Monday, July 26, 2010

Getting a university degree 'can slow down dementia'

More hilarious reasoning. A more parsimonious conclusion would be that those who are capable of getting a university degree (higher IQs etc.) are more resistant to dementia. There is NO proof that actually going to university does anything

Staying on at school and then going to university can help protect against dementia symptoms, according to scientists. They say education acts as a ‘protective layer’ around the brain, helping to slow down the progression of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Even though people who spend longer studying are just as likely to get the illness as someone who leaves school at 16, it will not advance as quickly. This means they will not suffer from symptoms such as memory loss, confusion and mood swings so early on in the disease.

Past research has shown that for every additional year spent studying there is an 11 per cent reduction in the risk of developing the signs of dementia. But this study suggests that education does not actually prevent the disease being triggered in the first place – it only helps sufferers’ brains ‘cope’ with the damage.

Researchers at Cambridge University looked at the brains of 872 people in Europe, donated for research after their deaths, who had all filled in questionnaires about their education.

Just over half – 56 per cent – were suffering from some form of dementia at the time of their death. But the scientists found that disease had progressed far less quickly among those who had spent more time at school or university.

Dr Hanna Keage, a member of the Anglo-Finnish research team, said: ‘Previous research has shown that there is not a one-to-one relationship between being diagnosed with dementia during life and changes seen in the brain at death. ‘One person may show lots of pathology in their brain while another shows very little, yet both may have had dementia. ‘Our study shows that education in early life appears to enable some people to cope with a lot of changes in their brain before showing dementia symptoms.’

The researchers said understanding the mechanisms behind the effect would be of ‘considerable value to society’. Professor Carol Brayne, who led the Cambridge scientists, said: ‘Education is known to be good for population health and equity.

‘This study provides strong support for investment in early life factors which should have an impact on society and the whole life span. This is hugely relevant to policy decisions about the importance of resource allocation between health and education.’ Just over 800,000 people in the UK suffer from a form of dementia, the majority of them elderly.

More than half have Alzheimer’s, the most common form of the disease. Ruth Sutherland, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘This is the largest study ever to confirm that hitting the books could help you fight the symptoms of dementia in later life.

'We now need more research to find out why an education can make the brain more “dementia resistant”. ‘Until then the message appears to be: stay in school.’


Jogging is bad for you


For many years, running has seemed the ideal form of exercise. It improves your fitness levels and the health of your heart. It boosts your metabolism and can help you lose weight. It costs nothing - after the initial outlay on a decent pair of trainers - and can be done anywhere. Since jogging became popular in the late Seventies, running has often been promoted as a panacea for a range of health issues.

But is running really all it's cracked up to be? Greg Brookes, a London-based personal trainer with a clientele that ranges from celebrities and City high-fliers to housewives, has come up with a list of seven deadly sins as far as running is concerned.

'Lots of people start running to lose weight and it doesn't always work - and this is why,' says Brookes. His first assertion is that running actually decreases the size of your heart.

'Small muscles use less energy and are more efficient,' he says. 'The heart is a muscle and if you force it to keep working for long periods of time it will naturally shrink to use less energy and become more efficient. 'If you want to increase the size of your heart then you must strength-train your heart, not endurance- train it.'

The next is that running causes injury through repetitive movements - an accusation that will be familiar to many whose knees or ankles have proved unequal to the demands placed on them. 'The more you run, the more your body prepares itself for your next run. You will actually start to hold on to more fat'

'When you run, two-and-a-half times your bodyweight is transmitted through your joints,' says Brookes. 'If that force is repeated over and over, eventually your weakest joint will give out.

'Usually the ankles or the knees are the first to go, generally because of poor hip and core stability. Wearing a brace only exacerbates the problem by moving the strain on to the next weakest joint while maintaining the old injury.'

Contrary to popular belief that any exercise will speed up your metabolism, running can, says Brookes, do the opposite. Long-distance running will often deplete your energy stores and then start breaking down your muscle tissue to use as energy. 'If you want some serious muscle wastage and to reduce your metabolic rate,' says Brookes, 'then keep running.'

He also alleges that far from making your body leaner, running can cause it to gain fat. 'Fat is one of our body's favourite sources of energy,' says Brookes. 'The more you run, the more your body prepares itself for your next run. You will actually start to hold on to more fat.'

Another reason that you won't get leaner is that the body is an amazing machine and will adapt to anything. 'The more time you spend running, the better you become at running and the more efficient you get, the less energy you use and the fewer calories you burn,' says Brookes.

And then there's the vexatious issue of cellulite and running. Standard wisdom holds that lack of proper exercise causes poor lymphatic and blood circulation and poor lymph drainage, which contribute to causing cellulite. But according to Marco Mastrorocco, head coach and gym manager at the Epic kickboxing gym in West London, exercising in the wrong way - for example, by running - can increase your chances of developing cellulite.

'Cellulite is primarily a malfunction of the circulatory system and bad drainage in tissue under the skin,' says Mastrorocco. 'If exercise is sustained for too long - through lots of running - it causes free radicals which in turn damage cells. Our body can cope with over-exertion if it's in quick bursts.'

Carole Caplin of health club Lifesmart is of a similar opinion. 'Most people say cellulite is simply something that you can work off. Unfortunately this isn't the case,' she says. 'Exercise is usually a "good" stress on the body, but hard, impactful exercise like running can compound cellulite, as lymph drainage is already compromised as a result of an accumulation of stress.'

Add to this list the risk of cardiac distress and heart attacks and the indisputable fact that running is pretty boring and time-consuming, and you have a damning list of charges.

All of this raises the question of what we should be doing instead. To Brookes, the answer is simple: high-intensity training. 'Intensity training is like strength training for your heart and lungs,' says Brookes. 'It burns more calories, strengthens your heart and joints and increases your metabolism – and takes about ten minutes.'

Brookes believes that working at a high intensity creates more 'metabolic disturbance' in your body than jogging, which means that although you're not burning as many calories as you would with a long, steady jog in the park, you will be burning more calories over the following 24-hour period. It will also increase your aerobic capacity by constantly challenging the heart.

'There are lots of ways to do intensity training,' says Brookes. 'Warm up for five minutes, then run hard for 30 seconds, then jog or walk for 90 seconds. Repeat between three and eight times. You could use the same pattern on a rowing machine or exercise bike. 'The downside,' he says, 'is that it feels like hell while you're doing it.'


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