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Oct
11
2007

How to Handle Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

For many, wintertime means holidays spent with loved ones, warm nights snuggled by the fire and cool, sunny afternoons on the slopes. However, for up to eight million Americans who suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), this time of year can be very difficult. In fact, even more people experience sub-syndromal SAD, a mild form of SAD often referred to as "the winter blues" or "the winter blahs."

The nonprofit organization Mental Health America answers questions about SAD so that you can help yourself and your clients deal with symptoms during this time of year.

What is SAD?
SAD is a mood disorder associated with depression and related to seasonal variations of light. Brought on by the shorter days and longer nights, symptoms disappear completely in the spring.

Who gets it?
People in northern geographic areas, where days are shorter, are most affected. Women get SAD four times more often than men and women in their thirties are most at risk. It is not common in children and, for adults, risk decreases with age.

What are the symptoms?
Symptoms may include sleep problems, lethargy, overeating, depression, social problems, anxiety, loss of libido and mood changes.

Is it treatable?
There are many effective options for treating SAD. Regardless of which treatment a person determines to work best, relief is possible.

How is it treated?
Primary treatment options include phototherapy (exposure to bright light for 30 minutes per day throughout the fall and winter) and increasing exposure to natural light. Antidepressant medications and psychotherapy are also possible treatments.

What should I do if I think I have SAD?
If a person worries they may have SAD, he or she should talk with a health professional.

Sep
25
2007

Acupuncture Eases Low Back Pain Better Than Medical Methods

Six months of traditional Chinese or even sham acupuncture treatment appeared more effective than conventional treatment ...

Aug
23
2007

The Spa at Mohonk Mountain House Debuts Nature-inspired Treatment

The Spa at Mohonk Mountain House announced a new nature-inspired treatment—Awaken the Senses—that helps to refresh the mind, body and spirit. The New Paltz, NY, spa’s treatment features an aromatherapy bath scented with rosemary and mint. 845-255-1000

Aug
20
2007

Nail Salon Employees' Mental Functioning May be Affected by Chemicals

Are the 300,000 nail salon workers in the United States -- many of them Asian -- being negatively affected by the chemicals they use on their customers?

According to the New York Times, two recent studies indicate that the danger does exist and may affect mental acuity, both in those who work in nail salons and those whose mothers did.

A Wayne State University study found that prolonged work in nail salons was associated with poor performance on a variety of tests to determine a person's attention acuity, mental processing speed, memory and verbal learning, the Times reports. And another study by University of Toronto scientists found similar problems in children who were prenatally exposed.

"The intensity of exposure for salon workers is 1,200 times what it would be for the average American," Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst for the non-profit Environmental Working Group, told the newspaper. "Immigrant women often don't understand the safety information."

Three compounds long used in nail salons -- toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate -- are on the denagrous list, the Times reports. Toluene is a colorless solvent, formaldehyde helps harden nails and dibutyl phthalate makes nail polish flexible. One company that makes the chemicals, OPI Products, has said it would begin removing toluene and dibutyl phthalate from its product list, the newspaper said.

HealthDay News

Jul
31
2007

The Ritz-Carlton, Naples Introduces Two Treatments

The Ritz-Carlton, Naples's spa introduced two new treatments: Drift Away, designed to soothe those who have trouble sleeping; and Body Training Systems, professionally choreographed exercise classes. 239-598-3300

Jul
31
2007

The Spa of Colonial Williamsburg Features Cultural Techniques

Incorporating techniques from colonial, African-American and American Indian cultures, The Spa of Colonial Williamsburg recently opened with multiple treatment and relaxation rooms. 800-688-6479

Jun
13
2007

Meditation Helps Memory Loss

Practiced by millions of individuals to reduce stress and anxiety, improve concentration, and even lower blood pressure, meditation is among the most commonly used alternative therapies in the world.  Earlier today, at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on the Prevention of Dementia in Washington, D.C., results from a University of Pennsylvania study were unveiled confirming for the first time that daily practice of meditation can improve cognitive function among individuals with memory complaints.
 
Researchers began their investigation by conducting a series of neurological and memory tests on each subject, who ranged in age from 52-70, with either a history of memory complaints or a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment.  Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) scans, a brain imaging technique which measures cerebral blood flow, were also conducted on each subject.  Following the initial tests, subjects were taught the techniques of Kirtan Kriya, the most widely practiced meditation in the Kundalini Yoga tradition, and instructed to practice a 12-minute meditation each day for eight weeks.
 
While follow up testing confirmed statistically significant improvements in memory among all of the study's subjects, the most significant outcome of the study was the stark contrast between the pre and post-training SPECT scans.  Follow up scans showed dramatic increases in blood flow to the posterior cingulate gyrus, the region of the brain associated with learning and memory.  It is the first region of the brain to decline in individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which helps to explain why the blood flow-producing meditation has such a profound impact on cognitive functioning.
 
“This exciting study confirms what we have been observing in clinical practice for many years, that meditation is one of the most effective tools to address memory loss,” said Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D., president and medical director of the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, the non-profit organization which sponsored the study.  “While we are planning additional research in this area, we can say today with confidence that daily meditation is recommended as part of an integrated brain longevity strategy to delay, even prevent, cognitive decline,” he continued.
 
Andrew Newberg, M.D., assistant professor of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and the study’s principal investigator, concurred.  “For the first time, we are seeing scientific evidence that meditation enables the brain to actually strengthen itself, and battle the processes working to weaken it,” said Newberg.  “If this kind of meditation is helping patients with memory loss,” he continued, “we are encouraged by the prospects that daily practice may even prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”
 
For more information, please visit the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation at www.alzheimersprevention.org.

May
23
2007

Naprapathy Eases Back and Neck Pain

A therapy called naprapathy -- which involves massage, stretching and manipulation of the spine and other joints -- is more effective at treating neck and back pain than some conventional methods, according to a Swedish study of 409 patients.

The patients were divided into two groups. One group received naprapathy while the other group received support and advice from doctors, which included the common approach of encouraging patients to move and live normally despite their back and neck pain, Agence France-Presse reported.

After 12 weeks, 57 percent of the patients who received naprapathy said they felt much better, compared with 13 percent of patients in the other group. The study also found that 69 percent of those in the naprapathy group said they had noticeably less pain, compared with 42 percent in the control group.

By the end of the study, 19 percent of naprapathy patients had totally recovered from their back and neck pain, compared with seven percent of those in the control group, AFP reported.

The findings were published in the Clinical Journal of Pain.

HealthDay News, May 22, 2007

Apr
09
2007

Tai Chi Boosts Immune System Against Shingles

Tai chi, an exercise that features slow martial arts-like movements and meditation, significantly improves the ability of older adults' immune systems to fight the virus -- varicella zoster -- that causes shingles, a new study says.

Shingles is a painful, blistery rash. About one-third of adults over age 60 develop shingles.

The 25-week study, conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles, involved 112 people, ages 59 to 86. The researchers found that Tai chi, by itself, increased immunity against varicella zoster to a level that was comparable to having received the standard vaccine against the virus.

When a person did Tai chi and received the vaccine, the immunity against the virus reached a level normally seen in middle age, said the study, which was published in the April issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The study results confirm that a behavioral intervention such as Tai chi can trigger a positive, virus-specific immune response, said lead author Michael Irwin, professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.

"These are exciting findings, because the positive results of this study also have implications for other infectious diseases, like influenza and pneumonia. Since older adults often show blunted protective responses to vaccines, this study suggests that T'ai chi is an approach that might complement and augment the efficacy of other vaccines, such as influenza," Irwin, who is also director of the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, said in a prepared statement.

HealthDay News, 4/6/2007

Mar
16
2007

Having a Sense of Humor May Mean a Longer Life

Adults who can laugh at life's ups and downs may live longer than those who have trouble cracking a smile, concludes a Norwegian study of about 54,000 people tracked for seven years.

At the start of the study, participants filled out questionnaires on how easily they found humor in everyday life and how important they felt it was to have a humorous perspective, USA Today reported.

People who scored in the highest 25% of humor appreciation were 35% more likely to be alive at the end of seven years than those in the bottom quarter, the study found.

The survival advantage of having a humorous outlook was especially noticeable in a subgroup of 2,015 cancer patients. Those with a healthy sense of humor were about 70%less likely to die than those with a weak sense of humor, USA Today reported.

The study was presented at a meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society.