Coffee may be able to lengthen your life and lower your risk of depression

The Washington Post

A cup of coffee being poured

© Richard Eskite Photography/Getty ImagesA cup of coffee being poured

The headlines about coffee’s impact on your health seem to change as quickly as the time it takes to drink a cup. Should you savor every drop or try to cut down? Here’s what we know right now:

It may lengthen your life.

True, coffee drinkers are more likely than nondrinkers to smoke, eat red meat, skimp on exercise and have other life-shortening habits, according to a large 2012 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

But even after adjusting for such factors, they found that people age 50 to 71 who drank at least one cup of coffee per day had a lower risk than nondrinkers of dying from diabetes, heart disease or other health problems when followed for more than a decade. That may be due to beneficial compounds in coffee such as antioxidants — which might ward off disease — and not caffeine. Decaf drinkers had the same results.

It may make you happier.

Coffee is not just a pick-me-up; it also has been linked to a lower risk of depression. In a study led by the Harvard School of Public Health that tracked 50,000 women for 10 years, those who drank four or more cups of caffeinated coffee per day were 20 percent less likely to develop depression than nondrinkers. Another study found that adults who drank two to four cups of caffeinated coffee were about half as likely to attempt suicide as decaf drinkers or abstainers. The researchers speculated that long-term coffee drinking may boost the production of “feel good” hormones such as dopamine.

It contains many good-for-you chemicals.

For most Americans who drink coffee, it provides more anti­oxidants than any other food, according to Joe Vinson, a chemistry professor at the University of Scranton. But it’s also a top source of acrylamide, a chemical whose link to cancer is being investigated.

It may cut your risk for Type 2 diabetes.

A recent Harvard-led study of more than 120,000 men and women found that those who increased the amount of caffeinated coffee they drank per day by more than one eight-ounce cup, on average, were 11 percent less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those whose coffee habits stayed the same. And those who decreased their daily intake by at least a cup per day, on average, were 17 percent more likely to develop the disease.

The method matters.

Cafestol, a compound in coffee grounds, has been found to increase levels of LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol. Brewing with a paper filter helps remove the substance. Coffee made other ways, including French press and espresso, has higher levels of cafestol.

It’s not for everyone.

More than 500 milligrams (about four to five cups) of brewed coffee per day can cause side effects including insomnia, irritability and restlessness, says registered dietitian Maxine Siegel, manager of product usability and foods at Consumer Reports. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, heart and muscles. So if you have an anxiety disorder, irritable bowel syndrome or heart disease, or if you take certain medications, watch your consumption or opt for decaf. And if you have acid reflux, you might want to skip coffee altogether because the acidity could exacerbate it.


Treatment for Depression

Depression effects an estimated one in ten Americans.  Depression has an array of symptoms which include fatigue, sleeping too much or too little, eating disorders, pain, failure to enjoy or complete tasks, along with sadness, feelings of worthlessness and even thoughts of suicide.  Depression effects each person uniquely and needs to be diagnosed and treated specifically for each patient.  Those with bi-polar disorder experience both depression and manic episodes.  Around 1% of the population suffers from bi-polar disorder.

depression map by state

There is still a stigma associated with depression that is unwarranted.  Receiving treatment for depression should be no different than seeking treatment for a broken arm.  Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain which effects mood control.  It can be treated through both drug therapy and cognitive therapy, with both being the most useful combination.  Depression as an illness is not “situational depression”.  Every one feels down from time to time when they go through a crisis, lose a job, have financial woes, or have other issues.  Depression as an illness is a pervasive mood caused by an imbalance that magnifies a bodies down feelings at all times.


Below is a very useful article from the January 2013 issue of Wellstyles, produced by the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) and Rebecca McGonigle.

Remember, if you are feeling any symptoms of depression, see your Doctor, get their advice.  You don’t have to suffer in silence or try to “pull yourself together.”  You can no more will away depression than you can will away high blood pressure.  With both, you take medicine if needed and make lifestyle changes to help ameliorate your condition.


Depression—Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Works When Drugs Don’t

Combining cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with antidepressants as treatment for people with depression is three times more likely to make them feel better when antidepressants alone fail to work. This news is very promising for the two thirds of those with depression who haven’t seen any improvements from antidepressant use alone. Depressive patients who do not respond to targeted medication tend to have recurring bouts of depression. Dutch scientists in a previous study in 2008, found that CBT is very effective among those with recurrent depression. Nicola Wiles, leader of the study from the University of Bristol, said, “Until now, there was little evidence to help clinicians choose the best next step treatment for those patients whose symptoms do not respond to standard drug treatments.”

depression 2

CBT is a form of therapy that tries to change a patient’s pattern of thoughts and behavior, it follows the belief that by doing so their overall mood will improve, relieving many of the symptoms of depression. The study monitored 469 adults from 73 general practices (aged 18-75) who went through 6 weeks of treatment on an antidepressant but didn’t see any improvement. They were split into two different groups, one group of 235 patients continued pure antidepressant medication treatment while the other group of 234 patients received usual care treatment along with CBT. The follow up period was 12 months.

They found that 46% of participants who received CBT as well as usual care saw improvements after 6 months compared to only 22% among those who solely used antidepressants. Those in the CBT group experienced less anxiety and were more likely to go into remission and experienced fewer and milder symptoms than those in the other group, with a reduction of depressive symptoms of at least 50%. Depression is the fourth leading disability in the world and one of the most common psychiatric disorders, it affects over 350 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and nearly 7% of adults in the USA develop it every year. The condition is predicted by 2030 to be the main cause of disability in developed nations.

Depression - In Men

Nicola Wiles added, “In many countries access to CBT is limited to those who can afford it. Even in the UK where there has been substantial investment in psychological services, many people who have not responded to antidepressants still do not receive more intensive psychological therapies such as CBT that take 12 to 18 sessions. In the USA, only about a quarter of people with depression have received any form of psychological therapy in the last 12 months.” The UK Government recently spent £500 million on the Improving Access To Psychological Therapies (IAPT) scheme, which according to Michael Otto from Boston University, USA, and Stephen Wisniewski from the University of Pittsburgh, USA, is very promising: “(These findings) add to the already impressive efficacy for CBT as assessed for other stages of treatment…If the broader IAPT vision is realized, it has the potential to serve as a model for depression treatment for other nations.”


CBT is a short-duration treatment mainly for specific mental problems, such as panic attacks, phobias, anxiety, eating disorder and depression. Psychologists say that CBT is a combination of cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy. Cognitive therapy focuses on our thoughts, beliefs and attitudes. Behavioral therapy focuses on how we behave in response to those thoughts. Some people may have acquired unhealthy ways of thinking and behaving over many years or decades. The CBT therapist, who uses a set of structured techniques, sets out to identify thinking that causes troublesome feelings and problematic behavior. The patient (client) is then taught how to change this thinking, resulting in more appropriate and positive responses.

For example: Negative thoughts usually end up upsetting us, leading to angry feelings, which then impact on our mood and behavior. If such thoughts are not countered with a more positive approach, a negative spiral will follow, which can distort a person’s perceptions of things. CBT tries to get the person to challenge their beliefs about themselves and what they are capable of, so that their view of things or their situation is more realistic.

A study carried out be researchers from John Hopkins University found that using computers late at night can be a cause of depression due to the exposure to bright light late at night which elevates levels of a certain stress hormone. Magnetic stimulation of the frontal lobs of the brain is effective at reducing symptoms of depression without the adverse side effects antidepressants have on sleep or arousal.


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Having Pets Makes You Healthier, Happier and Live Longer!

Everyone who has ever owned a pet knows the joy and companionship they provide.  There is a growing body of research that indicates our furry friends can contribute to our health and well being .  Pets can enhance mood, alleviate depression and anxiety, reduce stress and even encourage physical fitness.  There are many benefits to owning a pet.  Here are a few.

Improved Mood and Alleviating Depression/Anxiety:

Just the simple act of petting a cat, dog or any furry creature has been found to alleviate depression and anxiety.  Pets can help improve mild to moderate depression just by being there.  The stress of the day can evaporate for a little while as soon as Fido greets you bursting with happiness and unconditional love.  Aquariums are great options for those who can’t have a furry critter as a pet.  Studies with Alzheimer’s patients have resulted in lowered anxiety just from looking at an aquarium for a few minutes.


Healthier Heart:

Owning a pet can result in lower blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol.  One study conducted in Australia showed that men who own pets have less signs of heart disease.  As mentioned earlier, pets help reduce anxiety which is essentially stress.  Lower stress levels help to keep blood pressure under control.  Dog owners can especially benefit since they are more likely to exercise with their dog which ultimately enhances heart health.

Lower Incidence of Allergies:

Contrary to popular belief, children raised around furry pets or farm animals have a lower chance of developing allergies and asthma.  One study showed that infants with a dog in the home had less occurrences of allergies.


Physical Fitness for Dog Owners:

Dog owners are more likely to get the minimum recommended 150 minutes of exercise every week.  It’s easy to get that amount of exercise in when the dog needs to be walked every day.  Even playing fetch or tug of war with Fido increases physical fitness levels .

Pets just simply add fun and enjoyment to our lives.  Be it a cat, dog, guinea pig, hamster or fish, the right pet is out there for everyone.

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