ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Asthmatics Who Quit Smoking May Reverse Lung Damage
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
Herbal Remedy Could Halt Peanut Allergy
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Taking the Mystery Out of Hypnotherapy
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
BONES & JOINTS
Living Near Major Road May Boost Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk
A Winning Strategy to Beat Spring Sporting Injuries
Human Ancestors Put Best Foot Forward 1.5M Years Ago
CANCER
Family History Key Player in Brain Cancer Risk
Sharing Cancer Info May Be Empowering
More Americans Urged to Get Cancer Screenings
CAREGIVING
New Guidelines for Treating Heart Failure
Few Hospitals Embracing Electronic Health Record Systems
Hospital Practices Influence Which Moms Will Breast-Feed
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Bye, Bye Back Fat?
Firefighters Have Narrower-Than-Normal Arteries, Study Finds
COSMETIC
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
Health Tip: After Liposuction
DENTAL, ORAL
A Sweet Way to Shield Baby's Teeth
Gum Disease Might Boost Cancer Risk
Laser Technology Spots Cavities Before They Start
DIABETES
Boosting Vitamin D Can Do a Heart Good
Whole Grains Take a Bite Out of Type 2 Diabetes Risk
Exercise Protects Black Women From Type 2 Diabetes
DIET, NUTRITION
An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away
Brown Rice Bests White for Diabetes Prevention
Antioxidants Abound in Cereals, Popcorn, Whole-Grain Snacks
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Vest Monitors 'Individual' Air Pollution
Pilots May Face Greater Cancer Risk
Ozone Pollution Taking Toll on American Lives
EYE CARE, VISION
Music Can Help Restore Stroke Patients' Sight
Certain Diabetes Drugs May Pose Eye Risk
When Gauging Age, the Eyes Have It
FITNESS
Keep Safety in Mind While Your Kids Are Cooling Off in the Water
Exercise Cuts Lung Cancer Risk in Ex-Smokers by 45%
Research Confirms How Valuable A Healthy Lifestyle Can Be
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
GENERAL HEALTH
Keep Fire Safety in Mind as You Celebrate
Time to Remind Teens About Sun Protection
After Job Loss, People Report More Health Issues
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Exercise May Blunt Salt's Effect on Hypertension
Potassium-Rich Foods May Cut Stroke, Heart Disease Risk
Review Confirms Links Between Diet, Heart Health
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Babies Who Eat Fish Lower Eczema Risk
Keep Safety in Mind While Your Kids Are Cooling Off in the Water
MEN'S HEALTH
Drinking Green Tea May Slow Prostate Cancer
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
MENTAL HEALTH
Reminiscing Helps Build Emotional Strength
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Estrogen May Help Men's Hearts
PAIN
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
SENIORS
Want Better Health in the New Year, Add Exercise to Your Day
For a Healthier Retirement, Work a Little
High-Impact Activity May Be Good for Old Bones
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Natural Childbirth Moms More Attuned to Babies' Cry
Exercise As Well As Acupuncture, May Ease Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
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Exercise Guards White Blood Cells Against Aging

(HealthDay News) -- Studies have shown that exercise can help ward off heart disease and cancer, and now new research shows that the reason why may be found within cells themselves.

Endurance athletes had longer telomeres -- DNA at the tips of chromosomes that protect the cell -- in their white blood cells than healthy, nonsmoking adults who did not exercise regularly, German researchers report.

Telomeres can be thought of as the plastic tips on the end of shoelaces, which prevent the lace from fraying, explained Emmanuel Skordalakes, an assistant professor of gene expression and regulation at The Wistar Institute in Philadelphia.

Over the life span, cells continue to divide. Each time a cell divides, the telomere is shortened. When the telomere gets too short, the cell stops dividing. When this happens, people age -- gradually losing muscle strength, skin elasticity, vision, hearing and mental abilities, and so on, Skordalakes said.

In the study, the researchers measured the length of white blood cell telomeres of endurance athletes and compared them to the telomeres of age-matched healthy nonsmokers who typically exercised less than one hour a week (the control group). Athletic participants included professional runners with an average age of 20 who ran more than 45 miles a week as part of the German National track and field team. A second group of athletes were middle-aged (average age 51) who had done endurance exercise since youth and ran an average of nearly 50 miles a week.

Not surprisingly, the athletes had a slower resting heart rate -- a sign of cardiovascular fitness -- as well as lower blood pressure, lower body mass index and lower cholesterol than those in the control group.

But the athletes also had longer telomeres than those who were of similar age but did not exercise, and the athletes showed increased activity of the enzyme telomerase, which maintains the telomere.

"This is direct evidence of an anti-aging effect of physical exercise," study author Dr. Ulrich Laufs, a professor of clinical and experimental medicine in the department of internal medicine at Saarland University in Homburg, said in a statement.

The study findings were released online Nov. 30 in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of Circulation.

Until recently, the primary role of white blood cells was thought to be fighting off infections, said Dr. Annabelle Volgman, a cardiologist and director of the Heart Center for Women at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Newer research has shown white blood cells do much more, including continuously seeking out abnormal cell growths, such as those that cause cancer, and clearing them away.

One reason why cancer rates increase with age could be that the white blood cells themselves age, and become less efficient at dealing with the abnormal growths, Volgman said. If exercise maintains the youthfulness of the white blood cells by preventing the shortening of the telomere, it may explain why exercise can protect against developing cancer.

Likewise, with heart disease, aging white blood cells (along with high blood pressure and other factors) may allow plaques to accumulate more quickly. By keeping white blood cells young, exercise may enable them to continue to efficiently clear away plaques, Volgman said.

"We know that any physical activity improves cardiovascular health and helps in preventing cancer," Volgman said. "This study is showing us the molecular basis for this."

The question, of course, is how much exercise is needed to prevent telomere shortening. Must one be a marathon runner? Or is the standard advice of walking for at least 30 minutes, most days of the week enough?

Because no one really knows the answer, Volgman said, the best advice is to do some sort of exercise regularly. Previous research has shown even moderate activity can be beneficial to the telomeres.

Exercise intensity should be guided by fitness level -- in other words, if you're used to doing vigorous exercise, keep it up. If not, do what you can without overdoing it or risking other injury.

"Not everyone has the makeup to be an elite athlete," Volgman said. "The safest thing to say is that people do need that aerobic exercise. But there are so many factors that impact aging and if you are going to get cancer or heart disease."

In addition to testing human white blood cells, researchers also used mice to study the impact of exercise on proteins that have been implicated in heart disease and cancer. The researchers found that the mice with access to a running wheel for three weeks showed increased activity of tumor-suppressing proteins and proteins that play a role in telomere length.

"What these people have shown through this study is that through activity and a healthy lifestyle, you can upregulate the levels of activity of factors that protect or play a role in maintaining the telomeres of humans and mice," Skordalakes said.

SOURCES: Emmanuel Skordalakes, Ph.D., assistant professor, gene expression and regulation, The Wistar Institute, Philadelphia; Annabelle Volgman, M.D., cardiologist and director, Heart Center for Women, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago; Nov. 30, 2009, Circulation, online Published on: November 30, 2009