ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Placebo Acupuncture Tied to Higher IVF Pregnancies
Traditional Chinese Therapy May Help Ease Eczema
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Safe Toys for Dogs
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
Studies Struggle to Gauge Glucosamine's Worth
Study Examines How Rheumatoid Arthritis Destroys Bone
Active Young Women Need Calcium, Vitamin D
CANCER
Quitting Smoking Doubles Survival in Early Stage Lung Cancer
Red Meat No No No But Oily Fish Yes Yes Yes
Exercise Cuts Lung Cancer Risk in Ex-Smokers by 45%
CAREGIVING
Caring for Aging Loved Ones Can Be a Catch-22
Birthmark or Blood Vessel Problem?
Few Hospitals Embracing Electronic Health Record Systems
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
Bad Marriages Harder on Women's Health
Bye, Bye Back Fat?
COSMETIC
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
DENTAL, ORAL
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
Toothbrushing May Stave Off Heart Woes
Acid Drinks Blamed for Increase in Tooth Erosion
DIABETES
Lifestyle Factors Tied to Older Adults' Diabetes Risk
Brown Rice Bests White for Diabetes Prevention
Doctors Urged to Screen Diabetics for Sleep Apnea
DIET, NUTRITION
More Educated Choose Healthier Foods, But Pay More
Mediterranean Diet May Help Prevent Depression
The Raw Food Diet
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Warmer-Than-Average Temperatures Raise Migraine Risk
Vitamin D Deficit May Trigger MS Risk Gene
Population-Based Strategy Urged to Cut U.S. Obesity Rate
EYE CARE, VISION
Kids' Eye Injuries From Golf Clubs Rare But Severe
FDA Goes After Unapproved Eye Washes, Skin Ointments
Eye Care Checkups Tied to Insurance Status
FITNESS
Occupational Therapy Plus Exercise Benefits Osteoarthritis
Walking Golf Course Affects Swing, Performance
Run for Your Life
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
GENERAL HEALTH
Most Women Struggle With Rising Health Care Costs
Time to Remind Teens About Sun Protection
Adults Need To Get Thier Food Facts Straight
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Most Fast-Food French Fries Cooked in Unhealthiest Oil
Drinking Your Way to Health? Perhaps Not
Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Exercise During Pregnancy Keeps Newborn Size Normal
Combo Treatment Eases Wheezing in Babies
Time to Remind Teens About Sun Protection
MEN'S HEALTH
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
MENTAL HEALTH
Shop 'Til You Drop: You May Feel Better
17 Ways to Create the Perfect Workday
Drink Away Dementia?
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
Exercise As Well As Acupuncture, May Ease Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
SENIORS
Boost In Elderly Population Will Be Felt Worldwide
Keeping Mentally Active Seems To Keep The Brain Active
For Older Walkers, Faster Is Better
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Most Women With Osteoporosis Unaware of Raised Fracture Risk
Iodine in Prenatal Vitamins Varies Widely
Vitamin D Deficiency Puts 40% of U.S. Infants and Toddlers At Risk
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Video Gaming Just Might Fight Aging

Slaying orcs, charting military campaigns and gunning down bad guys might not sound like things seniors would be interested in pursuing for fun or exercise.

But they might want to start, some experts on aging say.

Research has found that off-the-shelf video games have the potential to help seniors age more gracefully, keeping their minds sharp and responsive through game play.

"There's a growing body of evidence that suggests playing video games actually can improve older adults' reflexes, processing speed, memory, attention skills and spatial abilities," said Jason Allaire, an associate professor of psychology at North Carolina State University and co-director of its Gains Through Gaming Lab.

With the advent of the Nintendo Wii, there's even the potential that video games could provide seniors with an outlet for physical exercise.

The Wii uses special controllers that require arm and body movements, and a number of games have been developed for the system specifically to provide an exercise program.

One study found that a Wii bowling game boosted the heart rate of players at a senior center in Pensacola, Fla., by about 40 percent. The game required that the players, who were in their 60s, 70s and 80s, hold the controller like a bowling ball and swing it to hit the pins in a virtual bowling alley.

"The Wii is a perfect vehicle because it is so easy," Allaire said. "It's in a lot of senior centers already. Older adults already tend to use it."

The potential of video games to keep minds sharp was highlighted in a 2008 study in which 40 people in their 60s and 70s were asked to play Rise of Nations, a real-time strategy game for computers that can be found in many stores that sell video games.

"We wanted to see whether we could take an off-the-shelf game and see fairly substantial changes," said Art Kramer, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who participated in the study.

Researchers measured the cognitive abilities of the players, none of whom had played any video games for at least two years. They then had half the group play Rise of Nations for nearly 24 hours total over an eight-week period.

Follow-up tests found that the seniors who played the strategy video game improved their performance on tests of memory, reasoning and cognition. There were particular improvements, Kramer said, in what's called executive control processes -- abilities such as planning, scheduling, dealing with ambiguity and multi-tasking.

"As we get older, we show declines in many of those abilities," he said. "As a result of doing certain things, we end up doing them less often. The kinds of processes that were exercised in the video game were some of the processes that older adults show deficits on."

Allaire is part of a team that has been given a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to do further research on whether and how video games can boost memory and thinking skills in the elderly.

The researchers plan to have seniors play a Wii game called Boom Blox that involves using weapons such as slingshots and cannonballs to demolish on-screen targets. The research will also involve World of Warcraft, an online role-playing game, Allaire said.

The plan is to assess three aspects of video game-playing that are thought to drive cognitive improvements in older people, Allaire said. They are:

* Attentional demand. "You have to pay attention to what's going on on the screen and react quickly," he said. "The more attention you expend on the video game, the better you get at focusing your attention."
* Novelty. "There's a lot of research that, when we're put in novel situations or are learning novel things, it activates our brains," he said.
* Social interaction. "People who stay more socially engaged have more cognitive function," he said. "We think people will interact with each other through collaborating and playing the game."

Though the research efforts show the possibilities of using video games to help aging adults, Allaire noted that no studies have shown a transfer of video-game skills to real-world activities.

"Is it going to help you remember to take your medications, or to remember what you wanted to buy at the store?" he asked. "That really hasn't been proven."

Kramer said that seniors should consider video games one of a number of things they can do to keep themselves sharp.

"I would not suggest that video games would be the only or even the best way to exercise those cognitive functions," he said, noting that physical exercise, social interaction and diet are already proven ways to promote mental abilities as you get older. "I would recommend they get out and ride a bike. I would recommend they learn a new language."

SOURCES: Jason Allaire, Ph.D., assistant professor, psychology, and co-director, Gains Through Gaming Lab, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C.; Art Kramer, Ph.D., professor, neuroscience and psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Ill.; presentation, American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting, May 27-30, 2009, Seattle Published on: January 22, 2010