Never Ignore Depression

Never Ignore Depression

Studies show that depression is underreported. People aren’t getting the help they need, sometimes because they don’t know the warning signs or where to turn, or are embarrassed because of the stigma that can still surround mental health issues.

But the numbers are too great to ignore. Up to 26 percent of U.S. women and up to 12 percent of men will experience major depression at some point in their lives. In any given year, that’s 16 million American adults.

As many as one in 33 children and one in eight teens also struggle with depression — that’s 9 percent of kids aged 12 to 17 in any given year. And new research suggests these numbers may be even higher.

It’s important to recognize signs of depression in yourself or a loved one, including a child, and to get help from a doctor.

Signs of depression:

  • Persistent sadness, anxiety or an “empty” feeling
  • Hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and favorite activities
  • A lack of energy and persistent fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early morning awakening or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Physical symptoms including pain
  • Thoughts of death or contemplating suicide
  • Take immediate action if you or a loved one is having suicidal thoughts. If you’re thinking of harming yourself or attempting suicide:

Call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.
Call the toll-free 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Ask a family member or friend to help you make these calls or take you to the hospital.
The stigma around depression exists, in part, because it’s poorly understood. However, one study found that once people are educated about it — that it’s an illness and not something those affected bring on themselves — they are more likely to change their thinking and accept that depression can and should be treated.

Family members of someone going through depression should become educated about the disease because they make up an important part of the depressed person’s support network and can help prevent a recurrence.

Posted by
Trish Cruz, RN

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Healthy-Fat Foods

Healthy-Fat Foods

Naturally fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and albacore tuna are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These are “good” fats that help keep your heart healthy. They may also help keep your brain sharp, especially as you get older. The American Heart Association suggests eating two servings of fatty fish a week. A serving is 3 ounces — about the size of a deck of cards. Try it baked, grilled, or poached.

Eat it on your sandwich, or serve it up in guacamole. Tasty avocado is good for your heart and may help with osteoarthritis symptoms, thanks to healthy fats.

An extra benefit? When you eat avocado with other foods, it helps your body better absorb their nutrients. Half a medium avocado is one serving and about 115-160 calories.

Little pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds pack a big punch. They have “good” fats that can lower cholesterol. In general, fats that come from plants are healthier than those from animal products. “Bad” fats are in foods like fatty cuts of meat, full-fat dairy products, and some packaged foods. Check food labels to see how much fat, and what type, you’re getting. Limit saturated fats and avoid trans fats.

From hazelnuts to pecans, all nuts are good for your heart. Walnuts, especially, deliver heart-healthy fats. But don’t overdo it. Just because the fats are healthy doesn’t mean you can eat as much as you want. A serving is 1 ounce. That’s about 14 walnut halves, 23 almonds, 28 peanuts, 18 cashews, and 19 pecan halves.

Olive Oil
Whether you’re cooking or dressing your salad, try olive oil. It’s high in good fat. Remember, though: It’s always smart to watch how much fat — even good fat — you eat. So cook with less oil than a recipe calls for. Or use an olive oil spray. In baking, you can use applesauce for half the oil to cut back on some fat and shave calories.

Eggs are a great source of inexpensive protein. A large, hard-boiled egg has 5.3 grams of fat, most from healthy fats. Some eggs are also enriched with extra omega-3s. It will say so on the carton.

Ground Flaxseed
As part of a healthy diet, good-for-you fats can help make your skin look great — plumper and younger. Plus, they add fiber and can help ease inflammation. Get good fats by sprinkling a teaspoon of ground flaxseed on your salad or your cereal, or use it when you’re baking.

Whether they’re kidney, Great Northern, navy, or soybeans, adding beans to your diet can be good for you mentally and physically. Beans have omega 3s, which may help with mood.

Omega-3-Fortified Foods
There are also many foods that have added omega-3s to make them healthier. You can find enriched milk and eggs, bread, and breakfast bars, for example. Check product labels to make sure. Plus, you may get more health benefits by getting omega-3s through fortified products than from a supplement.

Your Guide to Eating Healthy Carbs

Your Guide to Eating Healthy Carbs

Make the Right Choice
Think of carbs as raw material that powers your body. You need them to make sugar for energy.

They come in two types: simple and complex. What’s the difference? Simple carbs are like quick-burning fuels. They break down fast into sugar in your system. You want to eat less of this type.

Complex carbs are usually a better choice. It takes your body longer to break them down.

Read the “Fine Print”
Nutrition labels offer an easy way to spot added sugar, the source of simple carbs that you want to cut back on. Just look for words that end in “ose.”

The chemical name for table sugar is sucrose. Other names you might see include fructose, dextrose, and maltose. The higher up they appear in the ingredients list, the more added sugar the food has.

Just Avoid Simple Carbs?
Well, it’s not quite that easy. Foods that have been processed with added sugars generally aren’t as healthy a choice, it’s true. But simple carbs occur naturally in some foods that are part of a balanced diet. For example, most milk and other dairy products contain lactose, or milk sugar.

Get Smart About Bread
Does your loaf have the complex carbs that are good for you? It depends on the grain used to make it.

Look for bread made with whole grains. Barley, rye, oats, and whole wheat are some top choices.

What About Fruit?
They’re sweet, which must mean they have simple carbs, right? That’s true, but they’re still a healthy choice. They’ve got fiber in them, which helps slow the breakdown of sugar. Plus, most are a good source of nutrients like vitamin C and potassium.

Fruits with skins you can eat, such as pears, apples, and berries, are especially high in fiber.

Watch What You Drink
That soda you’re sipping could be a sneaky source of simple carbs. That’s because non-diet sodas contain a sweetener, often high-fructose corn syrup. It’s right there on the nutrition label, usually one of the first ingredients listed. Twelve ounces of a regular soda can pack 39 grams of carbs, all coming from the sugar in it.

Think Fall
Many of the foods you associate with autumn are great sources of complex carbs.

Try starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, squash, and pumpkin.

Sweeten With Caution
You can quickly load up on simple carbs if you’re not careful about what you stir into your hot drink or put on your oatmeal. Go easy on brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, and molasses.

And don’t overdo it on fancier-sounding sweeteners, like turbinado and agave nectar. They’re also sources of simple carbs.

Bring on the Beans
They’re a good way to get complex carbs. Whether you choose kidney, white, black, pinto, or garbanzo, beans have lots of fiber.

While you’re on that aisle in the grocery store, think about picking up some lentils or split peas, another way to add complex carbs to your diet.

A Guilt-Free Treat
It seems too good to be true, but you can believe it: Popcorn is a whole grain. That means it’s got complex carbs and fiber. Your healthiest choice is air-popped, without any added fat and salt. Season it with your favorite dried herbs and spices instead.

Great Grains to Try
Maybe you’ve heard of quinoa, the whole grain from South America. Some other new-to-you whole grains are becoming more widely available, and they can be a good choice to get complex carbs in your diet.

Some grains to look for are millet, a staple from Africa and Asia, bulgur, which is used in Middle Eastern dishes, and triticale, a hybrid of wheat and rye.

Which Kind of Rice?
You’re ordering Chinese food and the restaurant asks, “White rice or brown?” Which should you choose?

White rice is a “refined” grain, meaning it has lost some key nutrients during processing, like fiber. But brown rice is a whole grain, a good source of complex carbs.

Surprising Causes of Chest Pain

Surprising Causes of Chest Pain

Panic Attack

This can feel like a heart attack. Besides chest pain, you may be short of breath, feel your heart race, or go numb in your hands or feet. Some people feel dizzy or worry that they’re about to die. A stressful event can bring it on, or it could come out of the blue. Panic attacks can be hard to manage on your own. They can get worse if you don’t get help with them.



If you have chest pain along with a painful rash and blisters on your chest or back, you could have this illness, which is caused by the chickenpox virus. If the nerves of your chest wall are affected, the pain there can be severe. Shingles can clear up on its own, but your doctor can give you medicine to help with your symptoms or make it go away faster.


Underneath your lungs, there’s a small area where your stomach and esophagus (your food pipe) meet. Coughing, heavy lifting, or straining during bowel movements can put pressure on this area. If there’s too much pressure, part of your stomach can get pushed into the opening. That’s called a hiatal hernia. Chest pain is a symptom, and so is stomach or esophagus pain, bloating, belching, and a sour taste in back of your throat. Most hernias don’t need treatment, but some people eventually need surgery.


These are hardened bits of digestive fluid in your gallbladder. They can be as small as a grain of sand or as big as a golf ball. If one blocks the way between your gallbladder and bile ducts (which carry waste from your body), you can get a sudden pain in your stomach that you also feel in your chest, back, or right shoulder. This is most likely to happen at night after a heavy meal.



If acids from your stomach go up into your esophagus, you can feel pain not only in your chest, but in your jaw and throat as well. Alcohol, smoking, aspirin and other noninflammatory drugs, and citrus fruit can all be triggers. So can eating too close to bedtime. Call your doctor if you burp and don’t feel better, or you have other symptoms like nausea or sweating.


Muscle Pain

Being more active or exercising harder than normal can strain the muscles in your chest wall. You may notice that your pain is worse when you’re sitting or standing a certain way. Taking a deep breath or pressing on the sore area might hurt. Scale back your workout and don’t lift heavy things until the pain gets better. A heating pad or ice pack on the area can help.



This rather rare sexually transmitted disease  (STD) can cause problems with your lungs. Symptoms include a skin rash, fatigue, headache, and muscle pain. In some people, it also causes extra fliud to build up around your lungs. This can cause sharp chest pain and a cough with mucus. Antibiotics will help clear it up.


Chest tightness is a symptom of this, along with coughing, wheezing, and struggling to catch your breath. It can be triggered by many different things, from dust and pet hair to certain things in food or physical activity. Medication can help keep your airways open and help when symptoms flare up.

Pinched Nerve

If you’ve pinched a nerve in your neck or collarbone, you may feel pain in your chest or back. Too much pressure on a nerve can keep it from working the way it should. You could have a tingling “pins and needles” feeling, and your skin could become very tender. This usually can be treated with over-the-counter pain relief and steroid shots. If that doesn’t help, surgery may be needed to ease the pressure.


Pulmonary Embolism

This is when a blood clot forms somewhere in your body, then works its way into your lungs. It keeps your lungs from getting enough blood. Your chest may hurt when you breathe deeply, cough, eat, or bend over. You may notice that the pain gets worse when you’re active and doesn’t get better when you stop. If this happens, get medical help right away. Medicine can keep the clot from getting bigger and prevent more from forming.


Blocked Spleen

This organ lives behind your left ribcage and helps protect your body from infection. It’s rare, but blood flow to your spleen can get blocked because of a blood clot, infection, or disease. If that happens, the tissue there can start to die. This is called a splenic infarction. Some people have no symptoms, but others have chest pain, often on their left side. It can get better with medication but can become serious if it’s not treated.



If your body doesn’t send enough blood to your heart, you’ll feel a squeezing pressure in your chest. That’s called angina. Some people also feel pain in their shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, and back. It can be triggered by stress, heavy meals, or exercise. Or it could be a sign of another heart problem. You’re more likely to have it if your cholesterol or blood pressure is high, you have diabetes, or you don’t exercise or eat healthy food.



If taking a deep breath, coughing, or sneezing brings on chest pain, the lining of your lungs may be inflamed. Called pleurisy, this can be caused by a virus, bacterial infection, or certain drugs you take. Lots of fluids and over-the-counter ibuprofen, like Advil or Motrin, can help. But if you also have a fever or your pain lasts more than a few days, check in with your doctor.


This is when the tissue in your rib cage gets inflamed because of arthritis, an injury, or infection. You may feel a sharp, aching pain or pressure in your sides. It could get worse after you work out or move your torso a lot.  There’s no cure, and it can last up to a year. Over-the-counter acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen can help. A warm compress or heating pad at the site of the pain will give relief, too.

Heart Attack

Chest pain is the most common heart attack symptom. If you feel crushing pressure that lasts more than a few minutes, nausea, severe shortness of breath, or a  squeezing pain in your chest or left upper arm, call 911. Women who are having a heart attack may have more subtle symptoms. Along with chest pain, you may feel tired, have back or jaw pain, or feel dizzy.  These are all signs that you need an ambulance right away.

Cold and Flu on the Rise? How to Prepare

Cold and Flu on the Rise? How to Prepare

Flu Season

Maybe your daughter got off the bus looking pale and feverish. Or maybe you feel a scratchy throat and a stuffy nose coming on. Whatever the symptoms, you expect a lot of sniffles and coughs this week.

Before the virus knocks you and your family out, try these tips to prepare for colds and flu. If you’re lucky, they may also prevent at least some of your family from getting sick.

  1. Stock up on supplies. Be ready before cold and flu season starts. Load up on tissues, hand soap, hand sanitizer, and paper towels. Consider picking up a few distractions in case your kids get sick, like puzzles, coloring books, or DVDs.
  2. Check your medicine cabinet. Make sure it contains pain relievers, fever reducers, and any other medications you use when your family is fighting colds or the flu, like decongestants or cough syrups. Review the correct doses based on age and weight. Check to see if any medications overlap or interact. Test your thermometer to make sure the batteries still work. Clean your humidifier.
  3. Be strict about washing hands. Germy hands spread colds and the flu. Tell your family to scrub their hands well with soap for 20 seconds. Tell kids to wash for as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. Make sure you do it, too!
  4. Set up sanitizer stations. Put a bottle of hand sanitizer in every room. Make sure it’s at least 60% alcohol. Use a squirt as you pass by — and get everyone else to do the same.
  5. Plan for sick days. You may need some days off. Even if you don’t get sick, you may need to take care of your sick kids. Start thinking about it now: What’s your office policy for sick days? Will you have to take unpaid days off?
  6. Line up support. You may need outside help. See if any family members can watch the kids if they’re home sick from school. Or ask a neighbor if they can take the kids to soccer and dance if you’re laid up in bed.
  7. Disinfect.

    You don’t need to spend all day spraying every surface with disinfectant. You may just want to disinfect some heavily touched items — like doorknobs, remote controls, and phones — each day.

  8. Switch to paper goods. If everyone’s sick, use paper towels instead of hand towels in the bathroom. Switch out glasses for paper cups, and toss them after one use. You’ll be less likely to swap germs.
  9. Fill the fridge and pantry. Stock up on some easy-to-make foods for lunches and dinners, in case you need a few days to rest and recover without cooking. Have some favorite drinks and snacks on hand for your kids. Include some (healthy) comfort foods like chicken soup and PB&J.
  10. Rest. Whether you’re trying to recover from a cold or flu, or trying to avoid it, get plenty of sleep. Get your kids to bed on time, too.
  11. Get your flu shot. One of the best ways to help keep the flu away from your house is to make sure your whole family gets vaccinated.
African-Americans and Heart Disease, Stroke

African-Americans and Heart Disease, Stroke

Heart disease is the  No. 1 killer for all Americans, and stroke is also a leading cause of death. As frightening as those statistics are the risks of getting those diseases are even higher for African-Americans.

The good news is, African-Americans can improve their odds of preventing and beating these diseases by understanding the risks and taking simple steps to address them.

“Get checked, then work with your medical professional on your specific risk factors and the thigs that you need to do to take care of your personal health,” said Winston Gandy, M.D., a cardiologist and chief medical marketing officer with the Piedmont Heart Institute in Atlanta and a volunteer with the American Heart Association.

High blood pressure, obesity and diabetes are the most common conditions that increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Here’s how they affect African-Americans and some tips to lower your risk.

High Blood Pressure
The prevalence of high blood pressure in African-Americans is the highest in the world. Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, and it can cause permanent damage to the heart before you even notice any symptoms, that’s why it is often referred to as the “silent killer.” Not only is HBP more severe in blacks than whites, but it also develops earlier in life.

Research suggests African-Americans may carry a gene that makes them more salt sensitive, increasing the risk of high blood pressure. Your healthcare provider can help you find the right medication, and lifestyle changes can also have a big impact.

“You can’t do anything about your family history, but you can control your blood pressure,” Dr. Gandy said.

If you know your  blood pressure is high, keeping track of changes is important. Check it regularly, and notify your doctor of changes in case treatment needs to be adjusted, Dr. Gandy said. Even if you don’t have high blood pressure, he recommends checking it every two years.

“The No. 1 thing you can do is check your blood pressure regularly,” he said.

African-Americans are disproportionately affected by obesity. Among non-Hispanic blacks age 20 and older, 63 percent of men and 77 percent of women are overweight or obese.

If you’re carrying extra weight, Dr. Gandy suggests focusing on the quality of your diet throughout the day, not just during mealtime.

“You can add hundreds of calories to your diet just on snacking,” he said. Choosing wise snacks can be part of a healthy diet.

Dr. Gandy knows all too well how challenging it can be to lose weight. After years of prescribing diet changes for his patients, he decided it was time to follow his own advice by walking at least 30 minutes a day and eliminating sugary drinks and desserts.  The hard work paid off. Dr. Gandy lost 25 pounds in six months and feels much better.

He also suggests limiting red meat in favor of lean meats such as chicken or fish, and watching portions on carbohydrate-heavy foods, such as pasta and rice. Look for whole grain options instead.

“Make vegetables the main part of the meal and fill up with those rather than other foods,” he said.

Dr. Gandy cautioned that even things that are healthy can pack in calories.

“If you’re thirsty, drink water, not juice,” Dr. Gandy said.

African-Americans are more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic whites.

Diabetes is treatable and preventable, but many people don’t recognize early warning signs. Or, they avoid seeking treatment out of fear of complications.

Dr. Gandy said many people associate the disease with older relatives who were diagnosed too late or had poorly-controlled diabetes and suffered preventable complications such as blindness, amputations, or renal failure.

For diabetes and other heart disease risks, regular exercise also plays a key role – both in strengthening the cardiovascular system and burning extra calories.

Aim for at least 30 minutes of walking a day, Dr. Gandy said.

“That’s enough to get the heart rate up,” he said. “There’s no need to do a marathon.”

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This content was last reviewed July 2015.