Medical

Latest on Testosterone for Older Men

Earlier this month, medical journals reported the largest trials ever to examine the benefits and harms of taking testosterone for men over 65 with low blood levels of testosterone (less than 275 ng/dL). At 12 study sites across the country, a total of 790 participants were given testosterone gel or a placebo applied daily to the skin. Most of these men had low testosterone due to aging, not due to damage to the testicles or brain where testosterone levels are controlled. Over a year, investigators measured the effects of testosterone on: 

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Slowing Loss of Muscle and Bone Strength with Aging

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic compared high-intensity aerobic interval training, resistance training and combined training in a group of 72 men and women aged 65-80 (Cell Metabolism, Mar 10, 2017). All three training types reduced body fat, increased sensitivity to insulin to help control blood sugar levels and increased the amount of protein in muscles. However, they showed that only high-intensity aerobic training led to improvement in two of the most important markers of the aging processes: the maximum ability to take in and use oxygen (VO2 max), and mitochondrial function in muscles. 

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Irregular Heartbeats in Older Athletes and Exercisers

Most researchers believe that exercise helps to strengthen the heart and protect it from disease, but about twenty years ago, doctors noted that some men over 80 who competed in cross country ski races longer than 100 kilometers (60 miles) were at increased risk for an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation (BMJ. 1998 Jun 13; 316(7147): 1784–1785). Extensive studies have since confirmed this increased incidence of atrial fibrillation in healthy older world-class endurance athletes (Scan J Med & Sci in Sports. Nov 21, 2013;24(4):). However, most of these men are healthy athletes and have no obvious problems with their hearts.

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How Can HRM Data Help Detect Heart Problems?

I read your article this week about the book The Haywire Heart. You say that the book's authors suggest using a heart rate monitor to monitor for problems: "Another suggestion  is to wear a heart rate monitor at all times while training. This can help detect problems we may not be aware of, and can serve as useful information to a doctor should an episode occur." Specifically, what should I look for in the heart monitor info? Anything other than a racing heart rate?

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Mild Dehydration Does Not Impair Exercise

Many years ago the Gatorade Sports Science Institute published a study showing that 46 percent of recreational exercisers are dehydrated (Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, June 2006). However, the study did not say that the exercisers were harmed by their dehydration, with good reason. There is no data anywhere to show that mild dehydration affects health or athletic performance. Fit humans can tolerate significant fluid loss before their performance suffers, and most cases of muscle cramps are not caused by dehydration or salt loss. 

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4 Brain-Boosting Games to Reduce Risk of Alzheimer's

Just like your muscles, your brain needs regular exercise in order to keep it in prime condition and to ward off deterioration. Keeping your brain active and engaged helps it remain strong and ward off the deterioration that characterizes dementia and Alzheimer’s. By playing games such as specially-designed brain training computer games and card games, you can minimize the brain health deterioration that puts you at risk of these diseases.

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Statins, Low Vitamin D Levels and Muscle Pain

Many people who take statin drugs complain of muscle pain and muscle damage. A new study associates this statin-induced muscle pain with low blood levels of vitamin D (Atherosclerosis, 11/22/2016). An eight–week randomized, double–blind crossover trial of a statin drug (simvastatin, 20 mg/day) on 120 patients who had previously complained of muscle pain from statins showed that 43 (35.8 percent) had pain while taking statins, but not on a placebo, and that people who developed muscle damage from taking statins had lower levels of vitamin D.

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Recovery: the Key to Improvement in Cycling

Muscles are made up of thousands of fibers just as a rope is made of threads. Each fiber is made up of blocks called sarcomeres joined end to end at the Z-lines like a line of bricks. Muscles contract only at each Z-line, not along the entire length of a fiber. Intense workouts cause muscle damage... . Significant increases in muscle strength and size come only with workouts intense enough to break down muscle Z-lines. When muscles heal they become stronger and larger.

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Retaining Strength with Aging Improves Quality of Life

If you don't exercise regularly and vigorously, expect to lose a significant amount of muscle strength as you age, and expect that loss of strength to reduce the quality of your life. A 15-year follow-up study showed that older people who lift weights at least twice a week had a 46 percent lower death rate within the study period, a 41 percent lower death rate from heart attacks, and a 19 percent lower death rate from cancer, compared to the control group that did not lift weights (Preventive Medicine, June 2016;87:121-127).

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Genes and Belly Fat

If you store the extra fat in your buttocks and thighs, you are at low risk for being harmed by that extra fat. However, if you store the extra fat primarily in your belly, you are at high risk for becoming diabetic and dying prematurely. People with tiny buttocks and a huge belly probably already have high blood sugar levels that are caused by inability to store their extra fat in their buttocks and thighs. Having a lot of fat stored in your belly almost always means that you have too much fat stored in your liver.

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Fit for Life IV: Act Now

“Act Now.” No, this isn’t a sales pitch on late night television! Even if you’re a young 50-something (or even younger), now is the time to start taking care of all aspects of your physical condition, not just ride your bike! A recent study at Duke University determined that the physical decline in healthy adults typically begins earlier than detected by health professionals. In other words you may be starting down the slippery slope of aging before you even realize it! total body fitness is one component that supports a long, healthy and active life. Get started now!

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Lack of Fitness, Not Too Much Sitting, Shortens Lives

A new study suggests that it is the level of fitness, not time spent sitting, that predicts susceptibility to disease and longevity (Mayo Clinic Proceedings, published online October 18, 2016). Heart-lung fitness is the ability of the heart and lungs to provide oxygenated blood to contracting muscles for prolonged periods. In this study from Norway, the authors followed 495 women and 379 men, aged 70 to 77 years. They measured sitting time with accelerometers and heart-lung fitness by peak oxygen uptake (VO2 peak). They found that:

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