These 7 healthy lifestyle habits can help reduce your risk

These 7 healthy lifestyle habits can help reduce your risk

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Regular physical exercise is one of the healthy lifestyle habits that can reduce the risk of depression. Javier Díez/Stocksy
  • Seven healthy lifestyle factors have been identified by researchers as reducing the risk of depression.
  • Good quality sleep, regular physical activity, frequent social connection, never smoking and limiting alcohol consumption were among the lifestyle factors identified.
  • Healthy lifestyle factors could be more important than genetic risk factors for depression, researchers report.

A healthy lifestyle that includes physical activity, social connection, good quality sleep and a healthy diet can reduce the risk of depression.

This according to a news study is published today in the journal Nature Mental Health.

In it, researchers identified seven lifestyle factors they say reduce the risk of depression.

“Although our DNA – the genetic hand we’ve been dealt – can increase our risk of depression, we’ve shown that a healthy lifestyle is potentially more important,” said Barbara Sahakian, study co-author and professor in the Department of Psychiatry. of the University of Cambridge in England, in a press statement.

“Some of these lifestyle factors are things we have a degree of control over, so trying to find ways to improve them – making sure we get a good night’s sleep and going out to see friends, for example – could make real difference in people’s lives,” she added.

The researchers listed these seven lifestyle factors that reduce the risk of depression:

  • Having a healthy diet
  • Regular physical activity
  • Never smoking
  • Limit alcohol consumption to moderate amounts
  • Having frequent social contact
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Keeping sedentary behavior to a minimum

The researchers looked at data from almost 290,000 people in the UK Biobank over a nine-year period. Of these, 13,000 developed depression.

The data included genetic, health and lifestyle information.

The researchers grouped the participants into three categories based on how many of the identified healthy lifestyle factors a person adhered to. The categories were unfavorable, intermediate and favorable.

The researchers reported that people in the intermediate group were 41% less likely to develop depression compared to those in the adverse group. These are the favored groups were 57% less likely to develop depression.

Many factors can affect a person’s risk of developing depression.

Environmental, biological, genetic and psychological factors are believed to play a role.

To determine the relationship between lifestyle factors, genetic risk, and the onset of depression, the researchers assigned each participant a genetic risk score.

To determine this score, the researchers calculated genetic variants known to be associated with depression risk.

They found that for participants with high, medium and low genetic risk for depression, following a healthy lifestyle reduced the risk of depression.

Carla Marie Manly, PhD, a California-based clinical psychologist, says the study’s findings aren’t surprising.

“Our not-so-distant ancestors had lifestyles that included regular physical activity, low sedentary behavior, plenty of social interaction, healthy diets and often low to moderate alcohol consumption,” he said. Medical news today. “Even smoking is a relatively modern phenomenon. It stands to reason that the activities that allowed humans to survive over time would be essential to our overall well-being. So it’s no surprise when research continues to find that our departure from the healthy, lifestyle habits our ancestors embraced will work against our overall health.”

“While we cannot change our genetic risk factors, we can adopt a healthy lifestyle to minimize the impact and expression of any negative genetic factors,” Manly added. “When we use our personal agency to make healthy lifestyle choices, we impact our well-being in positive ways. Both cognitively and emotionally, we enhance our sense of personal power when we make healthy choices. And, on a physical level, we enhance our sense of positivity and empowerment when our bodies feel good. Through this cycle of positive reinforcement, healthy lifestyle choices can impact important mental health issues such as depression.”

Of all the healthy lifestyle factors identified, the researchers concluded that sleep was the most important factor.

They said getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night reduced the risk of depression, even treatment-resistant depression, by 22 percent.

“When we go to sleep, our brain goes to work performing a critical function that affects cognition and memory. When we sleep, our bodies remove toxins, such as beta amyloid, which is involved in cognitive decline and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. “Insufficient sleep can actually lead to challenges with that, and challenges in managing emotions, which increases the risk of future depression,” said Shannel Kassis Elhelou, PsyD, a geriatrician and neuropsychologist in the Brain Wellness and Lifestyle Programs at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute in California. . Medical news today.

“But that could also leave us with the question of what comes first? Is depression coming first, affecting your sleep? Or is it sleep that affects our depression? Because if you’re depressed, everyday stressors like work stress, family problems, or other common things that people tend to worry about can lead to more frequent difficulty falling and staying asleep, especially compared to those who they don’t. experience the same stressors,” Elchelou said.

A healthy diet was found to reduce the risk of depression by 6%, moderate alcohol consumption reduced the risk by 11%, regular physical activity by 14%, low to moderate sedentary behavior by 13%, and never smoking by 20%.

Frequent social connection was found to be the most protective factor against recurrent depressive disorder. It reduced the overall risk of depression by 18%.

Karen Osilla, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University in California, says not engaging in these healthy behaviors can make feelings of depression worse.

“Not doing these factors perpetuates the depressed mood – when we don’t socially connect with people we used to laugh with, when we don’t have healthy sleep habits, it snowballs and it becomes easier to believe our depressing thoughts of worthlessness and feels” less than,” he said Medical news today.

“When we think, ‘I’m not good at anything or I can never catch a break,’ people experiencing depression have a hard time distinguishing thoughts from facts,” she explained. “In cognitive behavioral therapy I focus on restructuring these maladaptive thoughts so that people begin to restructure their mindset – our thoughts do not define us. Depression is very treatable, it is one of the most common mental health conditions that has many treatments with solid support – self-help books, mindfulness, medication, activity planning, circular breathing and therapy are all options depending on the level of care one wants to have. pursue.”

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