Sunday, December 16, 2012

Why you could be heading for an early grave if you can't get off the floor without using your hands

The age at which this test applies is poorly defined. Limitations of this kind usually get steadily worse with aging. What may be possible at 60 may not be possible at 70, for instance

If getting up from a game of Scrabble on the floor this Christmas requires both hands, a lot of sighing and a helpful tug from a grandchild, beware.

For the gloomy message from scientists is that you may not live as long as your flexible counterparts.

Those who can sit down and get up using only one hand – or no hands at all – are likely to live for longer, a study found.

But those needing extra assistance, such as getting up on their knees or using two hands, are up to six times more likely to die prematurely.

The study found a simple two-minute test could predict the level of overall fitness in middle age that earmarks those likely to enjoy a longer life.

Researchers said the ease with which someone could stand up from a sitting position on the floor – and vice versa – was linked to a reduced risk of dying early.

Dr Claudio Gil Araújo, who carried out the study with colleagues at the Clinimex-Exercise Medicine Clinic in Rio de Janeiro, said it was ‘remarkably predictive’ of physical strength, flexibility and co-ordination at a range of ages.

He said: ‘If a middle-aged or older man or woman can sit and rise from the floor using just one hand – or even better without the help of a hand – they are not only in the higher quartile of musculo-skeletal fitness but their survival prognosis is probably better than that of those unable to do so.’

The study involved more than 2,000 men and women, aged 51 to 80, who were asked to sit and then rise unaided from the floor.  After the sitting-rising test, they were followed until the date of their death or October 31, 2011 – for 6.3 years, on average.

Before starting the test, they were told: ‘Without worrying about the speed of movement, try to sit and then to rise from the floor, using the minimum support that you believe is needed.’

Each of the two basic movements was assessed and scored out of five, making a composite score of ten, with one point subtracted from five for each support used such as a hand or knee.

Over the study period 159 participants died, a death rate of about 8 per cent, according to a report in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention.

The majority of these deaths occurred in participants with low test scores – indeed, only two of the deaths were in subjects who gained a composite score of ten.

Survival was strongly linked to the number of points scored.

The researchers took account of age, gender and body mass index and found the sitting-rising test score was a significant independent predictor of the likelihood of dying from any cause.

Those who scored three points or fewer had a five to six times higher risk of death than those scoring more than eight points.

A score below eight was linked with two to fivefold higher death rates over the 6.3 year study period.

Dr Araújo said: ‘Our study also shows that maintaining high levels of body flexibility, muscle strength, power-to-body weight ratio and co-ordination are not only good for performing daily activities but have a favourable influence on life expectancy.’


Loneliness 'can increase Alzheimer's risk'

Good to see that they reconsider the direction of the causal arrow at the end below

Feeling lonely can increase the risk of Alzheimer's in later life, a study suggests.

Researchers who found the link drew a distinction between being alone and loneliness.

The Amsterdam Study of the Elderly (Amstel) looked at risk factors for depression, dementia and high death rates among 2,000 men and women aged 65 and older.

Participants who felt lonely were more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia over three years as those who did not.

When influential factors including mental and physical health were taken into account, loneliness was still associated with a 64% increased risk of the disease.

But other aspects of social isolation, such as living alone and being widowed, had no impact.

At the start of the Dutch study, 46% of participants were living alone and half were single or no longer married. About one in five, just under 20%, said they felt lonely.

The findings were reported today in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

The authors, led by Dr Tjalling Jan Holwerda, from VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, wrote: "These results suggest that feelings of loneliness independently contribute to the risk of dementia in later life.

"Interestingly, the fact that 'feeling lonely' rather than 'being alone' was associated with dementia onset suggests that it is not the objective situation, but, rather, the perceived absence of social attachments that increases the risk of cognitive decline."

The researchers speculated that loneliness may be an effect of early dementia rather than its cause.

"We hypothesise that feelings of loneliness may.. be considered a manifestation of the deteriorating social skills that are seen as part of the personality change accompanying the process of dementia," they wrote.


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