Here’s a mental health workout that’s as simple as ABC

People intuitively know what is best for their mental health. A new approach suggests enforcing this belief like regular exercise.
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Treating Teen Depression Might Improve Mental Health Of Parents, Too

Evidence shows there’s a link between depressed parents and their offspring. But a new study suggests that when teens benefit from treatment for their depression, there’s a ripple effect on parents.
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Exercise Alters Gut Microbiota Composition and Function in Lean and Obese Humans.

PURPOSE: Exercise is associated with altered gut microbial composition, but studies have not investigated whether the gut microbiota and associated metabolites are modulated by exercise training in humans. We explored the impact of 6 wk of endurance exercise on the composition, functional capacity, and metabolic output of the gut microbiota in lean and obese adults with multiple-day dietary controls before outcome variable collection.

METHODS: Thirty-two lean (n = 18 [9 female]) and obese (n = 14 [11 female]), previously sedentary subjects participated in 6 wk of supervised, endurance-based exercise training (3 d·wk) that progressed from 30 to 60 min·d and from moderate (60% of HR reserve) to vigorous intensity (75% HR reserve). Subsequently, participants returned to a sedentary lifestyle activity for a 6-wk washout period. Fecal samples were collected before and after 6 wk of exercise, as well as after the sedentary washout period, with 3-d dietary controls in place before each collection.

RESULTS: β-diversity analysis revealed that exercise-induced alterations of the gut microbiota were dependent on obesity status. Exercise increased fecal concentrations of short-chain fatty acids in lean, but not obese, participants. Exercise-induced shifts in metabolic output of the microbiota paralleled changes in bacterial genes and taxa capable of short-chain fatty acid production. Lastly, exercise-induced changes in the microbiota were largely reversed once exercise training ceased.

CONCLUSION: These findings suggest that exercise training induces compositional and functional changes in the human gut microbiota that are dependent on obesity status, independent of diet and contingent on the sustainment of exercise.
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An Underappreciated Key to College Success: Sleep – The New York Times

Many college-bound students start out with dreadful sleep habits that are likely to get worse once the rigorous demands of courses and competing social and athletic activities kick in.
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How fiber and gut bacteria reverse stress damage

As gut bacteria digest fiber, they produce short-chain fatty acids. A new study finds that these molecules protect the gut against the ravages of stress.
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Exercise Your Mental Wellness

The Sweet Spot:
  • 45 minutes of exercise (any type)
  • 3-5 times weekly
  • ~20% boost in Mental Wellness

Association between physical exercise and mental health in 1·2 million individuals in the USA between 2011 and 2015: a cross-sectional study


Exercise is known to be associated with reduced risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes, but its association with mental health remains unclear. We aimed to examine the association between exercise and mental health burden in a large sample, and to better understand the influence of exercise type, frequency, duration, and intensity.


In this cross-sectional study, we analysed data from 1 237 194 people aged 18 years or older in the USA from the 2011, 2013, and 2015 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System survey. We compared the number of days of bad self-reported mental health between individuals who exercised and those who did not, using an exact non-parametric matching procedure to balance the two groups in terms of age, race, gender, marital status, income, education level, body-mass index category, self-reported physical health, and previous diagnosis of depression. We examined the effects of exercise type, duration, frequency, and intensity using regression methods adjusted for potential confounders, and did multiple sensitivity analyses.


Individuals who exercised had 1·49 (43·2%) fewer days of poor mental health in the past month than individuals who did not exercise but were otherwise matched for several physical and sociodemographic characteristics ( W=7·42 × 10 10, p<2·2 × 10 −16). All exercise types were associated with a lower mental health burden (minimum reduction of 11·8% and maximum reduction of 22·3%) than not exercising (p<2·2 × 10 −16 for all exercise types). The largest associations were seen for popular team sports (22·3% lower), cycling (21·6% lower), and aerobic and gym activities (20·1% lower), as well as durations of 45 min and frequencies of three to five times per week.


In a large US sample, physical exercise was significantly and meaningfully associated with self-reported mental health burden in the past month. More exercise was not always better. Differences as a function of exercise were large relative to other demographic variables such as education and income. Specific types, durations, and frequencies of exercise might be more effective clinical targets than others for reducing mental health burden, and merit interventional study.

Dangers of rising benzo prescriptions raise alarms of next drug crisis

If you think that the “opioid epidemic” is bad – the emerging epidemic of antidepressant and anti-anxiety drug addiction and withdrawal is just the tip of the iceberg because of the hundreds of millions of prescriptions written for these dangerous drugs…

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When Christy Huff developed a painful eye problem that led to insomnia, her doctor had a common solution— Xanax. She took the medication as directed.

One pill at night offered her some relief, but soon she began to experience anxiety, daytime terrors and tremors. Then, Huff had a startling realization. When she was off the Xanax she was going through withdrawal. And when she was on it “all of that just melted away,” she said.

In just three weeks, her body was dependent on Xanax.

“I don’t remember getting any warnings from doctors as far as addiction or dependence,” Huff, who is a cardiologist, told NBC News. “I was completely shocked at how sick I was.”

Xanax is part of a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, sometimes called “benzos” for short. Benzodiazepines are sedatives used primarily to treat anxiety and sleeplessness. The class of drugs also includes Valium, Ativan and Klonopin.

Dr. Anna Lembke, chief of addiction medicine at Stanford University Medical Center, said complications from benzos, such as dependency and addiction, are fueling a hidden epidemic akin to the opioid crisis.

“Medical students, residents and even doctors in practice don’t recognize the addictive potential of benzodiazepines,” she told NBC News. “There’s been all this awareness on opioids but very little focus on benzodiazepines and yet people are dying from them.”

According to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there were 8,791 overdose deaths involving benzos in 2015, up from 1999 when there were 1,135 overdose deaths involving benzos. Between 1996 and 2013, the number of adults filling a benzodiazepine prescription increased by 67 percent, reaching 13.5 million in 2013, according to a study.

There is far less awareness of the dangers of benzos, perhaps because of attention over the opioid crisis. Opioids, including prescription opioids, heroin and fentanyl, killed more than 42,000 people in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The maker of Valium said it is commited to ensuring the drug is taken safely, and recommends it be prescribed carefully. The maker of Xanax said abuse of benzodiazepines has become a growing public health threat, and it will continue to educate consumers, patients and doctors about its proper use.

Lembke says more care should be taken when prescribing benzos.

“One of the silver linings of the opioid epidemic has been that the medical community has recognized that we have to educate doctors better about opioids and their risks,” Lembke said, “but we’re still not doing that for benzodiazepines.”

More Americans than ever are overdosing on anxiety drugs, and it’s not clear why

She explained that since benzos work so well for anxiety and sleeplessness and patients immediately respond to them, doctors are quick to prescribe them. But patients can quickly develop a tolerance, leading to higher and higher doses, and painful withdrawal symptoms between doses. Long-term use can even cause neurological damage, Lembke said.

Benzos are extremely difficult to kick, she said. For some of her patients, quitting opioids is easier. Benzos can be particularly dangerous when combined with opioids, which is not uncommon and can increase overdose risks nearly four-fold.

Huff has been working on kicking benzos for nearly three years.

When she first realized her dependency, her doctor didn’t take her seriously.

“She said, ‘This is all just anxiety,'” Huff said of her doctor. “‘You can taper it off in three weeks but honestly I think you can just cold turkey.'”

When she tried to stop taking Xanax, she developed severe symptoms. She couldn’t sleep more than three hours at night, she had difficulty eating and swallowing and lost almost 20 pounds. Lembke said that stopping benzos cold turkey can cause seizures and even death.

I have met online so many patients that have been harmed by these medications, just by taking them as prescribed by their doctor. They were never informed of the possible consequences they have suffered.

After some online research, Huff realized that she had to slowly taper off. Each time she lowers her dose, she goes through a period of intensifying symptoms, but is slowly making progress.

When Huff became dependent on benzos, she had already stopped practicing medicine to take care of her young daughter, Kathryn. The first year Huff was sick was her daughter’s last year of preschool. She had plans to enjoy time with her daughter before she started kindergarten, like go to the zoo and the park. Instead, she had to stay home and rest while a nanny took her daughter out.

“There’s a lot of anger,” Huff said. “It’s bad enough I’m suffering this way but not being able to participate fully in my daughter’s life, that’s just the ultimate insult.”

Huff is hoping that in another year, she’ll be off of benzos entirely, but what worries her is long-term damage. She struggles now with memory and fatigue — forgetting to do simple tasks, like put in her contact lenses in the morning.

Lembke points out that tapering off can take time. As the doses get smaller, the percentage of drug being taken away is greater, so the withdrawal symptoms can be more intense.

Today, Huff is trying to raise the alarm so others don’t wind up in the same situation. She directs a nonprofit, the Benzodiazepine Information Coalition. Its mission is to educate both doctors and patients about what it means to be prescribed benzodiazepines.

“I just really want the world to know that this is a huge problem,” Huff said. “I have met online so many patients that have been harmed by these medications, just by taking them as prescribed by their doctor. They were never informed of the possible consequences they have suffered.”

Lembke offered the following advice for patients:

• Before taking benzos, ask your doctor what the risks are. Ask if there are other treatment options like antidepressants or cognitive behavioral therapy.

• Benzos should be used as short-term and intermittent treatments. Avoid long-term use.

• Never stop taking benzos suddenly. Talk to a doctor about a plan to taper over time.

• Tell your doctor which other medications you’re taking, and ask about taking the drugs together.

• Parents should be aware that some benzos can be bought online so they should talk to their teens about the dangers and be on the lookout for mysterious packages and precision scales, which are used to measure doses. Even tiny dosages can be deadly.

Lembke hopes that eventually, doctors will be better informed, but for now, the onus is on patients to be aware of these concerns.

Recent Advances in Nutrition for the Treatment of Depressive Disorder

Curr Pharm Des. 2018 Aug 2. doi: 10.2174/1381612824666180803113106. [Epub ahead of print]
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Depression is one of the leading causes of disability in the world. Current pharmaceutical treatment for depression remains unsatisfactory due to its limited therapeutic efficacy and undesirable side effects. There is increasing interest in looking for alternative strategies from diet for the treatment of depressive disorder. The nutrition factors have the potential to regulate several neurochemical pathways implicated in depression. This review gives an overview of the recent advances in depression treatment using nutrition factors including vitamins, polyunsaturated fatty acid, elements and natural products. The review covers most recent publications from 2016 to mid-2018. The results of basic experimental and clinical studies were summarized. The risk of deficiency and effect of intervention using nutrition factors for the depression were also discussed. Although the results are controversial in some cases due to the experimental design, the relationship has been observed between deficiency of certain nutrition factors and incidence of depression in the majority of studies. The dietary nutrition supplements may play significant or synergic role in treating or improving depressive disorders.

Local school adding “mental health” to list of important school subjects |

History, English, math – all important classes students take. One local school is adding another subject to that list. One the school feels is extremely important.
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Depression: The Growing American Mental Health Storm

Recent reports show depression is one of the greatest mental health challenges facing Americans today. Here’s how it may affect you or someone you love.

It’s hard to miss, with rising rates of suicide and depression: American mental health seems to be in a downturn.

Days after the suicide of fashion designer Kate Spade, at 55, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that suicides are becoming more common in every age group, but especially in mid-life.

The biggest increase was among men ages 45 to 64, and suicide is rising among mid-life women, too.

Young people — from teens to college students — are another group that appears to be greatly affected by the mental health storm that’s growing in America.

In the last decade, Lisa Cohen, PhD, clinical professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York, has seen a bump in college students and young adults from stable families landing in the hospital at risk for suicide after a minor stress.

In part, that may be because they’ve been overprotected — but the overall ramp up in stress during early adulthood is also steeper today than it’s been in the past.

“While earlier generations could rely on a steady supply of jobs in large, stable companies, this is no longer the case,” Cohen says. “Many young people expect to work in start-ups or to work freelance… [They] look ahead to an economic life of uncertainty, without a clear path to success or even self-sufficiency.”

At the same time, they face heavy college loans and a technology-dominated social world that requires a thicker skin.

The less secure economy and less social contact may be at work in mid-life despair as well.

Prompt treatment for depression is important to overall health. Untreated depression raises the risk of stroke, heart attacks, dementia, and Parkinson’s — especially in older people.

And once a person is ill, depression can make recovery more difficult.

More depressed young

Some of the rise in rates of depression might be attributed to more people seeking care as mental illness becomes less stigmatized. However, the recent bumps in numbers of depressed people have happened too quickly to entirely fit that explanation.

For example, diagnoses of major depression rose by a third between 2013 and 2016, in a report analyzing claims to Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

This data revealed increases in all age groups for both men and women — but particular spikes among teens and young adults through age 35.

In research based on national surveys including the uninsured, more than 11 percent of teens, and 9.6 percent of Americans ages 18 to 25, had major depression in the most recent year.

Thoughts of suicide have also been found to be common among teens, though much smaller numbers take action.

More than 22 percent of American high school girls think about attempting suicide, according to 2013 CDC data. Of that group, 3.6 percent took steps that resulted in an injury, poisoning, or overdose that required medical care.

The numbers were roughly half for boys: Nearly 12 percent considered suicide and less than 2 percent took actions that required medical care.

In surveys that ask teens and college students whether they engage in self-hurting behavior such as cutting or burning their skin, as many as 40 percent say yes, though it’s not clear whether those figures are rising.

Self-hurting behavior is a risk factor for suicide attempts.

“When I started in the field in the late 1980s, young patients with severe suicidal ideation or self-injurious behavior, like cutting, came from very disturbed backgrounds and often had histories of considerable trauma,” Cohen says.

Today, they may be from stable, supportive families.

The case against smartphones

Why now? One big obvious change is the rise of social media and the smartphone.

Based on two large U.S. surveys of 8th- through 12th-graders, researchers argued that screen time tracked closely with reported mental health issues.

This was true for individual kids — the more time on the phone, the more likely they were to report symptoms of depression. It was also true for the numbers as a whole, lead author, San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge, PhD, reported.

Kids began getting smartphones between 2010 and 2015. As the phones spread, overall depression symptoms increased, year by year, she said.

In the same period, visits to counseling centers at colleges jumped 30 percent.

A social media habit has also been tied to depression in studies of 19- to 32-year-olds, though it may matter most how often they look.

Today, for people in their 20s and 30s, technology dominates dating.

New apps put an unprecedented number of choices at their fingertips — but that’s also made many feel more hopeless about finding love, says Loren Soeiro, PhD, a clinical psychologist in New York.

“I talk to a lot of people about how these dating apps make them feel. They feel commodified and given a very small chance,” he says.

For those who are vulnerable to feeling left out, social media shows them acquaintances having more fun than they are. And for those who try to compete, the competition can be constant.

“There is no privacy,” Cohen points out, adding there’s also a constant pressure to impress. “With social media people are meaner to each other, continually marketing themselves, and unable to escape the intrusive public eye.”

Playing on smartphones can often cut into sleep as well. Some 60 percent of teens spend the last hour of the day with their phone — and end up losing an hour of sleep compared to peers who do something else at bedtime.

A teen who gets six hours or less of sleep triples their chance of becoming depressed.

Growing loneliness

Other research found that loneliness is at “epidemic levels” in the United States.

In a May report from Cigna, only around half of Americans said they have daily meaningful in-person conversations with a friend or family member. Most Americans qualify as “lonely.”

For example, when asked how often they feel that no one knows them well, 54 percent said they feel that way always or sometimes.

Generation Z — adults between the ages of 18 and 22 — emerged as the loneliest, regardless of how much time they spent online or on their phones.

Living single

More adults — 42 percent — live without a spouse or romantic partner, a number that has grown since 2007 in all age groups under 65.

That number is even higher for those aged 18 to 35. About 61 percent live as singletons — up from 56 percent in 2007.

It’s not clear that married people are happier, healthier, or are less lonely — yet many unpartnered people assume they are and feel left out.

It is clear that living single is tied to less financial security, a Pew Research Center report notes.

More than half of working-age adults without a job were living single in 2017, sharply up from a decade earlier. They don’t have access to a spouse’s health insurance or cushion when their income falls.

Mid-life despair

For decades, suicide rates had been falling. However, in the new CDC suicide data, the average yearly growth rate doubled beginning in 2006 to 2 percent a year.

Most Americans who die of suicide are white, working-class, middle-aged men.

About 20 veterans also die of suicide each day, most of them over the age of 50.

Men are more likely to use guns than women and less likely to seek help. But with rates rising among women, the gap has narrowed.

Pooling together the sexes, the rate of suicide in the 45-to-64 age group rose 45 percent from 2000 to 2016.

Suicides tend to increase during recessions, and the most recent one “may have left the middle-aged population especially hard hit,” suggested Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director at the CDC.

Job prospects for men without a college degree have been dwindling for some time, and they’re now more likely than before to be single.

Beyond the suicide numbers, some take the “slow suicide” route and die of drug overdoses or alcohol liver disease.

What you can do

Although depression can make it much harder, now is the time to take good care of yourself.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, be persistent about finding the right medical care — ideally both medication and counseling — and use that boost to focus on good health habits across life.

Exercise helps, though research suggests it won’t substitute for therapy. Mind your diet and sleep, as well as hygiene, and cultivate in-person social ties.

For parents, the tendency is to worry most about teens who are acting out. But, according to a 2014 study of more than 12,000 European teens, an “invisible risk group” of teens don’t exercise, skip sleep, and spend a lot of time online.

More than 13 percent were depressed and nearly 6 percent attempted suicide.

Parents can promote in-person social activities for children to help them fight the trend of spending hours alone in their room and limit screen time by barring phones and laptops from beds.

Loss of appetite emerged as a red flag for suicidal thinking in a study in Japan of more than 18,000 teens.

What your child eats matters, too. Skipping vegetables and fruits and sticking to foods like meat and bread is depressing, according to research with more than 7,000 teens.

Don’t wait more than a year to get help for a child with suicidal thinking: Research suggests that treatment within the first 6 to 12 months after the suicidal thoughts begin is most effective.

Should your teen take an antidepressant? The usual recommendation is a combination of talk therapy and antidepressants, although a 2014 review from the prestigious Cochrane Review concluded that this approach remains unproven.

No teen should have access to guns, alcohol, painkillers, or sleeping pills at home. Don’t assume you’ll see the red flags in time to whisk the pills away.

Young people sometimes act on a suicidal impulse within minutes or a day.

Suicide prevention

If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:
•  Call 911 or your local emergency number.
•  Stay with the person until help arrives.
•  Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.
•  Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
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