Sweet glutes and strong immune systems in old age

A study in the UK has demonstrated the immune-boosting effects of significant exercise during old age. 125 long-distance cyclists in their 60s, 70s, and 80s were tracked and their immune systems measured. Results showed that many of these elderly cyclists—riding 100km to 300km in a stretch—had immune systems that produce the same level of T-cells as healthy 20-year-olds. The effect of this, of course, is resistance to infection and disease. As one participant put it, “If exercise was a pill, everyone would be taking it.” Dilly dilly. Here’s all the commercials in order. And here’s a short story behind the use of that phrase and its appearance in US Bud Light commercials.

Surprise! You now have high blood pressure

That’s the news 4.2 million Americans woke up to on Monday when the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology released new guidelines on what is considered hypertension. Now, if your sphygmomanometer reads 130/80, then your blood pressure is considered high. But the new guidelines aren’t changing much in terms of treatment—the physicians are advising that only about 80,000 more patients will benefit from hypertensive drugs. Those newly within the high blood pressure range are pretty much just being put on notice to change their lifestyle habits. However, nearly everyone can benefit from lowering their blood pressure—here’s 10 ways to do that without medication.

A bit obsessed with Fitbit

Last week, researchers found that exercise can counteract the cognitive decline some patients experience post-breast cancer treatment. It’s the 457th publication since 2012 to use a Fitbit device in research. Or to put it a different way, this study found that 83 percent of clinical trials used a Fitbit as opposed to another brand. Researchers apparently just really prefer it. That’s good news for the company, since it now has a slew of clinical data under its belt, and it’s thinking about a run at a medical device designation a few years in the future. According to their GM of Health Solutions, “as we start going deeper down the health road with more and more advanced sensors, I’d say, just stay tuned.” Oooooh, mysterious.

‘I just can’t work out in these genes!’

Ever notice how those crazy people who workout all the time say they “feel great” afterwards, even though whenever you go to the gym for your once-yearly, new-year-new-me regimen you just feel like crap? Well turns out there just might be a genetic reason for that. Dutch researchers have identified a possible genetic inheritability aspect to whether you receive that endorphin rush after working out. We’re being a bit cagier than normal when describing the results of this study since the causal relationship hasn’t been verified yet–so maybe working out often changes how the body responds to that exercise. No results yet on how the hell those people were able to begin exercising regularly in the first place.

There’s no “good fat” when it comes to obesity

Is it possible to be simultaneously hefty and healthy? In a study presented at the European Congress of Obesity, researchers who scrutinized 20 years of electronic health records for 3.5 million people discovered that people who were overweight, but did not have any of the metabolic problems usually linked to excess weight, were more prone to develop metabolic problems. Compared to non-overweight individuals, “healthy obese people had a 50% higher risk of heart disease, a 7% higher risk of stroke, twice the risk of heart failure and a greater risk for peripheral artery disease.” The takeaway: physicians should encourage weight loss among obese patients irrespective of metabolic abnormalities.

Self-help enthusiasts had it partially right

It turns out “do what makes your heart happy” is not just a self-help cliché. Scientists recently identified another reason to take good care of one’s heart: a link between vascular health and Alzheimer’s Disease. A plasma component named Factor XII, usually involved in blood clotting and inflammation, may play a part in Alzheimer’s Disease for some patients. Reducing Factor XII in mice with AD showed less brain inflammation and better memory function than untreated AD mice. It is still unclear how changes in one’s blood might catalyze the disease, but the discovery corroborates previous findings that people with compromised vascular systems are at increased risk for AD. Need some motivation? Here are 28 ways to show your heart love.

4. The trouble with statins

One of the most widely prescribed types of drugs on earth may be a Catch-22. Statins, a group of drugs used to lower cholesterol, are now shown to decrease the benefits of exercise (like um, improving cardiovascular health).  Not only that, but they may make getting off the couch and to the gym harder than it already is. Insult to injury, anyone? Researchers at the University of Illinois found that while cholesterol levels improved in statin-injected mice, these mice exhibited more muscle weakness, more pain, and diminished exercise levels compared to the control group. And while the control group showed improved muscle fitness post-exercise, the statin mice showed little to none. One step forward and how many steps back? Until we figure it out, here’s a Harvard Health Publications strategy for lowering cholesterol with foods.