Jenson Mak | Vitality & Healthy Ageing Blog

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

Category: Vitality (Page 2 of 3)

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The Global Problem of Health Epidemics

The Global Problem of Health Epidemics

Rapid identification and control of emerging infectious diseases helps promote health around the world, as well as contain and prevent the international spread of disease, while minimizing interruption of world travel and trade.

The fact is that the frequency of health problems and epidemics all over the world are becoming alarming. With the resurgence of Ebola, Tuberculosis in India and now the threat of outbreak of Zika virus in the Philippines, it seems like when one problem is resolved, there comes another one that threatens not only health but other sectors of the country. The only way to resolve this is with global governance, because without governments and organizations like the WHO (World Health Organization) and the CDC (Center for Disease Control) working in conjunction with scientists worldwide, the spread of epidemics often happens too quickly for one country alone to contain and treat. Outside of the current global health crises, we have seen the rapid spread of the 2003 SARS epidemic, and the 2009 spread of novel H1N1 influenza in recent history.

On that note, the countries and agencies all over the world including WHO and United Nations (UN) developed a way to help each other by establishing the Sustainable Development Goals to frame what actions and policies will be implemented to achieve each of the goals. It was September 25th, 2015 when countries around the world set the new Sustainable Development Agenda, also known as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, aimed to end poverty, to protect the Earth and to ensure the prosperity for everyone in this planet.

For these goals to be achieved, it is imperative that everyone involved including the governments, civil society, private sector and ordinary people to do their part. You probably think that there is nothing you can help to help achieve these goals, but that is not true. You can have as much contribution as the other sectors on realizing these sustainable development goals.

How You Can Help in Achieving the Global Goals

No matter where you are or what you do, there are simple things that you can to help achieve these goals. In your simple effort, you can free your country and this world from poverty, inequalities and injustices slowly but surely. How so? First, you need to get informed about the Sustainable Development Goals.

Get as much information you can from the website that explains all the simple details of the Global Goals to get a clear context of the goals. When you learn of the details, then you can begin to educate your families, friends and colleagues about the goals. Additionally, you need to explore the realities of achieving the goals as even though it all seems so simple, it is not.

One of the most effective ways you can help in achieving the goals is by lending your skills and time. This is because most agencies that can help lack the right skills and that’s where you come in. If you can lend a bit of your time and skills to help them, it will help them improve and speed up their work and produce a significant impact in building a truly better world.

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Staying Young After You Retire

In Ottawa Ontario researchers at Carleton University, in collaboration with the University Of Rochester New York, have conducted a study that proves those who have a sense of purpose in life will outlive those who do not. This study’s publication appeared in Psychological Science in 2014, after tracking the mental and physical well-being of over 7,000 Americans for 14 years. This study involved adults aged 20 to 75 years old and included both men and women alike.

Unfortunately, when adults reach the age of retirement, they can find it hard to know what direction to take their life because they feel as if they have already accomplished everything they could in life. However, retirement opens up doors to new and exciting adventures that will not only prolong an individual’s vitality, but also create a sense of fulfillment and accomplishments. 

How to keep that sense of purpose in retirement:

Physical Fitness

Physical Fitness is important for promoting healthy ageing, but it also provides some added benefits for retired community members. They can make new friends and create a new social environment among their peers that gives them a connection to the world outside of their home. They will be able to keep themselves busy and fill up some of their empty schedule with gym meets between them and their new friends.

Community Involvement

Retirement also provides senior citizens the time to get involved with their community. Whether it’s volunteering at a food pantry, church, or library or assisting patients at the local hospital, there are hundreds of volunteer options they can choose to take part in. Additionally, senior citizens have the time to go to city council meetings or neighbourhood councils where they can share their experiences, knowledge, and general advice that can better their community.

Education

It may seem like school is no longer an option after retirement, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. One of the most important aspects to healthy ageing is by keeping the mind sharp. Almost all colleges and libraries offer courses or classes where you can learn new skill sets by taking an hour out of your day. Whether it’s learning how to sew, use a computer, typing, or learning a new language.

Having Fun

Improving your vitality’s best when you’re having a little fun. Retirees can attend group game night with church members or those throughout the community, play games online, or have a good round of chess with a close friend. More over, working on hobbies that you love is just as fun as finding your new niche by exploring other hobbies.

Improving Financial Well-being

It’s widely known that financial troubles can lead to stress and anxiety. Stress can decrease your life’s longevity and decrease your quality of life. To keep the financial worries away and moving in the right direction, seniors can add a few side jobs to their calendar. Many places need help from retirees like parents looking for a babysitter, libraries, and donation centres.

 

Retirement does not mean there is nothing left to carry out in life or that your vitality cannot be improved. It simply means you’ve accomplished all your career goals and need to move on to something new and exciting. Retirement provides you with the freedom to do whatever it is that you couldn’t normally do because you had to work.

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Seniors & Exercise, How Long, How Often, How Much?

We all know that fitness is one of the major keys to staying active, healthy, happy, and full of vitality as you age. But seniors also need to take into account that injury from overexertion or exercise too strenuous can lead to serious complications or much longer healing times as you age.

A large health study suggests that the elderly can benefit from as little as 15 minutes per day of moderately heart-pumping exercise. (Though 30 minutes minimum is recommended.) An active fitness routine can help everything from balance and strength, to delaying the onset of heart disease and dementia. It can reduce depression, prevent diabetes, delay or prevent osteoporosis, and reduce occurrences of breast and colon cancer.

So what kind of exercise should you do? For how long? And how often?

There are three main types of exercise, aerobic/endurance-building, weight training, and stretching.

Endurance building exercises are activities like walking, swimming, dancing, or anything else that gets your heart rate up and increases circulation falls into this category. This includes chores like shovelling snow, walking the dog, raking leaves, or mowing the lawn, as long as you do it at a pace that gets your heart pumping! Increased activity that ups your heart-rate is the number one most important element for mood, weight, and cardiac benefits.

Weight training doesn’t need to mean lifting weights like a bodybuilder, although lifting weights is really good for muscle health and can counteract the muscle loss that comes along with old age. It also ups your metabolism, which helps keep your weight and blood sugar in check! Physical labour chores can be part of a weight-building regimen, as can exercise that uses your own body-weight, like push-ups, lunges, arm-circles, and sit-ups. Yoga and pilates are great ways to incorporate muscle-building into your routine.

Stretching exercises help maintain flexibility, increase balance, and help prevent injury. It’s important to include stretching with any exercise you do, because it helps prevent you from over-exerting muscles during exercise. They can also help with old injuries, back pain, headaches, and other recurring symptoms. Stretching will keep you active, reduce tension, and keep your mobility at it’s peak!

The length of time you devote to fitness daily will depend -at first- on your current fitness level. For moderate activity (working hard enough that it’s difficult to talk, but not so hard that it’s impossible), the ideal is a 30 minute workout. But consistency is more important than overworking yourself, so if you haven’t been very active until now, you might want to build up to 30 minutes over time, start with as little as 5 minutes, if you need too. Listen to your body!

A large health study in Taiwan followed about 416,000 people for an average of eight years and discovered that people who exercised just 15 minutes a day reduced their mortality from all causes by 14 per cent and increased their life expectancy by three years.

The frequency of exercise is your key to seeing long-term health benefits, so you should be trying to get some activity into your routine every day, or nearly every day. Consistency is the key to building stamina, muscle, and seeing those great health benefits.

At least twice a week your schedule should include muscle-building, and every other day should include aerobic activity. Stretching is best if it happens as part of your cool-down after working out, or first thing every morning. If 30 minutes every day doesn’t fit into your schedule, you can try dividing your time up differently, such as doing an hour and fourty-five minutes of activity every Saturday and Sunday and none during the week. Also keep in mind that 30 minutes a day can happen in three 10-minute installments, or two 15-minute sessions, if you’re busy or worried about overworking yourself.

However you set your goals, make sure you can accomplish them, and remember to always take a break if you need one! A few days off every week to relax and recuperate is better than doing damage by pushing too hard, and it’s also better than setting yourself goals that you won’t follow through on. Any activity is better than none!

Vigorous exercise carries risks that people should discuss with a doctor. You should always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise programme, especially if you have any of the following risk factors:

  • A symptom you have never told your doctor about
  • Arthritis of the hips or knees
  • Blood clots
  • Chest pain
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Diabetes
  • Eye injury or recent eye surgery
  • Family history of a cardiovascular disease
  • Foot or ankle sores that won’t heal
  • Heart disease
  • Heart palpitations
  • Hernia
  • High blood pressure
  • History of smoking
  • Infections
  • Joint swelling
  • Obesity
  • Pain or trouble walking after a fall
  • Shortness of breath
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How to Travel for Business Without Getting Exhausted

Exhaustion, stress, and lack of sleep increase the effects of aging. For those who travel professionally, these are exactly the obstacles you routinely face. You need to be sure that you have taken some steps to travel without getting worn out every time you go somewhere. Travelling can be hard on you, but there is no reason to make it even harder. Anyone who does international travel, business travel or local travel should follow these tips so that they can get where they need to go without feeling like they are falling apart.

The first step is making sure that you are ready to go on every trip. It makes more sense to get yourself ready in advance so that you can travel. Do not pack at the last minute and expect everything to go the way that it should go. You have to be ready long before the trip, and you need to walk out the door knowing you have everything. If you travel for work frequently, consider making a standard travel checklist and using it every time as a packing guide.

Stop checking bags. It costs money, wastes time, and lengthens your trip. You want to get on and off the plane without any problem, and you want to have everything on your person the whole time, so you never worry about important clothing, documents, or equipment getting lost. Extra luggage is very hard to deal with, not just in the airport, but the hotel, taxis, or subways/buses will all mean wrangling luggage, and it will feel like you have no time on your trips because you spend it all dealing with luggage. Not to mention the time saved in packing and unpacking!

Sleep is vital for international and business travellers. Jet lag will always find you, but sleeping on planes will help keep the side-effects down. Make sure you are comfortable on your trips. International travel, business travel, and any other kind of travel has to be comfortable in order to relax or rest. Bring a pillow you really like, or try to get the right weight blanket that will help you stay warm in the conditioned air or planes and trains without overheating you. Anything that makes you more comfortable will be a good step in the right direction. Look up your plane model to help decide seating that will give you the space/location you prefer. Does noise bother you? Invest in earplugs or noise cancelling headphones. If you aren’t comfortable, you’ll either sleep lightly and get no rest, or never be able to relax at all.

Plan for unexpected things to happen on your trip. You need to be ready to adjust mentally when you get to places to do your work, and you need to be ready for anything to fail at any time. It could be a flight getting cancelled, or it could be technical failure in the conference room you are presenting in. There are just so many things that could go wrong when you are out of town, it’s a good idea to be in the mindset, and to have backup plans in place. Assuming your trip will be perfect is a recipe for stress, rather than productivity.

Travelling can be exhausting, and if you do it often it can get lonely. Staying in touch with people you care about can make travel much easier. Having someone to talk to goes a long way, and it will help you make sure that you have some place to vent when things do not go well. You can relax a lot more when you have a personal connection, and feel more at home. This person could be friend, family, co-worker, or even a friend online that travels for work as well. This method helps you keep from feeling like you life has been turned upside down every time you travel.

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Global Population Ageing Means Singapore needs 30,000 More Health Workers

First, the good news. As we progress through the 21st century, gains in nutrition, medicine, and health mean that human beings are living far longer than ever before. This means that as we continue to advance into the 21st century, more and more health workers specialising in geriatric care will be needed. Why? Because despite the fact that so many people are now living well into their senior years, not enough are doing so with vitality. Living more years unfortunately does not translate into healthy ageing for everybody. Longer living means living with chronic illnesses, dementia, and disability created by the loss of mobility, vision, and hearing. These issues will in turn lead to increased expenses and strain on existing support services.

These concerns about an upcoming epidemic of senior health problems aren’t only going to be affecting certain parts of the world. Singapore will also be experiencing this senior health crunch, and residents of all ages may be exposed to it in less than a decade. At the National Seminar on Productivity in Healthcare earlier this month, keynote speaker Health Minister Gan Kim Yong warned that in order to insure healthy aging for its elder population, Singapore needs to see an influx of 30,000 healthcare workers over the next three years. Specialists in geriatric medicine and nurses with experience in supervising clinics will especially be in demand.

Singapore has built six new health care clinics to accommodate this need for increased medical care, and in addition to creating bed space in public hospitals for thousands of new patients, it’s estimated that almost 10,000 more patients will be seeking treatment at smaller community hospitals and nursing homes. Almost another 8,000 Singapore residents will be seeking care within their homes and day-use facilities. And in addition to a need for specialists to facilitate healthy ageing, the demand for specialists in palliative (end of life) care is expected to be on the rise as well.

While this would seem like a wonderful opportunity out there for students and health care workers in other positions, Singapore’s labour market is already experiencing a shortage of qualified workers to insure the continuing vitality of Singapore’s ageing population. And as elsewhere in the developed world, household sizes are shrinking, meaning that there will be fewer family members to assist with elder care. To combat this, Gan indicated that the government would be taking a “community” approach to geriatric care. For example, “assisted living programmes ” currently popular in the United States and Europe will be expanded in Singapore. With assisted living, seniors are able to remain in their own homes and live independently, with help from relatives and caregivers. Research shows that seniors in such an arrangement are mentally sharper and have fewer physical health problems than those in more geriatric care settings. Gan also said current nurses nearing retirement age will be encouraged to extend working both to train new caregivers and to help seniors adjust to community living programmes .

And in addition to increased emphasis on these new initiatives, Gan said the government would place new emphasis on geriatric nursing training with new programming to accommodate these new waves of Singapore residents.

Not Just Living Longer, But Better, with Diabetes Management

diabetes-blood-sugar-diabetic-medicine-46173Intensive management of type II diabetes may make a huge difference on how long, as well as how well, you will live, according to this study. Even if you failed to manage your diabetes until beyond middle age, beginning management now could have a dramatic impact on your longevity and quality of life with the disease, the research reports.

People who were at risk of complications associated with type II diabetes were selected randomly. They either pursued their usual treatment or were put in a group treated with multi-pronged and aggressive treatment programme. Two decades after the start of the research, the scientists have discovered that people involved in an aggressive treatment team lived nearly 8 years longer. Additionally, they lived much better and their risk of kidney disease, heart disease, and blindness dropped significantly. The only complication which does not improve is nerve damage triggered by diabetes, which is permanent.

Early and intensified intervention of patients diagnosed with type II diabetes, treated with microalbuminuria, together with a target driven pharmacological medicine regime and some behavioural actions are the course of treatments that showed the results of a lengthened life span. Not only that, but the additional lifespan will be relatively free from serious or feared complications. It was confirmed by Dr. Oluf Pedersen, who specialises in endocrinology and internal medicine at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Centre for Basic Metabolic Research at the University of Copenhagen, which is situated in Denmark.

Microalbuminuria is the term pertaining to an amount of protein in your urine. Protein in the urine is a sign which means the kidneys are not working properly, and it is also the initial symptom of diabetic kidney injury according to ADA or American Diabetes Association.

Somebody with this condition is likely to develop some other complications associated with diabetes since it’s the marker for general blood vessel damage, as explained by Pedersen. Their average age was around 55 at the beginning of the research, which started in 1993. Everyone was overweight, bordering on obesity, according to the data that was collected at the outset of the study. Pedersen mentioned that the objective of intensive treatment is to resolve all changeable risk factors for early death and complications. Such factors involve blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure and triglycerides as well as the danger of blood clots.

If appropriate, medicines like cholesterol-lowering statin or drugs for hypertension were prescribed. Behaviour modification was a crucial aspect of intensive treatment. The study volunteers are instructed on making exercise and healthy diet changes. They were given help in order to stop smoking. The patients were cured at Steno Diabetes Centre located in Copenhagen for nearly 8 years. They were consistently motivated and educated, according to the staff. All of this motivation, clearly, has been paid off.

The blood pressure of the patients dropped. Their good cholesterol level went up, while the bad ones -as well as the triglycerides- also dropped. After more than twenty years, 38 of the people who participated in the group that underwent intensive treatment died, versus the 55 people who were in the traditional treatment group. Aside from longer survival, this intensive group got an average 8-year delay with the onset of heart disease and stroke.

The benefits were so clear following the ending of the intensive treatment that both of the two groups,  the intensive and traditional treatment alike, got the chance to continue the intensive treatment if they wanted to!

Dr. Joel Zonszein is director of the Clinical Diabetes Centre at Montefiore Medical Centre in New York City. “These results are impressive, and the message is important. Physicians are not being aggressive enough, and aren’t treating to targets at the beginning,” he said. “If you look at all the factors they (the Danish researchers) treated, about 80 per cent of the U.S. population isn’t treated correctly, according to national surveys,” said Zonszein, who wasn’t involved with the study.

Keeping Your Brain Agile with Music

pexels-photo-144026You may not be considered one of the professional performers out there. But that doesn’t mean you don’t benefit from learning the way to play musical instruments. Music will always be an exciting and enthralling experience, and later on, you will realise that playing it is a great mental workout.

Even more specifically, learning a musical instrument can improve mental function in the elderly, and prevent cognitive decline.

A great example here is Keith Richards, who is still often seen performing despite his advancing age. He is among those who have survived a rock n roll lifestyle, drugs and alcohol, and is still vital, passionate, and performing at the age of seventy-three. The impressive thing is that he still prances around onstage and holds his own with other artists who are much younger.

It is no mystery why artists like Keith Richards are heading to the road of healthy aging. And he’s not the only one: Bo Diddly played the blues until he was seventy-eight. It’s associated with the fact that they give their brains a fantastic workout by way of playing a musical instrument. Learning and playing a musical instrument is considered by neuroscientists as something that is incredibly beneficial at any age. It causes a symphony of neural fireworks, and is one of the best things you can do for your brain: “People with more musical training responded faster than those with little or no training, with no loss in accuracy. “This result suggests that higher levels of musical training might result in more efficient information processing in general,” the researchers write. In addition, “higher levels of musical practise were also associated with a better engagement of cognitive control processes, as indicated by more efficient error and conflict detection,” the researchers report. Participants who had spent more quality time with their instruments had “a better ability to detect errors and conflicts, and a reduced reactiveness to these detected problems.”

According to research, the midline structure called corpus callosum connects both sides of the brain and integrates the sensory, cognitive information, and motor skills between the cerebral hemispheres. This area has been found to be bigger in most musicians.

Neuroscientists also suggest learning musical instruments in bolstering and exercising the brain, which provides limitless pro-age health benefits. Some may have felt the urge to play the guitar or piano as they grew older. This might not just be wishful thinking, it may actually be due to the neural networks in the brain, begging them to find a way to activate it again. Through learning a new instrument, one can activate neurons that are hard to activate elsewhere in life, helping to keep the pathways in the brain healthy and connected.

Healthy ageing research suggests that wellness is linked to the brain, and a healthy brain can add years to life, even without other changes. It is through experience and education that people develop a refined neural network in the brain, and by activating the networks with lessons, and keeping them maintained or even developing them further via practise, the brain can keep performing well.

The old adage still remains true today, “use it or lose it”. This is just as much true of the brain as anywhere else. Neural pathways that go unused begin to decline, leading to degeneration, cognitive impairment, or dementia.

Even if it’s after your retirement, it’s not too late! You can still make significant progress, and derive intense satisfaction and pleasure from it. More effort will be involved, as learning new things doesn’t happen quickly or easily, just like in the early years in life. That is exactly what makes it more meaningful and more challenging. For vitality and brain agility, turn your attention to musical instruments!

Smell Test May Be Able To Predict Alzheimer’s

24445365953_a0299f6fce_bCan a smell test predict Alzheimer’s? According to research conducted at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), New York State Psychiatric Institute, and NewYork-Presbyterian, it just might. When aging people take an odour identification test, their inability to detect odours may correlate to a cognitive decline and early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

The two studies that point to this idea were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association’s International Conference in Toronto, Canada. These studies show that the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test, also known as UPSIT, may work as a practical and affordable alternative to other Alzheimer’s early-detection tests.

In one of the studies, UPSIT was administered to 397 older adults who had an average age of 80 years. The 397 people were from a multiethnic population in northern Manhattan, and none of them had dementia at the time of the experiment. Each participant was given an MRI scan and the thickness of the entorhinal cortex was measured. This is the area of the brain that is first affected when a person gets Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers checked in with the participants four years later, at which time 50 participants had developed dementia. This made up 12.6 per cent of the participants. Almost 20 per cent of the participants showed signs of cognitive decline.

The study found that low UPSIT scores, an indication of a decreased ability to identify odours correctly, had a significant association with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Entorhinal cortical thickness, however, was not associated with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Cognitive decline was also predicted by low UPSIT scores, but not entorhinal cortical thickness. Entorhinal cortical thickness was, however, significantly associated with UPSIT score of participants who transitioned to dementia.

The study ultimately showed that impairment in odour identification, and to a lesser degree, entorhinal cortical thickness, can help predict the transition to dementia. The findings suggest that perhaps odour identification impairment precedes thinning of the entorhinal cortex in those who are in the early clinical stage of Alzheimer’s.

In the second study, researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) assessed how useful UPSIT and tests that measure the level of amyloid in the brain are in predicting memory decline. The reason a test for amyloid was used is because large amounts of this protein can form plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. The participants in this study were 84 older adults with a median age of 71 years. The researchers administered UPSIT to the participants, and also either preformed beta amyloid PET scanning or analysed the cerebrospinal fluid. It was found that 58 of these participants had mild cognitive impairment. The researchers then kept track of these participants for at least six months.

Upon following up with the participants, the researchers found that 67 per cent of the participants had signs of a declining memory. Testing positive for amyloid through either of the two methods predicted cognitive decline. UPSIT scores did not, but participants who had a score of less than 35 were over three times as likely to have declines in memory as those who have higher UPSIT scores. The research ultimately suggests that both UPSIT scores and amyloid states could predict a decline in memory, but further research is needed.

The current methods for finding Alzheimer’s are only able to clinically detect the disease in its later stages of development, at which point significant brain damage has already occurred. If the UPSIT test or analysis of amyloid plaques could be used to predict Alzheimer’s, this would be a huge breakthrough in Alzheimer’s detection.

Pomegranates Anti-Ageing Capabilities

pexels-photo-100801Pomegranates have long been touted as an elixir of anti-aging, but there has been very little research that proves those claims, outside of the rich amounts of antioxidants contain. Until now, that is.

 

Research shows that there is a compound within pomegranates that is activated by gut bacteria. The effect of our intestinal microbes breaking down this compound results in a by-product called Urolithin A, which has been shown in research to aid muscles in protecting themselves against aging. When Urolithin A was given to Caenorhabiditis elegans worms, they lived an average lifespan that was 45% longer than the lifespan of the regular worms. When fed to elderly mice, the mice could run up to 42% further, without building any additional muscle. This change suggests that the chemical improves muscle-cell quality, not quantity.

 

The human trials have begun, but the findings from the worms and mice were so measurable and impressive the preliminary results have been published in Nature Medicine.

 

Mitochondria in our cells work kind of like batteries, powering the cells. Eventually, mitochondria degredate and fail over time, which leads to complications like muscle weakness and Parkinson’s disease. Essentially, Urolithin A (UA for short) is responsible for re-charging failing mitochondria, salvaging cells which might otherwise fail completely. “It’s the only known molecule that can relaunch the mitochondrial clean-up process, otherwise known as mitophagy,” said Patrick Aebischer, co-author on the study.

 

But before you run out to stock up on pomegranates, remember that the fruit don’t carry the compound, rather your gut bacteria processing it. There are those out there that do not have the right intestinal microbes for this process, or some that produce far less of the compound than others do.

 

The co-authors of this study founded a company to help combat this problem with a goal of creating and administering precise doses of UA to bodies directly, without the variable conversion process in the digestive system. They have already begun testing with humans in clinical trials in hospitals throughout Europe.

 

And for those of you that are reluctant to believe that worms and rats are good test subjects for humans, fear not: “Species that are evolutionarily quite distant, such as C elegans and the rat, react to the same substance in the same way. That’s a good indication that we’re touching here on an essential mechanism in living organisms.” So says Johan Auwerx.
The idea is to see if UA can provide the same mitochondrial-saving benefits to humans that it did in the trials. If it does, we could see UA being given to the elderly to help with muscular degeneration, amongst other ailments related to age. We may not see 45% longer lives, as we did with the rats, but we may see an extension of quality of life, and a longer period of healthy lifespans.

A Vaccine for Alzheimer’s Disease?

the-syringe-1291129_1920As we find more ways of living healthier and longer, and we research more ways of healing diseases that were previously terminal, we find that Alzheimer’s disease is becoming more and more prevalent. There were more than 48 million cases of dementia in 2015, and it is stepping into the forefront as one of the biggest costs to health care systems worldwide.  The WHO projected the total global cost of care related to dential and Alzheimer’s at more than $US600 billion a year. In South Australia alone, nearly 160 are diagnosed with dementia each week.

 

But we may see all of that changing, thanks to research being developed in partnership between Flinders University’s School of Medicine, and researchers in the U.S. The first ever vaccine formulation to prevent Alzheimer’s is getting close to being a reality, thanks to a breakthrough in research that successfully targets the abnormal proteins that trigger Alzheimer’s.

 

With more testing and research, it is believed that this could be used to prevent the disease, but may also be able to treat the millions of people already diagnosed as well. Professor Nikolai Petrovsky, from Flinders University’s School of Medicine, said the findings could be lifesaving.

 

“If we are successful in clinical trials, in three to five years we could be well on the way to one of the most important developments in recent medical history,” he said. “Along with our rapidly ageing populations, we now know that the explosion in type 2 diabetes in the West is likely to further dramatically fuel the projected rise in the number of cases of dementia globally, with diabetes being the major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.”

 

The scale of dementia diagnoses is so widespread the US National Institutes of Health have seen an extra $US350 million in funding to help combat it. The protein they believe will be able to be used as a vaccine platform is called MultiTEP, and targets aberrant forms of AB and tau proteins, which as said above is the hallmark trigger of Alzheimer’s disease.

 

While currently in pre-clinical studies with more work to do to ensure safety, researchers are eager to test the immunogenicity and efficacy of this potential cure in human trials as soon as possible. “This study suggests that we can immunise patients at the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, or even healthy people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, using our anti-amyloid-beta vaccine, and, if the disease progresses, then vaccinate with another anti-tau vaccine to increase effectiveness,”

 

Professor Petrovsky is the director of SA vaccine research company Vaxine Pty Ltd, which produced the first swine flu vaccine during the 2009 pandemic and is currently on the forefront of Zika and Ebola research as well. The research findings, reported in Nature’s Scientific Reports journal, are the result of a collaboration between Petrovsky’s team based out of  Flinders and US researchers at the Institute for Molecular Medicine and University of California, Irvine.

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