Category Archives: Longevity

What If You Had Only a Few Months to Live?

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Jack Thomas is an 82-year-old newspaperman who unexpectedly learned he would die soon. He wrote about it at The Boston Globe. RTWT. If you’re old, you may need a tissue handy, in case you get something in your eye. He’s a talented writer. A few out-of-order excerpts:

“After a week of injections, blood tests, X-rays, and a CAT scan, I have been diagnosed with cancer. It’s inoperable. Doctors say it will kill me within a time they measure not in years, but months.

“As the saying goes, fate has dealt me one from the bottom of the deck, and I am now condemned to confront the question that has plagued me for years: How does a person spend what he knows are his final months of life?

“Atop the list of things I’ll miss are the smiles and hugs every morning from my beautiful wife, Geraldine, the greatest blessing of my life. I hate the notion of an eternity without hearing laughter from my three children. And what about my 40 rose bushes? Who will nurture them? I cannot imagine an afterlife without the red of my America roses or the aroma of my yellow Julia Childs.

“We told each of the three children individually. John Patrick put his face in his hands, racked with sobs. After hanging up the telephone, Jennifer doubled over and wept until her dog, Rosie, approached to lick away the tears but not the melancholy. Faith explained over the telephone that, if I could see her, she was weeping and wondering how she could get along without her dad. Now, she is on the Internet every day, snorkeling for new research, new strategies, new medications. My wife cries every morning, then rolls up her sleeves and handles all doctor appointments and medication. Without her . . . I cannot imagine.

“Editing the final details of one’s life is like editing a story for the final time. It’s the last shot an editor has at making corrections, the last rewrite before the roll of the presses. It’s more painful than I anticipated to throw away files and paperwork that seemed critical to my survival just two weeks ago, and today, are all trash. Like the manual for the TV that broke down four years ago, and notebooks for stories that will never be written, and from former girlfriends, letters whose value will plummet the day I die. Filling wastebasket after wastebasket is a regrettable reminder that I have squandered much of my life on trivia.

“Unlike Roman Catholics, Jews, and atheists, we Episcopalians are very good at fence-sitting. We embrace all viewpoints, and as a result, we are as confused as the Unitarians.

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“Does the intensity of a fatal illness clarify anything? Every day, I look at my wife’s beautiful face more admiringly, and in the garden, I do stare at the long row of blue hydrangeas with more appreciation than before. And the hundreds and hundreds of roses that bloomed this year were a greater joy than usual, not merely in their massive sprays of color, but also in their deep green foliage, the soft petals, the deep colors and the aromas that remind me of boyhood. As for the crises in Cuba and Haiti, however, and voting rights and the inexplicable stubbornness of Republicans who refuse to submit to an inoculation that might save their lives — on all those matters, no insights, no thunderbolts of discovery. I remai­­n as ignorant as ever.

“I’ll miss my homes in Cambridge and Falmouth. I’ll never again see the sun rise over the marsh off Vineyard Sound, never again see that little, yellow goldfinch that perched atop a hemlock outside my window from time to time so that both of us could watch the tide rise to cover the wetland.

“As death draws near, I feel the same uncomfortable transition I experienced when I was a teenager at Brantwood Camp in Peterborough, New Hampshire, packing up to go home after a grand summer. I’m not sure what awaits me when I get home, but this has certainly been an exciting experience. I had a loving family. I had a great job at the newspaper. I met fascinating people, and I saw myriad worldwide wonders. It’s been full of fun and laughter, too, a really good time.

“I just wish I could stay a little longer.”

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Parker here. Are you good with God? Have you examined the life of Jesus and accepted him as your Lord and Savior? Consider and decide before it’s too late.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Aspirin 325 vs 81 mg/day: Which is Better?

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For patients with established cardiovascular disease, a recent study found that aspirin 81 mg/day was just as effective as 325 mg/day in preventing combined risk of death and hospitalization for heart attack or stroke. Rates of major bleeding were the same regardless of dose.

Click for details at NEJM.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: What else prevents heart attacks and strokes? The Mediterranean diet!

High Glycemic Index Eating Associated With Premature Death and Cardiovascular Disease

Naan, a type of flat bread with a high glycemic index

Haven’t we know this for years? From New England Journal of Medicine:

Most data regarding the association between the glycemic index and cardiovascular disease come from high-income Western populations, with little information from non-Western countries with low or middle incomes. To fill this gap, data are needed from a large, geographically diverse population.

METHODS

This analysis includes 137,851 participants between the ages of 35 and 70 years living on five continents, with a median follow-up of 9.5 years. We used country-specific food-frequency questionnaires to determine dietary intake and estimated the glycemic index and glycemic load on the basis of the consumption of seven categories of carbohydrate foods. We calculated hazard ratios using multivariable Cox frailty models. The primary outcome was a composite of a major cardiovascular event (cardiovascular death, nonfatal myocardial infarction, stroke, and heart failure) or death from any cause.

RESULTS

In the study population, 8780 deaths and 8252 major cardiovascular events occurred during the follow-up period. After performing extensive adjustments comparing the lowest and highest glycemic-index quintiles, we found that a diet with a high glycemic index was associated with an increased risk of a major cardiovascular event or death, both among participants with preexisting cardiovascular disease (hazard ratio, 1.51; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.25 to 1.82) and among those without such disease (hazard ratio, 1.21; 95% CI, 1.11 to 1.34). Among the components of the primary outcome, a high glycemic index was also associated with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular causes. The results with respect to glycemic load were similar to the findings regarding the glycemic index among the participants with cardiovascular disease at baseline, but the association was not significant among those without preexisting cardiovascular disease.

CONCLUSIONS

In this study, a diet with a high glycemic index was associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death.

Source: Glycemic Index, Glycemic Load, and Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality | NEJM

The Advanced Mediterranean Diet (2nd edition) is low glycemic index.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Maintain Vigor as You Age With the Mediterranean Diet

Winning against gravity, for now…

The opposite of vigor is frailty. Aging is a life-long fight with gravity. If you’re frail, you’ll lose the battle sooner. In the study at hand, frailty was measured by exhaustion, weakness, physical activity, walking speed, and weight loss. The Mediterranean diet was linked to decreased frailty. From the Journal of the American Medical Medical Directors Association way back in 2014:

Abstract

Background and objective: Low intake of certain micronutrients and protein has been associated with higher risk of frailty. However, very few studies have assessed the effect of global dietary patterns on frailty. This study examined the association between adherence to the Mediterranean diet (MD) and the risk of frailty in older adults.

Design, setting, and participants: Prospective cohort study with 1815 community-dwelling individuals aged ≥60 years recruited in 2008-2010 in Spain.

Measurements: At baseline, the degree of MD [Mediterranean Diet] adherence was measured with the Mediterranean Diet Adherence Screener (MEDAS) score and the Mediterranean Diet Score, also known as the Trichopoulou index. In 2012, individuals were reassessed to detect incident frailty, defined as having at least 3 of the following criteria: exhaustion, muscle weakness, low physical activity, slow walking speed, and weight loss. The study associations were summarized with odds ratios (OR) and their 95% confidence interval (CI) obtained from logistic regression, with adjustment for the main confounders.

Results: Over a mean follow-up of 3.5 years, 137 persons with incident frailty were identified. Compared with individuals in the lowest tertile of the MEDAS score (lowest MD adherence), the OR (95% CI) of frailty was 0.85 (0.54-1.36) in those in the second tertile, and 0.65 (0.40-1.04; P for trend = .07) in the third tertile. Corresponding figures for the Mediterranean Diet Score were 0.59 (0.37-0.95) and 0.48 (0.30-0.77; P for trend = .002). Being in the highest tertile of MEDAS was associated with reduced risk of slow walking (OR 0.53; 95% CI 0.35-0.79) and of weight loss (OR 0.53; 95% CI 0.36-0.80). Lastly, the risk of frailty was inversely associated with consumption of fish (OR 0.66; 95% CI 0.45-0.97) and fruit (OR 0.59; 95% CI 0.39-0.91).

Conclusions: Among community-dwelling older adults, an increasing adherence to the MD was associated with decreasing risk of frailty.

Did you notice another good reason to eat fish?

I wonder why the research was published in the Journal of the American Medical Medical Directors Association?

Steve Parker, M.D.

You Don’t Have to Lose Muscle as You Age

young woman, exercise, weight training, gym
Not enough weight!

Axel Sigurdsson, MD, PhD, published a great article on prevention of age-related sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass). Click through for details. To stay vigorous as you age, you want to preserve muscle mass and the strength it provides. If you’ve lost muscle mass, you can re-build it. Summary from the good doctor:

Age-related loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia) may start as early as in our thirties and appears to continue for the rest of our lives.

There is also a loss of muscle strength and muscle function. The consequences may often be severe, particularly in the elderly.

Increased physical activity and adequate nutrition are the most powerful tools at our disposal to delay age-related loss of muscle mass.

Well-rounded exercise programs consisting of aerobic and resistance exercises are believed to be most effective.

Modification of dietary habits may be an important tool to prevent the decline in muscle mass and function that occurs with aging.

Adequate protein intake is of key importance. Animal-derived protein may provide a higher and broader biological value than vegetable protein.

Fish consumption is recommended and fruits and vegetables should be consumed regularly.

Nutritional supplements containing essential amino acids may be helpful. This is particularly true for whey protein.

Fish-derived protein hydrolysates also appear promising.

Pro Tip: Hold your fish in front of your body with outstretched arms to make it look bigger!

Adequate intake of vitamin D is essential.

“Fish-derived protein hydrolysates” doesn’t sound very appetizing. I’ll stick with real fish for now, especially cold-water fatty fish.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Eat Chicken Brains for Longer life

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Dexter Kruger, a retired cattle rancher, is Australia’s oldest-ever living man. He’s 111 now. He attributes his longevity (only in part?) to eating chicken brains. The article doesn’t say whether the brains are cooked or raw. I’m heading over to Allrecipes lickety split.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: The Mediterranean dIet is famous for prolonging life. No chicken brains involved.

Mediterranean Diet Decreased Hospital Length of Stay, Reduced Mortality, and Cut Medical Costs of Elderly Patients

Somewhere on on the Mediterranean Sea

The study at hand involved 183 patients in Greece.

In multivariate analyses, hospital LOS [length of stay] decreased by 0.3 d for each unit increase of MedDiet score (P < 0.0001), 2.1 d for each 1 g/dL increase of albumin (P = 0.001) and increased 0.1 d for each day of previous admissions (P < 0.0001). Extended hospitalization (P < 0.0001) and its interaction with MedDiet score (P = 0.01) remained the significantly associated variables for financial cost. Mortality risk increased 3% per each year increase of age (hazard ratio [HR], 1.03; P = 0.02) and 6% for each previous admission (HR, 1.06; P = 0.04); whereas it decreased 13% per each unit increase of MedDiet score (HR, 0.87; P < 0.0001).

Conclusion

Adoption of the MedDiet decreases duration of admission and long-term mortality in hospitalized patients >65 y of age, with parallel reduction of relevant financial costs.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Source: Effects of Mediterranean diet on hospital length of stay, medical expenses, and mortality in elderly, hospitalized patients: A 2-year observational study – ScienceDirect

Elderly Hospitalized Patients Benefit From Mediterranean Diet

…at least in Greece, where the study was done.

Santorini, Greek seaside

In an observational study of folks over 65 admitted to a hospital, the Mediterranean diet was linked to:

  • Shorter duration of hospitalization
  • Reduced healthcare cost
  • Improved longevity

The study at hand lasted two years.

Click for details of the traditional Mediterranean diet.

Objective:

Mediterranean diet (MD) has been related to reduced overall mortality and improved diseases’ outcome. Purpose of our study was to estimate the impact of MD on duration of admission, financial cost and mortality (from hospitalization up to 24 months afterwards) in elderly, hospitalized patients.

Research Methods & Procedures:

One hundred eighty three elderly patients (aged >65 years), urgently admitted for any cause in the Internal Medicine department of our hospital, participated in this observational study. Duration of admission and its financial cost, mortality (during hospitalization, 6 and 24 months after discharge), physical activity, medical and anthropometric data were recorded and they were correlated with the level of adherence to MD (MedDiet score).

Results:

In multivariate analyses, duration of admission decreased 0.3 days for each unit increase of MedDiet score (p<0.0001), 2.1 days for each 1g/dL increase of albumin (p=0.001) and increased 0.1 days for each day of previous admissions (p<0.0001). Extended hospitalization (p<0.0001) and its interaction with MedDiet score (p=0.01) remained the significant associated variables for financial cost. Mortality risk increased 3% per each year increase of age (HR=1.03, p=0.02), 6% for each previous admission (HR=1.06, p=0.04) whereas it decreased 13% per each unit increase of MedDiet score (HR=0.87, p<0.0001).

Conclusion:

Adoption of MD decreases duration of admission and long-term mortality in elderly hospitalized patients with parallel reduction of relevant financial cost.

Source: The impact of Mediterranean Diet on duration of admission, medical expenses and mortality in elderly, hospitalized patients: A 2-year observational study – ScienceDirect

I haven’t read the entire article. Didn’t see any need, based on my prior knowledge of the Mediterranean diet. The findings are not unexpected.

Steve Parker, M.D.

If You’re Looking for Reasons to Avoid Processed Meats, Unprocessed Red Meat, and Poultry, Here You Go…

Steak vs vegetarian

Public health authorities in the West have been trying for years to scare us away from eating meat. Here’s an abstract of one of the weak studies that support that contention. Herein, heavier consumers of processed meats, unprocessed red meat, and poultry were a increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Fish and poultry were not linked to increased risk of death, while processed meat and unprocessed red meat were. And fish was not linked to cardiovascular disease. The authors admit that the differences in outcome were small.

Importance 

Although the associations between processed meat intake and cardiovascular disease (CVD) and all-cause mortality have been established, the associations of unprocessed red meat, poultry, or fish consumption with CVD and all-cause mortality are still uncertain.

Objective 

To identify the associations of processed meat, unprocessed red meat, poultry, or fish intake with incident CVD and all-cause mortality.

Design, Setting, and Participants 

This cohort study analyzed individual-level data of adult participants in 6 prospective cohort studies in the United States. Baseline diet data from 1985 to 2002 were collected. Participants were followed up until August 31, 2016. Data analyses were performed from March 25, 2019, to November 17, 2019.

Exposures 

Processed meat, unprocessed red meat, poultry, or fish intake as continuous variables.

Main Outcomes and Measures 

Hazard ratio (HR) and 30-year absolute risk difference (ARD) for incident CVD (composite end point of coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure, and CVD deaths) and all-cause mortality, based on each additional intake of 2 servings per week for monotonic associations or 2 vs 0 servings per week for nonmonotonic associations.

Results 

Among the 29 682 participants (mean [SD] age at baseline, 53.7 [15.7] years; 13 168 [44.4%] men; and 9101 [30.7%] self-identified as non-white), 6963 incident CVD events and 8875 all-cause deaths were adjudicated during a median (interquartile range) follow-up of 19.0 (14.1-23.7) years. The associations of processed meat, unprocessed red meat, poultry, or fish intake with incident CVD and all-cause mortality were monotonic (P for nonlinearity ≥ .25), except for the nonmonotonic association between processed meat intake and incident CVD (P for nonlinearity = .006). Intake of processed meat (adjusted HR, 1.07 [95% CI, 1.04-1.11]; adjusted ARD, 1.74% [95% CI, 0.85%-2.63%]), unprocessed red meat (adjusted HR, 1.03 [95% CI, 1.01-1.06]; adjusted ARD, 0.62% [95% CI, 0.07%-1.16%]), or poultry (adjusted HR, 1.04 [95% CI, 1.01-1.06]; adjusted ARD, 1.03% [95% CI, 0.36%-1.70%]) was significantly associated with incident CVD. Fish intake was not significantly associated with incident CVD (adjusted HR, 1.00 [95% CI, 0.98-1.02]; adjusted ARD, 0.12% [95% CI, −0.40% to 0.65%]). Intake of processed meat (adjusted HR, 1.03 [95% CI, 1.02-1.05]; adjusted ARD, 0.90% [95% CI, 0.43%-1.38%]) or unprocessed red meat (adjusted HR, 1.03 [95% CI, 1.01-1.05]; adjusted ARD, 0.76% [95% CI, 0.19%-1.33%]) was significantly associated with all-cause mortality. Intake of poultry (adjusted HR, 0.99 [95% CI, 0.97-1.02]; adjusted ARD, −0.28% [95% CI, −1.00% to 0.44%]) or fish (adjusted HR, 0.99 [95% CI, 0.97-1.01]; adjusted ARD, −0.34% [95% CI, −0.88% to 0.20%]) was not significantly associated with all-cause mortality.

Conclusions and Relevance 

These findings suggest that, among US adults, higher intake of processed meat, unprocessed red meat, or poultry, but not fish, was significantly associated with a small increased risk of incident CVD, whereas higher intake of processed meat or unprocessed red meat, but not poultry or fish, was significantly associated with a small increased risk of all-cause mortality. These findings have important public health implications and should warrant further investigations.

Source: Associations of Processed Meat, Unprocessed Red Meat, Poultry, or Fish Intake With Incident Cardiovascular Disease and All-Cause Mortality | Cardiology | JAMA Internal Medicine | JAMA Network

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: The traditional Mediterranean diet is low in meat and prominently features fish.

Steve Parker MD, Advanced Mediterranean Diet

Yes: Does Legalization of Marijuana Increase Traffic Fatality Rates?

From JAMA Network:

By analyzing additional experimental states over a more recent time period, we have provided additional data that legalization of recreational marijuana is associated with increased traffic fatality rates. Applying these results to national driving statistics, nationwide legalization would be associated with 6800 (95% CI, 4200-9700) excess roadway deaths each year.

Source: Change in Traffic Fatality Rates in the First 4 States to Legalize Recreational Marijuana | Emergency Medicine | JAMA Internal Medicine | JAMA Network