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Course Coverage 2016

  • Jan Fit To Last
  • Feb Urbanized Eating
  • Mar Mind & Memory
  • April Special Senses
  • May Metabolic Syndromes
  • June Sugar Diabetes
  • July Diabetes Complications
  • Aug Aging
  • Sept Atheroma
  • Oct Longevity
  • Nov Cancer
  • Dec Predicaments
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Life span is what human beings can expect to live in years if they die of old age and not from disease or injury. Studies of such humans reveal that a few die of old age in their 70s, and most cluster around 100 while a rare individual reaches 130. That is the normal bell-shaped curve of the human life span, with a mean of 100 years. Life expectancy is different. It is a disease indicator and varies from culture to culture: being the age to which a newborn in that culture will survive, statistically.

The newest insights into longevity come from a strain of mouse developed to age prematurely. All mice in the strain become slower, grayer, withdrawn and die of old age within a year or so of birth. This enables litter mates to be separated after weaning into a group for testing anti-aging interventions and a control group that living nearby. Effective interventions, regarded another way, could be life extenders. All manner of foods and extracts will be under study but to date the most effective anti-aging intervention is an hour of daily exercise. Working muscles make and circulate rejuvenating hormones.

To place this new insight into perspective. human beings are products of a dim and distant past. As for all other creatures on the planet, the whole object of existence back then was to find one’s dinner without becoming someone else’s. Exercised muscle would be essential to survival then, for hunting and gathering, for fighting and escaping predators. It would also be essential to successful reproduction. Exercising muscle sends messages through the circulation to all other body parts that it is actively working on their behalf…so pitch in and help. The brain must be alert, the vision clear and the hearing sharp. The heart and blood must deliver oxygen, the liver nutrients and so on. Muscle metabolic products are thus stimulating and rejuvenating. Isolating them as daily supplements for the ant-aging market is under way as you read this. Meanwhile, create your own with daily walks.

In many earlier laboratory studies, the only intervention repeatedly shown to prolong life has been chronic underfeeding. Lifelong calorie restriction (on an otherwise nutritious diet) prolongs the lives of laboratory mice and rats and other creatures such as worms, insects and fish. Underfeeding slows biological clocks but does not increase the number of clock ticks. Such chronically underfed creatures are smaller, more energetic and less prone to develop infections or cancer. At the clinical level, thin patients do tend to outlast heavier ones.

Living longer while suffering chronic diseases like cancer or dementia is not an attractive prospect for most. So efforts at human life extension emphasize full function and independence, especially for the brain. A wet and dirty dementia is the greatest concern of most individuals seeking a long life, and new brain research is reassuring. It confirms how attempts to resist declines in brain function with physical activity and mental exercises, are not a waste of time. Like exercised muscle, the challenged brain grows new cells and circuits in response to regular daily demands, both mental and physical.

Following a stroke, the brain descends into a transient state of deep shock. Brain cells die and inflammation dominates the stroke site. Brain function may be disabled a month or more. But scanning studies after a stroke show nerve cells around the injury beginning to take over the tasks of their damaged or dead neighbors. Those taking over have been lying dormant, waiting to serve. It is a newly realized brain ability: Adapting to tissue loss, by activating waiting dormant cells. If a stroke patient’s good arm is immobilized (so it cannot be used as a substitute), circuits around the damage begin rewiring in response to insistence from the paralyzed side.

Living brains interact continually with their environment, adjusting and reconfiguring cells and circuits in response to every change. They respond to whatever happens from moment to moment in the real world, recording what we think and what we do. They register any activity for future use. Normal brain connections form quickly, but as quickly lose the new formation unless reminded again, a freshly recognized feature from modern brain scanning.

Brain scans have revealed how aerobic exercise done by adults in their mid-years, enlarges their hippocampus, a region of deep brain that turns short-term memory into long-term memory. The hippocampus degenerates early in Alzheimer’s, and also shrinks from simple aging over the later years of long-lived individuals. Other scans show that regular aerobic exercise increases gray and white matter in the brain’s frontal lobe’s. These are areas involved in rational planning and purposeful activity, the center of behavior that is a major feature of one’s personality.

Regular exercise triggers the growth of new cells in other brain regions beyond the hippocampus and frontal lobes. Exercise prompts release of growth factors from existing neurones causing other brain cells to begin a controlled proliferation in a way that the brain still controls their connections  for new tasks. Conversely, when a lab animal is forced to stop using a body part, such as a limb for instance, that part’s brain control area shuts down. Mother Nature’s rule for brain cells, as for all body parts: Use or Lose.

Our new understanding of longevity confirms an interactive brain/body relationship, and that working muscle plays an active role in metabolism. Like an endocrine gland, it releases chemicals when it works that tone up the brain, vision and hearing. It prompts the heart and circulation into fluid drive, and the liver to make and release needed fuel and nutrients. It is being called the new Integrated Metabolism. Inaugurate it personally. Get moving.

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