4 Realistic Ways To Combat Depression
Runner's high is not a myth. In fact, a meta-analysis involving more than a million subjects has shown that aerobic exercise can help prevent depression. "Adopting and maintaining exercise habits at any age can mean a significantly decreased risk of depression in the future," says lead author Felipe Schuch, PhD.
One possible explanation is that exercise increases levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a protein that helps nerve cells grow and survive, thereby producing antidepressant effects. But since working out activates most of the body's systems, it's likely fighting depression on multiple fronts, says Brandon Alderman, PhD, director of the Exercise Psychophysiology Lab at Rutgers University. His team found that aerobic exercise can reduce rumination; they also discovered that mildly to moderately depressed people experienced a nearly 40 percent decrease in symptoms when they ran for 30 minutes (and meditated for 30 minutes) twice weekly for eight weeks.
Brain inflammation can be 30 percent higher in clinically depressed patients, according to a 2015 study, and even mild depression is linked to elevated levels of pro-inflammatory markers. K. Ranga Krishnan, MD, dean of Rush Medical College, notes that people with psoriasis, an inflammatory skin disease, often have depression—and when they're treated with anti-inflammatories, their mood typically improves along with their skin. Based on these and other findings, researchers hope to develop anti-inflammatory medication that targets depression.
Ketamine clinics around the country offer this off-label treatment even though long-term consequences are unknown. Some patients experience side effects like temporary nausea or an out-of-body sensation, says Carlos Zarate Jr., MD, chief of the experimental therapeutics and pathophysiology branch at the National Institute of Mental Health. He's working to develop a ketamine drug that won't cause negative side effects and plans to begin testing it by next year.
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