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Stress-related inflammation may increase risk for depression

Preexisting differences in the sensitivity of a key part of each individual’s immune system to stress confer a greater risk of developing stress-related depression or anxiety, according to a study conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and published October 20 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

depressionInflammation is the immune system’s response to infection or disease, and has long been linked to stress. Previous studies have found depression and anxiety to be associated with elevated blood levels of inflammatory molecules and white blood cells after a confirmed diagnosis, but it has been unclear whether greater inflammation was present prior to the onset of disease or whether it is functionally related to depression symptomology.

Specifically, the new study measured the cytokine IL-6 in non-aggressive mice prior to and after repeated social stress invoked by an aggressive mouse. They found that IL-6 levels were higher in mice that were more susceptible to stress than in “stress-resilient” mice. They also found the levels of leukocytes (white blood cells that release IL-6) were higher in stress susceptible mice before stress exposure. The researchers then validated the increased levels of IL-6 in two separate groups of human patients diagnosed with treatment-resistant Major Depressive Disorder.

The Mount Sinai study results revolve around the peripheral immune system, a set of biological structures and processes in the lymph nodes and other tissues that protect against disease. Inflammation is a culprit of many disease conditions when it happens in the wrong context or goes too far. Under normal conditions when the immune system perceives a threat (e.g. invading virus), inflammatory proteins called interleukins are released by white blood cells as an adaptive mechanism to limit injury or infection. However, in some instances, the immune system may become hyper responsive to an “insult,” leading to chronic dysregulation of inflammatory processes that ultimately cause disease.

“Our data suggests that pre-existing individual differences in the peripheral immune system predict and promote stress susceptibility,” says lead author Georgia Hodes, PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher in Neuroscience. “Additionally, we found that when mice were given bone marrow transplants of stem cells that produce leukocytes lacking IL-6 or when injected with antibodies that block IL-6 prior to stress exposure, the development of social avoidance was reduced compared with their respective control groups, demonstrating that the emotional response to stress can be generated or blocked in the periphery.”

Evidence in the current study is the first to suggest that Interleukin 6 response prior to social stress exposure can predict individual differences in vulnerability to a subsequent social stressor.

The research team, led by Scott Russo, PhD, Associate Professor of Neuroscience, exposed mice to two social stress models that are translational to social stressors experienced by humans. They measured blood levels of cytokines in non-aggressive mice before and after repeated social defeat stress invoked by exposure to an aggressive mouse for 10 minutes daily for 10 days or after 10 days of witnessing defeat of another mouse, a purely emotional stressor. The researchers classified the non-aggressive mice as susceptible based on a preference to spend more time near an empty cage rather than near a new mouse on a subsequent social interaction test, whereas resilient mice showed the opposite pattern. Interleukin-6 was the only cytokine significantly elevated in susceptible mice compared with unstressed and resilient mice.

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Want to improve long-term memory? This will help…

Think that improving your long term memory is all brain training and omega-3 supplements? Think again. A new study from researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta suggests that working out at the gym for as little as 20 minutes can improve long-term memory.

Memory exercisePrevious studies have shown that memory may be improved by several months of aerobic exercises, such as running, cycling or swimming. However, the findings of the new study – published in the journal Acta Psychologica – demonstrate that a similar memory boost can be achieved in a much shorter period.

Exercise protects against depression

A new study, published in the journal Cell, investigates the mechanisms behind the protection from stress-induced depression offered by physical exercise. 

Support for depression and mental healthExercise has well-known benefits against symptoms of depression.

Last year, an updated systematic review by UK researchers analyzed 35 randomized controlled trials on the subject involving a total of 1,356 participants diagnosed with depression.

The systematic review found that exercising was as beneficial for people with depression as psychological therapy or taking antidepressants. However, the researchers cautioned that higher quality studies are needed to confirm the results.

Scientists know that during exercise, there is an increase in skeletal muscle of a protein called PGC-1a1. The researchers behind the new study – from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden – wanted to see whether this protein increase might be implicated in the protective benefits of exercise.

Genetically modified mice with high levels of PGC-1a1 in skeletal muscle (that showed many characteristics of well-trained muscles) were exposed – along with normal mice – to a stressful environment in the lab. This involved being exposed to loud noises, flashing nights and having their circadian rhythm reversed at irregular intervals.

After 5 weeks of being exposed to mild stress, the normal mice developed symptoms of depression, whereas the genetically modified mice displayed no depressive behavior.

“Our initial research hypothesis was that trained muscle would produce a substance with beneficial effects on the brain,” says Jorge Ruas, principal investigator at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Karolinska Institutet.

Investigating the genetically modified mice further, the researchers made the discovery that – as well as the elevated levels of PGC-1a1 – the mice also had higher levels of KAT enzymes. These enzymes convert kynurenine – a substance formed during stress – into kynurenic acid. The exact function of this acid is not known, but patients with mental illness are known to have high levels of it.

Kynurenine conversion process ‘may be protective mechanism’

When normal mice were given kynurenine as part of the study, the researchers found that they exhibited symptoms of depression. However, when the elevated PGC-1a1 mice were given kynurenine, their behavior seemed unaffected.

The researchers also noticed that even when the PGC-1a1 mice were administered kynurenine, their blood did not show raised levels of kynurenine. This is because the KAT enzymes in the trained muscles of the PGC-1a1 mice were able to quickly convert it to kynurenic acid. The researchers think that this quick conversion process therefore, is a protective mechanism.

“In neurobiological terms, we actually still don’t know what depression is,” says Mia Lindskog, researcher at the Department of Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet. “Our study represents another piece in the puzzle, since we provide an explanation for the protective biochemical changes induced by physical exercise that prevent the brain from being damaged during stress.”

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Work-related stress is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes

depressionWorkplace stress can have a range of adverse effects on health with an increased risk of cardio-vascular diseases in the first line. However, to date, convincing evidence for a strong association between work stress and incident Type 2 diabetes mellitus is missing.

Risk of diabetes about 45 percent higher

As the team of scientists headed by Dr. Cornelia Huth and Prof. Karl-Heinz Ladwig has now discovered that individuals who are under a high level of pressure at work and at the same time perceive little control over the activities they perform face an about 45 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who are subjected to less stress at their workplace.

The scientists from the Institute of Epidemiology II (EPI II) at the Helmholtz Zentrum München (HMGU) in collaboration with Prof. Johannes Kruse from the University Hospital of Giessen and Marburg examined data prospectively collected from more than 5,300 employed individuals aged between 29 and 66 who took part in the population-based MONICA/KORA* cohort study. At the beginning of the study, none of the participants had diabetes, while in the post-observation period, which covered an average of 13 years, almost 300 of them were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The increase in risk in work-related stress was identified independently of classic risk factors such as obesity, age or gender.

Holistic prevention is important – also at the workplace

“According to our data, roughly one in five people in employment is affected by high levels of mental stress at work. By that, scientists do not mean ‘normal job stress’ but rather the situation in which the individuals concerned rate the demands made upon them as very high, and at the same time they have little scope for maneuver or for decision making. We covered both these aspects in great detail in our surveys,” explains Prof. Ladwig, who led the study. “In view of the huge health implications of stress-related disorders, preventive measures to prevent common diseases such as diabetes should therefore also begin at this point,” he added.

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Talk to an online counselor if you have work related stress.

Psychological stress ‘increases risk of stroke’

Depressive symptoms in particular, but also chronic stress in life, increase the risk of older people having a stroke or transient ischemic attack, says researchers, who found feelings of hostility, but not anger, were also a risk factor for cerebrovascular disease.

stroke risk factorsThe study of over 6,700 people aged between 45 and 84 years, reported in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke, compared the rates of full and mini-stroke between people of different psychological profiles rated via questionnaire.

Compared with people who had healthy psychological scores, those with the poorest scores showed the following percentage increases in their likelihood of suffering a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA):

  • 86% for a high score on depressive symptoms
  • 59% for the highest ratings of chronic stress.

On the effect of feelings of hostility – “which is a negative way of viewing the world” and was assessed by the person’s “cynical expectations of other people’s motives” – this resulted in a doubling of the risk versus people who did not score highly on this profile. Feelings of anger, however, had no effect.

Dr. Susan Everson-Rose, lead author and associate professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, says:

“There’s such a focus on traditional risk factors – cholesterol levels, blood pressure, smoking and so forth – and those are all very important, but studies like this one show that psychological characteristics are equally important.”

The chronic stress was measured using ratings for five different domains of the participants’ lives:

  • Personal health problems
  • Health problems of people close to them
  • Job or ability to work
  • Relationships
  • Finances.

Decade-long study covered six American cities

The data for this analysis came from a study across six US sites known as the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis.

The 6,749 participants were from a mix of ethnic backgrounds across Baltimore, MD, Chicago, IL, Forsyth County, NC, Los Angeles, CA, New York City, NY, and Saint Paul, MN.

The almost equal numbers of men and women showed no evidence of cardiovascular disease at the start of the research in the early 2000s.

During the first 2 years of the recruitment, the baseline ratings of depression and chronic stress were assessed, and the subjects were monitored for an additional 8.5 to 11 years.

During the study, 147 strokes and 48 TIAs occurred, and the researchers did a statistical analysis at the end to compare the rates of disease between different levels of psychological health.

Possible biological mechanisms

The authors say they have excluded the possibility that the stroke results could be explained by poor psychological health tending to have a bad effect on physical lifestyle (people experiencing “stress and negative emotions typically have more adverse behavioral risk profiles, and experience difficulty in maintaining healthy lifestyles and adhering to treatment recommendations”).

The lifestyle factors taken into account were:

  • Smoking
  • Physical activity
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Body mass index
  • Blood pressure.

Independent of these factors, if depression and stress can be assumed to have a direct causal effect on stroke, then, the authors offer only theoretical ideas about what the biological link might be.

“Stress and negative emotions activate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis,” they write, and this activation of the brain’s stress center influences blood clotting, among a number of other effects listed in the paper.

But these factors were not tested in the study. Another pathway that was tested, that of inflammatory effects, was tested to some extent, but “little evidence” was shown for it.

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Love and Addictions!

Could a Person in Active Addiction Love His/Her Partner the Way They Expect and Deserved to Be Loved?

Rodica MihalisRodica Mihalis

Addictions!!! Addictions everywhere, to various drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, sex, various harmful behaviors… just about anything that would product a quick HIGH to only leave the user wanting more, needing more and using/doing more! Addictions plague our lives, some in the open, some hidden under the mountains of lies and pretense.

Addictions run in my family and my husband’s, or to tell the truth, my ex-husband’s, who two years after our separation killed himself. Why? It is hard to tell, because suicide is a complex matter, and the ways depend on each person and not what those around do, or do not do.

When I first met my husband of almost 20 years, I knew he was smoking weed, I suspected he was using other, more potent drugs, but in my innocent mind, believed I was going to CHANGE HIM!!! Stop the addictions because they were bad for him and I was so skilled in showing him the “healthy” path, he would just turn away from addictions and follow my lead to a long, happy life. To put it plainly, I thought I could control the bad… I overestimated the evil…

At the beginning, it worked. One by one, he quit all the damaging substances. Later, I realized that perhaps, at the beginning, the needed “high” was coming from the novelty of the situation, from a new sexual  relationship and a new life that came with it: a home, children the admiration of those who thought he was “hopeless…”

Temporary!!! Yes, it was all temporary!

Unless an addicted person wants himself or herself to CHANGE!!! other people’s efforts are useless!

I don’t mean to “deflate” anyone, but YOU CANNOT CHANGE ANYONE PERMANENTLY!!! A PERSON MUST WANT TO CHANGE HIMSELF OR HERSELF!!! Changing  others is not possible. We only have control over ourselves and our attitude and what we do with our lives.

So… could a person in active addiction or forced to quit LOVE YOU?

My experience? May be in the beginning, when you are the new high, the novelty. But is this love or lust? Is it deep and lasting? Is it trustworthy?

Big scary spiderIn a few years, if the person was forced to quit because of YOU, it may turn to resentment, fear and ultimately lies, when your addicted partner starts hiding from you the fact  that they went back to their first love: the bottle, weed, cocaine, gambling, sexual encounters with no strings attached…  you might not even know! I didn’t. For years I thought his sudden sweats where the result of a  mysterious health condition and our lack of money, the result of a bad economy!  Until one day, when I received a letter from the IRS and I looked through our finances to find tens of checks written to cash… $5,000 each. And that was the day when I was pushed from the top of the tower of blind trust into the dark waters of fear and mistrust! The addictions won over our lives, our children, my love and trust. I was powerless and humbled.

Do they love YOU, the children you conceived together? The answer, as I experienced it, is, may be, but are they able to EXPRESS their love for you, their children? The love for the “addiction” comes FIRST!!!  You and your family compete with the addictions! Everything is done to cover the truth: lies, financial deceit, promises, lies again…

The only path I know of, which leads to a good like, is the person’s own will and decision to change. God gave us FREE WILL and CHOICES and CONSEQUENCES. Each person is only responsible and may only make theirs.

I humbly must admit that no one could “save” or “change” anyone else, unless they want to. A partner may support, encourage and be with someone who, on his/her own wants a change.

Control over others is a myth! Control over our own attitudes, is the truth!

Rodica Mihalis is a Privileged ProvenTherapist, an author, and blogger. Contact her for a counseling appointment.

Lack of Sleep may Increase the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

Insomnia increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease – Research Finding

Young and middle-aged adults who suffer from insomnia and other sleep disorders may be more likely to develop Alzheimer’s in later life, research in mice suggests.

insomnia

Insomnia may raise levels of amyloid beta in the brain. The protein is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Photograph: Getty

Chronic lack of sleep may promote the development of Alzheimer’sdisease, two new studies suggest. The findings may have implications for people suffering from insomnia and other sleep disorders.

Researchers monitored levels of amyloid beta, a protein fragment known to be linked to Alzheimer’s, in the brains of sleep-deprived mice with symptoms of the disease.

They found that preventing the mice from sleeping caused a 25% increase in amyloid beta levels. The peptide builds up in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers to form damaging plaques.

Amyloid beta levels were generally higher when mice were active than when they were sleeping, and animals that stayed awake longer had higher amounts of the peptide in their brains. The research will be published tomorrow in the journal Science.

Another study, also published in Science, links the finding to humans, showing that amyloid beta levels in the spinal fluid of volunteers increased when they were awake and fell during sleep.

Professor David Holtzman from the Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St Louis, US, where both studies were carried out, said: “The results suggest that we may need to prioritise treating sleep disorders not only for their many acute effects, but also for potential long-term impacts on brain health.”

The scientists also found a link with orexin, a protein involved in regulating the sleep cycle. When orexin was injected into the brains of mice, the animals stayed awake longer and levels of amyloid beta in their brains increased.

A drug that blocked the action of orexin led to a significant reduction in levels and increased the amount of sleep.

Three weeks of chronic sleep deprivation was enough to accelerate the deposition of amyloid plaque in the brains of the mice. But after two months of treatment with the orexin blocker, the deposits had shrunk by more than 80% in some cases.

“This suggests the possibility that a treatment like this could be tested to see if it could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Prof Holtzman.

He pointed out that as people age and their risk of Alzheimer’s increases, they usually sleep for shorter periods.

Further studies are being considered to see whether chronic sleep loss in young and middle-aged adults increases the risk of Alzheimer’s in later life.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, affecting an estimated 700,000 people in the UK. The figure is expected to double within a generation.

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The Benefits of a Spiritual Practice

Why I Recommend Yoga to My Clients

Sr Jamie BrownSister Jamie Brown

As a Holistic Wellness and Pastoral Counselor, whenever a client comes to me for counseling, whether online at ProvenTherapy.com, or here in person at Lothlorien House, I will nearly always recommend a spiritual practice.  I encourage yoga and other meditative practices not only for people specifically seeking spiritual guidance, but for everyone in general, regardless of the reason they came to me for counseling.

Now, I’m not talking about the gymnastic contortionist exercise that is popularly called “yoga” in the west, which consists of trying to force your body into a variety of strange and difficult poses; not that I have anything against it, and there may even be some physical benefits to doing the exercise, but it’s not really “yoga” per se.  In the classical sense, yoga is a spiritual practice of which the physical poses are just one aspect.  Yoga literally means “yoke” or “union” –  union with the Divine, or unity within oneself, body/mind/soul.  The particular type of yoga that I teach can be done by anyone, even the wheelchair-bound.  It involves a specific breathing technique coordinated with gentle arm movements.  More athletic students can combine this with the difficult poses if they wish, but it’s not necessary.  The breath is the key.

 anjali mudra You may well ask, what on earth does this have to do with therapy?  Everything, really!  My purpose as a counselor is to help you find clarity, wholeness and inner peace.  Certainly part of that process involves communication between us during our sessions, where I give you a safe place to share your concerns, ask questions that will shed light on the situation, help you gain insight, offer useful feedback, encouragement, and so forth.  That is why you attend therapy.  But, an equally important, if not more important part of the process, is what you do on your own, because ultimately you must find wholeness within yourself.  And that is where your spiritual practice comes in.
There are many different approaches; I favor the method shared above due to its being the simplest as well as the most powerful technique I have ever found.  Various other forms of meditation can also be used such as simply “following the breath,” gazing at a candle or spiritual image, visualization, or chanting mantra, the rosary, the Jesus Prayer, etc.  What they all have in common is helping the mind to settle down so we can find that peaceful place in the center of our being, the place where we are whole, where we know that we are loved, where ultimately we can experience a deep, abiding joy that is not contingent on external circumstances.  When we spend time in that Center on a daily basis, even just a few minutes each morning, healing takes place, anxiety is relieved, and we feel refreshed and strengthened to face the challenges in our life – whatever those particular challenges may be.  Natarajasana
 

tree pose

So, for example, if you come to me for marriage counseling I will advise you to do yoga, because in order to have a healthy relationship, there must be two reasonably whole people involved!  When each partner attends to their own spiritual practice, this will facilitate their ability to be good partners in the relationship.  In addition, more advanced yogic practices which are very enjoyable can be done together as a couple to promote sexual and emotional intimacy, as well as to rekindle the spark of romance.Some clients will object, “But, I’m not religious/ spiritual,” or else they are just not interested in learning a formal discipline.  That is ok, and they can still obtain similar benefits by doing something that appeals to them personally.
An example would be gardening, which is very therapeutic, getting one’s hands in the soil, planting the seeds, tending the plants, and enjoying the resulting flowers and/or vegetables.  Others enjoy walking in the woods or a garden labyrinth, or on the beach, or surfing.  This interaction with nature is spiritual in its own right.  The important thing is to have some consistent activity, whatever it may be, that allows you to make time for yourself and your own thoughts, where the world does not intrude and you can enjoy your own company, undistracted, and cultivate that inner silence and bliss.
Often clients will feel guilty at first when they try to take this time for themselves!  We, especially women, have been conditioned by society to feel that we must please everyone else and meet their demands, even if it requires neglecting ourselves.  We have been taught that spending time alone doing meditation, yoga or our own personal ritual is a selfish indulgence, a luxury that we cannot afford when others require our attention.  Some people even take a sense of pride in the martyrdom of self-neglect. backbend
 But, making time for our spiritual practice is not selfish.  We must understand that if we don’t nurture ourself, we will have nothing left to give to others.  When we make a daily practice of tapping into that center of peace, love and joy within, we will be healthier and more effective in our efforts, in harmony with ourself and others, which will in turn benefit the people around us as well.  And it is my pleasure to help you learn how to do that.

Normalized Immersion

The necessary change for eradicating fear based prejudice is normalized immersion.

Eric Holmes

Eric Holmes – Privileged ProvenTherapist

The more time we spend experiencing and being around things outside our common communities (people with disabilities, the elderly, minorities, homosexuals etc) the more normal and acceptable they become.

We must become an actual melting pot – break down nationalistic barriers, and fear based bubbles or communities of intolerance.  Our current such paradigms perpetuate our feelings of separation, heightening our anxiety and encouraging the ‘us and them’ mentalities that lead us to fear which moves us further away from connecting and progressively towards oppressive policies that harm ‘us’ by harming ‘them’.

We are all one – but we live in collectives like insulated church groups, like senior centers, disability homes, sports teams, tribes whereby the expression ‘we are all one’ comes to mean We (in this group) are all one… thus putting everyone else as other.

We must change the paradigm to a collective ‘us’. All of us, living breathing creatures, represented as citizens of Earth, working together for the collective benefit of us all.

Having a sense of purpose in life may increase lifespan

Past studies have indicated that many factors may help prolong life; eating nuts every day, increasing fiber intake and getting married are among a few. Now, new research suggests that having a “sense of purpose” in life may help us live longer.

Sense of purpose in lifeLead study author Patrick Hill, of the Carleton University in Canada, and colleague Nicholas Turiano, of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, NY, recently published their findings in the journal Psychological Science.

The researchers note that previous studies have already discovered an association between having a sense of purpose in life and lower risk of mortality. But Hill says there has been limited research looking at whether the benefits arising from a sense of purpose changes over time, such as after important transitions in life or over different periods of development.

To find out, Hill and Turiano analyzed data from over 6,000 participants who were a part of the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study. Subjects were followed for an average of 14 years.

The researchers focused on participants’ self-reported sense of purpose in life from statements – such as “some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them” – and other psychological factors that provided information regarding positive and negative emotions and relationships with others.

A sense of purpose ‘lowers mortality risk for all age groups’

During the follow-up period, 569 of the participants died. The team found that those who passed away had fewer positive relations and reported having a lower purpose in life than those who survived.

Overall, individuals who reported having a greater purpose in life had a lower mortality risk. The researchers say they were surprised to find that this association was true across all age groups during the follow-up period.

“There are a lot of reasons to believe that being purposeful might help protect older adults more so than younger ones,” says Hill. “For instance, adults might need a sense of direction more, after they have left the workplace and lost that source for organizing their daily events. In addition, older adults are more likely to face mortality risks than younger adults.”

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