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Poker could help people with Alzheimer’s

Doctors are trying to at least soften the blow that the disease delivers on people’s brains with different medications and even some activities linked to improved overall behavior and the well-being of the patient.

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Alzheimer’s is one of the most common causes of deaths worldwide and has been challenging the medical profession for years, with no known cure and millions of people affected. The industry has been working to develop a drug that could at least lessen the impact of the disease on the person, but despite the tireless efforts from the medical professionals the disease has proven to be immune to all interventions. Alzheimer’s disease that causes memory loss, forgetfulness, confusion and makes communication harder for the patients, also affects the person’s ability to eat, read and write. And over time, they become incapable of functioning on their own.

Sadly the prognosis for the future isn’t positive either, with the Alzheimer’s rates expected to grow over 25% over the next decades. Meanwhile, the doctors are trying to at least soften the blow that the disease delivers on people’s brains with different medications and even some activities linked to improved overall behavior and the well-being of the patient.

An unexpected solution

One of the most unusual practices that could be helping patients with Alzheimer’s is actually poker. Along with activities like consistent exercising, playing poker is now linked to the growing evidence that stimulating activities can actually be helpful in fighting Alzheimer’s since they are linked to preventing the accumulation of beta-amyloid around brain cells and they also help with stimulating the growth of new blood vessels while maintaining the health of existing ones. 

These activities can serve as a preventative measure for avoiding developing the disease altogether. During the stuff of 496 people aged 75 or older, the research showed that those who participated in games, like poker, checkers, chess, and backgammon, along with some other activities like reading and dancing were significantly less likely to develop dementia.

That’s not all there is to it either. The amount of time we spend simulating our brain one way or another has a huge effect on our overall well being. And as another study found, People who completed crossword puzzles four times a week were much less likely to develop dementia than those who did the puzzles just one time a week. Poker, and gambling in general, are a special blend of brain stimulation and social interaction. If you ask any professional gambler or gamblers who visit the casinos often, gambling is as much of social activity as going out. 

Every study suggests that keeping up with the social life has great benefits for the overall health of a person. Many elders spend a lot of time playing casino games or chess can actually go a long way if you keep up with it regularly because they blend brain stimulation with your daily dose of social interaction. 

The biggest review yet to tackle this issue combined the information gathered through 22 studies, involving 29,000 individuals and concluded that cognitively stimulating activities such as poker almost halve the risk of dementia.

Research showed that those who participated in games, like poker, checkers, chess, and backgammon, along with some other activities like reading and dancing were significantly less likely to develop dementia.

Why poker?

The reason why poker specifically is so prevalent in these studies is that it does involve a lot of brainwork, thinking ahead and trying to guess other people’s plans. It is an all-encompassing activity that entertains and challenges the person at the same time, which is why it is so effective as an antidote to developing Alzheimer’s.

One country that is already using this approach heavily is Japan, where the retirement homes use gambling as a way to prevent dementia in residents, one particular retirement home in Yokohama, even offers prizes and fake money to the elderly to encourage them to play.

While Japan is aware of the potential risks associated with gambling, all the poker games and other card games take place in an environment where risks are brought to a minimum, and patients really only feel the positive effects of playing poker or any other gambling game that stimulates the brain and encourages socialization.

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Fitness

Study finds moderate-vigorous physical activity is the most efficient at improving fitness

Dedicated exercise (moderate-vigorous physical activity) was the most efficient at improving fitness. Specifically, exercise was three times more efficient than walking alone and more than 14 times more efficient than reducing the time spent sedentary. Additionally, they found that the greater time spent exercising and higher steps/day could partially offset the negative effects of being sedentary in terms of physical fitness.

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In the largest study performed to date to understand the relationship between habitual physical activity and physical fitness, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have found that higher amount of time spent performing exercise (moderate-vigorous physical activity) and low-moderate level activity (steps) and less time spent sedentary, translated to greater physical fitness.

“By establishing the relationship between different forms of habitual physical activity and detailed fitness measures, we hope that our study will provide important information that can ultimately be used to improve physical fitness and overall health across the life course,” explained corresponding author Matthew Nayor, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine at BUSM.

He and his team studied approximately 2,000 participants from the community-based Framingham Heart Study who underwent comprehensive cardiopulmonary exercise tests (CPET) for the “gold standard” measurement of physical fitness. Physical fitness measurements were associated with physical activity data obtained through accelerometers (device that measures frequency and intensity of human movement) that were worn for one week around the time of CPET and approximately eight years earlier.

They found dedicated exercise (moderate-vigorous physical activity) was the most efficient at improving fitness. Specifically, exercise was three times more efficient than walking alone and more than 14 times more efficient than reducing the time spent sedentary. Additionally, they found that the greater time spent exercising and higher steps/day could partially offset the negative effects of being sedentary in terms of physical fitness.

According to the researchers, while the study was focused on the relationship of physical activity and fitness specifically (rather than any health-related outcomes), fitness has a powerful influence on health and is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and premature death. “Therefore, improved understanding of methods to improve fitness would be expected to have broad implications for improved health,” said Nayor, a cardiologist at Boston Medical Center.

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Fitness

Tips to avoid common running injuries

Injuries are very common among runners. Recent research estimates that 82% of runners will become injured during their running career and up to 90% will experience injury while training for a marathon. Some of the most common include a stress fracture, plantar fasciitis, hamstring tendinitis, ankle sprain, runners’ knee, and Achilles’ tendonitis.

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Photo by Malik Skydsgaard from Unsplash.com

Whether training for a marathon or preparing for your first community race, being knocked off course with pain can be hard to handle mentally and physically.

Injuries are very common among runners. Recent research estimates that 82% of runners will become injured during their running career and up to 90% will experience injury while training for a marathon. Some of the most common include a stress fracture, plantar fasciitis, hamstring tendinitis, ankle sprain, runners’ knee, and Achilles’ tendonitis.

Injury prevention is critical. Here are some safety tips from Dr. Joshua Blomgren, a 15-time Chicago Marathon team physician and sports medicine physician, Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush:

Don’t over-train

Don’t increase weekly mileage or intensity by more than 10 percent each week. Build up slowly and let a good training schedule determine how much you run.

Invest in good shoes

Go to a specialty running shop to be properly fitted for running shoes and/or orthotics. Replace them every 350-500 miles. Incorrect shoes can affect your gait, leading to injuries in your feet, legs, knees, or hips.

Choose the best running surface

Look for running surfaces that absorb shock. Opt for asphalt over concrete. Find grass or dirt trails, especially for higher mileage. Avoid uneven surfaces and seek paths with slow curves.

Stretch!

Training causes tight muscles, leading to strain and changes in your gait. Commit to a stretching program. Just 5 -10 minutes after each workout can make a big difference.

Strengthen muscles

Runners have tight hip flexors because their quads are overtrained. Strengthen your hamstrings and glutes to reduce chance of injury and abductors, adductors, and core to create stability.

Watch out for heel striking

Heel striking occurs when your feet land in front of you and your heel hits the ground first. This is common among new runners but can lead to injuries such as shin splints, stress fractures, and joint pain. Land mid-sole with your foot directly underneath your body.

Prioritize posture

Good form means staying upright and keeping your shoulders back and relaxed. Work core exercises into your training and do posture checks every so often. Hold your head right above your shoulders and hips.

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Fitness

Postmenopausal women can dance their way to better health

After menopause, women are more likely to experience weight gain, overall/central body adiposity increases, and metabolic disturbances, such as increases in triglycerides and bad cholesterol. Together, these changes ultimately increase cardiovascular risk. Around this same time, women often are less physically active, which translates into reductions in lean mass and an increased risk of falls and fractures.

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Photo by Olivia Bauso from Unsplash.com

Women often struggle with managing their weight and other health risk factors, such as high cholesterol, once they transition through menopause. A new study suggests that dancing may effectively lower cholesterol levels, improve fitness and body composition and in the process, improve self-esteem. Study results are published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

After menopause, women are more likely to experience weight gain, overall/central body adiposity increases, and metabolic disturbances, such as increases in triglycerides and bad cholesterol. Together, these changes ultimately increase cardiovascular risk. Around this same time, women often are less physically active, which translates into reductions in lean mass and an increased risk of falls and fractures. As a result of all these changes, postmenopausal women often suffer from decreased self-image and self-esteem, which are directly related to overall mental health.

Physical activity has been shown to minimize some of the many health problems associated with menopause. The effect of dancing, specifically, has already been investigated with regard to how it improves body composition and functional fitness. Few studies, however, have investigated the effects of dance on body image, self-esteem, and physical fitness together in postmenopausal women.

This new study was designed to analyze the effects of dance practice on body composition, metabolic profile, functional fitness, and self-image/self-esteem in postmenopausal women. Although the sample size was small, the study suggested some credible benefits of a three-times-weekly dance regimen in improving not only the lipid profile and functional fitness of postmenopausal women but also self-image and self-esteem.

Dance therapy is seen as an attractive option because it is a pleasant activity with low associated costs and low risk of injury for its practitioners. Additional confirmed benefits of regular dancing include improvement in balance, postural control, gait, strength, and overall physical performance. All of these benefits may contribute to a woman’s ability to maintain an independent, high-quality lifestyle throughout her lifespan.

Study results are published in the article “Dance practice modifies functional fitness, lipid profile, and self-image in postmenopausal women.”

“This study highlights the feasibility of a simple intervention, such as a dance class three times weekly, for improving not only fitness and metabolic profile but also self-image and self-esteem in postmenopausal women. In addition to these benefits, women also probably enjoyed a sense of camaraderie from the shared experience of learning something new,” says Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director.

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