If you are a senior (over 65) and engage in strength training, listen up. To increase strength, you must increase reps. For years it was thought that the only way to increase strength was to increase resistance. However, that only works for younger folks. More reps make a difference for older people, as older folks have less sensitive muscles and it takes more work to activate their protein-making machinery. It doesn’t matter if the weight was light or heavy, so boost the number of times you lift. The study was published in the Journal of Gerontology, DOl:10.1093.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal (10/23/12), exercise appears to beat puzzles for preventing cognitive decline in the aging brain. In a study published in the journal Neurology of almost 700 people in 1936, researchers found physically active people showed fewer signs of brain shrinkage and other deterioration than those who got less exercise. Think about it: Exercise increases blood flow, bringing oxygen, glucose, and other nutrients in greater quantities than in sedentary persons. However, researchers noted it isn’t clear if a healthier brain was a result of exercise, or if people showing signs of decline were unable to exercise. I think exercise helps (remember the book Spark?, by John Ratey, MD, of which I blogged about a year ago?). What do you think?

Cold and flu season is upon us, and many people will be lining up for flu shots, doctor appointments, and over-the-counter medicines. Personally, I have never gotten a flu shot and have never gotten the flu (at least for the past 25 or so years). That’s not to say that I don’t take preventative measures: I bolster my immune system by amping up my vitamin D, C, and zinc intake, and increase my intake of fluids. Soups, teas, and water helps drown out symptoms and flush the body of infection. I drink 12 oz. of green tea daily, eat plenty of homemade chicken, lentil, or bean soup, and add lemon to almost all water and tea beverages. I also eat more garlic and ginger. So far it’s worked for me….

Aloe vera; is it worth the hype? I know several clients that swear by aloe vera juice and capsules for many conditions. Before you but aloe vera supplements, here’s the latest research reports on the following areas, as reported in Environmental Nutrition (10/12, volume 35 number 10). Diabetes: In two studies of women with type 2 diabetes who consumed 15 ml (one teaspoon) of aloe vera gel daily, results showed a significant reduction on blood glucose levels. In yet another study, no significant effect was found. Cholesterol: With 10 or 20 ml daily aloe vera gel, a study from 1993 showed a decrease of 18 and 25 to 30% in LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, respectively. However, no other human studies to date confirm this effect. Ulcerative colitis (UC): with an aloe vera gel dose of 100 ml twice daily, preliminary research shows a reduction in symptoms for those with mild to moderately active UC. Vitamin absorption: In one study, two oz of different aloe vera preparations (a whole leaf extract or a gel) increased the bioavailability of vitamins C and E. Constipation: The strongest evidence for oral aloe vera use relates to constipation. I have a client who swears it helps. Aloe latex (but not the gel) contains anthraquinone, which have a powerful laxative effect. The latex is the outer part of the plant. However, continued use may lead to a need for higher doses for effectiveness, and long-term use may cause diarrhea, kidney problems, blood in the urine, low potassium, and muscle weakness. More research is needed but in the meantime, if you use aloe vera gel (juice), always know what you’re buying, and buy from a reputable manufacturer.

Stay well, Joh R Blilie, M.S.