Archive for the ‘senior care’ Tag

Physical Activity Has an Anti-Aging Effect on Cardiovascular System

Brought to you from FindHelp4Seniors.ca

Article by SeniorJournal.com, December 1, 2009

People who engage in regular physical activity are gaining an anti-aging weapon that will help them live longer lives. New research finds intensive exercise prevents aging of the cardiovascular system by preventing shortening of telomeres – the DNA that bookends the chromosomes and protects the ends from damage, a protective effect against aging.

Researchers report in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association that they measured the length of telomeres in blood samples from two groups of professional athletes and two groups who were healthy nonsmokers, but not regular exercisers.

The telomere shortening mechanism limits cells to a fixed number of divisions and can be regarded as a “biological clock.” Gradual shortening of telomeres through cell divisions leads to aging on the cellular level and may limit lifetimes. When the telomeres become critically short the cell undergoes death.

The 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to researchers who discovered the nature of telomeres and how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase.

“The most significant finding of this study is that physical exercise of the professional athletes leads to activation of the important enzyme telomerase and stabilizes the telomere,” said Ulrich Laufs, M.D., the study’s lead author and professor of clinical and experimental medicine in the department of internal medicine at Saarland University in Homburg, Germany.

“This is direct evidence of an anti-aging effect of physical exercise. Physical exercise could prevent the aging of the cardiovascular system, reflecting this molecular principle.”

Essentially, the longer telomere of athletes is an efficient telomere.

The body’s cells are constantly growing and dividing and eventually dying off, a process controlled by the chromosomes within each cell. These chromosomal “end caps” — which have been likened to the tips of shoelaces, preventing them from fraying — become shorter with each cell division, and when they’re gone, the cell dies. Short telomeres limit the number of cell divisions, Laufs said.

In addition, the animal studies of Laufs and colleagues show that the regulation of telomere stabilizing proteins by exercise exerts important cellular functions beyond the regulation of telomere length itself by protecting from cellular deterioration and programmed cell death.

In the clinical study, researchers analyzed 32 professional runners, average age 20, from the German National Team of Track and Field. Their average running distance was about 73 kilometers (km), a little over 45 miles, per week.

Researchers compared the young professional athletes with middle-aged athletes with a history of continuous endurance exercise since their youth. Their average age was 51 and their average distance was about 80 km, or almost 50 miles, per week.

The two groups were evaluated against untrained athletes who were healthy nonsmokers, but who did not exercise regularly. They were matched for age with the professional athletes.

The fitness level of the athletes was superior to the untrained individuals. The athletes had a slower resting heart rate, lower blood pressure and body mass index, and a more favorable cholesterol profile, researchers said.

Long-term exercise training activates telomerase and reduces telomere shortening in human leukocytes. The age-dependent telomere loss was lower in the master athletes who had performed endurance exercising for several decades.

“Our data improves the molecular understanding of the protective effects of exercise on the vessel wall and underlines the potency of physical training in reducing the impact of age-related disease,” Laufs said.

The German Research Association and the University of Saarland funded the study.

Co-authors are: Christian Werner, M.D.; Tobias Furster, medical student; Thomas Widmann, M.D.; Janine Pöss, M.D.; Christiana Roggia, Ph. D.; Milad Hanhoun, M.D.; Jürgen Scharhag, M.D.; Nicole Buchner, Ph. D.; Tim Meyer, M.D.; Willfried Kindermann, M.D.; Judith Haendeler, Ph. D. and Michael Böhm, M.D.

Additional Resources:
• The American Heart Association’s Start! initiative encourages all Americans to participate in regular physical activity. Start! includes personalized walking plans for people at any fitness level. Visit http://www.startwalkingnow.org to download the Start! Walking Plans and locate Start! Walking Paths near you.

Saskia Wijngaard is founder of FindHelp4Seniors.ca, which is home to the most comprehensive online directory for senior-friendly services across Canada. FindHelp4Seniors.ca is a meeting place for seniors across Canada as well as their families and caregivers. The goal has been to ensure that Canadian seniors have access to the best senior-friendly community resources, services, agencies, and businesses – giving you and your loved ones peace of mind.

Saskia can be reached at 905.855.1558 or via email at Saskia@Everything4Seniors.ca