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How Exercise Slows Aging

A team of British researchers appears to have figured out how exercise slows the aging process. The mechanism involves the newly identified hormone irisin, which is released from muscles after exercise. The researchers found that this hormone is capable of influencing the body’s fat cells so that they burn energy instead of storing it. This increases metabolic rate and is thought to have potential anti-obesity effects. For the study, the research team looked at irisin levels in 81 healthy individuals who were not obese and found that those who had higher levels of the hormone also had longer telomeres - the repeating DNA sequences at the ends of chromosomes. In healthy cells, telomeres help regulate cell division and prevent chromosomes from rearranging or fusing with one another, undesirable changes that could lead to cancer and other life-threatening diseases. The British researchers explained that their finding provides “a potential molecular link between keeping active and a healthy aging process.” Of course, to take advantage of this about you do have to bump up your irisin levels by exercising regularly.

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James E. Brown et al, “Plasma irisin levels predict telomere length in healthy adults”, AGE DOI: 10.1007/s11357-014-9620-9 


Counter the Effects of Menopause

Danish researchers have come up with a unique way to help women address some of the increased risks to health brought on by menopause. Noting that declining levels of estrogen can elevate blood pressure and contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease, the research team at the University of Copenhagen Centre for Team Sport and Health examined the effects of playing floorball, a indoor team sport similar to hockey that requires intense physical effort including many short sprints and directional changes. The investigators recruited 23 pre- and post-menopausal women for 12 weeks of twice weekly floorball practice. Initial exams of the participants established that blood pressure among the post-menopausal women was 10 percent higher compared to women of the same age who hadn’t yet reached menopause. The researchers also saw higher levels of an early marker for arteriosclerosis in the post-menopausal group. Results of the 12-week study showed a reduction in blood pressure of four mmHg, which the researchers said correlates to a 40 percent lower risk of stroke. There was also this unexpected benefit: the women had so much fun playing floorball that they insisted on continuing after the study ended.

My take? This is good news for women. Based on what I’ve read, playing floorball requires intense interval aerobic exercise. While I’m not sure how adaptable the lessons of this study are to women in the U.S., the findings do testify to the benefits of working out with a group of friends to stay motivated. If you do exercise with others, however, I urge you not to do so competitively. If allowed to dominate the activity, competitive thoughts can negate some of the benefits of exercise, especially on your cardiovascular and immune systems and emotions.

Want To Age Gracefully?
It's not about the lines on the face - it's about the wisdom behind them. Don’t lament the passing of the years, celebrate all you have achieved, learned and earned, for your benefit and the benefit of others. Begin today - start your 14-day free trial of Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging now, and save 30% when you join!

Michael Nyberg et al, “Biomarkers of vascular function in pre- and recent post-menopausal women of similar age: effect of exercise training”, AJP: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 2014; DOI: 10.1152/ajpregu.00539.2013


What Is Your Main Source of Sugar? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed sugar in the diet and what too much sugar can do to our health: Is Sugar a Killer? Check out the article and let us know what the main source of sugar is in your diet.


How Your Smartphone Can Sabotage Sleep and Your Job

Using your smartphone at home, at night, to deal with work projects can ruin your sleep and leave you with mental fatigue at work the next day. A new study from Michigan State University also suggests that part of the problem is due to the blue-wavelength light given off by smart phones, which appears to interfere with the sleep hormone melatonin. To arrive at their conclusion, researchers surveyed 82 upper-level managers, most of them male, who were studying for MBAs (Master’s in Business Administration degrees). Over a two-week period, the participants completed questionnaires asking them how often they used their smartphones after 9 p.m., and also asked them to report on their sleep quality and their alertness at work during the day. The survey results showed that using smartphones at night was linked to sub-optimal sleep, which in turn led to energy depletion in the morning. A second survey enrolled 136 employees in a wide range of fields whose average age was about 31. This group was more evenly split between men and women. Results confirmed the findings of the first survey and showed that using smartphones at night had more of an impact on sleep than using other electronic devices. The solution? Leave work at work when you can, and turn off your smartphone at night. The study will be published in a future issue of the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision process.

Russell E. Johnson et al, “Beginning the Workday yet Already Depleted? Consequences of Late-Night Smartphone Use and Sleep,” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes (not yet scheduled for publication).


Practical Tips for Lowering Blood Pressure (Video)

Dr. Weil provides some simple, yet effective, tips for lowering blood pressure naturally. With high blood pressure affecting so many people, prescription blood pressure medication is being used more than ever. While medication is effective, there are negative side effects that some people may not be able to tolerate. Following these simple tips can help effectively lower high blood pressure.

Learn more about breathing exercises.

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New Approach to End Sleep Apnea

Losing a little weight and keeping it off can help prevent sleep apnea from progressing and might even cure it. Newly published research from Finland demonstrates that dropping as little as five percent of your weight and keeping it off for more than four years can do the trick. Obesity is considered the major risk factor for sleep apnea, and gaining weight puts patients at high risk for progression of the disease to its most severe forms. For the Finnish study, researchers recruited moderately obese adults with mild obstructive sleep apnea and assigned some of the participants to a 12-month supervised lifestyle intervention program and other participants to standard care, which involved giving them general verbal and written information about diet and physical activity. The goal was to see whether moderate weight loss – either five percent of each individual’s weight or five kilograms (about 11 pounds) would prevent sleep apnea from progressing. The study provided the first long-term evidence that even modest weight loss can lead to marked improvements in sleep apnea in overweight patients. It also demonstrated that sustaining these changes over four years after the intervention that led to the weight loss can prevent progression of the disease and even reverse it.

Henri Tuomilehto et al “The impact of weight reduction in the prevention of the progression of obstructive sleep apnea: an explanatory analysis of a 5-year observational follow-up trial,” Sleep Medicine DOI: 10.1016/j.sleep.2013.11.786


Warning Labels for Sweet Drinks?

Would you support mandatory warning labels on sodas and other sugar-sweetened drinks similar to the warnings on cigarette packs? In California, legislation proposed on February 13 would require placing warning labels on all bottles and cans of sweet drinks providing 75 or more calories in every 12 ounces. The labels would read as follows: "STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay." This isn’t the first effort of this type: the Associated Press reported a similar bill was introduced in Vermont in 2013 but has been held in committee. At California fast-food restaurants with self-serve soda dispensers, the label would be on the dispenser, according to the Los Angeles Times, while in movie theaters or businesses where the drink dispenser is behind the counter and drinks are served by employees, the warning labels would be placed on the counters. In restaurants, the warning may be required on menus, the Times reported.

My take? The California effort seems to echo the failed proposal by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to ban the sale of large-size sugary drinks sold in delis, fast-food outlets, carts on the city's sidewalks and in its parks, movie theaters and sports arenas. I’ll be interested to see what happens to the California legislation. I'm in favor of experimenting with ways of encouraging people to make better food choices and discouraging them from making worse ones, and sugary drinks are certainly not good choices. Although these drinks are not the only contributor to the obesity epidemic in the United States, they are a major source of the average intake of 355 calories of sugar per person per day. That amounts to 22 teaspoons of sugar daily. A single 12-ounce soda contains about 130 calories and the equivalent of eight teaspoons of sugar. Moreover, the high glycemic load of sugary drinks provokes insulin resistance in many people, which underlies much of the obesity in our society and raises risks of type 2 diabetes.

Patrick McGreevy, “California lawmaker proposes adding health warning labels to sodas,” Los Angeles Times, February 13, 2014, accessed February 14, 2014,,0,7510007.story#ixzz2tQMX1qvj


3 Reasons To Eat Leeks

Leeks aren’t just delicious - they have health benefits too! Part of the allium vegetable family (along with garlic and onions), leeks provide an elegant, subtle flavor that enhances everything from soups to stir fries. But they are more than flavor accents - leeks also:

  1. Provide manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and folate
  2. May help promote healthy cholesterol levels, prevent atherosclerosis and high blood pressure
  3. May help stabilize blood sugar levels

You can use leeks by substituting them for scallions and green onions in many recipes. When buying, avoid larger leeks - they tend to be more fibrous - and instead choose ones that are 1.5 inches or smaller in diameter for their delicate texture and flavor.

Our Green Squash Soup recipe features leeks - try it today!

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