Monday, March 19, 2018

How exercise in old age prevents the immune system from declining

Fergus Walsh, Medical Correspondent, BBC

Doing lots of exercise in older age can prevent the immune system from declining and protect people against infections, scientists say.

They followed 125 long-distance cyclists, some now in their 80s, and found they had the immune systems of 20-year-olds.

Prof Norman Lazarus, 82, of King's College London, who took part in and co-authored the research, said: "If exercise was a pill, everyone would be taking it.

"It has wide-ranging benefits for the body, the mind, for our muscles and our immune system."

The research was published in the journal Aging Cell.

Prof Janet Lord, director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing, at the University of Birmingham, and co-author of the research, said: "The immune system declines by about 2-3% a year from our 20s, which is why older people are more susceptible to infections, conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and, potentially, cancer.

"Because the cyclists have the immune system of a 20-year-old rather than a 70- or 80-year-old, it means they have added protection against all these issues."

The researchers looked at markers in the blood for T-cells, which help the immune system respond to new infections.

These are produced in the thymus, a gland in the chest, which normally shrinks in size in adulthood.

Out of puff

They found that the endurance cyclists were producing the same level of T-cells as adults in their 20s, whereas a group of inactive older adults were producing very few.

The researchers believe that being physically active in old age will help people respond better to vaccines, and so be better protected against infections such as flu.

Steve Harridge, co-author and professor of physiology at King's College London, said: "Being sedentary goes against evolution because humans are designed to be physically active.

One elderly cyclist said he had the body fat of a 19-year-old

"You don't need to be a competitive athlete to reap the benefits - or be an endurance cyclist - anything which gets you moving and a little bit out of puff will help."

Prof Harridge and Prof Lazarus believe that highly physically active older people represent the perfect group in which to analyze the true effects of biological ageing.

A separate paper in Aging Cell found that the cyclists did not lose muscle mass or strength, and did not see an increase in body fat - which are usually associated with ageing.

I met a dozen of the cyclists, on a morning ride in Surrey. Despite the bitter cold, they were universally cheerful, and clearly used to riding in all weathers.

They are members of Audax, a long-distance cycling organization that organizes events ranging from 100km to 300km.

The older members - in their 80s - say they do only the "short" 100km (62-mile) rides, but this is still highly impressive.

So why do they do it?

Pam Jones, 79, told me: "I do it for my health, because it's sociable, and because I enjoy the freedom it gives you."

Brian Matkins, 82, said: "One of the first results I got from the medical study was I was told my body fat was comparable to that of a 19-year-old."

Aged just 64, Jim Woods, is a comparative youngster in the group. He averages 100 miles a week on his bike, with more during the summer.

He said: "I cycle for a sense of wellbeing and to enjoy our wonderful countryside."

Cycling 60 miles or more may not be your idea of fun, but these riders have found something that gives them pleasure, which is a key reason why they continue.

Monday, March 5, 2018

What is the Most Accurate Predictor of Early Death?

Let us ask you perhaps the biggest question in the medical world:
What’s the most accurate predictor of early death?

If you’re not sure - you’re not alone...
Because for decades, this “longevity question” has stumped top labs across the country, leading many in the science community to call this the “holy grail” of our research... but thanks to an incredible new study, it turns out the “true indicator” of a long, healthy life may have finally been cracked.

Because your REAL age might be predicted inside your cells. You see, researchers at Ohio State University conducted a wide-scale human study on a very specific biological marker inside all of us -
They’re called telomeres.

Telomeres are the genetic “caps” on your DNA, responsible for holding together the entire blueprint of you. Think of telomeres like the plastic cap on a shoelace. Over time, as the cap becomes frayed, that shoelace begins to unravel.

Well, your telomeres work the same way - only as they wear down, it’s your DNA that begins to unravel. And when your DNA begins to unravel, you can experience declining health and rapid aging.

So with this in mind, the researchers tested people of similar age and gender... but with varying degrees of health. And amazingly, they discovered that although all his test subjects were the same age - there was actually one MAJOR difference inside them:

The group with worse health had SIGNIFICANTLY shorter telomeres. 1.
And some scientists believe the main culprit of shorter telomeres was “cellular stress.”

This is VERY important. Because when left unchecked, this stress could eat away at your telomeres, leading to:
• Excess weight gain
• Low energy
• Sore muscles and achy joints
• And worst of all, perhaps vastly reduced longevity...

In fact, the people in this study with the most cellular stress had literally aged 9 years more than their counterparts on the cellular level... even though they were the exact same age.2

Which is why you’ve probably noticed how some people in their 80s look perfectly healthy, while others as young as 40 can already seem so old...

It’s not necessarily the number of years you’ve been alive that determines your healthy lifespan... Some of it is actually the amount of cellular stress inside you.


1. Damjanovic AK, Yang Y, Glaser R et al. Accelerated telomere erosion is associated with a declining immune function of caregivers of Alzheimer's disease patients. J Immunol 2007;179:4249-54.

2. Auddy B, Hazra J, Mitra A, Abedon B, Ghosal S. A standardized Withania somnifera extract significantly reduces stress-related parameters in chronically stressed humans: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. J Am Nutraceutical Assoc. 2008;11:50-6.