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Depression. Hereditary? Linked to stress & early aging?

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Wow. Saw this blog at the National Institute of Mental Health that points to a genetic cause for depression and a corresponding link to poor response to stress that can also causes early aging and more issues from heart disease and such. Yikes to all of it -- but it will encourage me to make some serious modifications in how I handle stress from here on in (which I've never done well at). I'd like to know more about the biofeedback they did.


Anyway, since we're in the midst of the dark months and the TV is nothing but stress these days, I thought it was topical. I long for sunshine and puppies and news that doesn't have protesters, arson, looting and murder in the headlines.


Whatcha think, legit?



It's at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/director/2014/depression-daughters-and-cellular-aging.shtml



By Thomas Insel, MD on


October 23, 2014


Depression is prevalent—6.9 percent of Americans have been affected in the past 12 months.1 Depression is serious—according to the Global Burden of Disease study it accounts for the second largest medical source of years lost to disability in the U.S.2 And depression can be fatal—the suicide rate for people hospitalized for depression exceeds 6 percent.3 Can we predict risk for depression?


There are no genetic tests or imaging tests that can be used to predict individual risk. But a longitudinal study from Ian Gotlib and colleagues at Stanford University is worth watching.


This study has followed healthy (with no psychiatric diagnosis) daughters of mothers who have had multiple episodes of depression and a matched sample of healthy daughters of never depressed mothers. Although the high-risk daughters—those whose mothers have depression—showed no signs or symptoms of depression when they were first evaluated between ages 10 and 14, Gotlib notes that 60 percent have developed depression by age 18. In a paper published this month in Molecular Psychiatry, Gotlib and his colleagues report that 10- to 14-year-old-girls at risk for depression have shorter telomeres, relative to daughters of mothers who have never been depressed.4 Telomeres are the caps at the end of our chromosomes. They are essential for chromosomal stability and they naturally shorten with aging (findings recognized by the Nobel Prize in 2009 ). Indeed, telomere shortening is one of the most reliable signs of cellular aging.


How could healthy 10- to14-year-old girls show signs of aging? The answer is not entirely clear but a second observation may provide an explanation. The same girls with shortened telomeres had increased stress reactivity, indicated by a steeper spike in the hormone cortisol in response to a simple stress test. Does the heightened stress reactivity lead to shorter telomeres? While there is an abundant literature linking developmental stress to risk for depression, we don’t know if stress reactivity is the mechanism for apparent cellular aging or if both stress reactivity and cellular aging reflect some other underlying process.


Beyond suggesting a risk biomarker for early identification of depression, this finding indicates a troubling early sign of risk for premature biological aging and possibly age-related chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease. Investigating the cause and timing of decreased telomere length—to what extent it may result from abnormalities in stress responses or is genetically influenced, for example—will be important for understanding the relationship between cellular aging, depression, and other medical conditions.


What can be done to reduce the risk of depression? In previous experiments, girls at risk for depression exhibited different patterns of brain activation during experimental mood regulation. In ongoing experiments, the Gotlib team is using neurofeedback to help these girls retrain their brain circuits and hopefully their stress responses. It will be a few years before we will know how much this intervention reduces risk for depression, but anything that prevents or slows the telomere shortening may be an early indication of success.


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Rottweiler females with the trait of "superlongevity" have two things in common:

  • They still possess their ovaries (i.e. weren't spayed)
  • They don't stress easily (i.e. less reactive toward unusual stimuli, lower levels of stress hormone)


I don't remember why the ovaries were thought to make them live longer, just that I kinda laughed when I first heard this, since I had been taught the opposite about pets growing up, but duh -- it makes sense that messing with the endocrine system of an animal could have a negative effect.


Stress reactivity was even more surprising, though. Rottweilers have tragically high rates of cancer -- most die under 10 years of age, and cancer is the cause of death 80% of the time. However, if they become super old (13+), they only die of cancer 25% of the time. BUT -- and here is the weird part -- 90% of them are full of cancer. Yet their bodies manage to hold it at bay for the most part. This is somehow tied to maintaining a low cortisol (stress hormone) level, and not stressing out over every little thing. Pretty interesting stuff:



So -- sorry for the over-long semi-tangential answer, but yeah -- I would be surprised if it isn't legit!

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I've gotten gray hair and lost a fair bit in the last 2 years. Super stressed. I am 30, so it's hard to say if that wouldn't have just happened anyways, but I strongly suspect stress is going to age/kill me early.

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I'm convinced the stress of my last job was going to kill me. I had a super headache every single day. My immune system was shot. My joints became inflamed and made it hard to move, especially in the mornings. The effects it had on my digestive system still hasn't sort itself out. And my sex drive took a complete nose-dive. I'm more than positive there was some depression in there as well.

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