Around this time of the year, many people start to act differently. Some people, of course, are incredibly chipper because it's the holidays and look forward to receiving gifts, being with family and/or friends, and getting those bonuses. ( OK, scratch that last one. ) Others, however, act in the opposite manner; they, in fact, become profoundly depressed.
This sense of sadness that can accompany the season's shortening days is termed seasonal affective disorder ( SAD ) or "winter blues." The typical symptoms of SAD include depression, an increased need for sleep, a craving for sweets, and weight gain. These signs typically start in the fall, peak in the winter and ( not surprisingly ) end in the spring, when days lengthen. People who work in buildings without windows may experience SAD-type symptoms at any time of the year. Others with SAD have mild or intermittently severe periods of mania ( hyperactivity ) during the spring or summer. If the signs are mild, no treatment may be necessary. If they are more serious, however, a mood stabilizer ( e.g., lithium ) may be warranted.
The SAD Facts
About 70 to 80 percent of those with SAD are women. The most common time of onset is in one's 30s, but cases of these blues occurring as early as childhood have been reported ( and successfully treated ) . Interestingly, the incidence of SAD increases with increasing latitude up to a point.
There seems to be a connection between a person's innate vulnerability and his degree of light exposure. Someone, for instance, might feel OK all year in Chicago but may develop SAD upon moving to Toronto. Another person may show symptoms in Baltimore but have fewer problems after going to Miami. Some individuals who work long hours inside office buildings with few windows may experience symptoms all year round. A few people may notice mood swings during long stretches of cloudy weather.
Let There Be Light
Since winter depression is often caused by a body's reaction to a lack of sunlight, light therapy is a viable option for treating the disorder.
If a physician suggests light therapy, a person can use a specialty light box or a light visor worn like a cap. ( Granted, it may not be fashionable but, hey, it works. ) A person sits in front of the light box or wears the light visor for a certain length of time each day. Light therapy usually takes about 30 minutes each day throughout the fall and winter. Stopping too soon can allow the symptoms to creep back.
When used properly, light therapy seems to have few side effects; said side effects may include eye strain, headaches, fatigue and irritability. For those with manic-depressive disorders, skin that's sensitive to light or eye disorders, use light therapy very carefully.
By the way, people shouldn't get the "bright" idea that tanning beds can treat SAD. The light sources in those beds are high in ultraviolet rays, which can harm both eyes and skin.
Outdoor light, even when the sky is partly cloudy, provides as much or more light than a light box. Studies have shown improvements in SAD when people stayed outside for an hour each day.
Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors ( such as Paxil or Zoloft ) can be effective in battling SAD--and even some cases of PMS. Some people might prefer taking the pill; it's certainly less time-consuming.
Daily exercise also can be beneficial, especially if it's done outside. Regarding food, eating a balanced diet can improve one's mood … and eliminate that need for sweets. As a nice side effect, a person will tend to lose weight.
Psychotherapy can help look for negative assumptions and expectations. It can also help target difficulties that one may have made due to his affliction with SAD. Some people actually require a combination of light therapy, medication and psychotherapy.
Sources: Northern County Psychiatric Associates; Go2Net.org; Familydoctor.org .
Why a Thong
May Be So Wrong
That thong-th-thong-thong-thong may be fashionable, but you may be paying a price for baring your cheeks and avoiding those panty lines. Doctors have noticed an increasing number of people with recurring urinary tract and vaginal infections connected with the style. According to Dr. Jill Rabin ( of New York's Long Island Jewish Medical Center ) , a thong "is like a subway car. The bacteria go from the rectum to the vagina and to the bladder. Normal healthy patients shouldn't really be impacted by this, but anyone who is predisposed may have an increased incidence."
It's not the first time fashion has caused health problems … and it probably won't be the last. Other fashion-related problems over the ages include:
-- Tight pants: They can cause a low sperm count, rashes and infection … and, yes, they include those biker shorts you like to wear when you're "exercising" down Halsted.
-- Body piercings and tattoos: These can trigger allergies and can cause the transmission of hepatitis C. Ask Pamela Anderson.
-- High-heel shoes: These banes of many women's lives can cause foot, knee and back problems.
-- Big shoulder bags: They may look sharp, but lugging these can also give rise to back and shoulder problems.
-- Corsets: Not too many folks wear these now, but these devices can cause fainting, shortness of breath and atrophy ( deterioration ) of the back muscles.
Source: American Medical News
When it comes to dessert, chocolate is numero uno for many folks. No matter how you serve it ( warm, cool, smooth, chunky, etc. ) , it's the ultimate indulgence.
However, besides its taste, there's more good news about chocolate; it's actually nutritious. Cocoa contains flavonoids, compounds that can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Chocolate and cocoa also contain antioxidants, natural compounds that fight cancer.
However, as too many of us know already, this lovely concoction can be loaded with calories. So, in order for you to enjoy chocolate guilt-free, here's a nice low-calorie recipe:
( Serves eight; Prep time--15 minutes; Cook time--12 minutes; Chill time--two hours ) :
-- One 12-ounce can low-fat ( 2 percent ) evaporated milk, divided
-- One-third cup granulated sugar
-- Two teaspoons granulated instant espresso powder ( or three teaspoons instant coffee )
-- One-eighth teaspoon coarse salt
-- One-quarter cup mini chocolate chips
-- Two tablespoons corn starch
-- One and one-half tablespoons water
-- One-quarter cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-- Low-fat whipped topping
-- Eight chocolate-covered coffee beans
Combine one cup of milk with sugar, instant espresso powder and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring the mix just to a boil, whisk in mini chocolate chips and turn off the heat.
In a medium bowl, stir together corn starch and water until it's completely smooth. Blend in the reminder of the milk. Sift the cocoa powder over the bowl and whisk the mix until it's free of lumps.
Whisk the hot-milk mixture to blend the melted chocolate chips. Transfer to the cocoa mixture and whisk to combine. Then, transfer this concoction back to the saucepan and cook over low heat until the pudding has thickened ( about two minutes ) .
Ladle the pudding into eight pudding or espresso cups. Lay a small piece of plastic wrap over the surface of each pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for two hours or until set.
Just before serving, top each pudding with whipped topping and garnish with a chocolate-covered coffee bean.
Nutrition score per serving: 155 calories; 27% fat ( 5 g; 3 g saturated ) ; 62% carbs ( 24 g ) ; 11% protein ( 4 g ) ; 1 g fiber; 132 mg calcium; 2 mg iron; 92 mg sodium.
Source: Shape magazine.
Sites of the Month:
1. Ken Alan Fitness ( http:// www.kenfitness.com ) : Ken is a nationally known fitness consultant who's conducted a host of workshops and training sessions, including "Kreative Ken Khoreography" and "2002: A Double-Step Odyssey." ( Alllllrighty, then… ) However, the main thrust of this site involves the assortment of fitness music and videos up for sale. Choose from classic cardio music ( like "Taking Love Into My Own Hands," which sounds like it's geared for, um, private pleasure ) , specialty tunes, and mid-tempo selections.
2. 3 Fat Chicks on a Diet! ( http:// www.3fatchicks.com/ ) : Contrary to popular belief, not everyone who has a diet-related site is as thin as Callista Flockhart. This Rubenesque trio provide dieting tips and even allow you to look at their own journals.
I'm at firstname.lastname@example.org .