Moms play key role in how well we age

By Drs. Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz
April 8, 2016

While human babies are dependent on their parents for years, research shows that how we will age as adults begins in the womb.

You know a pregnant woman’s habits can affect her newborn’s health. But did you know it also can influence how an offspring ages 20 years later.

Smoking, having pre-eclampsia, extreme air pollution and uncontrolled asthma can lower oxygen levels during pregnancy, and research shows that years later, they can make adult children age more rapidly. But upping your intake of foods rich in polyphenols while pregnant may increase oxygen levels and make offspring age more slowly. Try blueberries, kidney beans, artichokes and Red Delicious apples.

Also, preliminary results indicate that vitamin D deficiency while pregnant may up adult children’s risk for multiple sclerosis by 90 percent. Get a blood test to determine your blood level and take 1,000 IU daily of vitamin D-3.

Plus, young adults whose pregnant moms had elevated LDL cholesterol are almost four times more likely to have elevated LDL, too. So, future moms: Cut out foods with saturated fat, such as egg yolks and processed and red meats, and added sugars and syrups, while increasing consumption of whole grains and produce.

Benefits of sex education

Sex education is approached differently around the world. In Paris, there’s a science museum with exhibits designed to teach 9- to 14-year-olds about sexuality: When kissing, it advises, “turn your head sideways, especially if you’ve got a big nose.” In the Netherlands, mandatory sex education begins in elementary school and covers respect for people who are transgender, bisexual or gay.

In the U.S. and Canada, there’s more debate and discomfort about the topic, but researchers from the University of British Columbia and City College of the City University of New York have found that to minimize the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and reduce unwanted pregnancies, addressing issues that concern lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender kids as well as heterosexual teens is essential.

That’s because, depending on sexual orientation, the time of first sexual encounter differs widely. For example, lesbians have an earlier sexual debut than other girls and are less likely to talk to their partner about practicing safe sex (32 percent did) than heterosexual girls (79 percent). Tailoring sex education to just one group can leave many in harm’s way.

A study from the University of Pittsburgh also found that places with the most school programs and policies that support LGBT kids have less binge-drinking among students, regardless of sexual orientation. The researchers say that’s because schools that are more affirming of LGBT students are less-stressful environments for all kids.

Seems that a well-rounded approach to sex education can cut down on STDs, teen pregnancy rates and dangerous drinking behavior. That’s using real protection.

Q: I am 60 and concerned about developing Alzheimer’s disease. My grandfather and aunt had it. What can I do to reduce the risk?

George L., Saugerties, New York

A: The idea of losing the ability to manage your own life is truly frightening. But although you’ve seen it in some family members, it isn’t necessarily in your future.

Familial Alzheimer’s accounts for less than 5 percent of cases and usually develops in folks before age 60. Did your relatives develop problems before age 60?

Other forms of the disease may be influenced in part by genes but not caused by them.

And you can modify many risk factors for Alzheimer’s and dementia by managing your stress response, upgrading your diet and getting more physical activity, as well as by controlling your exposure to toxins.

In fact, the latest research shows that lifestyle choices, that is to say specifically physical activity and education, are effective ways to protect cognitive powers well into old age.

They help prevent chronic inflammation triggered by everything from obesity to gum disease (both of which are associated with dementia), keep oxygen levels high, neurons firing and blood flowing smoothly.

University of Miami researchers evaluated the heart health of more than 1,000 older folks (average age 72). They found that the better a person’s heart health, the faster his/her brain processing speed. Over time, heart-healthy folks had less decline in processing speed, memory, focusing, time management and other cognitive skills.

Canadian researchers, in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, report that your brain age can be a lot younger than your chronological age if you take flights of stairs every day and pursue educational activities. Brain age (determined by brain/gray matter volume) got almost one year younger than chronological age for each year of education and more than half a year younger for each additional flight of stairs climbed daily.

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