What are the effects of childhood obesity? ~ Mia

Mia, With childhood obesity growing and creating life-threatening conditions that will plague our children's lives; we are endangering the lives of our children. We must begin to focus on this epidemic. Gerald S. Berenson, M.D., of Tulane University studied 14,000 children and young adults, making it the longest and most detailed study of children in the world. Dr. Berenson says half of these kids will die of heart disease if they continue their current lifestyle. Autopsies of children who died in accidents found that fatty streaks in their aorta began developing by age 3, and the damage showed up in the coronary arteries by age 10. The determinants of long-term health, food preferences and eating behavior, are decided in childhood. We establish our eating patterns in childhood, and they are very difficult to change in adulthood. Richard Strauss, M.D., director of the Childhood Weight Control Program at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, New Jersey, is concerned about the latest statistics that show one in five kids is overweight and one in eight children is obese. Our overweight children have become an urgent national health problem.


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What are the benefits of exercise for older adults? ~ Sharon

Sharon, Exercise is an essential element in healthful aging. Research reveals exercise not only makes us live longer but we live independently and healthier as we age. Everything is positively affected by exercise as we age: memory, heart, blood pressure, blood sugar, immune function, healthy skin, and the healthier functioning of every major organ and system of the body. As you exercise you create endorphins; you exercise the muscles and also send blood and oxygen to your vital organs, especially to your brain. Exercise just doesn't make your muscles stronger; it slows the aging of your entire body. Exercise improves long-term memory and brain function. It helps prevent the arterial aging that contributes to aging and Alzheimer's disease. A study of more than 18,000 nurses over 70 showed the women who walked at least 1.5 hours per week scored higher on tests of general thinking ability, verbal memory, and attention than did women who walked less than 40 minutes per week. A study of more than 2,000 men over 70 showed that regular walking reduced the development of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. The improved oxygen movement to the brain during exercise feeds the brain and causes better memory functioning.


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How can exercise improve quality of sleep? ~ Alyssa

Alyssa, Exercise helps create deeper sleep patterns and patients fall asleep faster when they exercise. Dr. Gregg Jacobs of Harvard University maintains the benefit of exercise on sleep is because exercise is a stressor on the body. The brain compensates for the extra physical stress of exercise by increasing the depth of sleep of the individual. He also says that people with insomnia are many times more sedentary, which inhibits the rise and fall of the body temperature rhythm.


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Can exercise help relieve depression? ~ Daniel

Daniel, Researchers at Duke University showed that regular exercise relieves major depression just as effectively as antidepressant medication. Dr. James Blumenthal's research shows that 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week is sufficient for reducing the symptoms of depression. In his study of 10 months, exercise was a significant predictor of depression levels. People who engaged in 50 minutes of exercise a week had a 50 percent decrease in the likelihood of being depressed. Exercise releases "happy chemicals" into the body such as endorphins and serotonin. Exercise also helps regulate dopamine production, the neurotransmitter that helps cells communicate with each other.


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