Pumping Irony

Craig Cox, EL’s director of business operations and resident geezer, explores the joys and challenges of aging well.

Posts Tagged UCLA

Experience Life Magazine

When Time Stands Still

We dialed our clocks back Saturday night, which left me happily ahead of the game all day on Sunday. Every time I looked up from whatever I was doing it seemed like no time had passed. It was like I had stopped aging for a day. Felt like I had unlimited free time, so much so that after raking leaves and caulking around the windows I climbed up on the garage and patched some holes in the roof. All before lunch time.

Einstein taught us that time is relative, and that sure seems to be the case sometimes. When I rolled out of bed this morning, for instance, yesterday’s extra hour had shrunk to something barely perceptible. I was once again aging at a normal rate — or as normal as a geezer like myself can expect.

This, of course, is all about perception. But it turns out that time is also relative inside your body, according to a recent UCLA study. Researchers there have found that some cells age at a different rate than others. As Melissa Healy notes in the Los Angeles Times, their new body clock “measures DNA methylation — the process by which genes are altered as the body’s cells differentiate and their genetic programs change to meet new demands.” And certain tissues routinely grow old more quickly than the body as a whole, leaving them vulnerable to cancer and other diseases.

A woman’s breast tissue, for example, typically is two or three years older than the chronological age of its owner, according to the UCLA study. And cells that have been invaded by cancer tumors were 12 years older, on average. On the other hand, cardiac muscle tends to look much younger than a person’s real age. That’s probably because the stem cells that help to ward off injury and disease tend to remain rather plentiful throughout one’s life.

This all makes some sense to me. Cells that are under attack are going to show their age. But I’m not at all sure I want to know how old my prostate is, or even the gray matter inside my skull. Those UCLA researchers believe that information could eventually help them determine whether “anti-aging measures” were working, but to my way of thinking, the only anti-aging measures that are worth the effort is a good morning workout — and maybe dialing back that clock every fall to enjoy the brief pleasures of a day that never ends.

Experience Life Magazine

Sitting to Get Smarter

I’ve never pretended to be the smartest guy in the room, but it’s possible that I won’t get a whole lot dumber if I just keep sitting still for a half hour every morning.

That’s the conclusion of new research out of UCLA measuring the effects of a long-term meditation practice on the brain. The study, published in a recent edition of the journal NeuroImage, suggests that these meditators have stronger connections between brain regions and less evidence of brain atrophy as they age. Those stronger connections mean that you’re more capable of relaying electrical signals from one region of your aging brain to another, allowing even slow thinkers like myself to stay sharp into our twilight years.

“Our results suggest that long-term meditators have white-matter fibers that are either more numerous, more dense or more insulated throughout the brain,” Eileen Luders, one of the lead researchers, explained in a statement released by UCLA. “We also found that the normal age-related decline of white-matter tissue is considerably reduced in active meditation practitioners.”

Plenty of other studies have shown that people who meditate regularly tend to have more gray matter in their brains, but Luders and her colleagues are now suggesting that a long-term meditation practice can, as she puts it, “induce changes on a micro-anatomical level.”

I won’t go into the details here — how researchers used diffusion tensor imaging to show that activity within the corticospinal tract, the superior longitudinal fasciculus, and the uncinate fasciculus differed markedly between the meditators participating in the study and the control group — because, well, that would just be showing off.

Actually, I don’t know my hippocampus from my amygdala, but it’s nice to know that all those mornings I’ve sat on my butt wrestling silently with my monkey mind might actually keep me lucid — if not any brighter — long into my crusty old age.

In Other News…
For those of you keeping score out there, I finally managed to extract the last four concrete-encrusted fence posts from the space in our backyard where we someday hope to create a vegetable garden. One of those posts had been confounding me for almost a year, but I grabbed my sledgehammer the other day and gave it a few good whacks and, much to my surprise and delight, all the concrete fell away. I’d like to say I enjoyed complete vindication, except that I tweaked something in my lower back pulling the dang thing out of the hole. So it goes…. The forecast this coming week calls for temps in the 90s with humidity not far behind, so I’m thinking it’s time to get back into the gym. My Handyman Workouts offer plenty of resistance training (see aching back above and sore elbow in previous post), but not much in the way of cardio. The good news is that my knee feels great, so maybe it’s time to hit the dreadmill again. I’ll report back…