Is the Blood of Tom Brady Key to Your Future Health?

Stanford researchers are looking at ways the blood protein in top athletes can reduce the risk of cognitive loss as we get older. It doesn't mean we shouldn't plan for the costs and burdens of aging, but research could benefit many of us in the decades ahead.

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Is the Blood of Tom Brady Key to Your Future Health?
5 Min Read December 23rd, 2021

Even if you are not a football fan, most people know quarterback Tom Brady. Brady is a Super Bowl winner currently playing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as their quarterback. In addition to playing in the NFL at a high level in his 40s, he is on TV commercials, married to a supermodel, and a father. 

Born on August 3, 1977, most would not notice his advancing age when you see him and watch his athletic abilities. Brady credits his youthful looks and his continued high level of athletic ability in part to drinking a lot of water, keeping physically fit all year long, and eating healthy.

However, researchers say that super athletes like Tom Brady might be a key to protecting couch potatoes against brain diseases and often inflict us as we get past age 60. Well, at least in research mice, it seems to work.

'Tom Brady' like Mice Being Studied 

Tom Brady

NFL Quarterback Tom Brady

Stanford School of Medicine researchers have found that the blood from 'athletic mice,' young adult mice getting substantial exercise, benefits the brains of more sedentary mice of the same age. The researchers say a single protein in the blood of these Tom Brady mice seems to be primarily responsible for that benefit.

According to Stanford research, transfusions of blood from running mice reduced neuroinflammation in sedentary mice and improved their cognitive performance.

A mouse

No, this is not Tom Brady’s blood, but when Stanford researchers injected this protein into sedentary mice, the couch potatoes saw the same cognitive benefits. In humans, as we get older, we tend to have less activity. Activity diminishes because of aging issues like arthritis, joint problems, and other health-related problems. Alzheimer's and other types of dementia are a leading cause of long-term health care. Alzheimer's is also the sixth leading cause of death and the only one without a treatment or cure. 

Treatment and Prevention of Memory Decline

This discovery may open the door to treatments to reduce the risk of neurodegenerative disease or slow its progression in people who have reduced activity levels. The taming of brain inflammation is thought to take the natural benefit of exercise and give it to those who, for whatever reason, have lower activity levels. 

As we get older, the number of nerve cells - or neurons - in the brain decrease. Researchers say we start life with about 100 billion, but it declines once we get into our 20s. By the time we get into our 40s, we start losing up to 10,000 neurons per day, affecting our memory, coordination, and brain function.

Dr. Wojtek Rakowicz, a consultant neurologist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in London, says the deterioration of the gaps between the brain cells has the most significant impact. 

While some memory decline is normal, dementia is not a normal part of aging. By the time a person is 65, about 40% of them will have some gradual memory loss, but not that has an impact on their health and lifestyle and is unrelated to Alzheimer's and other dementias. 

Inflammation and Cognitive Health

"Neuroinflammation has been strongly tied to neurodegenerative diseases in humans," said Tony Wyss-Coray, Ph.D., professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford.

Tony Wyss-Coray, PhD

Dr. Tony Coray – Stanford University

Studies in animals show that neuroinflammation precipitates neurodegenerative disorders. If you can reverse or reduce the neuroinflammation, it can prolong cognitive health.

Next time you are watching super athletes like Tom Brady, you can think about how they can, indirectly, benefit you in the future. Additional research will be required, but science will find new ways to benefit our health and longevity. 

Longevity Brings Many Challenges

However, longevity still brings many challenges we will face as we get older. People require long-term health care due to illness, accidents, mobility problems, and other effects of aging. Aging is still a cause of long-term care. Being prepared for the costs and burdens of aging is vital to enjoying a successful future retirement.

Long-term health care costs are rising rapidly nationwide as labor costs increase and demand for long-term health care increases. While people like Tom Bradly have enough financial resources not to worry as much about long-term health care as the rest of us, the financial strain and family burdens are tremendous. Even people with a few million in assets can feel the financial pressure, and everyone with a family understands the stress and anxiety caused by a long-term care event.

Long-Term Care Costs are Costly - Care Not Covered by Most Insurance

Health insurance, including Medicare and supplements, pay little to nothing for most long-term care costs. Medicaid will only pay for long-term care if you have little or no income and assets. Long-Term Care Insurance will pay for these costs, but you are unable to purchase coverage once your health declines to a certain point. That leaves it to your family and finances unless you prepare beforehand.

Most people purchase Long-Term Care Insurance in their 50s. Many insurance companies offer solutions, but premiums can vary over 100%. The underwriting criteria also differ between insurance companies. Be sure to seek the advice of a qualified Long-Term Care Insurance specialist who represents the top companies to assist you in navigating the many options. 

It may be too late to become 'Tom Brady,' but you can always remain active, eat the right foods, and plan for longevity now before you get older.

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About the Author

Linda is a former journalist who now enjoys writing about topics she is interested in so she “can keep her mind active and engaged”.

LTC News Contributor Linda Maxwell

Linda Maxwell

Contributor since December 11th, 2017

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