Positive attitude may be the key to healthy aging

Consuming a nutritious diet that is rich in vitamins and antioxidants is an important part of healthy aging. But maintaining a positive attitude may be just as important, suggests a new study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

A team of German researchers analyzed the brain activity of participants who were asked to look at happy, neutral or sad images. They found that participants whose brains were more activated by the happy pictures were more likely to be emotionally stable and prefer emotionally gratifying experiences.

This has important implications for healthy aging because previous research has shown that individuals who have a preference for positive emotions tend to live longer, healthier lives.

The researchers said that their findings show the importance of maintaining a positive attitude while aging and suggests that individuals may benefit from refocusing their thoughts to spend more time on happy emotions.

Aside from a vitamin-rich diet, keeping a positive attitude may be the most important thing a person can do to age well. While this may not come natural to some people, there are many ways positivity can be worked on.

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NIA: Vitamins and exercise are key to healthy aging

Muscles naturally deteriorate as the human body ages, but regular exercise and strength training can promote healthy aging and mobility. The U.S. National Institute on Aging (NIA) recommends that older adults should exercise regularly – with a focus on endurance, strength, balance and flexibility – so they can retain their independence and health.

A recent study by scientists at the University of Potsdam in New York found that individuals over the age of 60 who participated in resistance training were less likely to fall or injure themselves. The researchers say that exercising three to four times per week is ideal for older individuals to maintain their health.

Vitamins also play an important role in healthy aging. In 2007, researchers from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine conducted a study that focused on the role of vitamin D in the physical health of elderly individuals. They compared the amount of the nutrient in people over the age of 65 with their physical performance. Individuals with lower levels of vitamin D were 5 to 10 percent less agile and mobile than those who had healthy amounts of the nutrient in their systems.

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Study: Nutrient deficiencies may increase health risks in aging individuals

Healthy aging may be feasible the help of vitamins and minerals. A recent study that was conducted at the Nutrition and Metabolism Center at the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute in Oakland, California, demonstrates how vitamin and mineral deficiencies can contribute to age-related diseases.

Researchers studied the effects of selenium deficiencies on essential and non-essential proteins to see if a shortage of the nutrient affected each type of protein. The results show that mutations, which occur in proteins that are dependent on selenium, resulted in characteristics that were found in multiple illnesses that are associated with aging.

The scientists hope that the results of the study will lead further research into finding other links between vitamin and mineral insufficiency and illnesses, which could possibly lead to earlier diagnosis and preventative treatment.

Even though further testing should be done to confirm the findings of this study, the scientists who worked on it believe their results provide enough evidence to suggest that a daily multivitamin is essential to promoting and supporting healthy aging.

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Calcium deficiencies may have adverse health effects in adults

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association shows that calcium deficiency is rampant in American adults. Calcium promotes bone health, but as people age, their energy intake slows down, which may cause difficulty in obtaining healthy amounts of calcium.

Dr. Jane Kerstetter, a professor of health sciences at the University of Connecticut, said that people can consume more nutrient-dense foods and increase the amount of calcium supplements in their diets to improve their intake levels.

The study examined information that was collected through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey that took place from 2003 to 2006. Researchers found that the calcium supplement usage increased with age, but dietary calcium consumption declined because people tend to eat less as they grow older.

An Italian study that was presented at the 2010 Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism in Rome found that a calcium deficiency can have a negative effect on a woman's bone health. Professor Maria Manara, the lead researcher, said that low calcium intake from dairy products could negatively impact bone and circulatory wellbeing in women. 

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Calcium intake low among older adults

In addition to lacking a number of key vitamins, older Americans may have dangerously low levels of calcium intake, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

After surveying nearly 10,000 individuals, researchers from the University of Connecticut and Yale University found that calcium intake was significantly lower in adults over age 80 than in younger individuals. Men in this age group consumed 24 percent less of the mineral while women had 18 percent lower levels, compared to those in the 19 to 30 age group.

The findings may be particularly troubling for women, who are more prone to osteoporosis and fractures, especially when they get older.

"Calcium plays a fundamental role in promoting bone health and forestalling osteoporosis. In light of evidence that energy intake declines with aging, calcium-dense foods and calcium supplements become vital factors in maintaining adequate calcium intake across the lifespan," said Jane E. Kerstetter, who led the study.

She added that doctors and other medical professionals may need to do a better job of encouraging their older patients to consume more calcium.

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Reducing sleep may hinder weight loss

Cutting back on calories and limiting fat intake may be important parts of dieting. However, the findings of a new study suggest that these restrictions may not be enough if individuals are not getting adequate levels of sleep at night.

Researchers from the University of Chicago’s General Clinical Resources Center studied a group of overweight or obese individuals over the course of two separate two-week periods. During one period, participants’ were given 8.5 hours to rest. During the other their sleep was limited to 5.5 hours. Calorie consumption was kept the same during both periods.

By the end of the study, researchers noticed a range of effects from a shorter night’s sleep. While total weight loss remained equal, individuals lost more fat (as opposed to protein) after an adequate night’s sleep. Additionally, well rested participants produced less ghrelin, a hormone that induces hunger.

“If your goal is to lose fat, skipping sleep is like poking sticks in your bicycle wheels,” said Plamen Penev, who led the study. “Cutting back on sleep, a behavior that is ubiquitous in modern society, appears to compromise efforts to lose fat through dieting.”

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