Little Things Can Add Years to Your Life

Get moving, says a 20-year study conducted with nearly 15,000 residents of the United Kingdom age 40 to 79.

The research was conducted by the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge, and the results were published in The British Medical Journal.

Considerable’s recent article entitled “This small lifestyle change can add years to your life” explains that the subjects who kept or increased to a medium level of activity were 28% less likely to die than those who stayed at a low level of activity.

The researchers split the sample into three groups who engaged in low, medium, and high levels of activity. They monitored changes to their activity for about eight years. Then they looked at the health effects over the next 12½ years.

The researchers found that those who stayed or increased their level of activity from low to medium were 28% less likely to die during that second phase than those who kept a low level of activity.

Moreover, those subjects who’d been moderately active but raised their activity level achieved a significant 42% increase in survival, compared to the low-activity subjects.

This impact was present even for those respondents who ate an unhealthy diet or had experienced a health condition, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or obesity.

So, the big question is just how much activity is required?

The study defined the activity levels according to the following guidelines:

  • Low: Less than the guideline of 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity activity
  • Medium: achieving the guideline of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week; and
  • High: The guideline of 300 minutes of moderate-intensity weekly activity.

The high level also allowed for an equivalent, like 75 weekly minutes of high-intensity activity, or 60 minutes of high-intensity activity and 30 minutes of medium-intensity activity per week.

The researchers think that their study will motivate more people to take it up a notch, regardless of their age.

“These results are encouraging, not least for middle aged and older adults with existing cardiovascular disease and cancer, who can still gain substantial longevity benefits by becoming more active, lending further support to the broad public health benefits of physical activity,” the authors commented.

Reference: Considerable (Sep. 22, 2020) “This small lifestyle change can add years to your life”

 

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Will COVID-19 Cause Memory Loss?

It’s now apparent that many people suffering from COVID-19 exhibit neurological symptoms. These symptoms include a loss of smell, delirium and an increased risk of stroke. There are also longer-lasting consequences for the brain, including myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome and Guillain-Barre syndrome, reports Considerable’s article entitled “Does COVID-19 increase your risk of memory loss? Here’s what we know.”

The article say that these effects may be caused by direct viral infection of brain tissue. However, there is growing evidence to suggest that additional indirect actions triggered via the virus’s infection of epithelial cells and the cardiovascular system, or through the immune system and inflammation, contribute to lasting neurological changes after contraction of COVID-19. Scientists are looking at whether there be a COVID-19-related wave of memory deficits, cognitive decline and dementia cases in the future.

Scientists say that many of the symptoms we link to an infection are, in fact, due to the protective responses of the immune system. This is also true when it comes to feeling sick: the general malaise, tiredness, fever and social withdrawal are caused by activation of specialized immune cells in the brain, called neuroimmune cells, and signals in the brain.

In addition to changing behavior and regulating physiological responses during illness, the specialized immune system in the brain also has several other roles.

Research now shows that the neuroimmune cells that are at the connections between brain cells (synapses), which provide energy and minute quantities of inflammatory signals, are essential for normal memory formation. Unfortunately, this also is a way in which an illness like COVID-19 can cause both acute neurological symptoms and long-lasting issues in the brain.

During illness and inflammation, the specialized immune cells in the brain become activated, sending out large amounts of inflammatory signals and changing how they communicate with neurons. Because COVID-19 involves a massive release of inflammatory signals, there are both short-term effects on cognition (delirium) and the potential for long-lasting changes in memory, attention and cognition.

There is also an increased risk for cognitive decline and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, during aging.

The potential connection between COVID-19 and persistent effects on memory are evidenced by observations of other illnesses, such as patients who recover from a heart attack or bypass surgery who report lasting cognitive deficits that become exaggerated during aging.

It will be many years before we know whether the COVID-19 infection causes an increased risk for cognitive decline or Alzheimer’s disease. However, this risk may be reduced by prevention and treatment of COVID-19. Prevention and treatment both rely on the ability to decrease the severity and duration of illness and inflammation. Interestingly, new research suggests that common vaccines, including the flu shot and pneumonia vaccines, may reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s. Several emerging treatments for COVID-19 are drugs also suppress excessive immune activation and inflammatory state. These treatments may also reduce the impact of inflammation on the brain and decrease the impact on long-term brain health.

Reference: Considerable (Aug. 7, 2020) “Does COVID-19 increase your risk of memory loss? Here’s what we know”

 

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Should You Include a Letter of Instruction with Your Estate Plan?

A letter of instruction, or LOI, is a good addition to the documents included in your estate plan. It’s commonly used to express advice, wishes and practical information to help the people who will be taking care of your affairs, if you become incapacitated or die. According to this recent article “Letter of instruction in elder law estate plan can help with managing important information” from the Times Herald-Record, there are many different ways an LOI can help.

In our digital world, you might want to use your LOI to record website names, usernames and passwords for social media accounts, online accounts and other digital assets. This helps loved ones who you want to have access to your online life.

If you have minor children who are beneficiaries, the LOI is a good way to share your priorities to the trustee on your wishes for the funds left for their care. It is common to leave money in trust for HEMS—for “Health, Education, Maintenance and Support.” However, you may want to be more specific, both about how money is to be spent and to share your thoughts about the path you’d like their lives to take in your absence.

Art collectors or anyone who owns valuable items, like musical instruments, antiques or collectibles may use the LOI as an inventory that will be greatly appreciated by your executor. By providing a carefully created list of the items and any details, you’ll increase the likelihood that the collections will be considered by a potential purchaser. This would also be a good place to include any resources about the collections that you know of, but your heirs may not, like appraisers.

Animal lovers can use an LOI to share personalities, likes, dislikes and behavioral quirks of beloved pets, so their new caregivers will be better prepared. In most states, a pet trust can be created to name a caregiver and a trustee for funds that are designated for the pet’s care. The caregiver and the trustee may be the same person, or they may be two different individuals.

For families who have a special needs member, an LOI is a useful means of sharing important information about the person and is often referred to as a “Letter of Intent.” It works in tandem with a Special Needs Trust, which is created to leave assets to a person who receives government benefits without putting means-tested benefits in jeopardy. If there is no Special Needs Trust and the person receives an inheritance, they could lose access to their benefits.

Some of the information in a Letter of Intent includes information on the nature of the disability, daily routines, medications, fears, preferred activities and anything that would help a caregiver provide better care, if the primary caregiver dies.

The LOI can also be used to provide basic information, like where important documents are kept, who should be notified in case of death or incapacity, which bills should be paid, what home maintenance tasks need to be taken care of and who provides the services, etc. It is a useful document to help those you leave behind to adjust to their new responsibilities and care for loved ones.

Reference: Times Herald-Record (Sep. 8, 2020) “Letter of instruction in elder law estate plan can help with managing important information”

 

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