I’d like to talk about how rodents, relationships, and riding relate to overall health and wellness.
This idea comes from a nicely-written New York Times piece entitled, “Does Loneliness Reduce the Benefits of Exercise?” Here, Gretchen Reynolds reviews a few intriguing studies about how relationships may affect exercise, stress hormone levels, and intelligence. The combo caught my eye.
Anyone who pays attention to wellness knows that exercise produces more flexible arteries, more durable hearts, and leaner body shapes. These benefits are obvious, and honestly, sometimes a bit tiresome to write about.
To me, a far more interesting — and lesser known — benefit of regular exercise is that it might make us smarter. Here’s where the rodents come into the story.
As was summarized in the New York Times piece, when researchers allowed rats and mice access to running wheels they observed (a) that they all ran, and (b) those rats that did run scored better on rodent IQ tests, and actually grew more brain cells. This is a striking finding because nerve cells — unlike blood, GI and skin cells, which turnover rapidly — grow very slowly, if at all.
But that’s not the entire story. The Princeton researchers wanted to know whether the rat’s social relationships could have measurable biologic effects.
It turns out that rodents — like humans — are quite social. So social, in fact, that in these trials the brain-growing effect of exercise was blunted when rodents lived alone. Compared to rats and mice that lived in groups, those that were kept in isolation failed to grow new nerve cells in response to exercise. And importantly, isolated rats produced higher levels of stress hormones than those who lived in groups, even though both groups ran the same distance. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*
New clinical trials and published research are giving us information on how to improve health in elderly patients. Here are some brief points from the Cleveland Journal of Medicine that were surprising to me:
– Each year 30 percent of people age 65 or older fall and sustain serious injuries so preventing falls and fractures is important. Vitamin D prevents both falls and fractures, but mega doses of Vitamin D (50,000 mg) might cause more falls. A better dose is 1,000mg a day in people who consume a low-calcium diet.
– Exercise boosts the effect of influenza vaccine.
– The benefits of dialysis in older patients is uncertain, as it does not improve function in people over age 80. We don’t even know if it improves survival. Older patients who receive dialysis for kidney failure had a decline in function (eating, bed mobility, ambulation, toileting, hygiene, and dressing) after starting treatment.
– Colinesterase inhibitors (Aricept, Razadyne and Exelon) are commonly used to treat Alzheimer disease, but they all can have serious side effects. Syncope (fainting), hip fractures, slow heart rate, and the need for permanent pacemaker insertion were more frequent in people taking these drugs. The benefits of these drugs on cognition is modest.
– A new drug called Pradaxa (dabigatran) will likely prove to be safer than Coumadin (warfarin). Over two million adults have atrial fibrillation and the median age is 75. The blood thinner warfarin is critical for prevention of strokes but it caries a high risk of bleeding and drug levels have to be monitored frequently. Dabigatran will probably replace warfarin, but it will probably also be a lot more expensive.
As I often say, medicine and science are constantly changing and evolving. As new evidence comes forth, physicians and patients need to re-evaluate they way we do things.
*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*