Updates on staying well

Stand up for your Health. Another Reason to break a sweat. Is depression bad for your bones?

Stand Up for Your Health

Could that desk job be the death of you?   

Perhaps, say recent research findings. Several studies  indicate that sitting for extended periods increases your risk of obesity, heart attack and premature death- whether or not you regularly exercise-notes Elin Ekblom-Bak of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute in an editorial published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

"After four hours of sitting, the body starts to send harmful signals," she says.

One 12-year study of 17,000 Canadians, for example, found that, independent of workout habits, those who sat more had a higher death risk. For reference, a typical American spends more than half the day seated, according to a 2003-2004 survey. Ekblom-Bak’s advice: "Interrupt sitting as often as possible.

Another reason to break a sweat

Don’t get too cocky about those bulging biceps. What you really need are long telomeres. They’re bits of DNA at the tips of chromosomes in your white blood cells that protect the cells from damage-and exercise protects them. Telomeres shorten with age; "when they’re gone, the cell dies" and signs of aging follow, says the American Heart Association.

It was a recent study in the journal Circulation that proves exercise can slow their shortening. Researchers compared groups of endurance athletes with same-aged groups of healthy, nonsmoking, less-active adults. The exercisers were in better shape and had longer telomeres. "This is direct evidence of an anti-aging effect of physical exercise," writes the study’s lead author.

Is depression bad for your bones?

Israeli researchers recently found a link between depression and osteoporosis, saying that depressed women "should be periodically evaluated for progression of bone loss and signs of osteoporosis." But those on the fence about antidepressants shouldn’t sign on for medication simply because of bone-loss risk, says Jennifer Payne, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and director of the Women’s Mood Disorder Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore: Other studies have failed to support the depression-osteoporosis link. "In this case we don’t know if it’s the illness or the medication," she adds.

More notable, says Dr. Payne, is unrelated research showing that severe depression shrinks the brain’s hippocampus, and that antidepressants can reverse this. "I would not want my hippocampus shrinking," says the doctor.

HPV shots-for your son?

Girls and boys may now benefit from vaccination against the human papillomavirus (HPV), say new immunization recommendations for 2010.

The virus has been linked to an increased risk of cervical cancer in women-and to genital warts in both sexes. Until recently, it wasn’t known if the shots were worthwhile in boys, but now the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, together with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians, recommends that a three-dose series of the HPV4 vaccine be considered for boys 9 to 18 years old.

"Data show the vaccine is highly effective in reducing the incidence of genital warts," explains Joseph Bocchini, M.D., head of the AAP committee that helped develop the policy. For now, the recommendation for boys is more "conservative" than for girls, Dr. Bocchini says, because research has yet to prove the cost-effectiveness of the shots for preventing HPV-related cancers in men.

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