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Exercise Increases Brain Cells

Dr. Yu-Min Kuo, of the National Cheng Kung University Medical College in Taiwan, has shown how exercise helps to preserve brain function as you age (The Journal of Applied Physiology, November 2008). Dr Kuo trained mice to run daily for five weeks on wheels at 70 percent of their capacity. They started to exercise at 8, 12 and 24 months of age. These ages are equivalent in humans to ages of 40, 60 and 90 years.

The mice that exercised every day grew 2.5 times more new brain cells than those who did not exercise, and these new nerves helped them to learn and memorize new tasks. The increase in brain cells came from increased production of signaling molecules that promote brain cell growth.

However, the mice that started exercise in early middle age (equivalent to age 40) did much better than mice that did not start exercising until later middle age (equivalent to age 60). This would indicate that the capacity of exercise to help you maintain intelligence decreases after middle age.

When you are young, your body continuously creates new brain cells. As you age, your brain loses its ability to regenerate new nerve cells. This is why you gradually lose some of your ability to remember and learn. We don’t know if Dr. Kuo’s results would be found in humans, but his study should encourage people to start exercising while young and continue throughout their lives.


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Blood pressure drugs and exercisers
Skin creams


Dear Dr. Mirkin: Since blood pressure varies throughout the day, what’s the best way to tell if you really have high blood pressure?

Check your blood pressure just before you go to bed. High blood pressure can kill you and the people who are most likely to die from it are those whose blood pressures do not drop during the evening. Your blood pressure varies throughout the day, dropping to its lowest levels when you rest or sleep, usually in the late evening or early morning. If your systolic (heart contraction) blood pressure is greater than 120 just before you go to bed, you are at high risk for heart attacks and strokes. People who have systolic blood pressures up to 140 during the day and below 120 at night are at much lower risk than those who blood pressures do not drop at night. It is normal for many people to have a blood pressure of 200 over 80 when they run and 300 over 200 when they do a maximal leg press, as long as the systolic pressure drops below 120 at rest.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: How could strong muscles affect cancer risk?

Researchers at the University of Alberta used body scan imaging to show that cancer patients with the least muscles lived an average of 10 months less than patients who were more muscular, even after controlling for other variables such as cancer stage and severity (Lancet Oncology, January 2009). This supports many other studies that show people who exercise have lower risk of some cancers and better survival rates.

A possible mechanism is that muscles are the source of the body’s protein which is necessary to make antibodies and cells to prevent cancer from occurring and spreading. Extremely low muscle mass is associated with a poor immunity.


If you are interested in staying up-to-date on vitamin D research, you may want to subscribe to the free newsletter from the Vitamin D Council (a non-profit educational organization)


Recipe of the Week:
Start the New Year with a big pot of hearty soup

Manhattan Clam Chowder with Barley

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book - it's FREE

June 22nd, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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