Jenson Mak | Vitality & Healthy Ageing Blog

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

Tag: research (Page 1 of 2)

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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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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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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!

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