ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Herbal Remedy Could Halt Peanut Allergy
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Maggots as Good as Gel in Leg Ulcer Treatments
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
Meditation May Boost Short-Term Visual Memory
ANIMAL CARE
Beware of Dog Bites
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
BONES & JOINTS
Most Kids With Type 1 Diabetes Lack Vitamin D
Chronic Low Back Pain Is on the Rise
Scientists Discover How Osteoarthritis Destroys Cartilage
CANCER
Exercise Cuts Lung Cancer Risk in Ex-Smokers by 45%
Lifting Weights Can Ease Arm Swelling in Breast Cancer Survivors
Adding Garlic Might Cut Cancer Risk
CAREGIVING
Older Caregivers Prone to Worse Sleep Patterns
Caregiving May Lengthen Life
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome as Deadly as Ever
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Years of Exposure to Traffic Pollution Raises Blood Pressure
Mercury in Fish Linked to High Blood Pressure
Firefighters Have Narrower-Than-Normal Arteries, Study Finds
COSMETIC
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
Health Tip: After Liposuction
DENTAL, ORAL
Laser Technology Spots Cavities Before They Start
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
Most Insured Adults Worry About Health Care Costs: Poll
DIABETES
Out-of-Control Blood Sugar May Affect Memory
Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes Updated
Fructose-Sweetened Drinks Up Metabolic Syndrome Risk
DIET, NUTRITION
6 Million U.S. Kids Lack Enough Vitamin D
Mediterranean Diet May Help Prevent Depression
HELP TO LOSE WEIGHT ON A LOW CAL BUDGET
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Traffic Seems to Make Kids' Asthma Worse
Exposure to 9/11 Fumes Tied to Chronic Headaches
Skin Woes Take Toll on U.S. Combat Troops
EYE CARE, VISION
Don't Lose Sight of Halloween Safety
Kids Think Glasses Make Others Look Smart, Honest
Ordinary Chores Cause Half of All Eye Injuries
FITNESS
Almost Two-Thirds of Americans Meet Exercise Guidelines
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Football Can Shrink Players
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
GENERAL HEALTH
More Whole Grains May Mean Less Fat
Life Expectancy in U.S. Hits New High
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
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
Cherry-Enriched Diet Cut Heart Risks in Rats
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
Review Confirms Links Between Diet, Heart Health
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Help Your Kids Stay Active
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
Exercise During Pregnancy Keeps Newborn Size Normal
MEN'S HEALTH
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Men's Heart Attack Risk
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
MENTAL HEALTH
Music Soothes Anxiety as Well as Massage Does
Optimism May Boost Immune System
Massage Fosters Healing in Bereaved Relatives
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
Yoga's Benefits Outweigh Risks for Pregnant Women
SENIORS
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Nighttime Urination Linked to Higher Death Rate Among Elderly
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Spice Compounds May Stem Tumor Growth
Lifting Weights Can Ease Arm Swelling in Breast Cancer Survivors
Women Smokers Lose 14.5 Years Off Life Span
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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