ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Should Your Child Be Seeing a Chiropractor?
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Music Therapy For Prehistoric Man?
ANIMAL CARE
Safe Toys for Dogs
Beware of Dog Bites
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
BONES & JOINTS
Barefoot Lifestyle Has Its Dangers
Breast-feeding Might Shield Women From Rheumatoid Arthritis
Scientists Discover How Osteoarthritis Destroys Cartilage
CANCER
Supplements Might Reduce Breast Cancer Risk
Family History Key Player in Brain Cancer Risk
Meditation May Reduce Stress in Breast Cancer Patients
CAREGIVING
UV Lights, Fans May Curb TB Spread in Hospitals
TV Watching Doesn't Fast-Track Baby's Skills
Moms Who Breast-Feed Less Likely to Neglect Child
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Migraines in Pregnancy Boost Vascular Risks
Mercury in Fish Linked to High Blood Pressure
Years of Exposure to Traffic Pollution Raises Blood Pressure
COSMETIC
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
DENTAL, ORAL
Health Tip: At Risk for Gingivitis
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
Laser Technology Spots Cavities Before They Start
DIABETES
Poor Blood Sugar Control After Heart Surgery Impacts Outcomes
Abnormal Heart Rhythm Boosts Death Risk for Diabetics
Diabetes Linked to Cognitive Problems
DIET, NUTRITION
Diet, Exercise May Slow Kidney Disease Progression
Teens Lose More Weight Using Healthy Strategies
Six Healthy-Sounding Foods That Really Aren't
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Meat-Eating Dinosaurs Used Legs and Arms Like Birds
Showerheads Harbor a Bounty of Germs
Chemicals in Carpets, Non-Stick Pans Tied to Thyroid Disease
EYE CARE, VISION
Omega-3 Foods May Lower Eye Disease Risk
Music Can Help Restore Stroke Patients' Sight
Nutrient-Rich Diet Lowers Risk of Age-Related Eye Disease
FITNESS
The 3LS Wellness Program for Reversing Chronic Symptoms and Creating Lasting Health
Exercise Keeps the Brain Young
Consciousness Helps the Mind and Body Work Together
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
GENERAL HEALTH
Most Fast-Food French Fries Cooked in Unhealthiest Oil
Regular Yoga May Improve Eating Habits
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
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
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Arteries Age Twice as Fast in Smokers
Omega-6 Fatty Acids Can Be Good for You
Implanted Defibrillators Boost Long-Term Survival
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Bullying Seems to Affect Kids Years Later
Music of Mozart Soothes the Preemie Baby
Backpack Safety Should Be on Back-to-School Lists
MEN'S HEALTH
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
MENTAL HEALTH
Music Soothes Anxiety as Well as Massage Does
Brain Scans Show How Humans 'Hear' Emotion
Cinnamon Breaks Up Brain Plaques, May Hold Key to Fighting Alzheimer’s
PAIN
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Music of Mozart Soothes the Preemie Baby
SENIORS
Friends, Not Grandkids, Key to Happy Retirement
Seniors Cope With Sleep Loss Better Than Young Adults
Community Exercise Programs Boost Seniors' Strength
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
Green Tea May Help Treat Uterine Fibroids
Occaisonal Dieting May Cut Breast Cancer, Study Says
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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