New Under the Sun:
Volume 2, Issue 3
Greetings!! Much of the country is digging out from winter snows, but there are hints that spring is coming. This is the time of year that many gardeners begin preparing their gardens for spring planting. Our health is like a garden of which we are in charge. When we carefully select the best seeds, plant them in prepared soil, and weed and water the garden throughout the growing season, we can reap a good harvest of optimal health. But if we randomly toss any type of seed into unprepared soil and forget basic maintenance of the garden, we should not be surprised if our harvest is ill health.
Fertility and Birth:
Male Fertility: Researchers analyzed the semen quality of 97 healthy men between the ages of 22 and 80. They found that semen volume and sperm motility (ability to move appropriately) decreased at a steady rate each year from age 22 to age 80. The implication of this research is that peak fertility in males occurs during the teen years. Given the continuous age-related decrease in male fertility, it is important that when a woman has trouble conceiving that the male partner’s fertility also be examined, even if he is relatively young. Eskenazi B, Wyrobek AJ, Sloter E, Kidd SA, Moore L, Young S, Moore D. The association of age and semen quality in healthy men. Hum Reprod 2003 Feb;18(2):447-54.
Female Fertility: Unlike males who produce new sperm throughout their lives, females are born with all the eggs they will ever have. Therefore, any damage to her ovaries can have a profoundly negative effect on a woman’s ability to reproduce. Recently, researchers recalculated the dosage of radiation therapy that could damage a woman’s eggs. The previous dosage estimated to destroy 50% of a woman’s eggs was < 4 gys (grays or units of radiation). However, after recalculation they determined that the 50% cutoff point was actually achieved at a dosage of only < 2 gys. Since the dosage used to kill cancer cells is generally between 12 and 30 gys, the threat of radiation therapy to a woman’s fertility is obvious. Unfortunately, a young woman of reproductive age with cancer may have no option but to undergo radiotherapy if chemotherapy is ineffective. Removing and freezing a woman’s ovaries is sometimes done, but the success of this option is unclear. The woman and her physician need to be aware of the risks of radiotherapy to fertility and discuss all possible options and outcomes in order to make an informed decision. W.H.B. Wallace, A.B. Thomson and T.W. Kelsey. The radiosensitivity of the human oocyte. Human Reproduction, Vol. 18, No. 1, 117-121, January 2003.
Birthing: Some years ago, the idea of a woman giving birth in water was introduced to obstetrics. This idea does not seem to have made much headway in the US. However, it is evidently a fairly popular choice of well-educated women in Switzerland and Austria. Researchers in Switzerland report that a comparison of 3,617 water births to 5,901 more traditional births (which they term “land births”) showed that there was significantly less need for episiotomies in women having water births and that only 30% of those women required pain medicine compared to 70% of women having land births. These results are supported by an Austrian study which found that of those having water births only 14% required episiotomies compared to 48% of women having land births. Only 8% of women having water births required pain medicine compared to 64% of women having land births. The researchers concluded that when appropriate care is taken (these births were in university medical clinics or in hospitals), water births are just as safe for mother and infant as land births and have the added benefits of being less painful and stressful for the mother. Perhaps this method of delivery deserves more wide-spread acceptance in the United States. Geissbuhler V, Eberhard J. Experience with Water Births: A Prospective Longitudinal Study of 9 Years with Almost 4,000 Water Births. [Eine prospektive longitudinale Studie uber 9 Jahre mit fast 4000 Wassergeburten]. Gynakol Geburtshilfliche Rundsch 2003;43(1):12-8. Schrocksnadel H, Kunczicky V, Meier J, Brezinka C, Oberaigner W. Water Birth: Experience at a University Clinic and a District Hospital in Austria. [Erfahrungen einer Universitatsklinik und eines Bezirkskrankenhauses in Osterreich]. Gynakol Geburtshilfliche Rundsch 2003;43(1):7-11.
Bone Mineral Density and Cognitive Decline: A large study of women (4,462) aged 70 and older found that cognitive decline was correlated with bone mineral loss. That is, when women were grouped by degree of bone mineral density, those in the group with the lowest bone mineral density had the highest percentage of women suffering cognitive decline while those in the group with the highest bone mineral density had the lowest percentage of women suffering cognitive decline. These results held even after controlling for body mass, estrogen use, and ability to carry out a day’s activities. The researchers were unsure why cognitive decline was correlated with bone mineral loss. Lui LY, Stone K, Cauley JA, Hillier T, Yaffe K. Bone Loss Predicts Subsequent Cognitive Decline in Older Women: The Study of Osteoporotic Fractures. J Am Geriatr Soc 2003 Jan;51(1):38-43.
Exercise and Cognitive Decline: Scans of the brains of 55 men and women aged 55 to 79 found that there were definite signs of reduced brain tissue density with increasing age. However, those individuals who were most physically fit showed the slowest decline in brain tissue density. The same group of researchers also did an analysis of 18 previous studies on fitness training and cognitive benefits among the elderly. They found that fitness training provided the most benefits in executive control processing; that is, the ability to adapt to changing situations, understand other’s intentions, and plan appropriate actions. The researchers emphasize three main points: 1] a combination of aerobic and strength training exercise provides more benefits than either alone; 2] the older an adult is, the more benefit exercise provides due to the larger potential decreases in cognitive function; 3] the exercise sessions should be for longer than 30 minutes. Stanley J. Colcombe, Kirk I. Erickson, Naftali Raz, Andrew G. Webb, Neal J. Cohen, Edward McAuley and Arthur F. Kramer. Aerobic Fitness Reduces Brain Tissue Loss in Aging Humans. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences 58:M176-M180 (2003). Colcombe S. and Kramer A.F. Fitness Effects on the Cognitive Function of Older Adults: A Meta–Analytic Study. Psychological Science. 2003: 14 (2): 125-130.
Depression and Peri-Menopause: Based on a study of 976 women (aged 36-45) researchers found that those suffering from depression had a higher risk of early onset of peri-menopausal symptoms (younger than age 47) than did those who were not depressed. Furthermore, the more severe the depression, the greater is the risk. Women suffering from depression and taking anti-depressant medication at the beginning of the study were three times more likely to have early onset peri-menopause than were women who were depression-free before and during the study. Early onset peri-menopause is a concern because it may lead to early menopause which is associated with increased risk for loss of bone mineral density and cognitive decline. Cigarette smoking is associated with both depression and early onset menopause, but even after controlling for smoking, the results of this research still held. Harlow BL, Wise LA, Otto MW, Soares CN, Cohen LS. Depression and its influence on reproductive endocrine and menstrual cycle markers associated with perimenopause: the Harvard Study of Moods and Cycles. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2003 Jan;60(1):29-36.
Comment: Exercise, depression, and cognitive decline appear to be inter-related. Individuals who exercise more than 30 minutes per session, several times each week, are able to slow the progression of age-related cognitive decline. Exercise, particularly weight-bearing exercise such as walking, helps build and maintain bone mineral density. Those who are depressed tend to exercise less than those who are not. Depression among seniors is associated with cognitive decline, with the more severe cases of depression showing the most cognitive decline. Therefore, if one wishes to combat depression and cognitive decline it appears that exercise such as walking 2 – 3 miles each day is an excellent preventative measure. In addition, this is also a good way to improve one’s blood levels of vitamin D via exposure to appropriate levels of UVB radiation while on one’s walk. Vitamin D is necessary to maintain bone mineral density, and individuals who have received large doses of vitamin D have shown improvement on measures of depression. If there are concerns about UVB radiation exposure, then one should supplement with vitamin D from sources such as www.VitaminShoppe.com or from www.freedavitamins.com. See Volume 1, Issues 3 & 10 [http://www.anthrohealth.net/AHV1N3.htm and http://www.anthrohealth.net/AHV1N10.htm ] for more information on vitamin D. Paterniti S, Verdier-Taillefer MH, Dufouil C, Alperovitch A. Depressive symptoms and cognitive decline in elderly people. Longitudinal study. Br J Psychiatry 2002 Nov;181:406-10. Fuller, K. Sad to the Bone. Nursing Homes: Long Term Care Management. February, 2003; pp. 44-47.
AnthroHealth Tip of the Month: Grow a garden. If you don’t have the space and/or the time to grow a traditional garden, then plant a few pots to grow on a window ledge and later move them outdoors when the weather warms. While choosing the seeds or seedlings, planting them, and tending them, think about how you are taking care of your body. How well do you tend this most important garden? Are you careful about what you eat, when, and how much? Do you get plenty of exercise and restful sleep? Are you careful of the medications you take, making sure the dosage is the lowest effective dose, thereby reducing side effects? Do you make sure to spend some time each day enjoying the beauty of nature, the beauty of your garden?
© 2001-2009 Kathleen E. Fuller, PhD. All rights reserved.