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sleep disorders

It has been reported in many studies that older individuals who take benzodiazapine medications have more car accidents, falls, emergency room visits, and a much higher rate of hospitalization.  The American Geriatric Society has been warning patients and physicians about the pitfalls of these medications for years.

Benzodiazapines are some of the more commonly prescribed drugs and include: Ativan, Xanax, Valium, Restoril, Klonopin, Halcion, Ambien, and Lunesta.  They are used primarily to treat depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders.

Now more bad news has come to light.  Recent research has linked benzodiazapines to the development of Alzheimers.  Please read this recent article, Study Links Anxiety Drugs to Alzheimers,  in the NY Times.  Researchers followed patients for over six years and the development of Alzheimer’s  disease went up dramatically with greater use of these drugs.

The good news is that an effective alternative to these medications is available.  Since 2003, a growing body of medical research has demonstrated that exercise is very effective in combating depression and anxiety.  In study after study, exercise has been shown to produce results as good or better than medications.

The website of the American Psychological Association has a full page on the use of exercise to treat depression.  The Mayo Clinic website has a section devoted to using exercise to manage depression and anxiety.  I urge everyone to read a recent article in the LA Times, Exercise As a Treatment for Depression: Here’s How It Works, on the exercise induced biochemical changes that help alleviate depression.

So what amount of exercise is recommended to control depression?  The optimal duration and frequency dosage is thirty to forty minutes a day, seven days a week, or a minimum of three hours a week.  As expected, better results occur with more consistent compliance to an exercise program.  Daily training sessions produce the best control of symptoms.

The side effects of exercise are directly opposed to that of benzodiazapines.  When you exercise regularly you fall less, have fewer visits to the emergency room, become less likely to be in the hospital, and preserve cognitive function.  If we could just turn forty minutes of exercise into a pill…

-Barb O’Hara, RPh

To read the articles mentioned, please click on the links below: