Tai Chi and its Effects on the Brain, particularly for the Elderly

I have long advocated tai chi as a form of exercise, especially for the elderly and for individuals with physical challenges that make conventional aerobic exercises difficult to perform. If you’ve never done tai chi, which is a martial art that incorporates a series of movements, known as forms, with a focus on controlled breathing. It may look like nothing much is happening, but that’s a misconception. In fact, you are actually working very hard, and the physical benefits are pronounced. Many studies have shown that practicing tai chi can also help prevent falls and improve balance in older adults, and the benefit is greatest for people who keep up a regular practice over time.

There has always been a suggestion that Tai Chi also has a beneficial effect on the brain and for maintaining mental acuity. Finally, there is a controlled study that seems to back up those claims:

Tai chi is not just a physical exercise; it’s a mental workout too! A recent study shows that practicing tai chi can significantly slow cognitive decline and protect against dementia, especially for older adults.

The study involved approximately 300 older adults, with an average age in their mid-70s, who reported experiencing a decline in their memory. All participants took a cognitive function test called the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, where a normal score ranges from 26-30. The average score at the beginning of the study was 25, indicating mild impairment.

The findings revealed that those who practiced a simplified form of tai chi called Tai Ji Quan twice a week for six months improved their cognitive test scores by 1.5 points. While it may seem like a modest increase, study author Dr. Elizabeth Eckstrom emphasizes that it’s akin to giving oneself three extra years of staving off cognitive decline.

For those engaged in a more rigorous type of tai chi, known as Cognitively Enhanced Tai Ji Quan, which involves additional challenges like spelling words backward and forward during tai chi moves, the improvement was about 3 points. This translates to giving individuals an extra six years of cognitive function.

The study suggests that the memorization of tai chi movements, combined with fluid mind-body coordination, contributes to its effectiveness in preserving cognitive function. This combination of physical activity and memory engagement appears to be a winning formula.

Dr. Joseph Quinn, a neurologist not involved in the study, finds the results impressive, even though he admits not fully understanding why tai chi works so well. He speculates that the meditative component and stress reduction effect could be contributing factors.

Participants in the study expressed the meditative nature of tai chi, describing it as a practice that helps them feel grounded, release stress, and improve concentration. Beyond the cognitive benefits, tai chi has long been recognized for its impact on balance and fall prevention in older adults.

While the study predominantly involved non-Hispanic white participants with college degrees, researchers acknowledge the need for efforts to make tai chi more accessible to a broader population, especially considering the disproportionate burden of cognitive impairment among certain demographic groups.

In essence, tai chi isn’t just a series of graceful movements—it’s a dance for the mind and body, providing not only physical benefits but also a powerful defense against cognitive decline.


Obesity and Breast Cancer Recurrence

Obesity has been found to elevate the risk of breast cancer recurrence in postmenopausal patients with hormone receptor–positive (HR+) early-stage breast cancer who are undergoing treatment with aromatase inhibitors, according to a comprehensive study conducted over an 18-year period using data from the Danish Breast Cancer Group.

Clinical studies have consistently highlighted obesity as a risk factor for recurrence in postmenopausal women with HR+ breast cancer. Notably, evidence suggests that women with obesity may not experience the same protective effects from aromatase inhibitors as those with a healthy weight, although limited data exist on this subject.

The cohort study, involving postmenopausal women diagnosed with stage I to III HR+ breast cancer receiving adjuvant endocrine therapy with aromatase inhibitors, categorized patients based on their body mass index (BMI). The BMI categories included healthy weight (18.5–24.9), overweight (25–29.9), obesity (30–34.9), and severe obesity (≥ 35), with patients of a healthy weight serving as the reference group for statistical analyses.

Key findings from the study include:

  1. Patient Enrollment and Follow-Up:
    • A total of 13,230 patients with BMI information participated, with a median age at diagnosis of 64.4 years.
    • Throughout a median follow-up of 6.2 years, 1,587 recurrences were observed.
  2. Recurrence Hazards:
    • Multivariable analyses revealed increased recurrence hazards associated with obesity (adjusted HR, 1.18 [95% CI, 1.01–1.37]) and severe obesity (adjusted HR, 1.32 [95% CI, 1.08–1.62]) compared to patients with a healthy weight.
    • Patients with overweight also exhibited a greater risk of recurrence, but the results did not reach statistical significance (adjusted HR, 1.10 [95% CI, 0.97–1.24]).

The study’s conclusion underscores the link between obesity and an elevated risk of breast cancer recurrence in postmenopausal patients with HR+ early-stage breast cancer undergoing aromatase inhibitor therapy. This large, population-based cohort study aligns with prior research, indicating that patients with obesity may derive less benefit from adjuvant endocrine therapy than those with a healthy weight.

The authors advocate for further exploration into whether alternative endocrine therapies, such as tamoxifen, should be considered for postmenopausal women with obesity and early-stage HR+ breast cancer to enhance their prognosis, challenging the current recommendation of aromatase inhibitors for this patient population. However, one thing is certain, weight loss is clearly indicated for postmenopausal women with obesity and early-stage HR+ breast cancer to enhance their prognosis and enhance their general health. 


The medical information on this site is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information does not substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Please do not initiate, modify, or discontinue any treatment, medication, or supplement solely based on this information. Always seek the advice of your health care provider first. Full Disclaimer 


Intermittent Fasting

Time-Restricted Eating (TRE), also known as intermittent fasting, which involves confining food intake to an 8-hour window each day without the need for calorie counting, has proven to be more effective in promoting weight loss in individuals with type 2 diabetes and obesity compared to traditional calorie restriction. Furthermore, both approaches resulted in a notable reduction in A1c levels compared to those who received no intervention.

In a six-month clinical trial involving 75 adult participants with type 2 diabetes and obesity, individuals were randomly assigned to one of three groups: the 8-hour TRE approach (eating only from noon to 8 PM without calorie counting), a 25% daily calorie restriction, or a control group. The findings of the study demonstrate that Time-Restricted Eating is a safe and viable option for individuals managing type 2 diabetes, whether they are relying solely on dietary modifications or combining them with medication. However, it’s important to note that for those taking sulfonylureas and/or insulin, adopting a TRE regimen will necessitate adjustments in their medication regimen and regular monitoring, especially during the initial stages of implementing this dietary approach.



The medical information on this site is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information does not substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Please do not initiate, modify, or discontinue any treatment, medication, or supplement solely based on this information. Always seek the advice of your health care provider first. Full Disclaimer 


This Halloween let’s discuss something genuinely frightening: Premature Death

Death is an inevitable part of the human experience. What’s truly terrifying is premature death, the abrupt cessation of life before one’s time, leading to disability, pain, human suffering, and the agonizing prolongation of dying.

The risk of experiencing premature death is deeply intertwined with the accessibility and availability of both beneficial and harmful products and services. Geography and economic factors play a significant role, often resulting in disparities that are both diverse and inherently unfair. Human behavior is remarkably malleable, influenced by the environment we inhabit. The availability of care and the presence of both advantageous and detrimental products further shape our fate.

Consider that the average life expectancy at birth in North America is approximately 74.5 years for men and 80.2 years for women. The median age at death, when we remove gender, geography, race, or ethnicity as dividers, stands at 73.7 years. The World Health Organization (WHO) designates death before the age of 70 as “premature.” So, let’s uncover the common culprits responsible for prematurely ending North Americans’ lives, and at what age they typically strike:

  1. Gunshot wounds: Median age at death, Striking at 28 years.
  2. Fentanyl: A devastating 35 years.
  3. Vehicular accidents: Crashing lives at 40 years.
  4. Overdose not otherwise specified (NOS): A chilling 46 years.
  5. Alcoholism: A sobering 57 years.
  6. Tobacco addiction: Snuffing out lives at a mere at 66 years.
  7. Cirrhosis: A grim 67 years.
  8. Diabetes: Cutting lives short at 67 years.
  9. Chronic kidney disease: Claiming victims at 68 years.
  10. Lung cancer: A tragic 71 years.
  11. Cancer NOS: A cruel end at 73 years.
  12. Stroke: Taking lives too early at 73 years.
  13. Myocardial infarction (heart attack): time stops ticking prematurely at 73 years.

All other significant causes of death, with median ages above 73.7, fall outside the “premature” category. These include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, influenza, pneumonia, and sepsis.

Premature death, typically defined as occurring before the age of 70, is closely linked to factors like behavior control, addiction, and the presence of harmful agents. These agents encompass street drugs, alcohol, tobacco, unhealthy foods, and even firearms.

The accessibility of these harmful agents, including sugar-laden foods, ultra-processed junk, illicit drugs, and firearms, contributes to a wide array of health problems, from obesity and diabetes to addiction and violence. While society derives certain benefits from these substances and tools, it is imperative to weigh the risks they pose to our health.

Conversely, the availability of beneficial elements, such as quality education, gainful employment, safe living environments, and nourishing foods, can serve as a shield against premature death.

Addressing this alarming issue demands a multifaceted strategy, focusing on interventions that shape demand, harm reduction tactics, and the provision of support to encourage healthier choices. Despite the formidable challenges, it’s vital to strive for a society that prioritizes longevity and well-being.

Ultimately, it all boils down to choices—individual, family, societal, and governmental choices, whether wise or reckless. Life, along with its timing, is a calculable risk. So, why not choose a longer life and work towards making it better? Happy Halloween!