As we grow older, we lose strength and muscle mass. However, the cause of age-related muscle weakness and atrophy has remained a mystery.

Scientists at the University of Iowa have discovered the first example of a protein that causes muscle weakness and loss during aging. The protein, ATF4, is a transcription factor that alters gene expression in skeletal muscle, causing reduction of muscle protein synthesis, strength, and mass. The UI study also identifies two natural compounds, one found in apples and one found in green tomatoes, which reduce ATF4 activity in aged skeletal muscle. The findings, which were published online Sept. 3 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, could lead to new therapies for age-related muscle weakness and atrophy.

Today, more than 5.1 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease, a devastating type of dementia that plagues memory and thinking. That number is expected to triple in the coming decades. Moreover, according to a 2012 survey, Americans fear Alzheimer’s more than any other disease.

But studies looking into treatments for Alzheimer’s disease have been frustratingly disappointing. Over the last decade, more than 100 human trials aimed at Alzheimer’s disease treatment have been conducted with little success.

The most recent Australian suicide statistics from 2013 show that, out of the whole population, men aged 85 years and over have the highest suicide rates. While the attention these figures have garnered is a positive sign, this is hardly a new phenomenon.

Over 38 men in every 100,000 of that age group die by suicide, which is more than double the rate among men under 35. The rate is around seven times higher than in women of all ages.

People around the world are living longer, even in some of the poorest countries, but a complex mix of fatal and nonfatal ailments causes a tremendous amount of health loss, according to a new analysis of all major diseases and injuries in 188 countries.

Thanks to marked declines in death and illness caused by HIV/AIDS and malaria in the past decade and significant advances made in addressing communicable, maternal, neonatal, and nutritional disorders, health has improved significantly around the world. Global life expectancy at birth for both sexes rose by 6.2 years (from 65.3 in 1990 to 71.5 in 2013), while healthy life expectancy, or HALE, at birth rose by 5.4 years (from 56.9 in 1990 to 62.3 in 2013).

One in five older people who drink alcohol are consuming it at unsafe levels - over 21 units of alcohol for men and 14 units for women each week - according to a study by King's College London. The research in inner-city London, published in BMJ Open, found these unsafe older drinkers are more likely to be of higher socioeconomic status.

The researchers used anonymised electronic GP health records for 27,991 people aged 65 and over in the Borough of Lambeth in London. From these records, they identified 9,248 older people who had reported consuming alcohol and of these 1,980 people drank at unsafe levels.

In human cells, shortened telomeres, the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes, are both a sign of aging and contribute to it. Scientists at Emory University School of Medicine have found that the dietary supplement alpha lipoic acid (ALA) can stimulate telomerase, the enzyme that lengthens telomeres, with positive effects in a mouse model of atherosclerosis.

"Alpha-lipoic acid has an essential role in mitochondria, the energy-generating elements of the cell," says senior author Wayne Alexander, MD, PhD, professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. "It is widely available and has been called a 'natural antioxidant'. Yet ALA's effects in human clinical studies have been a mixed bag."

Studies that deliberately exclude older adults from their samples render older adults' sexuality invisible. shutterstock

By Sue Malta, University of Melbourne

Testing the saliva of healthy older people for the level of the stress hormone cortisol may help identify individuals who should be screened for problems with thinking skills, according to a study published in Neurology. The study found that people with higher levels of cortisol in the evening were more likely to have a smaller total brain volume and to perform worse on tests of thinking and memory skills.

Just a little moderate to vigorous physical activity-below the recommended amount-every week still seems to curb the risk of death among the over 60s, suggests a recent analysis.

While cognitive abilities naturally diminish as part of the normal aging process, it may be possible to take a bite out of this expected decline.

Eating a group of specific foods known as the MIND diet may slow cognitive decline among aging adults, even when the person is not at risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, according to researchers at Rush University Medical Center. This finding is in addition to a previous study by the research team that found that the MIND diet may reduce a person's risk in developing Alzheimer's disease.