Africa Is Global

Hannibal, Abram Petrovich

Hannibal, Abram Petrovich

Because of Gorbachev’s politics of Perestroika, Soviet society recognized for the first time the existence of some social and ethnic groups which had been left unnoticed. Children of African fathers and Russian mothers is one of such groups.

In fact, at that time, it was not a “group”. There was no tightly knit African-Soviet community in the former Soviet Union. Mothers of “colored” children were most often alone in their needs and concerns, and these children did not know very much about their likes. In the fall of 1990, the first Initiative Group of African-Soviets was created in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg).

The roots of this situation are in the late 1950s and early 1960s when the Soviet Union offered university scholarships to Africans. After the independence of the majority of African countries, between the 1950’s and 1990’s, thousands of young Africans (mostly men) from these countries went to the Soviet Union for their studies. These students spent five to ten years in what was the Soviet Union. Many of them married Soviet women.

Many Soviet women went with their husbands to live in Africa. Often enough, these marriages were clashes of culture, languages and customs. In some cases, polygamy was an unfavorable factor in these marriages, and it was not rare for some of these Soviet wives to return home to the USSR. The result was single mothers with their children of a different skin color, coping with racial prejudices from neighbors and relatives.

Racial prejudices sometimes made it difficult for these single mothers of “colored” children to remarry. Some of these “colored” children were abandoned by their mothers and became orphans. These single parent families were among the victims of economic hardship and Russian nationalist organizations of the fascist trend who claimed that these families were responsible for “spoiling of Russian blood”.

On the other hand, Perestroika let the African-Soviets speak up. They tried to speak up at the 1990 Human Rights Conference in Leningrad, but they were not given the floor. However, soon after this event, a popular Leningrad weekly, Chas Pik, published an interview with a member of the Initiative Group of African-Soviets (a civil rights group with an agenda to create a positive social niche for African-Soviets), and this publication started African-Soviets networking.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, racism against African-Soviets (now represented in the different countries of the former Soviet Union) intensified. Due to sports teams’ recruitments, interaction between African-Americans and African-Brazilians also increased after the collapse of the Soviet-Union. This engagement lead to sharing of African diaspora experiences.

Today, African-Russians make up 1% of the 143 million Russian population. Poet Alexander Pushkin is one of the noted African-Russians. African-Russians still face racism, economic hardships, health concerns similar to those of African-Americans and other African diaspora. Hypertension, now considered a global health problem, is a major health concern in all of Russia. Effects of alcoholism is also a significant health concern in Russia. Next “Africa Is Global” focus: African-Japanese.

Tell AAW your stories

It is uncertain where in Africa Hannibal was born in the 1690’s (in either what is now Cameroon or Ethiopia). At 8 years of age, he was taken by Turkish slave traders to Peter the Great. A general in the Russian military, he is noted as being one the most significant engineers in Russian history. He is the great-grandfather of poet, Alexander Pushkin.

Food Jewels

The Power of OkraSuper foods are foods that contain high levels of nutrients. Okra is a super food. Not only that, it’s a food that links many African cultures. From Okra Soup cooked with palm oil in western Africa to Gumbo in southern United States, Okra is considered a valuable source of nutrition as well as a comfort food. Okra is a superfood because it contains high levels of B Vitamins, fiber, iron, and Vitamin C.Studies published in 2010 and 2011 in the “Nutrition Journal” and the “African Journal of Biotechnology” indicate that okra has a higher concentration of antioxidant compounds than other high-antioxidant vegetables, as well as many high-antioxidant fruits. Antioxidants are able to inhibit the ability of free radicals to damage DNA and cellular tissue. The Mayo Clinic’s Donald Hensrud, M.D., says that a diet incorporating lots of antioxidants may help prevent heart disease, cancer and neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.

Okra has been said to have many health benefits like the following:

  • The mucilage and fiber found in okra helps adjust blood sugar by regulating its absorption in the small intestine.
  • The fiber of okra has many superior qualities in maintaining the health of the gastro-intestinal tract.
  • It helps reabsorb water and traps excess cholesterol, metabolic toxins and surplus bile in its mucilage and slips it out through the stool. Due to greater percentage of water in the bulk it thereby prevents constipation, gas and bloating in the abdomen.
  • It is an ideal vegetable for weight loss and is storehouse of health benefits provided it is cooked over low flame to retain its properties. This also ensures that the invaluable mucilage contained in it is not lost to high heat.
  • Okra facilitates the growth of good bacteria referred to as probiotics. These are similar to the ones encouraged in the small intestine by eating yogurt and helps biosynthesis of Vitamin B complex.
  • For adding bounce your hair. Boil horizontally sliced okra till the brew becomes maximally slimy. Cool it and add a few drops of lemon and use this as the last rinse and see your hair spring back to youthfulness and jump.
  • Okra is an excellent laxative that treats irritable bowels, heals ulcers and sooths the gastrointestinal track.
  • Protein and oil contained in the seeds of okra serve as the source of first-rate vegetable protein. It is enriched with amino acids on the likes of tryptophan, cystine and other sulfur amino acids.

Okra is definitely a “food jewel”!

One Billion Worldwide

There are one billion physically challenged people worldwide. The physically challenged are the world’s largest minority. They have been physically challenged by birth injuries, forced amputations during wars, accidents, or as results of disease. In developed countries, there are anti-discrimination laws that protect the rights of the physically challenged who are blind, deaf, amputees, mentally or physically compromised.

In developing countries, these anti-discrimination laws either do not exist or are not enforced. As a result, the majority of the world’s largest minority cannot get jobs, have little accessibility to transportation, and live difficult lives.
However, as a source of spiritual survival as well as remaining active societal participants, amputee soccer players worldwide have been competing in nationally and internationally recognized soccer games.

AAW advocates for the inclusion of the physically challenged being incorporated into all societies of the developing world in the manner that nations like the United States have endorsed. One billion individuals, one in 7 people in the world, must be recognized as vital to maintain the health and wellness of their communities. Check AAW’s “Cultural Corner” and

Food Intolerances

There is a difference between food allergies and food intolerances. Food allergies are a result of a person eating a particular food that their body identifies as harmful. When the body has identified the food as harmful, histamine (a chemical released by the body as a natural immune system response) is released. Histamine causes the body to experience itching, rashes, swelling of the mouth or tongue. Anti-histamines reverse these symptoms of allergic reaction.

In the case of food intolerances, the food identified by the body as harmful does not cause an immune system reaction, but does cause the individual who ate the food to have symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, intestinal bloating.

The incidences of food intolerances are increasing in the United States. Healthcare researchers have concluded that in the United States the increase in processed foods has lead to increased incidences of food intolerances. Dairy, gluten, soy, lactose, and fructose have been the most recent culprits of food intolerances. Selective elimination of foods is the best way to identify food intolerances For more information on food allergies and food intolerances, visit the website:

Weight Control

healthy-eatingWeight control means weight maintenance that is suitable to your individual body needs—not necessarily eating to lose or gain weight. Your goal in weight control should be disease prevention. One of the major factors causing disease is excessive weight for your body structure.

Weight gain, loss, or maintenance should address individual needs with notation to your Body Mass Index (BMI). The BMI chart gives a guideline on what your individual average weight goal should be. This guideline just gives you an idea on your ideal weight range. A BMI of 19 to 25 is considered a healthy weight range. An individual with a BMI below 19 is considered to be underweight. An individual with a BMI of 26 to 29 is considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or greater is considered obese.

To identify the ideal weight range for your height, find your BMI on the table below. To use the table, find your height in inches in the left-hand column labeled Height (example: 5 feet = 60 inches). Move across to the right and find your current weight range(in pounds). Where you find your current weight range, move straight up that column to the line marked BMI. The number you come to on the line marked BMI is your BMI. Pounds have been rounded off.

BMI 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35
Body Weight (pounds)
58 91 96 100 105 110 115 119 124 129 134 138 143 148 153 158 162 167
59 94 99 104 109 114 119 124 128 133 138 143 148 153 158 163 168 173
60 97 102 107 112 118 123 128 133 138 143 148 153 158 163 168 174 179
61 100 106 111 116 122 127 132 137 143 148 153 158 164 169 174 180 185
62 104 109 115 120 126 131 136 142 147 153 158 164 169 175 180 186 191
63 107 113 118 124 130 135 141 146 152 158 163 169 175 180 186 191 197
64 110 116 122 128 134 140 145 151 157 163 169 174 180 186 192 197 204
65 114 120 126 132 138 144 150 156 162 168 174 180 186 192 198 204 210
66 118 124 130 136 142 148 155 161 167 173 179 186 192 198 204 210 216
67 121 127 134 140 146 153 159 166 172 178 185 191 198 204 211 217 223
68 125 131 138 144 151 158 164 171 177 184 190 197 203 210 216 223 230
69 128 135 142 149 155 162 169 176 182 189 196 203 209 216 223 230 236
70 132 139 146 153 160 167 174 181 188 195 202 209 216 222 229 236 243
71 136 143 150 157 165 172 179 186 193 200 208 215 222 229 236 243 250
72 140 147 154 162 169 177 184 191 199 206 213 221 228 235 242 250 258
73 144 151 159 166 174 182 189 197 204 212 219 227 235 242 250 257 265
74 148 155 163 171 179 186 194 202 210 218 225 233 241 249 256 264 272
75 152 160 168 176 184 192 200 208 216 224 232 240 248 256 264 272 279
76 156 164 172 180 189 197 205 213 221 230 238 246 254 263 271 279 287

In those who have a muscular build or those older individuals who have lost muscle mass, the BMI table may not give an accurate assessment of healthy weight range. However, the BMI table gives a good assessment of healthy weight range.

Waist circumference is also a consideration. Waist circumference above 35 for women and 40 for men has been considered a risk for heart disease. Diet noting food portions, exercise, and lifestyle habits like avoiding junk foods, cigarette smoking, and too much alcohol, are also significant to maintaining a healthy weight range. For more information on healthy weight control, visit the website: A video message by Michelle Obama is featured on this site with the weight control campaign “We Can”.

Family Security

Family security is essential to good health. When you, your children, and other family members are not surrounded by a physically and emotionally secure environment, everyone in the family is at risk for ill health. Stress resulting from concerns about lack of family security, affects mental and physical wellness.

Domestic violence in the form of child or spousal abuse, sexual assault or verbal and psychological abuse can present long-term damaging effects to the African-American family unit. In African countries that have experienced civil wars, rape of women and children, there has been a direct correlation between family insecurity and health problems.

The National Coalition For Domestic Violence works within the United States to support survivors of domestic violence. There website is:

Safe Horizon supports men and women survivors of domestic violence. Their website is:

The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney highlights support for male survivors of domestic violence. Their website is:

The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline’s website is :

Covenant House began its services to homeless and runaway youth in 1972. They have been successful in assisting at risk youth to transition to secure lifestyles. Their website

An international agency that works to prevent violence against women and children is:

Financial Security is Essential to Good Health.

Lack of finances to manage bills can cause stress that affects our mental and physical wellness. Considering this fact, it is important for families to realize that their financial security is also an important component of good health. African-American families of all types can benefit from effective strategies in financial management.

Recent immigrants may have loved ones in their home countries who need their financial support. First, second and third generation African-Americans also have to learn to navigate through the increasingly expensive cost of living. The public libraries in your community can offer free financial management counseling, tax preparation, investment counseling, and writing business plans.

There is no effort more effective than family self-responsibility in financial security. AAW welcomes your stories.

Housing Security

Housing security is essential to good health. Loss of a stable home is very stressful. Unmanageable stress has been proven to weaken the body and possibly lead to physical and mental illness. Having the peace of mind that comes from a secure home environment is essential to maintaining mental and physical health. It is important for families to realize how much an insecure home environment can be damaging to their overall wellness.

Fortunately in the United States, there are established agencies that can be of service when families are threatened with loosing their home or have difficulties finding a home. The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) is a U.S. government agency that assists families in getting the housing environment they desire. FHEO fights against housing discrimination due to race, color, or religion. For more information, FHEO website is

African –American families who are recent immigrants to the Unites States often have relatives in their home countries who do not have housing security. Displaced relatives due to civil war or poverty can interfere with the mental and physical health of everyone involved.

For African –American families with loved ones remaining in their home countries, there are non-profit international agencies that can assist with secure housing needs. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) established in 1933 has provided housing assistance in over 40 countries. The IRC website is: Habitat for Humanity has built thousands of secure homes in the United States and worldwide for individuals displaced by poverty, social conflicts and civil wars. Habitat For Humanity’s website is :

There is no effort more effective than self-responsibility in home security. Individual families must establish their plans to maintain their stable homes to maintain family health. AAW welcomes your stories.

Environmental Toxins & Your Health

With industrialization in urban areas, the increase in environmental toxins is prevalent worldwide. Toxins are chemicals in our water, air, soil that can put us at risk for disease. Due to financial constraints, populations of color tend to live in more physically congested areas at risk for increased exposure to environmental toxins.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) notes that exposure to toxins are usually by 1) breathing in the chemical, 2) touching the chemical, 3) drinking the chemical, 4) eating the chemical, 5) getting exposure to a chemical by intravenous administration of toxic drugs, 6) or radiation exposure. The amount of the toxin that a person is exposed to and the time length of exposure, also determines the danger of the toxin to the body. Exposure to toxins can also be from contaminated animals or crops. Toxins can be from manufactured products (like plastics or Styrofoam) or natural resources (like arsenic, lead, or carbons).

Most people become more aware of toxins in their environment in the event of illness, pregnancy, or newly acquired allergies. We are exposed to toxins every day in our physical environment through the use of plastics, Styrofoam, as well as the potentially toxic fumes in our air. The most common toxin placing us at risk for disease is cigarette smoke. Cigarette smoke is linked to Asthma, heart and lung diseases. Toxins in our environment have been linked to Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis. Since we cannot completely control our environments, the only control we can successfully monitor is our self-responsibility in boosting our immune systems and awareness in our healthcare.

Tips On Preventing Exposure to Toxins

  • Don’t microwave foods in plastic containers. The plastic will be absorbed in the food.
  • Wear gloves as much as possible when working with house cleaners, insecticides or other chemicals. Your skin is the largest organ of your body. It immediately soaks in any chemical placed on it
  • Consider smoking cessation. Smoke lingers not only in the air but on clothing
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables with water or water and lemon/lime before cooking and eating (lemon is a natural detoxifier)
  • Don’t keep boiling hot liquids in Styrofoam. The chemicals in the Styrofoam will be absorbed in the liquid
  • Eat healthy diets with rich detoxifiers like green vegetables, citrus fruits, berries
  • Drink plenty of water, at least 8 glasses per day

For more information on preventing disease from environmental toxins, visit The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at their website:

Pregnancy & Childbirth

Pregnancy & Childbirth: U.S. Spends $26.2 Billion Annually On Premature BirthsAccording to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Preterm birth costs the United States government 26 billion dollars per year, $51,000 per premature baby. The March of Dimes notes costs of premature birth as 26.2 billion annually. The March of Dimes also notes that 1 in 9 babies in the United States is born prematurely. Premature birth is infant birth before 37 weeks gestation. A healthy birth should take place between 37 and 40 weeks gestation.

Communities with a higher population of African-Americans have been noted as to have higher incidences of preterm labor and birth. Mothers who have experienced premature births are more likely to deliver prematurely with subsequent births. Incidents of sexually transmitted infection (STI), poor nutrition, as well as poor lifestyle habits (smoking, overuse of alcohol, drug abuse) are noted as factors leading to preterm labor and premature birth. Incidents of preterm labor in the United States have more to do with poor lifestyle choices than ethnicity.

The March of Dimes notes that worldwide 15 million babies are born prematurely every year. In African countries, the incidences of preterm labor and premature birth are outcomes due to poor nutrition, poverty, undiagnosed sexually transmitted infections (STI). Alcohol abuse and cigarette smoking among women in the United States are major factors leading to premature births.

The long-term effects of premature birth can result in mentally and physically disabled adults. What will be the future productivity of mentally and physically challenged adults? The long-term effects of premature labor and birth present an increase in health care costs due to children and adult special needs management.

The countries in Africa with the greatest numbers preterm births annually are: Nigeria –665,080; and Democratic Republic of Congo–291,750, compared to the United States –438,410. Note that the United States documents more premature births than the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Preventing premature birth is an investment in the future health and wellbeing of families. “We know what it takes to address the challenge of prematurity and we are committed to bringing partners together behind proven, affordable solutions,” says UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who launched The Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health in 2010. The Global Strategy is supported by Every Woman Every Child, an umbrella movement that has already leveraged more than $20 billion in new money and aims to save the lives of 16 million babies by 2015. World Prematurity Day is November 17.

For Your Information (FYI) on preventing premature birth and keeping babies healthy, visit the following websites: The March of Dimes has been a leader in healthy pregnancies and babies for many years. Visit their website for information on their campaign against premature births. The American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM)gives information on the importance of midwives to healthy prenatal care as well as resources on prenatal care. Childbirth Connection gives information on latest research on prenatal care and gives resources for healthy pregnancy.

NICHD SIDS online course Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is more common in premature babies due to immature respiratory systems. To educate yourself on SIDS prevention, take this free on-line course on SIDS at this website. The course was designed for healthcare providers but is useful for anyone interested in SIDS prevention. Women Deliver is an global organization dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of girls and women. For a global perspective on maternal and infant care as well as women’s healthcare needs, visit their website. is another website which gives a global perspective on the healthcare of women and children. This website was spearheaded by Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General.

Living With Depression

Depression is a common but serious illness. Major depressive disorder Depressionis one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. Each year about 6.7% of U.S adults experience major depressive disorder. Women are 70 % more likely than men to experience depression during their lifetime. The average age of onset is 32 years old. Additionally, 3.3% of 13 to 18 year olds have experienced a seriously debilitating depressive disorder. Everyone occasionally feels blue or sad. But these feelings are usually short-lived and pass within a couple of days. When you have depression, it interferes with daily life and causes pain for both you and those who care about you. In some cultures, symptoms of depression are often seen as a punishment or curse, and the person experiencing depression is stigmatized by family. In African countries as well as in the U.S., these cultural interpretations of depression can cause some people not to seek treatment. Check these websites for a global perspective on metal health topics: International Mental Health Research Organization, World federation For Mental Health; World Health Organization

Many people with a depressive illness never seek treatment. But the majority, even those with the most severe depression, can get better with treatment. Medications, psychotherapies, and other methods can effectively treat people with depression. Once diagnosed, a person with depression can be treated in several ways. The most common treatments are medication and psychotherapy. With the depressed person’s cooperation in their care, a mental health specialist will find the best treatment option. More information about depression can be found on the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) NIMH website.

Some types of depression tend to run in families. However, people without family histories of depression can experience depression too. Scientists are studying certain genes that may make some people more prone to depression. Some genetics research indicates that risk for depression results from the influence of several genes acting together with environmental or other factors. In addition, trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation may trigger a depressive episode. Other depressive episodes may occur with or without an obvious trigger. Most likely, depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Lack of coping skills developed through spirituality, family support can also make it easier for a person to become depressed

There are several forms of depressive disorders.

Major depressive disorder, or major depression, is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities. Major depression is disabling and prevents a person from functioning normally. Some people may experience only a single episode within their lifetime, but more often a person may have multiple episodes.

Dysthymic disorder, or dysthymia, is characterized by long-term (2 years or longer) symptoms that may not be severe enough to disable a person but can prevent normal functioning or feeling well. People with dysthymia may also experience one or more episodes of major depression during their lifetimes.

Minor depression is characterized by having symptoms for 2 weeks or longer that do not meet full criteria for major depression. Without treatment, people with minor depression are at high risk for developing major depressive disorder.

Some forms of depression are slightly different, or they may develop under unique circumstances. However, not everyone agrees on how to characterize and define these forms of depression. They include:

  • Psychotic depression, which occurs when a person has severe depression plus some form of psychosis, such as having disturbing false beliefs or a break with reality (delusions), or hearing or seeing upsetting things that others cannot hear or see (hallucinations).
  • Postpartum depression, which is much more serious than the “baby blues” that many women experience after giving birth, when hormonal and physical changes and the new responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming. It is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of women experience postpartum depression after giving birth.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. The depression generally lifts during spring and summer. SAD may be effectively treated with light therapy, but nearly half of those with SAD do not get better with light therapy alone. Antidepressant medication and psychotherapy can reduce SAD symptoms, either alone or in combination with light therapy.

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment

If you start missing days from work, have difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, experience any of the above symptoms, speak to your primary care provider. He or she can refer you to a mental health specialist. Depression, even the most severe cases, can be effectively treated. The earlier that treatment can begin, the more effective it is. Untreated depression can also lead to physical health problems. Alcohol and other substance abuse or dependence may also co-exist with depression. Research shows that mood disorders and substance abuse commonly occur together.

Women, Men, & Children Living With Depression

How do women experience depression?

Depression is more common among women than among men. Biological, life cycle, hormonal, and psychosocial factors that women experience may be linked to women’s higher depression rate. Researchers have shown that hormones directly affect the brain chemistry that controls emotions and mood. For example, women are especially vulnerable to developing postpartum depression after giving birth, when hormonal and physical changes and the new responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming.

Some women may also have a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD is associated with the hormonal changes that typically occur around ovulation and before menstruation begins.

During the transition into menopause, some women experience an increased risk for depression. In addition, osteoporosis—bone thinning or loss—may be associated with depression. Scientists are exploring all of these potential connections and how the cyclical rise and fall of estrogen and other hormones may affect a woman’s brain chemistry.

Finally, many women face the additional stresses of work and home responsibilities, caring for children and aging parents, abuse, poverty, and relationship strains. It is still unclear, though, why some women faced with enormous challenges develop depression, while others with similar challenges do not.

How do men experience depression?

Men often experience depression differently than women. While women with depression are more likely to have feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and excessive guilt, men are more likely to be very tired, irritable, lose interest in once-pleasurable activities, and have difficulty sleeping.

Men may be more likely than women to turn to alcohol or drugs when they are depressed. They also may become frustrated, discouraged, irritable, angry, and sometimes abusive. Some men throw themselves into their work to avoid talking about their depression with family or friends, or behave recklessly. And although more women attempt suicide, many more men die by suicide in the United States.

How do older adults experience depression?

Depression is not a normal part of aging. Studies show that most seniors feel satisfied with their lives, despite having more illnesses or physical problems. However, when older adults do have depression, it may be overlooked because seniors may show different, less obvious symptoms. They may be less likely to experience or admit to feelings of sadness or grief.

Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish grief from major depression. Grief after loss of a loved one is a normal reaction to the loss and generally does not require professional mental health treatment. However, grief that is complicated and lasts for a very long time following a loss may require treatment. Researchers continue to study the relationship between complicated grief and major depression.

Older adults also may have more medical conditions such as heart disease, stroke, or cancer, which may cause depressive symptoms. Or they may be taking medications with side effects that contribute to depression. Some older adults may experience what doctors call vascular depression, also called arteriosclerotic depression or subcortical ischemic depression. Vascular depression may result when blood vessels become less flexible and harden over time, becoming constricted. Such hardening of vessels prevents normal blood flow to the body’s organs, including the brain. Those with vascular depression may have, or be at risk for, co-existing heart disease or stroke.

Although many people assume that the highest rates of suicide are among young people, older white males age 85 and older actually have the highest suicide rate in the United States. Many have a depressive illness that their doctors are not aware of, even though many of these suicide victims visit their doctors within 1 month of their deaths.

Most older adults with depression improve when they receive treatment with an antidepressant, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. Research has shown that medication alone and combination treatment are both effective in reducing depression in older adults. Psychotherapy alone also can be effective in helping older adults stay free of depression, especially among those with minor depression. Psychotherapy is particularly useful for those who are unable or unwilling to take antidepressant medication.

How do children and teens experience depression?

Children who develop depression often continue to have episodes as they enter adulthood. Children who have depression also are more likely to have other more severe illnesses in adulthood.

A child with depression may pretend to be sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a parent, or worry that a parent may die. Older children may sulk, get into trouble at school, be negative and irritable, and feel misunderstood. Because these signs may be viewed as normal mood swings typical of children as they move through developmental stages, it may be difficult to accurately diagnose a young person with depression.

Before puberty, boys and girls are equally likely to develop depression. By age 15, however, girls are twice as likely as boys to have had a major depressive episode.

Depression during the teen years comes at a time of great personal change—when boys and girls are forming an identity apart from their parents, grappling with gender issues and emerging sexuality, and making independent decisions for the first time in their lives. Depression in adolescence frequently co-occurs with other disorders such as anxiety, eating disorders, or substance abuse. It can also lead to increased risk for suicide.

An NIMH-funded clinical trial of 439 adolescents with major depression found that a combination of medication and psychotherapy was the most effective treatment option. Other NIMH-funded researchers are developing and testing ways to prevent suicide in children and adolescents.

Childhood depression often persists, recurs, and continues into adulthood, especially if left untreated.

How can I help a loved one who is depressed?

If you know someone who is depressed, it affects you too. The most important thing you can do is help your friend or relative get a diagnosis and treatment. You may need to make an appointment and go with him or her to see the doctor. Encourage your loved one to stay in treatment, or to seek different treatment if no improvement occurs after 6 to 8 weeks.

To help your friend or relative

  • Offer emotional support, understanding, patience, and encouragement.
  • Talk to him or her, and listen carefully.
  • Never dismiss feelings, but point out realities and offer hope.
  • Never ignore comments about suicide, and report them to your loved one’s therapist or doctor.
  • Invite your loved one out for walks, outings and other activities. Keep trying if he or she declines, but don’t push him or her to take on too much too soon.
  • Provide assistance in getting to the doctor’s appointments.
  • Remind your loved one that with time and treatment, the depression will lift.

How can I help myself if I am depressed?

If you have depression, you may feel exhausted, helpless, and hopeless. It may be extremely difficult to take any action to help yourself. But as you begin to recognize your depression and begin treatment, you will start to feel better.

To Help Yourself

  • Do not wait too long to get evaluated or treated. There is research showing the longer one waits, the greater the impairment can be down the road. Try to see a professional as soon as possible.
  • Try to be active and exercise. Go to a movie, a ballgame, or another event or activity that you once enjoyed.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself.
  • Break up large tasks into small ones, set some priorities and do what you can as you can.
  • Try to spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or relative. Try not to isolate yourself, and let others help you.
  • Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Do not expect to suddenly “snap out of” your depression. Often during treatment for depression, sleep and appetite will begin to improve before your depressed mood lifts.
  • Postpone important decisions, such as getting married or divorced or changing jobs, until you feel better. Discuss decisions with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
  • Remember that positive thinking will replace negative thoughts as your depression responds to treatment.
  • Remove/minimize refined sugars from your diet. Refined sugars have been linked to causing negative chemical reactions in the body. Use whole wheat breads, pastas, rice, use honey for sweetner.
  • Continue to educate yourself about depression.

Asthma Linked To Vitamin D Deficiency

Most health care providers in the U.S. have determined that African-American children are more likely than other ethnic groups to experience Asthma. However, studies published by the National Institute of Health (NIH) link Asthma to Vitamin D deficiency.

A 2009 research study by Augusto A. Litonjua, MD, MPH, provided evidence that Vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increase in asthma attacks and that Vitamin D is useful in managing steroid resistant asthma. Dr. Litonjua also noted that sufficient Vitamin D levels in pregnant women resulted in young children with stronger immunity of their respiratory systems. Vitamin D plays a protective role in preventing wheezing and respiratory infections.

A 2011 research study by Sif Hansdottir, MD, MS and Martha M. Monica, PhD, showed that Vitamin D is an essential nutrient helping the cells that line the lungs and respiratory tract to prevent infection. We get Vitamin D from skin exposure to sunlight and to a lesser extent from our diet. Vitamin D can be obtained from cod liver oil, eggs, orange juice, Vitamin D enriched milk, fish—salmon, tuna, sardines, catfish.

These studies described above, give evidence that Asthma has little to do with ethnicity and more to do with diet and environmental factors. Nutrition deficiency and environmental factors are the main causes of Asthma, not race. Environmental triggers include: cigarette smoke, roaches, dust, air pollution. Asthma has become a global health problem. The Global Burden of Asthma Report, commissioned by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) estimates Asthma will affect 100 million people worldwide by 2025. The Global Burden of Asthma Report made a comprehensive study of 80 countries worldwide.

GINA created an annual World Asthma Day to make Asthma prevention a world priority and has announced that day to be the first Tuesday of each May. For information about World Asthma Day and GINA visit:

With westernized diets and environmental triggers, incidences of Asthma in Africa has increased among people living urban areas. Incidence of Asthma in rural areas remains low. Asthma in African countries has also been linked to Vitamin D deficiency in communities were Rickets (a Vitamin D Deficiency that causes weakness in long bones leading to “bowed legs”) is experienced.

Maintaining adequate Vitamin D levels holds a promising role in prevention of Asthma. Several clinical trials are on going that are looking at vitamin D and asthma, ranging from maternal supplementation during pregnancy and prevention of childhood asthma to the use of vitamin D as a treatment in child and adult individuals with asthma. For more information concerning research on Asthma, go to

For more information on Asthma visit: and