Acupuncture is good for depression: study

People with depression may benefit as much from acupuncture as they do from counseling, suggests a new study.

Researchers found one in three patients were no longer depressed after three months of acupuncture or counseling, compared to one in five who received neither treatment.

“For people who have depression, who have tried various medical options, who are still not getting the benefit they want, they should try acupuncture or counseling as options that are now known to be clinically effective,” said Hugh MacPherson, the study’s lead author from the University of York in the UK.

Previous studies looking at whether acupuncture helps ease depression have been inconclusive. Those studies were also small and didn’t compare acupuncture to other treatment options.

“What’s more important for the patient is does it work in practice and that is the question we were asking,” MacPherson said.

For their study, he and his colleagues recruited 755 people with moderate or severe depression. The researchers split participants into three groups: 302 were randomly assigned to receive 12 weekly acupuncture sessions, another 302 received weekly counseling sessions and 151 received usual care only.

About 70 percent of people had taken antidepressants in the three months before the study and about half reported taking pain medications. People did not have to stop taking their medicine to participate in the study.

At the outset, participants had an average depression score of 16 on a scale from 0 to 27, with higher scores symbolizing more severe depression. A 16 is considered moderately severe depression.

After three months, people assigned to the acupuncture group had an average score of about 9 – on the higher end of the mild depression category. Scores fell to 11 among members of the counseling group and about 13 in the usual care group, both considered moderate depression.

Participants who received acupuncture or counseling saw larger improvements over three months than those who had neither treatment. Those benefits remained for an additional three months after the treatments stopped.

However, any differences between acupuncture and counseling could have been due to chance, the researchers reported Tuesday in PLOS Medicine.

They found doctors would need to treat seven people using acupuncture and 10 people with counseling for one person to no longer be depressed.

“What this says is if you don’t get completely better, there are other options,” Dr. Philip Muskin, a psychiatrist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, told Reuters Health.

“One option would be to take a different medication, but by this study these would be valid options,” said Muskin, who was not involved with the new research.

He cautioned, however, that counseling and acupuncture are not replacements for medication. The majority of study participants were still taking antidepressants at the end of the three months.

Muskin said the study also doesn’t show what types of patients respond best to acupuncture or counseling.

“What I can’t tell from this study is who’s who. Not everybody got better,” he said.

MacPherson said it’s best to ask patients for their treatment preference.

“If you talk to people, they would almost always have a leaning one way or the other,” he said.

Acupuncture is only covered by health insurance in the UK for chronic pain, MacPherson said. In the U.S., some plans also cover acupuncture for pain or nausea.

According to online information from the Mayo Clinic, the risks of acupuncture are low if people hire competent and certified practitioners. Complications can include soreness, organ injury and infections.

“Cleary acupuncture is a new option,” MacPherson said. “This is the first evidence that acupuncture really helps.”

 Source: medindia


How to Cope with Generalized Anxiety Disorder

One of the most important parts of having generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is learning how to cope with the persistent anxiety and some of the physical symptoms. This page can serve as a guide to coping with anxiety that will be frequently updated with new articles and information based on practical tips that work to cutting-edge research findings.

Understanding GAD

It is crucial to understand the elements of GAD as completely as possible to be able to cope with it effectively. The following articles are a good way to begin or increase your depth of understanding of GAD:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD basically means feeling tense and anxious much of the time over things that wouldn’t normally bother you – or not so much, anyway (1). Feeling like this every day can quickly suck a sense of meaning from life. Every day feels like survival.

This can happen because structurally, the brain and body of the ‘you 20,000 years ago’ are no different from today (okay, the ‘you’ back then may have been a little more buff…). My point here is that the natural responses that kept us alert and alive back then still work within us.

So what hunts you now?

Modern life has replaced ancient wolves with relationships gone bad, financial worries, unresolved traumas, bad bosses, fears of not fulfilling expectations adequately, bad diet, and excessive consumption of stimulants. Unless we learn to fend off and master the inner ‘wolves’ as we did the outer ones, we’ll fall prey to all the fear and anxiety reactions we evolved to feel.

It’s strange that this most ancient of responses is seen as pathological or even as a medical condition or ‘disease’.

People with GAD commonly report:

  • Feeling by turns restless and agitated, but also exhausted and unable to cope.
  • Unable to ‘switch off’ and relax.
  • Always being ‘on high alert’.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Difficulty eating, digestive problems.
  • Other physical symptoms of stress such as raised blood pressure, palpitations, sweating, rapid shallow breathing.
  • Anxiety about everyday routines and circumstances, health worries, finances.
  • Worries seem to be out of proportion, meaning other people may be at a loss to understand just what is bothering you.
  • Worry seems to switch from one thing to another.

All of the above would fit the condition of a primitive person negotiating the savageries of pre-civilization. All of the above are natural adaptations we evolved to experience.

Experiencing GAD can be likened to driving a car in top gear in a 10 MPH speed limit zone. Adaptations need to be made so that you don’t waste ‘fuel’ in your daily life.

If you have been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, then try the following:

1) Remember it’s normal

Remind yourself that whatever scary GAD symptoms you’ve been experiencing are all part of the normal range of what we’re all supposed to feel sometimes. Forget the clinical formality of psychiatric diagnoses. Basically, you have been feeling like a pack of wolves has been on your trail. This is normal after a build-up of stress; you are normal.

2) Think about what stresses you and seek to minimize it

One wolf might be scary, but many together can be terrifying. Lots of little life stresses build up into a pretty intimidating pack of stresses. Ask yourself: when did this GAD start? What was happening in your life at the time? Was there more stress than usual? Even a few nights of poor sleep can be enough to make some people feel very anxious.

  • Have you been worrying about something in particular?
  • Is your diet full of stimulants such as sugar and caffeine?
  • Have you learnt how to relax the mind and body?

Remember you are safe

The level of anxiety, trepidation, and foreboding so often seen in people suffering Generalized Anxiety Disorder is appropriate, even useful, in ongoing physically dangerous circumstances. If you are not physically safe in your life right now, then you need to take immediate steps to ensure you are.

But as I’ve said, we all still respond to modern threats as if they were ancient physical ones. You need to remind yourself that, luckily, you’re not being pursued by threatening wolves bent on eating you. Next time you respond physically (nerves in stomach, rapid breathing, and increased pulse rate) when there is no physical threat, remind yourself:

Don’t worry about worry

One commonly reported symptom of GAD is worry about stuff that shouldn’t really be worrying at all. This happens because when you have strong feelings, your mind will seek ways to try to justify that emotion. It’s as if your mind has to make a container for the feelings – something to worry about.

Sound strange? Well, consider this: If you’re already, say, seething with anger about something, you can go out in the street still feeling angry and find yourself angry about the way strangers look, the little slow elderly woman taking too much time in front of you in line, the way someone speaks to you…anything. This will happen until you calm down again, at which point the things you were using to justify those angry feelings will no longer be bothersome.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder drives us to find stuff to feel worried about. It’s important you remember this so you can start to put worries into their true perspective.

Deal with the physical symptoms of fear

When you feel physically safe and calm, you breathe nice and evenly, your blood pressure normalizes, and your immune system works better. The more relaxed you feel, the more ‘normal’ other physical processes like sleep and digestion become. Insomnia was supposed to happen when we were being tracked by wolves. When your body and mind start to feel safe again, then restful sleep can return.

When you relax, you also find it easier to think clearly; anxiety has a way of clouding the brain. Relaxation also improves your mood, including your optimism and level of self-confidence. Suddenly, the wolves have gone or you have mastered them. This is very different from the constant worry and foreboding of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.


More Americans exercise while they work

sitting on giant exercise balls instead of chairs. Using the inflatable balls can help improve posture and strengthen abs, legs and back muscles.

Glued to your desk at work? Cross that off the list of excuses for not having the time to exercise.

A growing number of Americans are standing, walking and even cycling their way through the workday at treadmill desks, stand up desks or other moving workstations. Others are forgoing chairs in favor of giant exercise balls to stay fit.

Walking on a treadmill while making phone calls and sorting through emails means “being productive on two fronts,” said Andrew Locker bie, senior vice president of benefits at Brown & Brown, a global insurance consulting firm.

Lockerbie can burn 350 calories a day walking 3 to 4 miles on one of two treadmill desks that his company’s Indianapolis office purchased earlier this year.

“I’m in meetings and at my desk and on the phone all day,” he said. “It’s great to be able to have an option at my work to get some physical activity while I’m actually doing office stuff. You feel better, you get your blood moving, you think clearly.”

Treadmill desks designed for the workplace are normally set to move at 1 to 2 mph, enough to get the heart rate up but not too fast to distract from reading or talking on the phone comfortably.

It’s been a decade since scientific studies began to show that too much sitting can lead to obesity and increase the risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Even going to the gym three times a week doesn’t offset the harm of being sedentary for hours at a time, said Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic.

“There’s a glob of information that sitting is killing us,” Levine said. “You’re basically sitting yourself into a coffin.”

More companies are intrigued by the idea of helping employees stay healthy, lose weight and reduce stress – especially if it means lower insurance costs and higher productivity, said Levine, an enthusiastic supporter of the moving workstations.

“Even walking at 1 mile an hour has very substantial benefits,” Levine said, such as doubling metabolic rate and improving blood sugar levels. “Although you don’t sweat, your body moving is sort of purring along.”

Sales at Indianapolis-based TreadDesk are expected to increase 25 percent this year as large corporations, including Microsoft, Coca Cola, United Healthcare and Procter & Gamble have started buying the workstations in bulk, said Jerry Carr, the company’s president.

At LifeSpan Fitness, based in Salt Lake City, sales of treadmill desks more than tripled over 2012, said Peter Schenk, company president.

“We don’t see the growth slowing down for several years as right now we are just moving from early adopters, which are educated and highly health conscious, to more mainstream users,” Schenk said.

With bicycle desks or desk cycles, workers can pedal their way through the day on a small stationary bike mounted under their desk.

Treadmill desks can range from about $800 to $5,000 or more, depending on the manufacturer and model. Desks cycles start as low as $149 for models that can fit under an existing desk but can run $1,400 or more for those with a desk built in. Standup desks can run as low as $250 for platforms that can rest on an existing desk.

Some workers have opted for lower-profile – and lower-cost – ways to stay fit at work, such as sitting on giant exercise balls instead of chairs. Using the inflatable balls can help improve posture and strengthen abs, legs and back muscles.

“I’ve got nurses in my operating room who will use one of those balls instead of a chair,” said Michael Maloney, a professor of orthopedics and sports medicine specialist at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Maloney said anyone trying an exercise ball, treadmill desk or moving workstation should approach it with common sense. Those who have not been exercising regularly should start using the equipment in small time increments to avoid injury, he said.

“They have to just do it with some common sense and not overdo it,” Maloney said. “Just pay attention to how their body is responding to the new activities.”

Georges Harik, founder of the Web-based instant messaging service in Palo Alto, Calif., bought two treadmill desks for his 20-person office to share three years ago. Employees tend to sort through email or do other work while using the treadmills.

“I do it when I can,” he said. “Sometimes it’s not possible if you’re really thinking hard or programming a lot. But this sort of low-grade activity that keeps people from being sedentary probably helps extend their lives by a few years, and we’re big fans of that.”

The office has also purchased standing desks for most of its employees. The desks can be raised up or down with the touch of a button, and Harik says at least three or four workers can be seen standing at desks to stretch their legs at any one time.

But not everyone wants one, Harik said. Some workers find it too distracting to incorporate standing or walking into their work, and some feel they are just not coordinated enough to multitask as they exercise.

Levine said he was at first skeptical that a standup desk would offer improvements in health comparable to treadmill desks or other moving workstations.

“It appears I was completely wrong,” he said. “Once you’re off your bottom, it’s inevitable that you start meandering around. Within two minutes of standing, one activates a series of metabolic processes that are beneficial. Once you sit, all of those things get switched off.”

Denise Bober, director of human resources at The Breakers, the resort hotel in Palm Beach, Fla., said having a treadmill desk in her office has made a big difference in how she feels after work.

“The more movement and interaction I have, the more energy I have at the end of the day,” she said.

Bober spends one to three hours walking when she’s in the office, usually at 2 mph.

“If I go faster, then I make too many typing errors, but if I’m just reading a report I can go faster,” she said.

Source: Fox News

Maternal PTSD linked to children’s trauma

Tthe effects of maternal mental health difficulties can be especially problematic in early life, from pregnancy to age 5

The children of mothers with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be at high risk of being traumatized themselves, according to a small new study in urban U.S. neighborhoods.

Inner-city kids whose mothers had PTSD experienced more traumatic events – such as neighborhood shootings, domestic violence, dog bites or car accidents – before age five than kids whose mothers were depressed or had no mental health issues, researchers found.

Mothers with a combination of PTSD and depression were also more likely to report psychologically or physically abusing their child, compared to mothers with just one of those disorders.

“The main take-home message is that when parents are suffering, their children suffer, too,” said Dr. Howard Dubowitz, professor of pediatrics at University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

“Those of us who are involved in helping to take care of kids can’t ignore what problems mothers and fathers may be struggling with,” added Dubowitz, who was not involved in the study.

Children exposed to trauma are themselves at greater risk of a mix of health challenges later on in life, such as obesity, drug and alcohol addictions, heart disease, suicide and mental health disorders, experts said.

“Everyone’s been putting the focus on depression, even though PTSD and depression run together,” said the study’s lead author Claude Chemtob, director of NYU Langone Medical Center’s family trauma research program.

He and his colleagues recruited 97 mothers with children between the ages three and five years old from Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s pediatric primary care clinics in New York City to participate in the study.

Most mothers were from ethnic minority groups and had high school diplomas. The women all completed questionnaires designed to detect depression or PTSD symptoms. They also answered questions about violent events their children had witnessed.

The majority of mothers were not clinically depressed or suffering from PTSD, Chemtob’s group reports in JAMA Pediatrics. Of the 97 mothers, 11 had diagnosable depression, six had PTSD and 10 had a combination of both.

Chemtob pointed out that the study population had slightly elevated levels of depression and PTSD diagnoses compared to national averages.

The researchers also found that mothers with PTSD and depression reported far greater parenting stress. “In short, their experience of parenting is that it is more difficult and less rewarding,” Chemtob said.

Last year the American Academy of Pediatrics urged pediatricians to take steps to reduce childhood “toxic stress” that can occur when parents or caregivers suffer from poor mental health.

In the current study, the children of mothers with PTSD witnessed an average of five traumatic events.

Their peers whose mothers were only depressed or had no mood disorder experienced an average of only one traumatic event. A third group of kids with mothers suffering both PTSD and depression experienced nearly four events.

Previous research suggests that nearly half of women with PTSD may also suffer from depression.

“We know that the effects of maternal mental health difficulties can be especially problematic in early life, from pregnancy to age 5,” Michelle Bosquet of Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts told Reuters Health in an email.

Bosquet, who was not involved in the new study, added that much previous research has focused only on depression and less is known about how PTSD may influence parenting.

Researchers noted that the study is limited by its small size.

“These results have been found among certain families,” Dubowitz said. Future studies could look for the same results in different populations, such as whites, he said.

The authors encourage screening mothers for PTSD alongside depression in pediatric primary care settings. “This might be an effective way to intervene on child maltreatment,” Chemtob told Reuters Health.

In his research on child abuse, Dubowitz has created a questionnaire for parents to complete before arriving for a pediatric appointment. It contains two questions to detect depressive symptoms.

“It may be most efficient to use just two questions to identify possible depression, and, in so doing, identify parents with that condition and … help them get evaluated,” Dubowitz said.

“Aside from time, and time is very important, there is the whole challenge of changing health professionals’ practice and behavior,” he said.

Source: Fox news         

FDA beefs up pain-drug warnings in face of abuse epidemic

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed stronger safety language on labels of long-acting and extended-release opioids in response to an epidemic of overdoses and deaths from the widely used pain medicines.

The labels need to highlight dangers of abuse and possible death, as well as risks to newborns of mothers taking the medicines, the agency said on Tuesday.

Opioids include formulations of morphine, oxycodone and fentanyl. One of the best-known opioids is Oxycontin, a long-acting form of oxycodone.

Some 16,651 people in 2010 died from overdose deaths related to opioid abuse, the FDA said, including long-acting formulations.

In a conference call, FDA officials said long-acting forms of opioids have played a “disproportionate role” in drug abuse and deaths.

The FDA said the drug labels currently are indicated for patients with moderate to severe pain, but in the future will indicate they should only be used for severe pain.

“The FDA is invoking its authority to require safety labeling changes and postmarket studies to combat the misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose and death from these potent drugs that have harmed too many patients and devastated too many families and communities,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a release.

Updated language in the drug labels will stress the medicines are meant for pain severe enough to require daily, round the clock, long-term opioid treatment, and only for those who have not had adequate pain relief from alternative medicines.

The labels will also include prominent boxed warnings that chronic maternal use of the drugs can result in potentially fatal opioid withdrawal syndrome in newborns.

The agency will require extra studies of the drugs to assess known risks of abuse, overdose and death.

Janina Kean, chief executive of High Watch Recovery Center, an addiction treatment facility in Kent, Connecticut, said stronger safety language by itself won’t make a noticeable dent in the numbers of addictions and overdoses of opioids.

She said the drugs are being prescribed for countless uses, many of which are far from severe, with no apparent oversight.

“Doctors are prescribing them for dental work, for chronic back pain and every ache and pain you can imagine,” Kean said. “The FDA would be better served by trying to regulate when doctors prescribe those drugs.”

Kean said about 20 to 25 percent of her substance-abuse clients are addicted to opioids, up from just 1 to 4 percent a decade ago.

“It’s getting worse,” she said, noting that many clients are teenagers or young adults who became addicted by going into their parents’ medicine cabinets and taking their legally prescribed opioids.

“But now, when they go to the street they can’t afford the opioids. So they go to heroin, which is also an opioid, because it’s cheaper.”

Morgan Liscinsky, an FDA spokesman, said the agency’s hands are largely tied. While the FDA has authority to regulate drugmakers and drug labeling, he said it cannot intervene with doctors.

“The FDA does not have the authority to regulate the practice of medicine, and health care practitioners may choose to prescribe a legally marketed drug, based on their clinical assessment,” Liscinsky said.


Global gaps in high blood pressure knowledge, treatment

41 percent had consistently high blood pressure, but fewer than half of those people knew it.

It`s the leading contributor to deaths worldwide yet most people with high blood pressure don`t know they have the condition and even for those who do, treatment is mostly ineffective, according to a large new study.

Researchers examined more than 140,000 adults in 17 countries and found that about 41 percent had consistently high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, but fewer than half of those people knew it.

“We found that surprisingly many people didn`t realize their blood pressure was high,” lead author Clara Chow, from The George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, Australia, said.

Less than a third of those aware of their condition and getting treatment had their blood pressure under control, with poor and rural populations faring the worst.

“Whereas in high-income countries a larger proportion of people knew they had hypertension and were on treatment than people in low-income countries, the control problem was significant wherever you were,” Chow said.

Normal blood pressure is defined as a systolic reading (the top number) of 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or less and a diastolic reading (the bottom number) of 80 mm Hg or less.

The National Institutes of Health estimates that one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease, heart failure, stroke and kidney failure.

High blood pressure is the leading cause of heart disease and strokes, which are the top two causes of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

Globally, hypertension is tied to “at least” 7.6 million deaths each year, Chow`s team writes in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Despite the condition`s worldwide impact, Chow told Reuters Health, there hasn`t been much research on how it should be targeted to bring down the incidence of cardiovascular disease.

For the new study, she and her colleagues from several research centers around the world recruited 142,042 adults in 17 countries of varying income levels to be examined between January 2003 and December 2009.

They defined the condition either by a participant`s self report of having been diagnosed with hypertension, or by two blood pressure readings of at least 140/90 mm Hg.

Overall, 57,840 of the participants had high blood pressure, but only 26,877 were aware of their condition.

The vast majority of those who were aware were taking some sort of medication – often two medications – to treat high blood pressure, but only about one third were successfully controlling the disease.

“People who knew they had hypertension, about 88 percent were initiated on some sort of treatment. However the control of their blood pressure was poor,” Chow said.

When researchers looked at the results by country, they found that in high-income and upper-middle-income countries, around 50 percent of people with high blood pressure were aware of their condition and around 47 percent were getting treatment.

In comparison, in lower-income and lower-middle-income countries around 42 percent of people with hypertension were aware of it and about 34 percent were treated.

In poorer countries, awareness, treatment and control of high blood pressure were better in urban areas compared to rural ones, and among better educated people, the researchers note.

Dr. Jorge Plutzky, director of the Vascular Disease Prevention Program at Brigham and Women`s Hospital in Boston, said the new study confirms previous findings on blood pressure around the world and adds to what is known by showing the differences between urban and rural areas.

“I think it`s another stimulant to get a variety of groups to look at and think about this issue,” Plutzky, who was not involved in the new study, said.

For example, he said, international groups have been effective in combating a variety of infectious diseases throughout the world.

“We need those same kinds of groups to also start thinking about chronic diseases,” he said, adding that techniques developed overseas can also be brought back to rural areas in the U.S.

Chow said the focus should be on finding ways to detect high blood pressure in people in different places around the world, and removing barriers to treatment, including costs and transportation to and from doctors` offices.

Source: Zee News

Only 13% adults get good night’s sleep

It was revealed that more women than men miss work due to sleepless nights.

A new study has suggested that one in five people nod-off at their work desk due to lack of a good night`s sleep.

It was found that lack of proper rest accounts for six million lost working days a year, the Daily Express reported.

The survey by bed firm Silent night found that only 13 per cent of men and women admitted they slept peacefully, while the rest said that the thought of having to get up early, money worries and stress kept them awake.

Nineteen percent of the respondents said that arguing with a loved one ruined their bedtime.

It was revealed that more women than men miss work due to sleepless nights.

About 17 percent catch up on sleep during the morning commute, while seven per cent doze off at their desk and four per cent during meetings.

Glass of wine a day may lower depression risk

Those who drank moderate amounts of wine each week were less likely to suffer from depression.

Drinking wine in moderation may be associated with a lower risk of developing depression, a new study has claimed.

Moderate amounts of alcohol consumed may have similar protective effects on depression to those that have been observed for coronary heart disease, researchers said.

Few studies have looked at the relationship between mental health and moderate alcohol intake.

Researchers report on a cohort study that followed over 5,500 light-to-moderate drinkers for up to seven years. The results show an inverse relationship between alcohol intake and incidence of depression.
The study participants were aged between 55 and 80 years old, and had never suffered from depression or had alcohol-related problems when the study started.

Their alcohol consumption, mental health and lifestyles were followed for up to seven years through yearly visits, repeated medical exams, interviews with dietitians and questionnaires.

The main alcoholic beverage drunk by the study participants was wine. When analysed, it was shown that those who drank moderate amounts of wine each week were less likely to suffer from depression.

The lowest rates of depression were seen in the group of individuals who drank two to seven small glasses of wine per week. These results remained significant even when the group adjusted them for lifestyle and social factors, such as smoking, diet and marital status.

“Lower amounts of alcohol intake might exert protection in a similar way to what has been observed for coronary heart disease. In fact, it is believed that depression and coronary heart disease share some common disease mechanisms,” Professor Miguel A Martinez-Gonzalez, from the University of Navarra (Spain), senior author of the paper, said.

Previous studies have indicated that non-alcoholic compounds in the wine, such as resveratrol and other phenolic compounds may have protective effects on certain areas of the brain.

The study was published in the journal BMC Medicine.