Friday, September 26, 2014

Memories have lasting emotional impact on Alzheimer’s patients

Alzheimer’s disease is marked by an inability to recall certain memories, but new research shows that patients diagnosed with the condition can still remember how those memories made them feel.

In a study researchers showed 17 Alzheimer’s patients and 17 healthy patients clips from happy and sad movies.

During the films, all of the study participants expressed signs of sorrow, like crying, and happiness, like laughter. Five minutes later, the individuals with Alzheimer’s couldn’t remember the movies, but they still experienced prolonged feelings of happiness and sadness.

Researchers say the findings are significant because they could impact how caregivers treat Alzheimer’s patients.

“Frequent visits and social interactions, exercise, music, dance, jokes, and serving patients their favorite foods are all simple things that can have a lasting emotional impact on a patient’s quality of life and subjective well-being,” Edmarie Guzmán-Vélez, lead author and a doctoral student in clinical psychology, said in a news release.

Experts predict that Alzheimer’s will impact nearly 16 million Americans by 2050 and cost an estimated $1.2 trillion.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Lifting Weights Reduces Lymphedema Symptoms Following Breast Cancer Surgery

Breast cancer survivors who lift weights are less likely than their non-weightlifting peers to experience worsening symptoms of lymphedema, the arm- and hand-swelling condition that plagues many women following surgery for their disease, according to new University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine research.

The findings challenge the advice commonly given to lymphedema sufferers, who may worry that weight training or even carrying children or bags of groceries will exacerbate their symptoms. "Our study challenges the historical medical recommendations for women who get lymphedema after breast cancer, and is another example of well-meaning medical advice turning out to be misguided," says lead author Kathryn Schmitz, PhD, MPH, an associate professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and a member of Penn's Abramson Cancer Center. "For instance, we used to tell those who had back pain to rest, but we know now that in many cases, inactivity can actually make a bad back worse. Too many women have missed out on the health and fitness benefits that weight lifting provides, including building bone density. Our study shows that breast cancer survivors can safely participate in slowly progressive weight lifting and gain those benefits without any increase in their lymphedema symptoms. In fact, this type of exercise may actually help them feel better."

In the largest study to date to examine the impact of weight training on this sometimes debilitating, incurable condition, Schmitz's team enrolled 141 breast cancer survivors with a current diagnosis of lymphedema. Half were assigned to a weight-lifting group that participated in small- group, twice-weekly, 90-minute exercise classes for 13 weeks. During that time, with guidance from trained fitness instructors in community fitness centers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, the women worked up to greater resistance and more sets of weightlifting exercise. For the next 39 weeks, the women continued twice-weekly unsupervised exercise, with trainers calling to check in on women who missed more than one session per week. The women wore a custom-fitted compression garment on their affected arm during their workouts, and each week were asked about changes in symptoms. Their arms were measured monthly to ensure any changes were noted as soon as they occurred. The 70 control group participants, meanwhile, were asked not to change their exercise level during study participation.

During the course of the study, women in the weightlifting group experienced fewer exacerbations of their condition, and a reduction in symptoms compared to the women who did not lift weights. There were 19 women in the control group who experienced lymphedema exacerbations that required treatment from a physical therapist, compared to 9 in the treatment group. The proportion of women who experienced an increase of five percent or more in their limb swelling was similar in both groups -- 11 percent of the weight-lifting group and 12 percent in the control group. The researchers theorize that a controlled weightlifting program may have protective benefits, by boosting strength in affected limbs enough to ward off injuries from everyday activities that can aggravate lymphedema symptoms.

"Our study shows that participating in a safe, structured weight-lifting routine can help women with lymphedema take control of their symptoms and reap the many rewards that resistance training has on their overall health as they begin life as a cancer survivor," Schmitz says. "We did the intervention in community fitness centers deliberately, in the hope that positive results seen in our study would continue to be available to breast cancer survivors long beyond the end of the research study."

It is recommended that women start with a slowly progressive program, supervised by a certified fitness professional, in order to learn how to do these types of exercises properly. Women with lymphedema should also wear a well-fitting compression garment during all exercise sessions. The new research was conducted in partnership with YMCAs in Philadelphia, Montgomery and Delaware Counties in Pennsylvania and in Burlington County in New Jersey, as well as Sisters-In-Shape Fitness in Philadelphia. Staff at the Edison-Metuchen YMCA in New Jersey have also been trained to deliver this intervention.

The research was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute and the National Center for Research Resources.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Testosterone Muscle Hypertrophy. IGF-1 and Testosterone

Hormones, such as human growth hormone (GH) and testosterone, have been shown to play a role in muscle hypertrophy and strength gains. Men suffering from GH or testosterone deficiency have increased fat mass, reduced muscle mass, and reduced muscle force production. The anabolic effects of testosterone on muscle mass are dose- and concentration-dependent. An earlier study demonstrated that supraphysiological doses of testosterone can induce increases in muscle size and strength in younger men without exercise. Testosterone-induced increase in muscle mass is associated with a dose-dependent increase in cross-sectional areas of both type I and type II muscle fibers. However, the mechanisms by which testosterone increases muscle mass are not well understood.

The prevalent dogma for the past 50 years has been that testosterone increases muscle mass by stimulating fractional muscle protein synthesis. Testosterone administration primes skeletal muscle for growth by increasing net protein synthesis, even in the fasted state. The logical extrapolation of a continued increase in net protein synthesis is that it results in increased lean body mass and strength. Additionally, testosterone stimulates many other pathways besides just increasing protein synthesis rates, to stimulate muscle hypertrophy.

Testosterone administration also results in increases in GH secretion, androgen receptor number, satellite cell activity, and increased IGF-1 expression in skeletal muscle. It has also been demonstrated that the increase in muscle anabolism is associated with an increase in the expression of intramuscular mRNA IGF-1. High-intensity resistance exercise has been shown to increase anabolic hormones, but there is confusion as to how important the acute increases in anabolic hormones are.

There has been recent debate as to how effective the acute increases in testosterone concentrations are for increasing muscle mass. A couple of studies have suggested that acute increases in testosterone are not necessary for increases in muscle growth; this has led to confusion as to how to train.

Researchers at the Exercise Metabolism Group at McMaster University reported that muscle hypertrophy took place without acute increases in anabolic hormone concentrations.10 Ten healthy, young male subjects performed unilateral resistance training for eight weeks (three days per week). Unilateral resistance exercise is where you train only one arm or in this case, leg (as opposed to both arms or legs), while the other arm or leg is used as a ‘control’ or untrained muscle. Exercises used in the study were knee extensions and leg presses, performed at 80-90 percent of the subject’s single-repetition maximum (1-RM). Blood samples were collected before, immediately after, 30, 60, 90, and 120 minutes post-exercise.

Total testosterone, free testosterone, GH, and insulin-like growth factor-1, along with other hormones, were analyzed for the first training bout and following the last training bout. Thigh muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) and muscle fiber CSA by biopsy (vastus lateralis) were also measured pre- and post-training. No acute changes in GH, testosterone, or IGF-1 concentrations were observed in the 90 minutes following exercise, and there was no influence of training on the anabolic hormones measured. GH did show a moderate increase 30 minutes post-exercise, but returned to baseline values by 90 minutes. Training-induced increases were observed in type IIb and IIa muscle fiber CSA. No changes were observed in fiber CSA in the untrained leg. Whole-muscle CSA increased by in the trained leg and remained unchanged in the untrained leg.

In conclusion, unilateral training induced local muscle hypertrophy in the exercised limb only, which occurred in the absence of testosterone, GH, or IGF-1 circulating levels. So I guess acute increases in anabolic hormones are a waste of time… well, not so fast. A new study was published which really emphasizes the importance of acute anabolic hormones during resistance exercise.

Bill Kraemer, one of the pioneers in GH research, told the American College of Sports Medicine, “GH and testosterone responses to acute resistance exercise are essential and more importantly, the anabolic hormone response that occurs with resistance exercise is like a symphony and GH and testosterone are an important part of that symphony along with IGF-1, MGF, and other anabolic hormones.”

High-intensity exercise has long been shown to increase testosterone and GH levels, but researchers recently published something in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology that emphasizes the need for high-intensity exercise and backs up what Dr. Kramer has been saying for years.

Those who say that acute increases in testosterone are not necessary are missing an important point: acute increases in resistance exercise-induced elevations in circulating T potentiate gains in muscle strength followinglong-term training. Researchers wanted to know if acute increases in exercise-induced testosterone had any effect on the androgen receptor, which has been shown to influence muscle hypertrophy.

Researchers designed this really cool study to investigate the situation:

  • Group A: Young male subjects performed heavy leg extensions only, and immediately had a thigh muscle biopsy.
  • Group B: Young men performed high-intensity heavy resistance exercise with both upper- and lower-body work. They performed bench presses, bent rows, and overhead presses. Afterward, the group performed heavy leg extensions followed by a muscle biopsy from the thigh. The researchers had the subjects perform an upper-body exercise with lower-body exercise to elicit a large increase in anabolic hormones.

While both groups had a muscle biopsy taken from the thigh after heavy leg extensions, the only difference was that one group did some upper-body work, which enhanced testosterone production.

The group that performed high-intensity, upper-body exercise and lower-body exercises had larger increases in testosterone than the group that only performed a lower-body exercise (i.e., leg extensions), but here is the really cool part. The group that performed bench presses, bent rows, and shoulder presses had a larger increase in androgen receptor function in their legs! I am not advocating a whole-body workout, but what the study shows is that the greater the increases in testosterone, the greater the increases in androgen receptors… even in different body parts (i.e., legs).

So now you have a study showing that you can increase androgen receptors to a larger extent by the acute increases in testosterone.12 This means you could possibly see some growth in your arms, chest, and back by sticking to exercises that generate large increases in testosterone.

I remember reading an article where a bodybuilder swore that doing heavy squats increased his arm size. Based on the current study, this all makes sense. In the study, the acute increases in testosterone were enhanced in the legs by doing high-intensity, upper-body exercise.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Anavar (Oxandrolone)

Anavar is the original brand name of the drug Oxandrolone and it’s one of the most misunderstood of all anabolic steroids. It’s both “underrated” and “over-rated” in many ways.

Anavar is regarded as a mild oral anabolic steroid that has a variety of uses. For someone who’s never taken anabolic steroids before it’s a good “entry” drug in that it doesn’t have a lot of harsh side effects. Of course, that’s only if dosages stay within reason. Therein lies the paradox. With Anavar, what makes it safe, makes it not very effective. And once it becomes effective, it’s not so safe.

Anavar (chemical name oxandrolone) in its pharmaceutical form comes in a 2.5 mg tablet. And it’s that recommended low dose that’s why Anavar is considered so “mild.” In therapeutic dosages, even children can use it. But for bodybuilding purposes the standard dosing would be all but useless. As with any oral, a dosing that is between 25-50 mgs a day is necessary. (Some advanced bodybuilders use up to 100 mgs a day). So in the case of prescription strength Oxandrolone, even if you took 10 tablets a day of the daily dosage, it would still in on the low side.

Anavar was originally developed to treat severe weight loss and has was prescribed for muscle wasting diseases, including AIDS. It was found that dosages of 5-10 mgs a day gave good results. But the prevention of muscle wasting and muscle building are two very different things.

Of course, as with ANY oral anabolic steroid once you go too far beyond 50 mgs or so, that’s when the potential problems begin. However, Anavar is thought of as less toxic to the liver than most other orals. Unfortunately, that belief is complete myth. Once again, the studies on the low toxicity of Anavar were done with the recommended dosages for medicinal purposes. Naturally, at 2.5 – 5 mgs a day one can expect no impact on the liver at all. This skewed evaluation falls under the category known as “bro-ology science.” In other words, someone does some reading, learns a little scientific knowledge, upon which he draws an seemingly reasonable yet erroneous conclusion, which in turn is then parroted endlessly from one so-called “expert” to another and on to a legion of followers. And on and on it goes. Before long, it’s considered common knowledge. Don’t be fooled. Anavar is 17 alpha alkylated , which in simple terms means that it is formulated to prevent breakdown in the liver. This makes for a greater effect but puts a tremendous strain on the liver. THAT is the main problem with orals, NOT the toxicity of the substance itself . And that is why Anavar  in effective dosages should be regarded as hepatotoxic as most other oral steroids.

Dosage and duration are prime factors that always need to be kept in mind. And remember that the dosage of one steroid is not the only issue. It’s the TOTAL amount of all the steroids being used that counts. So when taking more than one oral the total amount of mgs must be considered. This makes it imperative to use supplemental substances to protect the liver when using Anavar.

As for the reasons Anavar is under appreciated, there are many. Anavar can be stacked with any other steroid and can provide a welcome addition to any cycle. If you’re a newcomer to steroids and decide to use Anavar by itself, you can put on some solid muscle…just don’t expect overnight gains. Anavar increases anabolism tremendously, which essentially means it allows the muscles to absorb more protein. So the muscle building process is intensified but keep in mind, it still takes some time to grow muscle . People often confuse actual muscle growth with a steroid taking time to kick in, when in fact it begins working immediately, it’s just that muscle growth takes time to show. You probably won’t notice much at all until the third or fourth week. This is where Anavar is too often underestimated. Since the effect is strictly of an anabolic nature, the muscle grown on Anavar is usually very solid and long lasting. It’s fair to expect up to five pounds of pure muscle from using 25 mgs a day for a month. That may not seem like a lot. When using steroids, people expect to see those numbers on the scale go up (even if it’s temporary or from water weight). That won’t happen with Var which is why many consider it weak. But imagine five pounds of meat spread out throughout your body. That’s a good amount of lean mass.

It would be tempting to spread a cycle of Anavar out to 8, 10 or 12 weeks but no oral should be taken for that amount of time if you value your health. Young athletes often don’t think in terms of long range consequences but take it as truth – new livers are very hard to find! . A simple rule to remember is, the more you take, the more result and the more potential for problems. You have to take the bad with the good. The key is making the most of the cycle so that you can avoid as much of the bad and get as much of the good

Anavar is not considered a good drug for “bulking” for the fact that it doesn’t cause water retention, nor does it increase blood volume. (Something dianabol does to a great degree). Therefore, there is no significant weight gain. But Anavar does increase strength dramatically, due in part to the increase in creatine production and utilization which increases contractile strength, so it can be a great asset to a bulking program where lifting heavier weights is paramount to gaining size. Don’t surprised if your bench goes up 20% within a few weeks. That’s how powerful it truly is.

Anavar is often compared to Winstrol since both produce very “dry” gains, but the two drugs are nothing at all alike. Winstrol is a derivative of DHT , therefore it’s most androgenic and has masculating sides effects. (Hair loss, increased body hair, tougher skin, etc). Anavar has almost no androgenic properties. This is another advantage in that Anavar doesn’t cause a hard shut down of the HPTA. Though like all steroids, its structure is based off of the testosterone molecule, there’s bound to be some suppression, but it will be minimal with Anavar. So if you want to give your cycle some “kick” without stressing the HPTA, or if you’re a first or second timer and want to take something that won’t be that hard to recover from, Var is an excellent choice.

Because Anavar doesn’t cause much water retention high blood pressure shouldn’t be a problem. Because of its mild androgenic nature, it does not “aromatize.” Aromatization is when the body gets flooded with too much androgen and converts some of it into estrogen. That causes bloating, acne, and a possible loss of libido. Due to its low androgenic profile, Anavar is a favorite among women. They can gain muscle without the fear of masculizing side effects such as excess body hair. Excess estrogen is not a problem with Anavar and that too appeals to women going for a leaner more defined look. 5-10 mgs a day are as far as a gal may want to push it though. Too much more than that and the risk/benefit starts to tilt in an unfavorable direction.

Anavar is also unique in that it’s believed to assist in burning bodyfat, especially in the abdominal area. There’s some debate about this. All steroids build muscle and since you need to train and have your diet in check for best results there’s a tendency to look leaner. But with Anavar, the muscles do appear to be sharper and more cut. And there have been studies that have shown Anavar to reduce visceral fat in the stomach area with just moderate exercise. And the subjects kept the fat off after discontinuing usage as long as they continued to exercise and not increase caloric consumption. Very impressive.

This all sounds pretty good, right? Well, there’s more. Anavar is great for improving endurance and focus. Boxers and martial artists love it because they can increase power, speed and force without adding on a lot of weight.

Recovery for Anavar is pretty easy too. (Again, depending on how much and what else is stacked with it). With reasonable dosages it won’t shut down the HPTA and with just the use of some post cycle supplements you can recover fully pretty quickly.

There are a few more down sides though. One is cost. Anavar is among the most expensive oral steroids. And another drawback is the subtle results. At 50 mgs a day, Anavar is not going to produce as drastic a change to your physique as 50 mgs of Dianabol. For this reason it’s usually stacked with a stronger drug such as testosterone. The question then becomes, why use a mild drug if you’re just going to supplement it with a stronger one? That’s up to you and your goals.

Anavar is both strong and mild, harsh and safe, powerful. It has its place. It’s a smart choice for someone looking to “test the waters” of steroid use, or for someone looking for strength without a lot of weight gain or for competitive bodybuilders looking to finish off a cycle with a non bloating drug that will aid in fat loss. Or it can just be used to give some extra “oomph” to your cycle with minimal suppression. You need to decide if that sounds like something that works within your game plan.

Used correctly, Anavar is a potent contribution to even the most advanced cycles. Just keep in mind, it isn’t a free ride. It’s a lot more powerful than people realize – in both good ways and bad.