Saturday, August 13, 2011

Middle-aged women on antidepressants like Prozac 'face stroke risk'

The second sentence below is all you need to know, rather remarkably

Middle-aged women who take antidepressants could be nearly 40 per cent more likely to have a stroke, scientists claim. But it is unclear whether it is the pills or other factors linked to depression that raises the risk.

A study of more than 80,000 women aged 54 to 79 over a six-year period found those who had been depressed were 29 per cent more likely to have a stroke.

However, patients who took Prozac, Seroxat or similar medication were 39 per cent more at risk. Until recently there was little research on the long-term dangers of common antidepressants taken by millions of Britons a year.

But only last week a study by British scientists indicated they increased the risk of death, heart attacks and falls in the elderly.

Last year, 23 million prescriptions were written out for Prozac, Seroxat and similar types of drugs known as SSRIs, a rise of more than 40 per cent in four years.

Last night, health experts said women should not stop taking their medication as they could not be sure it was causing strokes.

Patients with depression are often overweight, tend to smoke or fail to exercise, factors that also increase the risk of stroke, the U.S. researchers, from Harvard Medical School, in Boston, told the American Heart Association.

Kathryn Rexrode, senior author of the research said: 'I don’t think the medications themselves are the primary cause of the risk. This study does not suggest that people should stop their medications to reduce the risk of stroke.

'Depression can prevent individuals from controlling other medical problems such as diabetes and hypertension, from taking medications regularly or pursuing other healthy lifestyle measures such as exercise. 'All these factors could contribute to increased risk.'

Dr Peter Coleman, of the Stroke Association, said patients on antidepressants should continue taking them. 'Depression is a very serious condition which needs to be treated carefully by healthcare professionals. This research appears to indicate that women suffering from depression may be less motivated to maintain good health or control other medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which have an associated increased risk of stroke.

'However, it is very hard to determine whether there is a direct link between depression and stroke risk and a lot more research is needed in this area before depression alone can be viewed as a stroke risk factor.

'It’s important that anyone taking antidepressants should continue doing so, and anyone concerned about their overall stroke risk should speak to their GP.'


Working in an office is bad for your brain

This seems reasonable but the evidence offered is very slim

Working in an office is bad for your brain and can make you less productive, according to researchers. A study has found that the hustle and bustle of modern offices can lead to a 32% drop in workers well being and reduce their productivity by 15%.

They have found that open plan offices create unwanted activity in the brains of workers that can get in the way of them doing the task at hand.

Open plan offices were first introduced in the 1950s and quickly became a popular as a way of laying out offices.

The findings are revealed in a programme made for Channel 4, The Secret Life of Buildings, to be broadcast on Monday.

In the television programme, however, a test carried out with presenter and architecture critic Tom Dyckhoff using a cap that measured his brain waves while trying to work in an open plan office revealed intense bursts of distraction.

Dr Jack Lewis, a neuroscientist who conducted the test, said: "Open plan offices were designed with the idea that people can move around and interact freely to promote creative thinking and better problem sovling. "But it doesn't work like that. If you are just getting into some work and a phone goes off in the back ground it ruins what you are concentrating on. Even though you are not aware at the time, the brain responds to distractions."

Modern offices which refuse to allow personal decorations on walls or desks may also not be helping employees. Dr Craig Knight, a psychologist at Exeter University said that allowing employees to personalise their working area could improve their performance in the office. He said: "Companies like the idea of giving their employees a lean space to work in as it is uniform and without unnecessary distractions.

"In the experiments we have run, however, employees respond better in spaces that have been enriched with pictures and plants. If they have been allowed to enrich the space themselves with their own things it can increase their wellbeing by 32% and their productivity by 15%. "It is because they are able to engage with their surroundings, feel more comfortable and so concentrate."

Professor Fred Gage, from the laboratory of genetics at the Salk Institute in San Diego, California, has also conducted studies by comparing the brains of mice kept in bare, clean cages with those kept in more stimulating environments.

He said "In the period of a month we saw the brains of the mice kept in stimulatni environments increase in volume by 15%. The area is highly enriched with blood vessels and we see new neurons being born. "If we can extrapolate that to humans then it shows that having a stimulating environment can optimise our performance and abilities."


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