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Exercise During Teen Years Linked to Lowered Risk of Cancer Death Later

teen exercise 2Women who exercised during their teen years were less likely to die from cancer and all other causes during middle-age and later in life, according to a new study by investigators at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Shanghai Cancer Institute in China.

The study was published online July 31 in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association of Cancer Research.

Lead author Sarah Nechuta, Ph.D., MPH, assistant professor of Medicine in the Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center, said understanding the long-term impact of modifiable lifestyle factors such as exercise in adolescence can have important public health implications for disease prevention over the course of a woman’s life.

“Our results support the importance of promoting exercise participation in adolescence to reduce mortality in later life and highlight the critical need for the initiation of disease prevention early in life,” said Nechuta.Teen exercise 3

The study was designed to ascertain potential associations between adolescent exercise and cancer, cardiovascular disease or other causes of death among women in middle age and later life. The investigators used data from the Shanghai Women’s Health Study, a large ongoing prospective cohort study of 74,941 Chinese women between the ages of 40 and 70. The women enrolled in the study between 1996 and 2000. Each participant was interviewed at enrollment about exercise during adolescence, including participation in team sports, as well as other adolescent lifestyle factors. They were also asked about exercise during adulthood and other adult lifestyle factors and socioeconomic status, and participants were interviewed again every two to three years.

Regular exercise was defined as occurring at least once a week for at least three continuous months. Women who Teen exercise 1reported regular adolescent exercise were also asked how many hours a week they participated and for how many years they had exercised regularly.

“In women, adolescent exercise participation, regardless of adult exercise, was associated with reduced risk of cancer and all-cause mortality,” explained Nechuta.

Participation in team sports during the teen years was associated with a reduced risk of cancer death later in life.

Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)


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Exercise and Heart Damage

running 3Running marathons or completing other ultra-endurance events is not necessarily bad for the heart, although it could be. But first, a clarification: By standard definitions of exercise intensity, running or jogging is moderate or even vigorous exercise. During such exertion, the heart works hard to supply blood to working muscles and over time becomes stronger and somewhat larger.

Research has been unclear on whether these changes can become harmful. Multiple studies have shown that immediately after running a marathon, most racers show increased levels of a protein associated with cardiac damage. But those levels soon return to normal, with no lingering damage.

Years of prolonged and repeated endurance training and racing, however, might have more pronounced, lasting and running 2worrisome effects. A 2011 study of aging former Olympic runners and rowers from Britain, for instance, found that compared with healthy but unathletic men of the same age, the retired Olympians were disproportionately more likely to have scarring within their heart muscles. Similarly, in a 2013 study, people who had competed multiple times in a grueling, 56-mile cross-country ski race in Sweden had a much-higher-than-normal risk of developing heart arrhythmia within five years.

But these studies, although disquieting, “do not mean that it has suddenly become dangerous to exercise,” said Kasper Andersen, a professor at Uppsala University in Sweden who led the study of skiers. In fact, an earlier study from his lab found that, over all, runningparticipants in the ski race had a below-average risk of premature death.

Even the Olympians with heart scarring seemed largely unaffected. They were running and competing well into their 60s and 70s, that study found. Conceivably, the researchers wrote, the Olympians’ cardiac changes, which would be undesirable in most people, were normal in lifelong endurance athletes.

At this point, scientists just do not know precisely how years of endurance training might affect the heart.

So the best advice for those who enjoy endurance training is “carry on as usual,” Dr. Andersen said. “But remember to listen to your body and seek a doctor if you experience any symptoms from the heart.”

Source: New York Times

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Year Born May Determine Obesity Risk

obesity1Investigators working to unravel the impact of genetics versus environment on traits such as obesity may also need to consider a new factor: when individuals were born.

In the current issue of PNAS Early Edition a multi-institutional research team reports finding that the impact of a variant in the FTO gene that previous research has linked to obesity risk largely depends on birth year, with no correlation between gene variant and obesity in study participants born in earlier years and a far stronger correlation than previously reported for those born in later years.

“Looking at participants in the Framingham Heart Study, we found that the correlation between the best known obesity-obesity 2associated gene variant and body mass index increased significantly as the year of birth of participants increased,” says Harvard Medical School instructor James Niels Rosenquist of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Department of Psychiatry, lead author of the report. “These results — to our knowledge the first of their kind — suggest that this and perhaps other correlations between gene variants and physical traits may vary significantly depending on when individuals were born, even for those born into the same families.”

obesity 3The authors note that most studies of interactions between genes and the environment have looked at differences within specific birth cohorts —groups born during a particular span of years — which would not account for changes in the larger environment that take place over time. To investigate whether different conditions experienced by different age groups might alter the impact of a gene variant, they analyzed data from participants in the Framingham Offspring Study (which follows the children of participants in the original study) gathered between 1971, when participants ranged in age from 27 to 63, and 2008.

Source: Harvard Gazette

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Bad Air In Our Gyms

gym 1With chilly weather settling in and darkness arriving before most people’s workdays end, many of us are shifting our workouts indoors, a practice that is much better for us than abandoning exercise for the winter. But a new study of air quality in gyms raises some interesting questions about whether the places in which we work out are as healthy as they should be.

Science and common sense tell us that exercising in polluted air is undesirable. People who frequently run alongside heavily trafficked freeways and breathe great lungfuls of exhaust have been shown to have an increased risk of heart disease, even if they are otherwise in admirably good shape. But few studies systematically have examined the air quality inside gyms.gym 2

Therefore, from the journal Building and Environment, researchers at the University of Lisbon in Portugal and the Technical University of Delft in Holland decided that they would place air-quality monitoring equipment in gyms throughout Lisbon. … Their findings were disquieting. In general, the gyms showed high levels of airborne dust, formaldehyde and carbon dioxide. The concentrations of these substances generally exceeded most gym 3accepted standards for indoor air quality. (No government agency in the United States formally monitors air quality in gyms.) The levels were especially high during evening aerobics classes, when many people were packed into small studios, stirring up dust and fumes and puffing heavily, producing carbon dioxide with every breath. … In sufficient concentrations, these substances can contribute to asthma and other respiratory problems, she said. Almost all of the gyms in the study had levels of these substances that significantly exceed European standards for healthy indoor air standards.

Source: New York Times


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Cardiovascular Screening May Be Worthwhile For Middle-Aged Athletes

Heart 2Cardiovascular screenings are a cost-effective way to identify middle-aged athletes who may risk heart attacks or strokes by participating in high-intensity sports, a new study suggests.

“I would suggest that all middle-aged athletes should be screened at least once, particularly men over 40 and women over 50,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Andrea Menafoglio, a cardiologist at Ospedale San Giovanni in Bellinzona, Switzerland.

While the benefits of regular exercise are well known, vigorous physical exertion can be life-threatening for older athletes who may not realize that they have an underlying heart condition. Guidelines in Europe and the U.S. urge cardiovascular risk evaluations for middle-aged athletes, but researchers say the recommendations aren’t universally followed because widespread implementation hasn’t proved effective or affordable.

To see if widespread screening could detect hidden symptoms and risks for heart disease at a reasonable price, MenafoglioHeart 3 and colleagues at three hospitals in Switzerland evaluated 785 athletes between the ages of 35 and 65.

Each of the athletes reported spending at least two hours a week participating in high-intensity sports such as running, cycling, triathlon, football, swimming, tennis, climbing, or cross-country skiing.

The initial evaluation included a personal and family history, a physical heart 5exam, and a resting electrocardiogram, or ECG. For each participant, the researchers also estimated the risk of death from cardiovascular disease within the next 10 years based on gender, age, cholesterol level, blood pressure, and smoking habits.

Overall, the cost of screening averaged $199 per athlete (about 160 euros), because most athletes didn’t need any testing beyond the initial evaluation.

About one in seven athletes needed additional screening. Extra tests found some cases of previously unimagined diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and mild heart valve disease.

Overall, the screenings caught previously undetected cardiovascular abnormalities in about 3 percent of participants and aheart 4 high cardiovascular risk profile in about 4 percent.

Just three athletes had abnormalities that made it too dangerous for them to continue their exercise routines.

Source: Reuters Health

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Exercise Keeps BP Steady Despite Age

A progressively rising blood pressure trajectory is not an inevitable part of aging in men who remain active and maintain high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness, a prospective, population-based study found.

exerciseThe study included almost 14,000 men without high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, or cancer at baseline followed for three and a half decades.

Men in the study who were categorized as having the lowest level of fitness, based on baseline treadmill tests, reached a systolic blood pressure (SBP) of >120 mmHg at approximately 46 years of age, compared with 54 years of age among those whose fitness levels were highest. Age-related diastolic blood pressure differences (DBP) were far more pronounced, with low-fitness men reaching >80 mmHg at approximately 42 years old compared with beyond age 90 in the highest fitness group.

“This suggests that highly fit men are likely to reach abnormal SBP values about a decade later than men in the low fitness category, implying that improving fitness levels may reduce the duration of elevated SBP,” researcher Junxiu Liu, MD, of the University of South Carolina Columbia, and colleagues wrote in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, published online Sept. 15.

Exercise Keeps Heart Young

The study is one of two published in the issue suggesting that staying physically fit throughout life can keep aging hearts healthy.

In a separate investigation, researchers in Texas examined the impact of long-term exercise on left ventricular (LV) compliance and distensibility in around a hundred older men and women.

The study showed that while low levels of casual, lifelong exercise did not prevent decreased compliance and distensibility, four to five ≥30 minute exercise sessions a week throughout adulthood did prevent most age-related LV stiffness.

“This finding holds important implications for global health, as ventricular stiffening has been implicated in the pathophysiology of many common cardiovascular conditions affecting the elderly,” researcher Paul S. Bhella, MD, of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, Dallas, and colleagues, wrote.blood pressure

Fit Men Had ‘Younger’ BP

The study by Liu and colleagues included an all male cohort from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study, which was a large study that included mostly white, college-educated people with middle to high socioeconomic status.

The men were between the ages of 20 and 90 at study entry, and they completed between three and 28 (mean 3.8) follow-up medical examinations between 1970 and 2006. Fitness was measured by a maximal treadmill exercise test, and longitudinal data were analysed using linear mixed models.

Cardiovascular fitness was assessed using the Balke maximal treadmill exercise test, with total treadmill time (highly correlated with oxygen uptake) used as an index of aerobic power. Participants were classified into low (<33rd percentile), moderate (33rd to 66th percentile), or high fitness categories (>66th percentile), according to the distribution of age-specific treadmill time.

Information on age, smoking status, and alcohol consumption were obtained by self-administered questionnaire. Body fat percentage was assessed using hydrostatic weigh in, skin fold thickness measurements, or both.

Among the key findings from the study:

-DBP tended to increase until nearly 60 years of age, when a decrease was observed, while SBP tended to increase over all age periods.

-Multivariate analysis revealed that average SBP increased by 0.30 mmHg (95% CI 0.29-0.31) with 1-year age increment after adjusting for body fat percent, fitness, resting heart rate, glucose level, triglyceride level, cholesterol level, current smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, and parental history of hypertension.

– had a yearly increase of 0.14 mm Hg (95% CI 0.13-0.15) before age 60 years.

-Overall, abnormal SBP (>120 mm Hg) began to occur at approximately 50 years of age and abnormal DBP (>80 mm Hg) began to occur at 60 years of age.

-Higher fitness levels significantly modified the risk in SBP trajectory across the lifespan, and the age-fitness interaction remained significant after adjusting for known hypertension risk factors.

Study strengths included the large number of participants, the longitudinal measure of SBP, DBP, and other time varying covariates, and the assessment of body fat percentage to measure obesity.

Limitations included the exclusion of women from the study, as well as the inclusion of only a small percentage (5%) of nonwhite and low income men, which limited its generalizability to these populations.

Findings May Not Apply to Women, Nonwhite Men

In an editorial accompanying the study, Stanley S .Franklin, MD, of the University of California Irvine, and Gary L. Pierce, PhD, of the University of Iowa, Iowa City, wrote that the exclusion of women was a major study limitation.

“There is some evidence that men have a steeper rate of increase in aortic stiffening beyond 50 years of age compared with women; therefore, fitness may have a different modifying effect on SBP and DBP trajectory with aging in women than men,” they wrote.

Even with the limitations, Franklin and Pierce wrote that the study suggests “habitual aerobic exercise may counteract the burden of cardiometabolic abnormalities that accelerate artery stiffening- characterized as ‘early vascular aging’ — and therefore slow the onset and severity of isolated systolic hypertension.”

Regular Exercise Preserves LV Function

In the study by Bhella and colleagues, 102 healthy older people (>64 years of age) were recruited and screened for lifelong patterns of exercise. The participants were stratified into four groups: sedentary (<2 ≥30 minute sessions/week), casual (2 to 3 sessions/week) committed (4 to 5 sessions/week) and competitive (6 to 7 sessions/week).

Right heart catheterization and echocardiography were performed while pre-load was manipulated using lower body negative pressure and rapid saline infusion to define LV pressure-volume relationships.

Peak oxygen uptake and LV mass increased with escalating doses of lifelong exercise, with little change in systolic function. At baseline, LV distensibility was greater in committed (21%) and competitive (36%) exercisers than in sedentary participants.

Group LV stiffness constants (sedentary: 0.062±0.039; casual: 0.079±0.052; committed: 0.055±0.033; and competitive: 0.035 ±0.033) revealed increased stiffness in sedentary subjects compared with competitive athletes, whereas lifelong casual exercise had no effect. They also showed greater compliance in committed exercisers than in sedentary or casual exercisers.

bp cupThe researchers noted that sedentary aging, and the decreases in LV compliance and distensibility that accompany it, may set the stage for the cardiovascular conditions that affect the elderly, such as atrial fibrillation and heart failure with preserved ejection fraction.

In a commentary published with the study, Wilbur Y.W. Lew, MD, of the VA San Diego Healthcare System and the University of California San Diego, wrote that the effects of exercise on the heart are multifactorial and complex and that potential factors that prevent age-related changes in LV compliance include lowering blood pressure and arterial stiffness, decreasing cardiovascular comorbidities, improving endothelial function, and activating metabolic and signaling pathways to reduce chronic inflammation, fibrosis, and LV remodeling.

“A long-term commitment to exercise preserves LV compliance comparable to a young heart,” he wrote. “This may facilitate diastolic filling and preserve diastolic function. We face challenges to establishing causality, identifying mechanisms, and applying these results to an increasingly sedentary population.”

Source: medpagetoday.com


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Can Exercise Cause A.L.S.?

Lou Gehrig ALS

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis has been all over the news lately because of the ubiquitous A.L.S. ice bucket challenge. That attention has also reinvigorated a long-simmering scientific debate about whether participating in contact sports or even vigorous exercise might somehow contribute to the development of the fatal neurodegenerative disease, an issue that two important new studies attempt to answer.

Ever since the great Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig died of A.L.S. in 1941 at age 37, many Americans have vaguely connected A.L.S. with athletes and sports. In Europe, the possible linkage has been more overtly discussed. In the past decade, several widely publicized studies indicated that professional Italian soccer players were disproportionately prone to A.L.S., with about a sixfold higher incidence than would have been expected numerically. Players were often diagnosed while in their 30s; the normal onset is after 60.

These findings prompted some small, follow-up epidemiological studies of A.L.S. patients in Europe. To the surprise and likely consternation of the researchers, they found weak but measurable associations between playing contact sports and a heightened risk for A.L.S. The data even showed links between being physically active — meaning exercising regularly — and contracting the disease, raising concerns among scientists that exercise might somehow be inducing A.L.S. in susceptible people, perhaps by affecting brain neurons or increasing bodily stress.

But these studies were extremely small and had methodological problems. So to better determine what role sports and exercise might play in the risk for A.L.S., researchers from across Europe recently combined their efforts into two major new studies.

The more impressive of these, which was published in May in Annals of Neurology, involved almost two dozen researchers from five nations, who developed a deceptively simple but scientifically rigorous research approach. They asked 652 A.L.S. patients if they’d be willing to talk about their lives and activities and did the same with 1,166 people of matching ages, genders and nationalities. They conducted extensive in-person interviews with each volunteer, asking them how active they had been in professional or amateur sports, at their jobs and during leisure time. They also asked about past histories of injuries and accidents, including concussions and other head trauma but also other injuries.

They then compared answers from the people with A.L.S. to those of healthier people.

The results should reassure those of us who exercise. The numbers showed that physical activity — whether at work, in sports or during exercise — did not increase people’s risk of developing A.L.S. Instead, exercise actually appeared to offer some protection against the disease. Even pro athletes showed no heightened risk, although they represented such a tiny subset of the patients with A.L.S. that firm conclusions cannot be drawn, the researchers say.

One aspect of people’s lives did significantly increase their risk of developing A.L.S.: a history of multiple hits to the head. Men and women who had sustained at least two concussions or other serious head injuries were much more likely than other people, including never-concussed athletes, to develop A.L.S.

ice bucket

These results coincide closely with those of the other new study, a review article published in July in the European Journal of Epidemiology, which gathered data from 50 years’ worth of epidemiological studies related to A.L.S. risk (including the other new study) and teased out the effects of physical activity. Most of the studies were limited in scope, but they amplified one another’s validity when combined, the researchers thought.

And their main finding was that “in the general population, physical activity is not a risk factor for A.L.S.,” said Dr. Benoit Marin, a neuroepidemiologist at the French Institute of Health and Medical Research in Paris who oversaw the new review.

But as Dr. Marin also pointed out, the studies involved were all associational, meaning that they cannot establish cause and effect. Exercise and a reduced risk for A.L.S. might be linked to other lifestyle factors, such as a healthy diet, and not to each other.

The new studies also cannot dispel the lingering and troubling questions about the effects of head injuries from contact sports.

“I would not consider this issue settled,” said Ettore Beghi, a neuroscientist at the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Milan and senior author of the study published in May in Annals of Neurology.

In the United States, a few researchers have begun to look at football and A.L.S. risk, a plausible research concern, Dr. Beghi said, given evidence that head trauma sustained playing football might contribute to neurodegenerative diseases. But to date, the football data has been inconclusive.

For now, he and other scientists are continuing to study Italian soccer players, as well as athletes in other sports, including rugby, which, for some reason, confers no increased risk of A.L.S., although it involves considerable contact. Such research may ultimately “shed some light on the underlying mechanisms of the disease, which are still poorly understood,” Dr. Beghi said.

The greatest obstacle to advancing the research, he added, is “the lack of funding,” a situation that could be ameliorated, somewhat, with all of that ice dousing.

Source: New York Times