Tag Archives: health

The Keys to Longevity

Longevity is a goal most of us strive for, and in most of our minds the keys to accomplishing this consists of being happy, eating healthy, and not stressing too much. However, it appears that these common assumptions made by people are in fact wrong. In a recent article published by Science Daily (which can be found here), they reported the findings of a twenty year study about longevity and the results are not what we would expect.

Image from: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0511/feature1/index.html

The study, which is called “The Longevity Project”, was conducted by a group of scientists at the University of California, Riverside (UCR). These scientists examined, and refined previously collected data by Stanford University. The data which was initiated back in 1921, documented the lives of over 1500 children as they grew, starting from the age of ten. The children were studied throughout their lives, and information regarding family histories, relationships, hobbies, pet ownership, job success, education levels, military service, and numerous other details were collected. The scientists at UCR discovered many similarities in the data and they concluded that personality characteristics and social relations from childhood can predict one’s risk of dying decades later.

On average, it was discovered that test subjects who were the most cheerful and had the best sense of humor as kids lived shorter lives. While, individuals that were most prudent and persistent stayed the healthiest and lived the longest. This is definitely counterintuitive to what most people think. It appears that the subjects that were cheerful as kids tended to take more risks with their health across the years, hence risky or dangerous activities shortened the lives of many. Those that were prudence and persistence on the other hand, often developed many important and beneficial habits throughout their lives. The scientists found out that happiness is not a cause of good health, but instead happiness and health are related because they have common roots.

Image from: http://www.forbes.com/2002/08/07/0807sport_8.html

Furthermore, some of these intriguing key findings include that marriage may be good for men’s health, but it does not really matter for women. Men who remained in long term marriages generally lived longer than single or divorced men. As well continually productive men and women lived much longer than their more laid-back counterparts. Lastly, people who felt loved and cared for reported a better sense of well-being, but surprisingly it did not help them live longer. The clearest health benefit of social relationships comes from being involved with and helping others. The groups you associate with often determine the type of person you become, healthy or unhealthy.

These results are definitely interesting, and hence we should keep them in mind when we are trying to extend our longevity. In fact, it would probably be beneficial if we started to incorporate some of these findings in to our daily lives. For instance, we should all be more productive, and we should all be more involved. Hopefully in the future, the average life expectancy of people can exceed 100 years old.

Aerobic Exercise Boosts Memory

As midterms are quickly approaching, many of us are trying to retain and cram as much information as we can into our brains. If it hasn’t already become apparent, most of us will realize that our brains can only store a limited amount of information. Fortunately, there appears to be a way to expand and boost our memory, and that is simply through aerobic exercises.

Image from: www.runningrules.com

In a recent article published by Science News (which can be found here), they reported a study that was highlighted in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In this study, scientists discovered that adults who frequently performed aerobic exercise activities such as walking developed an increase in hippocampus volume. The hippocampus, which is a memory centre in the brain, normally decreases in size with age, however in the study the reversed occurred. They also found that the members had higher levels of Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is a brain-aiding molecule.

Image from: www.library.thinkquest.org

Wikipedia article on the hippocampus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocampus

Wikipedia article on Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BDNF

The study compared two different groups of adults aged 60 to 80. In one group, the adults did toning workouts such as weight training and yoga sessions for a year. While in the other group, the adults consistenly walked for three times a week. After a year, the group which simply did toning showed normal results, which consisted of some of the test subjects observing a decrease in hippocampus volume. On the other hand, the group that did a year of aerobic exercises observed roughly a 2 percent increase in anterior hippocampus volume.

If adults aged 60 to 80 can develop increases in the hippocampus by up to 2 percent, it begs the question of whether a younger study group would develop an even larger increase in their hippocampus. Hence, this study should be expanded to include a more diverse age group. Furthermore, why should the study stop there? They could also include teenagers, children, and possibly toddlers as well. Perhaps they might discover that people that have superior memory got that way by doing a lot of aerobic exercise during their childhood. It would also be interesting to understand why and how this process occurs. This is definitely a fascinating area of research, and it has great implications. It shows that exercise not only benefits the body, but the brain as well. So it is in everyone’s interest to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to keep fit.