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Quick Way To Lessen Stress

Helping someone else - even if that help is as simple as holding a door open or giving directions - can boost your mood and lower stress. A study from Yale University School of Medicine examined how helpful behavior affected daily stress at work or at home. Researchers recruited 77 adults, ages 18 to 44 for the 14-day study. The participants were asked to report daily in response to an automated phone reminder on the stressful events that had occurred that day and whether they had helped someone out. They also rated their mental health daily using a sliding scale ranging from 0 (poor) to 100 (excellent). The results suggested that helping others improved the participants’ daily well being – the more helpful they were, the better they felt about themselves. The researchers noted that laboratory based experiments have shown that providing support to others can help individuals cope with stress and increase positive emotion. This study was aimed at determining whether helping behaviors yield these benefits in the real world. The researchers also suggested that you may be able to diffuse holiday stress in small ways by helping someone out.

What’s Your Main Source of Mental Exercise? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed using brain exercises as a way of warding off dementia and Alzheimer's disease: Can Brain Exercise Really Keep You Sharp? Check out the article and let us know what brain exercises you do for your mental health.

Acupuncture for Depression

Acupuncture worked better than medicationAntidepressants used in conjunction with acupuncture worked better than medication alone in a newly published study from the U.K.’s University of York. Investigators there also tested counseling combined with antidepressants, which they found worked as well as acupuncture and drugs.

The researchers randomized a group of 755 men and women being treated with antidepressants for moderate to severe depression to receive either 12 weekly acupuncture sessions, 12 weekly counseling sessions or the medication alone. After three months, the team reported a “significant reduction” in average depression scores for patients who underwent acupuncture or counseling in addition to antidepressants compared to the group that received medication as the only treatment. Improvements in the acupuncture and counseling groups continued to be observed for up to six months, but at nine and 12 months there were no further gains in scores indicating recovery from depression among these patients. The study was designed to evaluate how effective acupuncture and counseling would be for patients with moderate to severe depression who remained in primary care.

My take? I’m not surprised that acupuncture worked well for some of the patients in this study – the World Health Organization has recognized it as an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression. While not addressed by the U.K. study, I believe that there is no better therapy than regular aerobic exercise for more immediate, symptomatic treatment of mild to moderate depression. Many studies have demonstrated the efficacy of a daily workout for improving emotional health and boosting self-confidence. For best results, I recommend 30 minutes of continuous activity at least five days a week.

Source:
Hugh MacPherson et al, “Acupuncture and Counselling for Depression in Primary Care: A Randomised Controlled Trial,” PLoS ONE September 24, 2013

What’s Your Strategy for Avoiding Alzheimer’s Disease? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed the benefits of including curcumin in the diet to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease: Curcumin for Alzheimer's? Check out the article and let us know what you do to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease!

What Volunteering Can Do for Your Health

Volunteering can improve your mental health and lengthen your lifeHere’s the latest on the health benefits of lending a helping hand in your community: volunteering can improve your mental health and lengthen your life. A research team from the U.K.’s University of Exeter Medical School combined data from 40 scientific studies to conclude that volunteering is good for you, but they note that the question of whether volunteering is actually the cause of increased health and longevity has not been answered. Some of the studies reviewed by the Exeter team show a 20 percent reduction in all-cause mortality among volunteers compared to non-volunteers. Other health benefits reported by the volunteers who participated in the studies reviewed include lower levels of depression, enhanced well-being and higher ratings of life satisfaction. Nonprofessionals in the various studies claimed that their motives for volunteering were to give something back to their communities or help an organization that has helped them, but the researchers wrote that volunteering can also be used to gain work experience or to widen social circles. More research is needed to establish that the health benefits associated with volunteering actually stem from the practice of volunteering, the investigators said. Their study was published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.

Source:
Suzanne H Richards et al, “Is volunteering a public health intervention? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the health and survival of volunteers.” BMC Public Health, 2013

Secret Danger of Retirement

Working later in life may reduce Alzheimer's riskThe longer you postpone retirement, the lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia may be. This finding comes from a French study of more than 400,000 retirees. For each additional year of work, the risk of dementia dropped by 3.2 percent, researcher Carole Dufouil, Ph.D., reported at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Boston July 15, 2013. The French investigators reviewed records on retirees, most of whom had been self-employed as shopkeepers or craftsmen, to establish the risks of dementia linked to age at retirement. After adjusting for other risk factors, the study showed that individuals who retired at 65 were 14.6 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than those retiring at 60.

How’s Your Memory? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed statins and their effects on memory: Are Statins Messing with Your Memory? Check out the article and let us know how you would rate your memory!