Mechanisms linking healthy brain and muscle aging in elite octogenarian athletes

I recently listened to a webinar hosted by the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging. Dr. Russell Hepple is the director of McGill Research Centre for Physical Activity and Health. Dr. Hepple did a great job discussing age-related changes to muscle, how this is different in master athletes and links to cognitive function, which I’ve summarized below.

Muscle changes with age

As we age, our muscle mass decreases and is replaced with connective tissue and fat. All muscle fibres atrophy as we age, leading to decreased mobility, ADL ability and coordination.

Some of this is due to not just muscle fibre atrophy, but the replacement of lost muscle fibres with angular muscle fibres. These denervated muscle fibres drive muscle atrophy and lead to decreased stability in the neuromuscular junction. “Denervation” is the interruption of nerve function AND “The neuromuscular junction” is the connection between the nervous system and muscular system (i.e. motor neuron talks to muscle fibre).

We not only see a decrease in muscle mass, and changes to muscle fibres, but also a loss of motor units themselves. Motor units are “systems” in the muscle that comprise a motor neuron and all the muscle fibres it innervates (it was we were measuring in the latest Parkinson’s research project I was involved in! pics HERE). As we age, we see a progressive deterioration, about 1/3 loss between 27 and 66 years, and another 1/3 loss between 66 and 82 years. This leads to changes in coordination and activation patterns of the muscle and changes to the muscle itself (i.e. sarcopenia). Dr. Hepple mentioned that in your 60’s is a critical year to build muscle mass before accelerated age-related declines set in.

Master atheletes

But, does everyone age at the same rate?

NO, there are different ways in which we age!

Look at Nancy Reagan, compared to master athlete Olga Kotelko – both 92yrs old.

Nancy Reagan

Nancy Reagan

 

Olga Kotelko

Olga Kotelko

And, what about Ed Winlocks? He is a marathoner who completed the TO marathon in 3:15.54 in 2011, a record in the 80+years category!

Ed Winlock

Ed Winlocks

What allows Ed and Olga to maintain impressive athletic ability and age optimally?

In a study looking at 80yr old master athletes, Dr. Hepple found preservation of: maxVO2 (similar to persons 60years younger!), number of muscle mitochondria, number of motor units and preserved muscle fibre size and type.

Balance is also preserved in master athletes, which is important since balance tests take into consideration proprioception, coordination and functions in the cerebellum; representing integrative measure of the entire neuromuscular system. This is a relevant finding highlighting the importance of balance! (*cough *cough … balance is improved with yoga!)

 

Linking muscle and brain function as we age

Physical fitness is also important because physical frailty parallels cognitive impairment (Boyle et al. 2010). Linking how we age in our bodies with how we age in our brains! Master atheletes show increase verbal and learning memory, cognitive processing speed, and may suggest protection of temporal and frontal lobes (regions of the brain succeptible to aging!); preservation of both muscle and brain health!

BDNF may be link between preservation brain and muscle function. BDNF responds to muscle contraction and (what does it do in the brain). See more on what BDNF is and how it relates to brain function and exercise in a previous post HERE.

Great information, not only implications for our ability to climb stairs, but complete the Sunday crosswords too! Much love.

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addressing inner thoughts, reactions and emotions with yoga and compassion

 

Last week in our Yogadopa class we spent a lot of time moving and stretching slowly, focusing on connecting with our bodies and noticing what goes on inside our heads when we are practicing yoga. I wanted to share some of the thoughts I had, notes I wrote and discussions we had as a class on emotional response, judging reacting, and the control we have over our own inner experience.

We started talking about the analogy of traffic, driving and road rage. When we are in our vehicle driving to the store, we can’t control the traffic lights, other driver’s behaviour, or the congestion; BUT we can control our reaction to it and whether we fly into road rage. Similar to living in our bodies, we can’t control the fact that we were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and now have difficulty with balance, but we can control how we react to the diagnosis/symptoms and how we choose to live with it.

putting my thoughts on paper about the inner experience of yoga

putting my thoughts on paper about the inner experience of yoga

Basic yoga breathing, relaxation, and stretching can help coax your nervous system out of crisis mode; this can be especially useful for people with Parkinson’s disease who experience pain, fatigue or chronic discomfort. The practice of yoga can help you tune into your body and discover what triggers pain, symptom flair-up, fatigue or discomfort. Yoga also helps you stop fighting and be still; once you learn how to be present with the sensation, you can begin to find relief.

Yoga helps manage the perception of sensation/discomfort in our bodies, and how we can be OK with it, so we are able to engage in a fuller day-to-day life.

For example, studies show meditation decreases activity in the primary somatosensory cortex (the pain processing area), so a cut won’t hurt as much from the beginning. Meditation also increases activity in the pain and emotion regulating areas of the brain. After the woman cuts her hand, she won’t judge the pain to be as strong and she will better regulate her emotional response to the pain, as well as her behaviors.

*So, yoga is not just about physical poses and standing on your head… it’s about how we live in the bodies we have! Yoga helps you get in touch with your body and your physical capacity. Changes your breath from shallow/erratic to deep/full. It improves concentration and a sense of “wholeness”; helps the discomfortable body sensation seem less important by taking away the reaction, judgement or distress you associated with sensation.

Yoga teaches you to fully experience sensations without attachment or judgement. Whether that be constant focus on your pain, which increases distress, fatigue and more pain; OR whether that be the voice in your head that judges your body and how “it should look” in a certain pose. Remember, yoga is about how it feels and developing a compassionate relationship with yourself. much love.

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bits and pics 05/12

I tried David Suzuki Foundation's #30x30challenge and spent 30minutes outside everyday in May! morning yoga on the dock is the best way to start the day!

I tried David Suzuki Foundation’s #30x30challenge and spent 30minutes outside everyday in May! morning yoga on the dock is the best way to start the day!

the beautiful flowers that bloom outside our apartment this time of year are my fave!

the beautiful flowers that bloom outside our apartment this time of year are my fave!

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spent some time at my old research at UBC Okanagan in Kelowna working on a new research project

spent some time at my old research at UBC Okanagan in Kelowna working on a new research project

looking at muscle activity and measuring motor units in persons with Parkinson's disease

looking at muscle activity and measuring motor units in persons with Parkinson’s disease

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“the lab” at UBCO

a lot of travelling this month meant I had a few naps and  Levon snuggles to catch up on!

a lot of travelling this month meant I had a few naps and Levon snuggles to catch up on!

a morning at the beach with family to remember an uncle who passed away this spring.

a morning at the beach with family to remember an uncle who passed away this spring.

Navigating Parkinson’s with this great book!

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I was recently gifted a book from the Sechelt Parkinson’s group called “Navigating Life with Parkinson’s disease”.

navigating-life-with-parkinson's-disease

Not only does this book do a great job of breaking down the basics of Parkinson’s, including motor symptoms. dopamine, lewy bodies and non-motor symptoms like sleep, depression, bowel/bladder issues; BUT it also addresses how to life and manage in your day-to-day life.

yogadopa-life-with-parkinson's

Most of the book focuses on how to treat the symptoms with medication, rehabilitation and therapy. Also, daily management and how to plan for the future, including care needs and finances.

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If you are someone who likes to read about the disease background and day-to-day management ideas, this is a good one! And from the American Academy of Neurology, too!

Happy reading, much love!

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A visit with the Sechelt Parkinson’s group!

Last week I spent a couple (sunny! warm!) days on the Sunshine Coast. I was teaching Yogadopa and speaking to the Sechelt and area Parkinson’s group.

I took a scenic flight from Victoria with Greg from FlyCoastal! … was pretty beautiful to see all the Gulf Islands, coast and active pass from the sky! And a great deal too!

at the victoria flying club waiting to take off in my cesna!

at the victoria flying club waiting to take off in my cesna!

I stayed at a B&B called Takahashi Garden’s…. and it turned out to be just perfect! The private porch (and hot tub!) had a great view of the bay… not a bad spot to wake up to every morning!

yogadopa-takahashi-garden

yogadopa-takahashi-garden-view

i LOVE that palm trees grow here on the coast

i LOVE that palm trees grow here on the coast

We started the morning with a yogadopa class at the beautiful St. Hilda’s church and after lunch spent the afternoon talking about how the body moves and think, and how those systems can change with Parkinson’s.

st. hilda's church in sechelt BC

st. hilda’s church in sechelt BC

Before my flight back to Victoria, I was able to sneak a couple hours with a book at the beach. Thanks Parkinson’s Society BC for connecting me with this group, and for the warm welcome from Sechelt and the PD group there! much love.

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Check out the NEW ParkinGO Wellness Society!

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ParkinGO is a new wellness organization starting up on Vancouver Island. It’s mission is to focus attention on people with Movement Disorders and their caregivers, and to emphasize the role of exercise in helping improve quality of life. Jillian Carson PT and her team aim to provide a community centre that will enable clients to exercise, together or individually, under the guidance of a PD exercise specialist. The ultimate goal is to empower people with PD to exercise towards better health management and improve sense of community and social support.

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Jillian is a great friend of mine and advocate for persons living with PD. She is a physiotherapist and specializes in PWR! (pwr4life.org) for persons with PD. Jillian is also a WPC2016 Ambassador (worldpdcongress.org) ! Check out ParkinGO’s website at : parkingo.org or contact Jillian (see below) to see how you can get involved! much love.

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“No Saints Around Here” and A GIVEAWAY! (now closed)

Last week I received the loveliest package.

A book (that is the way to my heart!… oh, and chocolate… and wine.)

nothing better than a sunny afternoon with a cold drink and a good book!

nothing better than a sunny afternoon with a cold drink and a good book!

Susan Toth has written a beautifully honest memoir about her last 18-months as a caregiver for her husband James, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and dementia.

Her brief essays express the day-to-day joys of caring, overwhelming sensations and everything in between! With humour and honesty, Susan discusses the everyday challenges (cleaning teeth! filling the dreaded pillboxes! schedules! and adventures in medical supplies!), the tender moments (James proclaiming she is his hero!), and those that make you laugh out loud (oh the messes!)

Susan’s novel is a conversation with other caregivers; expressing thoughts, feelings and a sense that you are not alone.

 

… AND I AM GIVING AWAY A COPY OF SUSAN’S BOOK!

To be entered into the draw, you must do 2 things…

1. sign up to yogadopa.com (or already be a subscriber… that way I have your email and can contact you!)

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2. comment below and tell me a way in which you provide care for someone (anyone!) you love.

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CONTEST CLOSES 12amPST MAY 19th.

The WINNER will be chosen at random and contacted via email MAY 20th. Spread the word… can’t wait to hear from you! much love.

THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. SUBSCRIBER #014 WAS RANDOMLY DRAWN AND CONTACTED.

 

Advancing age and risk for Parkinson’s disease

I read an interesting review article recently, by Dr Reeve and colleagues in Ageing Research Reviews (14(2014) 19-30) that focused on the age-related changes to neurones in the brain that cause motor symptoms in Parkinson’s disease (PD).

 

The authors state that aging is important for the development of PD, which makes sense since 1% of adults 60+years are affected by PD, and this number increases to 5% in persons 85+years. Also, about 5% of all PD cases impact people younger than 60 years; the majority of these are thought to be linked to mutations in genes that affect protein metabolism and mitochondrial function, including the genes:

  • pink 1 (park6)
  • parkin (park 2)
  • dj-1 (park 7)
  • alpha-synuclein (park 1)

Brain region

The main cause of motor symptoms in PD result from changes to the substantia nigra (SN), specifically the “pars compacta” area where dopamine resides. Interestingly, with “regular/normal” aging, the pars compacta shows more pathological changes than any other brain region. This seems to suggest dopaminergic neurone are preferentially vulnerable to loss with any kind of aging.

Mitochondria

Mitochondria produce the cell’s energy source, ATP.

(see more on the mitochondria and it’s implications to new PD meds HERE)

With aging, and in PD, SN neurons may be predisposed to sensitivity to mitochondrial dysfunction and changes to protein degradation. This means: if the mitochondria isn’t working (maybe because of bad mitochondrial mutations), there is no energy supplied to the cells (a decreased in ATP levels within the neurons). No ATP increased calcium overload in the neurons, which cause a loss of mitochondrial bioenergetic function, and cells cannot do what they are mean to do!

With “normal” aging, we see an increased mutation leading to mitochondrialDNA (mtDNA) deletions… these is found to be most common in the SN (you guessed it!). And this is related to the amount of cell loss in the SN. This tells us disruptions in mtDNA within dopamine neurons can cause neuropathology (disease of nervous system tissues/brain) and symptoms associated with PD. It also shows the importance of mitochondrial dysfunction associated with advancing age to the probable pathogenesis (mechanisms that cause disease) of PD.

Ageing and Parkinson's disease: why is advancing age the biggest risk factor? Fig. 4.

Ageing and Parkinson’s disease: why is advancing age the biggest risk factor? Fig. 4.

Alpha Synuclein

The pathological hallmark of PD, and dementia with Lewy Bodies, is the “Lewy Body“. Lewy bodies are accumulations of protein, mostly alpha-synuclein protein. Alpha-synuclein is thought to be used for “recycling” cells/vesicles. However, lewy bodies are also seen in older adults with no signs/symptoms of PD!

All of this tells us that advancing age causes a number of processes essential for function of SN and dopamine metabolism to decline. This cell loss, however, may need to reach a certain level before the symptoms of PD develop. So, some people may only experience minor changes, and this may explain why not all individuals who age are affected by PD.

much love.

Upcoming Parkinson’s workshops in Sechelt BC, May 13: Yogadopa and Cognition

For any of you in the area, I will be in Sechelt British Columbia next week doing some yogadopa in the morning and discussing both motor and non-motor changes in PD in the afternoon. Care partners are also welcome to join as both sessions will be applicable to you too (everyone can use a little more yoga in their lives, right?).

Looking forward to visiting the Sunshine Coast… see you then! much love.

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