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December 2017

Try These 3 Tactics to Help Prevent Depression 

Depression is a serious illness. It can be hard to overcome without treatment, such as medicine and talk therapy. Yet you may be able to lower your risk for the disease. Three recent studies offer up some novel ways to do so. 

Man jogging with snow falling

Add more low-fat dairy to your diet

A healthy diet can help prevent many health problems, including depression. In fact, a glass of low-fat milk may be good for your mood. So suggests a recent study that found a link between low-fat dairy products and depression. Researchers asked more than 1,100 adults about the foods they ate, including how much milk, yogurt, and other dairy foods they ate. Study participants were also screened for depression. Those who said they ate more low-fat dairy foods were less likely to have symptoms of depression. Why might this be? Dairy foods contain the amino acid tryptophan. The body turns tryptophan into serotonin, a chemical in the brain that has been tied to depression. Higher levels of serotonin may fend off the mood disorder. 

Exercise at least an hour a week

Regular physical activity is a boon for both your body and your mind. A dab of it may also improve your mood, a recent study found. Researchers tracked the mood and exercise habits of nearly 34,000 adults over 11 years. Their finding: Even a little bit of exercise—just one hour a week—may be enough to help keep depression at bay. The intensity of the activity doesn’t seem to matter. For people who already have depression, exercise is often a key part of their treatment. Physical activity spurs the body to make endorphins. These hormones can boost mood and lower stress levels. 

Download an app

Feeling low? Yes, there might well be an app for that. Researchers reviewed 18 studies that tested 22 smartphone apps designed to prevent and treat depression. They found that such programs seemed to help people feel better, especially if they had a mild case of the blues. But more research is needed to decide which apps work the best. Before downloading one, it’s best to check who made the app, whether its tools and health information are scientifically based, and if your privacy is protected. Also talk with your healthcare provider if you’ve been diagnosed with depression to make sure the app works with your care plan.

Wondering if you may have depression? Try this tool and share the results with your healthcare provider.

Should you take St. John’s wort for depression? 

St. John’s wort is a type of herb. It’s been used for centuries to treat certain health problems, including depression. A review of the latest studies on this herb found it may be better than a placebo to ease symptoms of depression. But more research is needed to say for sure. Plus, experts warn that not enough is known about its safety. Side effects may include thyroid problems and a sudden spike in blood pressure. 

The bottom line: It’s best to talk with your healthcare provider before trying St. John’s wort. It can interact with other medicines you may be taking. What’s more, antidepressants and talk therapy are proven treatments for depression.


Online Medical Reviewer: Turley, Raymond Kent, BSN, MSN, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2017
© 2000-2018 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.