Depression often feeds a substance abuse problem, but the opposite may also be true. Find out just how intertwined these two conditions are.
Mood disorders, like depression, and substance abuse go together so frequently that doctors have coined a term for it: dual diagnosis. The link between these conditions is a two-way street. They feed each other. One problem will often make the other worse, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).
About 20 percent of Americans with an anxiety or mood disorder, such as depression, also have a substance abuse disorder, and about 20 percent of those with a substance abuse problem also have an anxiety or mood disorder, the ADAA reports.
Compared with the general population, people addicted to drugs are roughly twice as likely to have mood and anxiety disorders, and vice versa, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
The Shared Triggers of Depression and Substance Abuse
When it comes to substance abuse and depression, it isn't always clear which one came first, although depression may help predict first-time alcohol dependence, according to a study published in 2013 in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
The conditions share certain triggers. Possible connections between depression and substance abuse include:
The brain. Similar parts of the brain are affected by both substance abuse and depression. For example, substance abuse affects brain areas that handle stress responses, and those same areas are affected by some mental disorders.
Genetics. Your DNA can make you more likely to develop a mental disorder or addiction, according to research published in 2012 in Disease Markers. Genetic factors also make it more likely that one condition will occur once the other has appeared, NIDA reports.
Developmental problems. Early drug use is known to harm brain development and make later mental illness more likely. The reverse also is true: Early mental health problems can increase the chances of later drug or alcohol abuse.
The Role of Environment
Environmental factors such as stress or trauma are known to prompt both depression and substance abuse.
Family history is another factor. A study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in 2014 found that a family history of substance abuse is a significant risk factor for attempted suicide among people with depression and substance abuse.
These types of dual diagnosis may also be traced back to a time in early life when children are in a constant process of discovery and in search of gratification, according to David MacIsaac, PhD, a licensed psychologist in New York and New Jersey and president of the New York Institute for Psychoanalytic Self Psychology.
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Any interruption or denial of this natural discovery process can manifest clinically and lead people to believe that everything they feel and think is wrong, he explains.
This idea, which Dr. MacIsaac says is based on the work of Crayton Rowe, author of the book Empathic Attunement: The 'Technique' of Psychoanalytic Self Psychology, challenges the idea that people dealing with depression try to self-medicate using drugs or alcohol. In fact, people with a dual diagnosis may be doing just the opposite, MacIsaac suggests.
"Individuals who are severely depressed drink to feed this negativity," he explains. "Initially it's soothing, but only for about 15 minutes. After that individuals sink deeper and deeper and feel worse than they did before."
For these people, MacIsaac points out, negativity is "where they get their oxygen." Any inclination that treatment is working will trigger a need to go back into the black hole of negative discovery, and alcohol will intensify their depression, he adds.
Why Simultaneous Treatment Is Important
Successful recovery involves treatment for both depression and substance abuse. If people are treated for only one condition, they are less likely to get well until they follow up with treatment for the other.
If they are told they need to abruptly stop drinking, however, depressed people with a substance abuse problem may be reluctant to undergo treatment, MacIsaac cautions. "They cling to drinking because they are terrified of losing that negativity," he says.
People with dual diagnoses must understand the root of their issues on a profound level, MacIsaac says. Once they understand, he says, they may have the ability to change. Treatment for depression and substance abuse could involve therapy, antidepressants, and interaction with a support group.
If you think you need treatment but are unsure where to start, the American Psychological Association provides the following suggestions:
Ask close friends and relatives whether they have recommendations for qualified psychologists, psychiatrists, or other mental health counselors.
Find out whether your state psychological association has a referral service for licensed mental health professionals.
Some prescription drugs can cause or contribute to the development of depression and other mood disorders.
What do certain asthma, acne, malaria, and smoking-cessation prescription drugs have in common? Answer: Their possible side effects include depression or other mood disorders.
Depression as a side effect of prescription drugs is widespread and increasingly gaining attention. The medications that contribute to drug-induced depression might surprise you. For example, an asthma medication, Singulair (montelukast), is prescribed to help people breathe more easily, but its side effects may include depression, anxiety, and suicidal thinking, according to a research review published in Pharmacology in 2014.
“In 2009, Merck added psychiatric side effects as possible outcomes with Singulair, including tremor, depression, suicidality — suicidal thinking and behavior — and anxiousness,” says J. Douglas Bremner, MD, researcher and professor of psychiatry and radiology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.
Drugs With Depression as a Side Effect
Dr. Bremner has published studies on the possible relationship between the use of retinoic acid acne treatments and the development of depression. One of the drugs within this category is Accutane (isotretinoin), the oral treatment for severe acne that has been associated with psychiatric problems, including depression.
“The original brand-name version of isotretinoin, Accutane, was taken off the market in 2009, although it continues to be marketed as Roaccutane in the U.K., Australia, and other countries," Bremner notes. "In the U.S. there are three generic versions available that have also been associated with reports of depression and suicide, Sotret, Claravis, and Amnesteem."
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The full list of drugs that could cause depression is a long one. British researchers found 110 different medications between 1998 and 2011 that were associated with increased depression risk, according to a report published in BMC Pharmacology and Toxicology in September 2014.
Besides isotretinoin and montelukast, drugs that can cause or contribute to the development of depression or other mood symptoms include:
Lariam (mefloquine), used to treat malaria. Depression, anxiety, and psychosis are among the side effects of this medication, according to an article in Medical Science Monitor in 2013 that explored the chemical cascade behind mood changes.
Chantix (varenicline), used to stop smoking. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists hostility, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts as possible side effects of this medication.
Inderal (propranolol hydrochloride) and other drugs in the beta-blocker class, used to treat high blood pressure. Research on beta-blockers and depression suggests that some, but not all, of the medications in this class can contribute to depression, according to a report in the February 2011 issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology.
Contraceptives. Contraceptives including those delivered by vaginal ring or patch could lead to depression in some people, according to research published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2010.
Corticosteroids. Some people who take corticosteroids experience side effects such as depression, anxiety, and panic attacks, among other symptoms, according to a review of research published in Rheumatology International in 2013.
Interferon-alpha. As many as 40 percent of people using this immunologic medication may experience depression, according to a 2009 report in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience.
Interferon-beta. The link between this immunologic medication and depression is debated, but researchers reporting in Therapeutic Advances in Neurologic Disorders in 2011 note that depression is a concern for those who take it, in part because of their underlying conditions.
Nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors. These HIV medications may increase the risk for depression, according to research published in the September 2014 issue of HIV Medicine. Arimidex (anastrozole) and aromasin (exemestane). Both of these long-term breast cancer therapies may contribute to depression, according to the FDA.
Vigabatrin. This anticonvulsant may cause depression, irritability, and psychosis, notes a review of studies in Acta Neurologica Scandinavica in 2011.
The FDA investigates drugs that have many reports of depression symptoms as a side effect. It requires what are called black-box warnings to be clearly printed on medications, like isotretinoin, that have been linked to depression and suicidal behavior, among other serious health threats. Make sure you read the information pamphlets that come with your prescription medications (and ask your pharmacist if you don’t understand what they say). You can stay on top of any news about their side effects by setting up a news alert on Google.
You can get the latest drug safety information on the FDA website.
Also, pay attention to how you feel. Though you may be taking medications that seem unrelated to mood, let your doctor know if you have symptoms such as sadness, difficulty sleeping, hopelessness, sleep changes, or thoughts of suicide.
“If you suspect your medication may be causing depression or similar problems, talk with your doctor and, if necessary, consult with a psychiatrist,” Bremner advises. The good news is that drug-induced depression usually clears up once you stop taking the medication.
Are Your Drugs Causing Depression?
It can be challenging to figure out whether your depression is related to taking a prescription drug, but here are some indicators:
Timeline. Drug-induced depression is defined as depression that appears within a month of starting or stopping a medication, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). The society also advises that other conditions that might cause depression have to be considered in figuring out whether medication is the contributing factor. Bremner found in his research that the timeline varies from weeks to a month or two.
Dose-response relationship. With some drugs, depression symptoms may get better as the dose is reduced or worse as it is increased. This is usually a clear indicator of a relationship.
If you are uncertain about whether your changes in mood or energy are drug symptoms, talk with your doctor. Screening tools and questionnaires can reliably identify depression. You can also send information about your experiences to the FDA.
Prescription Drug-Induced Depression Treatment
In severe cases, people taking prescription drugs have developed depression leading to suicidal behavior. Because of this risk, don’t ignore or try to wait out feelings of depression, even if you believe they are only a prescription drug side effect. Talk with your doctor about these options to correct the situation:
Switching to an alternative treatment. If an equally effective medication that does not have depression as a side effect exists, the easiest option is to switch prescription drugs.
Getting a psychiatric evaluation. This may be recommended in any case to make sure you do not have an underlying psychiatric condition that has gone undiagnosed. People with a history of depression may have a worse response to some medications. An antidepressant might be prescribed in order to help manage depression symptoms.
Talk therapy will not work in this case, says Bremner, because the problem is chemically based. You will need prescription medication to address the depression if you cannot stop taking the drugs that are causing it.
If you think your depression symptoms are linked to a prescription drug you’re taking, talk with your doctor right away, get screened for depression, and find a better way to manage both your health issues and your mood.
Spending time in nature eases depression, and could be a good supplement to medicine and therapy.
Remedies for depression abound, from medications to psychotherapy, or talk therapy. Having a range of treatment options is a good idea because no single treatment works equally well for each of the millions of U.S. adults with depression. Now researchers say a new therapy, proven to relieve depression, should be added to the mix as a supplement to established treatments. It's called nature.
Interacting with nature can have replenishing effects for those with depression, says Ethan Kross, PhD, associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and one of many experts who has studied the nature-depression link.
A little dose of nature helps us all recharge, but it may have special benefit for those who are depressed. "It seems that, from our work, the restorative effect of nature seems to be stronger for individuals diagnosed with depression," says Marc Berman, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Chicago. That might be because they feel mentally fatigued, and being in nature re-energizes them. However, Dr. Berman has a strong caveat: "We're not arguing that interacting with nature should replace clinically proven therapies for depression," he says. Nor should those with clinical depression try to treat themselves.
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However, Berman and others say, interactions with nature could serve as a very effective supplemental treatment.
What Nature-Depression Research Shows
Among the studies finding nature helps with depression:
Adults with depression who took a 50-minute walk in a natural setting for one research session and then a 50-minute walk in an urban setting for another research session were less depressed and had better memory skills after they took the nature walk.
Adults who moved to greener urban areas, compared to less green, had better mental health during follow-up three years after the move.
Those who took group nature walks reported less depression, less stress, and a better sense of well-being than those who didn't take nature walks, according to a study that looked at more than 1,500 people in a walking program.
Being outdoors and in nature boosts vitality, which experts define as having physical and mental energy. Those with depression often report fatigue and decreased energy. Researchers found the energy-boosting effect of nature was independent of the physical activity or social interaction experienced while outdoors.
How Nature Works Its Magic
The phenomenon of how nature helps improve depression is still being analyzed fully, Dr. Kross says.
One possibility, Berman says, is that interacting with nature helps due to the attention-restoration theory. "We have two kinds of attention," he says. "One is top-down (also called directed), the kind we use at work." Directed attention can be depleted fairly quickly, as you can only focus and concentrate for so long.
Another type of attention is bottom-up, or involuntary. "That's the kind automatically captured by things in the environment, such as lights or music." Involuntary attention is less susceptible to depletion. "You don't often hear people say, 'I can't look at this waterfall any longer,'" Berman says.
Why does nature hold this special effect? In a natural environment, we can choose to think or not, Berman says, and this choice is believed to help us rest our brains. You can then pay attention later, when you need to. "It is giving people more ability to concentrate, which is a big problem for those with depression," Berman says. Nature provides an effective setting for resting our brains, unlike urban settings. Even in the most peaceful urban environment, you have to pay attention to such things as traffic and stoplights.
Nature's replenishing effect is fairly instantaneous, Berman says. So if you're depressed and having an especially bad day, a quick dose of nature might help.
However, Berman cautions that anyone with clinical depression needs to be under a doctor's care, with supervision of all their treatments.
Newer antidepressants target brain chemicals involved in regulating mood, but they're not magic bullets. Here are the risks and benefits of these commonly prescribed drugs.
Although mild forms of depression are often treated without medication, those with more severe symptoms may benefit from taking antidepressant drugs. These medications, which target brain chemicals involved in mood, may help people with severe depression who do not respond to talk therapy or healthy lifestyle changes alone, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
The Use of Antidepressants Is on the Rise
Roughly 67 percent of people living with depression use medication as their primary form of treatment, NAMI reports. Antidepressants are the second most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States, according to a study published in 2013 in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. Overall, use of antidepressants increased from 6.5 percent in 2000 to 10.4 percent by 2010, a study published in 2014 in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry reveals.
How Antidepressants May Help
There are many theories about what causes depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Brain imaging technology shows that parts of the brain involved in mood, thinking, sleep, and behavior look different in people with depression than in those who are not depressed. Genetics, stress, and grief could also trigger depression, according to NIMH.
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Because specific chemicals called neurotransmitters, particularly serotonin and norepinephrine, are involved in regulating mood, medications that target these chemicals are often used to treat depression. Antidepressants work by increasing concentrations of these chemicals. These drugs include:
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): SSRIs work by making more of the neurotransmitter serotonin available to your brain. Some of the drug names you may be familiar with are Prozac (fluoxetine), Paxil (paroxetine), and Celexa (citalopram).
The most common side effects associated with these medications include sexual problems, headache, nausea, dry mouth, and difficulty sleeping. These symptoms often fade over time, NAMI notes.
Atypical antidepressants: This class of drugs includes serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), such as Effexor (venlafaxine) and Cymbalta (duloxetine). In addition to serotonin, these antidepressants may target other brain chemicals such as dopamine or norepinephrine.
Side effects of SNRIs are similar to those associated with SSRI drugs. You may also experience, fatigue, weight gain, or blurred vision.
The antidepressant Wellbutrin (bupropion) affects only the levels of norepinephrine and dopamine. This drug, known as a norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI), has similar side effects as SSRIs and SNRIs, but it is less likely to cause sexual problems. Rarely, seizures may occur.
Tricyclic antidepressants: Tricyclics also affect levels of brain chemicals, but they are no longer commonly used because they have more side effects, including fatigue, dry mouth, blurred vision, urination difficulties, and constipation. If you have glaucoma, you should not take any tricyclic antidepressant. Some tricyclics antidepressants include amitriptyline, amoxapine, and Norpramin (desipramine).
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): Like tricyclics, MAOIs are now prescribed less often because of their risk for serious side effects. These drugs work by blocking an enzyme called monoamine oxidase, which breaks down the brain chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine. People taking MAOIs can experience dangerous reactions if they eat certain foods, drink alcohol, or take over-the-counter cold medicines.
In 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Emsam (selegiline), the first skin patch for treating major depression. At its lowest dose, this once-a-day patch can be used without the dietary restrictions associated with oral MAOIs. Some other MAOIs include Marplan (isocarboxazid) and Nardil (phenelzine).
Depression Medications and Government Warnings
In 2005, the FDA warned that the risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior could be higher in children and adolescents taking depression drugs. In 2007, the warning was expanded to include anyone under age 25 taking antidepressants.
However, to balance the risks and benefits of antidepressants, the FDA’s so-called black box warning also states that depression itself is associated with a greater risk for suicide, notes a 2014 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Nevertheless, if you are taking an antidepressant, especially if you are under 25, let your doctor know if your depression seems to be getting worse or if you have any thoughts of hurting yourself.
Antidepressants Are Not Magic Bullets
It's important to remember that simply taking a pill will not cure depression. It may take up to 12 weeks before these drugs have their full effect. Some people need to take various doses or combinations of different medications before they find the treatment strategy that works best for them, according to NAMI.
It’s also important to take antidepressants as prescribed and to follow up with your mental health professional on a regular basis. Some depression drugs must be stopped gradually — if you suddenly stop taking your medication, you could experience withdrawal symptoms or a relapse of your depression.
Often the most effective treatment for depression involves some form of talk therapy, notes NAMI. Discuss with your doctor how exercise and limiting alcohol can also help ease your symptoms.
Too often, depression and debt are connected — and together, they can spiral out of control. Try these strategies to regain your footing.
Mental problems and money problems often go hand in hand. For one, debt is an increasingly common stressor that can trigger depression. Indeed, people who live with debt are more likely than their peers to be depressed and even contemplate suicide, according to a report on the health effects of debt published in 2014 in BMC Public Health. They're also less likely to take good care of their health. On the other hand, the researchers found that debt management programs can help stave off depression. Here's what else you need to know.
How Debt Leads to Emotional Distress
Debt can make you feel helpless, hopeless, and low on self-esteem — and these are all symptoms and risk factors for depression, says Nadine Kaslow, PhD, professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.
Credit card debt, mortgage foreclosure, student loan debt, medical debt, and job loss can all contribute to depression, agree the authors of the BMC Public Health article, adding that you might also experience anger and anxiety. Other factors, such as being the sole breadwinner with dependent children, being elderly and not having much saved for retirement, or having very high interest debts, seem to increase depression risk.
When Depression Leads to Debt
It’s easy to understand how the stress of debt can trigger or worsen depression, but you may not realize that depression can also lead to debt problems.
Symptoms of depression can lead some people to accumulate growing piles of debt, Dr. Kaslow says. "Someone with depression may exhibit behaviors that can lead them into a debt crisis."
"Some people may try to relieve feelings of depression by compulsive shopping. Depression is often associated with destructive and addictive behaviors that can result in overwhelming debt. This type of debt can lead to extreme despair and even to suicide," Kaslow warns.
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Compulsive buying, which can lead to debt, is indeed linked to depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders, researchers reported in the American Journal of Addiction in 2013. The researchers note that in addition to depression treatment, support groups using cognitive behavioral strategies can help control compulsive buying.
How to Find Debt and Depression Help
If you find you are dealing with debt and depression, it is important to address both, Kaslow says. Many types of help are available. "If a person is feeling trapped, desperate, and hopeless, they may need help for depression and help getting out of debt," she adds.
Depression is a very treatable disorder. The first step is to recognize the problem and ask your doctor for depression help. Once depression is diagnosed, your doctor might recommend a range of treatment strategies, including talk therapy, medications, and support groups.
For someone with addictive spending behaviors, Debtors Anonymous (DA) is an organization that can be very helpful, says Kaslow. DA has meetings all over the country where people share their experiences with compulsive debt and debt management. There are also online meetings. For help with compulsive debt, check out DA's website.
A good source of advice for getting help with a debt problem can be found via the Federal Trade Commission, which recommends the following strategies:
Develop and closely follow a budget.
Contact your creditors instead of avoiding them.
Know your rights when dealing with debt collectors.
Use a credit counseling or debt management agency.
Seek protection through bankruptcy laws.
Learn about the steps you need to take to repair your credit.
Beware of debt management scams promising an easy fix.
The area of the brain involved in forming new memories, known as the hippocampus, seems to shrink in people with recurring depression, a new study shows.
Australian researchers say the findings highlight the need to spot and treat depression when it first develops, particularly among young people.
Ian Hickie, who co-directs the Brain and Mind Research Institute at the University of Sydney, led the study. His team looked at the neurology of almost 9,000 people from the United States, Europe and Australia. To do so, they analyzed brain scans and medical data for about 1,700 people with major depression, and almost 7,200 people who didn't suffer from depression.
The researchers noted that 65 percent of the participants with major depression had suffered recurring symptoms.
The study, published June 30 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, found that people with major depression, particularly recurring forms of the condition, had a smaller hippocampus. This part of the brain was also smaller among participants diagnosed with depression before they reached the age of 21.
Many young people diagnosed with depression go on to develop recurring symptoms, Hickie's team noted.
RELATED: Depression as a Risk Factor for Dementia
Recurrence seemed key: About a third of participants had had only one episode of major depression, and they did not show any reduction in the size of their hippocampus compared to non-depressed people.
According to the researchers, that suggests that it is recurring depression that takes a toll on brain anatomy.
The take-home message: Get depression diagnosed and treated before brain changes can occur, the Australian team said.
"This large study confirms the need to treat first episodes of depression effectively, particularly in teenagers and young adults, to prevent the brain changes that accompany recurrent depression," Hickie said in a university news release.
According to co-researcher Jim Lagopoulos, "these findings shed new light on brain structures and possible mechanisms responsible for depression."
"Despite intensive research aimed at identifying brain structures linked to depression in recent decades, our understanding of what causes depression is still rudimentary," Lagopoulos, who is an associate professor at the institute, said in the news release.
The study couldn't prove cause-and-effect, however, and the study authors say that more research could help explain if the brain changes are the result of chronic stress, or if these changes could help spot people who are more vulnerable to depression.
Taking both an antidepressant and a painkiller such as ibuprofen or naproxen may increase risk of a brain hemorrhage, a new study suggests.
Korean researchers found that of more than 4 million people prescribed a first-time antidepressant, those who also used nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) had a higher risk of intracranial hemorrhage within the next month.
Intracranial hemorrhage refers to bleeding under the skull that can lead to permanent brain damage or death.
The findings, published online July 14 in BMJ, add to a week of bad news on NSAIDs, which include over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve).
Last Thursday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration strengthened the warning labels on some NSAIDs, emphasizing that the drugs can raise the risk of heart attack and stroke.
As far as the new link to brain bleeding in antidepressant users, experts stressed that many questions remain unanswered.
And even if the drug combination does elevate the odds, the risk to any one person appears low.
"The incidence of intracranial hemorrhage in people taking antidepressants and NSAIDs was only 5.7 per 1,000 in a year. So about 0.5 percent of people taking these drugs will develop a (hemorrhage) over one year," said Dr. Jill Morrison, a professor of general practice at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.
Still, she said, it's wise for people on antidepressants to be careful about using NSAIDs.
Both types of drug are widely used, and about two-thirds of people with major depression complain of chronic pain, the researchers pointed out.
Make sure an NSAID is the appropriate remedy for what ails you, said Morrison, co-author of an editorial published with the study.
It's known that NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal bleeding in some people, and studies have suggested the same is true of SSRI antidepressants -- which include widely prescribed drugs such as Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft.
But neither drug class has been clearly linked to intracranial hemorrhage, said Dr. Byung-Joo Park, the senior researcher on the new study.
So Park's team looked at whether the two drug types, used together, might boost the risk.
RELATED: Some Antidepressants Linked to Bleeding Risk With Surgery
The investigators used records from Korea's national health insurance program to find more than 4 million people given a new prescription for an antidepressant between 2009 and 2013. Half were also using an NSAID.
Park's team found that NSAID users were 60 percent more likely to suffer an intracranial hemorrhage within 30 days of starting their antidepressant -- even with age and chronic medical conditions taken into account.
There was no indication that any particular type of antidepressant carried a greater risk than others, said Park, a professor of preventive medicine at Seoul National University College of Medicine.
He agreed that antidepressant users should consult their doctor before taking NSAIDs on their own.
Park also pointed out that the study looked at the risk of brain bleeding within 30 days. So the findings may not apply to people who've been using an antidepressant and an NSAID for a longer period with no problem.
That's an important unanswered question, said Morrison, noting it's possible that the risk of brain bleeding is actually higher for people who used NSAIDs for a prolonged period.
Why would antidepressants have an effect on bleeding? According to Park's team, the drugs can hinder blood cells called platelets from doing their job, which is to promote normal clotting.
Since NSAIDs can also inhibit platelets, combining the two drugs may raise the odds of bleeding, the researchers said.
It's not clear whether there is a safer pain reliever for people on antidepressants, Morrison said. But it's possible that acetaminophen (Tylenol) could fit the bill.
"Acetaminophen does not have the same propensity to cause bleeding problems as NSAIDs do," Morrison said. "So theoretically, this would be safer."
And since this study was conducted in Korea, she added, it's not clear whether the risks would be the same in other racial and ethnic groups. More studies, following people over a longer period, are still needed, Morrison said.
Slower deterioration seen in people with more satisfying relationships, researchers say.
Loneliness and depression are linked to an increased risk of mental decline in the elderly, a new study suggests.
Researchers analyzed data from more than 8,300 American adults aged 65 and older who were assessed every two years between 1998 and 2010. Seventeen percent reported loneliness at the beginning of the study, and half of those who were lonely had depression.
Over the course of the study, mental decline was 20 percent faster among the loneliest people than among those who weren't lonely. People who were depressed at the start of the study also had faster mental decline.
However, lower mental function did not lead to worsening loneliness, according to the study scheduled for presentation Monday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Washington, D.C. Data and conclusions presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
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"Our study suggests that even one or two depressive symptoms -- particularly loneliness -- is associated with an increased rate of cognitive decline over 12 years," study author Dr. Nancy Donovan said in an association news release. She is a geriatric psychiatrist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
"We found that lonely people decline cognitively at a faster rate than people who report more satisfying social networks and connections. Although loneliness and depression appear closely linked, loneliness may, by itself, have effects on cognitive decline," she explained.
This is important to know for the development of treatments to enhance mental health and quality of life for older adults, she added.
The new study suggested a link between loneliness, depression and heightened risk of mental decline, but it did not prove cause-and-effect.
1 / 8 Serotonin Syndrome
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (a naturally occurring brain chemical) that helps regulate mood and behavior, and increasing serotonin is one way of treating depression.
But if you're taking antidepressant medication that increases serotonin too much, you could be at risk for a dangerous drug reaction called serotonin syndrome.
"Serotonin syndrome usually happens when a doctor prescribes a drug that increases serotonin to a patient already on an antidepressant," said Mark Su, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Hofstra University and director of the Toxicology Fellowship at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y.
Part of your next visit to your family doctor's office should be spent filling out a questionnaire to assess whether you're suffering from depression, an influential panel of preventive medicine experts recommends.
What's more, people concerned that they might be depressed could download an appropriate questionnaire online, fill it out ahead of time and hand it over to their doctor for evaluation, the panel added.
In an updated recommendation released Monday, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force urged that family doctors regularly screen patients for depression, using standardized questionnaires that detect warning signs of the mental disorder.
If a patient shows signs of depression, they would be referred to a specialist for a full-fledged diagnosis and treatment using medication, therapy or a combination of the two, according to the recommendation.
These questionnaires can be self-administered in a matter of minutes, with doctors reviewing the results after patients fill out the forms, said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, vice chair of the task force.
"This could be a checklist that patients fill out in the waiting room, or at home prior to the visit," she said. "The good thing is we have many instruments, measures that have been studied for screening for depression."
About 7 percent of adults in the United States currently suffer from depression, but only half have been diagnosed with the condition, said Bibbins-Domingo, who is a professor of medicine, epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco.
"We know that depression itself is a source of poor health," she said. "It leads people to miss work, to not function as fully as they might, and we know it is linked and associated with other types of chronic diseases."
It makes sense that family doctors perform front-line screening for depression, since they are more likely than a mental health professional to come across a person with undetected symptoms, said Michael Yapko, a clinical psychologist and internationally recognized depression expert based in Fallbrook, Calif.
"Only about 25 percent of depression sufferers seek out professional help, but more than 90 percent will see a physician and present symptoms and signs that could be diagnosed," said Yapko, who is not on the task force.
The panel has recommended regular depression screening for adults since 2002, but their guidelines currently urge doctors to ask two specific questions that provide a quick evaluation of a person's mood. The questions are, "Over the past two weeks, have you felt down, depressed, or hopeless?" and "Over the past two weeks, have you felt little interest or pleasure in doing things?"
The updated recommendation expands doctors' options for depression screening, adding commonly used questionnaires like the Patient Health Questionnaire, or PHQ-9.
The PHQ-9 is a list of 10 questions that focus on problems that a person might have experienced during the past two weeks, including poor appetite, low energy, sleep problems and a lack of interest in doing things.
"These are not instruments that diagnose depression," Bibbins-Domingo noted. "They give clinicians the first indication of something that should be followed up on."
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Yapko said that someone who wanted to could lie on the questionnaires and avoid having their symptoms detected, but he added that in his experience it's not a very likely scenario.
"When you have people who are suffering who genuinely want help, they're happy to give you as accurate a portrayal as they can give you," he said. "Generally speaking, the people seeking help want help and they want to do their best in filling these things out. That's what makes the test worthwhile."
The task force is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts that has been issuing recommendations on preventive medicine since 1984.
Yapko and Bibbins-Domingo said depression screening shouldn't eat into a doctor's time, since patients can fill out and score the questionnaires on their own.
Instead of wasting time reading magazines in the waiting room, patients "could be filling out an inventory that is self-administered, self-scored and wouldn't take any physician time at all," Yapko said.
Patients also could download and fill out a depression questionnaire at home and hand it in when they go to the doctor, but Yapko said patients should make sure they're using the form their doctor prefers.
"Which of the many inventories and questionnaires a doctor might wish to use is a matter of personal and professional judgment," he said. "So, a doctor would need to specify which form to obtain online and the patient would then need to remember to bring it in, not always easy when depression negatively affects your memory. Easier to have the form in the office and have them fill it out in the waiting room."
Yapko added that it's important that doctors who screen for depression follow up by referring patients to a mental health professional, rather than trying to diagnose and treat depression themselves.
"When physicians get a diagnosis of depression, their most immediate thing to do is prescribe an antidepressant," Yapko said, noting that more than 70 percent of antidepressants are prescribed by non-psychiatrists. "Only a minority of people walk out of a doctor's office with a referral to a mental health professional, a fact which drives me a little crazy."
Herbal remedy isn't regulated, and can have side effects and serious drug interactions.
St. John's wort is a popular herbal therapy for depression, but a new Australian study highlights the fact that "natural" does not always equal "safe."
Using reports filed with Australia's drug safety agency, the researchers found that adverse reactions to St. John's wort were similar to those reported for the antidepressant fluoxetine -- better known by the brand name Prozac.
Those side effects included anxiety, panic attacks, dizziness, nausea and spikes in blood pressure, the researchers reported in the July issue of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology.
"It's concerning to see such severe adverse reactions in our population, when people believe they are doing something proactive for their health with little risk," lead researcher Claire Hoban, of the University of Adelaide, said in a university news release.
Research has shown that St. John's wort can help ease mild to moderate depression. But the fact that it works also means there is a risk of side effects, said Dr. Samar McCutcheon, a psychiatrist at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
"Even if the bottle says 'natural' or 'herbal,' it still has ingredients that are active in your body," said McCutcheon, who was not involved in the study.
It has long been recognized that St. John's wort can have significant side effects and interact with certain medications, McCutcheon pointed out.
But many consumers may not know that, she noted, largely because dietary supplements are not regulated in the way that drugs are.
"I definitely think this [lack of awareness] is still an issue," McCutcheon said. "People think St. John's wort is safe because they can buy it at a health food store."
In the United States, dietary supplements do not have to be studied for safety and effectiveness before they reach the market.
"Plus," McCutcheon said, "you're relying on companies to make sure these products include the ingredients they're supposed to, and keep out ingredients that they shouldn't."
The situation is similar in Australia, and many consumers there are unaware that supplements are largely unregulated, according to Hoban's team.
RELATED: 7 Supplement Risks Every Woman Should Know About
The researchers based their findings on doctors' reports to Australia's national agency on drug safety. Between 2000 and 2013, there were 84 reports of adverse reactions to St. John's wort, and 447 reports on Prozac.
But since those are voluntary reports, they do not reflect the actual rate of side effects from either therapy, according to the researchers. And, Hoban said, bad reactions to St. John's wort are particularly likely to go unreported, since the herb is often not even considered a drug.
According to McCutcheon, it's important for people with depression symptoms to see a health professional before self-medicating with St. John's wort. "That will help ensure you have the right diagnosis," she said.
If your symptoms are actually part of a different disorder, St. John's wort may be ineffective -- or possibly even risky. For example, McCutcheon said that in people with bipolar disorder, the herb might fuel a manic episode.
But possibly the biggest concern, she said, is the potential for St. John's wort to interact with commonly used medications.
The herb can dampen the effectiveness of birth control pills, blood thinners and heart disease drugs, along with some HIV and cancer drugs, according to the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
What's more, it can interact with antidepressants. It's not clear exactly how St. John's wort works, McCutcheon said, but it's thought to boost levels of the brain chemical serotonin -- which is how the most commonly used antidepressants work.
"If you use the two together, you run the risk of having too much serotonin," she said. And that raises the risk of a potentially fatal condition called serotonin syndrome, whose symptoms include confusion, tremors, diarrhea and a drop in body temperature.
Some side effects of St. John's wort are caused by the herb itself, such as skin rash that's worsened by sunlight, said Dr. John Reed, director of inpatient services at the University of Maryland's Center for Integrative Medicine in Baltimore.
But the main concern is still its potential for interacting with other medications, he said. "Compared with other herbs, St. John's has more drug interactions," Reed explained. "So if you're using it, don't take other medications unless it's under medical supervision."
He added that anyone on any medication should do some homework before starting an herbal product. "Go online and do a search for drug interactions. Ask your pharmacist or doctor," Reed advised.
"Unfortunately," he said, "this type of information [on drug interactions] doesn't have to be printed on product labels."
The bottom line, according to McCutcheon, is that people with depression should talk to their providers about any supplements they take, or want to take. And those providers, she said, should be willing to have nonjudgmental discussions.
"I want all my patients to be comfortable enough to bring up anything with me," McCutcheon said.
Women are more likely than men to seek treatment for depression. Why do men try to manage the condition on their own?
Women are 70 percent more likely than men to have depression. It is this feminine predisposition to depression that may contribute to its being underreported among men, says Amit Anand, MD, a professor of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic's Lerner College of Medicine and vice-chair of research for its Center for Behavioral Health.
More than 6 million U.S. men struggle with the condition each year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). And it maybe their reluctance to discuss their depression, as well as several other obstacles, that prevent many of them from seeking treatment, Dr. Anand says. These barriers not only affect how men with depression are diagnosed, he says, but also how they are treated.
Why Depression Is Underreported
Several factors contribute to depression often being unreported and undiagnosed in men. For starters, men who are depressed may not recognize their symptoms. “Women are far more likely to acknowledge that they have depression and seek help,” Anand says.
Also, symptoms of depression vary from person to person, and symptoms may not always be obvious, according to NIMH. Complicating matters is that men who are depressed often suppress their feelings rather than showing sadness and crying,reports the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Men and women also have different risk factors for depression that could affect whether they seek treatment, according to a study published in 2014 in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The factors most directly linked to depression among women are divorce, lack of parental or social support, and marriage troubles. For men, depression is more closely linked to drug abuse as well as financial, legal, and work-related stress, the researchers say. Their research suggests that men are less likely to seek medical attention if they attribute depression to career disappointment or failures. Rather than seek help, Anand says, men with depression are more likely to try to tough it out.
"Men may be more likely to suffer in silence or try to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs," says Dean F. MacKinnon, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.
RELATED: 6 Depression Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore
Men may see their symptoms as a sign of weakness, he explains, likening the situation to the idea that men don't like asking for directions. “Men don't ask for direction because it makes them seem weak, but also they are afraid they won't get the right information,” Dr. MacKinnon says.
Men might also be worried about the social stigma associated with a diagnosis of depression, according to research published in Qualitative Health Research in 2014.
In addition, depression affects men differently than women, according to a 2013 study published in JAMA Psychiatry. Though women usually have traditional symptoms, such as feelings of sadness and worthlessness, the study found that men with depression were more likely to experience anger and irritability, and to engage in risky behaviors. This suggests that if men are using traditional criteria to assess their symptoms, their depression could go unreported.
Why Treatment Is Critical
What sets men and women with depression apart can also make the condition more difficult to treat, Anand says. Men with untreated depression can experience issues like anger, aggression, and substance abuse. Using drugs and alcohol to self-medicate, he says, can complicate treatment for depression.
Untreated depression among men can also have tragic consequences. “Women may talk about suicide more, but men may be more likely to complete suicide,” Anand says. “They may also use much more violent means of trying to commit suicide, like guns or hanging.” In fact, according to NAMI, men are four times more likely to die of suicide than women.
Most adults with depression improve with treatment, usually a combination of talk therapy and medication, Anand says. He notes, however, that it can be difficult to convince some men to try talk therapy.
Medication used to treat depression may also work differently in men and women. For instance, today the most commonly prescribed antidepressants, according to NIMH, are SSRIs — selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Tricyclics, which are older antidepressants, are not used as often today because they come with more serious side effects, like drowsiness, dizziness, and weight gain. However, some research suggests that women respond better to SSRIs — like Prozac (fluoxetine) and Zoloft (sertraline) — and that tricyclics, like imipramine, may be more effective for men, Anand says.
SSRIs may also cause more sexual side effects, which tend to bother men more often than women, and could result in fewer men following through on treatment, Anand says.
If your doctor does recommend an SSRI, adjusting the dosage or switching from one SSRI to another can help alleviate unwanted side effects, according to NIMH.
People with psoriasis may be twice as likely to experience depression as those without the common skin condition, regardless of its severity, a new study suggests.
"Psoriasis in general is a pretty visible disease," said study author Dr. Roger Ho, an assistant professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine in New York City. "Psoriasis patients are fearful of the public's stigmatization of this visible disease and are worried about how people who are unfamiliar with the disease may perceive them or interact with them."
Genetic or biologic factors may also play a role in the link between depression and psoriasis, which requires more research, he said. Either way, the findings mean that all individuals with psoriasis could benefit from screening for depression, Ho said, and their friends and family members should be aware of the connection as well.
The findings were scheduled for presentation Thursday at an American Academy of Dermatology meeting in New York City. They have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal and should be considered preliminary.
Most people with psoriasis have red, raised patches of skin covered with silvery-white scales, the researchers noted. These patches usually appear on the scalp, elbows, knees, lower back, hands and feet.
The researchers analyzed the responses of more than 12,000 U.S. adults in the 2009-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Overall, nearly 3 percent of responders reported that they had psoriasis, and about 8 percent had major depression based on their answers to a depression screening assessment. Among those with psoriasis, 16.5 percent had sufficient symptoms for a diagnosis of major depression.
Those with any degree of psoriasis had double the odds of having depression even after taking into account their age, sex, race, weight, physical activity level, alcohol use and history of heart attack, stroke, diabetes and smoking, the researchers said.
Depression is one of several concerns that someone with psoriasis should look out for, said Dr. Delphine Lee, a dermatologist at John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif.
"Patients with psoriasis should be aware that there are several other health issues associated with this condition, including cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, such as diabetes, as well as psychological or psychiatric disorders," Lee said. "To address your health beyond your skin is critical to maximizing a person's quality of life."
Several aspects of dealing with psoriasis may contribute to depression, said Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
RELATED: 7 Hidden Dangers of Psoriasis
What matters more than its severity is the location of flare-ups, she said. Some of her patients won't wear shorts if it's on their legs or won't go on dates because they're embarrassed about red spots on their skin, she added.
"Also, because it's a chronic illness, you don't know if it's going to get worse and you don't get to take a vacation from it either," Day said. "You're using topical treatments all year long, and as soon as you stop, it comes right back. It's very depressing, and it can affect your self-esteem and your quality of life."
Anxiety about how psoriasis and its treatment may affect your future health might also contribute to depression, Day explained.
"It's unsightly, it can be itchy, people are worried about it spreading to other parts of their body, they worry about the side effects of medication, they worry about psoriatic arthritis, they worry about taking medications when they're pregnant, and they worry about passing it along to their children," she said.
Day recommended that people with psoriasis seek mental health treatment to get to the bottom of their depression.
"It's about that emotional connection and finding out what about this condition is affecting someone in the way that it is," Day explained.
Not seeking help can make matters worse, said Dr. Tien Nguyen, a dermatologist at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif.
"Psoriasis can cause severe emotional distress," he said, noting some patients may have suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide. "Stress is a known cause of exacerbation of psoriasis, so this will lead to a vicious cycle."
Day added that it's critically important to continue seeing a dermatologist to learn about new medications that become available.
"There are some really amazing new treatments that have a great safety profile that can have excellent clearance with lasting results," Day said.
Risky behaviors such as reckless driving or sudden promiscuity, or nervous behaviors such as agitation, hand-wringing or pacing, can be signs that suicide risk may be high in depressed people, researchers report.
Other warning signs may include doing things on impulse with little thought about the consequences. Depressed people with any of these symptoms are at least 50 percent more likely to attempt suicide, the new study found.
"Assessing these symptoms in every depressed patient we see is extremely important, and has immense therapeutical implications," study lead author Dr. Dina Popovic, of the Hospital Clinic de Barcelona, in Spain, said in a news release from the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP).
The findings were scheduled for presentation Saturday at the ECNP's annual meeting in Amsterdam.
One expert in the United States concurred with the findings.
"It has long been known that those patients with depression who also experience anxiety and/or agitation are more likely to attempt or complete suicide," said Dr. Donald Malone, chair of psychiatry and psychology at the Cleveland Clinic. "These symptoms can also be a clue that the underlying diagnosis is bipolar depression (manic depressive disorder)," he added.
In the study, Popovic's team looked at more than 2,800 people with depression, including nearly 630 who had attempted suicide. The researchers conducted in-depth interviews with each patient, and especially looked for differences in behaviors between depressed people who had attempted suicide and those who had not. Certain patterns of behavior began to emerge, the study authors said.
"Most of these symptoms will not be spontaneously referred by the patient, [so] the clinician needs to inquire directly," Popovic said.
She and her colleagues also found that "depressive mixed states" often precede suicide attempts.
RELATED: What Suicidal Depression Feels Like
"A depressive mixed state is where a patient is depressed, but also has symptoms of 'excitation,' or mania," Popovic explained. "We found this significantly more in patients who had previously attempted suicide, than those who had not. In fact, 40 percent of all the depressed patients who attempted suicide had a 'mixed episode' rather than just depression. All the patients who suffer from mixed depression are at much higher risk of suicide."
The researchers reported that the standard criteria for diagnosing depression spotted only 12 percent of patients with mixed depression. In contrast, using the new criteria identified 40 percent of these patients, Popovic's team said.
"This means that the standard methods are missing a lot of patients at risk of suicide," she said.
Malone agreed that a "mixed state" can heighten odds for suicide.
"This study appropriately cautions caregivers to pay particular attention to suicide risk when treating patients with mixed states," he said.
"Bipolar patients are at higher risk of suicide in general when compared with non-bipolar depression, even when not in a mixed state," Malone said. Drug treatments for bipolar depression "also can differ significantly from those of unipolar depression," he added. "In fact, antidepressants can worsen the situation with bipolar patients."
According to Malone, all of this means that "accurate diagnosis is essential to deciding on effective treatment."
Dr. Patrice Reives-Bright directs the division of child and adolescent services at South Oaks Hospital in Amityville, N.Y. She said that the "more commonly known risk factors for suicide include hopelessness, history of previous attempts and recent loss or change in one's life."
However, the impulsive and risky behaviors outlined in the new study can "also increase the likelihood of someone who is depressed to act on thoughts to end his or her life," Reives-Bright said.
She agreed with Malone that "identifying these symptoms of a mixed state is important when assessing mood symptoms and selecting treatment options for the patient."
Findings presented at medical meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal. However, according to Popovic, one strength of the new study is that "it's not a clinical trial, with ideal patients -- it's a big study, from the real world."
More than 800,000 people worldwide die by suicide every year, and about 20 times that number attempt suicide, according to the World Health Organization. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in young people.
Consuming more meals from the sea linked to lower risk, study suggests, but cause-and-effect not proven.
Can eating a lot of fish boost your mood? Maybe, say Chinese researchers.
Overall, the researchers found that people who consumed the most fish lowered their risk of depression by 17 percent compared to those who ate the least.
"Studies we reviewed indicated that high fish consumption can reduce the incidence of depression, which may indicate a potential causal relationship between fish consumption and depression," said lead researcher Fang Li, of the department of epidemiology and health statistics at the Medical College of Qingdao University in China.
But this association was only statistically significant for studies done in Europe, the researchers said. They didn't find the same benefit when they looked at studies done in North America, Asia, Australia or South America. The researchers don't know why the association was only significant for fish consumption in Europe.
The study was also only able to show an association between eating fish and the risk for depression, not that eating fish causes a lower risk for depression, Li said.
Still, Li thinks there may be reasons why fish may have an effect on depression.
"Fish is rich in multiple beneficial nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, high-quality protein, vitamins and minerals, which were associated with decreased risk of depression from our study," Li said.
The researchers pointed out that it's possible that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish may change the structure of brain membranes, or these acids may alter the way certain neurotransmitters work. Neurotransmitters are the brain's chemical messengers, sending information from brain cell to brain cell. Some neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, are thought to be involved in depression, the researchers said.
RELATED: 10 Foods I Eat Every Day to Beat Depression
The report was published Sept. 10 online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
Depression affects 350 million people around the globe, according to background information in the study. The mood disorder is the leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
Past research has suggested that dietary factors may play a role in depression, the researchers said.
To look at the possible connection between eating fish and depression, Li and colleagues reviewed 26 studies published between 2001 and 2014. The studies included more than 150,000 people. Ten of the studies were done in Europe.
This process, called a meta-analysis, attempts to find consistent patterns across multiple studies.
In addition to an overall benefit from fish in curbing depression, Li's team found a difference between men and women. Specifically, the researchers found a slightly stronger association between eating a lot of fish and lowered depression risk in men by 20 percent. Among women, reduction in risk was 16 percent, the researchers said.
Simon Rego, director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, said it's "impossible to draw any definitive conclusions about direct cause and effect" due to the study's design.
But, he added, "While the exact way fish may prevent depression is unknown, it's promising to learn that depression may be preventable for some people by making simple modifications to their lifestyle, such as by eating more fish."
Rego said it's especially important to look for novel treatments because depression can have a significant impact on people's lives, and many people don't respond fully to first-line depression treatments.
Future research needs to look into whether the effects of fish on depression vary by the type of fish eaten. In addition, this review didn't look at whether or not fish oil supplements could have the same effect.
Diagnosing irritable bowel syndrome isn’t like diagnosing other diseases. Your doctor can’t take a swab or a vial of blood and test it to determine the problem. There is no single test that can point to IBS as the cause of your symptoms.
Instead, when you go to your doctor about IBS symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, and stomach cramps, he has to rule out other conditions and then pay careful attention to your symptoms before giving you a diagnosis.
Diagnosing IBS “For years, anyone who had gastrointestinal symptoms that couldn’t be explained was told they had IBS,” says Steven Field, MD, a gastroenterologist and clinical assistant professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine in New York City. But now doctors use the "Rome criteria," which are a specific set of symptoms that have to be present in order to give a diagnosis. In addition, the criteria designate red-flag symptoms that don’t point to IBS, he says.
Giving your doctor detailed information about your symptoms and when you experience them will go a long way toward getting an accurate diagnosis. Here’s what your doctor considers before he makes a diagnosis:
Laboratory tests to rule out other conditions. To make sure something other than IBS isn’t causing your symptoms, your doctor may run blood tests, test your stool sample, order an X-ray, or perform a colonoscopy (a procedure in which your doctor uses a small flexible camera to look inside your colon).
Your symptoms. Under the Rome criteria, a diagnosis of IBS can be made if you have had abdominal pain during at least 12 weeks during a 12-month period, even if those 12 weeks aren’t consecutive, and if you experience two of these three things:
Other signs of IBS include mucus in your stool, a swollen abdomen, an urgency to have a bowel movement, having trouble passing stool, or a feeling that your bowel isn’t empty after going to the bathroom.
If you have red flag symptoms. Your doctor will also be looking for red-flag symptoms that aren’t associated with IBS, Dr. Field says. Those include:
Stress — which can result from major life changes such as getting married or getting a new job — is also a major trigger for IBS symptoms, Field says. And for women, symptoms are usually more severe during their menstrual period, possibly because of the effect of hormones on IBS.
The bottom line: Giving your doctor detailed information about your symptoms and knowing what triggers them will help with your diagnosis. Many doctors recommend keeping a food diary to determine exactly what brings on your symptoms and sharing that information with your doctor to make a better diagnosis and get you the right treatment.
The classic red flags for a heart attack are familiar to anyone who has watched medical dramas on television. The patient, usually an older man, starts wheezing and gasping for breath. Then he clutches his chest, staggers, and eventually falls over. In real life, the signs and symptoms of heart disease are much more varied and subtle.
Signs Versus Symptoms of Heart Disease
First, some definitions. Heart disease symptoms are indications that you feel or experience, while a sign of heart disease is something your doctor can see or find. Obvious heart disease symptoms include shortness of breath and chest pain. But your doctor will also look for common heart disease signs during an examination or in a patient interview.
Knowing the signs of heart disease is important because you may have them before you have any of the common heart disease symptoms. Letting your doctor know about these warning signs could help you get early treatment for heart disease.
"Signs like ankle swelling or weight gain do not necessarily mean you have heart disease, but taken together with other symptoms of heart disease, laboratory studies, and family history, they are an important part of making a diagnosis of heart disease or heart failure," says Carl E. Orringer, MD, associate professor of medicine and director of the Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine and LDL Apheresis Programs at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
Swelling of the Feet and Lower Legs
Retention of fluid in the feet and legs is known as peripheral edema. Edema may appear as "sock marks" on your legs and ankles at the end of the day, especially if you wear tight socks or hose. Mild peripheral edema is common. Your doctor may check for this sign by pressing a finger against your ankle or shin bone to see if a depression or dent is left behind. This is called "pitting edema” and it could indicate congestive heart failure.
Edema may be a sign of heart failure because when your heart is not pumping well, fluid from inside your blood vessels tends to leak out into surrounding tissues. The legs and ankles are common areas for edema because of the effects of gravity.
"Peripheral edema may be caused by a host of issues,” says Dr. Orringer. “The bottom line is that most people with peripheral edema do not have heart disease, but it could be an important sign if there are other signs and symptoms of heart failure."
Male Pattern Baldness
"If you watched any of the royal wedding, you might have noticed that Prince William is balding on the top of his head. This type of balding of the crown of the head in young men may be a sign of an increased risk for heart disease," says Orringer.
Several large studies have confirmed the link between baldness and heart disease. Compared with men with a full head of hair, men with crown loss have an increased risk of heart disease of about 23 percent. Men with complete loss of hair on the top of their head have an increased risk of 36 percent.
The combination of hair loss, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol pushes the risk even higher. This link may be due to too much of the male hormone testosterone, which interferes with hair growth on the head and causes hardening of the arteries. That doesn't mean you are doomed to heart disease if you are bald, but it does suggest you should be screened more carefully for other signs and symptoms of heart disease.
Yellow Bumps on the Skin
Xanthomas are deposits of fat that build up under the skin. They may appear as small yellow bumps or as flat, wide plaques on your elbows, knees, hands, feet, or buttocks. A type of xanthoma called xanthelasma palpebrarum appears on the eyelids. These yellow, fat deposits can potentially be signs of heart disease because they may indicate high levels of fats in the blood.
"Xanthomas may be a sign of a rare, inherited type of blood disorder in which high levels of triglycerides accumulate in the blood. Xanthomas may also be a sign of increased cholesterol, and they may disappear once cholesterol levels are under control," says Orringer.
Swollen, sore, or bleeding gums are usually a sign of poor oral hygiene, but may also be an important sign of heart disease. "The association between gum disease and heart disease is the real deal," says Orringer. "There is plenty of research available now that backs up this connection."
Gum disease and heart disease may be linked because they are both signs of poor circulation, or there could be common bacteria that are involved in both gum disease and plaque buildup inside coronary arteries. The link may also have something to do with the body's response to prolonged inflammation. In any case, taking better care of your teeth and gums may be a good way to cut down your risk for heart disease.
Weakening of the heart muscle accompanied by extreme emotional stress, grief, or loss, especially in women, is called takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or broken heart syndrome. When this occurs, surging stress hormones, especially adrenaline, trigger cardiac pain that feels a lot like a heart attack, often with heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and flushing. But unlike during a real heart attack, the arteries are not blocked. This potentially serious and often overlooked condition is more common in women than in men; in fact, men make up for only 10 percent of diagnosed cases.
Signs of Heart Failure
Heart failure means the heart is not functioning as well as it should. It doesn't mean the heart has failed. Another term for heart failure is congestive heart failure, or CHF. Heart failure gradually gets worse over time. Some early warning signs may include:
Weight Gain If your heart starts to fail and fluid starts to build up in your tissue, causing edema, you might see a sudden weight gain.
Frequent Urination Heart failure may cause decreased blood flow to the kidneys, which causes you to retain more fluid. One of the signs of this fluid may be frequent urination.
Cataracts Although the exact cause of the relationship between cataracts and heart disease is not known, studies show that people who have cataracts are at higher risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. "This link is probably more of an association than a sign of heart disease," says Orringer.
Nighttime Cough "One of the signs of heart failure may be the buildup of fluid in the chest and heart when lying flat at night. This increased fluid can cause a nighttime cough," explains Orringer.
Remember that all these heart disease signs may have many different causes. They do not mean you have or will get heart disease. But combined with other heart disease signs and symptoms, your blood tests, and your family history, they give your doctor the best chance to find heart disease early and keep you in good health.
For many people, pizza tops the list of favorite foods. Not only is the drool-worthy combo of cheese, bread, and sauce satisfying, but it’s one of the easiest meals to pick up (or have delivered) from your local pizzeria. While your favorite slice may be delicious, it can be easy to go overboard on sodium-laden sauce, toppings, and high-calorie crusts. Luckily it’s just as easy — and delicious — to pop a homemade pie into the oven. With a few simple swaps and key ingredients, you can give your favorite comfort food a wholesome makeover without skimping on flavor. So whether you’re craving a fresh-out-of-the-oven slice or just looking for a hassle-free weeknight meal, these five healthy and delicious pies are better than delivery!
Yale University researchers looked at more than 1,600 students at middle schools in one urban school district in Connecticut. Their average age was around 12 years.
Boys were more likely to consume energy drinks than girls. The researchers also found that among boys, black and Hispanic students were more likely to drink the beverages than white students.
Children who consumed energy drinks were 66 percent more likely to be at risk for hyperactivity and inattention symptoms, according to the study in the current issue of the journal Academic Pediatrics.
RELATED: Energy Drinks Pack a Deadly Punch
Energy drinks have high levels of sugar and also often contain caffeine, the researchers noted. For the study, the investigators took into account the number and type of other sugar-sweetened drinks consumed by the students.
"As the total number of sugar-sweetened beverages increased, so too did risk for hyperactivity and inattention symptoms among our middle-school students. Importantly, it appears that energy drinks are driving this association," study leader Jeannette Ickovics, a professor in the School of Public Health, said in a Yale news release.
"Our results support the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that parents should limit consumption of sweetened beverages and that children should not consume any energy drinks," she added.
The students in this study drank an average of two sugary drinks a day. The number of daily sugary drinks ranged from none to as many as seven or more such drinks. Some sugar-sweetened beverages and energy drinks contain up to 40 grams of sugar each. Depending on how old they are, children should only have about 21 to 33 grams of sugar a day, according to the researchers.
Along with causing problems such as hyperactivity and inattention, sugary drinks increase children's risk of obesity, Ickovics noted. About one-third of American children are overweight or obese, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Efforts by HealthDay to reach out to the beverage industry for comment were unsuccessful.
If you have high cholesterol and blood pressure, your doctor has probably advised you to start following a healthy diet as part of your treatment plan. The good news is that delighting your taste buds while sticking to a heart-healthy meal plan is easy — and many of the foods you enjoy most likely aren’t off limits. Healthy herbs and spices lend robust and savory flavor, hearty nuts add texture and a buttery taste, and teas infuse a bright flavor and antioxidants. Michael Fenster, MD (also known as Dr. Mike), a board-certified interventional cardiologist and gourmet chef, shares his cooking tips for preparing delicious meals that will boost your heart health. These choices are part of a healthy lifestyle that may reduce your risk for heart conditions like high blood pressure, heart attack, or stroke down the road.
The list price of these newer drugs is upwards of $14,000 a year per patient.Getty Images
Are new medicines for people with out-of-control cholesterol wildly overpriced? It's a question that's sparking debate among consumers and providers of care.
Now, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) report that the price of these drugs -- called PCSK9 inhibitors -- would have to be slashed by a whopping 71 percent to be deemed cost-effective.
PCSK9 inhibitors are a relatively new class of medicines for treating patients whose LDL (bad) cholesterol isn't well-controlled on statins or who cannot tolerate statins. Lipitor (atorvastatin) and Crestor (rosuvastatin) are examples of first-line statins doctors typically prescribe to patients with high cholesterol.
The UCSF team didn't question whether these new medicines are effective in reducing heart attacks and strokes.
"These are super awesome drugs, they really work," said study co-author Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo.
But the price is "far in excess" of what would be considered a reasonable cost for the clinical benefit they provide, added Bibbins-Domingo, a UCSF professor of medicine, epidemiology and biostatistics.
The list price of these newer PCSK9 drugs is upwards of $14,000 a year per patient.
Dr. Kim Allan Williams, who was not involved in the study, is past president of the American College of Cardiology. He said some doctors have a difficult time with such studies because they compare patients' lives and "events" — such as heart attack and stroke — versus dollars spent on these medicines.
The new study doesn't change his view of the value of the PCSK9 inhibitor class.
"No one's giving those drugs unless the patient is incapable of getting to the target [level of LDL cholesterol]," said Williams, who is chief of cardiology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. "You're only going to use it for a situation where you have no choice."
RELATED: 8 Foods That Can Cause High Cholesterol
Because the study is based on list prices, not what patients actually pay, it's also "difficult to analyze the cost-effectiveness when [you] don't know exactly what the cost is," Williams added.
He said he's had patients with copays of $380 a month and others who had zero copays because the cost was completely covered by insurance. He worries, though, that poor patients may not be offered the same access to these medicines.
The CSF researchers designed the study to find out how much bang for the buck these drugs actually provide.
Their study updates a prior cost-effectiveness analysis using current list prices as well as results of a recent clinical trial. That trial demonstrated the clinical effectiveness of Repatha (evolocumab), one of two PCSK9 inhibitors approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, in reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Based on a simulation involving 8.9 million adults who would meet trial criteria, adding PCSK9 inhibitors to statins would prevent 2.9 million more heart attacks and strokes compared with adding Zetia (ezetimibe), another type of medication that blocks the production of cholesterol by the liver.
But the PCSK9 inhibitor class is not cost-effective based on a threshold of $100,000 for each life year gained, the study authors contend. They found that you would have to spend $450,000 per year to get one extra year of life per year.
"The price would have to be between $4,000 and $5,000 [per year] for it to be cost-effective," said Bibbins-Domingo. "If you look in other countries, in Europe, for example, that is in fact where this drug is priced."
Dr. Josh Ofman, senior vice president of global value, access and policy at Amgen Inc., the maker of Repatha, took issue with the findings. "We think that their model is deeply flawed," he said.
The study was based a 3 percent per-year rate of heart attacks and strokes, while other studies use much higher rates — more than three times higher — based on "real-world" data, Ofman said. The study is modeling a population that's not having many heart attacks and strokes, he said.
Ofman also questioned the threshold for determining cost-effectiveness that the UCSF researchers used. He said other organizations use a minimum of $150,000 per quality-adjusted life-year saved.
As for the price differential between the United States and Europe, Ofman cited many factors, from government price controls to how those countries price these drugs.
Amgen isn't alone in its criticism of how these medicines are valued. Earlier this month, several national provider and payer groups raised concerns about how the PCSK9 inhibitors are valued in a letter to the nonprofit Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, which assesses the value of new medicines.
More than a dozen organizations, including the National Forum for Heart Disease & Stroke Prevention, the American Pharmacists Association Foundation and the American Society for Preventive Cardiology, signed the letter citing concerns ranging from the types of patients that could benefit from these drugs to the importance of preventing heart attacks and strokes — not just deaths.
"The big controversy about all these types of analyses is what we're willing to value a patient's year of life at," Ofman said.
The new study was published in the Aug. 22/29 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Dry, itchy skin is no joke. Because skin is the body's largest organ (weighing about nine pounds), the frustration and discomfort that go along with dehydration can affect your daily existence, from your wardrobe to your social life. And if you happen to have a skin condition like eczema, you know from experience that flaky skin is no laughing matter.
However, you can fight flakiness and itchiness with a few important tips. Here, skin experts share their best advice for keeping your skin soft and supple.
Exfoliating can be beneficial for those who have dry skin because it helps the dead surface layers of skin cells to be shed, layers that can prevent moisturizers from being absorbed, says Doris Day, MD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University Medical Center.
The key is to find the exfoliator that works best for your skin. Scrubs and alpha-hydroxy and beta-hydroxy acids are best for those who don't have sensitive skin. Those with sensitive skin can exfoliate with a home remedy that consists of a paste made from baking soda and water. “It’s great for your face or for rough patches like your heels, and nobody breaks out from it,” says Mona Gohara, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University.
Note that if you have any skin conditions, it’s best to check with a dermatologist before trying anything new. And beware of exfoliating too often because it can cause irritation.
Like exfoliating too much, washing too often can lead to dryness. “I usually tell people to use soap only where they need it — underarms, groin, hands and feet,” says Rebecca Baxt, MD, a dermatologist in Paramus, New Jersey.
“Hot showers can strip the skin of oil and leave skin dry,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Although hot showers are relaxing, fight the urge to parboil yourself and use lukewarm water instead. Also, limit the length of your showers to 10 minutes or less.
Using a moisturizer daily is crucial to combating dry, flaky skin. “When the skin is dry, it needs to be hydrated from the outside in — drinking eight glasses of water is not enough,” says Dr. Day.
For the most effective moisturizer, look for ingredients, including ceramides, that help support and replenish lipids in the skin. Hyaluronic acid and glycerin, both humectants, help the skin attract water and hold in moisture. Additionally, Dr. Zeichner recommends that, to help seal in moisture, you apply moisturizer to damp skin after showering.
Even small skin traumas like a pimple or bug bite can leave you with complexion-busting dark spots. “This is one of the most common ailments that patients come to see me about,” explains Jeanine Downie, MD, director of Image Dermatology in Montclair, New Jersey. “It’s an annoying condition that affects all skin types, but the good news is that it’s fairly easy to treat.”
Find out how Dr. Downie helps patients treat and avoid marks on their complexions.
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Jeanine Downie: Any trauma or inflammation to the skin — either from acne, pimples, bug bites, or simply a bump, cut, or scratch — disrupts the surface layers where you have melanin, responsible for skin’s color. As the skin heals, it leaves behind residual pigmentation and dark spots.
EH: Is there anything you can do to prevent it?
JD: Unfortunately, if you’re prone to these dark spots, it’s tough to prevent them. Still, picking or scratching at an irritation will further traumatize the area, so hands off! You’ll also want to be vigilant about wearing sunscreen. As your skin gets darker, so will those hyperpigmented areas — it’s not like a tan is going to even out the color. Obviously, daily sunscreen wear is a must anyway, but this is just one more reason to protect your skin from UV rays.
EH: What steps can you take to treat it?
JD: The sooner you start taking care of your wound, the better it’ll look once healed. I recommend keeping the wound covered, especially if the skin is broken, and applying a topical healing ointment.
For large cysts or cuts, you may even want to see your dermatologist for a treatment plan. Once the pimple or cut has healed, apply 2% hydroquinone cream, which is available over-the-counter, or 4% hydroquinone, available by prescription from your doctor.
If the topical creams don’t quite do the trick, talk to your dermatologist about chemical peels or laser treatments to completely eliminate more stubborn discoloration.
EH: Is hyperpigmentation more common in people with darker complexions?
JD: No matter your skin color, everyone is susceptible to hyperpigmentation. Still, those with darker complexions seem to hold on to those spots for much longer because they have more melanin in their skin. It also means those hyperpigmented areas are going to be darker and more visible as well. Pregnancy and certain medications can increase your body’s production of melanin, and lead to hyperpigmentation as well.
You might write off a feeling of fatigue to doing too much. You work, run a home, raise kids, volunteer in your community — all of these activities can leave you feeling overtired, you tell yourself as you collapse on the sofa.
But there’s fatigue, and then there’s chronic fatigue, a feeling of exhaustion that probably signals a medical condition and needs a doctor’s evaluation to help you start feeling like your old self again.
If you experience a level of fatigue that leaves you exhausted at the end of the day, but is not so severe that it’s keeping you from living your normal life, making a few healthy lifestyle changes may help. Try taking these steps:
If your fatigue is more than garden-variety tiredness, a visit to your doctor can help pinpoint a cause. About 40 percent of people who have symptoms of chronic fatigue turn out to have a treatable, underlying medical condition, such as:
Fatigue means being too beat to go to the movies or shopping, or to engage in any number of the other normal activities you're used to. With chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) you might be struggling to get through each day; for some people it can get bad enough that even holding down a job becomes difficult, forcing them to consider going on disability leave.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that between 1 and 4 million Americans have chronic fatigue syndrome. It is four times as common in women as men and usually begins in the childbearing years, although in rare cases it may occur in teenagers.
At this time, there are no tests to diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome. Your doctor can only diagnose CFS when other medical conditions known to cause fatigue are ruled out. Doctors call this "a diagnosis of exclusion."
The most debilitating symptom of CFS is severe, unexplained, persistent fatigue, lasting six months or more. It’s a fatigue that doesn’t go away after rest or sleep and keeps you from doing at least half the things you would normally do each day. To make the diagnosis, doctors will also look for four or more of the following symptoms:
Just what causes chronic fatigue syndrome is still unknown. Originally, scientists thought that being infected with certain viruses, especially the Epstein-Barr virus that causes mononucleosis, might be at the root of CFS, but there have been no conclusive findings. Now researchers are looking at whether inflammation brought on by an abnormal, overactive immune response occurrs in the nervous system of those with chronic fatigue.
Nakazawa believes that shifts in our 21st-century lifestyle, including daily exposure to toxins, pesticides, heavy metals, chemicals in our processed-food diets, and modern stress levels, are partly responsible. "Scientists who study autoimmune disease have called this epidemic 'the global warming of women's health,'" she says.
Advises Nakazawa, "At the same time that you work to lessen exposure to things that might overwhelm your immune system, you also need to relax and find joy in the world every day. How optimistically you perceive the world around you also impacts your stress level and your well-being."
The aches and pains of rheumatoid arthritis can be hard to overcome, but these strategies may help in treating chronic pain.
From fatigue to loss of appetite, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can impact your life in a number of ways, but the most limiting symptom for many people is pain. Because that pain comes in different forms, you may need more than one strategy to relieve it.
“The primary cause of rheumatoid arthritis pain is inflammation that swells joint capsules," says Yousaf Ali, bachelor of medicine and bachelor of surgery, an associate professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine and chief of the division of rheumatology at Mount Sinai West Hospital in New York City. Joint capsules are thin sacs of fluid that surround a joint, providing lubrication for bone movement. In RA, the body's immune system attacks those capsules.
The first goal of pain relief is the control of inflammation, Dr. Ali explains. “Inflammation can cause acute (short-term) pain or longer-lasting smoldering pain," he says. "Chronic erosion of joint tissues over time is another cause of chronic pain. But there are many options for pain relief.”
Getting RA pain under control may take some work. You may find that you'll need to take several drugs — some to slow the joint damage and some to alleviate joint pain. Alternative therapies, like acupuncture, combined with drugs may help you to feel stronger. It may take some time, too. Try the following strategies — with your doctor's supervision — to discover which are most effective for you:
Treatments and Strategies to Help Relieve Chronic RA Pain
1. Inflammation Medication "In the case of RA, all other pain-relief strategies are secondary to controlling inflammation," Ali says. The No. 1 option in the pain relief arsenal is to control inflammation with disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, called DMARDs. These drugs, which work to suppress the body's overactive immune system response, are also used to prevent joint damage and slow the progression of the disease. DMARDs are often prescribed shortly after a diagnosis in order to prevent as much joint damage as possible.
"The most commonly used is the drug methotrexate," he says. It's administered both orally and through injections. Digestive issues, such as nausea and diarrhea, are the most common side effect of DMARDs, and of methotrexate in particular, if taken by mouth. Hair loss, mouth sores, and drowsiness are other potential side effects. Methotrexate, which is taken once a week, can take about five or six weeks to start working, and it may be three to six months before the full effects of the drug are felt; doctors may also combine it with other drugs, including other DMARDs.
"Steroids may be used to bridge the gap during an acute flare," adds Ali. "If flares continue, we can go to triple-drug therapy, or use newer biologic drugs that are more expensive but also effective.” The most common side effect of biologics are infections that may result from their effect on the immune system.
The next tier of pain relief includes these additional approaches:
2. Pain Medication The best drugs for acute pain, Ali says, are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, called NSAIDs. Aspirin and ibuprofen belong to this class of drugs, as does a newer type of NSAID called celecoxib. While NSAIDs treat joint pain, research has shown that they don't prevent joint damage. In addition, NSAIDs may irritate the stomach lining and cause kidney damage when used over a long period of time.
"Stronger pain relievers, calledopioids, may be used for severe pain, but we try to avoid them if possible," says Ali. "These drugs must be used cautiously because of the potential to build up tolerance, which can lead to abuse."
3. Diet Although some diets may be touted to help RA symptoms, they aren’t backed by the medical community. “There is no evidence that any special diet will reduce RA pain," Ali says. But there is some evidence that omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation — and the joint pain that results from it. Omega-3s can be found in cold-water fish and in fish oil supplements. A study published in November 2015 in the Global Journal of Health Sciences found that people who took fish oil supplements were able to reduce the amount of pain medication they needed.
4. Weight Management Maintaining a healthy weight may help you better manage joint pain. A study published in November 2015 in the journal Arthritis Care & Research suggested that significant weight loss can lower the need for medication in people with RA. Among the study participants, 93 percent were using DMARDs before they underwent bariatric surgery, but that dropped to 59 percent a year after surgery.
5. Massage A massage from a therapist (or even one you give yourself) can be a soothing complementary treatment to help reduce muscle and joint pain. A study published in May 2013 in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice involved 42 people with RA in their arms who received either light massage or medium massage from a massage therapist once a week for a month. The participants were also taught to do self-massage at home. After a month of treatment, the moderate-pressure massage group had less pain and greater range of motion than the others.
6. Exercise Although you may not feel like being active when you have RA, and it might seem that being active could put stress on your body, gentle exercises can actually help reduce muscle and joint pain, too. “Non-impact or low-impact exercise is a proven way to reduce pain," Ali says. "We recommend walking, swimming, and cycling.” In fact, one of the best exercises you can do for RA is water aerobics in a warm pool because the water buoys your body.
The Arthritis Foundation also notes that yoga is another option to help reduce RA pain, and traditional yoga poses can be modified to your abilities. Yoga may also help improve the coordination and balance that is sometimes impaired when you have the disease. When it comes to exercise, though, it’s also wise to use caution. Talk with your doctor if any workouts are making your pain worse, and, in general, put any exercise plan on hold during an acute flare.
7. Orthoses These are mechanical aids that can help support and protect your joints. Examples include padded insoles for your shoes and splints or braces that keep your joints in proper alignment. You can even get special gloves for hand and finger RA. A physical therapist can help you determine the best orthoses options for you.
8. Heat and Cold Heat helps to relax muscles, while cold helps to dull the sensation of pain. You might find that applying hot packs or ice packs, or alternating between hot and cold, helps reduce your joint pain. Relaxing in a hot bath can also bring relief, as can exercising in a warm pool.
9. Acupuncture This Eastern medicine practice, which has been around for centuries, is thought to work by stimulating the body's natural painkillers through the use of fine needles gently placed near nerve endings. “I have found acupuncture to be helpful for some patients, but the pain relief is usually not long-lasting,” says Ali.
10. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) TENS is a form of therapy that uses low-voltage electric currents to stimulate nerves and interfere with pain pathways. “TENS is usually used for stubborn, chronic pain and not as a first-line treatment for RA,” Ali says. One of the benefits of this treatment is the low occurrence of side effects. If you're interested in trying it for pain relief, talk with your physical therapist.
Remember, you’re not alone — your doctor and specialists can help you find relief from chronic pain. If you’re experiencing more pain than before, or if pain is interfering with your ability to get things done, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor. Ask your rheumatologist about pain relief options, like exercise, massage, yoga, and acupuncture, but remember that the first priority on your pain relief list should be to get RA inflammation under control.
The mass production of the Ford Model T sparked a new love affair – one between people and their cars. We carve out time to wash them, cringe at the sight of a dent or scratch, and even name them (although, the nameChristine for a car has yet to make a comeback).
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Our car–caregiver behavior is strange, especially when you consider that a 2011 study found that 40 percent of men said they’re more likely to resolve car problems than their own health problems. Where does your health rank? Are you taking better care of your car than your health?
Check out our article to see which gets more TLC – your car or your body.
If you have a trusted mechanic but not a trusted doctor, you may care more about your car than your health. Choosing a doctor you trust and feel comfortable asking questions fills a critical piece of the health puzzle. In fact, a 2012 study showed that people spend more time researching car purchases than they do selecting a physician.
Maybe you're new to insurance because you've just signed up for Obamacare. While insurance plans can limit which primary care providers you can choose, there are other factors to consider when picking a PCP. For example: Is the office staff friendly and helpful, is the doctor easy to talk to, and does the doctor’s approach to testing and treatment suit you? Still unsure which PCP to pick? Ask co-workers, friends and family members for their recommendations.
RELATED: 5 Worst Celebrity Health Bloopers
It’s a familiar situation. Your check engine-light pops up and you call your mechanic or hightail it to your nearest car dealership. But can you spot symptoms of heart disease — the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the United States — when they strike?
In addition to having regular cholesterol and blood pressure tests, look for these check-engine lights for your heart, and see your doctor promptly if you have any of them:
Packing your car to the gills with stuff isn’t the best idea. Extra weight kills your gas mileage, makes your car work harder, and causes premature wear and tear.
The same concept applies to your own body! If you’re still carrying extra pounds around your waist, you’re at greater risk for health conditions like stroke,hypertension, diabetes, cancer, sleep apnea, gout,depression, and even fatty liver disease. The extra weight also puts stress on your joints and can lead to arthritis.
You should probably get an oil change every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, depending on the make and model of your car. But how often do you get your blood pressure checked?
High blood pressure is a serious health condition that can put you at risk for heart attack, stroke and other illnesses, and every healthcare visit should include a blood pressure reading. But if you're dodging the doctor altogether you're missing out on this vital checkpoint. The American Heart Association recommends that you get your blood pressure checked at least every two years if your blood pressure stays below the healthy standard 120/80 mm Hg — more often if it's inching up.
If you get your brakes checked at least once a year, but don’t get a flu shot every year, you're putting yourself at risk for infections caused by particular flu season's bugs. For the 2012-2013 flu season, the flu vaccine prevented an estimated 6.6 million flu-associated illnesses and 3.2 million flu-associated medical visits,according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Still, more than half of Americans didn’t get a vaccination for the most recent season. Make the flu shot a yearly habit and you'll not only cut your risk of getting the flu, you'll also lower your risk of death if you have heart disease, according to research conducted by Jacob Udell, MD, and colleagues at the University of Toronto, published in JAMA.
Whenever we have a diet or nutrition question, we call on a dietitian or nutritionist to lead us in the right direction. Although you may picture them noshing on raw veggies and sipping water all day, they aren’t always perfect — they enjoy dining out, battle the munchies, and love dessert just like the rest of us! The difference is they know the insider tips to shave calories off comfort food favorites, satisfy cravings the healthy way, and pack more nutrition into each meal. Make their tricks second nature and soon you’ll be an expert at keeping the flavor you crave, while slimming down your meals and your waistline
Thursday, April 03, 2014
The headlines appear with unnerving frequency about mass shootings somewhere in the United States -- at a movie theater, a shopping mall, a school, a sporting event. Yesterday, a shooting tragedy took place at the Fort Hood military base in Texas, the second at this site since November 2009.
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Precisely how often mass shootings have occurred depends somewhat on interpretation. The Congressional Research Service, which defines a mass shooting as one that takes place in a relatively public place and results in four or more deaths, not including the shooter, identified 78 such shootings in the United States from 1983 to early 2013. A report by researchers at Texas State University, done after the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, used different parameters and identified 84 mass shootings from 2000 to 2010 by people whose main motive appears to have been mass murder.
Though the precise number of mass casualty shootings may be hard to determine, there's no disagreement that people today need to think about their safety whenever they go out in public, said Dennis Krebs, a retired captain and paramedic with the Baltimore County Fire Department and author of "When Violence Erupts, A Survival Guide for Emergency Responders" and the "Special Operations Mission Planning Field Guide."
“If you at least think about what you would do if you were confronted with such a situation, it gives you an edge,” Krebs said.
Irwin Redlener, MD, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, said that people don’t need to panic or even fear going to public places to avoid mass casualty shootings. He does agree with Krebs though: In 2014, it’s worth giving some thought to how to protect yourself during a mass shooting.
What you can do if faced with a mass shooting depends greatly on the situation and your physique and physical capabilities, Dr. Redlener noted. “If you’re small and alone or with your 1-year-old or your 14-year-old, it’s going to be different,” he said. “Everything about survival guidelines is dependent on the details of the particular situation.”
However, experts in public safety do have advice on how to protect yourself and your loved ones in the event of a mass shooting.
Pay attention to your surroundings. No matter where you go, "be aware of your environment," Redlener said. "If you see something that looks suspicious or out of place, or you notice an unusual gathering of people, you can begin taking action prior to the event occurring." By being aware, you may be able to avoid the scene and not walk into trouble. “Situational awareness is something that police officers and the military are taught and trained to do,” he said. When you go to a mall or a movie, know where the nearest exits are.
Flee if you can. If you’re caught in a mass shooting, “you want to get outside of the building as quickly as you possibly can," Krebs said. A lot of people freeze, but "that's the last thing you want to do,” he said. Urge any people you're with to come with you, but don’t waste precious time trying to persuade them to get out while you can.
Irwin Redlener, MDTWEET
David Reiss, MD, a San Diego psychiatrist, said that some training in the martial arts can help prepare you to deal with your body’s natural fight-or-flight response and not be paralyzed when faced with traumatic events from which you should flee. “To be aware of that response and have some training in dealing with it can be useful without going overboard,” he said.
Leave your belongings behind. Drop whatever stuff you have with you -- packages, luggage, purse, or backpack. It will make your exit easier. Nothing is more important than your life, Krebs said. Video of the mass shooting at the Los Angeles airport in November 2013 showed people fleeing with their suitcases, but, as Krebs said, "there's nothing in that piece of Samsonite that’s worth your life."
If you can’t run, hide. “You want to be in an area that allows you to be protected from the gunman or further mischief by the armed perpetrator,” said Stephen Hargarten, MD, MPH, professor and chairman of emergency medicine and director of the Injury Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Lock and barricade the doors to your hiding place. In one recent mass shooting at a mall, a store clerk was able to protect some shoppers by hitting the button for a gate in front of the store, sealing everyone inside, Krebs said.
Once in hiding, be quiet. Shut off your cellphone. Instinct may tell you to keep it on and try to call for help, but a ringing phone could be dangerous if it attracts the shooter's attention, Krebs said. Call 911 for help only if and when it’s safe to do so.
Try to avoid confronting the shooter. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, taking any action against the shooter should be a last resort -- something you do only if your life is in imminent danger. But, if there's no other option, yell, act aggressively, or look around for something that might work as a weapon.
Afterwards, exit carefully. Once the shooting has stopped and you are able to leave the building, go out with your hands up. Drop whatever you are carrying. “Police may not have a description of the suspect they’re after," Krebs said, "and if you come running out the door with something in your hand, you could end up getting hurt."
Parents with young children should follow the same advice that flight attendants give passengers: Take care of yourself first because, if you don’t, you won’t be able to help your children, Dr. Hargarten said.
Before you're faced with a traumatic event, talk with your children about the best ways to handle such situations. What you say will depend on their age, but whatever you say, try not to frighten them unnecessarily. Emphasize that in an emergency situation like that, they would need to follow your directions, no questions asked. If you have to scream at your children, it could attract the attention of the shooter.
As part of your family's disaster preparedness plan, decide where to meet if you get separated in an emergency -- even if it's a place you've been many times before.
Dr. Reiss said you can’t anticipate mass casualty shootings and should not spend your days fretting over what you would do if you were caught up in one. “If you expect emergencies every moment of your day, it will ruin your life,” he said. It’s best to give it some thought but not let it overwhelm you
This could be a bad spring allergy season and people with allergies need to be prepared, an expert warns.
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"With the crazy up and down weather, some parts of the country could see worse allergy-provoking conditions. There is likely to be a pollen superburst this season, so sufferers should get ready," Dr. Jordan Josephson, a sinus specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said in a hospital news release.
"It promises to be a nasty spring," he added.
It's crucial to deal with allergy symptoms immediately, according to Josephson.
"Allergies left untreated can cause sinus swelling leading to chronic sinusitis. Allergies can also affect your digestive tract. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can be a direct response of the allergic response. So allergies can seriously affect your quality of life. Just ask any allergy or sinus sufferer," he said.
Dr. Punita Ponda is assistant chief in the division of allergy and immunology at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y. She suggested that if you know you have spring allergies, start taking allergy medication at least one to two weeks before the start of allergy season. Then continue taking it throughout the season, she noted in the news release.
Josephson outlined a number of other ways to keep your allergy symptoms under control, including: staying indoors as much as possible between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when pollen counts are highest; using your air conditioner, which cleans and dries the air; keeping doors and windows closed; and using an air purifier.
After being outdoors, remove your clothes and wash them immediately. Keep pollen-exposed clothes separate from clean clothes. You should also take a shower after being outside in order to remove pollen from your skin and hair, he suggested.
In addition, irrigate your sinuses daily to flush out pollen. And take antihistamines, but try to avoid decongestants.
Scheduling vacation plans and buying a new swimsuit will mentally prepare you for summer, but your skin may need some help getting ready, too. For gorgeous, smooth skin you'll feel ready to bare, you need to take a few simple steps. Try this head-to-toe refresher to take your skin out of hibernation.
1. Reveal Glowing Skin
Regular exfoliation can be a part of a healthy skin regimen no matter the season; as long as your skin is not sensitive, exfoliation can help you achieve smooth, healthy-looking skin that makes you look more glowing and youthful. “But it must be done with care,” says Doris Day, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. “The goal is to lift off the outer layer of skin cells that are ready to be sloughed off without stripping the skin.”
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Brushes, polishing cloths, and scrubs offer easy ways to smooth away rough spots. Rotating cleansing brushes work by physically buffing off the dead skin cells. Exfoliating cloths, microdermabrasion kits, and scrubs with granular ingredients also operate the same way. “For the body, look for a scrub that contains coarse particles that dissolve over time, like sugar, so you don’t irritate the skin,” says Dr. Day.
Products that chemically exfoliate the skin contain ingredients such as glycolic, salicylic, or polyhydroxy acids that cause the skin to shed its outer layer and reveal the newer layer.
2. Remove Hair Without Irritation
If your summer forecast calls for sunny days at the beach or poolside, you may be putting some effort into removing unwanted hair. But once you rip off the wax strip, it’s also important to care for the skin that’s newly exposed to the elements.
Give your skin some time to recover before rolling out your beach towel or getting active outdoors. “I advise clients to stay out of the sun or heat for at least 48 hours after any hair-removal process,” says Cindy Barshop, owner of Completely Bare spas. “Follicles are vulnerable to irritation, and skin may be sensitive due to any heat or friction from lasers, waxing, or shaving.”
Since most of us don’t plan our hair removal that far in advance, buffer your tender skin with an oil-free sunscreen, wait for it to dry (about 5 minutes), and dust on some talc-free baby powder, says Barshop. To prevent ingrown hairs, it’s helpful to wear loose-fitting clothing and use an after-waxing product that contains glycolic and salicylic acids, which team up to prevent dead skin cells from causing bothersome bumps.
3. Fight UV Rays With Food
All the work you put into making your skin look good won’t be worth it unless you guard it from the sun’s damaging rays, which are strongest during the summer. Surprisingly, you can protect yourself from the inside, too. “In addition to usingsunscreen, eat cooked tomatoes every day if you know you’re going to be in the sun,” says Jessica Wu, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at USC Medical School. According to research, cooked tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that helps fight the effects of UV rays such as redness, swelling, and blistering from sunburn. If you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors, you may benefit from consuming tomato sauce, grilled tomatoes, or even Bloody Marys. “This doesn’t replace sunscreen, but the habit could give you additional protection if you can’t reach your back and miss a spot,” Dr. Wu adds.
4. Clear Up Body Breakouts
It’s no better to have acne on your body than on the face, especially in the heat, when hiding and covering up isn’t an option. The approach to treating acne on the back, chest, and elsewhere on the body is the same as treating facial acne: “Exfoliate regularly, don’t pick, and treat with effective ingredients,” says Day.
Washing with products that contain salicylic acid helps slough off the dead skin cells; a treatment product with micronized benzoyl peroxide can also help by penetrating the skin and killing off the bacteria that cause acne.
If your skin is sensitive, investing in an acne-treating blue light tool may be worth the cost. “You simply wave the light wand over skin for five minutes daily and it helps kill bacteria,” says Leslie Baumann, MD, a dermatologist in Miami. If you have severe body acne, see a dermatologist.
5. Erase Cellulite
First, the good news: Some products may be able to smooth out the undesirable dimples and unevenness of cellulite. The bad news: They won’t get rid of cellulite forever. The smoothing and toning effect, like many good things in life, is fleeting. Still, it may be worth slathering on a toning body lotion to make your skin look and feel tighter for a day at the beach or a special event.
“Products that contain caffeine and theophylline temporarily dehydrate fat cells,” says Dr. Baumann. “However, it’s the massage and the application of the cream that does the work.” The best course of action long-term is to exercise regularly, coupled with targeted massage, suggests Baumann.
Another way to hide cellulite is to apply a fake tan. Take advantage of the newest self-tanners, which have come a long way from the strong-smelling streaky creams or sprays of yesteryear. “There has been so much progress in the formulations — the colors are natural, there’s no streaking, and the scent is so much better,” says Day.
6. Treat Your Feet
If you’ve stuffed your feet inside boots all winter, they probably could use a little TLC for sandal weather. Jump-start your program with a salon pedicure, or if you’re short on time, you can heed Day’s DIY tip, which will help soften feet while you sleep. First, remove thicker skin with a foot file. Apply a rich emollient cream or ointment, then cover the feet in plastic wrap and cotton socks. Leave on overnight. Repeat every day until you achieve smooth skin, then once a week to maintain soft skin.
The New Hampshire primary's in full swing, and if there’s one thing all the presidential hopefuls can agree on, it’s that running for office is the ultimate endurance challenge. They’re canvassing across the country with little time to exercise or sleep, and it doesn’t help that at every stop they’re tempted by unhealthy foods like pizza, pork chops, and pies. So how do the presidential candidates stay healthy and keep their energy levels up during the grueling primary season? Read on to find out!
Ask anyone what their favorite breakfast is, and you’ll likely get answers ranging from veggie omelets to sugary cinnamon buns. But how many people can say their favorite morning meal is oatmeal? Well, that’s all about to change. Not only is oatmeal super healthy (it’s packed with belly-filling fiber), but it’s also incredibly versatile. Whether you prefer the grains sweet or savory — or packed with protein or healthy fats — we have the right recipe for you. And remember that no matter which flavor combination you choose, one thing is guaranteed: You’ll never look at oatmeal the same way again.
Tomato Basil Oatmeal
Sweet oatmeal recipes are easy enough to find, but savory ones? Those are a little harder to pull off. With its tomato puree, pine nuts, fresh herbs, and Parmesan cheese, Oatgasm’s tomato and basil oatmeal reminds us of a lower-carb bowl of pasta — one that you’ll want to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Mangia!
Slow Cooker Overnight Oatmeal
Don’t have time to cook breakfast in the morning? No problem. Just toss 2 cups of oats into a slow cooker, top with some dried berries, and add water. Wait 90 minutes, and voila! With just 193 calories, this slow cooker overnight oatmeal will be your new favorite breakfast.
Blueberry Muffin Overnight Oats
Our love of overnight oats continues with this mouthwatering blueberry version from Eat Yourself Skinny. (Seriously, how gorgeous is this?) The Greek yogurt and chia seeds add an extra shot of protein (13.4 grams in one jar!) and a chewy, flavorful texture. And did we mention it only takes a few minutes to make?
Date-Sweetened Apple Pie Oatmeal
This gluten-free apple pie oatmeal from the Minimalist Baker is sweetened with dates, apple slices, and a dash of honey. It’s part crispy, part thick and creamy, and all parts totally delicious. Plus, it’s easy to mix and match this base recipe with other toppings — think: toasted nuts and flaxseed.
5-Minute Oatmeal Power Bowl
Who says comfort food can’t be healthy, too? This oatmeal power bowl from Oh She Glows is not only delicious, but it also lives up to its belly-filling promise: laden with chia seeds, almonds, and cinnamon, it’s an instant, energizing way to start your day.
Raspberry-Almond Overnight Oatmeal
Breakfast doesn’t get much easier than this raspberry almond oatmeal. Simply combine oats, milk, yogurt, almonds, chia seeds, and a dash of almond extract in a pint-sized mason jar, then shake, stir, and refrigerate. It’s packed with healthy ingredients, and served up in a perfect portion size, too!
The odds of surviving cardiac arrest seem higher for patients who've been taking cholesterol-lowering statins, a new study shows.
Researchers in Taiwan studied the medical records of nearly 138,000 cardiac arrest patients. Those already using statins such as Lipitor (atorvastatin) or Crestor (rosuvastatin) were about 19 percent more likely to survive to hospital admission and 47 percent more likely to be discharged. Also, they were 50 percent more likely to be alive a year later, the study found.
"When considering statin use for patients with high cholesterol, the benefit of surviving sudden cardiac arrest should also be considered, as statin use before cardiac arrest might improve outcomes of those patients," said study author Dr. Ping-Hsun Yu.
Yu is a researcher from the National Taiwan University Hospital and College of Medicine in New Taipei City.
The greatest survival benefit from statins was seen in patients with type 2 diabetes, Yu's team said.
Cardiac arrest is the abrupt loss of heart function. Death often occurs instantly or shortly after symptoms appear, according to the American Heart Association.
"We know that a large proportion of cardiac arrests occur due to coronary plaque rupture," said Dr. Puneet Gandotra, director of the cardiac catheterization laboratories at Northwell Health Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, N.Y.
RELATED: Bystander CPR Doubles Cardiac Arrest Survival Rates
"This rupture leads to a snowball effect in arteries and can cause arteries to get blocked, resulting in a heart attack or cardiac arrest," he explained.
So how might statins help?
"I feel that due to statin therapy, there is significant plaque stability and the effects of rupture are not as significant. Thus, an improvement in survival is noticed with patients on statin therapy who have cardiac arrests," Gandotra said.
Statins are often prescribed for patients after a heart attack or stroke as a way to prevent a second cardiovascular event. However, "this does not mean that everyone should be on statin therapy," Gandotra said.
These drugs can have side effects, such as muscle pain and weakness and higher blood sugar levels. In addition, the value of statins for preventing a first cardiac arrest or stroke is not clear, the researchers added.
Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of Women's Heart Health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said, "What we learn from studies like this is that [statins] have other benefits.
"A study like this gives me a reason to say, 'There are more reasons for you to take a statin than just to lower your cholesterol,' " Steinbaum said.
For the study, Yu and colleagues divided the medical records of almost 138,000 patients according to whether they had used statins for 90 days within the year before their cardiac arrest. The researchers also accounted for gender, age, other medical problems, number of hospitalizations, post-resuscitation and other variables.
Because more than 95 percent of the patients in the study were Asian, these results might not apply to other groups or ethnic populations, Yu said.
The findings were to be presented on Sunday at the American Heart Association annual meeting, in New Orleans. Data and conclusions presented at medical meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
While I aim for 20 or 30 minutes of daily exercise, I never miss an opportunity to sneak in extra movement throughout the day. After all, your muscles have no idea if you’re in a fancy gym or in your kitchen — as long as you’re working them, they’ll get toned!
By doing little exercises throughout the day wherever you can — in the kitchen, in your car, while you brush your teeth, or while you're sitting at your computer — you’ll keep the oxygen flowing and stretch and tone your muscles.
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You’ll also boost your metabolism: Did you know you can burn up to 500 calories per day just by fidgeting? It’s true! I like to call these little movements "fidget-cizes." They take only one minute or less and they really do work! Fidget-cizes don't replace your regular workouts, but when life gets too hectic, use these moves as a way to squeeze in a little extra fitness all day long. Here are a few of my favorites. Give them a try!
Go ahead: Turn idle time into exercise time and look for every opportunity to move your body. All of those little moments will add up to major health benefits — you’ll see!
In Figure 2 Teen e-cig users are more likely to start smoking.
30.7 percent of e-cig users started smoking within 6 months while 8.1 percent of non users started smoking. Smoking includes combustible tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars, and hookahs).
You flossed right before your appointment—and that’s the only time.
Sorry, but you can’t fool your dentist into thinking you floss daily by doing it the night before or morning of your visit.
“The gums of people who only floss right before a visit are bleeding or look damaged,” says Timothy Stirneman, D.D.S., of All Smiles Dental in Algonquin, Illinois. “Healthy gums are nice and tight and pink.”
Santa Monica-based dentist Kenneth Wong, D.D.S., is on to you, too. “When patients floss right before coming in for a cleaning, I can see the slices where the floss cut at the gum because they were overzealous,” he says.
If you have ropy, blue blood vessels in your legs, you may think that they’re unsightly but don't cause any overt symptoms. Yet for some people, varicose veins can cause skin damage and, even worse, lead to dangerous blood clots.
They’re incredibly common: Varicose veins affect about one in four U.S. adults, or about 22 million women and 11 million men between ages 40 and 80.
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Your leg veins face an uphill battle as they carry blood from your toes to your heart. Small flaps, or valves, within these vessels prevent blood from getting backed up on this journey, and the pumping action of your leg muscles helps push the blood along.
But if these valves weaken, blood can pool — primarily in the veins of your legs — increasing pressure in the veins. As a result of this increased pressure, your body tries to widen the veins to compensate, causing them to bulge and thicken, and leading to the characteristic twisted appearance of varicose veins.
To help you learn the facts about these enlarged veins, we've set the record straight on 10 sometimes confusing pieces of information, including who gets varicose veins and why, health problems they can cause, and treatment options.
“A lot of people are told by primary care doctors or others that varicose veins are a cosmetic issue only, when oftentimes they can be much more than that,” saysKathleen D. Gibson, MD, a vascular surgeon practicing in Bellevue, Washington.
“A significant percentage of patients with varicose veins will eventually develop symptoms,” says Pablo Sung Yup Kim, MD, assistant professor of surgery at Mount Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine in New York City. “The most common include dull achiness, heaviness, throbbing, cramping, and swelling of the legs.” Other symptoms include severe dryness and itchiness of the skin near varicose veins. People with varicose veins are also at an increased risk for a dangerous type of blood clot known as deep vein thrombosis.
Other not-so-common signs and symptoms, found in less than 10 percent of patients, include bleeding, skin discoloration, skin thickening, and ulcer formation — all due to varicose veins, says Kim. Unfortunately, once you have skin damage, it’s usually permanent.
“It’s very important to seek medical advice if you have varicose veins and experience symptoms — before changes in the skin are irreversible,” he says.
Aging definitely worsens varicose veins, though not everyone gets them. “It's a degenerative process that gets worse and more prominent as we age,” says Dr. Gibson. But young people can get varicose veins, too. While the average age of patients treated in Gibson’s practice is 52, she and her colleagues have treated patients as young as 13.
If you've got varicose veins, it may run in your family. “The cause of varicose veins is primarily genetic,” Gibson explains.
Changes in hormone levels also come into play as a risk factor for varicose veins. “Your risk can be made worse, especially by pregnancy,” she adds.
While varicose veins are more common in women, men get them, too. About one-quarter of adult women have some visible varicose veins, compared to 10 to 15 percent of men.
Steve Hahn, 51, of Kirkland, Washington, first noticed in his twenties that he had varicose veins in his left leg after he sprained his ankle playing basketball. When he injured his knee about 10 years ago, he noticed that the varicose veins had become more extensive.
“After about five years of thinking about it, I finally had them treated,” he says. “Both of my legs felt very heavy all of the time at this point, as opposed to just after walking a golf course or playing tennis or basketball.”
After treatment, Hahn says, “I feel like I have new legs.” The heaviness is gone, as is the ankle swelling, which he didn't know was related to the varicose veins. And as a side benefit, he adds, he looks better in shorts.
Exercise — including running — is usually a good thing for your veins. “Exercise is always good for the circulation,” Kim says. “Walking or running can lead to more calf-muscle pumping and more blood returning to the heart.”
“Being a runner doesn’t cause varicose veins,” adds Gibson, though there's controversy about whether exercise makes them worse or not.” Compression stockings can help prevent blood from pooling in your lower legs during exercise. “For patients who haven't had their varicose veins treated and are running, I recommend compression. When you’re done running and are cooling off, elevate your legs,” she says.
While the varicose veins you notice are right at the surface of the skin, they occur deeper in the body, too, where you can't see them. “It really depends on the makeup of the leg,” Gibson says. “If you've got a lot of fatty tissue between the muscle and the skin, you may not see them. Sometimes surface veins are the tip of the iceberg and there's a lot going on underneath.”
If you have a job that requires you to be on your feet a lot — as a teacher or flight attendant, for example — you may be more bothered by varicose veins. But the jury's still out on whether prolonged standing actually causes varicose veins. “People tend to notice their varicose vein symptoms more when they’re standing or sitting,” Gibson explains.
Your lifestyle does matter, because obesity can worsen varicose veins, and getting down to a healthy weight can help ease symptoms. Becoming more physically active is also helpful. “Wearing compression stockings, doing calf-strengthening exercises, and elevating your legs can all improve or prevent varicose veins,” saysAndrew F. Alexis, MD, MPH, chairman of the dermatology department at Mount Sinai St. Luke's and Mount Sinai Roosevelt in New York City.
The only treatment available for varicose veins used to be a type of surgery called stripping, in which the vein is surgically removed from the body. That’s no longer the case. While this procedure is still the most commonly used varicose vein treatment worldwide, according to Gibson, minimally invasive procedures that don't leave scars have become much more popular in the United States.
Endothermal ablation, for example, involves using a needle to deliver heat to your vein, causing it to close and no longer function. While the procedure doesn't leave a scar, it can be painful, and you may have to undergo sedation before being treated. “You have to have a series of injections along the vein to numb it up; otherwise, you wouldn't be able to tolerate the heat,” Gibson explains. You may need to take a day off from work to recover, as well as a few days off from the gym.
Some medications, called sclerosing agents, close a vein by causing irritation. Others are adhesives that seal a vein shut and don’t require the area to be numbed. Gibson and her colleagues have helped develop some of the new technologies and products used in treating varicose veins, including adhesives.
Milder varicose veins can be treated by dermatologists with non-invasive approaches, such as laser therapy and sclerotherapy, says Dr. Alexis. “For more severe cases where symptoms may be involved, seeing a vascular surgeon for surgical treatment options is advised.”
Although treatment for varicose veins means losing some veins, you have plenty of others in your body that can take up the slack, explains Gibson. “The majority of the blood flow in veins in the leg is not on the surface at all; it's in the deep veins within the muscle,” she says. “Those deep veins … are easily able to take over for any veins that we remove on the surface.”
Newer treatments have quicker recovery times. “These procedures can be performed in an office within 20 to 30 minutes with no recovery time. Patients can usually return to work or daily activities on the same day,” Kim says.
Treatments are effective, but they aren't a cure, Gibson says. Sometimes, varicose veins can make a repeat appearance after treatment. “What I tell my patients is it's kind of like weeding a garden,” she says. “We clear them all out, but that doesn't mean there's never going to be another dandelion popping out.”
Influenza, commonly known as "the flu," is a viral infection of the respiratory tract that affects the nose, throat, and sometimes lungs.
tend to happen annually, at about the same time every year. This period is commonly referred .
However, each outbreak may be caused by a different subtype or strain of the virus, so a different flu vaccine is needed to prevent the flu each year.
For most people, a bout of flu is an unpleasant but short-lived illness.
For others, however, flu can pose serious health risks, particularly if complications such as pneumonia develop.
Every year, thousands of Americans die from the flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of deaths caused annually by flu in the United States ranged from 3,000 to 49,000 between 1976 and 2006, with an annual average of 23,607 flu-related deaths.
The best way to avoid getting the flu is to get an annual flu vaccination, encourage the people you live and work with to do likewise, stay away from people who are sick, and wash your hands frequently.
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It's unclear what causes binge eating disorder.
Like other eating disorders, BED is probably caused by a combination of genetic, psychological, and social factors.
Some risk factors for binge eating disorder include:
People with binge eating disorder have frequent bingeing episodes, typically at least once a week over the course of three months or more.
Binge eating episodes are associated with three or more of the following:
Some people also display behavioral, emotional, or physical characteristics, such as:
There are several treatments available for BED. Treatment options may include:
As a physician anesthesiologist, I know how challenging it can be to treat patients who are in pain. For most people, pain is temporary. But for more than 100 million Americans, there is no end to pain.
Chronic pain can be broad or focused, dull or sharp, distracting or excruciating, and in many cases, debilitating.
Your likelihood of experiencing chronic pain increases with age. Gender can also influence how much pain you have. In general, women report having more pain than men.
The Serious Effects of Pain
Living with chronic pain can affect your life in many ways:
Mental health changes. According to a 2006 survey from the American Academy of Pain Medicine, almost two-thirds of people living with chronic pain have reported a decrease in overall happiness and 77 percent reported feeling depressed.
Increased fatigue. Pain can affect your daily functioning, resulting in decreased concentration, diminished energy levels, and difficulty falling or staying asleep.
Decreased job performance. Chronic pain costs the U.S. more than cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Health economists estimate that the cost of chronic pain may be as high as $635 billion a year, according to a report published in the Journal of Pain. We can only guess how many people have been limited in their professional advancement because of pain.
Which Doctor Is Best at Treating Pain?
If you are experiencing pain, your first stop should be to visit your primary care physician. A 2010 analysis of a national medical database found that 13 percent of all doctors visits were to discuss pain. Of these visits, 45 percent were at a primary care physician's office. Less than 1 percent of those surveyed sought help from a specialized pain physician.
Specialized pain physicians are underused by patients, probably because the specialty is relatively new and people don't know about it. These physicians are trained to treat difficult pain conditions using the most advanced treatments.
I like to compare pain physicians to football players. The goal of all of these doctors is the same — to relieve pain — but the role they play varies:
Anesthesiologists spend four years of their training managing anesthesia and pain control in surgical patients. Most pain specialists are anesthesiologists, and they can offer a full array of pain treatments.
Neurologists focus on targeting the neural, or nerve, aspects of pain. Treatments include medications and procedures to treat nerve-related pain.
Physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians focus on relieving pain and improving their patients' day-to-day functioning via physical therapy and physical reconditioning.
The Future of Pain Treatment
Recently, the American Society of Anesthesiologists analyzed dozens of peer-reviewed medical journals from the past year to create its first Women’s Pain Update. Highlights from the report include:
Success with alternative pain-relief methods such as music, yoga, and rose oil.
Breast cancer research that found the type of anesthesia used during breast cancer surgery can affect how quickly and comfortably you recover.
New research has also led to the development of medications that can decrease nerve irritation and depression caused by pain. Similarly, there are several new procedures that can treat pain.
For example, pain specialists can use X-ray or ultrasound imaging guidance to provide relief through steroid injections that target specific nerves and areas of the spinal cord. The procedure is fairly low risk when administered by a physician specifically trained in interventional pain treatments. All three major pain societies, the American Pain Society, the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, and the American Academy of Neurology, state that epidural steroid injections are best suited for those with a pinched or inflamed nerve root (also called radiculopathy).
However, we still have a lot to learn about steroid procedures. Studies have shown that any type of epidural injection — including saline — can relieve pain. In fact, such injections provide twice the pain relief of intramuscular steroid injections, without the associated risks.
Don't resign yourself to a life in pain. If you are one of the millions of people lacking an effective remedy for your pain, a trained pain medicine physician may be able to help you achieve your pain management goals.
Do you have difficulty hearing conversations held in a noisy room? Do you have a harder time picking up women’s voices than men’s? Do you constantly ask others to repeat what they just said? If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, you may be experiencing hearing loss — especially if you are 65 or older.
About 8.5 percent of adults between the ages of 55 and 64 suffer from hearing loss, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. That number jumps to 25 percent for those 65 to 74, and it doubles to 50 percent for ages 75 and older. After high blood pressure and arthritis, hearing loss is the most common chronic condition affecting senior health.
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As you age, you are at risk for two types of hearing loss. The most common type of hearing loss in seniors is presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss. A gradual loss of hearing that affects both ears, presbycusis occurs when tiny hairs in the ear, which are necessary for converting sound waves to sound, become damaged or die. Hearing loss from presbycusis is permanent because once these hairs are damaged or die, they are not replaced with new growth.
Related: 11 Early Signs of Dementia
The other type of hearing loss that seniors experience is tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. Tinnitus can be either permanent or temporary.
A lifetime of exposure to loud noises such as music, motorcycles, or firecrackers can cause hearing loss in seniors. Noise-related hearing loss often results in tinnitus. Other causes of and risk factors for hearing loss experienced by seniors include:
Your genes may also play a role in presbycusis, as it tends to run in families. Environmental factors like loud music and smoking make it difficult to determine the effect of genetics on age-related hearing loss; however, according to American Family Physician, an estimated 50 percent of age-related hearing loss is inherited.
Men are also more likely than women to develop hearing loss, and they’re more likely to develop it at an earlier age, says American Family Physician.
Losing hearing can have a significant effect on other aspects of your wellbeing. Researchers in a 2014 survey of 18,300 adults found that about 12 percent of participants with hearing loss had moderate to severe depression compared with about 5 percent of those with excellent hearing. The survey, which was published in JAMA Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, also noted that women were particularly susceptible to depression related to hearing loss.
Hearing loss also appears to worsen cognitive functioning, according to a study published in the February 2013 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine. Among the nearly 2,000 seniors studied, hearing loss lowered cognitive functioning on some assessments as much as 41 percent more than it did among those without hearing loss.
Though you can’t always fully prevent hearing loss, you can take steps to minimize or overcome it. Age-related hearing loss may be prevented or at least lessened by avoiding loud noises.
Because there is no known cure for age-related hearing loss, treatment is generally focused on improving your ability to function day to day. Your doctor may treat you or refer you to a hearing specialist such an otolaryngologist (or ENT, a medical doctor who specializes in the ear, nose, and throat) or an audiologist (a licensed professional who diagnoses and helps manage hearing problems). The cause and extent of your hearing loss will determine the course of treatment.
A hearing aid may be one recommendation from your doctor or audiologist. Hearing aids can be beneficial for many, but according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, fewer than 30 percent of adults older than 70 who could benefit from a hearing aid have one. Hearing aids have come a long way over the years and are available in a variety of styles. A hearing aid and its battery will either fit behind the ear, on the ear, just inside the ear, or in the ear canal.
Types of hearing aids include:
Using assistive listening devices also can help compensate for hearing loss. These products either amplify sound, such as sound from telephones, televisions, and radio listening systems, or alert the user visually, such as with smoke detectors or alarm clocks.
Surgery may be another consideration. Cochlear implants are electronic devices with one part surgically implanted in the skin and the other part worn behind or in the ear. Used only for severe hearing loss, implants will not restore normal hearing, but they can make sounds louder. Because of the nature of the implants, they are not without risks — they pose the potential for infection, damage to the facial nerve, and tinnitus.
Speech or lip reading and sign language may be an answer for some seniors with hearing loss. Both of these techniques require training and practice and are generally recommended for those with severe hearing loss.
See your doctor as soon as you think you have a hearing problem. The loss of hearing could be a symptom of another medical condition. Seniors with untreated hearing loss are also more likely to suffer emotionally and socially when they areunable to interact with friends and family members. Left untreated, hearing loss could lead to deafness, and seniors who do not address their hearing loss put their lives at risk if they are unable to hear emergency warnings such as car horns or smoke alarms.
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t hit snooze or experience the midafternoon slump every once in a while, but if you constantly feel like you’re dragging it may be time to take a closer look at your routine. If you don’t have a related health condition and are getting enough shuteye each night, you may be to blame for the constant fatigue. Here are 8 energy-zapping habits that you can change today.
1. You’re eating too much sugar. While the candy jar is an obvious culprit, refined carbohydrates like white bread and rice, chips, and cereal are a major source of sugar,too. This type of simple sugar is digested quickly by the body, leading to a dip in blood sugar levels that leaves you feeling fatigued. Be sure to replace refined carbs with whole grain varieties for a lasting energy boost.
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2. You aren’t exercising enough. It may seem counterintuitive that exerting energy will actually increase it, but adding a workout to your daily routine will give you a short-term energy boost. Plus, regular exercise improves sleep quality, which will ultimately leave you feeling more well rested.
3. You’re skipping breakfast. "Skipping breakfast can definitely contribute to low energy in the morning," says Johannah Sakimura, MS and Everyday Health blogger. "It's important to give your body good fuel to start the day after an extended period of fasting." Without this fuel, your body is running on empty – leaving you famished by lunchtime and more likely to make unhealthy choices that will cause that midafternoon dip in blood sugar. "Try to combine healthy carbohydrates, like fruit, veggies, and whole grains, with a protein source, such as eggs, nuts, or dairy. The carbs give you an initial boost, and the protein helps sustain you until your next meal," says Sakimura.
4. You’re sitting too much. Not only is sitting for prolonged periods of time harmful to your health (just one hour of sitting affects your heart!), but it’s a major energy zapper as well. Standing up and moving for even a few minutes helps get your blood circulating through your body and increases the oxygen in your blood, ultimately sending more oxygen to your brain which increases alertness. If you work a desk job, try this move more plan to keep your blood pumping.
5. You’re drinking too much caffeine. Whether it’s a can of soda or constant refills of your coffee mug, many of the beverages we reach for when we feel tired are packed with caffeine – a stimulant that will give you a quick jolt, but can also leave you crashing soon after if you ingest too much. Plus, if you’re drinking caffeinated beverages into the afternoon, they may start to have an effect on your sleep quality. If you’re a coffee drinker, switch to water late-morning and replace soda with seltzer for a bubbly afternoon pick-me-up without the crash.
6. You’re dehydrated. We all know the importance of drinking enough water – and even mild dehydration can have adverse effects on your energy level, mood, and concentration. Aim for at least one glass of water per hour while sitting at your desk, and be sure to fill your bottle up even more if you’re doing strenuous activity or are outdoors in high temperatures.
7. You have poor posture. A study found that slouched walking decreased energy levels while exacerbating symptoms of depression. The good news: Simply altering body posture to a more upright position instantly boosted mood and energy, while enabling participants to more easily come up with positive thoughts. So sit up straight! Set reminders on your phone or calendar throughout the day to remind yourself to check in with your posture and straighten up.
8. You’re not snacking smart. If you’re running to the vending machine for a quick afternoon snack, your selection – most likely high in simple carbs and sugar – will take your energy levels in the wrong direction. Instead choose a snack that has a combo of protein and complex carbs for an energy boost that will last throughout the afternoon. Think trail mix, veggies and hummus, or peanut butter on whole wheat toast.