1. Repairing the heart—and the soul

    Many people who undergo heart bypass surgery find themselves battling an unexpected side effect: depression.

    Doctors are quick to give these folks antidepressants along with all the other drugs that follow heart surgery.

    As it turns out, that's the exact wrong approach.

    A new study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry finds that cognitive behavior therapy – most folks call this talk therapy – is far more effective in treating those post-op blues. Supportive stress management also worked fairly well with this group.

    But guess what had almost no effect at all?

    That's right… those antidepressants.

    The researchers followed 123 depressed bypass patients. Forty-one of them were given talk therapy, 42 were treated with supportive stress management and 40 were just given usual care.

    In each group, half the patients took antidepressants.

    At three months, 71 percent of the patients in the talk therapy group said their depression had lifted. That number grew a tad to 73 percent at the nine-month mark. Supportive stress management was less effective, with 57 percent reporting improvement at those same points, but still far better than the usual care patients, only a third of whom reported improvements at six and nine months.

    The researchers said the drugs had no impact on the outcome.

    Of course, I could have told them that.

    I've never been an advocate of antidepressants unless absolutely necessary. In many cases, they're unreliable and have nasty or even dangerous potential side effects. They treat only the symptoms, not the cause, and often don't work at all in the long run.

    But many doctors feel hog-tied without their prescription pads, so the 20 percent of heart bypass surgery patients who end up fighting major depression usually end up with more meds.

    Another 20 percent of bypass patients encounter milder forms of the blues, and many of them are unnecessarily put on antidepressants as well.

    It's time docs stop treating conditions based on what they read in drug company brochures and look at what really works instead. This latest study is only the most recent in a growing body of evidence against antidepressants. In fact, back in 2005 the same journal published a study showing talk therapy was just as effective as drugs in a more typical group of depressed patients.

    And I can tell you right now there are other drug-free treatments and therapies that will work in just about any group of depressed patients, regardless of whether or not they've undergone bypass surgery.

    Sometimes, a simple nutrient regimen is all it takes to turn the depression around.

    When you can get that kind of success without drugs, why fool with them in the first place?

  2. Worried about dementia? Relax!

    Posted by: on

    There are plenty of studies these days geared at getting more people to take more prescription drugs, most of which are completely unnecessary.

    So I was pleased to hear the news out of Stockholm that found a new weapon in the battle against Alzheimer's, and this one doesn't come in a bottle.

    The study found that people who have less stress have a lower risk of dementia. It also found a lower risk in people who are more socially active. And the best news of all is that people with low stress and active social lives appear to have the lowest risk of all.

    The researchers believe that extroverted people handle stress better and are less prone to depression. And that makes perfect sense. Stress unleashes hormones that are damaging to your brain, heart and other organs, so it's hardly surprising that people with less of it have a lower risk of dementia. They have a lower risk of many other things, too – and they're almost certainly happier overall.

    So if you find yourself constantly battling stress, or if you think that maybe you're just a little lonely, you can begin helping yourself right now. First, identify the things in your life that give you stress. Eliminate or reduce those things when you can, but you'll probably find that proves easier said than done. For those stresses you can't eliminate, you'll want to change how you respond to them. It'll take time, and you might need some help, but you can get there if you want to.

    Secondly, be more socially active. Get out with your friends, spend time with your family, join a club or take up a sport.

    You'll live longer, you'll live better, and you'll live healthier.

  3. Botox no cure for the blues

    Posted by: on
    There's a wacky theory out there that, at its core, suggests that forcing depressed people to smile – or least removing their ability to frown – can somehow cure them.
  4. Sudden cardiac death linked to antidepressants

    Some drugs can be worse than the illnesses they treat.
  5. Docs looking to "see no evil" after bad antidepressant news

    When researchers from the World Health Organization reviewed eight studies, they determined that certain antidepressants increase suicide attempts by younger people, especially those in the 18-25 age group.
  6. Skip the gym… and get a sponge

    New research is recognizing the benefits of a good sweat-which means at least 20 minutes of sustained exercise-and housework can be a source.

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