Vascular health is of the utmost importance when it comes to chronic disease prevention. Protect your blood vessels and you lower or eliminate your risk for heart attacks, strokes and dementia. That means that anything that leads to good vascular health is important, while anything that destroys vascular health is a bad thing. There are several commonly used drugs that fall under this category.
The has been much controversy over the years in regards to the actual effectiveness of anti-depressant medications (mainly the SSRIs like Prosac) compared to placebo. Anytime you have a drug that shows very little effectiveness compared to a placebo it has a tendency to highlight the dangerous side effects. The list of side effects associated with anti depressants is a little too long, in my opinion, given their questionable effectiveness over placebo. Consider these:
- Anti depressants weaken bone health in the elderly population.
- Anti depressants accelerate bone loss at the hip.
- SSRIs have been associated with upper gastrointestinal bleeding.
- SSRIs greatly increase the risk of becoming diabetic.
- Anti depressants increase the overall risk of dying (not a good thing…).
As if this list wasn’t long enough, this particular study allows us to add vascular damage to this already-too-long list. Researchers found that those who were on anti depressants had smaller diameter arteries (the authors note that the arteries were, on average, about 40 microns smaller in diameter–or the equivalent of about 4 yrs worth of normal progression with aging).
So what is someone to do? No one can argue that exercise is THE most powerful weapon against depression. However, getting a severely depressed patient off the couch may be near impossible. In these cases, there are some natural approaches that can be instituted to get the brain in a better state, maybe allowing the patient some motivation to get out and exercise.
- Coffee has been shown to lower the risk of depression.
- A mere multivitamin given to elderly patients has been shown to improve depressive symptoms.
- St John’s wort has held up in multple studies for mild to moderate depression.
- Melatonin is being investigated as a potential treatment for severe depression.
And the list surely gets longer as we look harder, but by now you should get the idea…