5 signs you should ask your doctor about depression

Published: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 @ 9:54 AM
Updated: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 @ 9:54 AM

These 5 signs are solid indicators that you should talk to your doctor about depression 1. Your mind seems foggy and you have trouble concentrating 2. You feel irritated or angry over things you would normally shrug off 3. You have unexplained pain such as back pain or headaches 4. Your eating habits have changed, either an increase or decrease in appetite 5. You sleep too much or too little

A common perception of someone suffering from depression is a person who's sad and/or crying. Although you certainly may feel this way if you're depressed, the illness may also present itself in more subtle ways that you might not expect.

Depression is a very common illness, with about 16 million adults in the U.S. having at least one major episode of depression in the past year. Despite there being many different types of treatment available, about two-thirds of people with major depression never seek treatment

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Sometimes they think they'll "snap out of it" on their own or they may be too embarrassed to address the condition. But delaying treatment could have devastating effects in every area of your life, and at its worst, could result in suicide.

The following five signs are solid indicators that it could be time to talk to your doctor about depression. 

Your mind seems foggy.

If you have trouble concentrating or making decisions on an almost-daily basis, Health's website says, this could be a sign of depression. It can cause fuzzy, unfocused thinking that can affect your memory and ability to make good decisions. This could make you forget work deadlines as well as tasks you need to complete at home. At its most extreme, it could even lead you to engage in unhealthy, risky behavior.

You tend to get angry.

Although most people probably associate depression with sadness, it can also cause you to feel irritated or angry over things that you would normally shrug off. If you find yourself raging at little things at work and home, you may actually be depressed. This can be especially true of men, Reader's Digest says, who may find it more socially acceptable to express anger rather than sadness when they go through something such as divorce.

You have unexplained pain.

The Mayo Clinic says that unexplained pain such as back pain or headaches can sometimes be the first or only sign of depression. In fact, pain and depression can create a vicious cycle. If your depression is causing pain, this can make you further depressed, which increases your pain. In addition, depression-related pain that continues over time can create additional problems such as stress, low self-esteem and difficulty sleeping. Some forms of treatment can help with both pain and depression, while others treat only one condition, so you and your doctor can talk about what's best in your particular case.

Your eating habits have changed.

Depression can affect many aspects of your life, including your eating habits. Health says you may experience a loss of appetite as well as a decreased interest in food and cooking. It can also have the opposite effect, making you more likely to try to soothe yourself by binge eating on unhealthy food. In addition, if you normally eat a healthy diet but find yourself suddenly turning to junk food, you may want to talk to your doctor about depression.

Learn how to get better sleep and find out just how much sleep people in your age group really need from Reid Hospital.

You sleep too much – or too little.

Crawling into bed and escaping into sleep is behavior that may be associated with depression, according to Health. You may find yourself wanting to stay in bed and also escaping into naps when you can during the day. Depression can also cause you to stay awake late at night as you toss, turn and worry. And like many symptoms of depression, sleeping too much or too little can create a vicious cycle. You can feel tired and sluggish from too much sleep, so you may feel even worse, which can make you likely to sleep more or have more trouble getting to sleep at night.

Getting help

The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) recommends the following tips for getting help:
  • Call 911, go to your local emergency room, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 if you're feeling suicidal.
  • If you think your condition is mild to moderate, make an appointment with your primary care physician.
  • If you think your condition is moderate to severe, make an appointment with a specialized doctor such as a psychiatrist.
  • Seek out community support groups, which can serve as valuable tools for help and to know you're not alone in suffering from depression. NAMI can help you find support in your area.

5 reasons to breastfeed your child 

Published: Wednesday, October 11, 2017 @ 12:57 PM
Updated: Wednesday, October 11, 2017 @ 12:57 PM

Breastfeeding has health benefits for mothers and children. A new study suggests breastfeeding can reduce a mother's risk of heart attack and stroke. The study analyzed 289,573 women in China. 6 months of breastfeeding = 4% less likely to have hea

Many new moms have heard that "breast is best" when it comes to feeding their babies, but they may not have all the facts on just what makes it best.

When you're making the personal decision about how to feed your child, it helps to know exactly why experts so strongly recommend breastfeeding.

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Here are five major benefits of breastfeeding:

Providing an immune system boost

Breast milk contains antibodies, immune factors, enzymes and white blood cells – all of which can help protect your baby against diseases and infections, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Your baby will be less likely to have ear infections, vomiting, diarrhea, pneumonia and other common yet potentially serious ailments as a result.

Even better, this immune system boost can, in some cases, last after you've weaned your baby.

Breastfeeding provides your baby with many important health benefits.(Sergei Bobylev/For the AJC)

Building a strong emotional bond

Psychology Today touts the bond that develops between nursing moms and their babies. This is not only because of the close, extended contact but also due to the release of hormones in moms as well as their babies.

This close bonding is believed by many to help reduce social and behavioral problems later in life, the Cleveland Clinic says.

Improving brain development

Previous studies have linked breastfeeding to better cognitive outcomes in older adolescents and adults. A Brown University study now suggests that changes in brain development occur even earlier than that  "almost right off the bat." 

Researchers used baby-friendly MRIs to look at the brain's white matter, which helps parts of the brain communicate with one another. Babies in the study who were exclusively being breastfed had 20 to 30 percent more white matter growth than babies who weren't.

Fulfilling your child's unique – and changing – nutritional needs

Breast milk changes composition to adapt to your child's nutritional needs, according to Psychology Today. It contains all the nutrition your baby needs for his or her first six months and continues to provide benefits beyond that.

And even if your baby is premature, the breast milk you produce in the first few weeks is also designed to meet your baby's unique needs. For example, it's higher in protein and minerals; it also contains different types of fat that can be more easily absorbed and digested by your premature baby.

Lowering your child's risk of SIDS

Breastfeeding is thought to lower your child's risk of SIDS – sudden infant death syndrome. 

Medical experts usually recommend that to keep your baby safe, you should keep him or her in the same room if you'd like to, but not in the same bed. They suggest that breastfeeding moms keep their babies in a crib beside their own bed to make breastfeeding easier and keep babies safe from bedding or from being accidently rolled over on.

Need help or advice about breastfeeding?

If you'd like to breastfeed your baby but have concerns or want more information, hospitals usually employ lactation consultants who can help you and your baby with breastfeeding. To find one on your own, search at ilca.org/why-ibclc/falc.

5 ways to stop killing your back with bad posture at work

Published: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 @ 12:10 PM
Updated: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 @ 12:10 PM

Here are five of the best ways to have better posture at work Consider a chair with a backrest that supports the curve of your lower back Sit with your back in a normal, slightly arched position to avoid back pain Combat back pain by spending part of your work day sitting on an exercise ball Lumo Lift, a device that attaches to your shirt with a magnet, vibrates when you should adjust your posture At least once an hour, stand and stretch

"Sit up straight!" may sound like nagging straight out of the 1950s, but it's spot on advice for the 21st century workplace. 

Constant shifting around to get comfortable at your work computer, and hunched over a smart phone at home, wreaks havoc on your back, neck and shoulders.
Regular computer users perform 50,000 to 200,000 keystrokes each day, according to the nonprofit website, OrthoInfo.com, compiled by orthopedic surgeons. "Under certain circumstances and for vulnerable individuals, frequent computer use that involves awkward postures, repetition, and forceful exertions may be related to nerve, muscle, tendon, and ligament damage," OrthoInfo.com noted

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Postures induced by using modern technology can also cause other health problems. When you lean forward at your desk, for example, you're more likely to clench your jaw and tighten facial muscles, which leads to headaches and jaw pain, according to LiveStrong.com.
Hunching over can also reduce your lung capacity by as much as 30 percent, Dr. Rene Cailliet told Livestrong.com. The former director of University of Southern California's Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation noted that lungs underperforming leads to a deficit of oxygenated blood which in turn can contribute to shortness of breath, cloudy thinking and even heart and vascular disease.
But you don't have to sit back and accept these plagues of poor posture as a cost of using technology.

Experts from business coaches to orthopedic surgeons suggest ways to improve your posture and spare your back.

Here are five of the best ways to have better posture at work:

The Edge Desk System is a portable, foldable desk and kneeling chair that expands and collapses in 10 seconds. (Photo courtesy Edge Desk/TNS)

Choose your chair. To encourage great posture in an office environment, your best bet is a chair that is stable and adjusts easily for height and tilt, according to reporting on the OrthoInfo website. "Consider a chair with a backrest that supports the curve of your lower (lumbar) back," the organization said. "Experts recommend you consider positioning your thighs horizontal with your knees at about the same level as your hips. Rest your feet comfortably on the floor or on a footrest if you need one." 

Other chair attributes that encourage great posture included a padded seat with a pan at least one-inch wider than your hips as well as adjustable armrests that position your elbows near your waist.

Sit like you mean it. An OrthoInfo.com article written and reviewed by orthopedic surgeons recommends sitting with your back in a normal, slightly arched position to avoid back pain. Other work posture basics from the orthopedic surgeon community include keeping your head and shoulders erect, and making sure your work surface is set at a height that won't require you to lean forward.

Sit on a ball. Cybersecurity expert and entrepreneur Joseph Steinberg, told Inc magazine that he combats back pain and other drawbacks of bad posture at work by spending part of his work day sitting on an exercise ball, alternating it with his leather office chair. 

"Sitting on the ball makes it more difficult to slouch, engages various muscle groups that remain at rest when slouching on a chair, and builds muscle," he noted. "While the ball is clearly not as comfortable a seat as an executive chair, I got used to it pretty quickly."

Get a vibrating reminder. Steinberg also recommended the Lumo Lift, a tiny device that attaches to your shirt with a magnet. If you slouch, it gently vibrates to remind you to adjust your posture.

Stand and stretch. Even if you're not slouching, you need ample breaks to combat back pain and other effects of working in front of computers for a long time. At least once an hour you should stand and stretch, according to OrthoInfo.com. Place your hands on your lower back and gently arch backward before returning to your work.

6 truths and myths about apple cider vinegar

Published: Tuesday, September 26, 2017 @ 2:33 PM
Updated: Tuesday, September 26, 2017 @ 2:33 PM

Is apple cider vinegar really a miracle home remedy for everything from weight loss to a sore throat? Despite claims that vinegar can be used to clean teeth or dentures, it is actually too acidic But the acidity of apple cider vinegar can help get rid of dandruff Considering apple cider vinegar for weight loss? A study showed people only lost an extra 1/3 pound per week over a placebo However, apple cider vinegar can help keep blood sugar levels down after a starchy meal Soothe a sore throat with apple c

Although apple cider vinegar has long been used as a home remedy to treat various ailments, it's recently been touted as something close to a miracle food. 

Proponents claim it can help with everything from weight loss to a sore throat, but are all these purported benefits true?

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The following are five myths and facts about apple cider vinegar:

It can be used to clean your teeth or dentures

This one's definitely a myth. In fact, when CNN asked an expert about the idea, she said it made her cringe.

"You're putting acid on your teeth," Alice Boghosian, a dentist and American Dental Association spokeswoman said, "the last thing you'd want to do to promote oral health." She also said that cleaning or rinsing your dentures with vinegar can harm your teeth, as well as the metal on partial dentures.

A blood glucose level test is administered on a participant in a research trial that provides appropriate food, doctor referrals, diabetes education and regular blood sugar checks at the Houston Food Bank on Jan. 25. Inconsistent access to food can worsen diabetes, and so can the poor nutritional offerings at the pantries many low-income people must rely on. (Erin Hull/The New York Times)(ERIN HULL)

It can help control blood sugar

This one has some promise, but don't expect a miracle. The acid in any type of vinegar can interact with starch-digesting enzymes, so it can help keep your blood sugar level down after a starchy meal, U.S. News & World Report said

In addition, a study found that people with prediabetes who had vinegar before a meal had several positive effects on their insulin resistance and other aspects of prediabetes. The effect lasted for up to five hours after eating.

It can help control weight

This one might have a kernel of truth to it, but not as much as you may hope. 

CNN said that the study most often cited to support apple cider vinegar as a weight loss aid showed that people actually only lost an extra third of a pound a week over a placebo. So if you were looking to vinegar for some serious weight loss help, you'll probably have to look elsewhere.

It can help get rid of dandruff

This one's true, according to Dr. Oz. He said that dandruff can be caused by excess yeast growth on your scalp, and the acidity of apple cider vinegar changes the pH of your scalp so yeast isn't as likely to grow.

He recommended mixing equal amounts of water and apple cider vinegar together in a spray bottle. Spray it on your hair and scalp (watch out for your eyes and ears!), and wrap your head in a towel. Leave it on from 15 minutes to an hour, take the towel off, and wash your hair. Doing this twice a week can help you treat your dandruff without the harsh chemicals that dandruff shampoos can contain.

Apple cider vinegar has been touted as having a wide variety of health benefits, but not all the claims are true.(For the AJC)

It can soothe a sore throat

According to Reader's Digest, this one's true. Most germs can't survive in the acidic environment that apple cider vinegar creates, so you should use some of it as soon as you notice that your throat hurts. Mix a quarter-cup of apple cider vinegar with a quarter-cup of warm water, and use it to gargle every hour or so.

It can relieve pain

Some people believe that the beta-carotene in apple cider vinegar can destroy free radicals, which can interfere with your immune system. The vinegar is also thought to be able to help arthritis pain caused by acid crystals that form in the joints. Nope on both counts, said the Arthritis Foundation. The amount of beta-carotene in the vinegar is tiny, and gout is the only form of arthritis that involves acid crystals, which can't be dissolved by apple cider vinegar.

The verdict:

To sum it up, CNN said that if apple cider vinegar is used full strength and inappropriately, you could be doing more harm than good. And there's nothing terribly special about apple cider vinegar when compared to other types of vinegar. Ultimately, CNN recommends checking with your doctor before trying vinegar for health reasons.

Living with cats and cockroaches may reduce kids’ asthma risk

Published: Sunday, September 24, 2017 @ 1:17 PM

Five Fast Facts: Cockroaches

Kids living in houses with cats, mice and cockroaches may have a lower risk of asthma, new research from Washington University shows.

The researchers looked at 442 kids living in the inner cities of St. Louis, Baltimore, Boston and New York City. They analyzed dust taken from the kids’ homes to measure the concentrations of cockroach, mouse and cat allergens. They found that higher levels of the allergens during infancy were associated with a lower risk of developing childhood asthma, a lung disease marked by inflammation in the airways.

The kids’ umbilical cord blood was also analyzed, and researchers found that those who had been exposed to tobacco smoke in utero had a higher risk of asthma. Higher asthma rates were also related to moms who reported higher levels of stress and depression.

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“This study suggests we may not be focusing on the right targets for preventing asthma in the inner city,” said co-author Dr. Leonard Bacharier, a Washington University asthma specialist, in a statement. “We may not need to worry about making sure the household environment is maximally clean — in fact, it’s possible that could be counterproductive. But helping women manage the challenges of mental health may make a difference.”

Since the study is based on observations, it cannot prove that any pet or pests can prevent or cause asthma. It merely suggests a potential link.

The research was published today in the of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. It was funded by the federal government and also included researchers at Boston University, Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, U.C. San Francisco and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The children in the study had at least one parent with asthma or allergies so they were at higher risk of developing the disease. Nearly one-third of the children were diagnosed with asthma by age 7. Cockroach allergens were found to be most protective against asthma, with mouse and cat allergens also showing a benefit.

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While the research seems to contradict the idea that feces and saliva of cockroaches can trigger asthma, the key might be a bacteria attached to the allergens, Bacharier said.

The study also supports a shift in pediatric medicine toward early exposure to allergens such as peanuts in an effort to avoid allergies. A pristine environment in infancy could cause the immune system to overreact later in life when the child is exposed to allergens, the theory goes.

Asthma researchers have long looked at animal exposures to find any hints at the development of the lung disease. The research has often been conflicting. With so many genetic and environmental factors influencing asthma, it is very difficult to separate animal exposures to determine any link.

A 2015 study showed a relationship between early exposure to dogs and farm animals and a lower risk of childhood asthma. But dogs were named an asthma culprit in this 2010 report. Other research has shown higher rates of asthma among cat owners. And here’s one that shows cats reduce kids’ asthma risk.

The bottom line is the risk of asthma should not be a main factor in deciding whether or not to get a pet. And a little dust around the house may not be a bad thing.