How to Live Longer and Without Dementia
Plus: Headache prevalence and falling U.S. life expectancy
5 Ways to Live Longer and Without Dementia
New research finds that a few key lifestyle factors are linked not only to longer life but also more years without Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. While we knew these things were good for us, the study pins down some years. The upshot:
People who did 4 or 5 of these things were considered to have the healthiest lifestyles:
Get 150 minutes (2.5 hours) or more of physical activity per week, whether formal exercise or simply walking or doing yard work
Eat a diet rich in whole grains, green leafy vegetables and berries and low in fast/fried food, and red meats
Stimulate the mind with activities like reading, visiting museums, or doing crosswords or puzzles
Keep alcohol consumption at low to moderate levels or less
Compare to people who only did 1 or 2 of the above things, the healthiest-lifestyles group, at age 65, had longer life expectancies: 3.1 years for women and 5.7 for men. And the healthiest-lifestyles group could expect, on average, to spend less of their remaining years with Alzheimer’s, compared to the least-healthy group:
Women: 10.8% vs. 19.3%
Men: 6.1% vs. 12.0%
What a Headache!
Today, or on any given day, roughly 1.2 billion people around the world will have a headache. That’s just one tidbit from new research that aims to get at the scope of this common ailment. Percentage of people globally who suffer one of these conditions in a given year:
26%: Tension headache
52%: Any sort of headache disorder
Change Your Views of Aging, Change Your Life
I’ve written about the perils of viewing aging as a bad thing. At the individual level, it’s bad for your physical and mental health. At the societal level, it reinforces negative stereotypes.
In her new book, “Breaking the Age Code: How Your Beliefs About Aging Determine How Long and Well You Live,” Becca Levy, a Yale University professor of psychology and epidemiology, argues that we can change our views of aging, and therefore improve our lives. Here’s a snippet from an interview with Levy by writer Judith Graham:
The first thing we can do is promote awareness of what our own age beliefs are. A simple way is to ask yourself, “When you think of an older person, what are the first five words or phrases that come to mind?” Noticing which beliefs are generated quickly can be an important first step in awareness.
Read the full interview on KHN to learn what Levy thinks we should do next, including this helpful gem: When you see or experience something that you might typically ascribe to aging, reconsider.
For example, when an older adult is forgetful, it’s often blamed on aging. But there are many reasons people might not remember something. They might have been stressed when they heard the information. Or they might have been distracted. Not remembering something can happen at any age.
U.S. Life Expectancy Keeps Falling…
New data finds U.S. life expectancy fell yet again in 2021, to 76.60 years, adding up to a net loss of 2.26 years in 2 years — the biggest drop since WWII. Covid is largely to blame. But the problem goes beyond the virus—there’s something wrong with American health and/or the health systems, as evidenced by this fact:
On average, 19 other high-income countries saw a decline of 0.57 years over the same period, with a drop in 2020 but an uptick in 2021.
… and Last Year Was the Deadliest in U.S. History
No surprise, as a growing population deals with a deadly pandemic: The CDC estimates there were 3.465 million U.S. deaths in 2021, or roughly 80,000 more than in 2020, which was a record year, AP reports. However…
The coronavirus is not solely to blame. Preliminary CDC data also shows the crude death rate for cancer rose slightly, and rates continued to increase for diabetes, chronic liver disease and stroke. Drug overdose deaths also continued to rise.
Some of this was predicted. Since early on in the pandemic, scientists have warned that people were skipping important doctor appointments and medical screenings, which would mean fewer early diagnoses of various diseases that would ultimately lead to more deaths, in 2021 and beyond (see my story from September 2020).
The 4-Hour Erection isn’t the Only Problem Seen in Erectile Dysfunction Pills
Guys who use Viagra, Cialis, Levitra and Stendra are at greater risk of developing serious eye conditions. Though the odds are still low, here’s the data:
Cows ‘Raised Without Antibiotics’ Sometimes Have…
“People ask me all the time what they can do to prevent the overuse of antibiotics in meat production,” says Lance Price, founder and co-director of the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center at George Washington University.
OK, that’s not a question I get every day, but anyway: “For years,” Price goes on, “I’ve been telling them to buy products labeled ‘Raised without Antibiotics.’ I’m disappointed to see that these promises aren’t always true.”
In a new study of 699 beef cattle from 33 different feedyards certified as ‘Raised without Antibiotics,” Price and colleagues found—you guessed it: 42 percent of feedyards had at least one animal test positive, and in those feedyards, 15 percent of the cattle, on average, tested positive for antibiotics.
“The good news,” Price says, “is that the majority of producers appear to be doing it right.”
Reader reactions to my article What Really Happens as We Die?, which suggests based on the latest research that a lot is going on in the brain after the heart stops:
“I'm not sure if this makes [me] more or less afraid.”
“Having been present for my mother's end of life process, I found these insights fascinating. We shouldn't hide death away and make discussions about it taboo. We need to learn more about the process by which we pass on from life. Thanks for sharing these insights.”
—David Morton Rintoul
“As someone now twice in that club (although the second time was a brain infection and maybe doesn't count) I can report it was more of a "lights out... lights back on". Maybe I was... only mostly dead (to use a quote from the Princess Bride).”
My husband didn't drink, didn't smoke, had a full time job at age 80, exercised daily, and rarely ate red meat or fried foods. We think extenuating circumstances played a role. While he had been somewhat forgetful, his memory was deeply affected after emergency surgery and a 9-day hospital stay - it never recovered. He was later diagnosed with dementia.