Did you know that depression significantly increases your risk of death from heart disease, a major Norwegian study found it also increases the risk of death from stroke, pneumonia, influenza, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. The only major disease on which depression did not have an influence in the study was cancer.
Another study found that even after taking account age, education, and chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure, the greater the symptoms of depression in older people, the more likely they were to develop memory and learning problems over a seven-year period.
The link between depression, disease, and death? Amazingly, it’s chronic inflammation – that state of heightened immune system activity that doctors now believe is the underlying cause of so many diseases. It turns out that when you’re depressed, you’re also stressed, and your body releases great waves of inflammatory chemicals in response. This triggers your immune system to switch on – and remain on.
Depression is a complicated disease, a mix of the physical and mental that is often hard to sort out. Dysthymia (or low-grade depression), just creeps up on you. It’s the ‘common cold’ of mood, often due to external factors and their affect on your psyche. However, more serious depression is largely about chemical imbalances, caused by both psychology and physical factors.
The good news? When you successfully treat your depression, you erase its impact on your overall life expectancy.
When depression strikes, you need profession help. But there are many things you can do on your own to prevent depression from hitting you and to minimize its effect if it does.
Here are a few of ideas to help prevent depression.
Pick a walkable neighborhood to live in.
Instead of settling down in some cookie-cutter closed community, choose a home in a safe urban area in which you can walk to restaurants, theaters, and shops. A study of 740 older adults living in a major city found that living in “walkable” neighborhoods protected older men from depression better than less walker-friendly areas. It wasn’t just the exercise that played a role, researchers found, but something within the neighborhood itself, possibly the sense of connection it provided.
Take up yoga
Depression is in large part about the shortage of certain natural feel-good chemicals and hormones in your brain. Interestingly, brain scans of people who practice yoga show a nearly 30 percent increase in levels of an important mood-related chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) after just one hour-long yoga session.
Sign up for a marital satisfaction workshop.
It turns out that marriage is a great treatment for depression, with one major five-year study finding that depressed people who got married scored much lower on a depression test than those who stayed single. The improvement occurred regardless of how happy people were in their marriages or how much they fought with their spouses.
That is just a few ideas. Watch out for my next blog on Friday with some more ideas for avoiding depression and minimizing the negative effects of it.
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