Greater muscle strength – better cognitive function for older people

Senior Couple Stretching at the Gym

Greater muscle strength is associated with better cognitive function in ageing men and women, according to a new Finnish study. The association of extensively measured upper and lower body muscle strength with cognitive function was observed, but handgrip strength was not associated with cognitive function. Cognition refers to brain functions relating to receiving, storing, processing and using information. The findings were published in European Geriatric Medicine.

The study population comprised 338 men and women with an average age of 66 years. Their muscle strength was measured utilising handgrip strength, three lower body exercises such as leg extension, leg flexion and leg press and two upper body exercises such as chest press and seated row. Sum scores to depict lower body and upper body muscle strength were calculated separately, and cognitive function was assessed using the CERAD neuropsychological test battery with calculated total score.

Handgrip strength is relatively easy and fast to measure, and it has been widely used as a measure of muscle strength in various studies. However, this new study could not demonstrate an association between muscle strength and cognitive function when using a model based on mere handgrip strength and age. Instead, an association between muscle strength and cognitive function was observed only when sum scores depicting upper or lower body muscle strength were included in the model.

‘The findings suggest that it may be justified to go beyond the handgrip and to include the upper and lower body when measuring muscle strength, as this may better reflect the association between muscle strength and cognition,’ says Early Stage Researcher Heikki Pentikäinen, the first author of the article, who is currently preparing a PhD thesis on the topic for the University of Eastern Finland.

Exercise is known to have various health benefits, and strength training is a way for practically everyone to increase muscle mass and enhance muscle strength. However, the association of muscle strength with various aspects of cognitive function is a relatively under-researched area. The study provided new insight into the methodology of measuring muscle strength and into the role of muscle strength in cognitive function. The study constituted part of the extensive, population-based DR’s EXTRA study, which was a four-year randomised and controlled intervention study analysing the effects of exercise and nutrition on endothelial function, atherosclerosis and cognition. The study was carried out at Kuopio Research Institute of Exercise Medicine in 2005–2011 and it involved more than 1,400 men and women living in the eastern part of Finland.

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College of Medicine calls for student essays on sustainable healthcare

The College of Medicine is currently accepting entries from students of all health and social care professions for the esteemed Michael Pittilo Essay Prize 2017.

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First launched in 2010, the Michael Pittilo Essay Prize recognises and celebrates the integration of conventional and complementary approaches to healthcare.

Entries are open to UK students studying any healthcare discipline at degree level or above, including CAM therapies that are statutory regulated or on an Accredited Register, approved by the Professional Standards Authority.

The College of Medicine’s summer conference will this year explore ways in which sustainability is redefining our health system and to correspond with this theme the essay question for the Michael Pittilo Prize is:

‘How can patients, communities, healthcare professionals and governing bodies work together to ensure sustainability of the healthcare system?’

Essays (1,500 words) need to be submitted by 9 July 2017 to lauren.quinn@collegeofmedicine.org.uk

The FHT is delighted to have been a member of the judging panel for eight consecutive years and looks forward to publishing the winning essay in International Therapist.

Read the winning essay from 2016

Is reflexology the answer to hot flashes in menopausal women?

Hot flashes (also known as hot flushes) are a common menopausal complaint and have a negative impact on the quality of life of many women.

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While HRT (hormone replacement therapy) is said to be very effective at relieving menopausal symptoms – and hot flashes and night sweats in particular – the treatment is known to have a number of potential side effects, ranging from headaches and vaginal bleeding to an increased risk of blood clots and breast cancer in some women.1 For this reason, it is understood that many in the postmenopausal period search for natural alternatives to help them manage their symptoms.2

A study recently published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice2 aimed to identify the effects of foot reflexology when applied to menopausal women on vasomotor complaints and quality of life.

The study involved 120 women attending a menopause polyclinic in Turkey, in the menopause, premenopause or postmenopause phase, and experiencing untreated hot flashes at least three times a day. They were randomly assigned to either the experimental or control group (58 and 62 women, respectively). Those in the experimental group received two 25-minute sessions of the Ingham method of reflexology, once a week for six weeks. Those in the control group received two 25-minute foot massages, once a week for six weeks.

Data was collected through an identification and assessment form, Visual Analogue Scale (VAS), Menopause-Specific Quality of Life Questionnaire (MENQOL) and hot flash diaries.

The results showed that hot flashes, sweats and night sweats decreased in both groups, however the women receiving reflexology demonstrated a statistically significant larger decrease compared to those in the foot massage group. Reflexology also significantly improved problems in the sexual domain (for example, alterations in sexual desire and sex avoidance).

 

References

  1. NHS Choices. (2015) Treating symptoms of the menopause. See: nhs.uk/Conditions/Menopause/Pages/Treatment.aspx (accessed 15 December 2016).
  2. Gozuyesil E, Baser M. (2016) The effect of foot reflexology applied to women aged between 40 and 60 on vasometer complaints and quality of life. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 24: 78-85.

New research on how to stay cool during heatwaves

Brighton University is researching ways the elderly can stay cool during heatwaves.

Elderly stay cool during heatwave

Visits to hospital emergency rooms for the treatment of heatstroke have been increasing in recent years due to fluctuations in the weather, resulting in mini-heatwaves. Brighton University is conducting research to understand the risk of developing heatstroke in the elderly, one of the population’s most vulnerable groups.

By monitoring volunteers in different environments, such as doing housework, and light to moderate exercise, and evaluating factors such as blood pressure and heart rate, they hope to develop an understanding of the risks of developing a heatstroke based illness.

Dr Neil Maxwell, Head of the University’s centre for sport and exercise science and medicine said; “The key aspect of improving heat sensitivity in a vulnerable population is knowing when they require an intervention. Therefore, specific interventions and advice can be provided to alleviate heat strain within the population”.

To find out more, read the full article here.

Complementary therapies included in pregnancy guidelines

Complementary therapy has been highlighted as potentially helpful for the management of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy and hyperemesis gravidarum, in guidelines by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

Nausea

The guidelines on the management of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy and hyperemesis gravidarum cite a study by FHT expert adviser, Denise Tiran, providing evidence for the efficacy of ginger. It suggests that ‘oral ginger was more effective than placebo in reducing nausea and vomiting.’

In addition, acupressure was also revealed to have potential for alleviating nausea and vomiting in pregnant women. The guidelines cite a systematic review that addressed the efficacy of acustimulations (i.e. acupuncture, acupressure and electrical stimulation), which included 14 studies that demonstrated that acupressure applied by finger pressure or wristband reduced nausea and vomiting in pregnancy.

Read the guidelines here

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Study reveals low impact ecotherapy creates positivity in cancer patients

Low impact and cost effective ecotherapy activities, such as indoor gardening, can help instill feelings of positivity and control in cancer patients, according to research by University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s (UWTSD) academics.

Ecotherapy Study Team

Ecotherapy refers to the practice of encouraging individuals to engage in nature-based activities as a therapeutic method in order to gain physical and psychological benefits. These benefits are well documented, however, active outdoor activities are not always possible for people who are undergoing treatment for cancer or who are recovering from surgery.

Funded by the cancer charity Tenovus Cancer Care, academics from UWTSD’s School of Psychology in Swansea have conducted research to explore whether the known benefits of nature-based activities can be replicated in a low-cost, low-impact way. It was supported by Swansea-based Horticulturalist Julie Bowen from Gower Tree, Shrub and Plant Centre.

During the study, seven women with a breast cancer diagnosis were encouraged to cultivate and care for their own indoor garden bowl for a period of three months. They were also asked to record their daily experience of nurturing the bowl in a diary and to capture significant moments in photographs.

The results of the study revealed several main themes that suggested the participants found the process to be therapeutic. These are:

  • Reflecting their cancer journey –The bowl appeared to evoke reflection about their cancer journey and their daily changes in their own emotions and feelings.
  • A source of positivity – Looking after the bowl helped to create positive feelings of hope, pride and responsibility.
  • Making meaning through memories – A number of participants personalised their bowls with mementos of personal significance that produced positive memories.

The findings have been published in an online paper which can be accessed via ecancer.org/

Dr Ceri Phelps, co-author of the paper and Head of Psychology at UWTSD, said: ‘The take-home message from this unique study is that firstly, psychosocial interventions do not have to be complex, labour-intensive to deliver or costly; and secondly that we need to recognise the importance of providing psychosocial support to those affected by cancer at all stages of their cancer journey – often way beyond diagnosis and initial survivorship. We would like to thank all of the women who kindly agreed to take part in this study.”

Breakthrough in fighting liver disease

The University of Brighton is sharing in a €5.9m EU grant to support the development of a new treatment for chronic liver disease as part of a European consortium led by University College London. 

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Cirrhosis of the liver affects 29 million Europeans, claims 170,000 lives every year and costs the EU almost €16bn.There are several causes of liver disease but the increasing incidence of obesity and excessive alcohol consumption is causing a rapid rise in the number of cases seen across Europe.

Changes in the bacteria that populate the gut in patients with liver disease make the condition worse and leads to a range of additional health complications. Current treatments include the use of antibiotics to kill the gut bacteria but the long-term use of these drugs can result in antibiotic resistance and can be very costly.

The University of Brighton’s School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences will receive £189,751 of the grant for laboratory work to assist with trials of a new and safe nanoporous carbon that acts in the gut to reduce the entrance of bacterial products into the blood which exacerbate liver injury.

The school’s Dr Susan Sandeman said: ‘In cirrhosis, current therapy to prevent recurrent complications of advanced cirrhosis is to use poorly-absorbed antibiotics. But long-term antibiotic therapy has problems associated with bacterial resistance and this can prove costly.

‘We will be part of a consortium investigating the safety and efficacy of this novel nanoporous carbon in patients with liver disease and developing an innovative and cost-effective strategy for disease management.’

The EU research project, called CARBALIVE, has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement number 634579.

Read more about the University of Brighton’s research into biomaterials and medical devices.