This week's top stories about women, health, and aging
It’s hard not to feel a little down about the news of the world these days. There seems to be nothing but stories about gloom and doom. So, this week, I’m hoping to lighten things up with some good news stories about healthy living and aging. I’m writing about three studies that provide some good news about the power of healthy living for women over 50. Read on about how to reduce your risk of dementia with lifestyle, how working might actually be good for your cognitive health, and new way to manage that stubborn post-menopausal weight gain.
Healthy Lifestyle Offsets Genetic Risk for Dementia
Until recently, it seemed that there was not much you could do if you had a genetic risk of dementia. A new study is challenging this idea; it turns out that all the same things that lower your risk for chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer can also lower your risk of developing dementia – even if you are at risk genetically.
In the recent large retrospective study (i.e., a look back at health outcomes of people registered in related studies), researchers found that those with who were at risk for developing dementia, but who engaged in healthy lifestyle practices (didn’t smoke, who were regularly physically active, who had a healthy diet , and moderated alcohol consumption), were far less likely to develop dementia than those with unhealthy lifestyles. Healthy diet was defined as one which included fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, and non-processed foods. The researchers also suggested that the worst combination and highest risk for developing dementia was in those who had unhealthy lifestyles and genetic risk.
This study provides one more reason to quit smoking, eat your fruits and vegetables, go easy on alcohol, and keep up regular physical activity. Lifestyle changes can seem tough at first but continue to be one of the best preventive medicines.
Working May Protect Women from Memory Loss
Sometimes the 9-5 still feels like a slog, am I right? Who else wakes up dreaming of lounging on a beach when the office is a distant memory? Take heart my fellow working sisters – it looks like we’re doing something good for our brain. A recent study found that women who engaged in work in mid-life were less likely to experience memory loss than those who did not. Researchers found that women who weren’t in the labor force experienced memory loss at double the rate of their working counterparts.
Although the researchers couldn’t clearly determine the cause of the difference, they suggested that perhaps social interactions, the mental stimulation of work, and greater financial stability may al have a protective effect on brain health.
While paid work seems to have a unique impact on cognitive function, it doesn’t mean that those who aren’t working for pay can’t use similar techniques to protect their memory. There are many other things that we can do as well - have a look at my previous post on the eleven ways to take better care of your brain health.
Want to Change Your Post-Menopausal Body? Try Some Sprint Intervals.
It’s not unusual to feel like your body has changed after the age of 50. Many women struggle with post-menopausal weight gain and/or a redistribution of fat mass (remember my blog about the pear versus apple shape?) Abdominal weight gain can be especially stubborn. In more good news this week, researchers have found a way to help change your body composition post-menopause. This approach also has the added benefit of increasing muscle mass and improving your cardiovascular health.
Aerobic exercise (e.g., walking, jogging, swimming) is extremely important for improving or maintaining your cardiovascular health. Unfortunately, it is less effective for increasing muscle in post-menopausal women.
Researchers looking at the impact of sprint interval training (ironically shortened to SIT) in younger populations found impressive results for improvements in aerobic fitness and body composition. In a recent study, researchers used the same SIT approach with sedentary, post-menopausal women.
The women in the study were required to use a stationary cycle three times a week for 20 minutes a session. In each session they did a five-minute warm-up, followed by intervals of eight-second sprints, followed by 12 second light pedaling. The study took place over the course of eight weeks. At the end of the study, the women were found to have increased muscle in their legs and trunk area, reduced overall fat, and increased overall fitness.
Although this was a small study sample, the results suggest that trying a different approach in your exercise might be worthwhile if your goal is changing your body composition. If you are interested in trying a sprint interval program, make sure that you are cleared by your doctor and that you have a professional to help you get started.
So, there you go. Some good news for a change. Year after year research continues to reinforce how small lifestyle changes can make a big difference to your aging and health. If you need help getting started on the road to change, download our free “Six Step Roadmap to Healthy Aging” to get started today.
Your sister in health,