Parasitic Infections May Prevent Disease And Aging On DWN RESEARCH | Dialysis World Nigeria - DWN
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Parasitic Infections May Prevent Disease And Aging On DWN RESEARCH
Date Posted: 07/Feb/2021   Deadline: 07/Feb/2009


Through centuries of evolution, the human body and its surrounding environments have adapted to improve health and promote longevity. For example, the increasing emphasis on hygiene has been effective in combating parasites that cause disease.




 




These changes have been crucial, as evidenced by the greater life expectancies and lower disease rates in certain regions of the world. However, these benefits come with trade-offs.




 




Parasites and humans share a long history of coexistence. It is likely that the human immune function developed in relation to parasitic mechanisms.




 




The “old friends” hypothesis states that these parasites were like old friends of the human body that helped improve tolerance and function and that their decline led to a higher prevalence of allergic responses and autoimmune conditions.




 




This decline may also promote inflammaging, which is a chronic form of inflammation that worsens with progressing age. Inflammaging contributes to several age-related conditions, such as dementia, cancer, osteoporosis, and heart disease.




 




One recent study shows that inflammaging may exacerbate symptoms of COVID-19, as well.




 




Bruce Zhang and Dr. David Gems, from the Institute of Healthy Ageing at University College London in the United Kingdom, conducted a review of the existing literature to explore the use of parasite worms as a therapy to reverse conditions linked to inflammaging. This review article appears in the journal eLife.




 




The authors focused their research on a specific group of parasitic worms called helminths, which include roundworms, tapeworms, and flukes. These parasites live inside host organisms, such as human bodies, and take advantage of their immune responses in order to survive.




 




These findings also provide a glimpse into the intricacies of the human body’s immune functions




 




Scientists associate the decline of helminths with multiple inflammatory conditions that occur earlier in life. These include asthma, eczema, multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and type 1 diabetes.




 




Current evidence supports the idea that both natural and deliberate infection with helminths can combat these inflammatory conditions.




 




Indeed, in 1976, researcher J. A. Turton published a report in which he explained that his hookworm infection reduced the severity of his allergies.




 




A more recent study — which Marc Charabati, of the University of Montreal in Canada, led — showed that infecting mice with helminths eased their MS symptoms.




 




Although these findings suggest that restorative helminth therapy may address pre-aging inflammatory conditions, the question of whether or not it can prevent conditions that occur in older age remains.




 




A key characteristic of inflammaging is a consistent increase in pro-inflammatory proteins in the blood. Multiple experiments have shown that helminth infection can suppress levels of these pro-inflammatory proteins.




 




In contrast, administering anthelmintic treatments — which can kill helminths — increased the inflammatory response of these proteins.




 




Although the direct administration of helminths can be beneficial, it can also cause undesired infections. A viable alternative is to utilize the molecular components of helminth mechanisms.




 




One experiment, which Jenny Crowe and others at the University of Glasgow in the U.K. conducted, incorporated this concept in a mouse model that ate a high calorie diet. Specifically, the team administered a protein called ES-62, which is an anti-inflammatory molecule derived from roundworm secretion.




 




They found that ES-62 prevented both the degradation of the gut barrier and the enlargement of fat tissue, which are mechanisms that contribute to inflammaging.




 




The mice also showed a 12% increase in their median lifespan. This suggests that ES-62 was able to suppress inflammaging and limit health-related age acceleration.




 




Similar studies have indicated the effectiveness of helminths and helminth-secreted products in protecting against rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, and type 2 diabetes.




 




There is also some evidence that points to helminth therapy in cancer resistance. A few studies in mice have shown that tapeworms prevented the formation of colon tumors.




 




However, it is important to note that certain helminths can cause cancer, as well. For example, the trematode parasite Schistosoma haematobium can cause bladder cancer.




 




Although these studies do not confirm that helminths can directly reduce inflammaging, they do show the ability of helminths to protect against the processes that ultimately lead to it




 




Zhang and Dr. Gems raise important questions regarding helminth therapy research. These include: “What are optimal ages to apply such therapy to reduce inflammaging? Would helminth therapy act only in a preventive fashion (typical of anti-aging treatments), or could it reverse existing disease symptoms?”




 




They also state the necessity of understanding the pathways that shape anti-inflammaging properties.




 




As Dr. Gems says, “In the wake of successes during the last century in eliminating the evils of helminth infections, the time now seems propitious to explore further their possible benefits, particularly for our aging population — strange though this may sound.




 




A parasite is an organism that lives in another organism, called the host, and often harms it. It depends on its host for survival.




 




Without a host, a parasite cannot live, grow and multiply. For this reason, it rarely kills the host, but it can spread diseases, and some of these can be fatal.




 




Parasites, unlike predators, are usually much smaller than their host and they reproduce at a faster rate.




 




 




Fast facts on parasites




Parasites live on or in other organisms and thrive to the detriment of their host.




Many different parasites can affect humans, and they can pass on diseases such as malaria and trichomoniasis.




Ensuring that food is fully cooked, using insect repellant, and following good hand hygiene rules can reduce the risk of getting parasites.




 




A parasite is an organism that lives within or on a host. The host is another organism.




 




The parasite uses the host’s resources to fuel its life cycle. It uses the host’s resources to maintain itself.




 




Parasites vary widely. Around 70 percent are not visible to the human eye, such as the malarial parasite, but some worm parasites can reach over 30 meters in length.




 




Parasites are not a disease, but they can spread diseases. Different parasites have different effects.




Endoparasite




 




These live inside the host. They include heartworm, tapeworm, and flatworms. An intercellular parasite lives in the spaces within the host’s body, within the host’s cells. They include bacteria and viruses.




 




Endoparasites rely on a third organism, known as the vector, or carrier. The vector transmits the endoparasite to the host. The mosquito is a vector for many parasites, including the protozoan known as Plasmodium, which causes malaria.




Epiparasite




 




These feed on other parasites in a relationship known as hyperparasitism. A flea lives on a dog, but the flea may have a protozoan in its digestive tract. The protozoan is the hyperparasite.




Types




 




There are three main types of parasites.




 




Protozoa: Examples include the single-celled organism known as Plasmodium. A protozoa can only multiply, or divide, within the host.




 




Helminths: These are worm parasites. Schistosomiasis is caused by a helminth. Other examples include roundworm, pinworm, trichina spiralis, tapeworm, and fluke.




 




Ectoparasites: These live on, rather than in their hosts. They include lice and fleas.




 




Symptoms




 




There are many types of parasite, and symptoms can vary widely. Sometimes these may resemble the symptoms of other conditions, such as a hormone deficiency, pneumonia, or food poisoning.




 




Symptoms that might occur include:




 




skin bumps or rashes




weight loss, increased appetite, or both




abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting




sleeping problems




anemia




aches and pains




allergies




weakness and general feeling unwell




fever




 




However, parasites can pass on a wide variety of conditions, so symptoms are hard to predict.




 




Often there are no symptoms, or symptoms appear long after infection, but the parasite can still be transmitted to another person, who may develop symptoms.




Human parasites




 




Many types of parasites can affect humans. Here are some examples of parasites and the diseases they can cause.




Acanthamoebiasis




 




This tiny ameba can affect the eye, the skin, and the brain. It exists all over the world in water and soil. Individuals can become infected if they clean contact lenses with tap water.




Babesiosis




 




This disease that comes from parasites that are spread by ticks. It affects the red blood cells. The risk is highest in summer in the Northeast and upper Midwest of the United States.




Balantidiasis




 




This is passed on by Balatidium coli, a single-cell parasite that usually infects pigs but can, in rare cases, cause intestinal infection in humans. It can be spread through direct contact with pigs or by drinking contaminated water, usually in tropical regions.




Blastocystosis




 




This affects the intestines. The blastocystis enters humans through the fecal-oral route. A person can get it by eating food or drink contaminated with human or animal feces where the parasite is present.




Coccidiosis




 




This affects the intestines. Coccidia is passed on through the fecal-oral route. It is found around the world. It can also affect dogs and cats, but these are different kinds. Dogs, cats, and humans cannot normally infect each other.




Amoebiasis




 




This is caused by the parasite Entamoeba histolytica. It affects the intestines. It is more likely in tropical regions and in areas with high population density and poor sanitation. It is transmitted through the fecal-oral route.




Giardiasis




 




Giardia, or “beaver fever” affects the lumen of the small intestine. If humans ingest food or water contaminated with feces, dormant cysts may infect the body.




 




Isosporiasis or cystosporiasis




 




This disease is caused by the Cystoisospora belli, previously known as Isospora belli. It affects the epithelial cells of the small intestine. It exists worldwide and is both treatable and preventable. It is passed on through the fecal-oral route.




Leishmaniasis




 




This is a disease that is passed on by parasites of the Leishmania family. It can affect the skin, the viscera, or the mucous membranes of the nose, mouth, and throat. It can be fatal. The parasite is transmitted by types of sandflies.




Primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM)




 




This is passed on through a free-living ameba known as Naegleria fowleri. It affects the brain and the nervous system, and it is nearly always fatal within 1 to 18 days. It is transmitted through breathing in contaminated soil, swimming pools, and contaminated water, but not from drinking water.




Malaria




 




Different types of plasmodium affect the red blood cells. It exists in tropical regions and is transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito.




Rhinosporidiosis




 




This is caused by Rhinosporidium seeberi. It mainly affects the mucous of the nose, conjunctiva, and urethra. It is more common in India and Sri Lanka but can occur elsewhere. Polyps result in nasal masses that need to be removed through surgery. Bathing in common ponds can expose the nasal mucous to the parasite.




Toxoplasmosis




 




This is a parasitic pneumonia caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. It affects the liver, heart, eyes and brain. It occurs worldwide. People can become infected after ingesting raw or undercooked pork, lamb, goat, or milk, or though contact with food or soil that is contaminated with cat feces.




 




A person with a healthy immune system will not usually have symptoms, but it can pose a risk during pregnancy and for those with a weakened immune system.




Trichomoniasis




 




Also known as “trich” this is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. It affects the female urogenital tract. It can exist in males, but usually without symptoms.




Trypanomiasis (Sleeping sickness)




 




This is passed on when the tetse fly transmits a parasite of the Trypanosoma family. It affects the central nervous system, blood, and lymph. It leads to changes in sleep behavior, among other symptoms, and it is considered fatal without treatment. It can cross the placenta and infect a fetus during pregnancy.




Chagas disease




 




This affects the blood, muscle, nerves, heart, esophagus and colon. It is transmitted through an insect bite. Over 300,000 people in the U.S. have the parasite that can lead to this disease.




Worms




 




Worms, or helminth organisms, can affect humans and animals.




 




Anisakiasis: This is caused by worms that can invade the intestines or the stomach wall. The worms are passed on through contaminated fresh or undercooked fish and squid.




 




Roundworm: Ascariasis, or a roundworm infection, does not usually cause symptoms, but the worm may be visible in feces. It enters the body through consuming contaminated food or drink.




 




Raccoon roundworm: Baylisascaris is passed on through raccoon stools. It can affect the brain, lungs, liver, and intestines. It occurs in North America. People are advised not to keep raccoons as pets for this reason.




 




Clonorchiasis: Also known as Chinese liver fluke disease, this affects the gall bladder. Humans can become infected after ingesting raw or poorly processed or preserved freshwater fish.




 




Dioctophyme renalis infection: The giant kidney worm can move through the wall of the stomach to the liver and eventually the kidney. Humans can become infected after eating the eggs of the parasite in raw or undercooked freshwater fish.




 




Diphyllobothriasis tapeworm: This affects the intestines and blood. Humans can become infected after eating raw fish that live wholly or partly in fresh water. Prevalence has increased in some parts of the developed world, possibly due to the growing popularity of sushi, salted fillets, ceviche, and other raw-fish dishes.




 




Guinea worm: This affects subcutaneous tissues and muscle and causes blisters and ulcers. The worm may be visible in the blister. As the worms are shed or removed, they enter the soil or water, and are passed on from there.




 




Hookworm: These can cause intestinal disease. They lay their eggs in soil and the larvae can penetrate the skin of humans. Early symptoms include itching and a rash. They are most common in damp places with poor sanitation.




 




Hymenolepiasis: Humans can become infected by ingesting material contaminated by rodents, cockroaches, mealworms, and flour beetles.




 




Echinococcosis tapeworm: Cystic echinococcosis can lead to cysts in the liver and lungs, and alveolar echinococcosis can cause a tumor in the liver. Humans can be infected after eating foods contaminated by the feces of an infected animal, or from direct contact with an animal.




 




Enterobiasis pinworm: A pinworm, or threadworm, Enterobius vermicularis can live in the colon and rectum of humans. The worm lays eggs around the anus while a person sleeps, leading to itching. It spreads through the oral-fecal route.




 




Fasciolosis liver fluke: This affects the gall bladder and liver. It is common in countries where cattle or sheep are reared, but rare in the U.S. It can affect the liver and the bile ducts and it causes gastrointestinal symptoms. It passes from one mammal to another through snails. A person may get it from eating watercress, for example.




 




Fasciolopsiasis intestinal fluke: This affects the intestines. It can also transmitted when consuming contaminated water plants or water.




 




Gnathostomiasis: This causes swellings under the skin, and occasionally affects the liver, the eyes, and the nervous system. It is rare, but it can be fatal. It occurs in Southeast Asia. It is transmitted by eating freshwater fish, pigs, snails, frogs, and chicken.




 




Loa loa filariasis: Also known as loaisis, this is caused by the Loa loa worm, or African eye worm. It causes itchy swellings on the body. It occurs mainly in Central and West Africa and is transmitted through deerfly bites.




 




Mansonellosis: This is passed on through the bites of midges or blackflies. It affects the layers under the surface of the skin, but it can enter the blood. It can lead to angioedema, swellings, skin rash, fever, and joint problems. It is present in Africa and Cental America.




 




River blindness: Caused by a worm known as Onchocerca volvulus, this affects the eyes, skin, and other body tissues. It is found near fast flowing water. It is transmitted through the bite of a blackfly. It occurs in South America, but 90 percent of cases are in Africa.




 




Lung fluke: Also known as paragonimiasis, this affects the lungs, causing symptoms similar to those of tuberculosis (TB). However, it can reach the central nervous system, leading to meningitis. It is transmitted when eating undercooked or raw freshwater crabs, crayfishes, and other crustaceans. It is most common in parts of Asia.




 




Schistosomiasis, bilharzia, or snail fever: There are different types of schistosomiasis. They can affect the skin and internal organs. It results from exposure to fresh water that has snails in it that are infected with the blood fluke, or trematode worm. The worms are not found in the U.S. but they are common worldwide.




 




Sparganosis: Humans can become infected if they eat foods tainted with dog or cat feces that contains the larvae of a tapeworm of the Spirometra family. It can lead to a migrating abscess under the skin. It is rare.




 




Strongyloidiasis: This can lead to severe and possibly fatal immunodeficiency. The parasite penetrates through the skin and affects the lungs, skin, and intestines. It is passed on through direct contact with contaminated soil. It most occurs in tropical and subtropical regions.




 




Beef and pork tapeworms: Taeniasis is caused by tapeworms of the taenia family. They affect the intestines. They are passed on by eating undercooked beef or pork.




 




Toxocariasis: A roundworm transmits this infection from animals to humans. It affects the eyes, brain, and liver. It is caused by accidentally swallowing the eggs of the parasite, for example, when young children play with soil. Nearly 14 percent of people in the U.S. have antibodies, suggesting that millions have been exposed. Most never have symptoms.




 




Trichinosis: This is caused by the roundworm of the Trichinella family. Infection can lead to intestinal symptoms, fever, and muscle aches. It is passed on by eating undercooked meat.




 




Whipworm: Also known as trichuriasis, whipworms live in the large intestine. Eggs are passed in feces. It is common all over the world. Humans can become infected when ingesting the eggs, for example on unwashed fruit or vegetables.




 




Elephantiasis lymphatic filariasis: This is transmitted through mosquito bites. The adult worms live in the lymph system. Infection can lead to lyphedema and elephantiasis, in which swelling can cause disfigurement and disability. In the Americas, it is passed on by the Culex quinquefasciatus mosquito.




 




Ringworm is sometimes mistaken for a worm, but it is not a worm. It is a fungal infection.




 




Ectoparasites




 




These are parasites that live on the outside of the body, such as fleas.




 




Bedbug: These can affect the skin and vision. They are found all over the world. Sharing clothing and bedding can spread infection. They may be present in newly rented accommodation and hotel rooms.




 




Body lice: These are common worldwide. Infection can spread through sexual activity, skin-to-skin contact, and sharing bedding or clothing.




 




Crab lice: These affect the pubic area and eyelashes. They are common all over the world and spread through sexual activity, skin-to-skin contact, and sharing bedding or clothing.




 




Demodex: These affect the eyebrow and eyelashes. They are common all over the world and can spread through prolonged skin contact.




 




Scabies: This affects the skin. It is common all over the world and can spread through sexual activity, skin-to-skin contact, and sharing bedding or clothing.




 




Screwworm: This is transmitted by a fly, and it affects skin and wounds. It is found in Central America and North Africa.




 




Head lice: These live on the scalp and affect the hair follicles. They are common all over the world and spread through head-to-head contact. A reaction to their saliva causes itching.




 




Parasites come in many shapes and sizes and can lead to a wide variety of symptoms and health issues. Some parasites are treatable and others are not.




Prevention




 




To increase your chance of avoiding parasites:




 




find out which kind are prevalent in your area or in locations you may travel




take precautions, for example, using insect repellant in places where mosquitoes are common




be careful to eat only well-cooked fish and meat




when traveling, drink only water from bottles with a sealed top




take care when bathing in fresh-water lakes or rivers




 




If you have any symptoms, see a doctor.




In the United States




 




According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the following parasitic infections are common in the U.S.:




 




neurocysticercosis




Chagas disease




toxocariasis




toxoplasmosis




trichomoniasis, or trich




 




The CDC is working to increase awareness of these diseases and to improve diagnostic testing.




 




Medical myths: All about aging




 




In the latest installment of our Medical Myths series, we tackle myths associated with aging. Because aging is inevitable and, for some people, frightening, it is no surprise that myths abound.




 




Around 300,000 generations ago, the human species split from an ancient ancestor that we share with chimpanzees. Since then, human life expectancy at birth has doubled.




 




Over the last 200 years, life expectancy at birth has doubled again. As animals go, humans perform well in longevity.




 




According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Between 2000 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years will double from about 11% to 22%.”




 




With these facts in mind, dispelling the many myths associated with aging seems more pressing than at any point in our evolutionary history. In this article, we will tackle myths associated with exercise, cognitive ability, sex, and more.




 




1. Physical deterioration is inevitable




 




This is not entirely untrue. As we age, our body does experience wear and tear from decades of use. However, physical deterioration does not have to be complete, and people can often slow it down.




 




As the WHO explain, “Increased physical activity and improving diet can effectively tackle many of the problems frequently associated with old age.” These problems include reduced strength, increased body fat, high blood pressure, and reduced bone density.




 




Some research suggests that merely expecting physical deterioration increases the likelihood that someone will physically deteriorate.




 




In one study, scientists surveyed 148 older adults about their aging, lifestyles, and general health expectations.




 




They concluded that expectations regarding aging “play an important role in the adoption of physically active lifestyles in older adults and may influence health outcomes, such as physical function.”




 




So, although some deterioration is likely, managing expectations will help individuals make better life choices to maintain physical health and fitness later in life.




 




An older study investigated how perceptions of aging influenced an individual’s likelihood of seeking medical attention. The authors of the study, which included data from 429 older adults, concluded:




 




“[H]aving low expectations regarding aging was independently associated with not believing it important to seek health care.”




 




Another study looked at individual attitudes to aging during late middle-age and how they might influence their overall lifespan. The authors concluded that “older individuals with more positive self-perceptions of aging, measured up to 23 years earlier, lived 7.5 years longer than those with less positive self-perceptions of aging.”




 




In short, keeping active, eating right, and maintaining a positive outlook can often slow the physical deterioration associated with older age.




2. Older adults should not exercise




 




From the previous section, it is clear that this is a myth. According to an older article in Neuropsychobiology, keeping active can boost muscle strength, reduce fat, and improve mental health.




 




Some people think that, once they reach a certain age, there is no point in exercising, as they believe that it will provide no benefit. This is another myth. In one study, researchers put 142 adults aged 60–80 through a 42-week weight-lifting regime.




 




The scientists found that the course increased “dynamic muscle strength, muscle size, and functional capacity.”




 




There is also good evidence that regular exercise can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. A study, which involved 1,740 older adults, found that regular exercise was “associated with a delay in onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”




 




However, people should consult their doctor before embarking on a new exercise regime if they have a medical condition. For example, the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom indicate that people with certain conditions associated with age, such as osteoporosis, should avoid high impact exercise.




 




However, the vast majority of older adults can indulge in some form of physical activity.




3. Older adults need less (or more) sleep




 




Some people believe that older adults need more sleep than younger adults, perhaps because of the stereotype that older people enjoy a nap. Others say that older adults need less sleep, which might stem from the stereotype that older adults rise early in the morning.




 




These myths are relatively difficult to unpick because there are many factors involved. It is undoubtedly true that older adults have more difficulty getting to sleep and that their sleep tends to be more fragmented.




 




This might help explain why some older adults need to nap in the day. As the human body changes with age, it can disrupt the circadian (daily) rhythms.




 




This, in turn, can impact sleep. The relationship is multifaceted, too: if a person’s circadian rhythms become disrupted, it can influence other aspects of their physiology, such as hormone levels, which might also impact their sleep.




 




Aside from circadian disruptions, certain diseases that occur more commonly in older adults, such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, can cause discomfort, which might adversely influence an individual’s ability to get to sleep or stay asleep.




 




Similarly, some conditions cause shortness of breath, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure; this can also make sleeping more challenging.




 




According to an older article, certain medications, including beta-blockers, bronchodilators, corticosteroids, decongestants, and diuretics, can also interfere with sleep. Older adults are more likely to be taking these types of medication, sometimes together.




 




The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) state that people aged 61–64 need 7–9 hours, and people aged 65 or older need 7–8 hours of sleep each night. It just might be more difficult for them to get that all-important shut-eye.




 




As a silver lining, some research suggests that older adults can handle sleep deprivation better than young adults. A study in the Journal of Sleep Research found that older adults scored better following a sleep deprivation intervention than younger adults in a range of measures, including negative affect, depression, confusion, tension, anger, fatigue, and irritability.




4. Only women get osteoporosis




 




Osteoporosis is a condition where bones gradually become weaker. Some people believe that it only affects women. This is not true; it can affect either sex and people of any age. However, osteoporosis is indeed much more common in older people, white people, and females.




 




According to an overview article, the International Osteoporosis Foundation estimate that globally, around 1 in 3 women over 50 have osteoporosis, and about 1 in 5 men will experience a bone fracture related to osteoporosis in their lifetime.




 




Another related myth is that osteoporosis is inevitable for women as they age. As the figures above attest, two-thirds of women over 50 do not have osteoporosis. To minimize risks, the National Institute on Aging advise people to eat foods rich in calcium and vitamin D and exercise regularly.




5. As you age, your brain slows




 




The term cognitive decline refers to a gradual decrease in mental functioning with age, but before we tackle the facts of the matter, we dismiss a couple of associated myths:




Dementia is inevitable as you age




 




According to the WHO, the risk of developing dementia increases with age, but it does not affect all older adults. Worldwide, an estimated 5–8% of people over 60 have dementia. That means that 92%–95% of people aged 60 or older do not have dementia.




 




In the United States, an estimated 13.9% of people over 71 have dementia, meaning that 86.1% of people over 71 do not have dementia.




Cognitive decline leads to dementia




 




Contrary to popular opinion, cognitive decline does not necessarily signal the start of dementia.




 




People who go on to develop dementia tend to experience cognitive decline first. However, not everyone who experiences cognitive decline will develop dementia.




 




One older study estimated that 22.2% of people in the U.S. aged 71 or older experience cognitive decline. Of these, each year, 11.7%–20% develop dementia.




Cognitive decline is inevitable




 




As the above statistics show, cognitive decline is not inevitable, regardless of the long-held myth that older adults experience a mental slowing down. And, importantly, there are ways to reduce the risk.




 




In 2015, the Alzheimer’s Association evaluated the evidence of modifiable risk factors for both dementia and cognitive decline. Their report, presented to the World Dementia Council, explains that “there is sufficient evidence to support the link between several modifiable risk factors and a reduced risk for cognitive decline.”




 




They identified that maintaining regular physical activity and managing classic cardiovascular risk factors, such as diabetes, obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure were strongly associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline.




 




They also found good evidence that a healthful diet and lifelong learning or cognitive training also reduce the risk of cognitive decline.




 




6. There’s no point giving up smoking now




 




Whether this is a genuine myth or merely an excuse, some older adults say that there is no point in giving up smoking at “their age.” This is not true. As the NHS clearly explain:




 




“No matter how long you have smoked for and no matter how many cigarettes you smoke a day, your health will start to improve as soon as you quit. Some health benefits are immediate, some are longer-term, but what matters is that it’s never too late.”




7. Sex is rare or impossible as you age




 




Some people believe that older adults lose their ability to enjoy sex and that their sexual organs become unfit for purpose. This, thankfully, is a myth.




 




It is true that the risk of erectile dysfunction (ED) and vaginal dryness increases as people age, but for most individuals, these are not insurmountable problems.




 




Sildenafil (Viagra) and lubricants or hormone creams can work wonders in many cases. Before taking Viagra, though, it is essential to speak with a doctor, as it is not suitable for everyone.




 




An article in the International Journal of Clinical Practice indicates that around 0.4% of men aged 18–29 experience ED, compared with 11.5% of men aged 60–69. However, flipping that statistic on its head makes it much less daunting — almost 9 out of 10 men in their 60s do not have ED.




 




Intercourse between older people may be less fast and furious, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. As one author writes, “Growing old does not necessarily discontinue a healthy sexual life, but it does call for redefining its expression.”




 




There are certain benefits, too. For instance, a male’s penis often becomes less sensitive, helping them maintain an erection longer.




 




It is true that as some people grow older, they do not have the same sexual desire or drive as when they were young, but this is by no means the case for everyone.




 




To end this section on a high, below is a quote from a survey study that involved 158 older adults. Although the participants reported that they were having less sex than a decade earlier, the authors write:




 




“A remarkably robust sex life was evidenced by both the men and the women, even until advanced old age.”




 




The takehome




 




Overall, most of the myths surrounding age seem to center on inevitability. People believe that it is inevitable that they will gradually crumble into dust as their lives become increasingly unbearable, boring, passionless, and painful.




 




Although certain aspects of health might decline with age, none of the above is inevitable for everyone. As we have discovered, a positive psychological outlook on aging can benefit the physical aspects of aging.




 




Source: MNT, DWN AFRICA.



 

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