At the age of 64 Diana Nyad has just completed a 110 mile Labor Day weekend swim from Havana, Cuba to Key Wes, Florida, the first person to do so without a shark cage, an extraordinary achievement at any age, especially for someone who will become a senior citizen in less than a year. Nearly fifty three hours after beginning her trek, spectators waded into waist deep water to greet her arrival. She responded to the crowd by stating, “We should never, ever give up…you're never too old to chase your dream.”
Nyad's first major long distance swim was in 1975, 28 miles around the island of Manhattan which she finished in less than eight hours. Four years later she upped the distance to 102 miles from the Bimini in the Bahamas, to Juno Beach, Florida, which she completed in 27 ½ hours.
This was Nyad's fifth attempt at attempting the crossing Her first try in 1978 was within a shark cage, but eight foot swells kept battering her against the walls of the cage. Other attempts were foiled by Portuguese man of war stings and lighting strikes. This time she wore a full body suit for protection against jelly fish.
Memory Molecule Linked to Senior Moments
If you seem to be forgetting more as you age, a shortage of the forgettably named protein RbAp48 may be to blame. More importantly, adding this protein can reverse memory loss, at least in mice as reported in the current issue of Science Translational Medicine.
Columbia University neurologist Scott Small, one of the study's authors, along Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel discovered the protein while doing autopsies on brains of eight people from 33 to 88. The researchers examined the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in forming, organizing and storing memory. The scientists looked for molecular changes in the brain as people aged and found that a protein, RbAp48, diminished over time.
To show that the molecule was responsible for memory loss, the scientists found a way to reduce the level in young mice. "What was remarkable is that if you just manipulate this one molecule in this particular area of the brain, you now have a young mouse that looks very much like an old mouse," Small said.
These young mice developed difficulty in remembering how they had successfully navigated a maze. To prove that this molecule was responsible for the changes, researchers then boosted levels of RbAp48 in old mice that had faulty memory. "Their ability to detect novel objects went back to the way a young mouse is able to perform that task," Small said.
The study offers hope that someday humans will be able to restore their own RbAp48. It must be noted that this effect is separate from any memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease, but discovery of this protein does offer hope to those of us who habitually forget where we leave our car keys.
People who suffer from depression past the age of 50 are at double the risk of developing dementia from either Alzheimer's Disease or transient ischemic attacks, miniature strokes. The conclusion was published in the July 1 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry and arose from from a meta-analysis of 23 earlier studies. Meryl A. Butters, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, was the lead author of the study. She wasn’t sure why there was a link. She speculated that it might be due to production of the stress hormone cortisol creating an adverse effect on the hippocampus and its memories. “It just so happens that the hippocampus has lots of cortisol receptors," Butters said. "So it may be that if you have high levels of cortisol circulating for long periods of time, they can sort of burn out, for lack of a better term, and die and then the hippocampus shrinks."
A recent study of 17,478 people shows that following a Mediterranean diet can reduced cognitive decline by as much as 19 percent,. "Since there are no definitive treatments for most dementing illnesses, modifiable activities, such as diet, that may delay the onset of symptoms of dementia are very important," said Georgios Tsivgoulis, MD, the study’s lead author with the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Athens, Greece.
The study was published in the April 30 issue of Neurology. The researchers examined dietary information from study participants with an average age of 64. Over the course of 4 years, the subjects were given thinking and memory. Seven percent of the participants developed cognitive impairments, but those adhering to a Mediterranean diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids with nuts fresh fruits and vegetables with less saturated fat did significantly better than other participants.
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fMouse photo by Aneczka Bazant, Depression by Julia Freeman-Woolpert, Greek salad by Logis