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Feeling SAD? Maybe It’s Seasonal Affective Disorder

This picture shows the view from my office window in Boston: Dull, dreary, and depressing — at least on overcast days like today. Lack of light is one of the reasons that people feel mentally foggy.

One of the bloggers I follow, Rachel Zimmerman of WBUR’s CommonHealth blog, recently wrote that she’s been drinking three times as much coffee as usual. In addition to imbibing more caffeine, I’ve been trying to boost my spirits and alertness with mid-day runs to the snack machine (not the best strategy, in case you’re wondering).

At this time of year, many people aren’t just foggy and sad — they’ve got SAD, or seasonal affective disorder. About half a million Americans — women more often than men — are diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder each year. Many others experience at least some of the symptoms, which include loss of pleasure and energy, inability to concentrate, feelings of worthlessness, and an uncontrollable urge to eat sugar and high-carbohydrate foods (in my case, chocolate chip cookies).

Bright white light therapy remains a mainstay of treatment for seasonal affective disorder. That’s because the light acts on cells in the retina, the tissue located at the back of the eye that sends visual information to the brain. The hypothalamus, which helps control the sleep-wake cycle, is one part of the brain that receives this information. During the winter months, when people tend to stay indoors more, days are shorter,  and the weather becomes overcast, our exposure to natural light diminishes. That disrupts the sleep-wake cycle, as well as other circadian rhythms. The result can be symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Winterize Your Mind And Body

This is a guest post from Dr. Jennifer Wider.


Winterize Your Mind And Body

During the winter months, certain health issues may arise that women should have on their radar. From mental health issues like stress, depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), to physical concerns like skin care, the winter can certainly pack an extra punch.

Depression peaks during the holiday season, affecting more than 17 million Americans, according to the National Mental Health Association. On average, women are more vulnerable to stress-related illnesses like depression and anxiety than men. One study, conducted by Pacific Health Laboratories, revealed that 44 percent of American women report feeling sad through the holidays compared to 34 percent of American men.

“Depression of any kind is more common in females than males,” explains Greg Murray, M.D., lecturer and clinical psychologist at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia. “A pattern of elevated depression in the winter months is more marked in women than in men.”

There are a host of different reasons why women may be more susceptible to stress during the winter than men. Women tend to be the primary caretakers of the family and often take on the extra burden of the holidays with gift buying, entertaining, and coordinating visits with extended family. For working women, the added responsibilities can be difficult to balance, especially if they are already balancing a family, job, childcare and eldercare duties. Read more »

Skin Cancer Alert: Tanning Bed Use Increases In Winter

It’s winter so why think about skin cancer?   One of the major risk factors is UVA and UVB rays from sun exposure which is much more common in the summer.  Tanning beds never cease being used, regardless of season and may even be used more in the winter than summer.

There is never a wrong season to be reminded of the prevalence of skin cancer or the risk factors for skin cancer or ways to prevent skin cancer. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

DC Snowstorm Photos

balconysnowHow deep is the snow? Judging by my balcony, at least a foot and a half. I asked Mr. DrVal to demonstrate for you with a tape measure – of course, our mischevious kitty, Ona (full name is Ona Riss Kitty) wanted to be in the photo as well.

I caught these guys (second photo) digging out a Politico newspaper vending machine. Seemed like a very DC thing to do.

Of course, having grown up in Canada, the snow storm didn’t faze me much. I ventured out to get a salad, some frozen yogurt, and to see the movie Avatar. That was well worth the walk to the theater (saw it in all its 3-D wonder)!

Mr. DrVal summed it up with his usual dry wit, “It’s The Lion King meets An Inconvenient Truth.”

Please go see it though – the effects are really amazing.

All in a winter’s day…


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