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This Is One of the Best Ways to Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (It’s Free!)

Feeling blue? Up to a whopping 20 percent of us suffer from SAD—seasonal affective disorder—each year when the winter comes around. Now, a new study has revealed how we can treat it.

As the season shifts to a cold, murky winter, you may find that your mood mirrors the world around you. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depressive disorder triggered by the changing of the seasons. It typically kicks in toward the end of fall and can last for months at a time. The symptoms manifest as low moods, tiredness, and a difficulty concentrating, as well as these additional signs of SAD. Now, researchers in Vermont think they may have found the most effective solution to this condition yet, and it doesn’t cost a thing.

Between 4 and 6 percent of the population battles with SAD, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians—that’s more than 14 million Americans. Another 10 to 20 percent of people have a mild form of SAD. The most common SAD treatment is light box therapy. The strong light produces by the box mimics natural sunlight, increasing a person’s serotonin levels and boosting their well-being. Yet it comes with downsides: The therapy doesn’t always work, a box can be costly, and you may have to sit in front of it for long periods of time.

According to a study by the University of Vermont, there may be a more effective way to combat the onset of SAD: talking through it. The researchers recruited 177 participants, all of whom were suffering from the disorder. Over the course of six weeks, each individual was treated using either light therapy or a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) designed to challenge and change their negative thoughts about winter darkness. This is how CBT works to change your behavior.

The researchers checked back in with the participants two winters after the initial treatment. Nearly half of people who tried the light box therapy reported a recurrence of their depression, while only 27 percent of the people who had CBT suffered a recurrence. The results seem to suggest that using CBT and talking about the issue may be a more effective long-term strategy than using a gadget to simulate daylight.

“The degree of improvement was substantial,” writes Kelly Rohan, a psychology professor at the University of Vermont and the lead author on the study. While both treatments seemed to help considerably, CBT had longer lasting benefits, say the researchers.

The core idea of CBT is that a person can change the way they feel and act by shifting the way in which they perceive a situation. The great thing about this type of therapy is that if you sign up with a professional, it may be covered by your insurance. You can also find ways to direct your own CBT through free online resources, like Living Life to the Full, or by using an app like Pacifica. For more ways to ward off seasonal depression, check out these 15 other solutions to beat SAD.

BY CHARLOTTE GRAINGER
source: www.rd.com
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Cold Weather Increases Heart Failure Risk, Says New Study

Dropping temperatures and changes in atmospheric pressure can lead to an increase in the risk of heart failure for elderly people, according to a large-scale study – and more care needs to be taken to counter the effects.

Previous research has shown that changes in the weather can affect the health of vulnerable people – for example, heat waves and cold spells have been shown to increase disease and even lead to death in people from low-income neighborhoods. The new study, led by researchers at Université Laval and Université de Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada, reveals the impact of changes in temperature and air pressure on heart failure patients.

“We know that doctors rarely take the weather forecast into account when treating or making recommendations to heart failure patients,” said Prof. Pierre Gosselin, lead author of the study from Universitié Laval in Canada. “So with the extreme differences in temperature due to climate change, we wanted to show how the weather is becoming a more relevant factor. Our study shows that exposure to cold or high-pressure weather could trigger events leading to hospitalization or death in heart failure patients.”

Treating heart failure patients is expensive: according to the Institut Canadien d’Information sur la Santé, people over 65 accounted for 78 percent of patients with the most expensive hospitalization costs per diagnosis between 2011 and 2012 in Canada. Of these, the cost of heart failure ranked third and was estimated at CAN$276 million.

In the new study, the team assessed 112,793 people aged 65 years and older that had been diagnosed with heart failure in Quebec between 2001 and 2011. Patients with heart failure were identified in the Quebec Integrated Chronic Disease Surveillance System (QICDSS) database using the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).

The participants were followed for an average of 635 days. During this time, the researchers measured the mean temperature, relative humidity, atmospheric pressure and air pollutants in the surrounding environment and studied the data to see if there was an association.

The results showed a higher risk of hospitalization or death in the winter period of the year (October to April) compared to the summer period (May to September).

The researchers noticed that the risk to experience hospitalization or death of heart failure cause was increased of 0.7 percent for every 1°C decrease in the mean temperature of the previous seven days. They also found that the risk of heart failure incident increased by 4.5 percent for each increase of 1 kPa in atmospheric pressure.

In other words, a drop of 10°C in the average temperature over seven days, which is common in several countries because of seasonal variations, is associated with an increased risk in being hospitalized or dying of heart failure of about 7 percent in people aged over 65 diagnosed with the disease.

During the follow-up period, 21,157 heart failure events occurred, representing 18.7 percent of the people studied. In total, 18,309 people were hospitalized and 4,297 died. In some cases, hospitalization and death occurred the same day. The researchers calculated this to 0.03 percent of patients experiencing an incident per day, which extends to about 1500 hospitalizations or deaths over a 10-year period, or 150 events per year.

Prof. Gosselin and the team suggest that elderly with heart failure should be given support and access to preventive measures, especially since managing heart failure is expensive for society. He commented:

“Our study suggests that exposure to cold or high-pressure weather could trigger events leading to hospitalization or death in heart failure patients. This means that they should avoid exposure to fog and low cloud weather in winter as they often accompany high pressure systems.”

Sep 28, 2017