I always think green tea tastes better accompanied by some form of ceremony or during an “occasion”. I can appreciate the immense health benefits of green tea but believe that it never tastes as good unless it is served to me “properly” in a small pot with little matching tea cups. Although there is no drink that tastes acceptable in a Styrofoam cup, tea of any form is particularly ruined by it.
Whenever I go to a Japanese or Thai restaurant I will almost always order green or jasmine tea with my meal. However at home I will rarely make myself a pot of green tea, even though I have the cute teapot, matching cups and plenty of green tea leaf at my disposal (see photograph- very cute indeed).
My husband recently gave up alcohol and coffee for 4 weeks and he lived on green tea. He has not reported any noticeable feeling of immense health or euphoria but he was the only member of our family who did not come down with a nasty cold recently. Even I, who claim to never get sick, suffered terribly while my green tea drinking husband cruised through the household epidemic calmly preparing our regular honey lemon drinks and administering our medications (baby panadol for the children and cold and flu tablets for me).
So I guess it is no real surprise, to our family at least, to read in a recent research article that the regular consumption of green tea was associated with a significantly lower risk of functional disability in the older population. The effect of drinking green tea was influenced by the amount of consumption, with an inverse relationship between how much tea the respondent drank and their level of functional disability. This relationship was supported even after controlling for potentially confounding variables such as quality of the diet, social support, community activities and level of education.
Although I don’t believe that I will ever crave green tea like I do a freshly brewed coffee in the morning or a strong Daintree tea in the afternoon, I think that research such as this will influence me to join my husband in his green tea drinking at least once a day. I will just make it a really big cup!
Reference: Tomata, Y. et al., (2012). Green tea consumption and the risk of incident functional disability in elderly Japanese: the Ohsaki Cohort 2006 Study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 95, 732-9
It wasn’t until I was in my mid 20s that I discovered that the strange sensation I occasionally felt in my legs at night had an official name: “Restless Leg Syndrome”. Unless you have experienced this syndrome it is hard to describe it accurately but for me it occurred only at night when trying to fall asleep and produced a tingly feeling throughout my legs that made it necessary to move immediately. It is not painful. but cannot be ignored and if severe enough would result in my having to get up for half an hour or so until the sensation disappeared.
I never knew that others also experienced this syndrome but apparently it occurs in approximately one in twenty Australians. Personally, RLS would only occur infrequently, approximately once or twice a month during my 20s, and I attributed it to low levels of physical activity during the day.
However, I was quite surprised to read in January/February’s edition of Australian Ageing Agenda that preliminary results of a neuroscience research project indicate that people with RLS have up to 80 percent less function in the brain region responsible for movement control compared with healthy people. That is some deficit! The researchers also argue that the disorder exhibits similar characteristics to Parkinson’s Disease. The prevalence for RLS is higher in the older population and they are continuing to explore the syndrome in ongoing research within the 50 to 70 year age group in the hope of gaining a better understanding of its cause.
Strangely, I rarely experience RLS now that I am in my late 30s, probably because I am exhausted after working, taking care of my young children and undertaking regular physical exercise! I have also always considered it a mild inconvenience and until I read this article had no idea that it was considered a serious medical condition, that for some requires medication to manage.
Does anybody else experience RLS? And if so how does it affect your life?
Fingers crossed I continue to be largely “RLS free” for the remainder of my healthy life. Or at least until I work out how to make up that 80 percent deficit!
I have just started to attend a local Toastmasters group in an effort to improve my public speaking ability. Actually, I think my ability is quite fine- it is the complete dread I have of doing it that is the real problem. During our supper break one of the young women stated that all people should be able to retire at 55 years of age and not be “forced” to work way into their 60s. I always find the discussion of working and ageing interesting because from the studies that I have read in this area, it seems that many people largely enjoy their work and the sense of purpose that is derived from this as they enter their older years.
Increasing longevity will naturally necessitate the continuation of some form of paid employment, be it part time, full time or casual, later in our lives than previous generations would have expected. I don’t think this is a bad thing either, particularly when a person is motivated, experienced and able to offer a lot of professional insight to those younger colleagues.
The Longevity Project is a book that follows up on the participants of the Terman studies and key characteristics of this group that have correlated with longevity. The Terman study began in 1921 by Dr Terman who collected information on approximately 1,500 boy and girls considered to be the brightest in their class (as selected by their teacher) to determine the sources of intellectual leadership and high potential. Dr Terman died in 1965 but others have continued the research with this group.
Dr Friedman and Dr Martin spent twenty years following up the remaining 720 Terman study participants, and based on detailed characteristics collected at study commencement, were able to explore why some people live well into old age while others die prematurely.
The book discusses a whole range of variables and factors that influence longevity, but one of the clear findings was that those who continued to work later into their lives lived considerably longer than those who did not. Whether the work was paid or unpaid, it was the productivity itself that kept people living longer and in better health. This variable appeared to have a stronger effect than social relationships, sense of happiness and well-being. In particular, those who with the more “successful” or challenging careers lived longer than those with the least successful careers.
So based on that, thanks for reading and let's all get back to work!
Reference: Friedman, H.S. & Martin, L.R. (2011). The Longevity Project. Scribe:Victoria
Just as all first year psychology students imagine that they are experiencing key symptoms of mental or behavioural illness discussed by the lecturer each week, many people as they get older start to worry that lapses in memory are a sign of cognitive decline, most seriously Alzheimer’s disease. I read early on in my gerontology studies that forgetting where you put your keys is quite normal, however forgetting what it is you are meant to do with those same keys can signify some underlying cognitive issue.
Differentiating age-associated memory decline from a more clinically significant cognitive disorder is difficult for clinicians. Ahmadi and colleagues have just released the findings of a study that reviewed the use of the “Alzheimer’s Questionnaire”- a 21 item informant based dementia assessment tool. The study is not particularly large (51 cognitively normal and 47 participants with amnestic mild cognitive impairment) but the authors reported that the brief questionnaire was highly predictive of amnestic mild cognitive impairment. In particular, the domains that were sensitive to cognitive impairment were focused on the repetition of statements, orientation, ability to manage finances and visuospatial disorientation.
Accurate, sensitive and reliable testing that can be undertaken easily within the primary healthcare setting is always welcome. As are the treatment responses to such diagnoses which continue to evolve in this area.
Ahmadi, M., Davis, K., Belden, C., Jacobson, S. & Sabbagh, M. (2012). Informant-reported cognitive symptoms that predict amnestic mild cognitive impairment. BMC Geriatrics, 12(3), www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2318/12/3
Researchers who conducted a large South Australian study of almost 2000 adults aged 70 years and over, reported that those who are regarded as ageing more “successfully” are those that not only live longer but also experience a better quality of life. In brief, the study found that successful ageing was influenced by physical function and health, lifestyle, and psychological status.
As defined by the Australian Psychological Society “successful ageing” involves the maintenance of mental, physical and social health. To minimise disability or ill health as we age we can undertake actions such as:
Physical Fitness: maintenance of physical strength, ability and resilience. Many of the physical health issues such as cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure may be due to modifiable behaviours rather than the ageing process itself.
Intellectual fitness: keeping the mind engaged, stimulated, challenged and active. This can include learning new things and taking up new hobbies and the acquisition of unfamiliar skills.
Social fitness: remaining socially engaged with family, friends and the wider community. This not only decreases the likelihood of isolation but also enables others to be aware of subtle behavioural changes.
Purpose fitness: this refers to the positive feelings and control over one’s life and maintaining a sense of purpose. In addition, older adults who hold more positive self-perceptions of ageing are more likely to undertake preventative health behaviours.
Attitude to ageing: A longitudinal study of 660 people aged 50 years and over found that the median survival of those with more positive self-perceptions of ageing at baseline was 7.6 years longer than those with negative self-perceptions. Ageing self-perception had a greater impact on survival than did gender, socioeconomic status, loneliness and functional health for the group.
The reason that I frequently read and write about such research is because I find it exciting that so much of how we age is influenced by our own thoughts, attitudes and behaviours.
Once again I ask you to consider how you yourself will age?
Andrews, G., Clark, M. & Luszcz, M. (2002). Successful Aging in the Australian Longitudinal Study of Aging: Applying the MacArthur Model Cross-Nationally. Journal of Social Issues, 58(4), 749-765.
APS (2000). Psychology and Ageing. A position paper prepared for the Australian Psychological Society. Produced by a Working Group for the Directorate of Social Issues- APS: Melbourne.
Levy, B., Slade, M., Kunkel, S. & Kasl, S. (2002). Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(2), 261-270.
Levy, B.R. & Myers, L.M. (2004). Preventative health behaviours influenced by self-perceptions of aging. Preventative Medicine, 39, 625-629.
Admittedly I am not the most flexible person and I find yoga to be a serious challenge, particularly for my calf muscles that have grown accustomed to wearing high heels everyday. In a recent class however I was astounded by the flexibility of a woman who must be in her 80s at least. She is fit, toned, brimming with health and was able to do the most advanced moves in line with the instructor.
This post is not about chastising people who do not exercise or an attempt to make people feel guilty about their behaviour, rather to reiterate the message that healthy ageing needs to encompass activities that take care of your physical as well as your emotional and mental health. Exercise encompasses a wide range of options such as walking, Pilates, swimming, aqua aerobics and yoga. Any activity is better than no activity. Just don’t set your yoga mat up next to the oldest lady in the centre of the room. Without a doubt she will show you up!