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BLSA Newsletters

BLSA Newsletter - Winter 2017

Advice from BLSA Participants Leads to Program Improvements

Several recent changes in BLSA activities have come about due to participant suggestions. New initiatives include:

  • Tuesday evening “Happy Hour” with BLSA scientists
  • Scientific posters by BLSA scientists on hallway walls
  • An email list-serve that sends out newsletters and receives feedback and suggestions
  • A glossary of terms and initials for the BLSA schedule
  • A summary description of BLSA staff, including background and professional roles
  • Opportunities to hear about other NIA studies posted in the hallway
  • More on-site breakfast food options
  • Increased opportunities to gather and interact in common areas
  • More timely distribution of mailed test results

Thanks for helping make BLSA an even more friendly program! Keep up the suggestions!

How Does Physical Activity Promote Healthy Aging?

A new nationwide research program will “assemble a comprehensive map of the molecular changes that occur in response to exercise and how they lead to health benefits”, with one major focus on aging. The findings can help develop new strategies to promote healthy aging.

Message from the BLSA Director

Welcome to the second year of our newsletter. Your input continues to help us make BLSA the best it can be! Send us a note by email or by mail to BLSA Newsletter, 3001 S Hanover St Baltimore, MD 21225.

Recent Findings from the BLSA

Prediabetes is Associated with Decreased Muscle Energy

Prediabetes is defined by a borderline elevated blood sugar that is not high enough to diagnose as diabetes. Prediabetes increases with age and affects the risk of becoming diabetic over time. This study showed that persons with prediabetes had reduced ability to generate energy in their leg muscles. It is not yet known if treating prediabetes can improve muscle energy.

Reference: Insulin Resistance is Associated with Reduced Mitochondrial Oxidative Capacity Measured by 31P Magnetic i Resonance Spectroscopy in Non-Diabetic Participants from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. Fabbri E et al Diabetes 2016

Uric Acid Levels and Rate of Increase in Artery Stiffness

Uric acid levels are higher in people with a tendency to gout and atherosclerosis. This study examined the relationship between uric acid and changes in the stiffness of arteries over time. A higher uric acid level was associated with a faster increase in artery stiffness, but only in men, perhaps because men tend to have a higher uric acid level than women.

Reference: Longitudinal Association Between Serum Uric Acid and Arterial Stiffness: results from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging Canepa et al Hypertension 2016

Changes in the Sense of Smell are Related to Motor Function

Decreasing sense of smell is one of the earliest indicators of changes in brain health. Since motor functions are strongly affected by brain health, this study examined the relationship between a test of olfactory function and measures of mobility and hand function. Smell ability was associated with all measures of mobility and hand function, even after accounting for other factors affected by brain health such as age and cognitive function.

Reference: Olfaction is Related to Motor Function in Older Adults Tian Q et al Journal of Gerontology Medical Sciences 2016

Chronic Users of Sugar Substitutes have Greater Abdominal Obesity

While low calorie sugar substitutes are often used for weight control, there is emerging evidence that they can alter sugar and fat metabolism leading to increased weight and fatness. This study of over 1000 participants followed for a mean of 10 years found that sugar substitute users gained more weight, had larger waistlines and were more likely to meet criteria for abdominal obesity, which has been shown to be related to risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Reference: Chronic Low-Calorie Sweetener Use and Risk of Abdominal Obesity among Older Adults: a Cohort Study Chia CW et al PLoSOne 2016

High Levels of Alzheimer Protein in the Brain of People with Normal Cognitive Function Predict Faster Decline in Mobility

Recent studies suggest that slow walking develops 10 years or more before dementia and that beta-amyloid, a protein that builds up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s Disease also appears decades before dementia. This study found that, among persons with no sign of dementia, more beta-amyloid in the brain was associated with a faster rate of decline in multiple measures of mobility. This decline was independent of changes in memory over time.

Reference: Beta-Amyloid Burden Predicts Lower Extremity Performance Decline in Cognitively Unimpaired Older Adults J Tian Q Gerontology Medical Sciences 2016