The Fifty-Something Zone

 

Today I transition from being a 50 year old to being a 50-something.  It’s such a strange reality for me to move past the half-century mark, despite the fact that my joints ache more, my skin is losing its firmness, and rogue gray hairs threaten to disrupt the mass of dark brown hair on my head.  My mind and spirit are stuck in an early 30’s zone, so I am constantly in a strange disconnect between how I feel mentally and where my body is chronologically.

Since my 50th birthday last July, I have received promotional mail from AARP and Forest Lawn Mortuary, which is extremely disconcerting.   In valiant protest, I have increased my involvement in aerial arts, dabbled in other pursuits like fencing, and have maintained a 5 to 6 day weightlifting schedule each week.

To be honest, turning 50 caused me to fret a bit about my overall health, so I decided to obtain a full medical workup, including bloodwork, MRI’s of my injured left shoulder and neck, a mammogram and colonoscopy.

 

These were the results:

  1. Bloodwork results were completely normal, and as always, my HDL was over 70 and my LDL was under 100.
  2. MRI of my left shoulder revealed moderate bursitis, widespread inflammation, severe biceps tendinitis, and widespread tendinopathy.  The good news is that my shoulder issues don’t warrant surgical intervention.
  3. MRI of my cervical spine revealed dessication of multiple intervertebral discs and osteophytes at multiple levels.  Basically, my neck reveals that I am a dried up old bitch.
  4. Screening mammogram revealed a suspicious 5mm mass on my right breast, which was further evaluated with more views.  It turned out to be a small cyst.
  5. The colonoscopy prep was definitely not enjoyable, but my days of water loading for contests made drinking the vile electolyte prep solution (bastards gave me the unflavored version…blech) a bit more tolerable.  Aside from a small polyp, my colonoscopy was unremarkable.

Evidently, my body is doing a pretty good job of fending off aging.  With a clean bill of health, I will continue to engage in my physical pursuits, eat clean food, meditate daily, and be thankful.

 

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Who Is That Old Person In The Mirror?

young-vs-old

This post is dedicated to every single patient and client who has admitted to me that at some point after they began their descent into middle age, they looked in the mirror and no longer recognized the reflection staring back. The aging process can be terribly cruel, and when hormonal levels plummet, the physical changes can appear almost overnight. Taut, supple skin is replaced with saggy skin. A full, thick head of hair is reduced to a thin, lifeless mass. Joints begin to creak and resist natural movement. Brilliant white teeth begin to look dingy. Once full cheeks and lips become deflated. Grey and white hairs sprout and take over the scalp. Back fat and belly fat obliterate a once trim waistline. I could go on, but you get the idea.

wrinkled face

None of the changes associated with aging are fun, especially the physical changes which end up making us feel frustrated by a rapidly changing physical landscape. While some folks begrudgingly accept the aging process without considering any interventions, a growing segment of the aging population has turned to everything from adrenal support supplements, to hair dye, to dermal injectable fillers, to surgery, in an effort to fight the aging process every step of the way.

The good news is that there are more anti-aging options than ever before. In addition, there is a greater awareness of the importance of proper nutrition and regular exercise in fighting the aging process. But let’s face it. Many people still want a magic pill or an instant fix, and that is where cosmetic interventions such as fillers and surgery come into play.

Is it cheating to have treatments which make you feel more like yourself? I certainly don’t think so, nor do my patients. Unless you are on a mission to pump your face so full of fillers that you look like a Barbie doll, you can turn to fillers to restore volume which has been lost over the years and STILL LOOK LIKE YOU.

I offer the following injectable facial medical treatments:
Botox
Juvederm
Voluma
Kybella
Radiesse
Bellafill
Restylane

In addition, I also perform medical grade chemical peels, surgical skin tag and mole removal, and bioidentical hormone replacement.

For those of you in the Los Angeles area who are interested in any of the treatments or services I offer, please check out my medical site: http://www.drstaceynaito.com/#!procedures/c1pna

My Mother Versus A Flight Of Stairs

stairs

I recently took my 83-year old mother to visit a dear friend whom she had not seen for 20 years. On our way to see our friend, I had a moment of panic, because I hadn’t factored in the flight of stairs which we had to ascend in order to enter our friend’s apartment. Even getting my mom out of my car was quite a process, since her severe arthritis and lack of strength in her lower extremities always makes getting out of a seat a major challenge.

Once we reached the stairs to our friend’s place, I asked my mom which side she felt stronger on (her right), and had her take hold of the stair rail on the right. She lifted her left foot and planted it on the first step, and we made our slow climb. At step number eight, my mom blurted out, “I can’t do it”, in a voice filled with desperation and fear. I told her, “Mom, just rest for a second. You’re almost halfway there!” But there was no beast mode, no dogged determination in my mom. She just stood there, clinging to the stair rail for dear life, and I could see that she had given up. Thankfully, a male neighbor offered to help, and essentially hoisted her up each step until they reached the top.

After we settled into our friend’s place, we had a nice lunch and wonderful conversation, and my mom forgot about the stair-climbing incident. When we were ready to leave, another very nice man helped my mother descend the stairs, a task which was much easier since gravity was on her side, and also since it didn’t require the lower body strength that going up the stairs did.

It was pretty agonizing for me to watch my mom go up those stairs. I know she has slowed down a lot, and I know that physical challenges like stairs are massive for her. For this reason, I unfortunately cannot bring her to my place for a visit, because there are stairs everywhere in my residence. I also find the idea of decreased strength and mobility completely terrifying.

If only we could all enjoy sprightly motion throughout our twilight years! This is even more motivation for me to keep training every day like I do.

Online Cognitive Training – Helpful Or Not?

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I came across an interesting article which discussed online cognitive training, and I wanted to share excerpts from it. Following the shared post is my own opinion of online cognitive training, based on my personal experience with the most popular programs.

Does Online Cognitive Training Work? – By Pauline Anderson

Online cognitive training programs promise to boost memory and attention, and they’re popping up at a rapid pace. According to one dementia expert, the online cognitive training business has grown from about $200 million annually 6 or 7 years ago to an estimated $2 billion a year today.

But are these companies truly giving patients an edge when it comes to warding off dementia, or are they cashing in on the worried well and an often vulnerable aging population?

Cognitive training is loosely defined as regularly engaging in a cognitive task, for example, learning a list of words, a set of pictures, or a certain route to a particular target.

Online cognitive training programs typically involve buying a monthly or annual subscription that allows users access to various cognitive tasks. These users sit at a computer to do these tasks on a regular basis. They usually have to pay more to get upgraded applications.

“It’s a huge industry,” says Peter Snyder, PhD, professor, neurology, Alpert Medical School, Brown University, and chief research officer, Lifespan Hospital System, Providence, Rhode Island, and editor, Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring, the Alzheimer’s Association’s online, open-access journal. Not surprisingly, many of these brain training companies target the aging baby boomer market. For the next 15 years, 10,000 people per day, every day, will turn age 65 in the United States, Dr Snyder said.

Many of them are worried about their memory. The issue of how to prevent dementia ”actually comes up almost every time I see a patient,” says David Knopman, MD, professor, neurology, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, and an investigator in the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer Research Center, Rochester, Minnesota. If they still have a job, Dr Knopman advises patients that they probably get enough stimulation in the work environment. ”Certainly the computer can’t be as good for mental stimulation as the challenges you face in the work environment, even if you’re not in an executive position.”

And if the patient is retired but reads newspapers, belongs to a book club, or does volunteer work, “what would the computer testing offer that this socially engaging and mentally stimulating activity doesn’t provide?” asks Dr Knopman.

The benefits of cognitive activity aren’t in question. It’s clear from the literature, says Dr Snyder, that engaging cognitively with challenging and varied tasks may help slow the rate of progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Rock Solid Evidence

The lifestyle factor that has the most credible evidence for protecting against dementia to date is not cognitive training but physical activity. “The evidence is absolutely rock solid; it’s incontrovertible,” says Dr Snyder.

He worries that patients will play online cognitive games three times a week in the hopes of protecting their brain instead of taking a brisk walk three times a week.

And Dr Knopman is concerned that those playing brain games may not be socially active. Online cognitive training is ‘the opposite of being socially engaged,” he notes. “They force people to bury themselves in the computer for a certain period of time.”

It’s not clear whether pursuing cognitive training online adds any further benefits to physical and cognitive pursuits offline. That’s because to date there’s scant literature on the subject.

One study published earlier this year in The Lancet looked at the effect of healthy eating and exercise in addition to brain training in 1260 people aged 60 to 77 years who were at risk for dementia. Researchers found that an intensive program incorporating all three approaches, plus management of metabolic and vascular risk factors, slowed cognitive decline over 2 years.

Overall scores on the Neuropsychological Test Battery in the intervention group were 25% higher than those in a control group that received only regular health advice. The results were particularly striking in the areas of executive function and processing speed.

But how much brain training contributes to the mix remains to be seen.

Literature a “Wreck”

The literature in this area leaves a lot to be desired, Dr Snyder said. Most of the published literature is a “wreck,” he says, partly because the outcome measures are confounded, the follow-up period isn’t long enough, or proper comparisons aren’t in place.

A randomized controlled trial of cognitive training would have to compare this training to an appropriate placebo, he points out. “In this case, what’s the placebo? Is it absolutely nothing at all, which in most cases is what has been done?”

The question, says Dr Snyder, should be whether the online tasks are more effective than freely accessible pursuits doctors might routinely recommend to older adults, which in addition to regular physical activity might be things like learning a new language or practicing the piano.

Learning a language or an instrument is a complex process that involves several cognitive functions. In contrast, many of the online cognitive games being marketed focus on very specific cognitive functions, for example, remembering word lists.

So after some practice, you may get good at remembering those word lists — the so-called training effect — but how that translates into everyday life is unclear. “Is learning word lists over and over again on a computer going to generalize to being able to find your car in a crowded parking lot at a shopping mall?” asks Dr Snyder.

But forgetting where you parked your car, or the name of your grandson, can be a scary experience. More and more patients are looking for ways to prevent their descent into mental fog.

And so they’re increasingly turning to online cognitive games. “This is an industry that I worry preys on the elderly, preys on a vulnerable population,” says Dr Snyder.

Sweet Spot

William Mansbach, PhD, from Mansbach Health Tools LLC, Simpsonville, Maryland, agrees that the “sweet spot” for the at-home brain training industry is the “worried well” and that in general the industry’s claims far exceed the evidence.

But this may not be the case for those already experiencing memory impairment. His company has developed programs that he says can improve global cognition in these patients in as little as 3 weeks if they practice for 20 minutes, three times a week.

One of his programs — Memory Match — is a cognitive training task that exercises working memory and attention using themed cards. A study discussed at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference earlier this year found that those with mild cognitive impairment and mild dementia improved significantly on this test compared to a control group that didn’t receive it. Importantly, says Dr Mansbach, those with more severe dementia did not improve.

In structured interviews following this study, participants in the treatment group pointed to the intervention as a reason their memory improved, according to Dr Mansbach.

He’s proud of the “clear evidence” and “large effect sizes” from the study that suggest that this approach is legitimate.

Patients using his brain training tasks first do a self-assessment to determine at what level to start in order to get maximum benefit, he says. One of his criticisms of other programs is that there are no real assessment of the person doing the training and no concrete idea of what needs improving.

However, while he’s convinced his program works in the short run, long-term benefits are unclear. “We have no idea, and no one does.”

There could well be an important role for cognitive training outside industry, though. Jens Pruessner, PhD, professor, psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, thinks that using this training may help pinpoint patterns that might be clues to the onset of dementia.

In a research project, he and his colleagues are testing PONDER (Prevention of Neurodegenerative Disease in Everyone at Risk), a free online cognitive training program aimed at those aged 40 years and up. Using neuropsychological assessments, researchers are tracking the progress of users to see whether the frequency, intensity, and duration of cognitive training leads to observable changes over time.

“Let’s say that in general, the training effect is such that you improve by 20% over time when you have been doing this task every other week for 6 months,” said Dr Pruessner. “Are those people who only improve by 10% or 5% at risk of developing mild cognitive impairment and eventually dementia?”

So far, the mean age of users is 57 years, which is exactly when age-related cognitive decline begins in those destined to develop dementia. Dr Pruessner notes that dementia begins some 20 years before clinical symptoms become significant.

Perhaps the most well-known of these companies is Lumos Labs in San Francisco, California, whose brain training site, Lumosity, is used by more than 70 million “brain trainers” in 182 countries, the company’s website notes.

The company has a collaborative research initiative, called the Human Cognition Project (HCP), that it says partners with more than 90 collaborators from 40 universities. “Through the HCP, we grant qualified researchers free access to Lumosity’s cognitive training tasks, assessments, research tools, and in some cases, limited access to data on cognitive task performance — helping them conduct larger, faster, and more efficient studies,” the website notes.

Lumosity also has in-house researchers to develop new cognitive training tasks and assessments, provide administration of controlled studies, and study Lumosity gameplay information to enhance the experience, the site notes.

Several publications in peer-reviewed journals have used Lumosity data. Earlier this year, researchers published a paper in Alzheimer’s & Dementia using data from Lumosity’s Memory Match game, which requires visual working memory, to look at individual differences in age-related changes in working memory. They found significant effects of age on baseline scores and lower learning rates. “Online memory games have the potential to identify age-related decline in cognition and to identify subjects at risk for cognitive decline with smaller sample sizes and lower cost than traditional recruitment methods,” the authors concluded.

A randomized trial of nonaction video games from the Lumosity site reported in 2014 in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience showed improvements with training in processing speed, attention, and immediate and delayed visual recognition memory in the trained group, but no variation in the control group. Neither group improved in visuospatial working memory or executive control, the researchers report.

“Overall, the current results support the idea that training healthy older adults with non-action video games will enhance some cognitive abilities but not others,” the researchers, with first author Soledad Ballesteros, PhD, Studies on Aging and Neurodegenerative Diseases Research Group, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, Madrid, Spain, concluded.

Multiple emails and telephone messages to Lumosity requesting an interview for this article, sent over several weeks, were not returned.

Personal Trainer for the Brain?

So, at the end of the day, should that 57-year-old patient who is worried about his forgetfulness fork out subscription fees every month to play cognitive games? If it keeps someone mentally active, “why not?” says Dr Belleville.

She points out that people pay a lot of money to join a gym when they could jog for free in the park. “If you have to pay a gym to continue to do your exercises, then pay; it’s worth the money.”

However, she acknowledges that while there’s a good deal of evidence that a certain amount and intensity of physical activity is good for the brain, “when you look at cognitive training, it’s all over the place.”

And she agrees that it’s not clear whether the training effect goes beyond the task being practiced — or whether it has the same impact as informal training, such as doing crossword puzzles several times a week.

On the other hand, “it’s probably better than doing nothing at all and looking at silly programs on television,” she says. “I think there’s something there, but we need to understand better what the active ingredient is so we can provide good advice to people.”

Now here’s my take on online training:

I believe that the practice and the HABIT of performing cognitive training serves a beneficial purpose for people who engage in it. I also strongly agree that such training programs are a much better alternative to watching television. While I agree with Dr Knopman that computer cognitive training doesn’t provide an individual with any benefits over reading, learning a foreign language, or engaging in a complex mental activity which would protect brain function, I strongly believe that the current pace of society has made it extremely difficult for people to find time to engage in such activities. On a personal note, I never have time to leisurely read a book like I used to in the past. For me, a ten minute visit to a brain training website keeps my skills sharp and is a nice break from the hectic lifestyle which I deal with all the time. In addition, my regular cognitive games do not interfere in any way with my four to six day per week exercise regimen. I also maintain social engagement through work and my personal life. I am thankful for the brief visits to training websites, because they make me feel less guilty about not having an hour or two to carve out of the day to dive into a book.

This 94-Year-Old Grandmother Is A Champion Powerlifter

I am utterly shocked and completely impressed by this lady! Read on to find out how she got started at the age of 91. This totally proves that you are NEVER too old to lift weights!

Original post can be found at:
http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-22172/this-94-year-old-grandmother-is-a-champion-powerlifter.html

by Emi Boscamp, MBG Editorial – October 16, 2015 5:25 PM

A 94-year-old woman can dead lift 135 pounds. What did you do today? (Yeah, I didn’t do much of anything either.)

Floridian Edith Traina is a grandmother — and that’s an accomplishment in itself — but she’s also a champion powerlifter. She started doing it at the tender age of 91 and has since become addicted to the competition, reports FOX13 Tampa.
“(My friend) dragged me kicking and screaming to the gym, and I figured I’d keep her happy for a while and get her off my back, but I got hooked,” Traina (which, by the way, is the most fitting last name possible) told FOX13 Tampa.

Since then, the self-described “champion” has competed in more than a dozen competitions, is the only person in her age group, and hopes to be able to lift 200 pounds by the time she hits 100. Though it may be good for her health, she does it because of how it makes her feel emotionally.

“With this, I just walk up, lift it, put it down. I get all these applause — great for the ego,” she said.

Watch her do her thing below (and prepare to feel like a bum). Keep on trainin’, Traina — we’re rooting for you!

Learn a Foreign Tongue To Protect Your Brain

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Please read my original post at:

http://xactmind.com/xc/articles/learn-a-foreign-tongue-to-protect-your-brain/

By: Dr. Stacey Naito – Physician and IFBB Pro

Bilingual Brains

Numerous research studies have revealed that people who speak two or more languages possess greater skill in multitasking and paying attention than those who only speak one language. In addition, a 2013 study discovered that individuals who spoke two languages developed the signs of dementia more than four years later than people who only spoke one language, which strongly suggests that being bilingual may help to delay the onset of dementia.

Never Too Late

Scientists have determined that the earlier one learns a second language, the greater the protective benefits against dementia, but it is never too late to learn a foreign tongue, even if you only learn a bit of the language. Be ready for a challenge, though, because most aspects of learning a foreign language later in life will be more difficult.

One clear benefit which older individuals have over youngsters when learning a foreign language is that they have much larger vocabularies which are often as large as those of native speakers. However, the challenges which exist for older people learning a foreign tongue are numerous. First of all, phonemes, or sounds, of a language are very easily picked up by children, but are much more difficult for adults to learn. Secondly, adults automatically hear a foreign language through the filter of their native language, which is not the case in toddlers. As a result, the older learner may have issues with pronunciation.

A toddler’s brain has about fifty percent more neuron connections than an adult brain. The extra connections are a safeguard against potential early trauma, but are also critical for early language acquisition. After a child reaches six years of age, adaptability declines as a result of the brain’s need to acquire other skills during development. This adaptability, also known as neuroplasticity, continues to plummet throughout the years, making it more difficult to obtain new language skills.

Several studies have suggested that learning a foreign language later in life can delay age-related cognitive decline, as well as delay the onset of dementia. In addition, the mental challenge of learning a new language during later years improves executive function, which is important for mental flexibility.

Whaddya Mean, I Need Reading Glasses?

reading glasses

I have struggled for the past several years with my reading vision. Reading things like menus in dark restaurants, and the small print on supplement bottles, has become extremely challenging. It is very frustrating for me, because I used to be able to read the smallest print better than most other people were able to. Of course, that was because I had myopia and astigmatism which robbed me of crisp distance vision from the time I was a child, up until I got Lasik at the age of 41.

When I had the Lasik procedure done, I went from having 20/400 distance vision to having 20/30 distance vision in my right eye and 20/25 distance vision in my left eye. The reason why the distance vision in my right eye is slightly worse is because the right eye was corrected for reading vision.

For about 4 years after I had Lasik, my reading vision sat at about 20/25, which was a sacrifice for me, since I had enjoyed 20/10 reading vision for decades. However, I have spent the past few years noticing my close-up vision dwindle. At this point I am at a 20/35 on a good day, and 20/40 in dimly lit conditions or first thing in the morning. This is all due to presbyopia, the age-related stiffening of the lens of the eye, which makes it more difficult for the eyes to accommodate the way they need to for crisp reading vision.

You would think that I would wear reading glasses whenever I needed them, but I am SO stubborn that I very rarely reach for them. Part of the reason is that I always hated wearing glasses before I had Lasik (I almost exclusively wore contact lenses whenever I was out and about). The notion of whipping out reading glasses and having them perched on the edge of my nose is not appealing to me at all! In addition, I have a small nose, so reading glasses tend to slip off my nose while I am wearing them. I think I also have a natural resistance to reading glasses because I used to look at people wearing reading glasses, and think, “wow, that person is OLD.” I know that’s terrible and short-sighted (pun intended), but I just can’t help it! I’d rather grab a magnifying lens than my glasses!

For those of you who might be scratching your heads, wondering what all the numbers above mean, read the explanation which the American Optometric Association has on their website:

20/20 vision is a term used to express normal visual acuity (the clarity or sharpness of vision) measured at a distance of 20 feet. If you have 20/20 vision, you can see clearly at 20 feet what should normally be seen at that distance. If you have 20/100 vision, it means that you must be as close as 20 feet to see what a person with normal vision can see at 100 feet.

20/20 does not necessarily mean perfect vision. 20/20 vision only indicates the sharpness or clarity of vision at a distance. There are other important vision skills, including peripheral awareness or side vision, eye coordination, depth perception, focusing ability and color vision that contribute to your overall visual ability.

Some people can see well at a distance, but are unable to bring nearer objects into focus. This condition can be caused by hyperopia (farsightedness) or presbyopia (loss of focusing ability). Others can see items that are close, but cannot see those far away. This condition may be caused by myopia (nearsightedness).

A comprehensive eye examination by a doctor of optometry can diagnose those causes, if any, that are affecting your ability to see well. In most cases, your optometrist can prescribe glasses, contact lenses or a vision therapy program that will help improve your vision. If the reduced vision is due to an eye disease, the use of ocular medication or other treatment may be used.