the body weight came down. In addition the blood pressure came down as well and the pluripotent stem cells in the blood were up. So, the FMD has a positive effect on various organ systems without any medication. The strongest effect of the FMD would be in the age group of 20 to 40 for anti-aging purposes as it stimulates stem cell production and elongates telomeres.

Fasting and women’s health

Dr. Felice Gersh gave a talk about the effects of fasting on women’s health. She pointed out how important estrogen is in a woman for every organ system. All of the major organ systems including the skin have estrogen receptors. Estrogen stimulates the metabolism. It stimulates the immune system by stimulating macrophages that also have estrogen receptors. In menopause less estrogen production leads to a lack of energy, because the mitochondria are no longer stimulated as they were before. Estrogen also stimulates sirtuins, which is important for anti-aging. Studies with the FMD have shown that estrogen production is re-stimulated in women.

Dr. Joel Kahn was another speaker in the afternoon. He talked about how important the FMD is for cardiovascular health. He does not think that coronary artery surgeries and stents will suddenly get abandoned, but he thinks that the FMD is a powerful tool to delay arteriosclerosis in the arteries. This will delay coronary artery lesions from developing and will add life. In his opinion 40 to 60 year old patients should start using the FMD to prevent cardiovascular disease.

Aging drives chronic disease

Sebastian Brandhorst, PhD pointed out that if we stay active and eat healthy, we will age well. The US is the only country on earth where the life expectancy goes down after there was an initial health gain in the past.

Yeast, worms, flies and mammals follow a nutrient-sensing pathway. That means when food is not around, starvation increases resistance to a variety of toxins. One important aspect of the FMD is the observation that it protects the body against the toxic effects from chemotherapy. FMD and chemotherapy combined almost completely blocked progression of breast cancer in mice. Further studies showed that cytotoxic T cells were responsible for stopping cancer growth. When antibodies against T cells were administered, the beneficial cytotoxic T cell effects against cancer were wiped out. In humans the same protective effect of the FMD was observed. The FMD combined with chemotherapy gave the best survival data in cancer patients.

Fasting Mimicking Diet Is Very Relevant For Health And Longevity

Fasting Mimicking Diet Is Very Relevant For Health And Longevity

Conclusion

The fasting mimicking diet (FMD) was ranking very prominently among last year’s anti-aging conference in Las Vegas. Several speakers of this year’s anti-aging conference pointed to the health supporting effect of the FMD. It is now evident that the previous findings in animal research are also true in humans. Missing at this time are prolonged clinical trials that analyze the mechanisms of why the FMD works so well. In the meantime everybody can safely use FMD 5 days out of every month, which will rejuvenate your system by gradually prolonging pluripotent stem cell activation and telomere lengthening. It is just a matter of time when the missing links will be filled in.

More info: intermittent fasting may benefit health.

Dec
08
2018

Not Exercising Is More Risky For You Than Smoking

A new study showed that not exercising is more risky for you than smoking. We all know that smoking puts you at risk to get a heart attack or a stroke. It can also cause lung cancer and other cancers. So, hearing that not exercising is even more risky than smoking comes as a shocker.

The study

Dr. Wael Jaber, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic was the senior cardiologist of this study. It was based on 122,007 patients who underwent tests using an exercise treadmill test at the Cleveland Clinic. This took place between the beginning of January 1991 and the end of December 2014. The end point in the study was all-cause mortality. The question in the study was whether exercise and fitness were lowering the risk of mortality. The result showed that 12% of the study group had the lowest exercise rate. This sedentary group had a mortality rate that was 500% higher than the top exercise performers. Compared to someone who exercises regularly the sedate group that hardly exercises still had a 390% higher death rate.

No ceiling of the benefit of exercise

What was astounding to the researchers was the fact that there was no ceiling of the benefit of exercise. The ultra fit group still had a super low mortality rate, lower than the next higher fitness group. Age did not matter either. Whether you were 40 or 80, the more you exercised, the lower your mortality rate was.

Comments about the study

Jaber said: “Being unfit on a treadmill or in an exercise stress test has a worse prognosis than being hypertensive, being diabetic or being a current smoker. We’ve never seen something as pronounced as this and as objective as this.” He went on to say: “If you compare the risk of sitting versus the highest performing on the exercise test, the risk is about three times higher than smoking.”

A sports medicine physician, Dr.Jordan Metzl who was not part of the study, said: “Cardiovascular disease and diabetes are the most expensive diseases in the United States. We spend more than $200 billion per year treating these diseases and their complications. Rather than pay huge sums for disease treatment, we should be encouraging our patients and communities to be active and exercise daily.”

Other studies showing that not exercising is associated with a high mortality rate

 

The STABILITY trial

This trial was based on 15,486 patients with heart disease and found that even 10 minutes of exercise per day reduced mortality. They compared the death rate of people engaging in 10 minutes of a brisk walk with a group who did not exercise at all. The brisk walkers had a 33% lower death rate than the group who was entirely sedentary.

A lack of exercise causes a lot of chronic diseases

This review article mentions that a number of chronic diseases were related to sedentary lifestyle. Major diseases like heart attacks, strokes, arthritis, depression and anxiety and others were clearly much more common in people who were more sedentary than those who were exercising regularly.

Poor lifestyle in general causes diseases

Lifestyle, in particular regular exercises, a healthy diet and NOT smoking has a profound positive effect on our health. In one study researchers showed that 79% of major diseases including heart attacks and strokes could be prevented with a healthy lifestyle. I reviewed this in this blog.

High blood pressure reduced by regular exercise

This 2017 study from Brazil has examined the effects of regular exercise on high blood pressure patients. They came to the conclusion that regular exercise can be as powerful as blood pressure lowering medication. Both bring down systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Even complications of previously untreated high blood pressure will be reversed with regular exercise while medication will not have this positive effect. Controlling high blood pressure with regular exercise will prevent diseases like heart attacks and strokes and the associated mortality.

Regular exercise and diet change to prevent type 2 diabetes

In this 2015 study the researchers noted that a combination of adopting a healthy diet and regular exercise could lead to weight loss. This was shown to prevent type 2 diabetes. The authors questions why such a lifestyle change was not more widely taught to people to prevent cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

Not Exercising Is More Risky For You Than Smoking

Not Exercising Is More Risky For You Than Smoking

Conclusion

The medical profession knows for a long time that regular exercise is good for your health. But there always was a concern that perhaps too much exercise may be hazardous. A 2018 study from the Cleveland Clinic followed 122,007 patients for 14 years. All patients underwent an exercise treadmill test as a baseline. The end point was mortality during the 14 years of follow-up. The results made clear that there was no upper limit of exercise. Patients who were exercising the most still had a lower mortality than those who exercised less.

Sessile patients

But perhaps the most impressive result was that sessile patients who did hardly any or no exercise had the highest mortality. Their mortality was higher than that of smokers who exercised a little bit. If you want to avoid getting a heart attack, a stroke, diabetes or many types of cancer, exercise regularly, don’t smoke and eat a Mediterranean type diet. Regular exercise can reduce cardiovascular disease by 79%. And since the Cleveland study we know that more exercise is even better as the top athletes had the lowest mortality.

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Nov
26
2018

Gut Bacteria Crucial To Healthy Aging

New research presented at the London Microbiome Meeting asked the question “are gut bacteria crucial to healthy aging?” Marina Ezcurra, is a Ph.D. is a researcher working at the Queen Mary University of London in the United Kingdom. She uses a nematode (round worm) model to investigate various aspects of aging. Nematodes like C. elegans provide a useful model not only for genetic work, but also for the human gut flora as well. Moreover, it allows making observations about the connection between bacterial genes and aging. Coupled with the fact that the worm has such a short lifespan, the researchers can test bacterial genes, the aging of the worm and get meaningful results in short order.

It seems like one of the research objectives was changing the nematode’s gut flora and observing life expectancy and age-related diseases.

Pathological versus healthy gut bacteria composition

Dr. Ezcurra did a couple of experiments with the nematode C. elegans as a model. She could show that the worm’s gut bacteria composition mattered. First of all, if there was a pathological composition of the gut flora, the worm did not turn as old and there were various age-related diseases that developed. Secondly, they were very comparable to human age-related degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.

Another senior author researched how genes of gut bacteria influence life expectancy

Meet Dr. Meng Wang, associate professor of molecular and human genetics, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. He did extensive genetic research on C. elegans. He used this model, because C. elegance lives only 2 to 3 weeks. This animal model is easy to manipulate. For instance, he studied the gut bacteria composition. This link explains that he tested about 4000 E.coli bacteria with various gene defects. 29 E.coli strains when deleted, increased the worms’ lifespan.12 bacterial mutants among those prevented cancer and amyloid-beta, found in Alzheimer’s disease. Some mutant bacteria caused longevity by acting on processes linked to aging.

Colanic acid is an important anti-aging factor in C.elegans

Dr. Wang joined Dr. Christophe Herman, associate professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor, for further research. It turned out that one of the keys to longevity of the nematodes were the mutant bacteria in the gut over-producing the polysaccharide colanic acid. This allowed the nematodes to live much longer. The researchers could show further that fission and fusion processes with regard to mitochondria are important. Mitochondria are the energy packages in cells and these processes are regulated by the presence of colanic acid. As a result, if your gut has good bacteria you can grow old and escape Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

Dr. Meng Wang said: “Of the nearly 4,000 bacterial genes we tested, 29, when deleted, increased the worms’ lifespan. Twelve of these bacterial mutants also protected the worms from tumor growth and accumulation of amyloid-beta, a characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease in humans.” 

Creating longevity with metformin, a diabetic drug

Physicians have known for some time that metformin stimulates longevity genes. This is the reason why diabetics on metformin live longer than diabetics on insulin. Dr. Ezcurra mentioned on 24 October, 2018 in her talk at the London microbiome Meeting that she had done experiments with C. elegans and metformin. Metformin reduces the risk of cancer and increases longevity in C. elegans as well as in mice (other experiments). Currently there is a clinical trial going on that investigates anti-aging under the influence of metformin in older people.

Effects of metformin on anti-aging

Metformin has the potential to target diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s pathologies all at once.

The anti-aging effect in humans with metformin involves the gut bacteria. Dr. Ezcurra says that this is the reason why diabetics on metformin live longer than diabetics on insulin. Metformin influences the folate bacterial metabolism of the gut flora. Other research has shown that the Akkermansia bacteria in the gut, which are good, desirable bacteria, will increase from 3-5% to 12.44% of the gut flora under the influence of metformin. Here is the discussion in detail in the following link.

Effect of gut bacteria on psychiatric diseases, obesity and diabetes

Dr. Ezcurra said that there are many studies showing that dysbiosis of the gut can lead to psychiatric diseases, Parkinson’s disease, obesity and diabetes etc.

We need to know more about whether a healthy gut flora will let us age without causing age-related diseases. Dr. Ezcurra stated: “By better understanding the links between nutrition, microbiome, and health, we can understand how the elderly can maintain their microbiome, and also help them directly by using pre- and probiotic strategies. This would help us age in a better way, maintaining health and quality of life in old age without drugs or surgery.”

Gut Bacteria Crucial To Healthy Aging

Gut Bacteria Crucial To Healthy Aging

Conclusion

The composition of the gut microbiome appears to determine whether we age gracefully or not and whether we get sick as we age or not. Everything depends on the diversity of the gut flora. There are bacteria in the gut that are good for us and also bacteria that are bad for us. Metformin has been shown to stimulate the good gut bacteria to multiply. Dr. Ezcurra is continuing her research into this. She clearly stated that it should be possible for us to age in a better way and maintain health and quality of life in old age without drugs or surgery.

Oct
27
2018

Four Diseases Cause Most Of The Deaths

Four diseases cause most of the deaths around the world: cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. This story is the news right now. 50% of the 193 UN member states that signed a treaty in 2015 are falling short of their promise. They wanted to reduce premature deaths from these diseases by 2030. But this is not happening as this story shows.

I like to review these 4 key diseases and what we can do ourselves about eliminating them. We cannot afford to wait for things to happen on a national level. Rather we need to go to the grass roots of every country and change the risk factors that cause these 4 diseases.

Cancer

First, cancer is a disease of older people, unless strong genetic factors are present. In this case even children can get leukemia, brain tumors and osteogenic sarcoma. In older people DNA mutations and DNA breaks happen more often as we age. On the other hand, if we diagnose cancer in stage 1 or 2 (in the early stages), it is quite often curable.

Oncoblot test, a cancer screening test

Probably one of the less known new criteria is the fact that there is a very sensitive cancer blood test, called the Oncoblot test (released about 4 years ago by the FDA). The latest screening test that came out of the human genome project is called the Oncoblot test. It screens for 25 of the most common cancers. And it is screening for ENOX2 proteins from cancer cells. It is a 1000 USD test in the US that health plans will not cover, but it will screen for more than 25 different common cancers 6 to 8 years before they would otherwise become clinically manifest.

If you discover cancer with this early blood test and you treat it right away, you have a good chance to live a few years longer. You may come down with another cancer down the road, but treat it early again, and you will still have a better life expectancy. Remember: four diseases cause most of the deaths, cancer is one of them!

Cardiovascular disease

Furthermore, people develop cardiovascular disease from poor eating habits and a lack of regular exercise. There are a few percentage points of people with familiar high cholesterol. These people need to see their family doctor for a prescription to lower cholesterol. But the majority of people will do well by changing their diet into a Mediterranean diet; lose weight until their body mass index reaches a value of 21 to 24. With this diet it is important to cut out all refined sugar and starchy foods. Regular exercise in a gym will also prevent hardening of the arteries. Chelation therapy has been shown in this study to help reduce hardening of arteries.

Diabetes patients have accelerated hardening of the arteries

We know from diabetic patients who have accelerated hardening of the arteries how devastating cardiovascular disease can be. Heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, amputations of the lower leg and blindness are just some examples. Even patients who do not have diabetes can get these complications at an older age. The key is to think preventatively, change the diet, exercise regularly and you will lower all those risks. Remember: four diseases cause most of the deaths; cardiovascular diseases belong to that group and are a major player.

Chronic respiratory diseases

There are different reasons why a person may develop chronic respiratory disease. A common disease is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD often has a link to smoking heavily as a younger person. This is where the damage to the lung tissue has started. Exposure to cigarette smoke leads to loss of elastic tissue in the bronchial tubes. The lungs have a difficult time to exhale to get rid of the CO2. The end result is that your breaths are shallow and you can’t get enough oxygen, because the lung is already filled with air.

Asthma and COPD

Another disease is asthma. Nowadays physicians can treat this condition well with a corticosteroid inhaler and salbutamol. Salbutamol dilates the airways by relaxing the muscles of the bronchial tubes. The corticosteroid keeps the lining of the bronchial tubes thin, so that the air can move in and out of the lung.

If asthma is not treated properly there can be permanent damage to the airways and the clinical picture would look similar to COPD.

With end-stage COPD patients the only therapy the physician can offer is continuous oxygen flow treatment. With power failures these machines that supply oxygen will stop working. People need to make provisions to have a back-up generator. Again, we need to remember: four diseases cause most of the deaths. Chronic respiratory diseases belong to them.

Diabetes

Patients with type-2 diabetes (Type 2 DM) are usually older than 30 years of age.

That’s why they are called “mature onset diabetes” or “adult onset diabetes”. For several decades a patient may “incubate” diabetes and have one or more of the diabetes risk factors, such as high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol or high triglycerides, but have normal blood sugars.

Physicians have followed patients like this for several decades in the well known Framingham Heart Study and found that a high percentage of them do come down with type-2 diabetes later in life. In the past this time of incubation was termed “pre-diabetes”. Now we call it “syndrome of insulin resistance” or “metabolic syndrome”. Diabetes belongs to the group of diseases that are associated with chronic inflammation in the body.

Causes of type-2 diabetes

Type-2 diabetes often associates with other endocrinological diseases such as Cushing’s syndrome (an adrenal gland hyperactivity) or acromegaly (increased growth hormone production). In these diseases other hormones are tilting the hormone balance by counteracting insulin thus leading to a relative shortfall of insulin, which is another cause for type-2 diabetes. There is confusion among scientists regarding possible genetic reasons for type-2 diabetes. The environment or weight gain may trigger various genetic loci that exist. The syndrome of insulin resistance has shown some connections between hypertension, obesity and type-2 diabetes.

Death in diabetics usually comes from a heart attack, a massive stroke, but it may also come from systemic infections, called sepsis. Dr. Taylor from Newcastle University showed on 30 volunteers that 43% of diabetics could be cured by a diet of 600-700 calories for 8 weeks. The medical literature also knows that regular exercise is beneficial for diabetics. It cannot be overstressed that four diseases cause most of the deaths; diabetes belongs to them and is a major player.

Four Diseases Cause Most Of The Deaths

Four Diseases Cause Most Of The Deaths

Conclusion

Four diseases cause most of the deaths. They were the cause of death for several years. They are cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. The secret is to minimize the impact of each of these diseases. You can prevent chronic respiratory diseases by stopping to smoke and treating asthma properly. To treat cancer successfully one needs to diagnose it early and remove it surgically. With cardiovascular disease chelation therapy has shown a difference. Otherwise a regular exercise program and a Mediterranean diet, which has anti-inflammatory qualities, will help. Dr. Taylor from Newcastle University demonstrated that he can treat diabetes with a low calorie diet. Each one of us has a responsibility to do something about our diagnosed condition. We cannot wait for magic cures. We need to do what has known benefits. Hopefully with these short hints will help you to improve your health.

Sep
29
2018

No Amount Of Alcohol Is Good

New research, more extensive than previous research has shown that no amount of alcohol is good.

This is completely against the widespread belief that moderate consumption of alcohol would prevent heart disease.

Specifically, previous research had shown the following: one glass of alcohol per day for women and 2 glasses of alcohol for men was reportedly make us live longer.

New research with larger population numbers

But a new study involving much larger population groups, all ages, and drinkers versus non-drinkers came to a different conclusion. It concluded that the previous recommendation was based on only heart attack rates, but excluded other causes of sudden death like heart failure, a rupture of the aorta (aneurysm), high blood pressure that kills (fatal hypertensive disease) and strokes. With the compilation of all these cardiovascular diseases, the statistics suddenly started to look different. Now even small amounts of alcohol killed. What is worse, there was clear evidence that binge drinkers have much worse survival statistics than moderate drinkers. When you drink according to the American Heart Association’s recommendation, you drink smaller amounts of alcohol daily.

Binge drinking

But many of us like to live it up on weekends or whenever there are friends over who also like a few drinks. This binge drinking habit lowers the life expectancy by an average of 10 years. It does so because the list of complications I mentioned above. In addition there are alcoholic liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis and various cancers that shorten your life.

Global health study

The funders of this global health study was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and it looked at the burden that alcohol puts on 195 countries. The original study appeared in the Lancet. The combined study population was 28 million individuals. There were 649,000 cases of various deaths due to alcohol. Here is a summary of the abbreviated outcome of the global health study. As you can see from this, there is no safe level of alcohol consumption as even small amounts of alcohol over a long period of time lead to significant damage in the body. You can prevent heart attacks to a certain extent. But instead people die from a ruptured aorta, from strokes or from heart failure. The leading cause of death for men and women age 15 to 49 worldwide was alcohol. It accounted for almost 1 in 10 deaths.

Some alcohol-related statistics

The following were the observaions in the study.

  • Over 300 disabilities and diseases were directly related to alcohol consumption. The findings were collected in 195 countries, classified by age and sex. The data was gathered between 1990 and 2016.
  • Globally, 2.4 billion people drink alcohol. 25% are women who consume 0.73 drinks on average each day, 39% are men drinking 1.7 drinks a day.
  • Denmark, Norway and Germany drank the most alcohol globally.
  • For ages 50 and up the leading causes of death were: road injuries, suicides and tuberculosis.

More statistics

  • Most deaths caused by alcohol came from cardiovascular disease and cancer for all countries.
  • When you look only at drinkers, the standard recommendation of the American Heart Association regarding low alcohol consumption seems true. But the new study compared non-drinkers with drinkers. From this it is clear that even one drink a day has a risk of premature death.
  • At the age of 40 cutting down long-term alcohol use will add 1 to 2 years of life expectancy.
  • For all ages 2.8 million people die globally every year from alcohol related diseases.
  • Half of the world does not drink at all. This means that the ones, who drink, consume double as much as the statistics show.
  • Americans prefer beer. They drink about 27 gallons of beer, 2.6 gallons of wine and 2.2 gallons of spirits per adult/year.

Common clinical conditions from alcohol consumption

Binge drinking is the consumption of 5 drinks or more in an evening for men or 4 drinks for women. The CDC is concerned about binge drinking, because of its association with significant organ damages. There are 4 major concerns regarding these effects. Heart disease and cancer; diabetes; memory loss and appearance. In the following I will zero in on these alcohol-related conditions. 

Heart disease

As this article pointed out above, there is a very limited protective effect, but mostly in above 55-year-old women who drink in moderation (1 glass of alcohol; per day). They have some protection from developing heart attacks, because their LDL cholesterol gets lowered and their clotting system is influenced in positive ways. But 6% of breast cancer in women is due to the effect of alcohol consumption, which is a downfall. For both men and women binge drinking is what kills. Binge drinkers who drink more than 100 grams of alcohol per week (more than 7 drinks in the US) experience increased deaths. The causes are heart failure, strokes, fatal hypertensive disease and fatal aortic aneurysm, where the main artery bursts. Apart from that alcohol-related pancreatitis and liver cirrhosis can kill as well.

Cancer

A relatively new finding is that alcohol has a close relationship to causing various cancers. Alcohol weakens the immune system. Also, alcohol has a negative influence on the bacterial composition, the microbiome in our digestive tract, is. This can be a cause for colon cancer. Liver cancer, mouth cancer and breast cancer also has a direct relationship to increased alcohol consumption. Esophageal cancer and laryngeal cancer are also related to alcohol consumption.

Diabetes

Alcohol can stimulate the pancreas to release insulin, which may give you hypoglycemic attacks. As alcohol contains empty calories, over the course of several years alcohol consumption can add to your weight, causing obesity and type 2 diabetes. As diabetes has detrimental effects on the heart and blood vessels, this mixed with alcohol consumption, can worsen cardiovascular disease thus increasing the risk for heart attacks and strokes.

Memory loss

In the beginning of chronic alcohol consumption you may enjoy the relaxing effect of alcohol. This is merely the toxic effect of alcohol on brain cells. Alcohol has the effect of inhibiting brain cells, which makes you feel relaxed, super-sociable and even silly. In reality you are starting to loose control. After several years of this effect you are left with feelings of anxiety, depression and anger. This is when trouble starts to occur. People out of control are more likely to get into fights and get injured or killed. People can develop blackouts where they do not remember parts of the evening or an entire event. Memory loss is starting. The hippocampus is an important part of the brain that is involved in processing short- term memory into long-term memory. A form of dementia can occur that was brought on by chronic alcohol overconsumption.

Appearance

Alcohol dries out the skin cells and body cells. The face gets wrinkles. Your skin looks parched and gives you the appearance of a prematurely aged person. Alcohol can interfere with your sleep and when you have a lack of it you end up with dark circles around your eyes as well as puffy eyes. It does not make for a good picture, whether it happens inside the body or on your skin!

No Amount Of Alcohol Is Good

No Amount Of Alcohol Is Good

Conclusion

A new study that was larger and more comprehensive than any previous study has exposed the myth that one drink for women and two drinks for men would protect you from heart disease. It may protect you from heart attacks, but it definitely does nothing to protect you from other heart conditions. There is also sudden death from heart failure, a rupture of the aorta (aneurysm), high blood pressure that kills (fatal hypertensive disease) and stroke. When you factor all that in as well, even your low, moderate alcohol consumption has health risks. The global health study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation looked at the burden that alcohol puts on 195 countries. The combined study population was 28 million individuals.

Alcohol related deaths and diseases

649, 000 registered cases of various deaths occurred due to alcohol. This included deaths from traffic accidents, injuries, cancer, heart disease and suicide. This global study compared the life expectancy and disease frequencies of alcohol-consuming people with non-alcohol consuming people. It concluded that non-alcohol consuming people live on an average up to 10 years longer than their alcohol-consuming counterparts. No studies up to now have been that comprehensive. The results from twenty-eight million people speak for themselves, and the death statistics are clear. It is worthwhile to look at the details and draw your own conclusion.

Aug
25
2018

The Downside Of Living To 100

A review article has examined longevity and reviewed the downside of living to 100. In their 80’s about 10% of the population live in nursing homes, but among centenarians 55% are residing in nursing homes. They are often very lonely, as their social circles have shrunk as they aged.

Common diseases of older people

Osteoarthritis makes it difficult for people to get around, it causes chronic pain and it can also be the reason for falls. In 1990 there were 213.4 cases of osteoarthritis per 100,000. 26 years later, in 2016 there were 232.1 cases of osteoarthritis per 100,000 people.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been falling, because less people smoke cigarettes now. Statistics show 1667 cases of COPD per 100,000 in 1990, but only 945 cases of COPD per 100,000 in 2016.

Diarrhea and common infections have dropped sharply from 8951 per 100,000 in 1990 to 3276 per 100,000 in 2016.

What other common diseases do older people get?

There are a number of common diseases that affect the elderly.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis of the hips and the knees are common, but it can affect every joint in the body. In the end stage knee replacements or hip replacements may be necessary. But before a total knee replacement or total hip replacement can even come into consideration, the person’s heart needs a thorough checkup to ensure that it is safe for the patient to undergo surgery under a general anesthetic.

Heart disease

Older people often have heart disease.

When coronary arteries are narrowed, heart attacks occur. Cardiologists can place stents, so that previously narrowed coronary arteries receive normal blood flow. Following such a procedure the patient may live for another 10 to 15 years.

There are also heart valve calcifications. The aortic valve is particularly endangered. A heart surgeon may be able to replace a diseased aortic valve by a porcine valve.

The nervous system of the heart transmits electrical signals from the sinus node to the muscle fibers, which can get diseased. Heart rhythm problems may necessitate the insertion of a pacemaker.

Finally, the heart may enlarge, but pump less blood than before. This condition is congestive heart failure. The 5-year survival for this condition is only 50.4%. Unfortunately there is very little the doctor can do for patients like this.

Cancer

The older we get, the more DNA mutations we accumulate. At one point cancer develops. If the diagnosis happens at an early stage there is a good chance that surgery can remove a cancerous growth, and the patient survives. But there are cancers that are notoriously difficult to recognize in the early stages. These are: cancer of the pancreas, kidney cancer, stomach cancer and certain types of leukemias.

Respiratory diseases

Those who smoked earlier in life may develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is a chronically disabling lung disorder. Often these individuals have to carry an oxygen tank with them wherever they go. The 5-year survival rate for people with COPD is 40 to 70%.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease where the bone is brittle. Spontaneous bone fractures can occur at the wrists, the upper thigh bone (femoral fractures) or in the vertebral bones. Women in menopause are hormone deficient and this contributes to calcium depletion of the bones. Lately research has shown that vitamin K2 and vitamin D3 are necessary for a normal calcium metabolism. Briefly, 200 micrograms of vitamin K2 and 5000 IU of vitamin D3 every day are the necessary dosage that the body can absorb calcium from the gut, eliminate it from the blood vessels and deposit it into the bone. Calcium is present in milk products and milk. If a person does not consume enough milk products a supplement of 1000 mg of calcium daily does make sense.

Alzheimer’s

The older we get, the more likely it is an onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Between the ages of 90 to 94 there is a yearly increase of Alzheimer’s of 12.7% per year. The group from age 95 to 99 years has a yearly increase of Alzheimer’s of 21.2% per year. Persons aged 100 years and older have an increase of Alzheimer’s by 40.7% per year. What this means is that essentially there is a doubling of Alzheimer’s every 5.5 years. We do not have all of the answers why this is happening and why Alzheimer’s develops. But we do know that diabetics are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. High blood sugar levels and high insulin levels seem to lead to the precipitation of the tau protein in the brain, which causes Alzheimer’s.

Diabetes

When diabetes is not well controlled, there is accelerated hardening of the arteries. This can cause heart attacks and strokes. Longstanding diabetes can affect the kidneys (diabetic nephropathy, kidney damage) and can lead to hardening of the leg arteries. Often the only treatment left is a below knee amputation. Blindness from uncontrolled diabetes is common and pain from diabetic neuropathy as well.

Diabetics have an average life expectancy of 77 to 81 years. However, if they pay attention to their blood sugars and manage their diabetes closely they can live past the age of 85.

Falls and balance problems

As people age, their balance organ is not functioning as well. Also, people with high blood pressure medication may have postural hypotensive episodes that can lead to falls.

There may be a lack of cognitive functioning and misjudging of steps, ledges and irregularities in the floor. When a person has brittle bones from osteoporosis and they fall, a hip fracture is very common. At a higher age surgery for a hip fracture is dangerous. It can have a mortality of 50%.

Obesity

A person with obesity has a life expectancy that is 10 years less than a person without obesity. The reason for this is that with obesity This is so, because the risk of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, arthritis and diabetes is increased.

Depression

Older people often get depressed. It even has its own name: involutional depression. People can get into a state of mind, where they think negatively. Depressed people feel that they have nothing to live for. They lost friends; they are shut in because they can’t drive a car any more. This type of depression needs treatment by a psychologist or psychiatrist. The danger of leaving depression untreated is that the person may get suicidal. In older people depression is often precipitated by physical health problems.

Oral health

When teeth are not looked after, gingivitis and periodontitis can develop. Infected gums can shed bacteria into the blood and this can affect the heart valves. Endocarditis, the infection of heart valves, is a cardiological emergency. Prolonged antibiotic therapy is necessary to overcome this condition.

Poverty

Poverty has real consequences. The aging person may not have access to the optimal medical care facility because of a lack of funds. But even at a younger age there is evidence that people are healthier when they are wealthier.

Shingles

Older people often get shingles, even if they had chickenpox or shingles as a child. This is evidence that the immune system is getting weaker. Shingles in an older person should alarm the treating physician that there could be an underlying cancer. Due to that knowledge a cancer-screening tests should be part of the medical exam. In addition, a varicella vaccine should be offered to the patient to build up immunity.

The Downside Of Living To 100

The Downside Of Living To 100

Conclusion

Living to 100 is often glorified in the press. Maybe you have seen a 90-year old jogger completing a marathon, or you saw an 85-year old couple ballroom dancing. But what they don’t show you is what I summarized here, the less glamorous things about living to 100. You may get a heart attack or a stroke. Osteoarthritis may affect you how you walk. Congestive heart failure may make you get short of breath when you walk upstairs. Then there are various cancer types that are difficult to diagnose early.

If you have smoked in the past, you may suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which leaves you breathless.

Other illnesses

Osteoporosis can lead to spontaneous fractures. Because the bone has a lack of calcium, this is difficult to treat and takes a long time to heal.

Alzheimer’s is ever so much more common when you approach the year 100. There are other medical conditions you can get: obesity, diabetes and depression. When you get shingles for the second time, it may mean that your immune system is getting weak and a cancer-screening test should be done.

There are some downsides when you approach the age of 100.

Know your risks and be vigilant

You may keep your physician busy checking out various age-related illnesses, but more importantly, get regular check-ups and tests. Any condition is easier to treat with an earlier diagnosis! The message for anybody reading this is very simple. Prevention through healthy living is something you can actively pursue. Keep your body and your mind busy. Enjoy time with friends and family instead of living a solitary existence. See the glass that is half full instead of viewing it as half empty. Stick to a healthy diet. Knowing all the risks is not a scare but a call to being vigilant. Knowledge is powerful and will help you to enjoy your golden years feeling well and happy.

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Aug
18
2018

Poor Diet Habits Can Cause Alzheimer’s

A new study from the Brock University in St. Catharine’s, Ont. showed that poor diet habits can cause Alzheimer’s. Specifically the risk for Alzheimer’s was a combination of high saturated fats in the diet in combination with too much sugar.

The third triggering factor was the normal aging process that also contributed to the development of Alzheimer’s.

The study showing that poor diet habits can cause Alzheimer’s

Master student Bradley Baranowski and PhD student Kirsten Bott conducted the experiments under the supervision of Assistant Professor of Health Sciences Rebecca MacPherson. The experimental group consisted of middle-aged mice that were observed for 13 weeks. They received a high-fat/high-sugar diet. The control group received a normal diet.

The experimental group with the high fat/high sugar diet was aging prematurely. They also showed elevated inflammatory markers, elevated insulin levels and cellular stress. Dr.MacPherson mentioned that the middle-aged mice would be comparable to humans aged 40 to 60. “[We’re] trying to see what the initiating signals are that can lead to progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” MacPherson said.

Lifestyle choices matter

“People often view Alzheimer’s disease as a genetic disease when in fact, genetic mutations leading to Alzheimer’s accounts for less than five per cent of cases,” Baranowski said in the press release. “This study highlights that our lifestyle choices matter and can potentially put us at risk of developing or progressing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”

Other studies that support the concept that lifestyles matter

Over the years many other researchers have analyzed what factors contribute to getting Alzheimer’s. It probably is a combination of several factors.

Age

Age is one of the major risk factors. Most Alzheimer’s patients are above the age of 65. Above 65 the risk doubles every 5 years. By the time we are 85 our risk is 1/3 to get it.

Family history

If you have a parent, brother or sister who came down with Alzheimer’s, you have a higher risk of getting it.

Environmental factors

Often environmental factors like eating too much sugar or too much saturated fat are confused with family history factors. Nutritional habits in a family can be like a tradition. It may appear as if this is a family history of Alzheimer’s when in reality poor eating habits were passed on from generation to generation. A lot more research is necessary in this area.

History of Head injury

A history of a closed head injury carries with it a higher risk of Alzheimer’s later in life. We need to use seat belts in cars and helmets when bicycling. Avoid risky sports activities where you would sustain a traumatic brain injury.

Heart disease

There is a link between heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Alzheimer’s. When brain arteries get clogged, the brain deposits more beta-amyloid protein as plaques. This is a sign of early Alzheimer’s disease.

Older Latinos and older African Americans

Older Latinos have a 1 ½-times higher risk than older whites to get Alzheimer’s and dementia. On the other hand older African-Americans are 2-times more likely than older whites to come down with Alzheimer’s. The reason for this is not entirely clear. But a big factor likely is the cardiovascular risk that is higher in Latinos and African Americans. This translates into a higher risk for Alzheimer’s.

Prevention of Alzheimer’s disease

There are more publications that point out that Alzheimer’s disease is largely preventable by cutting out those factors that contribute to its development.

Here is a list of steps to follow in order to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

  1. First of all treat diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity aggressively. This eliminates cardiovascular risk factors, which keeps the brain vessels open.
  2. Furthermore quit smoking. By preserving the cardiovascular system the brain stabilizes.
  3. Another important factor is physical activity: exercise daily! This maintains cardiopulmonary fitness. It also keeps your brain vessels open.
  4. Also, take care of your diet: eat balanced meals and avoid junk food. A Mediterranean diet or the MIND diet are examples of diets that help prevent Alzheimer’s. Note that these are low sugar and low saturated fat diets. This fits the initial observation that you read in the beginning of this blog. Mice on a high fat/high sugar diet showed premature aging and developed Alzheimer’s. Knowing this, it is good to do the opposite: cut out excessive saturated fats and sugar. Sugar increase LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, which leads to hardening of arteries.
  5. Mental stimulation is another important factor for preventing Alzheimer’s. With lifelong bilingualism there was a delay of about 4.5 years in onset of dementia. The ACTIVE study is in the link above. It showed that mental stimulation could indeed delay the onset of Alzheimer’s over a 10-year period. 
Poor Diet Habits Can Cause Alzheimer’s

Poor Diet Habits Can Cause Alzheimer’s

Conclusion

Above all, I cannot emphasize enough how important a healthy diet is for a healthy mind. The combination of an overabundance of saturated fats and refined sugar was found to be the cause of premature aging in mice. But likewise, we know from human trials that this also causes premature aging in humans and higher incidence of Alzheimer’s. As a result, it is logical to recommend a lower intake of saturated fat and to reduce sugar intake. It will prevent hardening of the arteries and slow down the development of Alzheimer’s.

But there are many other recommendations to avoid getting Alzheimer’s: quit smoking. Stay physically active by exercising daily. Use a Mediterranean diet or the MIND diet to prevent Alzheimer’s. Clinical trials with these diets have shown them to be effective. Treat diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity aggressively as this will stabilize your metabolism. As a result it also prevents Alzheimer’s. Finally, stimulate your brain every day by doing various activities. This forms new synaptic connections inside your brain and postpones Alzheimer’s from setting in as you age.