Friday, May 25, 2018
Health

Tai chi helps brain grow, says study involving USF

TAMPA — Tai chi, the martial art that has become popular as a gentle mind-body workout, may have another benefit: Helping to increase the size of the brain. And brain growth, scientists hope, could unlock a clue to staving off and even preventing dementia.

Chinese seniors who practiced tai chi three times a week increased their brain volumes and scores on tests of memory and thinking, according to a study by scientists from the University of South Florida and Fudan University in Shanghai, published this week in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

An eight-month, randomized controlled trial compared seniors without dementia who practiced tai chi to a similar group that participated in stimulating discussions, a group that walked together, and a group that received no intervention. All told, the study had 120 participants.

Lead researcher James Mortimer, a USF professor of epidemiology and biostatistics who has studied Alzheimer's disease since the 1970s, cautioned that the study is preliminary and needs to be expanded. Still, it's intriguing.

Among the heralds of dementia is brain atrophy. "So if we can increase brain size, we might be able to replace brain that's been lost,'' he said in an interview.

"In the tai chi group, we saw brain growth of one-half of 1 percent over eight months'' measured through MRIs.

How exactly that growth occurred — and whether genetics or other factors might play into it — is a topic for a new study Mortimer and his colleagues hope to undertake, pending federal funding. This tai chi study was funded by Tampa's Byrd Alzheimer's Center.

Numerous studies have drawn connections between physical activity and brain health. Much of the attention has been paid to aerobic activities such as fast walking, also shown to increase brain size. Tai chi has been investigated for its impact on cognitive function, but this new report is the first to look at brain volume, he said.

The discussion group also showed improvement in brain volume and cognition, though it was more limited. These weren't just idle chats — Mortimer said that the participants so enjoyed their rousing discussions that they are still meeting even though the study ended two years ago.

Overall, the walkers showed no change in brain volume or cognitive function, perhaps because they were not required to raise their heart rates sufficiently. Still, the faster walkers in the group did better on the tests of memory and thinking.

The group that did nothing showed brain shrinkage and scored worse on cognitive tests than it had at the beginning.

Tai chi can be gentle, but it requires concentration to master and move correctly through the precise sequence of poses. That mind-body involvement could be what makes it effective for brain health, researchers theorized.

It's particularly useful once age or infirmity has made more strenuous workouts difficult. Its many benefits include improvements in balance, cardiovascular health and stress relief.

"Tai chi is the kind of exercise you can do for a long time,'' Mortimer said.

"I'm going to take it up.''

Comments
Stroke stories can have a happy ending: What you should know

Stroke stories can have a happy ending: What you should know

Arto Woods and his wife, Syvilla, had a good flight from Baltimore to Tampa in early May. En route, they talked about how convenient it would have been to fly directly into Orlando, where the conference that brought them to Florida was being held, bu...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Finding a yoga retreat to stretch the mind and body

Finding a yoga retreat to stretch the mind and body

Before I attended my first yoga retreat on a trip to see my sister in Oregon, I did exactly zero preparation. Turns out, that’s just fine, and it opened up the wider world of what a yoga getaway can give you.With four hours of yoga classes a day, my ...
Published: 05/25/18
Music makes us happy, motivated, determined … and hungry?

Music makes us happy, motivated, determined … and hungry?

Music is the ultimate mood setter. Faster beats gets us pumped up to work out. A slower rhythm can set a romantic mood or help one unwind at the end of a long day.Music can also influence the kinds of food we crave. A study co-authored by a Universit...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Estimated 7,000 bodies may be buried at former asylum

Estimated 7,000 bodies may be buried at former asylum

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Some of the boxes stacked inside anthropologist Molly Zuckerman’s laboratory contain full bones — a skull, a jaw, or a leg. Others contain only plastic bags of bone fragments that Zuckerman describes as "grit." These humble remain...
Published: 05/23/18
FDA warns teething medicines are unsafe for babies

FDA warns teething medicines are unsafe for babies

WASHINGTON — Federal health officials warned parents Wednesday about the dangers of teething remedies that contain a popular numbing ingredient and asked manufacturers to stop selling their products intended for babies and toddlers. The Food and Drug...
Published: 05/23/18
A chronic lack of sleep could lead to decreased brain function, study finds

A chronic lack of sleep could lead to decreased brain function, study finds

A sleep study revealed that less than six hours of sleep a day can limit the brain’s ability to function properly.The study, published on Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that people experiencing less than...
Published: 05/23/18
Many cancer patients juggle care along with financial pain

Many cancer patients juggle care along with financial pain

Josephine Rizo survived chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, but breast cancer treatment wrecked her finances.Money was already tight when doctors told the Phoenix resident she had an aggressive form of the disease. Then she took a pay cut after goin...
Published: 05/22/18

Hernando County officials gather to remedy ‘dearth of services’ for youth with mental illness

BROOKSVILLE — Educators, court officials, law enforcement officers and health care professionals met Friday to identify the best ways to keep local youth with mental illnesses out of the court system and provide treatment for those already in the sys...
Published: 05/22/18
Give your arms a workout, too

Give your arms a workout, too

In addition to appearance, it is very important to maintain strength in those arms, as they are needed for practically every upper body movement we perform. We often take our 23 arm muscles for granted, until we reach a point where it suddenly become...
Published: 05/22/18
Intermittent fasting seems to be a good thing, new report suggests

Intermittent fasting seems to be a good thing, new report suggests

Going long hours without eating isn’t good for us, we are often told. Our bodies need fuel regularly. Otherwise, we may become lethargic, tired and hungry. Our thinking can become mushy, our ability to work, and even play, hampered.Not so fast.A new ...
Published: 05/22/18