SENIORS: TAKE A WALK, FORGET MARATHON
A Swedish study finds modest physical activity can increase the longevity of people over the age of 65, but more exercise does not. The Karolinska Institute in Stockholm interviewed 3,206 people, ages 65 and older, and followed them for 12 years or until they died. Those who exercised occasionally reduced their chances of death by 28 percent but those who were physically active once a week reduced their early mortality risk by 40 percent. However, exercising more frequently or more vigorously beyond that level did not improve outcomes. The findings are published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
META-ANALYSIS: STRESS ALTERS IMMUNITY
Stress alters immunity, it strengthens human immunity in the short term but wears it down over time, says a study in the Psychological Bulletin. Short-term stress actually "revs up" the immune system, an adaptive response preparing for injury or infection, but long-term or chronic stress causes too much wear and tear and the system breaks down. Psychologists Suzanne Segerstrom of the University of Kentucky, and Gregory Miller of the University of British Columbia did a meta-analysis of 293 independent studies reported in peer-reviewed scientific journals between 1960 and 2001. "Stressful events reliably associate with changes in the immune system and ... characteristics of those events are important in determining the kind of change that occurs," the authors write.
DIET SUPPLEMENT WARNING
Even with the recent U.S. ban of ephedra -- linked to 150 deaths -- consumers should remain cautious about trying other herbal supplements. Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say substances such as bitter orange, germander, jin bu huan and usnic acid -- ingredients in weight-loss products -- have been associated with kidney and liver problems. "A number of herbal preparations have been implicated in causing liver damage, some even leading to the need for a liver transplant or to death," says Dr. William Lee, professor of internal medicine and an expert in digestive and liver diseases. "Herbal products are not under any specific supervision by the Food and Drug Administration, so there is no quality control, no proof of efficacy and no tests of safety."
PHONE COUNSELING HELPS KICK HABIT
Just four telephone counseling calls can make a difference in whether snuff users kick the habit three and six months later. A study in the American Journal of Health Behavior compared quit rates between male snuff users who received the telephone counseling and those who only received a self-help manual on giving up smokeless tobacco. "Men who received the phone calls were significantly more likely up to say that they had given up tobacco," says Raymond Boyle of the HealthPartners Research Foundation. Six months after the study, 40 percent of those who received the telephone calls had quit using snuff, compared to 25 percent of those who received the manual only.
(EDITORS: For more information on WALK, contact Kristina Sundquist at Kristina.Sundquist@klinvet.ki.se. For STRESS, Gregory Miller at (604) 822-3269 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For DIET, Scott Maier at (214) 648-3111. For COUNSELING, Raymond Boyle at Raymond.G.Boyle@HealthPartners.com)