Jenson Mak | Vitality & Healthy Ageing Blog

Dr. Jenson Mak covers the best of living a vital and healthy life at any age.

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Top 5 Healthy Food Substitutions

It’s never too late (or too early) to start adjusting your diet towards becoming healthier for the sake of your body. If you typically don’t spend your time experimenting with foods in the kitchen, then you won’t know about the healthy substitutes that you can use in your cooking. By substituting these simple, everyday foods, for ingredients that typically make your meals unhealthy, you can enjoy all the foods you love while contributing to the overall health of your body, and longevity of life!

 

Black Beans

When thinking about luscious cakes, brownies, and sweet treats, black beans are the last thing that would come to mind, right? However, if you’re looking to cut calories and carbs, while still enjoying your sweet desserts, black beans are the way to go. The legumes are considered one of the healthiest foods for your body, as they are packed with protein and fiber. Substituting black beans for flour in your baking dishes will allow you to maximize your nutrition without noticing a taste difference. Wherever a recipe calls for a cup of flour, use a cup of black beans, well drained and mashed.

 

Olive Oil

The ever so popular mediterranean diet has caused many to switch their diets for optimal health, and olive oil plays a key part. Olives are one of the oldest food sources known to mankind, including one of the healthiest. Olives are filled with OMega-3 fatty acids that your body needs to function properly. Instead of using the typical vegetable oil, opt it for olive oil. It is also great for making dressings or cooking dishes (although its health benefits are optimized when unheated).

 

Greek Yogurt

You’ve heard about the health craze all over. Greek yogurt is not going anywhere thanks to its high nutritional benefits. Greek yogurt is packed with high protein, and less sugar, sodium, and fat compared to regular yogurt. Greek yogurt is also great for substitutes. Instead of using mayo or sour cream in your daily cooking, plain greek yogurt will make your meals much more nutritious without a taste difference. It’s also great for making dressings, desserts, and baking because of its thick and creamy texture.

 

Wine

Wine is also considered part of the mediterranean diet. Known as the Drink of the Gods, the ancient drink comes with more health benefits than any other alcoholic drink out there. For one, many studies have shown that wine can play a role in preventing depression and anti-aging due to the high amount of antioxidants made with the drink (with moderate consumption). It’s also a great drink to sip when out at the bar with friends or relaxing at home, as wine is significantly lower in calories compared to sugary and sweet cocktails.

 

Applesauce, Dates & Cinnamon

There’s nothing evil about sugar, spice, and everything nice in those beautiful iced cupcakes and luscious chocolate cakes, right? Wrong. Many experts have found that sugar can actually become as addictive to humans as some drugs. Sugar is responsible for obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases, as it converts to fat in our bodies. The new guidelines show that men and women should not consume more than 6-9 teaspoons of sugar per day. The key is to stay away from as much added sugar as you can, however, it is still possible to enjoy sweet treats. One old fashioned trick is to substitute applesauce in recipes that call for sugar. This also allows your item to become more moist. Another trick is to add dates to recipes that call for sugar. Dates are naturally sweet, so you won’t notice the taste difference. Cinnamon is also a great spice to substitute sugar for. Recent studies have found that cinnamon has amazing health benefits that could positively impact your health. Try adding cinnamon to your coffee or oatmeal instead of sugar!

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The Best Health Apps 2017

As technology and education continues to revolutionize and empower human beings, there is no better time to focus on your personal health and fitness than now. The ease and flexibility of having a fitness app on your phone allows you more time and motivation to workout throughout the day and keep up with your health. Here are the top health apps you should have on your phone for optimal daily motivation.

 

Workout Trainer

This app is great for those looking to stay active throughout the day. If you get bored of the same, boring routine, then this app is for you. Workout trainer provides you with hundreds of workouts from strength training, to cardio, to yoga and relaxation. You get to pick what type of workout you’re feeling that day and which muscles you want to strengthen. This app will ensure that you’re staying physically active throughout the day with many different options for you to choose from. This is a great app to switch up your routine, while keeping track of your daily activity.

 

Yoga Studio

If you’re tired of driving back and forth to the yoga studio every morning, while traffic is far from allowing you to destress. Yoga Studio is the app for you. First of all, yoga should be relaxing, and there is nothing relaxing about paying a costly monthly fee for joining yoga studios each month. Yoga studio is a great app to use throughout your day. All you need is a relaxing, quiet space to turn your home into the same comfort as a yoga studio. The app offers a variety of virtual yoga classes from beginner to advanced practices. Save time and money by implementing this app into your lifestyle, and be on the road to a relaxing and stress free daily routine.

 

My Fitness Pal

Part of living a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise is planning out and monitoring your daily activity and the foods you eat. My Fitness Pal is a great app for those on the go. The app allows you to scan or enter in details about any foods you eat throughout the day. It also allows you to enter in your daily physical activity, which can be linked to other apps in your phone. The app will keep track of the nutrition of your daily foods, such as calories, carbs, sodium, etc, while tracking your physical activity. You can also set goals such as weight loss, and the app will help you with a target of calories to intake daily, and exercises to practice throughout the day.

 

Sleep Cycle

One of the biggest aspects of living a healthy lifestyle is getting a good night’s sleep. Sleep Cycle is a great app to keep track of your sleeping. It works through a motion sensor in your phone and a microphone which is able to be heard when you move around in your sleep. It also has an alarm feature that will softly wake you up, allowing you to train your body to go to sleep and wake up at a consistent routine time. The key to your daily productivity is sleep, therefore this app will allow you to start the day right.

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5 Health Benefits of Yoga

Yoga and meditation have been studied and practiced for thousands of years. The primary idea of yoga is to find peace and happiness between yourself and your body in the outside world. Even if you consider yourself happy, the practice gives you a boost in your life through the way that you think. Yoga is a great way to enhance your health and wellness, and is an excellent practice for those looking to age well. The practice fights against stressors and allows you to find peace within your mind, while strengthening your physical body as well. Through consistent yoga practice, you can increase your health through these benefits

 

Mental Health

Yoga has a great positive effect on various mental health diseases. Yoga allows you to become one with yourself through practice, ultimately decreasing negative thoughts. The brain is able to relax and focus on one thing only: the practice. Studies have shown that consistent yoga practice has had a positive impact on patients fighting mental health struggles. It is one of the most positive homeopathic medicines available for mental diseases.

 

Muscle Strength

Yoga also comes with the benefits of a daily workout. If you’re looking to build up muscle strength, yoga is a great practice. Because you are using your own body weight, you aren’t pressured of dealing with free weights, which could be harmful if not practiced correctly. When using your own body weight, you have the ability to build the strength you need naturally through practice.

 

Increased Flexibility

Your body’s flexibility is very important when it comes to working out. When your muscles aren’t stretched before and after a workout, you risk the chance of developing an injury. Yoga allows you to increase your flexibility and loosen your muscles. Through practice, you’ll see a great difference in your typical workouts and exercises.

 

Better Breathing

Because you are focusing on your breath and your body during yoga, you practice the art of better breathing. Breathing allows you to calm your body down and receive the oxygen it needs to circulate through your blood in your body. During yoga practice, your body practices circulation and increases the functions of your organs as you practice breathing techniques.

 

Sleep Better

Yoga is also great for those who have problems with sleeping. As yoga calms the body down through the practice of breathing and mindfulness, you’ll feel more at peace and calm after your practice. As your body is relaxed, you will be able to sleep better at night, which is essential for your health and daily function.

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How Nutrition Impacts Age

A new study – Nutritional Considerations for Health Aging and Reduction in Age-Related Chronic Diseases – featured in Advances in Nutrition found that improving nutritional education within the healthcare system may promote healthier aging and reduce the financial burden of the aging population.

 

It is estimated that by the year 2050, almost 400 million people will be 80 years or older. This estimate is almost three times higher than in 2013. According to the published report, a growing number of this population will be susceptible to a concept known as nutritional frailty – a condition in older adults involving the sudden loss of weight and strength that increases the chance of experiencing disability. The growing number of obese older adults is also vulnerable to nutritional frailty and its associated diseases such as sarcopenia, mental decline, and infectious diseases.

 

The study determined that a specific model describing the various factors that influence food choices needs to be established to increase the understanding behind older adults and their food intake and meal quality. Recently, a new model was designed to monitor food intake in older adults in addition to the inclusion of randomised clinical studies. This model will help determine the specific nutritional requirements and biomarkers needed to further understand the impact of increasing age on areas such as necessary protein intake and muscle turnover. The study’s finding will also help establish new BMI guidelines tailored to the aging population.

 

According to Gilles Bergeron, the executive director at The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science at the New York Academy of Sciences, “A nutritional assessment model that takes into consideration the effect of aging on muscle mass, weight loss and nutrient absorption is crucial to overall wellness in our elderly population,”. He continues, “However, nutrition recommendations are usually based on that of a typical healthy adult, and fail to consider the effect of aging on muscle mass, weight loss, and nutrient absorption and utilisation..”
Simin Nikbin Meydani, director of the Nutritional Immunology Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, agrees with Bergeron’s views on the need for personalised nutrition recommendations stating, “much greater emphasis needs to be placed on prioritising research that will fill the knowledge gaps and provide the kind of data needed by health and nutrition experts if we’re going to address this problem,”. She adds, “There also needs to be more education about on-going nutritional needs for those involved with elder-care — not only in a clinical setting, but also for family members who are responsible for aging adults.”

 

Simin Nikbin Meydani, director of the Nutritional Immunology Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, agrees with Bergeron’s views on the need for personalized nutrition recommendations stating, “much greater emphasis needs to be placed on prioritizing research that will fill the knowledge gaps and provide the kind of data needed by health and nutrition experts if we’re going to address this problem,”. She adds, “There also needs to be more education about on-going nutritional needs for those involved with elder-care — not only in a clinical setting, but also for family members who are responsible for aging adults.”

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Age in Your Own Home

As our aging population continues to increase, many people prefer to live out their retired years in their own homes. There is a lot to be said for the comforts of home. This may not be practical for some. For those who are independent and capable, aging at home might be a good option with a few modifications for better safety.

 

Johns Hopkins University conducted a study of the risks and possibilities for aging in place. The study assessed the capabilities of older adults as related to daily activities, such as bathing, dressing, and meeting nutritional needs. An evaluation of problem areas in homes was done, and the services of a handyman were used to make the suggested improvements needed. It was determined that a few affordable modifications could make a big difference.

 

Minimising falls was one of the most important measures taken. This can be accomplished by adding grab bars at showers, tubs, and toilets. Installing handrails inside and outside the home also helps. Adding night lighting or dimmable lights is another simple modification.

 

Other areas of improvement might include changing batteries in smoke and CO detectors, putting in a taller toilet, adding non-slip mats to bathrooms and other wet areas, and adjusting water heater temperatures to prevent scalding. Getting rid of throw rugs is one of the safest things that can be done that doesn’t cost anything. Most of these simple modifications can be accomplished for less than $500.

 

If aging in place is something you or your loved one prefers, it makes very good sense to have an in-home assessment of your capabilities. There are trained professional who specialise in senior and special needs living. Many of these are Occupational Therapists. Once an assessment is completed, you should consult with a licensed contractor or handyman to give you advice and a cost estimate for making upgrades.

 

It is a good idea to get to know a reliable handyman who can keep up with the minor maintenance needs of your or your loved one’s home. Even if you just need light bulbs changed, having a good relationship with someone you trust will make things so much easier.

 

You can ask for information on in-home safety assessments from your healthcare provider, your local senior centre, or from AARP and its affiliates. Here is a home safety checklist to help you get started with the process. It is best to do this before a fall happens.

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How Long Should Seniors Work?

Retirement is a major change of lifestyle for everyone, and it’s not easy for anyone to adjust to full retirement after a lifetime of doing useful work. While some look forward to time to pursue hobbies with no need to work every day, others are left mystified, unable to fill their days with anything but boredom after a lifetime of making worthwhile, valued contributions to their communities. And the fact of the matter is that western culture has tended to treat people as old because of their age, not because of their health or vitality. However, we are seeing that trend start to shift, thanks to an ageing global population, healthcare leading to improved health into much later in life, and the growing understanding that staying active and staying connected with others, socially, lead to longevity, vitality, and a sense of well-being.

 

USA Today says of American seniors: “the percentage of people who work and people who want to work has increased markedly in both the 65-and-older and 75-and-older groups, says Sara Rix, senior adviser for the AARP Public Policy Institute. For 2011, the participation rate for 65 and older was 17.9% compared with 10.8% in 1985. For 75 and older, the rate jumped from 4.3% in 1990 to 7.5% in 2011.”

 

Certainly, there are plenty of seniors with extensive plans for their retirement, wishing nothing more than to pursue their hobbies free from workaday demands on their time. Quite a few intend to travel extensively, particularly those with grandchildren and relatives scattered far from their home base. They should feel absolutely no shame in not working if they don’t feel the urge to, they have made their contribution and should enjoy their retirement years as they wish to.

 

The benefits of working later into life are numerous. In addition to the mental and physical health benefits that come with staying productive, an uncertainty with the global economy is almost certainly a driving factor, as the income and benefits ensure a sense of security.

 

The USNews reported on a study, the researchers asked people age 50 and older the reasons for continuing to work in their retirement years. Here are the top 10 reasons they gave:

 

  • I want to keep earning money to retire more comfortably (53 per cent).
  • I would be bored not working (31 per cent).
  • I keep working because income from other sources is not enough (18 per cent).
  • I want to feel productive, useful, helpful (18 per cent) 5. I have a job that is fun, enjoyable (15 per cent)
  • I want to interact with people (13 per cent)
  • I want to stay physically/mentally active (12 per cent)
  • I need health insurance (6 per cent)
  • I am pursuing my dream: I have a job doing what I want to (6 per cent)
  • I want to learn new things (2 per cent)

 

Those who still prefer a life of being appreciated by employers who value their many years of experience should have that option for as long as they wish. A sense of purpose is an important ingredient in a satisfying life, and there is no rule saying that this purpose can only be fulfilled by hobbies or travel. There is no specific age that should slow you down, as long as you speak with your doctor about your health regularly as you age. Seniors should work for as long as they wish to and are capable of.

 

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Antibodies May Protect Brains From Age

Recent research suggests that old blood may have a negative impact on the body by damaging organs and increasing the effects of aging. A newly developed compound shows promise in protecting against this, by preventing aging in the brains of mice.

 

Initial Studies

 

The link between blood and aging was first discovered during experiments that connected young and old mice so that circulating blood was shared between them. The older mice showed improvements, including developing healthier organs and gaining protection from age-related diseases. However, the younger mice showed signs of premature aging.

 

Experiments like this suggest that young blood has restorative properties, but something in older blood causes harm. Hanadie Yousef at Stanford University appears to have isolated a protein responsible for some of the damage caused by older blood, and developed a potential way to prevent it.

 

The VCAM1 Protein

 

Yousef discovered that a protein called VCAM1 increases in the blood as the body ages. The levels of VCAM1 are 30 percent higher in individuals over 65 compared to those under 25. Yousef tested the effects of the protein by injecting blood plasma from older mice into young mice; as expected, the young mice showed signs of aging. She then repeated the experiments using blood plasma from humans in their late 60s. Again, the young mice showed signs of premature aging after injections of older blood.

 

The effects of aging were prevented during experiments where Yousef also injected a compound to block VCAM1. Young mice given the antibody at the same time or before an injection of older blood were protected from the negative effects. Yousef hopes that this research will contribute to an understanding of the way mechanisms that cause aging work and how to reverse them in order to encourage healthy aging.

 

Surprising Results

 

Other researchers are impressed with the findings, but interested in seeing more data and replicated results. Jonathan Godbout at Ohio State University expressed cautious optimism about the work leading to a possible treatment to protect aging brains.

 

Some teams have started giving plasma donated by young people to older adults, to find out if it will impact their health or possibly lessen the effect of Alzheimer’s disease. Although this is a start, neutralizing the effects of the older blood is likely to give the best chance for success.

 

Protect Against Old Blood
Yousef says a drug to protect people from the damaging effects of old blood would be more effective than plasma injections. It would be safer, less expensive, and easier to produce on a wide scale than transfusions. She is in the process of patenting her compound and hopes to develop an effective treatment against the effects old blood on aging.

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Does A Woman’s Height Affect Her Chances Of Healthy Ageing?

When we think about factors that affect someone’s health, we typically think of living a healthy lifestyle and possessing healthy genes. But have you ever thought of height as one of these important genes? Recent studies show that when it comes to women’s health, it is possible that a woman’s height affects her health. While studies show that taller people are less likely to suffer from heart disease, a recent study has found that taller women may experience more troubles when it comes to healthy ageing.

 

At the annual meeting of the American Heart Association Specific Sessions, this new study was presented by its lead author, Wenjie Ma, who is a doctoral student at the Harvard University’s School of Public Health. Ma’s team of researchers investigated the data of a sample of 68,000 women who were enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study. When looking at the data, the team took a number of variables into consideration, such as smoking status, BMIs, physical activities and the women’s diets. The data on the health of the women was recorded in 1980. Among the women tested, the average age was 44 years old.

 

In 2012, the study follow-up continued. The researchers decided that the parameters for “healthy aging” would be no physical problems, no memory problems, no mental health limitations and a lack of 11 chronic diseases, which included kidney failure, cancer, and Type 2 diabetes. According to Ma, the women were placed into five groups based on height. The median heights of the groups were 62 inches, 63 inches, 64 inches, 66 inches and 68 inches.

 

The women in the 68-inch group were less likely to meet healthy aging criteria than those in the 62-inch group. When the researchers adjusted for factors such as marital status, ethnicity, family history of disease and menopause status, the findings remained unchanged. Scientists have yet to figure out why taller women are less likely to experience healthy aging. Researchers aim to answer this question in future studies.

 

The association between taller height and unhealthy aging appeared to be softened by sticking to a healthy diet. The researchers found that tall women who said they ate a healthy diet fared better in the way of healthy aging than those who didn’t. According to Ma, the healthy diet which appeared to have a positive effect had a lot of fruits, vegetable and whole grains.

 

The researchers acknowledged that while the study found an association, it does not prove that being taller is a direct cause of experiencing more health problems while aging. It is possible that this is a correlation due to other factors rather than a causal relationship. Further research will need to be done to see if these findings apply to other groups of people.
As further research comes out about this study, women of various heights can learn what to do to try to prevent health problems while aging. We cannot yet be sure whether these findings are significant, but it’s a good idea for all people to maintain healthy diets in order to avoid health issues later in life.

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Researchers Will Study Alzheimer’s Disease Thanks To $12.2 Million Grant

Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Pennsylvania State University have recently been awarded a grant by the National Institute of Health in order to continue studies on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. It is a five-year, $12.2 million grant, and the size of this grant make sense when you consider how many people are affected by Alzheimer’s. There are currently over five million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease. Because baby boomers are aging, that number is projected to double by 2040.

 

The research will be conducted by scientists at the Einstein Aging Study in collaboration with experts at Pennsylvania State University. In the study, senior citizens will be given smartphones on which they’ll be presented with questions testing their thinking ability. The researchers hope that the way participants answer these questions will measure the cognitive changes that precede the beginning of dementia.

 

According to Richard B. Lipton, M.D., a professor and vice chair of neurology at Einstein and Montefiore, the research will look at risk factors for cognitive decline that can be corrected, such as pain, stress, poor sleep and vascular disease. Lipton is also a co-principal investigator on the grant. He states that by finding a link between specific risk factors and cognitive decline in the study’s participants, the researchers aim to develop customized interventions that can prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s.

 

Martin J. Sliwinski, Ph.D., another co-principal investigator on the grants, stated that the subtle changes in the brain that occur before Alzheimer’s are not well understood and are difficult to track using the typical cognitive evaluations, which occur one time and in person. Sliwinski pointed out that Alzheimer’s disease is usually diagnosed after several years of cognitive decline.

 

Accurate data from the study will give insight into the disease’s natural progression and shed light on the way this varies between individuals. It will also help evaluate the effectiveness of existing treatments.

 

The participants will be 500 people over the age of 70 in the Bronx. They will be given customized smartphones which will ask them multiple times a day to record personal assessments on a number of measures. The participants will also play a number of short matching and memory games. The researchers will then be able to average multiple measurements in order to more accurately assess an individual cognitive status and individual sense of well-being. This will occur over a period of 14 days so that the researchers can track changes over time.

 

Sleep patterns and activity will also be measured by fitness trackers that participants will be required to wear. There will also be monitors to measure heart rate, and some participants will have MRIs taken of their brains to help researchers assess a number of cranial regions, including the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with memory.

 

Since 1992, Dr. Lipton has been leading the Einstein Aging Study, focusing on normal aging, mild cognitive impairment, the aging brain, Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders that cause dementia. The study involves an interdisciplinary team of neurologists, neuropathologists, neuropsychologists, neurochemists, social workers and other professionals in the healthcare field.

 

Over three decades, the study has served at a resource for Alzheimer’s disease research both nationally and globally. Thanks to the new NIH funding, investigators will be able to expand their research by collaborating with experts at Penn State and using the new mobile phone-based approach. The grant could make a huge difference in the advancement of our understanding of preclinical states of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

 

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Weight and Dementia

When it comes to weight, we all know that a physical injury, emotional turmoil, a change in metabolism with age, or a sedentary lifestyle are just some of the ways that a person can go from having a BMI (Body Mass Index) in the normal range to having one in the overweight range before we even realise it. It’s not just those who make poor choices, have issues with impulse control, or are ill-educated about nutrition that can end up packing on the pounds, it can happen to any of us.

But if we stop paying attention -or never paid attention to begin with- once you have gained the weight there are serious consequences to keeping that weight on over time. Obviously there are common side-effects like diabetes and heart disease, but now there has been a study published in the journal Neurology by the American Academy of Neurology that shows gaining and keeping the weight on may actually speed up dementia or other forms of cognitive decline.

Conducted by Dr Maxime Cournot of Toulouse University Hospital in France, more than 2,000 people between the ages of 32 and 62 sat for four different cognitive tests in 1996 and then took the tests again in 2001.

Those with a BMI of 20 (which is considered to be in the healthy range) remembered an average of 9 out of 16 words in a language test, or an average of 56% of the vocabulary. Results from participants with a BMI of 30 (in the range of obese) remembered 7 out of 16 words on average, or only 44% of the vocabulary. The majority of the participants who gained weight between the first and second rounds of tests did not show much change in cognitive function, but those who had a high BMI before the first test and kept the weight on in the years between the first and second test showed higher levels of what Dr Cournot described as “cognitive decline”.

According to the World Health Organisation, BMI is calculated by multiplying your height in meters by itself, and then dividing your weight in kilogrammes by the value calculated by doubling your height. A BMI of 18.5 or less is considered underweight. Normal ranges from 18.5 to 24.9, overweight from 25 to 29.9, and obese is BMI 30.0 and above. While there are some limitations to body mass index calculations, and the method has received some criticism, it is the still the only accessible and consistent tool in use for physicians.
While this research is new and shows correlation rather than causation, and more research needs to be conducted, there are several hypotheses put forward by Dr. Cournot as to the potential cause of these findings. One being that the hormones secreted from fats could have a damaging effect on cerebral cells, resulting in decreased brain function. She also mentioned that insulin resistance could have some connection to lessened cognitive activity. “Another explanation could be that since obesity is a widely known cardiovascular risk factor, due to the thickening and hardening of the blood vessels, that the same happens with the arteries in the brain,” she said.

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