Subjective vs Chronological Age

Subjective age (SA) is how a person sees themselves compared to their chronological or real age (the number of years a person has been alive). A person can feel either younger or older than their chronological age. SA has been highlighted as an important predictor of health outcomes for older adults. Some research supports the notion that SA may be stronger at predicting psychological functioning than a person’s chronological age.

A recent study published in the journal Frontiers of Medicine was the first study of its kind to look at the relationship between brain aging and SA. The study involved 68 healthy participants between 59 to 84 years of age. Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) brain scans, researchers recorded data on grey matter volumes (density of cells) in specific brain regions. Grey matter is the “thinking part of the brain” that grows throughout childhood. See this infographic to learn more about grey matter. Regions of the grey matter are involved in muscle control, seeing, hearing, memory, emotions and speaking. Participants filled out subjective age surveys that included the question, “How old do you feel, compared to your real age?” along with tests to evaluate their cognitive function (brain activities that lead to knowledge and include reasoning, memory, attention and language), global health ratings, symptoms of depression and personality traits. The results include:
  • Participants who felt younger than their real age showed larger grey matter volume in the parts of the brain involved in impulse control, hearing/processing sound and verbal/non-verbal communication. Their brains had younger structural characteristics (looked younger), and the differences stayed the same even when other factors were taken into account, such as personality, subjective health (a person’s view of their health), symptoms of depression and cognitive functions. These participants were more likely to score better on a memory test, rate their health as better and were less likely to report symptoms of depression. 
  • Participants who felt older than their real age showed a tendency to have poorer cognitive function and showed greater depressive symptoms. It is possible that those participants who feel older than their actual age may be sensing the aging of their brain because performing cognitive tasks takes more effort. 
These findings suggest that participants who felt older than their age may have faster-aging brain structures, whereas those who feel younger than their age would have better preserved and healthier brain structures. Future studies need to be done over a longer period of time to have a better understanding of this relationship. The authors encourage individuals who feel older than their chronological age to look at their lifestyle habits and activities that contribute to brain aging and take action to improve their brain health.

The results are in line with earlier research finding a relationship between self-perceived age and cardiovascular death. Why might this be the case? One explanation is that people who feel younger will do healthier behaviours. For example, people who feel older may stop being as physically active based on their age – they think that are too old to do an activity. When people feel younger, even if the exercise is seen as challenging, they are less likely to see it as a barrier. If you feel young you may be more likely to eat in a healthful way because you look forward to a healthy future, whereas people who feel older may think that it’s not worth worrying about what they eat because their life is coming to an end.

Researcher Yannick Stephan of the University of Montpellier believes that doctors should be asking all patients about their subjective age, in order to determine who is most at risk of future health problems and to better plan health care. In 2018, he was a co-author of a 2018 study involving data from three large longitudinal studies of middle-aged and older adults. Consistent evidence was found for an association between an older subjective age and a higher risk of mortality. Individuals felt 15 to 16 percent younger on average than their chronological age, but for others who felt older than their chronological age there was a higher risk of mortality (those feeling 8 years older had an 18% higher risk, those feeling 11 years old had a 29% higher risk, and those feeling 13 years older had a 25% higher risk). How to keep a young mindset Dr. Siegel, assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, suggests taking the following actions:
  • Challenge your brain. Don’t stop learning. Try a new hobby and develop new skills.
  • Be mindful of the present moment as opposed to regretting the past or being negative about aging in the future.
  • Develop a sense of meaning in life. Set goals for your life. Volunteering is a great way to stay connected and improve your community and the lives of others. Self-Management BC offers volunteer opportunities throughout the province. For more information, visit the website. A great quote by Harvard psychologist Dr. Jennifer Moye is “Think of your life as a gift and strive to make each day meaningful.”
  • Follow a healthful lifestyle.
Bottom line: pursue a healthy, active, and engaged lifestyle. Ideally, do things you find enjoyable because those are the activities that you will be able to maintain. Be socially engaged by doing these activities with like-minded people.

Source: Science Daily website, BBC website, The New Old Age: How the body ages and how to keep it young, Harvard Medical Schoollecture

Where am I?

I have been neglectful, constant reader, and I apologize! Time to get back to the readership and add some more information…I have an online business that deals with health and wellness, and on Facebook will be telling some stories about that particular adventure. Meantime, check out some new material in other areas of this site and enjoy what you read…

Learning Stillness from Max

This morning I went for a walk with Max. I left my phone at home and decided to pace my walk to the pace that our dog Max went. Max noticed everything and took his sweet time getting to where he was going — mind, he has no idea where he’s going. He sniffed, he stared, he sauntered, he stopped, he stalled, and he savoured each step. I did the same. I breathed deeply. I looked around at everything I could see. I heard birds singing. I saw moss growing. I noticed things I had not seen before on the many times I have walked around the block.

I practised stillness.

I learned from Max how to wonder and not just “get my walk in.” I need to do this more often.

Food for Thought

Stillness is what aims the archer’s arrow. It inspires new ideas. It sharpens perspective and illuminates connections. It slows the ball down so that we might hit it. It generates a vision, helps us resist the passions of the mob, makes space for gratitude and wonder. Stillness allows us to persevere. To succeed. It is the key that unlocks the insights of genius, and allows us regular folks to understand them. — from Ryan Holiday’s book, Stillness is the Key

It’s your turn

What can you do today to remove yourself from the stress and strain of life and put yourself in a place where you simply wander? Go for a walk. Sit quietly in a chair with no distractions. Paint a picture. Write a poem. Listen to a song with your eyes shut. Sit on the floor and play with a child.

Take some time to wonder and keep your eyes, ears, and heart open to what you see.


Learning to be still,

Cam cam@camtaylor.net
camtaylor.net
PS Take 15 minutes to put into practice a little stillness.

The gut microbiome: How does it affect our health?

NEWSLETTER: Medical News Today

We can carry up to 2 kg of microbes in our gut. Within the tens of trillions of micro-organisms that live there are at least 1,000 species of bacteria consisting of over 3 million genes. What is more, two-thirds of the gut microbiome – the population of microbes in the intestine – is unique to each individual. But do you know how your gut microbiota could be influencing your health? The bacteria in our gut are estimated to weigh up to 2 kg. Most of us are aware that the bacteria in our gut play an important role in digestion. When the stomach and small intestine are unable to digest certain foods we eat, gut microbes jump in to offer a helping hand, ensuring we get the nutrients we need. In addition, gut bacteria are known to aid the production of certain vitamins – such as vitamins B and K – and play a major role in immune function. But increasingly, researchers are working to find out more about how gut bacteria – particularly the bacteria that is unique to us individually – influence our health and risk of disease. Perhaps most studied is how gut microbiota affects an individual’s risk of obesity and other metabolic conditions. In November 2014, for example, Medical News Today reported on a study claiming our genetic makeup shapes what type of bacteria reside in our gut, which may affect our weight. In this Spotlight, we take a look at obesity and some of the other – perhaps surprising – health conditions that may be driven by our gut microbiota.

The development of gut microbiota

Belief has long held that the development of gut microbiota does not start until birth, with the gastrointestinal tract of a fetus considered to be a sterile environment. According to Gut Microbiota Worldwatch – an information service created by the Gut Microbiota and Health Section of the European Society for Neurogastroenterology & Motility, a member of the United European Gastroenterology (UEG) – the digestive tract of a newborn is rapidly colonized with micro-organisms from the mother and the surrounding environment. An infant’s gut microbiota, for example, can be influenced by breastfeeding. Gut Microbiota Worldwatch explains that the gut of breastfed babies primarily consists of Bifidobacteria – considered a “friendly” bacteria that benefits the gut – while formula-fed babies are likely to have less of these bacteria. However, some studies have challenged the belief that the fetus is a sterile environment, suggesting that the development of gut microbiota begins before birth. A 2008 study published in the journal Research in Microbiology identified bacteria, including Enterococcus and Staphylococcus, in the early faeces of baby mice – known as the meconium – indicating the bacteria were transferred to the fetus from the mother’s gut during pregnancy. In this study, a group of pregnant mice was also inoculated with the bacterium Enterococcus fecium, which was isolated from human breast milk. The baby mice were delivered by Cesarean section 1 day before the predicted labour date, and their meconium was tested. The researchers identified E. fecium in their faeces, but no trace was found in the meconium of a control group. “Based on the sum of evidence, it is time to overturn the sterile womb paradigm and recognize the unborn child is first colonized in the womb,” Seth Bordenstein, a biologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, told The Scientist last year.

The more diverse our gut bacteria, the better

While the debate over whether infants are born with gut bacteria continues, it seems scientists are in agreement about one thing: from birth until old age, our gut bacteria are constantly evolving. As mentioned previously, two-thirds of the gut microbiome is unique to each person, and what makes this unique is the food we eat, the air we breathe and other environmental factors. Some studies have even suggested the makeup of the gut microbiome is influenced by genes. But how does this unique gut bacteria affect our health? This is a question that researchers have become increasingly interested in answering. Past research has suggested that a broader diversity of bacteria in gut is better for human health. A recent study reported by MNT, for example, found that infants with less diverse gut bacteria at the age of 3 months were more likely to be sensitized to specific foods – including egg, milk and peanut – by the age of 1 year, indicating that lack of gut bacteria diversity in early life may be a driver for food allergies. But the implications of a low-diversity gut microbiome do not stop there. You may be surprised to learn how lack of or overpopulation of specific bacteria may impact your health.

Obesity

More and more studies are looking at the association between the gut microbiome and weight gain, with some scientists suggesting the makeup of bacteria in the gut may influence an individual’s susceptibility to weight gain.

A Healthy Lifestyle

” Every human being is the author of his [or her] own health or disease. ”
Buddhist Quote


” It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver. ”
Mahatma Gandhi    

What exactly is a healthy lifestyle? It seems experts are constantly telling us what we should eat, how much to exercise, bad habits to cut back on, how much sunlight to get, what vitamins to take, and on and on until we feel it’s just impossible to live up to those lofty standards. We decide that it doesn’t really matter how we lead our lives and cite examples like our great-uncle who smoked like a chimney and ate nothing but bacon but was still hitting the ski slopes at the ripe old age of 98.

Despite the occasional blaring exception, however, we can’t deny the harsh truth: the lifestyle we choose to lead has a huge impact not only on our physical health but also on our mental well-being and overall sense of happiness. We CAN change nasty habits, and when we finally find the courage to make those difficult changes, we feel so much better. We quit smoking and breathe more easily and start jogging again; we cut the greasy foods out of our diets and we’re less sluggish; we get more shut-eye and feel on the ball at work. In the end, the changes that seemed so painful and nearly impossible become such a major part of our lives that we can’t imagine how we could have lived the old way. We never regret those healthy transformations.  

So how do you get off on the right foot and make the decisions that can lead to a healthier and happier lifestyle? First, educate yourself; find out what your body needs to operate smoothly. The next step is to evaluate how your body is doing. Finally, the most challenging but also most satisfying part: you must make real plans to incorporate any necessary changes. As Margaret Fuller once said, “A house is no home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.”


On a Personal Note…

The Health & Wellness Solution

I continuously seek newer and better ways of improving health for myself and others and love to share whatever I find. This past year, as an entrepreneur I have explored some exciting possibilities. I have been introduced to a marvellous app for my cell phone that enables me to contact you anywhere you are! I would like to send you a one-minute survey to introduce you to this latest news.

If you are curious, email me your contact info (preferably mobile number and email) and I will make contact back asap! Use mumiris@gmail.com

Iris September 2019

What’s Next

There are no scheduled workshops at present, but work continues on raising consciousness vis a vis ageism, seniors rights, and acessibility for all. On April 14, 2019 I will participate in a Health Fair at the Lifetime Learning Centre in Miaaion, BC. This is always a great event for local seniors especially. The day begins with a brisk walk, followed by touring various informational booths plus delicious drinks and other refreshments. I have found there is mych to discuss with other participants and the variety clients who attend. Usually there is a gardener with some wonderful tips and of course the draws near the end are very popular.

Try to attend….April 24th 10 am until around 1 pm. Say hello!