Aging

Sex helps in multiple ways, it seems.  New research presented at The Gerontological Society of America's meeting, based on 2004 General Social Surveys, found that the more often older married individuals engage in sexual activity, the more likely they are to be happy with their lives and marriages.

Based on the survey responses of 238 married individuals age 65 years or older, the research showed that frequency of sexual activity was a significant predictor of both general and marital happiness. The association even remained after accounting for factors such as age, gender, health status, and satisfaction with financial situation.

As we reach old age, our bodies undergo several changes. And not for the better. More and more people are beginning to wonder whether we can do something about this. A lot of research is going on to uncover the mechanisms of aging, which should give us a better understanding of the origin of the changes that occur. Some claim that with this understanding comes the increasing possibility that we will actually be able to do something about it.

Biologists working with fruit flies activated a gene called PGC-1, which increases the activity of mitochondria, the tiny power generators in cells that control cell growth and tell cells when to live and die.  Result: it slowed the aging process of the flies' intestines and extended their lives by as much as 50 percent.
 
Fruit flies, Drosophila melanogaster, have a life span of about two months. They start showing signs of aging after about one month - they slow down, become less active and die. They are a good model for studying aging  because scientists know every one of their genes and can switch individual ones on and off.

Higher levels of testosterone have been associated with reduced lean muscle mass loss in older men, especially in those who were losing weight. In thoese men, higher testosterone levels were also associated with less loss of lower body strength.

Loss of muscle mass and strength contribute to frailty and are associated with falls, mobility limitations and fractures. Men also lose more muscle mass and strength than women as they age, suggesting that sex steroids, and testosterone in particular, may contribute to body composition and physical function changes.

Women often gain weight as they age and a new study in Cell Metabolism says the sex hormone estrogen, and estrogen receptor-α (ERα) has an important yet under-appreciated role in those bigger waistlines. 

A study out tomorrow in Nature by researchers from the Institute of Healthy Ageing at the University College of London and colleagues is questioning the anti-aging effects of sirtuin – which is “just”the most important anti-aging gene of the decade - claiming that its capacity to increase longevity was nothing more than an experimental error, and showing that,once the flaws are corrected, sirtuin has no effect on lifespan.

Does playing music lead to less age-related hearing problems or do people without hearing problems continue to play music?

Hearing studies have shown that trained musicians have highly developed auditory abilities compared to non-musicians but a new study concludes hearing abilities in musicians and non-musicians differs, across the age spectrum from 18 to 91 years of age, and that musicians retain a keener ability to  detect and discriminate acoustic information from the environment.

Around 27 million Americans have arthritis, three million of which began with a joint injury that provokes slow and steady cartilage deterioration.

A new study from MIT suggests that glucocorticoid dexamethasone, a steroid drug currently used to treat inflammatory diseases, could also prevent osteoarthritis from ever developing in those people if given soon after the injury.

Successful aging and positive quality of life indicators correlate with sexual satisfaction in older women, according to a report in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society which also shows that self-rated 'successful' aging, quality of life and sexual satisfaction appear to be stable even in the face of declines in physical health of women between the ages of 60 and 89.

The study used 1,235 women enrolled at the San Diego site of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study, an ongoing program funded by the National Institutes of Health which has addressed causes of death, disability and quality of life in more than 160,000 generally healthy, post-menopausal women since 1993.

Weakened immunity is a serious issue for older people. Because our immune systems become less effective as we age we suffer from more infections and these are often more severe. This is an important process that has probably evolved to prevent certain cancers, but as the proportion of inactive cells builds up over time our defenses become weakened. This takes a serious toll on health and quality of life. 

Research in the Journal of Immunology outlines a new mechanism controlling aging in white blood cells. The research opens up the possibility of temporarily reversing the effects of aging on immunity and could, in the future, allow for the short-term boosting of the immune systems of older people.