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Motor functions decline with age

Researchers have found that motor function declines in people as they get older because there are certain “set points” in the nervous system that are determined during development but can be reset with age.

Scientists from the School of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio observed a change in set point that resulted in significantly diminishing motor function in aging fruit flies.

Study senior author Ben Eaton, assistant professor of physiology at the center, said that the body has a set point for temperature (98.6 degrees), a set point for salt level in the blood, and other homeostatic (steady-state) set points that are important for maintaining stable functions throughout life.

“Evidence also points to the existence of set points in the nervous system, but it has never been observed that they change, until now,” Eaton said. Dr Eaton and lead author Rebekah Mahoney, a graduate student, recorded changes in the neuromuscular junction synapses of aging fruit flies.

These synapses are spaces where neurons exchange electrical signals to enable motor functions such as walking and smiling.

“We observed a change in the synapse, indicating that the homeostatic mechanism had adjusted to maintain a new set point in the older animal,” Mahoney said.

The change was nearly 200 percent, and the researchers predicted that it would leave muscles more vulnerable to exhaustion. Aside from impairing movement in aging animals, a new functional set point in neuromuscular junctions could put the synapse at risk for developing neurodegeneration — the hallmark of disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, Mahoney said.

Observing a change in the set point in synapses alters our paradigms about how we think age affects the function of the nervous system, she said.

It appears that a similar change could lead to effects on learning and memory in old age.

Remember five numbers to keep your heart healthy

Apart from pass codes, phone numbers, social security numbers, clothing sizes and addresses, heart experts at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center suggest that there are five more you need to know to help keep your cardiovascular system healthy.

“These are the numbers doctors use to assess someone’s risk for getting heart disease, both short term and throughout their lifetime,” Dr Martha Gulati, director of preventive cardiology and women’s cardiovascular health at Ohio State’s Ross Heart Hospital, said.

Gulati said the most important numbers to know are blood pressure levels, Body Mass Index, waist circumference, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels. A normal blood pressure is under 120/80.

Body Mass Index is the measurement of your weight for your body surface area and it’s considered a reliable indicator of body fatness for most people. A BMI less than 18.5 is underweight. Below 25 is normal. A BMI of 25 through 29.9 is overweight, and 30 or higher is considered obese. Fat that is carried around the abdomen increases the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Gulati said that women should be at least less than 35 inches and men should be less than 40 inches at the waist.

While the body makes all of the cholesterol it needs, it is also readily found in food. High cholesterol can lead to heart disease and atherosclerosis, or build-up of plaque in the arteries. Gulati says it’s important to know your total cholesterol number and your low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, number. A healthy cholesterol number is below 200. A healthy LDL number is below 100.

Blood sugar reading tells how much glucose is in the blood. High levels of blood glucose cause diabetes, which increases the risk for cardiovascular disease. A healthy fasting blood sugar number is under 100 after not eating for eight hours.

Women have poorer quality of life after stroke than men

A new study has revealed that women who survive stroke have a worse quality of life than men.

Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center compared the quality of life in men and women who had a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA). A total of 1,370 patients ages 56 to 77 from the AVAIL registry – a national, multicenter, longitudinal registry of ischemic stroke and TIA patients – were included in the study.

The patients’ quality of life was measured at three months and one year after a stroke or TIA using a formula that assesses mobility, self-care, everyday activities, depression/anxiety and pain. "We found that women had a worse quality of life than men up to 12 months following a stroke, even after considering differences in important sociodemographic variables, stroke severity and disability," senior author of the study Cheryl Bushnell, said.

The study findings showed that at three months, women were more likely than men to report problems with mobility, pain or discomfort and anxiety and depression, but the difference was greatest in those over age 75. At one year, women still had lower quality of life scores overall than men but the magnitude of those differences had diminished.

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