depression

  1. How trying to save your hair could cause you to lose your life

    Losing your life to keep your hair

    It's high on the list of worries for us guys. Sure, if you're not one of us you can go ahead and call us vain if you want. But the fact is losing our hair makes us feel like less of a man and, frankly, just plain old. And many of us...perhaps even you...will do pretty much whatever it takes to stem the flow of hair loss.

    If you have any doubt about just how motivated we American guys are to keep our domes topped with a healthy head of hair you only need to take a glance at the swift sales of baldness drugs in the United States. It's clear that worrying over hair loss is practically a national obsession.

    And with two thirds of American men experiencing some hair thinning by age 35, and the vast majority of us...85 percent...experiencing significant hair loss by the time we reach 50, that's a whole lot of obsessing.

    But what if I told you that your obsession with holding on to your full head of hair could cost you your manhood and, perhaps, even one day your life? Because according to disturbing research that's what one popular baldness drug, that's been linked with sexual problems and now serious depression, may do.

    Baldness pills can be bad news

    The drug finasteride (brand name Propecia) may already sound familiar to you. It was in the headlines earlier this year when its manufacturer Merck finally bowed to the overwhelming evidence that it could cause sexual side effects. In April of 2012 Merck added warnings to the drug's label that men taking it could experience libido problems, develop ejaculation disorders, and even have trouble with orgasms. And for some men those sexual problems can last well after they stop taking the drug.

    Now you'd think that horrifying list would be enough to send any man straight to the garbage can to toss his box of baldness pills. But either because they haven't heard the news yet...or because their longing for a full head of hair is stronger than their horror ...many men are still taking this drug. (I should also mention that Merck markets this same drug as an enlarged prostate remedy under the name Proscar.)

    But new research, to be published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, might have those guys gaining a whole new appreciation for their chrome domes. If you happen to be one of those unlucky men who develop those persistent sexual side effects I mentioned above you may also be at a significantly higher risk for developing depression and, most frightening of all, suicidal thoughts.

    Imagine... losing your life just to keep your hair.

    From sexual side effects to suicide

    The 61 balding men in the study were physically healthy. They had no former history of sexual problems or psychiatric issues. And they were not taking any oral psych prescriptions.

    But they all had one more thing in common, and that's being former finasteride users. Well that, and the unfortunate sexual side effects that came along with that history.

    The 61 men--along with a 29 man control group of balding men who had never taken the drug--took a self-administered Beck Depression Inventory test. The vast majority of former finasteride users had some symptoms of depression.

    In fact, according to the test results 11 percent of the finasteride guys had mild symptoms of depression, 28 percent had moderate symptoms, and a hefty 36 percent were saddled with severe symptoms. But the most shocking finding of all was that a full 44 percent of them reported suicidal thoughts.

    In stark contrast, only 10 percent of the control group had mild symptoms of depression and a paltry 3 percent reported suicidal thoughts.

    The lead researcher on the study, Dr. Michael Irwig, said about the results, "The potential life-threatening side-effects associated with finasteride should prompt clinicians to have serious discussions with their patients."

    I couldn't agree more Dr. Irwig... and the sooner the better.

    But I would also add this. If you're on this drug make an appointment TODAY with your doctor to discuss getting off of it as soon as possible. Because let's face it... no locks are as lovely as your life.

    And if you've never taken finasteride for your hair loss for goodness sake, whatever you do, don't start!

  2. Tai chi fights depression and helps improve your mood

    Experts say that more than 30 percent of adults 65 and over suffer from depression; however, whatever the cause, depression isn‘t normal at any age. You can and should seek treatment. But when you're over 65, this is a lot tougher than it sounds. In fact, more often that not, traditional drug treatments don't work with depressed seniors. But certain Chinese exercise called tia chi helps fight depression.

    Dr. Helen Lavretsky, a UCLA professor of psychiatry, agrees. She says, "We know that nearly two-thirds of elderly patients who seek treatment for their depression fail to achieve relief with a prescribed medication."

    That's why Dr. Lavretsky encourages her patients to learn a 2,000 year-old form of martial arts.

    Tai chi fights depression; helps body and mind

    The Chinese have practiced tai chi (pronounced tie-chee) for thousands of years. It‘s a low-impact form of exercise where one position flows into the next.

    When you think of tai chi, you probably think it‘s a stress reliever. And you‘re right. Some people call it meditation in motion. It can have a profound effect on your mind. Plus, it‘s ideal for seniors because it:

    • lowers your heart rate
    • improves balance & coordination
    • helps to relieve chronic pain
    • reduces blood pressures
    • improves sleep & sense of well being
    • builds muscle strength

    But can tai chi fight depression?

    You betcha!

    In fact, Dr. Lavrestsky recently sent 73 of her toughest depression cases to tai chi classes and got some amazing results.

    UCLA study underscores limits of drugs, benefits of tai chi

    For this study, Dr. Lavretsky wanted to examine if tia chi fights depression, so she recruited 112 seniors with depression. She treated each of them with the drug Lexapro (escitalopram) for about four weeks. Lexapro is an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) commonly used to treat depression and anxiety.

    Seventy-three of the patients showed partial improvement in their symptoms. The other 39 showed no improvement whatsoever.

    You see, depression can be very tricky to treat. And very often, the first drug you try doesn't get rid of all your symptoms. That's why some folks resort to a drug like Abilify. Big Pharma markets this drug as an "add on" depression drug. They give it to folks who don‘t get results using traditional SSRIs.

    Thankfully, Dr. Lavretsky didn‘t take this route. Instead, she sent half the patients to tai chi classes for 10 weeks. The other half went to health education classes. (Sounds riveting, doesn‘t it?)

    This routine went on for 10 weeks.

    At the end of 10 weeks, Dr. Lavretsky evaluated each of the patients based on their levels of:

    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Resilience
    • Health-related quality of life
    • Cognition
    • Immune system inflammation

    She also evaluated their depression. She used the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, a questionnaire that gauges severity of your symptoms. If you score 10/11, you are clinically depressed.

    Here‘s what the researchers found...

    Seniors achieve remission with tai chi

    After taking tai chi, 94 of the seniors scored less than 10 on the Hamilton scale. In addition, 65 percent of them scored six or less. Clinicians consider this a remission of their depression!

    Now, to be perfectly honest, the men and women who took health education classes got a boost as well. About ¾ of them scored less than 10 on the Hamilton scale. In addition, about half of them achieved remission.

    I have to admit, these numbers are pretty darn good too. Although, not nearly as good as the tai chi numbers. Plus, I doubt a health education class confers all the same other benefits as tai chi. And lastly, taking a "health education class" just sounds downright grim, if you ask me. It‘s just about the last thing I‘d be apt to take if I were depressed.

    Dr. Lavretsky appears to feel the same way.

    She said "This study shows that adding a mind-body exercise like tai chi that is widely available in the community can improve the outcomes of treating depression in older adults, who may also have other, co-existing medical conditions, or cognitive impairment. With tai chi we may be able to treat these conditions without exposing them to additional medications."

    Wow, a doctor who doesn't want to put her patients on more medications?  Who is prescribing tia chi to fight depression? What a novel idea. In any case, if you‘re over 60 and suffer from depression, think about taking tai chi. It may help you get back to feeling like your old self again!

    P.S. Natural supplements can do a lot to help with mild to moderate depression.For ideas about what to try, reread my Guide to Good Health from last summer called "Seniors find safe answers against depression with superstar vitamin."

  3. Lack of vitamin D increases depression risk by 85 percent

    Low vitamin D increases depression risk by 85 percent

    If there‘s such a thing as an all-natural happy pill, vitamin D looks to be it. In fact, scientists recently analyzed vitamin D levels for 8,000 young men and women between the ages 15 and 39. They found that volunteers deficient in vitamin D were 85 percent more likely to have depression compared to volunteers with adequate levels. And even though this study looked at young folks, I‘m sure the lack of vitamin D has an even greater affect on older folks, like me. Truthfully, this vitamin D study should come as no surprise. Vitamin D has a profound effect on the brain. In fact, it helps to boost your body‘s production of the "feel good" neurotransmitter serotonin. Just consider why so many northerners suffer from so-called "seasonal affective disorder" (or SAD). Could it be any plainer? Most of them just don‘t get enough sunshine (which your body converts into vitamin D) between October and March. As a result, their mood suffers. So if you‘re feeling a little down over the winter months or you know you have SAD, have your vitamin D levels checked. Optimally, your vitamin D blood levels should be at least 75 nanomoles per liter. In addition, everyone (especially those living in northern parts of the country) should take up to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 each day. It‘s the form of vitamin D most easily absorbed by the body.
  4. More benefits of green tea – it protects your DNA

    Green tea protects your DNA. That‘s now a proven scientific fact, thanks to the work of Professor Iris Benzie. And her powerful new discovery helps explain why green tea drinkers seem to avoid weight gain, depression, cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer‘s disease.

    Three reasons to drink green tea

    We already knew that drinking green tea is good for you in a number of ways. First, it purifies the body by eliminating free radicals. Free radicals are those unstable molecules that cause disease and age your body. Secondly, drinking green tea promotes the healthy turnover of cells in your body. Technically, it‘s called "apoptosis." And it prompts old cells to die off so that new, healthy cells can take their place. Apoptosis also prevents cancer by blocking the uncontrolled growth and spread of damaged cells. And lastly, we now know that green tea also protects your DNA, the tiny building blocks found inside nearly every cell in your body. Many scientists compare DNA to an elaborate set of blueprints or instructions. Think of your DNA as "ground zero" for good health. It all starts in the tiniest building blocks of your cells.

    So what damages your DNA?

    Radiation, UV rays, toxins, chemicals, free radicals, and unhealthy diet can all -- over time -- damage your DNA. Fortunately, your body finds and repairs most damage on its own. In fact, special proteins -- I like to think of them as DNA "watch dogs" -- tirelessly scour your body looking for problems. When they find a damaged strand, they immediately tell the cell to stop dividing, so the problem won‘t pass on to the next generation of cells. And then your body goes to work repairing the DNA. This ensures that you will go on to live a long, healthy life. But sometimes the DNA cops miss a strand. And these damaged strands can cause problems down the road, such as premature aging and disease. The good news is green tea can help prevent problems from even occurring in your DNA in the first place.

    Green tea protects your DNA

    Iris Benzie and her team of researchers recruited 18 healthy volunteers to participate in a study examining the effects of green tea on DNA. They divided the volunteers into two groups. One group drank two cups of one percent green tea (longjing green tea or screw-shaped green tea) every day for four weeks. The other group drank water every day for four weeks. Researchers took samples of the participants‘ blood and urine before and after the month-long study. Their analysis showed that the group who drank green tea reduced their DNA damage by 20 percent. And that was after just 30 days of drinking green tea! Imagine how good your DNA would look if you drank it for one whole year or five years or 20 years! Plus...

    Why stop at one cup, when three is better?

    Research from earlier this year shows that drinking three cups of green tea every day may significantly increase your lifespan. This time, scientists compared the length of telomeres among green tea drinkers. (Telomeres are DNA sequences at the end of your chromosomes. They shorten as your cells replicate and age. So the longer your telomeres are, the "younger" your cells.) Scientist found that men and women who drank an average of three cups of green tea per day had a big advantage over one-cuppers. In fact, their telomeres were 4.6 kilobases longer, which translates into about five years of life. So go ahead and have that second (or third) cup of green tea today. It may just add five years to your life! Just make sure to drink the real stuff, made by you with tea bags. Don‘t fall for the sweetened kind found in bottles. These only contain a fraction of the antioxidants found in real green tea. Instead, it‘s mostly sugar and water.
  5. Post-menopausal women cut depression and anxiety by more than 75 percent with all-natural plant extract

    Depression and anxiety can hit post-menopausal women seemingly from out of the blue. This happens as hormone levels fall and a woman's body struggles to adjust to life without much estrogen. If this sounds like you, worry no more. A new study shows that post-menopausal women can cut their depression and anxiety by more than 75 percent by taking an all-natural and non-toxic plant extract. Plant used to treat hot flashes also boosts mood Scientists recruited 109 post-menopausal women with depression or anxiety. Half of the women received a placebo and the other half got an extract from the red clover plant every day for 90 days. Red clover is a plant that helps to purify the body of toxins. It also contains natural isoflavones, plant-based chemicals that act like estrogen in a woman's body, which is why so many women use it to cope with hot flashes during menopause. And now we know that red clover can even help stabilize a woman's mood following menopause. In fact, in the recent study, women who took 80 mg of red clover extract for 90 days cut their anxiety by 76 percent. They also cut their symptoms of depression by a whopping 80 percent! On the other hand, those women taking a placebo only cut their symptoms by about 20 percent. And here's the final bit of good news: unlike HRT (hormone replacement therapy), red clover is completely non-toxic and won't increase your risk of breast cancer. So just give it a try if you're post-menopausal with the occasional bout of depression or anxiety.
  6. Tea drinkers have less depression than Web surfers

    I recently ran across a study encouraging seniors to surf the web. It may help cut your risk of depression by 20 percent, the article said. But, to be honest, the study lacked substance. (Probably just some "junk science" funded by a computer company trying to boost sales.) On the other hand, if you really want to cut your risk of developing depression, think tea. Green tea to be precise. Scientists in Japan found that green tea drinkers over 70 years of age were less likely to get depressed. Now -- you have to drink a lot of tea to get the benefits. In fact, more than four cups a day. But among men and women who did this, the occurrence of depressive symptoms was 44 percent less. Wow. Now, that's what I call an improvement! Plus, green tea has a long and spectacular track record for boosting your overall health. It's been proven to help ward off heart disease, cancer, dementia, diabetes, stroke, and weight gain, just to name a few. So drink up (green tea, that is). And if you like to surf the net, go for it. Just don't expect Google to keep the blues away.
  7. More beach vacations for cardiac patients?

    Last week’s deluge of snow, ice and cold weather has got me thinking again about the “sunshine” vitamin (otherwise known as vitamin D)…and how most of us aren’t getting enough of it this winter. As frequently noted in the Guide to Good Health, the best source of vitamin D is the sun. You can get up to 10,000 IUs a day just by spending 30 minutes in the sun. But during the winter, many of us just scurry back and forth from the house to the car. Spending time in the sun just doesn’t happen. That’s not good, especially when you start looking at all the diseases that vitamin D has been shown to help prevent. It’s not just about osteoporosis Most of us know vitamin D is good for the bones. But it’s actually much more versatile than that. In fact, some nutritionists and scientists now believe vitamin D can protect you against:
    • cognitive decline
    • depression
    • heart failure
    • back pain
    • cancer
    • insulin resistance
    • pre-eclampsia during pregnancy
    • impaired immunity
    • macular degeneration
    • weight gain
    It’s food for your brain In addition to building strong bones, vitamin D seems to help prevent dementia and support brain function for older adults. In a study published in December 2008, researchers assessed the cognitive levels of almost 2,000 adults aged 65 and older. Scientists found that patients with the highest levels of serum vitamin D3 (an overall indicator of vitamin D levels in the body) also had the best cognitive functioning. By contrast, those with the lowest levels of D3 were four times as likely to have cognitive impairment. But that’s not all the vitamin D can do. It’s also one of nature’s best antidepressants Vitamin D helps to regulate melatonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain that give you a sense of well-being. Without enough of it, you’re at risk of feeling low. For instance, in a study published two years ago in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, vitamin D3 was identified as a factor in regulating mood in older adults. Researchers found that patients with a D3 deficiency experienced depression. Some scientists also believe vitamin D is helpful in alleviating “seasonal affective disorder.” Not surprisingly, this condition is common up north where folks spend much of the year under snowy skies. They simply don’t get enough sunlight, their bodies lack vitamin D, and they become susceptible to the winter blues. But that’s not all. Recent studies suggest vitamin D also plays a role in heart health. Sunshine for your heart
    A few months back, one research team from the University of Michigan showed that vitamin D can protect against heart failure in rats. For 13 weeks, rats in a Michigan lab were divided into four groups: 1. Rats given high-salt diet (designed to simulate a “fast food” diet) 2. Rats on a high-salt diet given vitamin D 3. Rats on a healthy diet 4. Rats on a healthy diet given vitamin D At the end of the study, researchers found that rats on the fast food diet + vitamin D regimen faired much better than their counter parts receiving just the fast food diet. After just 13 weeks, the vitamin D treated rats had a lower heart weight. (This was really big news because an enlarged heart—known as “hypertrophy”—is all too common in heart failure patients. When hypertrophy happens in men and women, it makes the heart work harder to pump blood through the body. Your blood pressure rises. Even a simple walk to the mailbox becomes too much.) The treated rats’ hearts also worked less for each beat. They also maintained normal blood pressure. According to the study’s lead researcher, University of Michigan pharmacologist Robert U. Simpson, Ph.D., "Heart failure will progress despite the best medications. We think vitamin D retards that progression and protects the heart." Simpson has studied vitamin D’s effects on the heart for more than 20 years. At first, his ideas were thought of as far-fetched and improbable. Now—his research is starting to bear fruit. I’m sure there’s more to come on the heart + vitamin D link… Even for Oprah and Vogue readers?
    There’s much more to learn about vitamin D, from its role in preventing cancer to stabilizing blood sugar to improving autoimmune disorders. It seems like even some mainstream news junkies are starting to catch on. A colleague told me that Vogue magazine ran a bit on it this month. And evidently, even Oprah’s spoken publically about being vitamin D deficient. You too may be deficient in this important vitamin. Many of us don’t spend much time outside (even in good weather). And many of us dutifully follow the marching orders to lather up the sun block before setting foot outdoors. Sun screen blocks the rays that help your body make vitamin D. Or perhaps you’re of Latino or African-American descent and your skin contains lots of melanin (Just like sun screen, melanin blocks the rays that help your body make vitamin D.) Some scientists believe that anyone living above New York City’s line of latitude NEVER absorbs enough vitamin D through their skin, even in the summertime. Whatever the reason why, I’m convinced most of us need more vitamin D. You can get a simple blood test if you think you might have a deficiency. Optimal levels are between 50-70 ng/mL. For anyone not getting regular sun exposure, I usually recommend taking 2000 IUs of vitamin D daily. In winter months, I’d go for 4000 IUs daily. (Remember, exposure of your full body to the sun for 30 minutes will give you 10,000 IUs or more of vitamin D. So there’s little risk of reaching an upper limit with this supplement.) You can also get vitamin D into your diet by eating more eggs (naturally found in yolks), liver, and fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and sardines).
    Keep up the good work and get some sunshine if you can.
  8. Urgent Warning for Alzheimer Families

    If you have a family member suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, you know it’s not just a memory disorder. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) causes major behavior and mood disturbances. According to doctors, less than 10 percent of Alzheimer’s patients remained free from symptoms of “psychopathology” during the course of their disease. In other words, agitation, aggression, depression, anxiety, paranoid delusions, and insomnia are very much the norm for AD patients. As a result, today’s Alzheimer’s patient is all too often prescribed some type of antipsychotic drug to control their behavior. Thioridazine, chlorpromazine, haloperidol, trifluoperazine, or risperidone all belong to this class of drugs.

    Limited options for Alzheimer’s patients

    A new study to be published in Lancet Neurology, the respected British medical journal, confirms what one might guess about AD patients prescribed antipsychotics: the drugs shorten their lives. In fact, a patient taking an antipsychotic drug only has a 46 percent survival rate at 24 months (as compared to 71 percent for a patient taking a placebo). Moreover, only 30 percent of AD patients were alive at 36 months after having begun treatment with antipsychotics (as opposed to 59 percent taking a placebo). Bottom line here: if you’ve got a loved one with AD, think long and hard about using an antipsychotic drug to control their behavior. If you’ve run out of options, authors of the study suggest using the drugs for a limited time (3 months or less) to see if behavior improves.

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