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"A body in motion tends to remain in motion..."

Sir Issac Newton


I know, it's depressing. *joke*

Depression and Heart Failure

Researchers from the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta report that the development of congestive heart failure in elderly persons is more likely if the patient is depressed. In this study of more than 4,500 patients with high blood pressure, those that were judged to be depressed were diagnosed with heart failure twice as often. Some suggest that, in borderline cases, stresses created by depression increase the workload on the heart enough to manifest the problem. Reference: Archives of Internal Medicine, July 23, 2001

Magnetic Therapy for Depression

Spanish researchers have demonstrated dramatic improvements in severe, drug-resistant depression patients by using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) -- or magnetic therapy. After five days of treatment with the technique, they were able to produce improvements lasting two weeks. They hope the procedure will soon replace electroconvulsive therapy (shock treatments) as the treatment of choice for severely afflicted patients.4 4. The Lancet, July 27, 1996.

Sleep Patterns and Mood

Two studies published in the Archives of General Psychiatry9 suggest that a person's biological clock has a great deal of impact on mood. The conclusions are that shift work or frequent time zone changes lead to depression or irritability when one is awake at a time when the body thinks it should be sleeping. The study confined volunteers to laboratories where their sleep/wake cycles were extended to 28-30 hours. Researchers hope the data will lead to better ways to treat depression.

Diabetic Complications

While it has long been recognized that diabetics are at a high risk for amputations, blindness and kidney failure, a paper appearing in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism3 says there are many more important consequences that doctors may not think are related. According to this analysis of federal cost surveys, diabetics are hospitalized more often and for longer periods of time for conditions like liver disease, heart disease, depression, "blood poisoning", and a number of gastrointestinal problems. The researchers estimate that the costs of these conditions not normally associated with diabetes is twice as high as the amount spent on hospitalizations for chronic diabetes. Currently, 27 percent of the Medicare budget is spent on diabetes treatment.4 3. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, October, 1996. 4. United Press, October 16, 1996, quoting Dr. Robert Rattner of George Washington University Medical School.

The Thrill is Gone

An editorial in the British Medical Journal9 suggests that doctors should be sure to inform patients considering prostatic surgery and some anti-depression drug treatments of a possible side effect in their male patients: inability to achieve orgasm. According to one study, About half of prostatic surgery patients report "absent or altered orgasmic sensations." About one in five men taking serotonin re-uptake inhibitors can no longer experience orgasm. There is no effective treatment for the condition, which according to the editorial, can cause "disappointment" and "anger" at not having been warned. 9. BMJ, February 1, 1997.

Loss of Hope Can Kill

A new study published in Psychosomatic Medicine11 shows a very strong relationship between feelings of hopelessness and deaths from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other causes. The research was done on over 2,400 Finnish men between the ages of 42 and 60, over a period of six years. The men who were characterized as having "negative expectancies" about their future were three times more likely to die from violence or injury and died four times as frequently from cardiovascular problems. The paper distinguishes hopelessness from depression, contending that a person's health suffers far less from simple depression than it does when a person has given up hope. 11. Psychosomatic Medicine, March 20, 1996.

Therapy Better than Drugs

A study8 from Vanderbilt University in Nashville suggests that cognitive therapy treatment may be a better way to manage depression than pharmaceuticals. The costs and effectiveness for both types of treatment were about the same over a four-month period, but the cognitive therapy appears to have a more permanent effect, with relapses occurring much less often. In the long term, cognitive therapy (which is somewhat slower to show results initially) appears to be much more effective, both clinically and economically. The conclusions of this study are expected to come as a big surprise to many psychiatric professionals who have strong faith in the drugs they prescribe. 8. Reuters, May 24, 2002.

Acupuncture for Depression

A small study published in a journal published by the American Psychological Society4 concludes that acupuncture is beneficial for depression. Thirty-eight women suffering from majorΠsome form of acupuncture. However, some had their treatment delayed, while others initially received a treatment aimed at headaches or backaches. All eventually received the correct therapy. All three groups improved, but the improvement proceeded at a much faster rate when the genuine treatment began. 4. Psychological Science, October 1998.

Antidepressants Elevate Heart Attack Risk

A New England study has linked the use of a particular class of antidepressants called tricyclics to an increased frequency of heart attacks. The study involved 6,000 people over a 10 years, none of whom exhibited signs of heart disease at the onset. Researchers found that those using the drug were nearly six times more likely to suffer an attack. The popular antidepressant Prozac was not included in the study. Some doctors are quick to note that this study did not attempt to isolate the effects of depression itself on the heart. Some studies have shown that depression suffers have a heart attack up to three times the norm, though it's possible that medications may have had an effect on those subjects as well.

New Epidemic in Older Women

A study by Columbia University warns that physicians should be watchful for a new "hidden epidemic" among older female patients: addiction to psychoactive prescription drugs. According to this study, 11 percent of older women fall into this category. By contrast, they estimate that about 7 percent of women in the same age group abuse alcohol. The study reviewed prescriptions given to 13,000 women over age 59 for a six-months. Researchers concluded that about half of these were prescribed irresponsibly. The study also faults doctors for not considering the possibility of alcohol abuse when diagnosing patients. When presenting classic symptoms of alcohol abuse, 80 percent of patients were diagnosed with depression. Only one percent of the physicians considered alcoholism.12 12. Report released by Columbia's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, June 4, 1998.

Depression Hard on Bad Hearts

A new study at the Montreal Heart Institute tracked 222 men and women for 18 months after a heart attack and found the those who exhibited signs of depression were more likely to die of a second episode during that time period. Those with an irregular heartbeat on top of the depression were even more likely to succumb.13

Work Off Depression

Persons suffering from depression may find that exercise helps, according to a review of studies published in the journal, The Physician and Sportsmedicine.1 A number of studies have correlated improved moods with exercise and one study found that running improved mental health scores as much as psychotherapy. There are a few mental health experts who are skeptical however; one says that the improvements may only be due to -- get this -- psychological factors.

More Calcium Channel Blocker Effects

Another study is warning about the hazards of calcium channel blockers used in the medical treatment of high blood pressure. Swedish doctors found a five-fold increase in the incidence of suicide among patients who used these drugs, compared to those undergoing a different course of therapy for their hypertension. The suicides are thought to result from depression induced by the CCBs.10 10. British Medical Journal, March 7, 1998.

Accutane Warnings

In response to recent reports to the FDA, the manufacturer of an acne treatment drug (Accutane) is issuing additional warnings about its side effects. Accutane was already associated with bouts of depression and suicidal tendencies. However, recent incidents are prompting these warning to be strengthened. The drug maker is not saying how many reports have been received.12 12. Reuters, February 25, 1998.

Anti-Depressive Exercise

According to researchers at the Freie Universität in Berlin, Germany, there is a better way to beat severe depression than by using many drugs now on the market: exercise. They say that 30 minutes each day on a treadmill produced faster and better mood improvements than typically used drug treatments. Most drug therapies take from two to four weeks to show an effect. This small study of 12 patients with severe depression found that 10 days of exercise significantly improved the mental outlook of most patients, including five who had not responded to previous drug therapy.15 15. British Journal of Sports Medicine, April 1, 2001

Depression and Heart Failure

Researchers from the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta report that the development of congestive heart failure in elderly persons is more likely if the patient is depressed.6 In this study of more than 4,500 patients with high blood pressure, those judged to be depressed were diagnosed with heart failure twice as often. Some suggest that, in borderline cases, stresses created by depression increase the workload on the heart enough to manifest the problem. 6. Archives of Internal Medicine, July 23, 2001.

Depression and Heart Disease

Another study has linked heart disease and depression. A 10-year work published in Circulation4 of almost 4,500 volunteers finds a significant correlation between depression and the incidence of stroke, heart attacks, and cardiac arrhythmia. The researchers don't have conclusive evidence of the mechanism of the relationship, but note that depressed patients don't exercise and eat properly. Or, it could be that subclinical heart disease makes patients feel so poorly that depression results. 4. Circulation, October 2000.

Accutane Warnings

The FDA is taking some strong steps in an attempt to warn patients of possible side effects of the anti-acne drug Accutane. Warnings will be attached to each bottle sold that reference side effects that include severe birth defects when taken by pregnant mothers and mood changes that may lead to suicide. Patients will be required to sign a paper certifying that they understand the risks. The FDA decided the action was warranted after hearing testimony from patients and their families. One such patient was a 14-year-old girl who went from being a happy, straight-A student before the drug treatment to spells of crying and depression shortly afterward. She attempted suicide two months into the therapy. Her doctors insisted that Accutane couldn't be blamed, even though depression has been listed as a side effect since 1987. The girl's mother threw the medication away after learning from a friend, not her doctor, that the FDA had issued a suicide warning for the drug; the girl made a "miraculous"7 recovery. 7. Accutane risks. Associated Press, December 5, 2000.

Depression: Exercise Better than Medication

Scientists from Duke University Medical Center recently compared an exercise regimen to a popular drug (Zoloft) for treatment of depression. This study was a follow-up to a previous four-month study that found little difference between the two types of treatment. The objective in the latter study was to determine long-term outcomes; the patients were checked 10 months after the beginning of the first study. The researchers found that, among the exercise-only group, only eight percent experienced a return of symptoms. In the medication-only group, the percentage was 38. Interestingly, in the group that both exercised and took the medication, the relapse rate was 31 percent. The researchers have no explanation for why exercise produced better results, or why those on the combination exercise and medication regimen did so poorly. The exercise employed was a brisk 30-minute workout, plus a warm-up and cool-down period three times per week.1 1. Psychosomatic Medicine, October 2000.

Depression: Teaching Patients to Solve Problems Works as Well as Drugs

A 12-week study of severely depressed patients has shown that counseling patients on how to use their own problem-solving skills can resolve depression symptoms as well as a common drug treatment. The counseling used can be delivered by a general practitioner in less than four hours total time and involves goal-setting and progress evaluation.9

Post-Partum Blues Impact Baby Boys

In a study reported in New Scientist magazine, a British psychiatrist reports that boys, but not girls, are susceptible to their mother's moods shortly after birth. Dr. Deborah Sharp found that about one third of the women she surveyed exhibited depression shortly after giving birth. Testing the offspring at four years old, she found that the boys from the depressed mothers scored significantly lower on I.Q. tests than any of the other groups. The study involved 250 mothers and their children.13

Rock Your Blues Away

A small study of Alzheimer's patients found that about half of the participants were able to combat depression and anxiety by using a low-tech therapeutic device: a rocking chair. The benefits were seen in those that spent 80 minutes or more per day rocking. Observers report noticeable changes that included lessening of anxiety symptoms such as despair, restlessness, tight lips, and pinched eyes. Even the very frail patients seemed to be able to participate and enjoy the therapy.7 7. United Press, reporting on work by Nancy Watson et al. Presented to the April 25, 1998, meeting of the Eastern Nursing Research Society in Rochester, N.Y.

Depression Related to Obesity

Researchers from Columbia University in New York12 report that obesity is strongly correlated with major clinical depression in women. In that study of 40,000 people, they found a 37 percent increase in this diagnosis in women (both blacks and whites) who were obese. Obese men, on the other hand, were happier with life (by nearly the same margin); underweight men were far more likely to contemplate or commit suicide than their heftier contemporaries. 12. American Journal of Public Health, February 2000.

Depression-Induced Cancer

A report in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute11 supports previous work suggesting that depression in the elderly increases their risk of cancer. In this study, the correlation appeared when the depression lasted for more than six years. After adjusting for a number of factors, the risk increased by nearly 90% for all forms of cancer. Anti-depression medications did not seem to improve the cancer risk. 11. JNCI, December 1998

Placebos for Depression

A study in Prevention and Treatment12 concludes that for many anti-depressive drugs the placebo effect is the main curative agent. Researchers analyzed data from 19 randomized, placebo-controlled studies and found that while 25 percent of any improvements seen could be attributed to pharmacological effects, 75 percent of a given patient's recovery was attributed to the simple fact that the patient was taking a pill -- any pill. Even the 25 percent improvement credited to the medication may be suspect, however, as the researchers speculate that for some patients, drugs may enhance the placebo effect because the patients "could tell by the side effects that they had taken something," thereby enhancing their faith in the medication. 12. Prevention and Treatment, July 1998

Fish Oil for Manic Depression

Researchers from Harvard University's McLean Hospital report a marked improvement in manic depressive patients given a dietary supplement containing fish oil. Researchers described the effect as "very strong."1 The study2 involved 30 patients over a four-month period. Half received fish oil capsules (up to 10 grams daily, derived from a type of herring), half received olive oil (as a placebo). Psychological tests were performed at two week intervals. The researchers believe that the benefit is from omega-3 fatty acids, which bolster serotonin levels, possibly through some mechanism involving reinforcement of the brain cells' lipid bilayers. 1. Reuter interview, May 14, 1999. 2. Stoll AS, Severus WE, Freeman MP, Rueter S, Zboyan HA, Diamond E, Cress KK, Marangell LB. Omega 3 fatty acids in bipolar disorder: a preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1999;56:407-412

Study Reports Acceptance of Unresearched Drugs

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are questioning the casual prescription of serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to hundreds of thousands of children each year. "Our survey data suggests that despite a lack of research support, adequate training and comfort with the management of depression, SSRIs are gaining physician acceptance and becoming incorporated into primary care practice," said a university spokesman recently.8 He warns that it is not prudent to use these drugs for "school problems or nebulous behavioral problems." While SSRIs are approved for patients over 18 years of age, there is little scientific evidence that they are safe and/or effective for mental illness in children. These drugs, which include Ritalin and Prozac, are known to cause sleep disturbances and untoward behavioral changes in children. Nothing is known about their effect on developing nervous systems. They are frequently prescribed in the U.S. to treat children for hyperactivity and ADD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, aggression-conduct disorder and even bed-wetting. 8. Jerry Rushton, a researcher quoted by Reuters news service, May 1, 1999.

Smoking and Emotional Problems

New research from a five-year study in Michigan reports a strong correlation between smoking and depression. Persons who smoked every day were nearly twice as likely to suffer major episodes of depression when compared to occasional smokers. Those who were depressed at the onset of the study were also three times more likely by the end of the study to be smoking daily. Researchers have no explanation for these statistics, or even a major hypothesis of which problem may lead to the other.1 1. Archives of General Psychiatry, February 1998.

Aerosol Headaches

A British study of 14,000 pregnant women2 reports that those using some kind of aerosol product (such as air fresheners) on a regular basis experienced 25 percent more headaches than those who used them rarely. Aerosols were also linked to a 19 percent increase in depression. Infants exposed to the products had 30 percent more ear infections and a 22 percent higher rate of diarrhea. Researchers blame compounds such as xylene, ketones and aldehydes for the effect. 2. New Scientist, September 1, 1999.

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