Ask Oz and Roizen: Teen Depression and Exercise for Obese Seniors

Learn what the docs have to say on these health topics.

Ask Oz and Roizen: Teen Depression and Exercise for Obese Seniors

Q: My 16-year-old niece seems withdrawn lately and may be depressed. She’s always been pretty outgoing, but I wonder if she’s under too much pressure at school. She and I get along well, so it’s something I can talk to her about. Should I? — Janine W., Plant City, FL

A: Definitely yes, by all means, but tread carefully. Don’t tell her how to feel or act, just listen to what she has to say and ask questions—about how much she uses social (antisocial) media and if she’s worried about terror attacks and school shootings, for example. And let her know she’s not “abnormal.” Teen depression and anxiety are a growing problem these days.

A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 70 percent of teenagers saw mental health as a major issue. Bullying, drugs and alcohol came in as distant second, third and fourth, and they are often related. Factors fueling depression and other mental health issues: Pressure on kids to get good grades and to look a certain way (girls especially feel this).

Sixteen-year-old kids have a lot to deal with these days with 24/7 information overload, not to mention the peaks and valleys of hormonal changes. The good news is that there’s less of a stigma than there used to be about going to a counselor or psychologist for advice. You could ask her if she’s aware of the counseling services at school and if she ever considered asking or has ever asked a counselor for advice. Let her know that you’re able to help her find a professional to talk to.

If you think you would like more advice on how to talk with her, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). A 2017 study that looked at the data from 32 children’s hospitals from 2008 to 2015 found the number of children admitted for thoughts of suicide and self-harm had doubled. You want to help her stay healthy and happy.

Q: I’m really concerned about my mom. She’s in an assisted living facility where they provide all of her meals. She’s only 75-years-old and she’s using an electric wheelchair to get around because she’s become obese. Her blood pressure has become high, too. Is there anything she can do to reverse her increasingly sedentary lifestyle? — Edna F., Tempe, AZ

A: If she’s in an assisted living facility, you should be able to arrange for the caretakers to put together a healthier lifestyle (if she can’t, maybe you should look around for another facility for her) and it will probably take less effort than she realizes. The first thing she needs to do is get her blood pressure down. She can do that by adding a little exercise to her daily routine—and medications if her doc advises. The good news is that can help her shed excess pounds, too.

She can start with 30 minutes of treadmill walking in the morning, before or after breakfast. Every morning. A study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension found that older obese men and women who did that and regularly took breaks from prolonged sitting throughout the day reduced their blood pressure.

Many assisted living facilities have some sort of workout area. Arrange for someone to help your mom with a treadmill session every morning. Or, if there’s a pool, 30 minutes of pool-walking might be a safer way to go at first.

Prolonged sitting, however, may be your mom’s biggest health enemy. The study we just mentioned got sedentary study participants up every 30 minutes for three minutes—and that was a vital part of lowering elevated blood pressure. So, get her a watch or timer to set (there are apps such as Stand Up! that you can download for her). The combination of morning movement and regularly standing up should make her feel better almost immediately.

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