Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Depression in the Elderly

If you’re a young or middle-aged adult, you know how crippling depression an be. But for the elderly, it can be severe and more often fatal. 20 percent of America’s elderly deal with depression and other related illnesses, but only a fraction are getting the treatment they need. Unfortunately some of these deaths do occur through suicide. But many can become so debilitated by depression that they are not able to manage. Such things as hypertension or diabetes or the just might not be eating right. Doctors believe part of the problem is that it’s not treated either because patients don’t go see their doctor or the physician isn’t looking for depression or its symptoms.
Another problem facing doctors is that certain aspects of depression do become more distinctive with age. The elderly tend to have different symptoms than younger ones. A lot of people experience depression without sadness. Instead, they a complain that their food doesn’t taste good, or they’re not sleeping, or having trouble remembering things and making decisions. Because some are likely to deny he/she is depressed, memory and cognitive problems may make the person seem as if he/she has dementia. Risk factors for depression, such as psychological stress and family history, are not so important when it comes to older people who are experiencing their first episode of depression. Also caregivers and family members may thin it’s normal for older people to feel that way at that age and tend to miss the signs of depression.
Sadly, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, people age 65 and older accounted for 18 percent of all suicides in 2000. Of nearly 35 million Americans over 65, it’s estimated that 2 million have a depressive illness and 5 million may have depressive symptoms.
Now two groups of anti-depressant medications are more commonly used on the elderly; they include SSRI’S (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) such as Prozac and Paxil, and newer non-SSRI’s such as Wellbutrin and Effexor. When applying these medications, it is often done with a lower dosage and increases are done more slowly with the elderly. This is because treatment can be complicated by the fact that older people tend to have more chronic medical conditions requiring more medications. Then you run the risk of sensitivity to side effects and drug interaction.
Another option to think about is psychotherapy. Usually the depressed elderly are isolated. It’s important to get them out of the house and involved in something important. Also critical is their diet and exercise. A study published last December in the Journal of the American Medical Assoc. discovered that telephone support helped people take their medications as prescribed. After doing this for a year, 45 percent of those involved reported a reduction in depression symptoms of 50 percent or more, compared to 19 percent who weren’t in the follow-up program. Finally, it’s important to remember that depression treatment should always continue. It is highly recurrent in older people and recurrences happen sooner. So it is very important to not only get them well, but to keep them well.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Is Depression Genetic?

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University have found that genes contribute more strongly in women than in men for the risk of depression. They’ve also discovered that there may be some genetic factors that operate uniquely in one sex and not in the other. In the January issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, researchers reported that habitability of depression is approximately 42 percent in women and 29 percent in men.
Their work, together with colleagues at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden is the largest epidemiological study of depression done to date in twins. They have shown that depression is a moderately heritable disorder suggesting genetic factors are important. The research teams evaluated lifetime major depression of approximately 42,000 twins. According to research, there are two kinds of sex-effects, which are quantitative and qualitative. They say that quantitative examines whether habitability is different in males than females, and if the importance of genetic factors differs among the sexes. Qualitative sex-effects examine whether the same genes are playing a role in males and females.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Preschoolers Experiencing Mental Health Problems

Researcher Dr. Adrian Angold, from Duke University in North Carolina, found that more than one in ten preschool children may be experiencing early mental health problems that are likely to disrupt their lives. Scientists were shocked to discover large numbers of those under five meeting the criteria for mental and behavioral disorders seen in school age children, adolescents and adults. In more then 11 percent of cases, children suffered symptoms bad enough to affect their daily lives. They included ADHD, serious disruptive behavior, depression and anxiety.
By parents filling out questionnaires, psychiatrists rated 307 pre-school children. Questions were carefully designed to spot behavioral traits commonly associated with different kinds of mental illness and disability. Many were found to have a range of problems, often displaying symptoms of more than one kind of disorder. Anxiety showed itself in a number of ways, including generalized fear, phobias, and terror at being separated from parents. Children with depression showed typical symptoms of sadness, irritability, disturbed sleep ,and lack of appetite. In 11.3 percent of cases, the problems encountered were classified as “serious emotional disorders” bad enough to disrupt daily life. Older children with similar difficulties were held back at school, socially isolated and unable to forge relationships.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Females More Sensitive To Chronic Stress

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati have found that in the study of rats, females might be more sensitive to chronic stress tan males. During a 15 day period, researchers studied stress response in male and female rats. They noticed markedly increased levels of the stress hormone corticosterone in the female rats compared with the males. The major steroid hormone in rats, corticosterone, is produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress. In humans it’s cortisol.
The adrenal glands, along with the pituitary and hypothalamus, make up the stress axis. When an organism experiences stress, higher levels of glucocorticoids are produced to aid in survival and recovery. But prolonged high levels of this hormone can have negative effects, such as increased abdominal obesity, and decreased immune response. The study findings were presented during the annual meeting of the society of Neuroscience in Washington D.C.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Restore Your Health With Ecotherapy

If you’re stressed out with modern life, walking the dog, stroking the cat, or swimming with dolphins could be the best medicine for coping. The idea of restoring health through reconnecting with nature, known as ecotherapy, is gaining support among the mainstream medical establishment.
Ecotherapy includes helping to develop green spaces in urban areas, conservation projects, and teaching troubled children to handle small animals. Not only has the British Medical Journal found that swimming with dolphins helps people with depression, a study in Honduras has found the same. Researchers at Leicester University studied 30 patients and found that those given the opportunity to play with dolphins over a two week period reported less anxiety and depression than those who simply swam.
A more everyday type of ecotherapy is simply owning a pet. British researchers suggest pet ownership is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, lower use of medical services, and reduced risk of asthma and allergies in young children.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Stress and High Cholesterol

British researchers studied about 200 middle-aged men and women ad discovered the link between stress and cholesterol levels. All patients underwent standard tests to measure mental stress. They also measured their cholesterol. And a second cholesterol test was given three years later.
The study results showed that those who scored the highest o the stress tests experienced the greatest rise in cholesterol at the follow up exams. Overall, they were three times more likely to have clinically high cholesterol than those who scored the lowest on the stress tests. The findings held true even after researchers adjusted their results to take other factors influencing cholesterol levels into account. The stress cholesterol link was seen equally in men and women. Investigators aren’t sure how mental stress impacts cholesterol levels. But they speculate stress may be promoting the production of more cholesterol, interfering with the clearance of cholesterol from the body.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Antidepressants for Children is on the Rise

Are children being inappropriately prescribed antidepressants? The number of U.S. children and teens who were diagnosed with depression more than doubled between 1995 & 2002. The overall increase in adolescent patients is likely due to the growing awareness of depression in children, a problem that’s been historically under-diagnosed. Also the use of antidepressant drugs rose and the use of psychotherapy and/or counseling declined. The number of clinician visits by children and adolescents being seen for depression more than doubled. However, mental health counseling including psychotherapy dropped from 83 percent to 68 percent. Analysis also showed that between 42 percent and 52 percent of all adolescent patient visits involving medication did not include counseling. Antidepressants prescribed to seven to 17 year old patients rose from 47 percent in 1995-1996 to 52 percent in 2001-2002, including increases in the off-label use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’S), which accounts for 76 percent of antidepressants prescribed to adolescents in 1995-1996 and 81 percent in 2001-2002. This was reported by Stanford researchers in the December issue of Journal of Adolescent Health. The observation of the increasingly prevalent off label use of SSRI’s as well as possible inappropriate use of medications in substitution of psychotherapy/mental health counseling as first line therapy, raises concerns about physicians adherence to evidence based medicine. As drug use increased, counseling decreased. The prevalence of psychotherapy remained above 80 percent from 1995-1998, but then it dropped significantly to 54 percent in 1999-2000 before rising at 68 percent at the end of the study period. Researchers say the findings point to possible instances of inappropriate prescribing to children. While guidelines call for children to be treated with either mental health counseling or a combination of counseling and medication, the study found a trend of antidepressants replacing talk therapy. Additionally, only Prozac , which jumped 100 percent in use over an eight year period, had been specifically approved for patients younger than 18. But after 1995, other antidepressants rose with children receiving prescriptions for them on an off label basis. These trends raise concerns regarding the widespread off label use of antidepressants lacking reliable evidence of safety and efficacy for use in children and adolescents.
Study author, Dr. Jun Ma of the Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, Ca., says it’s not clear why the use of antidepressants increased during the study. But she feels that it’s likely a combination of factors including widespread drug advertising, perceptions that drugs are more effective than therapy, and the fact that taking medication is more convenient than counseling. Whether or not prescription use will continue to rise is now in question. Recently, the FDA directed manufacturers of all antidepressants to place a “black box” label on their products, warning of the increased risk of suicidal behavior that has been inked to certain medications. Dr. Ma said it will be important to track how this change affects prescribing trends. Ma makes a note that the labels are not intended to scare doctors and patients away from antidepressants because they can be an important part in the treatment of depression in children. Researchers point out that Prozac, along with talk therapy, should be the first choice antidepressant for children, and only if that fails should other drugs be considered Prozac was the most commonly prescribed antidepressant, with Zoloft and Paxil close behind, which are not FDA approved for children.
Clinical guidelines from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recommends that psychotherapy be used on all children and adolescents. Antidepressants, in combination with psychotherapy/mental health counseling should be prescribed to those with severe psychotherapy-resistant symptoms only. Depression affects up to 8 percent of U.S. children and is a major risk factor for suicide, which is the third leading cause of death among teens. Recently, the American Psychiatric Association reported that antidepressant use among adolescents had dropped by almost 20 percent after the FDA’s decision to put warnings on prescriptions.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Filtering Out Useless Information

Scientists at the University of Oregon say that filtering out useless information can help people increase their capacity to remember what is really important. They have demonstrated that awareness, or visual working memory, doesn’t depend on extra storage space in the brain, but on an ability to ignore what is irrelevant. Edward Vogel, head of research, says that it’s always been assumed that people with high capacity visual working memory had greater storage. But he says it’s about a neural mechanism or bouncer that controls what information gets into awareness.
These findings would overturn the accepted concept of memory capacity which was suggested that how much a person can remember depends on the amount of information crammed into the brain at one time. Some people allow themselves to be inundated with distracting data. But, on the other hand, that very defect might help to make them more imaginative. Researchers found that the brain contains its own version of the nightclub “Bouncer” who keeps out unwanted riff raff. These results are said to have broad implications that may lead to more effective ways to maximize memory, as well as improve the treatment of problems associated with ADHD and schizophrenia.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Stress Linked to Problems During Adolescence

Research conducted at the Oregon National Primate Research Center at Oregon Health and Science University and at the University of Pittsburgh suggests that there’s a link between stress early in life and the increased incidence of mental health problems during adolescence.
It has been revealed that children who experience early life stresses such as abuse, neglect or loss of a parent have an increased risk of developing attachment disorders. Later, these same children show an increased incidence of manifesting some types of behavioral and emotional disorders including ADHD, conduct disorders, anxiety, depression, suicide, drug abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Genetic factors and life experiences play a role in the causes of these mental health disorders.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Feed Your Brain To Help Fight ADD

First of all, here’s just a few facts that you should now about your brain. It consumes 20 percent oxygen, 25 percent of the blood glucose in your body, and a dried out brain is 60 percent fat by weight. This means that your brain requires a high amount of oxygen, blood glucose and good quality fats to keep it running well.
Many children who have problems sitting still in school can focus and learn much better after they’ve been allowed to exercise intensely. This provides the brain with more oxygen. Also, many children who have trouble learning often eat sweetened cereal for breakfast. This does not support focus and concentration well. Try a few eggs, a high protein shake, and replacing juice with a piece of whole fruit and the dame child can often function so much better for the whole morning. Protein stabilizes blood glucose levels and provides the needed amino acids the body converts into neurotransmitter substances that allow brain cells to communicate with each other.
Next, try to avoid foods that will diminish their ability to focus and concentrate and increase their energy.. Sugar is certainly one, as are any with artificial flavors and colors.
Finally, for the past 20 years, we’ve been eating low fat or non fat foods. While that may be good for some parts of our body, it isn’t good for our brain. It significantly contributes to diminished brain function.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Serious Consequences for ADD Left Untreated

ADD’s classic symptoms include hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention. Left untreated, there can be serious consequences. Studies show that it can double the chances of being arrested, divorced and to have at least six jobs in a 10 year span. It has also been shown to affect self-image and can hurt on the job performance.
Considered the most effective way to treat ADHD are psycho stimulant medications along with behavioral therapy. However not only are the long term effects of medication unknown, but the most common one, Ritalin, is in the same class as cocaine and morphine. All drugs carry the potential for abuse. But now there’s no shortage of alternative treatments that can be used either in conjunction with drugs or on their own. Most alternative ADD therapies offer only anecdotal, rather than scientific evidence of success. But just because it hasn’t been in a rigorously controlled study doesn’t mean it’s worthless. Experts say that if it’s safe, you believe in it, and it’s good for you anyway, it’s worth exploring.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Pill Popping to Gain an Edge

You’ve heard of athletes popping pills to gain a competitive edge, but college students too? Today students are turning to prescription stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin to get them through late nigt study sessions, risking potential and unknown side effects for a chance at a better grade. Some students say it’s a “super-achiever thing”.
Adderall, for example, is an amphetamine prescribed to improve focus and attention in people with ADHD. But the drugs have become popular for those looking for an occasional mental boost. Students say that caffeine will keep you awake, but Adderall will actually increase your ability to concentrate. Stimulant use varies widely. In the journal Addiction, which studied nearly 11,000 students, colleges with more competitive admission standards have the highest rates of non medical use-up to 25 percent. Nearly 7 percent had taken a stimulant without a prescription. Dr. Carol Milam, psychiatrist at the Vanderbilt University Student Health Center, says that students believe these types of medications aren’t really dangerous. Bt she warns that not only can they become addictive, bit they have other side effects that include loss of appetite, difficulty falling asleep, stomach ache and dry mouth. The manufacturer’s also warn that it’s not recommended for people with heart problems, high blood pressure, significant anxiety, or a history of drug abuse.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Reduce Your Risk of Alzhiemer's

According to an article in the Lancet Neurology, Swedish scientists have recently found that physically active people had a 60 percent lower risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease then those who were sedentary. The protective effect of exercise increased with age when most cases of Alzheimer’s, which strikes about 10 percent of Americans over 65, develop.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Schools Can't Make ADHD Kids Stay Home

On Wednesday, the U.S. House overwhelmingly passed a bill baring schools from requiring hyperactive children to use drug treatments as a condition for attending classes. Backers of the bill say it’s designed to curb anecdotal but troubling reports of officials telling parents that their disruptive kids must begin treatment for ADHD if they want them to attend school. Doctors have traditionally relied on teachers to identify symptoms of ADHD. But some schools have overstepped their bounds and have coerced parents into starting children on medication.
Rep. John Kline, R-Minn. Is the bill’s main sponsor and says it’s unconscionable to make parents choose between medicating their child or not sending them to school. According to the CDC, nearly 4 million U.S. children under age 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD by 2004. Also, during the first six months of 2005, doctors wrote more than 5.6 million prescriptions for Adderall, a drug used to treat ADHD. That’s a 15 percent increase over the same period a year before. It remains unclear how often schools have tried to make medication a condition of attending class.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

ADHD Drugs Not As Safe As Experts Thought

Today, nearly 4 million children take prescription drugs for ADHD, and this number seems to be climbing. Two new studies now suggest that those prescriptions aren't as safe as experts once thought.
In the first study, researchers kept track of 1,359 children on Strattera for 6-18 weeks. They reported five cases of suicidal thoughts, including one suicide attempt. This was compared with zero cases among the 851 patients who took a placebo. As a result of this study, the FDA had the manufacturer put a "black box" warning on the drug, which is the most serious alert. The experts believe that while children take this medicine, the most worriesome periods are during ther first few months of treatment and when the dosage needs to be adjusted.
In an Austrailian study, they reviewed 29 studies and found that stimulants prescribed for ADHD, such as Ritalin and Dexedrine, may stunt growth in developing kids who experience nausea as a side effect. In one study of 97 boys, they found that those who felt queasy on the medication ended up 2.6 inches shorter, on average, than those who didn't. Researchers believe one possible reason is that if appetite is suppressed, the resulting lack of proper nutrition and calories may affect growth.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Eat Well To Maintain Your Brain

Here are three simple ways that improving your diet today may protect your brain later in life.
1). Hormone therapy-Broccoli and berries are packed with plant hormones that may help prevent Alzheimer's disease. Dutch researchers found that women who ate 3 ounces of berries or 7 ounces of broccoli had 49 percent better memory scores of the 394 women in the study. Other healthy vegetables thought to fight the brain plaques and tangles of Alzheimer's include rutabagas, turnips, parsnips, carrots, and beets.
2). Have healthy drink limits-Research at the University of Wisconsin found that among 500 people with family risk factors for Alzheimer's, those who averaged one or two drinks per week scored 6 percent higher at word-list recall than those who abstained or drank less often than once a week. They suggest that healthy daily drink limits are two for men, and one for women.
3). Calorie control-Researchers at the University of Washington say excess weight may raise Alzheimer's risk by creating insulin resistance. They induced the condition in 16 people and saw 50 percent rise in levels of brain and spinal cord inflammatory chemicals and betaamyloid protein-both are suspected building blocks of Alzheimer's.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Major Depressive Disorder Linked to Other Disorders

The National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions indicated that there’s a strong relationship between major depressive disorder to alcohol use disorder, drug disorders, and other mental health conditions.
Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health reported that middle age, female gender, Native American, low income, separated, divorced, of widowed had the increased likelihood of current or lifetime major depressive disorder. Also found were elevated rates of major depression in baby boomers and in Native Americans. Asian, Hispanic, and black race-ethnicity reduced that risk.
Interviews of more than 43,000 non-institutionalized individuals 18 and older found that 5 percent experienced MDD during the 12 months preceding the survey and 13 percent experienced it at some time in their lives. It is noteworthy to point out that the highest lifetime risk is among middle-aged adults, previously held by the younger adult population during 1980 and 1990.
The onset of MDD begins between 12-16, with the mean age of onset at about 30. Women are twice as likely as men to get MDD and are more likely to receive treatment. Of all who experience MDD, nearly half wanted to die, one third considered suicide, and 9 percent attempted suicide. Among those with MDD, 14 percent abuse alcohol, 5 percent abuse drugs, 26 percent smoke, more than 37 percent have a personality disorder and more then 36 percent have at least one anxiety disorder.
These study results show that strong relationship of MDD to substance dependence and a weak relationship to substance abuse. This indicates the importance of focusing on dependence when studying the relationship of depression to substance use disorders.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Stress Can Make Kids Hurt Themselves

According to a recent survey, 1 in 4 kids hurt themselves due to stress. 875 middle school children were polled recently about how they handle stress. When stressed or upset, ¼ admitted to hurting themselves on purpose. The 9-13 year olds admitted to doing such things as banging their head against a wall or pinching themselves. With emotions being so strong, it can become overwhelming and they don’t know how to handle it. They usually blame themselves and hurt themselves as a way to tae it out on tem. Although this is not a healthy coping mechanism, it occurs in a significant percent of children. Kids who hurt themselves were also more likely than those who did not to say they lose their temper, keep their troubles to themselves, feel bad about themselves, and were less likely to try to work things out. This suggests that certain teens have a tendency toward poor coping skills and need help developing effective ways to cope with stress and manage their emotions.
Things that can stress out a teen include grades, school, homework, getting along with siblings, worries about problems at home, peer group issues, bullies, and friends.
The poll did find that they used other ways of coping, such as watching TV or playing videos. Theses ranked the highest. Teens feel that the most important thing parents can do is to talk to them about their problems. Though they usually don’t want to bring up problem to their parents, they say they would like talking about them if they were asked.