Could age-related brain decay keep you from walking steady? – Issue 53

Dear Health-Conscious Friend,

You’ve probably noticed some changes to your body as you age. Your metabolism might not allow you to enjoy some of your favorite treats—that is, not without leaving some extra padding on your belly and hips!

Well, don’t be discouraged! You CAN age gracefully—and preserve your health, too. In today’s Monday Edition of Health News Weekly™, I’ll share some tips to help you protect yourself from age-related brain drain… blood pressure problems… and even a healthy exercise tip to keep you fit at any age. Let’s get started!

Your Aging Brain Could Throw You Off Balance!

Layne Lowery

How well you move and keep your balance as you age is linked to the extent of changes in your brain, according to new research.

The white matter in your brain changes as you age—changes that are frequently seen in older people. A new study suggested this matter is associated with gait and balance disturbances.

Doctors often recommend brain scans for older patients. They want to rule out common conditions that cause balance problems such as severe brain atrophy… tumors… stroke or brain infection… and depression.

According to a Reuters report, results often show changes in white matter as the main finding of these tests, said Dr. Hansjoerg Baezner from University of Heidelberg in Mannheim, Germany.

Baezner and colleagues studied the impact of age-related white matter changes in 639 men and women between the ages of 65 and 84.

The test group underwent brain scans, as well as walking and balance tests. Of the group, 284 had mild, age-related white matter changes, 197 had moderate changes, and 158 had severe changes.

Researchers found that people with severe white matter changes were twice as likely to score poorly on walking and balance tests as those with mild white matter changes.

They further found that people with severe changes were twice as likely as the mild group to have a history of falls.

In a written statement, Baezner said exercise could help improve walking and balance. “We’ll be testing whether exercise has such a protective effect in our long-term study of this group.”

Scientists are unsure why some people’s white matter changes are worse than others—or even the causes for the change. However, studies have shown a link between these changes and lack of proper treatment for high blood pressure and diabetes.

FDA Issues New Warnings about Sexual
Enhancement Drugs Available on the Internet

Tiffany Lowery

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning older men—those most likely to be interested in sexual enhancement and erectile dysfunction (ED) products—not to purchase or use “Blue Steel” or “Hero” products.

The FDA said these two products are considered unapproved drugs and have not been proven to be safe or effective.

The agency said these products, sold over the Internet, contain undeclared ingredients. The FDA also said these substances may dangerously affect your blood pressure level.

Blue Steel and Hero are marketed as “all natural” dietary supplements. But the FDA said the undeclared and unapproved substances in these products disqualify their labeling as dietary supplements.

An agency statement said the products contain substances that are similar in chemical structure to sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra®. But the products’ labels do not list any of these substances.

“Because these products are labeled as ‘all natural dietary supplements’, consumers may assume that they are harmless and pose no health risk,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

But the undeclared ingredients in these products may interact with nitrates found in some prescription drugs—such as nitroglycerin. This can lower blood pressure to dangerous levels.

Consumers with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or heart disease often take nitrates. ED is a common problem in men with these medical conditions.

These men may seek products like Blue Steel and Hero because the products are marketed as “all natural” or as containing the active ingredients similar to those in approved ED drugs.

The FDA advises consumers who have used either of these products to discontinue use and consult their healthcare professional if they have experienced any side effects related to the use of these products.

Fast Fact

Scientific research shows that the powerful antioxidant lycopene may reduce the number and size of fibroid tumors. You can get this healthy nutrient by eating plenty of tomatoes, watermelon, guava and pink grapefruit.

A Few Sips at Happy Hour Could Send Your
Blood Pressure Soaring!

Roz Roscoe, Staff Writer

Drinking alcohol moderately may boost blood pressure more than previously thought, British researchers report.

People with a genetic mutation that makes it hard to consume alcohol had significantly lower blood pressure than regular or heavy drinkers, the researchers found.

The genetic mutation is common in some Asian populations. Drinking alcohol may trigger facial flushing, nausea, drowsiness, headache and other unpleasant symptoms in these people.

Researchers found that people without the mutation who had about three drinks per day had “strikingly” higher blood pressure—compared to people with the changed gene who drank little or no alcohol.

Sarah Lewis, a researcher at the University of Bristol’s Department of Social Medicine, said the study shows that “alcohol intake may increase blood pressure to a much greater extent, even among moderate drinkers, than previously thought.” Lewis and colleagues wrote about their findings in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Medicine.

High blood pressure, which affects more than one billion adults worldwide, can lead to stroke, heart problems and kidney failure.

Some previous studies have suggested that moderate alcohol intake provides health benefits such as lower cholesterol.

Researchers said the new study indicates more than a two-fold risk for high blood pressure among drinkers. Results also show a 70 percent increased risk of hypertension for modest drinkers—compared to people with the genetic mutation.

The study team said comparing people with the mutation and volunteers without the genetic variation helped researchers better gauge long-term effects of drinking.

Health E-Hints

Make Walking a “Weighty” Matter!

Some folks prefer to use hand and ankle weights to burn more calories while walking.

But be careful not to swing your arms too much as you could cause elbow or shoulder injuries.

Dr. David Nieman, professor of health and exercise science at Appalachian State University, said you should start with a one-pound weight in each hand to avoid injury. You can gradually increase to five-pound weights in each hand.

Keep your walking stride normal and consistent… and walk slowly until you’ve adjusted to the weights.