Life expectancy rises over the past 35 years

Over the past 35 years the global life expectancy has risen by a staggering 10 years according to The Global Burden of Disease study. This is due to the progression in treatments for life-threatening diseases, however diet, obesity and drug use are now indicated as significant causes of death and disability. This rise in life expectancy increases the risk of ill health and disability in later life, which may result in the need for mobility scooters, like the TGA mobility scooters, to get around.

Elderly couple enjoy longer healthy life

The study reviews the cause of illness, disability and death in each country and the results have shown an improvement in health, but this differs country to country. As the life expectancy rises, there is also concern as results show more people are suffering from ill health and disability in later life.

The life expectancy from 1980 to 2015 has increased across the globe, with the average now being 69 years in men and 74.8 years for women. The study found that an alarming 70% of deaths are caused from lifestyle factors, the main ones being heart disease and diabetes- which can be prevented or managed by changes in diet and lifestyle.

“Development drives, but does not determine health,” according to Dr Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute. “We see countries that have improved far faster than can be explained by income, education or fertility. And we also continue to see countries – including the United States- that are far less healthy than they should be given their resources.”

A lack of iron in people’s diet was the main reasons why people suffered with low back and neck pain, sight and hearing loss, depression and anaemia according to the study. Whilst several environmental factors showed a significant impact on people’s health worldwide. Drug use and being around pollutants such as diesel exhaust or benzene in their working lives had an impact on diabetes, heart disease and cancer- according to the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. Those who choose to indulge in bad diets, which were high in salt and low in fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, seeds and sea-foods also had a negative impact on these diseases.

Worldwide progress has been made in decreasing the health threats from smoking, unsafe sanitation and water and household air pollution. With exposure to smoke falling by over a quarter worldwide, however it is a leading risk factor for ill health in the UK and US.

Professor John Newton of Public Health England, who acted as the chair of the European Burden of Disease Network for the study commented on the results of the study: “This presents a great opportunity for prevention both in England and worldwide. Consequences of a poor diet now account for 10% of all ill-health worldwide and levels of alcohol consumption and air pollution have hardly changed. We can tackle all of this and more through committed individual, national and global action.”

Image credit: Candida Performa, Available under Creative Commons.


What happens to your DNA in the aging process?

DNA is a fascinating element of the human body. DNA simply put is the structure of chemicals that carry specific genetic information that determine who you are, inside and out. Genes are inherited from your parents and determine such characteristics like hair and eye colour. Inherited genes can cause disabilities like muscular dystrophy, which may cause you to need high spec mobility scooters.

DNA shows youthful properties, could prevent diseases

When you are younger the DNA is regulated so that it expresses the right genes at a specific time. As you age the regulation of DNA begins to be interrupted which factors into the aging process. However this interruption is not true for everyone, according to a new study, with some people displaying youthful DNA structures despite their age.

The study was led by Dr Bas Heijmans from the Leiden University, in the Netherlands, and was conducted by 34 scientists from six collaborating institutes. It compiled data from over 3,000 participants and found these fascinating results. Researchers charted the regulation of DNA of the participants by measuring levels of methylation at around half a million sites of human DNA, searching for the sites where apparent increases in regulation could be seen as people aged.

Dr Heijmans is an epigeneticist from the Molecular Epidemiology Section of the University. Commenting on the study Heijmans said : “We believe we may have caught the aging process in the act: the dysregulation of the DNA that we discovered went hand in hand with higher activity in genes that continuously try to repair damage to cells. This process is not fully effective and in the long run leads to aging.”

What is interesting is that not everyone in the study showed an equal level of age-related dysregulation of DNA. Some of the participants appeared to have regulation that matched that of a healthy 25-year-old. These participants showed genes that were less active in the aging process.

The next steps forward from this study are to see whether people who display ‘youthful DNA’ structures stay healthier for longer and whether these genes are preventative in the onset of specific life-threatening diseases.

“Obviously, health depends on more than just the regulation of our DNA. But we do think that the dysregulation of the DNA is a fundamental process that could push the risk of different diseases in the wrong direction,” according to Heijmans.

Journal Reference:
Roderick C. Slieker, Maarten van Iterson, René Luijk, Marian Beekman, Daria V. Zhernakova, Matthijs H. Moed, Hailiang Mei, Michiel van Galen, Patrick Deelen, Marc Jan Bonder, Alexandra Zhernakova, André G. Uitterlinden, Ettje F. Tigchelaar, Coen D. A. Stehouwer, Casper G. Schalkwijk, Carla J. H. van der Kallen, Albert Hofman, Diana van Heemst, Eco J. de Geus, Jenny van Dongen, Joris Deelen, Leonard H. van den Berg, Joyce van Meurs, Rick Jansen, Peter A. C. ‘t Hoen, Lude Franke, Cisca Wijmenga, Jan H. Veldink, Morris A. Swertz, Marleen M. J. van Greevenbroek, Cornelia M. van Duijn, Dorret I. Boomsma, P. Eline Slagboom, Bastiaan T. Heijmans. Age-related accrual of methylomic variability is linked to fundamental ageing mechanismsGenome Biology, 2016

Can brain training games offset the aging mind?

It is important to maintain a healthy life later in life. There are several ways that can help you achieve this. High spec mobility scooters can make mobility easier and maintain a good social life, exercise plans and healthy diets help your body stay healthy, whilst doing tasks that keep your mind active can promote a healthy mind.

A few years ago ‘brain training’ games were released onto the market and were advertised with the promise that they could slow or reverse the cognitive decline that age can bring. This marketing technique made these types of games very popular, especially amongst the older generations. However scepticism grew around whether these claims were truthful, with two groups of scientists offering different results in 2014.

As the over-65 population rapidly grew, and the average life span increased, there was a desperate need for treatments that help prevent or reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other types of cognitive decline. The promises from these brain training games to improve memory and intellectual capabilities, as well as prevent memory loss, were an attractive offer for consumer’s and consequently a potentially huge business for the companies that released them.

Elderly man plays brain training game on computer

So how could they could promise these results? Our brains can get better at specific tasks if we continue them repeatedly, that’s why if you play a specific game regularly you are bound to see great improvements in your skills since you first started. However what makes these brain training games different, according to the companies, is the transferable skills learnt from the tasks involved in the game into real life.

A new study, by the Department of Psychology for the University of Illinois, has now tried to bring an answer to this debate. The meta-analysis consisted of reviews of over 130 papers into the subject. However only a handful of studies have actually tried to give comprehensive answers on whether these types of games can impact real-life performance.

These studies focused on the brain’s ability to form new neural connections but have assumed this would mean that this would influence the real-life abilities. For over a century scientists have been studying human’s ability to transfer skills we’ve learnt from one situation and apply it to others, with differing results. What makes this area of study difficult is the fundamental differences between types of knowledge, with certain knowledge being specific to one task and others being transferable to many scenarios.

The game Luminosity, from the company Lumor Labs, was fined $2 million dollars earlier this year due to false advertising. Advertising rules clearly state that a product is not allowed to claim it is an effective medical treatment unless there is sufficient data to prove it.

The scientists that conducted the study conclude: “ Nevertheless, we know of no evidence for broad-based improvement in cognition, academic achievement, professional performance, and/or social competencies that derives from decontextualized practice of cognitive skills devoid of domain-specific content. Rather, the development of such capacities appears to require sustained investment in relatively complex environments that afford opportunities for consistent practice and engagement with domain-related challenges…

Brain-training programs typically train performance on relatively simple skills in a limited range of contexts (typically on a home computer and with little involvement of substantive content or knowledge), but their marketing materials imply generalization to a wide range of skills in varied contexts with varied content.”

You can read the full paper that consists of 50,000 words. The paper highlights that there are still a lot of questions around whether cognitive training can really prevent the problems of old age, but so far the results from available literature shows that brain training games only really make you good at performing the tasks involved in the game and not the answer we had all been hoping for.

The search for a viable treatment for cognitive decline continues.