DR MICHAEL MOSLEY: How cycling for just 40 seconds can keep you young
At 75, the NHS is not aging well. Waiting lists for routine surgeries have reached an all-time high, and next week’s doctors’ strikes, followed by the two-day consultants’ strike, are likely to make these waiting lists even longer.
With hospitals and GP surgeries cracking under the pressure of ever-increasing demand, it is important that we try to stay in good shape and avoid needing health care if possible.
I’ve been looking at the latest science on how to keep our bodies — and brains — healthy and youthful for a new radio series aptly named Stay Young. Below is a preview of our findings…
Now, one of my biggest fears about getting older is that my brain will slow down and I will develop dementia. This is the leading cause of death in the UK, and as we get older and fatter the risks increase.
So I was delighted to see a study published in Nature Aging last week showing that injecting aging monkeys with a protein called klotho (which is made in our kidneys but levels drop as we age) can impair memory. stimulate. The fact that it works in monkeys is encouraging as they are closely related to us, although there is still a long way to go before human trials.
A study published earlier this year in the Journal of Physiology showed that when participants (aged 18 to 56) did short bursts of high-intensity exercise on a bicycle, they increased their levels of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) by an impressive 300 percent, compared to just 16 percent when the volunteers cycled at low intensity for 90 minutes
In the meantime, there are things you can do to stay sharp. And where better to start than with a super ager, someone whose brain is much younger than him.
Lord Wilson of Dinton is 80, but still as bright as a button. He and 700 others are taking part in a lengthy study at the Cambridge Center for Aging and Neuroscience, which involved many brain scans and cognitive tests.
This has shown that being better educated is one of the best ways to protect your brain later in life. But more surprisingly, they also revealed what you do in your spare time in your 40s and 50s — such as family trips, playing a musical instrument, or any physical activity — has a greater impact on later-life cognitive abilities.
Plus, research clearly shows that taking on new challenges later in life, like learning to paint or speak a new language, can do wonders for your memory.
Lord Wilson, who loves new challenges, told me the key is to ‘follow your curiosity’. And don’t tell yourself you’re too old to do anything.”
Besides staying mentally active, staying physically active is one of the best things you can do for your brain. Studies suggest that even short ten-minute walks can improve our memory.
But to keep your brain — and body — in optimal shape, it’s best to do something that raises your heart rate, like high-intensity interval training (HIIT), where you push yourself for 20-40 seconds, exhale for a second, and then go. again.
A study published earlier this year in the Journal of Physiology showed that when participants (aged 18 to 56) did short bursts of high-intensity exercise on a bicycle, they increased their levels of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) by an impressive 300 percent, compared to just 16 percent when the volunteers cycled at low intensity for 90 minutes.
BDNF acts as fertilizer for the brain, maintaining the health of existing brain cells and stimulating the growth of new ones. The researchers said doing HIIT a few times a week could even delay the onset of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
HIIT can also recharge the mitochondria, tiny batteries in our cells that power our bodies.
Dr. Matthew Robinson, a researcher at Oregon State University in the US, told me that as we age, our mitochondria slow down and become less efficient. The beauty of HIIT is that it can turn back the clock and stimulate your body to use up the old mitochondrial batteries and replace them with new ones.
Dr. Matthew Robinson, a researcher at Oregon State University (general view) in the US, told me that as we age, our mitochondria slow down and become less efficient. The beauty of HIIT is that it can turn back the clock and stimulate your body to get rid of the old mitochondrial batteries and replace them with new ones.
In a recent study by Dr. Robinson, a ‘young’ group (18 to 30 years old) and an ‘older’ group (65 to 80 years old) did HIIT workouts on a stationary bike three times a week for 12 weeks. After that, the young group experienced an impressive 49 percent increase in their mitochondrial activity — but they were beaten by the oldies who had a 69 percent increase.
What’s great about HIIT is that it’s versatile and most people can build it into their lives.
Dr. Robinson suggests, “Ask yourself if there’s a way to raise your heart rate a bit.” Maybe go up and down the stairs a few times or increase your walking pace.”
You not only want to feel fit, but also want to look good. Dr. Raja Sivamani, a dermatologist at the University of California, told me that one of the best ways to keep our skin looking youthful is to eat colorful fruits and vegetables, as they are packed with plant compounds called carotenoids – antioxidants that protect the skin at the cellular level .
But when it comes to sweet fruits like mango, don’t overdo it. In one study, Dr. Sivamani found that eating half a cup of mango four times a week for two months reduced wrinkles in postmenopausal women, while eating one and a half cups of mango made wrinkles worse.
He said this is because mango, while rich in carotenoids, is also high in sugar – and sugar makes you look older and more wrinkly (if you have a lot of sugar in your blood, it attaches to proteins to form compounds that damage collagen, what keeps the skin firm).
- Stay Young is Monday at 9.45am on BBC Radio 4 and available on BBC Sounds.
It’s now established that opioids aren’t the answer for chronic pain, but a new study from the University of Sydney has found they’re no more effective for acute low back or neck pain than a placebo either. The general advice is that most back pain is transient: what helps is to stay mobile and do gentle back exercises (Google ‘NHS back pain exercises’).
If the pain is severe or radiates to your buttocks, leg, or hip, seek medical attention.
Books are really good for the brain
A recent study, involving 10,000 children, found that bookworms – those who read for pleasure – had better mental health when they were teenagers than children who spent their time on screens.
Brain scans also showed that the bookworms developed larger brains, particularly in areas related to problem solving, focus and improved mental health.
Barbara Sahakian, a professor of clinical neuropsychology at the University of Cambridge and one of the researchers, thinks this is because reading is more intellectually demanding than watching TV or spending time on social media.
The optimal ‘dose’ was about 12 hours a week – children who read more later performed worse on tests of cognitive skills, probably because they didn’t participate in sports or social activities, which are also good for a developing brain.
I’m not sure I’d want to rely on an AI doctor alone
I have mixed feelings about artificial intelligence (AI). I’m nervous about handing more and more control over to the machines, but I also think AI can improve our lives, especially in the field of medical diagnostics.
A study last year in The Lancet Digital Health showed that when a doctor and an AI system worked together, they were significantly better at detecting breast cancer through scans than when the doctor worked alone.
When the AI chatbot ChatGPT was released last November, it became the fastest growing consumer software application in history. As students have discovered, it’s great for helping with homework, but how good is it at making medical diagnoses? I decided to put it to the test.
Years ago when my son Jack, now in his thirties, was a young child, he started vomiting one morning and was clearly in pain. Alarmed, my wife Clare took him to the emergency room, where a relatively inexperienced doctor decided he had the stomach flu and told her to take him home. Clare demanded that Jack be seen by someone older – who saw that Jack was having an intussusception: part of his intestine was folded inward, as if a sock had turned in on itself and was blocking it.
Jack had surgery that afternoon – if he hadn’t, his intestine could have ruptured, possibly resulting in his death.
When I described Jack’s symptoms to ChatGPT, he rightly pointed out that the most likely diagnosis was food poisoning. But third on the list was “intestinal obstruction, a condition requiring immediate medical attention.” Very impressive.
Then I tried it with something more obscure. A few years ago, after swimming off the coast of Cornwall, I came out of the water and everything went black – I looked normal, but had no idea where I was or who my wife was.
In the ER my memory started to return and the doctor diagnosed transient global amnesia caused by immersion in cold water. However, ChatGPT decided that I was suffering from hypothermia.
I was relieved to find out it was fallible and I don’t see AI systems replacing doctors any time soon.