Fresh Health News: Fall 2022

man and woman on a fall stroll

Power Walking

New research contends that quick steps may help outpace dementia

Ever since 10,000 steps became a daily health goal in the 1960s, people have relied on step counts as a benchmark for wellness. By nearing that number each day, people can halve their odds for developing dementia within seven years. But a new study points to step speed, rather than quantity, as perhaps the greater influence when it comes to cognitive health. The report, published in JAMA Neurology, linked walking briskly to a significant decline in a person’s risk of dementia. Using data from accelerometers worn by more than 78,000 people between the ages of 40 and 79, researchers found that those who walked at a pace of 40 steps per minute cut their chances of developing dementia within seven years by 57 percent (even if they averaged just 6,315 steps daily.) Those who bumped their pace to 112 steps per minute for half an hour each day reduced their dementia risk by as much as 62 percent. Beyond a healthy diet, brain exercise and socialization, you can step up your protection from dementia with a hasty pace.

Bless Her Heart

One in three women dies of heart disease. Yet awareness that heart disease is their greatest threat has declined among women. It’s an alarming trend, especially given the American Heart Association’s recent report in Circulation that signs of heart disease may be more subtle in women than men. As a result, these red flags are more easily dismissed as typical exhaustion, stress or “just a little virus.” For example, a heart attack in a woman may be signaled by pain in the jaw, neck, arms or shoulders; shortness of breath; nausea, vomiting or heartburn; cold sweats; light-headedness or fatigue. With a stroke, women sometimes experience a sudden headache, fatigue, confusion or general weakness. In the case of heart valve disease, rather than the chest pain often felt by men, women report trouble catching their breath or sustaining exercise. Heart failure in women may manifest as sweating, swelling, heartburn, even depression or anxiety. The lesson? Don’t minimize any symptoms you suddenly feel, and seek medical help if something feels off. Find a ER location near you.

Age of Illness

Many regard young adulthood as a vibrant, energetic time marked by good health and the promise of a bright future. But this summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that half of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 are living with a chronic condition. And nearly a quarter face two or more long-term medical issues, including obesity, depression, high blood pressure or asthma. These statistics, formed using the 2019 telephone survey responses of more than 67,000 Americans, don’t even take into account the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. While sedentary lifestyles, a reliance on convenient processed foods and overlooked mental wellness may be to blame, the good news is that these factors can be controlled. By choosing whole foods, eating smaller portions and ramping up physical activity, millennials and Gen Zers (or anyone else facing such a diagnosis) can begin to reverse these chronic conditions.

Small but Mighty

Exercise tends to draw an all-or-nothing response, with lots of people falling into one of two camps—“I woke up in beast mode” or “I’ll only run if I’m being chased.” We fall into the trap of thinking we don’t have enough time to exercise, so we forgo a workout altogether. But current science tells us that smaller, more consistent bursts of physical activity may offer greater body benefits than lengthy but sporadic workouts. Let’s crunch some of the newest research numbers.

  1. Taking a short walk, even just 2 to 5 minutes, after a meal can decrease blood sugar and insulin levels, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart problems. –Sports Medicine
  2. Performing small sets of muscle-building exercise every day can yield 10 percent more strength than longer but less frequent lifting sessions. –Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports
  3. Shed up to 28.5 percent more weight by logging short but hard bursts of exercise instead of slogging through longer workouts with less intensity. –British Journal of Sports Medicine

Moms on Mute

Teens may be preprogrammed to tune out their mothers

“Are you even listening to me?” Every mother of a teenager has likely uttered this phrase once or twice, only to be met with silence. And that’s a natural response, scientists say. According to new research published in the Journal of Neuroscience, around the age of 13, a person’s brain activity shifts to prefer unfamiliar voices over those of their parents. The Stanford School of Medicine study used MRI scans to examine the brain activity of children seven to 16 years old being raised by their biological mothers. In younger participants, samples of the mothers’ voices triggered more activity in the social and reward areas of the brain than those of strangers. The opposite happened in the adolescent subjects, who showed more brain activity in response to nonfamilial voices than to Mom’s. These findings signal that teenagers may not be simply choosing to ignore their parents (at least, not entirely); instead, their brains are undergoing an adaptive change in preparation for growing independence.

Easily Access Hearing Aids

Hearing loss affects about a third of seniors ages 65 to 74 and half of people beyond that. But 80 percent of those who would benefit from hearing aids don’t wear them, reports the National Institutes of Health. That trend may soon change, though, since the Food and Drug Administration has approved the sale of over-the-counter aids without a medical exam or prescription. Designed for mild to moderate loss, these devices should be on shelves by mid-October. Signs of such hearing loss include muffled sound, difficulty with conversations in noisy groups, trouble hearing over the phone and a need to raise TV and radio volumes higher than others find comfortable. However, if you struggle to distinguish even loud sounds, can’t hear one-on-one conversations in quiet spaces or experience hearing loss suddenly or in just one ear, your condition may be too severe for an over-the-counter device to address. In that case, seek help from an audiologist to determine the best course of action.

Photographs by (walkers) Monkey Business Images; (woman) Kraken images; (man & exercise) Prostock-studio; (mother/daughter) VGstockstudio; (hearing aid) Kzenon