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Exercise keeps our brains healthy – but does cognitive decline lead to physical decline?

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Matthieu Boisgontier’s strategy for keeping fit is a little unorthodox: He buys a chocolate bar – then doesn’t eat it. By training himself to rein in his automatic impulses, he figures he’ll get better at resisting the lure of the couch and getting out the door for his daily half-hour run.

According to new research by Boisgontier, a neuroscientist and health researcher from France recently hired by the University of Ottawa, that strategy may have long-term implications for how his physical and mental capacities decline as he ages – but not necessarily in the way you’d expect.

For years now we’ve been hearing about the power of exercise to keep our brains healthy. Research in both animals and humans has shown that physical activity maintains blood flow to the brain and raises levels of growth factors that promote the formation of new neurons. A study from the Ontario Brain Institute estimated that people who are very physically active are almost 40 per cent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

But Boisgontier and a colleague from the University of Geneva, Boris Cheval, believe that may be only half the story.

In 2018, they published a study that used EEG brain imaging to explore one of the great riddles of public health: why people fail to exercise regularly even when they know how beneficial it would be. By flashing images of people exercising or lounging in hammocks, they showed that it takes extra neural effort to resist the lure of being sedentary. In other words, we’re wired to be lazy.

Based on those findings, they began to wonder whether declining cognitive function might be a cause, rather than just a consequence, of age-related declines in physical activity.

To test this hypothesis, they analyzed data from more than 100,000 adults between the ages of 50 and 90 in 21 European countries, each of whom had completed cognitive assessments and reported their physical activity levels five times over a 12-year period. The results will be published in the June issue of the journal Health Psychology.

As expected, those with the lowest scores on the cognitive test also tended to get the least exercise. But the most interesting finding was how the scores changed over time: The inexorable declines in cognitive function generally preceded declines in physical activity, suggesting that the former contributed to the latter.

There was also evidence, albeit weaker, that physical declines are followed by cognitive declines. As a result, Boisgontier said, “our results support the idea that cognitive abilities and physical abilities are part of the same circle that can be either a virtuous one or a vicious one.”

The new results join a long-standing debate about the underlying causes of age-related decline, says Emilie Reas, a neuroscientist at the University of California San Diego. It’s possible, for example, that socioeconomic factors or lifestyle changes such as retirement could lead to both physical and cognitive decline in parallel.

“Even if cognitive impairment does limit physical activity, this doesn’t refute the fact that exercise is good for the brain,” she said. “This evidence is quite solid and shouldn’t change the advice to stay active throughout life, especially in older age.”

But if cognitive function itself is a risk factor in that potentially vicious cycle of decline, that suggests other possible counterattacks. Cheval stresses the importance of sustaining cognitively engaging activities such as socializing and reading and modifying the environment to make movement – taking the stairs rather than the elevator, say – a default option that doesn’t require extra cognitive effort.

Boisgontier, meanwhile, has used his don’t-eat-the-chocolate-bar strategy to ingrain the habit of a half-hour daily run. At first, convincing himself to lace up his shoes and get out the door took a lot of mental effort. But eventually, he said, it became automatic. “I don’t really need any brain resources to engage in this physical activity any more” – precisely, he hopes, what will make the habit stick as he gets older.

Alex Hutchinson is the author of Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance. Follow him on Twitter @sweatscience.

Source: – The Globe and Mail

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Edited By Harry Miller

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B.C. announces vaccines sites ahead of booking COVID-19 shots appointments Monday – PrinceGeorgeMatters.com

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VICTORIA — Health authorities across British Columbia announced locations for COVID-19 vaccine centres Sunday, the day before some of the province’s oldest residents could start booking appointments to get their first shots. 

Vaccine call centres are set to open Monday morning to make COVID-19 vaccine appointments for people 90 and older, and Indigenous people 65 or older, as well as those who identify as Indigenous elders.

Island Health officials said Sunday 19 community sites across Vancouver Island have been identified to administer COVID-19 vaccines and 25 community sites in the Vancouver Coastal Health region will be used as clinic locations.

The Interior, Northern and Fraser health authorities say they will confirm vaccination sites with people when they book a COVID-19 appointment.

“We recognize that there’s lots of people that are eager to call in and get going (Monday), so just another reminder that please, unless you are in that category of over 90 or Indigenous over 65 or you identify as an elder, please don’t call next week so we can get through this important population,'” said Victoria Schmid, Island Health’s pandemic planner.

“Your turn will come,” she said at a news conference Sunday. “We just need everyone to be patient right now.”

People can contact their health authority and book appointments for themselves or their spouse, and family members or friends are permitted to schedule an appointment on someone else’s behalf, Schmid said.

People will be asked to provide the person’s first and last name, date of birth, postal code and personal health number and will be asked for an email address or text number to confirm the COVID-19 vaccine appointment, she said..

People born in 1936 or earlier can start calling for appointments on March 15 and those born in 1941 or earlier can start scheduling their shots on March 22.

Schmid said she expected the appointments to last about 30 minutes, which includes a 15-minute waiting period following the administration of the vaccine.

She suggested people wear short sleeves to make it easier to give the vaccine and not to forget a mask.

A support person to can accompany people to the vaccine clinic, she said.

Schmid said sites for the community clinics were chosen for their accessibility and comfort and familiarity for Indigenous people.

“Ease of access was really important to us,” she said. “We really tried to keep a travel time to no more than 15 minutes within urban areas. We want to make sure these sites are accessible for individuals with mobility challenges.”

Immunization clinics will also be held at Indigenous friendship centres in Victoria, Port Alberni and Port Hardy, Schmid said.

Vancouver Coastal Health said in a news release its clinics will be located cross Metro Vancouver and the Squamish and Whistler areas and the Sunshine Coast. The clinics will be held at community, friendship, senior and cultural centres and other regional sites.

The health authorities plan to have B.C.’s population of elderly people, ranging in age from 80 to more than 90 years and Indigenous people 65 and older and elders, vaccinated against COVID-19 by April 12, Schmid said.

She said a person 90 years and older who calls next week for a COVID-19 vaccination will get their appointment within one week.

“They have a week to register for the following week’s vaccination appointment,” said Schmid. “After that, we’re going to move to register those over 85 and then moving down the week after to those over 80.”

Island Health’s Dr. Mike Benusic said he’s optimistic about the vaccination rollout.

“The announcements we’re giving right now provide me with such a sense of hope,” he said. “The fact is right now we have 25 times the number of people vaccinated within Island Health than people who have had COVID-19 within Island Health, and we’re only going to see that number sky rocket in the next few weeks and months.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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Lines open Monday in B.C. to start booking COVID-19 vaccine appointments for seniors – Burnaby Now

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VICTORIA — Health authorities across British Columbia announced locations for COVID-19 vaccine centres Sunday, the day before some of the province’s oldest residents could start booking appointments to get their first shots. 

Vaccine call centres are set to open Monday morning to make COVID-19 vaccine appointments for people 90 and older, and Indigenous people 65 or older, as well as those who identify as Indigenous elders.

Island Health officials said Sunday 19 community sites across Vancouver Island have been identified to administer COVID-19 vaccines and 25 community sites in the Vancouver Coastal Health region will be used as clinic locations.

The Interior, Northern and Fraser health authorities say they will confirm vaccination sites with people when they book a COVID-19 appointment.

“We recognize that there’s lots of people that are eager to call in and get going (Monday), so just another reminder that please, unless you are in that category of over 90 or Indigenous over 65 or you identify as an elder, please don’t call next week so we can get through this important population,'” said Victoria Schmid, Island Health’s pandemic planner.

“Your turn will come,” she said at a news conference Sunday. “We just need everyone to be patient right now.”

People can contact their health authority and book appointments for themselves or their spouse, and family members or friends are permitted to schedule an appointment on someone else’s behalf, Schmid said.

People will be asked to provide the person’s first and last name, date of birth, postal code and personal health number and will be asked for an email address or text number to confirm the COVID-19 vaccine appointment, she said..

People born in 1936 or earlier can start calling for appointments on March 15 and those born in 1941 or earlier can start scheduling their shots on March 22.

Schmid said she expected the appointments to last about 30 minutes, which includes a 15-minute waiting period following the administration of the vaccine.

She suggested people wear short sleeves to make it easier to give the vaccine and not to forget a mask.

A support person to can accompany people to the vaccine clinic, she said.

Schmid said sites for the community clinics were chosen for their accessibility and comfort and familiarity for Indigenous people.

“Ease of access was really important to us,” she said. “We really tried to keep a travel time to no more than 15 minutes within urban areas. We want to make sure these sites are accessible for individuals with mobility challenges.”

Immunization clinics will also be held at Indigenous friendship centres in Victoria, Port Alberni and Port Hardy, Schmid said.

Vancouver Coastal Health said in a news release its clinics will be located cross Metro Vancouver and the Squamish and Whistler areas and the Sunshine Coast. The clinics will be held at community, friendship, senior and cultural centres and other regional sites.

The health authorities plan to have B.C.’s population of elderly people, ranging in age from 80 to more than 90 years and Indigenous people 65 and older and elders, vaccinated against COVID-19 by April 12, Schmid said.

She said a person 90 years and older who calls next week for a COVID-19 vaccination will get their appointment within one week.

“They have a week to register for the following week’s vaccination appointment,” said Schmid. “After that, we’re going to move to register those over 85 and then moving down the week after to those over 80.”

Island Health’s Dr. Mike Benusic said he’s optimistic about the vaccination rollout.

“The announcements we’re giving right now provide me with such a sense of hope,” he said. “The fact is right now we have 25 times the number of people vaccinated within Island Health than people who have had COVID-19 within Island Health, and we’re only going to see that number sky rocket in the next few weeks and months.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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Hamilton records two more COVID-19 deaths over the weekend – TheSpec.com

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Hamilton recorded two new COVID-19 deaths over the weekend as active case counts crept back above 400.

The city reported 79 new coronavirus cases and 431 active cases Sunday, up from 35 and 378 Saturday.

It marks the first time active cases have increased since Feb. 28.

One person in their 60s and one person in their 70s were reported to have died Saturday and Sunday, respectively. A total 287 people in Hamilton have died due to complications with COVID-19.

Presumed cases of fast-spreading coronavirus variants in the city crossed the 100-mark this weekend.

On Sunday, public health reported 106 presumed cases of the variants, which are more contagious and believed to cause more severe illness.

That’s up 18 from the 88 presumed cases reported Friday and nearly triple the 37 presumed cases reported Feb. 26.

All coronavirus cases in Ontario are screened for the variants that first appeared in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil. Cases that screen positive for a variant are then sent to a lab for confirmation. Nearly all of those cases end up being confirmed, according to Hamilton’s medical officer of health.

To date, Hamilton has had four confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 strain, which originated in the U.K.

The city’s active outbreak total is now at 28 after four outbreaks were declared and three were ended over the weekend.

The Meadows Long Term Care Home in Ancaster entered outbreak protocol Thursday after one staff member became infected with COVID-19.

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One teacher and one student tested positive at Orchard Park Secondary School on Friday.

Three staff members at Red Hill Toyota at 2333 Barton St. E. were reported to be infected in an outbreak declared Saturday.

Outbreaks at I.H. Mission Service and Aug. 8 on Wilson Street were ended Saturday. An outbreak at Juravinski Hospital Unit M2 — where eight people were infected and two died since it was declared Feb. 19 — ended Sunday.

The new COVID cases reported over the weekend bring Hamilton’s pandemic total to 10,801. Ninety-two per cent of those — 9,909 — have recovered.

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