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Running more may not help you live longer
April 3rd, 2014
12:58 PM ET

Running more may not help you live longer

No, this isn't an excuse to put down your running shoes. Unless, of course, you're already running more than 20 miles a week.

Research presented this week at the annual American College of Cardiology Scientific Sessions in Washington shows runners who average more than 20 miles a week don't live as long as those who run less than 20 miles a week. In fact, they live, on average, about as long as people who don't run much at all.

In other words, like most things in life, moderation may be key.

The study authors analyzed data from more than 3,800 men and women older than 35 who are participating in the Masters Running Study. Participants reported their weekly running averages as well as information about their cardiovascular health and use of common painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Nearly 70% of the study participants reported running more than 20 miles a week.

Researchers saw a U-shaped data set when they looked at longevity compared with the runners' mileage. Those who ran a moderate amount each week tended to live the longest.

The study authors could not find a strong association between cardiovascular health or painkiller use and the long-distance runners' shorter life spans, so the reason behind this link remains unclear.

Previous research supports the idea that endurance exercise carries a risk. A 2012 study from the Mayo Clinic found that excessive training can cause cardiovascular damage such as scarring and enlargement of the heart and blood vessels.

“You can do light to moderate exercise as long as you want. We’re genetically designed for that kind of activity," Dr. James O'Keefe, a cardiologist at the Mid America Heart Institute, told CNN at the time. "We’re just not designed to run 26 miles at a time, or 100, or go on a full-distance triathlon for 12 hours as hard as you can go.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults get two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week (i.e., running). You should also strength train two or more days a week.

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soundoff (793 Responses)
  1. Heather

    "a lot" the space is important

    April 3, 2014 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jj

      Headline needs to be proofread by someone literate.

      April 3, 2014 at 14:32 | Report abuse |
  2. Lol

    "Running alot may not be so good" – who edits this stuff? "Allot" is not spelled nor used that way. Come on, this is kid's stuff.

    April 3, 2014 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • penguin_1221

      They weren't misspelling allot, which means to assign a share or portion to. They were misspelling a lot, which is two words, meaning a large number.
      But seriously, CNN. A lot. Two words.

      April 3, 2014 at 14:22 | Report abuse |
    • Logic

      They allot that they make a lot of mistakes.

      April 3, 2014 at 15:59 | Report abuse |
  3. Lauren

    A LOT IS TWO WORDS. GOOD GOD.

    CNN, you need to figure it out.

    April 3, 2014 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. SpringRejoicer

    Yo, editors! You let one of the most incorrect word-joins in the English language get past you. The header to this story appeared as, "Running alot may not be so good." The correct version should be, "Running a lot may not be so good."

    April 3, 2014 at 14:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • so what

      Who cares!!! Grammar police are the worst!! alot alot alot alot alot!!!

      April 3, 2014 at 17:13 | Report abuse |
    • namedujour

      There are those who think grammar nazis (I am one as well – a technical writer by trade) go overboard. However, I think we are performing a public service. People look like complete morons when they make mistakes like "alot" – PARTICULARLY

      April 3, 2014 at 18:36 | Report abuse |
    • namedujour

      Sorry. Posted too soon.

      ...PARTICULARLY, I began to say, when they write published articles. This isn't the only one. I feel like banging so-called "journalistic" heads together, sometimes. Grammar Nazis are the only ones shaming the world away from accepting B4 as the standard spelling for "before." Keep up the good work.

      April 3, 2014 at 18:38 | Report abuse |
  5. SpringRejoicer

    Let's all be thankful for texting 'shorthand' and for the growing acquiescence of poor spelling and grammar coming from the present teacher and parent cadre. There's no mistake. The English language is and has been in a downward trajectory.

    April 3, 2014 at 14:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Doug

      "acquiescence of poor spelling and grammar" I think you mean acceptance of poor spelling and grammar. A derivation of acquire seems to detract from your point.

      April 3, 2014 at 16:08 | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      Oops, I'm wrong. Maybe it should be "acquiescence to . . . ."

      April 3, 2014 at 16:19 | Report abuse |
  6. penguin_1221

    Thanks for fixing the headline, CNN.

    April 3, 2014 at 14:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • craig

      Still not really fixed. Should read: A lot of running may not be good.

      Running a lot may not be good? It worked out for Frank McCourt.

      April 3, 2014 at 17:22 | Report abuse |
  7. Vinny

    "The study authors could not find a strong association between cardiovascular health or painkiller use and the long-distance runners' shorter life spans, so the reason behind this link remains unclear."

    This study is UNCLEAR, good job CNN.

    April 3, 2014 at 14:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Ryle

    This is horrible data analysis and has already been debunked.

    http://www.runnersworld.com/health/too-much-running-myth-rises-again

    Lawyers can be disbarred. What can we do to terrible doctors like James O'Keefe? At the very least CNN should not be regurgitating his nonsense.

    April 3, 2014 at 14:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Matt

      Yeah, Runner's World magazine doesn't have a vested interest in challenging this study or anything.

      And his first point is absolute garbage. The author clearly doesn't understand statistical methods.

      April 3, 2014 at 16:04 | Report abuse |
    • JLS639

      No, it has not been debunked. The criticism against controlling for hypertension and cholesterol are fair questions, but they are not data analysis.

      April 3, 2014 at 16:17 | Report abuse |
    • Sunil

      What?? Runner's World magazine wants people to run a lot??

      Shocker!

      April 3, 2014 at 16:48 | Report abuse |
    • Doc Charlie

      The Runners Word editorial (published in 2012) makes a theoretical complaint that since the earlier authors corrected the data for things like high blood pressure and cholesterol that somehow the benefit of endurance running was lost. In this NEW analysis researchers examined these and other factors and found that they did NOT account for the difference and that mortality remained higher in the endurance (more than 20 miles per week) runners. So, the Runner's World complaint may not be justified. However, it is important to note that the new research is not yet published and therefore has not yet undergone peer review – an important part of ensuring that conclusions are justified.

      April 3, 2014 at 17:40 | Report abuse |
  9. Julia

    Amen. Looks the fittest animals out there, say lions. What do they do? A short sprint, followed by 23.9 hours of relaxation. No creature on Earth runs for 30 minutes straight. Running is unnatural and bad for your joints.

    April 3, 2014 at 14:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • andrew

      julia
      your a moron. running is very natural. in fact many biologists believe we evolved exactly to run.
      why do you think we have 2 legs vs. a lions four? why do our lungs work differently than an animals?
      try reading "born to run".

      April 3, 2014 at 14:59 | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      That may be the most incorrect information I have ever read.

      April 3, 2014 at 15:03 | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Julia, running doesn't correlate with joint damage. Studies have shown that runners are no more likely to have joint damage than non-runners–unless they had PRIOR damage. Thanks for sharing your worthless opinion.

      April 3, 2014 at 16:04 | Report abuse |
    • Dave Billion

      That is hilarious. Actually tortoises live much longer than lions. That's why I don't run at all, and try to sleep as much as possible.

      April 3, 2014 at 16:18 | Report abuse |
    • Allison

      Running doesn't hurt your joints? What planet are you from? Any high impact sport can hurt joints. ESP RUNNING

      April 3, 2014 at 16:55 | Report abuse |
    • Jim in PA

      Actually, running long distances is very natural. In fact, man's ability to outrun sprinters like deer and antelope over a long period of time is what enabled us to become hunters. Humans don't have too many impressive physical traits abilities when compared to other animals, but our genetic ability to run long distances is one notable advantage. We are better than nearly any other animal at this.

      April 3, 2014 at 20:02 | Report abuse |
    • Heather

      Andrew, "you're" the moron.

      April 4, 2014 at 10:28 | Report abuse |
    • Paul Williamson

      Its actually very simple. When we stress machines by running them faster or with heavier loads than they are designed for, they break down faster with a shortened lifetime. The same with ultra-runners, and any athlete who overstresses his body for long periods of time. The same laws of physics apply. Look at the shortened lifetime of many famous professional athletes.

      April 5, 2014 at 00:02 | Report abuse |
    • GySgt Hartmann

      The running-nazis are upset about that statement, aren't they?

      Meanwhile, back in the real world, their childish theories about "running is natural for humans" fall apart when human evolution is examined: our ancestors didn't run long distances as hunters. They walked a long way as scavengers and opportunistic foragers.

      The damage that running does to the ankles, knees, hips and backs of those who spend a long time running is undeniable. The Veterans Administration pays out billions every year in benefits to former Soldiers and Marines whose joints and backs were irreparably damaged by years of daily running.

      The endorphin junkies and Nike-hawkers can deny it until they turn bluer in the face than Jim Fixx. But that won't change the reality of the millions of people who have suffered permanent impairment from protracted running.

      April 5, 2014 at 07:02 | Report abuse |
    • StarvinMarvin

      Humans are the only animals that have sweat glands all over our body, and why we stink more than any other animal. We evolved to sweat so we could chase down prey for long periods without getting heat stroke.

      April 5, 2014 at 18:28 | Report abuse |
  10. GatorDude

    I think this depends on how you die. You definitely need more endurance than whatever is chasing you.

    April 3, 2014 at 14:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jim in PA

      Not true. Remember, you don't have to outrun the bear. You just have to outrun your hiking partner.

      April 3, 2014 at 20:04 | Report abuse |
  11. Allen

    Terrible article. My guess is the writer is one of those couch potatoes who are always looking for a reason to diss the idea of exercise.

    The writer very seriously misquotes the CDC Guidielines by stating: "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults get two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week (i.e., running)."

    The CDC actually states one should perform AT LEAST that amount of exercise.

    Please print a solid correction of the writer's intentionally misleading quote.

    April 3, 2014 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Allen

      While you are correcting the intentional (intentional because of the usage and where it is placed in the article) misquote of the CDC perhaps you could also quote the CDC where CDC recommends:

      "For Even Greater Health Benefits older adults should increase their activity to 5 hours (300 minutes) each week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups..."

      April 3, 2014 at 15:05 | Report abuse |
    • readerpan

      Running less than 20 miles per week is not dissing running. Unless YOU have an agenda.

      April 3, 2014 at 19:11 | Report abuse |
  12. Jan

    The observed data (that people who run more than 20 hrs. weekly don't demonstrate the health benefits shown in people who run regularly but less than 20 hrs. weekly) is interesting, but not necessarily causal. Whatever it is that makes some people more likely to choose to run so much may cause the observed result. It is even possible that those same people might have WORSE health outcomes if they were prevented from running as much as they do. The study is interesting, but doesn't tell us very much about whether running so much is actually good or bad for folks.

    April 3, 2014 at 15:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • C

      20 mile not 20 hours

      April 3, 2014 at 15:20 | Report abuse |
  13. Steve

    As with politics, moderation is the key to life. Probably will get blasted by both sides and I really do not care. I am a moderate and no one will change me. Not the gross and nasty progressives who never stop with the ranting nor the ultra conservatives who are hypocrites in their own lives.

    April 3, 2014 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob

      What would we blast someone whose opinion we can easily ignore?

      April 3, 2014 at 16:06 | Report abuse |
  14. glades2

    That's not a new finding – even in our bicycle club it was non-scientifically found that cyclists who ride excessively (hundreds of miles per week – not usual for club cyclists) seem to suffer from enlarged heart as they age – as the article said, moderation is the key...

    April 3, 2014 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ben

      When I was treated for an ankle injury from running my Dr. told me not to switch to cycling while it healed because he didn't want to have to treat me for tire tracks.

      April 3, 2014 at 19:00 | Report abuse |
  15. glades2

    ...not unusual for club cyclists...

    April 3, 2014 at 15:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. ARnold

    What is this crap? ESPN?

    April 3, 2014 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. sparky

    The study failed to mention that people who run a lot are usually being chased by grizzly bears.

    April 3, 2014 at 16:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • readerpan

      Nobody runs a lot when chased by a grizzly...usually not more than about six feet. And rest assured it's not the running that kills them.

      April 3, 2014 at 19:14 | Report abuse |
  18. Lila

    Yup and my friends who are always training for the next race look older too. It's hard on the face. Running a few miles is a great way to keep the pounds off but it can turn into an addiction like anything else. Moderation is best.

    April 3, 2014 at 17:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Jrad

    Whew! Back to the couch then!

    April 3, 2014 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. bob

    And that is precisely what is wrong with American society...those who say "who cares". It begins with language useage and spreads to failure to signal and passing on the right, then to using your phone in the theater and then after all those little things we get to "please just cross the border without a visa and committ crimes in the USA". Slippery slope , ignore one rule or law at your own peril . One never knows where it will end up.

    April 3, 2014 at 17:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. bluebyyou666

    If you are running more than 5 miles you're running from something... and no, running is not going to make you 'live longer' as they say.... Longer Life is about something more than when a person dies.

    April 3, 2014 at 18:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. rantee

    chill bob

    April 3, 2014 at 18:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Captain Jack

    While we're on the subject... Way back in 1967, I was in 7th grade and we were taught that "have" and "got" are not to be used together: "I have a blue car." is correct. *** "I've got a blue car." is incorrect. And on and on, through all the various conjugations. Whatever happened? Proper English is slip-slidin' away.

    April 3, 2014 at 18:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • GySgt Hartmann

      You want "proper English"? Move to fecking England then, and kiss the Queen on her wide asss.

      April 5, 2014 at 07:05 | Report abuse |
  24. runneroffatthemouth

    I want to live 7% better right up until I die young of a massive stroke and heart attack.

    April 3, 2014 at 18:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. runneroffatthemouth

    Captain Jack you've got to be kidding.

    April 3, 2014 at 18:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. oddte

    “I take my only exercise acting as a pallbearer at the funerals of my friends who exercise regularly.” – Mark Twain

    April 3, 2014 at 18:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. namedujour

    This is not news. Is anyone else here old like me? Do you remember Jim Fixx who made millions selling running books? He keeled over and croaked while running. Oh the irony, right? I know he didn't eat right, but still. In the years following there were lots of stories about people dying while running – in fact, the advice in the 1980s was that you should carry an ID so the people who find you can identify your body on the track. That was enough for me.

    Running gets you high, sort of, and if that's what you're after, cool. But it also kills your knees – expect to have bionic knee replacements at some point. You get similar aerobic benefits from walking or cross country skiing, so if you're running for your health, there are better alternatives.

    April 3, 2014 at 18:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Carter Sherline

    I have finished a marathon or longer 400 times. The only joint problems I have had were 1) I ran a 10k run the day after getting run over in a softball game, had a knee freeze up for a week, that went away and never bothered me again, 2) slipped on a rock 13mi into a 50mi trail run, finished, after dinner that night my knee (the other knee from the previous event) locked up for 2 weeks, it went away and never bothered me again after. I also danced 23 years (as in ballet, tap, jazz, flamenco, etc) all as an adult. Between dance and running my toe nails won't grow correctly. But any other health issues are related to stress connected to a too often broken heart, which the running helps some with. And the heartbreak/stress have curtailed my running & dancing. I am almost 54. My mother died at 47, 1 brother also died at 47 and another brother died at 65. Both brothers died from obesity. Not enough data but from my personal experience running more like 10+ hours a week is good.

    April 3, 2014 at 18:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dirtdogs

      Just finished my 12th, together with my teen (her 1st) and hubby (his 3rd). Heart dz runs in the family-high LDL, hypertension–as well as diabetes, arthritis, and obesity. My father passed from ALS. In a family where my sibs and cousins have been on blood pressure and cholesterol meds since their 30s, and one got a heart stent at 40, I remain healthier and more pain free than most. Several of my relatives my age have had injuries related to sports (ankle and Achilles from basketball) and not sure what (shoulder, knee, hip) while mine remain fairly limited (IT band, achilles tendinitis, easily controlled). Didn't start distance running til my 40s, and I know how my health was (not great) and how I felt (ditto) before that. I run w. my dogs, all adopted from the pound as older, unadoptable adults with various health issues, and the oldest are 9, 11 and 13 and they're still going strong though slowing down a bit.
      The rules of basic anatomy and physiology apply...avoid abuse, adhere to proper nutrition and rest, keep your training program balanced, and do not increase the stress on your body beyond its ability to adapt. Many of the studies pointing out heart abnormalities after marathons also suggest that the biggest risk factor is undertraining.
      Most of us who love running do it because of the additional dimension of joy it brings to our lives. People love to bring up Jim Fixx. We distance runners know of Caballo Blanco's untimely passing. But I do believe runners understand that even if running does not add a day to our lives it has already added that dimension.

      April 3, 2014 at 19:20 | Report abuse |
    • Galina L.

      My story is opposite to the great running successes. I enjoy exercising, but have to cut gradually on most activities which cause wear and tear of my joints. I tried to gradually start running in my early 40-s, but developed a "runners knee" and Plantar fasciitis. My husband had to cut on running a lot due to knee issues too. I do rollerskating, hiking, pole fitness, yoga now, I am 53 years old.

      April 5, 2014 at 23:23 | Report abuse |
  29. James

    Wow, the grammar Nazis are out tonight. Now they can sleep sound at night.

    April 3, 2014 at 18:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. concernedcitizen

    Obviously we need a law to ban people from long distance running because CNN tells us so
    Aside from Big Brother banning running just like they tried to ban extra large soda pop sales in NY I just got done running a ultra marathon and I saw a 70+ year old man finish a 50k race. I seen many old women and men finish marathons and 10k for years. Now people die all the time from countless ways and its sad but why on earth would these people try raining on the parade of runners? At least they are not eating at buffets everyday or slopping down alcohol or drugs. Worry about something real instead of dissing on long distance running

    April 3, 2014 at 18:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Selena

    Number one cause of death in the U.S. is heart disease and we are discussing why we should not run...

    April 3, 2014 at 19:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Palin Voters From Alabama

    Too funny. These people from Alabama actually think republicans represent THEM!! Hahahahhaha

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKcJ-0bAHB4

    April 3, 2014 at 19:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. fweioff

    Nobody should be surprised that doing something too much is bad for you.

    April 3, 2014 at 19:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. JAG

    Dumb article.
    Correlation isn't causation.
    Who were the participants in the study and what other health issues might they have?
    Were they running excessively due to diabetes, heart disease or other cardiovascular issues?
    These studies are disturbing because the samples are flawed.

    April 3, 2014 at 19:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Cooper Borgan

    Another media "Chicken Little" story; in the 1970s, beer would kill you because it contains nitrosamines - now it's okay; coffee was once linked with pancreatic cancer and that blew over; chocolate was once a big threat because of fat content, now it's recommended for consumption; aspartame in diet drinks will murder you - if so, I would have been dead 30 years ago; no, the sky ISN'T falling and I weary of these dubious, attention-getting, hyperbolic health "news flashes"...

    April 3, 2014 at 20:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. alot

    Oh boy Oh boy Oh boy

    I found a mistake.
    Look at me everyone.
    I did it. I found a spelling error.
    My Mommy will be so proud of me.

    April 3, 2014 at 20:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. mom

    Run. Don't get overweight. But don't be excessive; don't tear down your body. Moderation IS key.
    Add strength training to running, too. Don't just run or you get pain from over -used muscles and under-used other muscles.

    April 3, 2014 at 20:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. mickinmd

    Interesting that the dividing line they pick was 20 miles/week. A wise man said, a generation ago, that if you run more than three miles per day, you're doing it for reasons other than health. I did double that and, at age 63, after Achilles tendon surgery and a decade of sedentary lifestyle where I became obese, followed by bicycling to get back into shape and a Calorie counting diet, I'm just getting back to a decent weight and into decent shape.

    I would argue that some form of vigorous exercise is valuable for your heart those who run are often not good in other sports. So some running or cycling or even dancing to "Just Dance II" on an old Wii is good.

    April 3, 2014 at 21:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • StarvinMarvin

      Another side effect of hard exercise is it raises metabolism which raises your caloric intake. Problem arises when say, a weight lifter, stops heavy excercise. The high caloric intake need remains permanently and they quickly get obese. Mild excercise and none of those problems arise.

      April 5, 2014 at 18:35 | Report abuse |
  39. Katie

    "Moderation is the key." DUH.

    April 3, 2014 at 21:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. ednv

    "Masters Running Study. " is an internet web based study - worthless.

    April 3, 2014 at 23:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. ednv

    further - 20 miles a week is hardly the "endurance training" that these authors try to associate with.

    April 3, 2014 at 23:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Robert Raulerson

    3 miles a day 7 days a week equals 21 miles. And that's gonna kill me? I'm 64 and I been running for 30 years.

    April 4, 2014 at 07:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. frankmaui73

    I am 62 and have ran for nearly 40 years. In those 40 years of running I have put nearly 80,000 miles of running on my feet. More than enough miles to take me around planet Earth three times. Two of my non-exercise brothers died at 57 and 61-both from heart desease. Will I die from heart desease? Maybe. Still, I enjoyed running in my life and glad I put all of those running miles on my feet.

    April 4, 2014 at 10:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Ann las

    Your grandma was right

    April 4, 2014 at 10:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. robertholt

    When I see joggers, I wonder if they really are getting in shape or just wearing out their bodies early. There's also getting hit by a car. That's not going to help you live longer.

    April 4, 2014 at 10:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Bob

    Hey, here's an idea, run as much as you want if you like it, and don't run if you don't like it. Make choices that will allow you to enjoy your life, and be happy for others who choose something different but yet still find fulfillment.

    April 4, 2014 at 10:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. concernedcitizen

    we need congress to ban running that will solve everything.

    April 4, 2014 at 11:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Thurston

    This is about a quality of life issue. Personally, I have run all my life since age 14, and am now 69. I ran with two runners during that time that have died while running and others who have experienced wear and tear on many body joint you could find in the body. I experience severe pain in my shoulder and I went to a physician I had never been to before and he took a picture of my shoulder and came back in with the exray in hand and said "you must really love to jog as you have worn down the cartalage in your shoulder. How would he know I jogged daily?

    April 4, 2014 at 13:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. jim22

    This is another proof that the metric system is superior to the imperial system. If you run 20km, per week you will live longer. If you run 20 miles, you will die.
    Thank you UK for leaving US the imperial system of units. We will never recover from that damage.

    April 4, 2014 at 17:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Al_Satan

    Jim Fixx would agree.

    April 5, 2014 at 02:06 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.