Friday, November 26, 2010

People's Depression Worsen During Allergy Season

New research is showing that people with depression or bipolar disorder that are allergic to certain pollens such as tree or ragweed, experience worse depression when exposed to that allergen.
"The worse the allergy symptoms, the worse their depression scores [on a standardized test used to assess depression and mania]," says researcher Partam Manalai, MD, of the department of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.
The findings discovered that allergies can make depression symptoms much worse. This is the first time that's been shown. While more research is needed to understand how allergies may make depression worse, the findings also indicate that treating a depressed person's allergies may help improve their mood, even if they aren't experiencing symptoms.
One in 10 Americans suffers from depression. As many as one in five may have seasonal allergies says researcher Partam Manalai, MD, of the department of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. "In patients with allergy and depression, prophylactic treatment of these conditions may prevent worsening of mood during peak allergen season," Manalai says.
"But in people with depression and allergies, we think treating the allergies may prevent worsening of depression symptoms," he says.
Allergists have reported that persons with certain allergies may feel fatigued and mentally “down” during the season. Some people suffer from insomnia. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2006 showed that people with allergies were more likely to have sleep problems than people without the condition. In the study, about 35% of allergic rhinitis patients reported insomnia.
Manalai also points out that only people with mood disorders were studied; otherwise healthy people who feel the symptoms of allergies during allergy season shouldn't go charging into their doctor's office asking for antidepressants to ease symptoms.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Depression Ups Risk Of Complications Following Heart Attack

People who suffer from severe depression following a heart attack might be more likely to experience cardiac complications while hospitalized, according to a new study.
“There is good evidence that if a person has depression after a heart attack, they are more likely to die from cardiac causes in the following months and years,” said lead author Jeff Huffman, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “No one had yet studied whether depression impacts cardiac outcomes immediately after a heart attack—the time we see the most complications.”
The study included 129 patients at Massachusetts General Hospital. Within 72 hours of having a heart attack, each participant underwent an interview to determine if he or she suffered from depression or anxiety. Seventeen of the original group members had a diagnosis of major depression lasting for at least two weeks.
The presence of major depression was a significant predictor of heart rhythm problems, congestive heart failure or a second heart attack.
Anxiety did not affect the risk for any in-hospital complication.
“The results suggest that physicians should be especially mindful of treating depression in patients with cardiac risk factors,” Huffman said. “They also suggest close in-hospital monitoring of heart attack patients with major depression given this increased risk for complications.”
Huffman noted that the study, which appears in the July-August issue of the journal Psychosomatics, is a small, preliminary study. Most of the participants were white males, so its findings might not apply to other groups.
“What is surprising is that differences in outcomes were seen in a relatively short time. The new observation is that risk for these bad outcomes start while patients are still in the hospital,” said David Bush, M.D., associate professor at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Heart Institute.
“The separation between heart disease, typically managed by cardiologists and internists, and mental disease, typically managed by psychiatrists, is not as great as many seem to think.” Bush said. “Physicians and patients should be sensitive to this and work on treating depression in addition to controlling diabetes, lowering blood pressure and lowering cholesterol.”

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Stress hormone can lead to obesity in adolescent girls

Scientists have uncovered a link between higher levels of a stress hormone and obesity in adolescent girls, but not boys. Even though boys and girls both release the hormone during stress, the findings show that girls are most likely to become obese from higher levels of cortisol.
Cortisol, a hormone released by the adrenal gland is known to contribute to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. It can also destroy immunity. Though researchers have known that cortisol contributes to weight gain and obesity but the exact reasons are not clear. The researchers for the new study found that higher levels of the stress hormone in girls age 6 to 13 was associated with obesity.
Researchers subjected adolescent boys and girls to testing designed to raise their stress levels and then measured cortisol levels in their saliva. The study included 111 boys and girls ages 8 to 13 that were screened for symptoms of depression using a behavior checklist. The findings showed that depression that raises cortisol levels was associated with obesity only in the girls studied.
The scientists are not certain why stress and depression leads to obesity in adolescent girls and not boys. According to the authors it may be the combination of estrogen and eating behaviors - girls eat more in response to stress.
"This is the first time cortisol reactivity has been identified as a mediator between depressed mood and obesity in girls," said Elizabeth J. Susman, the Jean Phillips Shibley professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State. "We really haven't seen this connection in kids before, but it tells us that there are biological risk factors that are similar for obesity and depression."
The children in the study were asked to perform a math problem. They also had to make up a story and tell a story in addition to being told they would be evaluated by judges. Cortisol levels were measured before and after the tests. Higher levels of cortisol from stress was associated with obese adolescent girls but not boys. The research suggests that treating stress and depression could also treat obesity that predominantly affects adolescent girls.