Most folks think a pair of soft stretchy blue jeans make your quarantine strolls easier. Research shows that it’s actually our genes that play a huge role in determining agility and easy, youthful gait while taking your daily awe-walk in the park. Enjoy those autumn leaves and take a look at research conducted at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health outlining which gene aids in agility for older folks that deal with chronic pain as they age.
Previous research conducted by an associate at Ladders examined the role opening up our dopamine receptors play in easing the pain associated with neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s in older patients. The gene responsible for facilitating this incredible process is called COMT (catechol-O-methyltransferase.)
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that aids us all in vital metabolic functions. In regards to folks dealing with Parkinson’s, they are usually given a COMT inhibitor. Depending on your genetic makeup the presence of COMT metabolizes or breaks down neurotransmitters like dopamine responsible for motor control functions.
More dopamine means better signals between your brain and body to aid in smooth normal movements to go about your day to day. This rings true for folks not dealing with neurodegenerative diseases as well. Higher dopamine levels signal quicker gaits and smoother motions for elderly adults dealing with the natural effects of aging.
This means opening up dopamine receptors responsible for pain relief can aid older folks in dealing with the normal wear and tear on their muscular and skeletal systems as they get older.
Take a look at this fascinating case study succinctly outlined here.
The case study
Researchers proposed and carried out a cross-sectional population‐based study on a sample of 3,744 older folks over the age of 65 that had no pre-existing conditions that would affect their dopamine levels such as the presence of any neurodegenerative disorders or mood disorders.
Once they collected this data they took a look at the following determining factors to see how the presence of a high dopamine-genotype affected frailty and mobility levels in relatively healthy elderly participants.
Participants whose presence of dopamine and dopamine producing enzymes in the form of COMT performed these exercises with greater ease and higher speeds than those whose genotype was lacking in this dopamine enhanced genetic makeup.
Once dopamine is easier to access, the benefits gleaned from lower inflammation and increasing older folks’ threshold for pain, made physical activity a lot easier for them to complete with clocked increased speeds.
“The Pittsburgh team adds that adults with a high-dopamine COMT gene constitution have walking speeds 10 percent faster than their peers with a low-dopamine COMT genotype.”
“This 10% difference may seem small, but it could make a big difference for a person walking across a busy street while negotiating traffic.
This difference is even more striking when you consider just how many complex genes influence walking.”
What does this mean for the elderly?
This is great news for our older community. The findings from this research, yet to be peer-reviewed, opens up the possibilities for mobility-related treatments and medicines using dopamine enhancing methodology.
As long as elderly men and women continue to engage in activities that boost dopamine levels this can aid in less pain and more speed to enjoy physical activities. Dancing is chief among these activities so break out that old little black dress you wore for your anniversary a few years back and go swing with your beloved in the park.
Rosano and her colleagues are right on the brink of discovering more ways for grandma to get her groove back. They must first determine what dopamine levels must exist to aid in these cognitive and physiological functions before patenting proper medications or supplements they can take in the future. Rosano expresses this hopeful sentiment next.
“If we give dopamine to these people, could we make them more resilient? That’s what we don’t know yet.”
What I learned
The existence of a genotype primed for the creation and facilitation of dopamine levels in the brain definitely helps aid mobility for folks in older communities. Hopefully, groundbreaking research in the near future will help aid us in coming up with more ways to assist the elderly. It will be nice to enjoy moving and dancing at any age with your loved ones as much as you did when you met your highschool sweetheart at the sock hop.