By Dr. Timothy W. Woodard

The cold, dark, winter months are often a difficult time for people who suffer from depression.

The characteristic symptoms of depression are unusually sad or depressed mood, loss of energy or enthusiasm for enjoyable activities, disturbance of sleep or appetite, hopelessness, uncontrollable crying, and in serious cases, thoughts of suicide.

For most moderate to severe forms of depression, the mainstay of medical treatment remains the use of prescription medications. Often, despite good outcomes and general safety of the latest antidepressant medications, some patients show a high degree of resistance to using them. This is, in large part, due to a misunderstanding about the nature of medical treatments for psychiatric illnesses.

One concern that I hear voiced often is, “I don’t want to become dependent on anything.” It is an incorrect perception held by many people that any chemical that has any effect on the brain is automatically and by its very nature, addictive. This is absolutely not the case.

Some medicines, such as amphetamines, can be addictive because they have a direct effect on the circuits of the brain that govern the perception of pleasure and reward. Others, such as Valium, have the potential to cause physical dependence which, like alcohol, can produce life-threatening complications if the drugs are abruptly stopped without medical supervision. Properly prescribed, even these medications are usually safe for those who need them.

Antidepressant medications, however, do not work in this way. Once the best medication is identified and adjusted to the most effective dose for an individual patient, antidepressants are often extremely beneficial. It can be a time-consuming process that requires patience and perseverance but the final result is usually well worth the effort.

Antidepressants change the way certain chemical signals in the brain work. Stopping an antidepressant medication too quickly can cause your initial symptoms to resurge.

This is why many people need to stay on antidepressants for a prolonged period in order to reap the benefits. Six months is the usual minimum recommended duration of treatment, and it often needs to be longer. The average length of time that people remain on antidepressants, according to some studies, is about 80 days.

To rely on a medication to help you stay healthy and functioning at your best is not the same thing as being “dependent,” in the sense of being addicted. It is imperative that we be clear about that. Depression associated with other illnesses, like bipolar disorder, often requires different kinds of medications to treat it but the principle remains relevant. It is not fundamentally different than people with hypertension who rely upon their blood pressure medicine to keep their blood pressure under control.

Untreated or ineffectively treated depression can lead to absence from work, loss of productivity and income, sedentary activity that can adversely affect physical health, strained social relationships and, in the worst cases, suicide.

I believe it is essential for patients to have a realistic understanding of the reasons why medications are used to help prevent these negative outcomes. Few things are more tragic to a psychiatrist than to see a patient forego life-saving treatment because the perceived risks of treatment are far greater than the actual risks and the perceived benefits are far lower than the actual benefits.

At Mountain Crest Behavioral Healthcare Center in Fort Collins, we have an acute inpatient unit for both adults and adolescents who require hospitalization for severe or life-threatening cases of depression, as well as other serious mental illnesses. We also have a fully staffed outpatient clinic that offers medication management under experienced prescribers coupled with psychotherapy for both patients and their families.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression this winter, please do not let misunderstandings about the nature of medical treatment prevent you from seeking, or encouraging others to seek, help when it is needed.

Dr. Timothy W. Woodard is a staff psychiatrist at Mountain Crest Behavioral Healthcare Center, which is part of the University of Colorado Health, in Fort Collins. 

Mountain Crest Behavioral Health Care Center helps adults and adolescents with mental health issues and substance abuse issues achieve a balanced life and a high level of health and well-being.  Programs offered at Mountain Crest include:

Substance Dependency Intensive Outpatient
A group experience that helps individuals develop new coping skills to deal with addiction.
More info: 970.207.4843

Mountain Crest Psychotherapy Outpatient Clinic
Individual appointments with a psychiatrist and licensed therapist.
More info: 970.207.4857

Wraparound Program
An in-home therapy and case management service for adolescents and families.
More info: 970.207.4891

For more information or to learn more about Mountain Crest and programs offered, visit pvhs.org/mountain-crest-behavioral-healthcare-center.


More than 5 million people in the United States have heart failure. Patients diagnosed with heart failure need ongoing monitoring and guidance to manage their condition.

University of Colorado Health offers Heart Failure University, a free patient education series that provides information to people living with heart failure. The four-part series, held in Loveland and Fort Collins, is taught by a number of heart experts including a heart failure patient navigator, a pharmacist, a cardiac exercise therapist, a registered dietitian, a cardiac rehabilitation nurse and a community case manager.

Topics include:

  • The basics of managing heart failure and monitoring symptoms.
  • Medications used to treat heart failure and slow its progression.
  • Exercise and activity: finding balance and building endurance without stressing your heart.
  • Eating heart healthy to slow the progression of heart failure and heart disease.
  • Finding community resources, support groups and financial assistance programs.
  • Self-management, coping and building support systems.

Patients have the opportunity to bring care providers with them for support. Additionally, the small class setting offers the opportunity for open dialogue.

Click here to find an upcoming Heart Failure University class.

This blog was written by Randi Freeman, marketing strategist for University of Colorado Health.

Source: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

Ken Buck, Weld County District Attorney, shares what it was like to be diagnosed with cancer in this short video.

“It was scary knowing that it was a 50/50 proposition of whether I was going to live or die,” said Buck.

He discusses the importance of finding care close to home and how he selected treatment with University of Colorado Health’s Dr. Douglas Kemme in Greeley.

Learn more about Dr. Kemme’s care philosophy in this video.

Learn more about University of Colorado Health’s cancer care and hematology program in northern Colorado.

Healthy Kids Learn Better

If you were to ask Laurie Zenner how Healthy Kids Club got where it is today, the answer won’t shock you. The answer will inspire you to change your life and the lives of those around you.

“It’s not about me, the program or the health system. It’s about our kids. It’s about collaborating with others and working together to invest in their future,” said Zenner, Healthy Kids Club’s supervisor.

In 1998, University of Colorado Health, then Poudre Valley Health System, mainly focused community health efforts on education and health prevention through its Aspen Club/Senior Services program for adults over 50. It was becoming clear, through emerging childhood obesity trends, that a program focused on youth was needed. It would be a program designed to curb the development of lifelong chronic conditions through prevention and healthier living.

According to the CDC, childhood obesity in the United States has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. In fact, the percentage of children aged 6–11 years who were obese increased from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 18 percent in 2010. Overweight and obese children are at a higher risk of developing life-threatening adult health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Starting with schools

Before building what is now Healthy Kids Club, each Poudre School District principal was interviewed to find areas of improvement in our kids’ overall health. A few consistent trends were found to be influencing factors among kids’ health: reduced physical education and recess time, fast food, super-sized portions and increased screen time.

With that knowledge in hand and support from the school district, Healthy Kids Club was born. It started with after school and neighborhood programs focused on physical activity, the Healthy Kids Run Series and a monthly newsletter. And from there, it grew. 15 years later, Healthy Kids Club has expanded throughout Northern Colorado, serving communities from north Denver to Walden and everywhere inbetween.

Healthy Kids Club doesn’t simply offer programs to elementary schools, the goal is to partner with schools, youth-serving agencies and other community initiatives to work together to create change. As Zenner stated, “it’s not about us, it’s about collaboration.”

School wellness wasn’t on anyone’s radar 15 years ago, said Zenner. “We had to strategize and figure out ways to not only educate schools but build lasting principles and partnerships.” Healthy Kids Club started working on building wellness teams at each school. The wellness teams would take the principles learned and ingrain them into the school’s teaching philosophy.

Healthy Kids Club and UCHealth’s CanDo, the Coalition for Activity and Nutrition to Defeat Obesity, have been instrumental in partnering with schools to develop wellness policies and establish these school wellness teams. Currently, all Poudre School District, most of Thompson School District and, most recently, a school in Greeley, have teams that work to sustain wellness efforts.

Are wellness teams effective?

Ask Kristin Quere, PE Teacher at BF Kitchen Elementary in Loveland, “Our partnership with UCHealth and Healthy Kids Club has provided life-changing health and wellness opportunities for our students, staff and families.The knowledge and skills developed from Healthy Kids Club programs have enriched many lives and supported the steps needed to work towards lifelong well-being.”

hkc_btn_largeFive years ago, BF Kitchen Elementary and Healthy Kids Club partnered up to improve the health and wellness of its students, staff and families. BF Kitchen is now a health and wellness-focus school committed to academic excellence by promoting high academic standards, increased physical activity, better nutrition and positive life choices for each student.

In 2011, BF Kitchen Elementary School in Loveland and Healthy Kids Club were honored by First Lady Michelle Obama at a reception at the White House, honoring them with the Gold Award of Distinction as part of the HealthierUS Schools Challenge Program.

The health landscape for our kids can’t be changed by financial involvement alone. Healthy Kids Club has spent the last 15 years rooting itself into our community at every level. Its health educators sit on school, neighborhood and city committees to be a voice for kids’ health.

“We are a highly-valued partner,” said Zenner. Kids and families love our programs and see great value in UCHealth’s investment in the health of our kids. We pride ourselves on being involved and trusted in the communities we serve.

What’s one simple message Healthy Kids Club can offer to change my child’s health?

Zenner says to focus on 5210 everyday. Eat at least five servings of fruits and veggies, limit screen time to two hours, get one hour of activity and try to avoid sugary drinks (zero is best). This simple message works wonders in both kids and adults. “Living simply and treating each other with kindness may be the best advice I can give,” said Zenner.

Healthy Kids Club is more than a program. It’s a community partner dedicated to making sure our kids grow up to lead healthy, vibrant lives.

 This blog was written by Nicole Caputo, marketing strategist for University of Colorado Health.

Medical Center of the Rockies recently received yet another prestigious award celebrating the high level of care it provides to heart attack patients.

The American College of Cardiology Foundation recently awarded the National Cardiovascular Data Registry ACTION Registry – Get with the Guidelines Platinum Performance Achievement Award to the Loveland hospital, which specializes in heart and trauma care.

[Read the press release here.]

Dr. J. Bradley Oldemeyer, CHMG interventional cardiologist

Dr. J. Bradley Oldemeyer, CHMG interventional cardiologist

“The time is right for Medical Center of the Rockies to focus on improving the quality of cardiovascular care by implementing these guidelines,” said Dr. J. Bradley Oldemeyer, director of the MCR cardiac catheterization laboratory. “The number of acute myocardial infarction patients eligible for treatment is expected to grow over the next decade because of the increasing incidence of heart disease and a large aging population.”

At MCR, the average door-to-balloon time for acute heart attack patients is 43 minutes, less than half the national goal of 90 minutes. Approximately 29 percent of patients had a door-to-balloon time of less than 30 minutes. Lower door-to-balloon times equate to less heart damage, decreased complications and a return to normal activities after a heart attack.

This is the second major heart care recognition MCR has received from the American Heart Association for its excellence in quality care for people experiencing heart attack this year. In March, the association awarded MCR with the Mission: Lifeline® Heart Attack Receiving Center Accreditation.

Congratulations to our door-to-balloon team and regional partners who continue to provide outstanding heart attack care.

Medical Center of the Rockies door-to-balloon team

Medical Center of the Rockies door-to-balloon team and regional partners

Want to learn your risk of heart disease?
Take this quiz using our online heart assessment tool.

This blog was written by Randi Freeman, marketing strategist for University of Colorado Health.

Broncos coach John Fox successfully underwent aortic valve replacement surgery on Monday, November 4, according to the Broncos organization and players. The 58-year-old was taken to the hospital for light-headedness and was told that he needed aortic valve replacement surgery immediately – a procedure he reportedly hoped to delay until after the Super Bowl.

“Coach Fox is of the age that we typically see patients with aortic valve problems,” said Dr. David Fullerton, cardiothoracic surgeon at University of Colorado Hospital. “Aortic valve stenosis develops when the aortic valve leaflets slowly stiffen and aren’t able to open and close properly.”

David Fullerton, MD

“The three signs of possible problems with the aortic valve are chest pressure, shortness of breath and fainting,” said Dr. Fullerton.

People who display these symptoms should see their physician. If a heart condition is suspected, a patient may be referred to a cardiologist who can perform tests for a diagnosis, such as an echocardiogram that uses sound waves to detect aortic valve stenosis.

“Generally left untreated, aortic valve stenosis can lead to heart failure and death in severe cases,” said Dr. Michael Stanton, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Medical Center of the Rockies who regularly performs valve replacement surgeries.

Michael Stanton, MD

Michael Stanton, MD

According to Dr. Stanton, aortic valve replacement is one of the most common valve surgeries, generally caused by rheumatic fever, degenerative disease of a patient older than 55, a congenital anomaly where there are two leaflets instead of three predisposing them to disease, or infection of the valve causing deterioration of the valve. Most patients can be treated effectively with open valve replacement surgery.

“Although aortic valve replacement is a major operation, it is very safe,” said Dr. Fullerton, who says the traditional, open operation typically takes up to four hours and requires a four to six day hospital stay.

Transcatheter aortic valve replacement

Click here to watch how TAVR is performed.

A small percentage of patients who are too sick for open-heart surgery may be candidates for a cutting-edge, less-invasive procedure that uses a catheter to transport a new valve, through a patient’s arteries, to the heart. Medical Center of the Rockies and University of Colorado Hospital are two of the few hospitals in the region with this technology called TAVR, or transcatheter aortic valve replacement.

To find a University of Colorado Health cardiologist who treats aortic valve stenosis, visit Medical Center of the Rockies or University of Colorado Hospital.

Reigning World Series champion,  Jon Lester of the Boston Red Sox, is a hero. He’s a hero to the Fenway Faithful for his stellar pitching in the 2007 and 2013 post seasons. And, he’s a hero and role model to those affected by lymphoma.

Lester was diagnosed with the cancer in his 2006 rookie season. Demonstrating the same fight he brings to the field, Lester battled back from lymphoma and won a World Series title in 2007. If that wasn’t enough, he continued his dominance on the mound and pitched a no-hitter in 2008. And as of this week, he played a big role in another World Series championship for Boston.

Why talk about lymphoma?

Lymphoma is often misunderstood compared to cancers like breast or prostate. It’s a disease that gets confused with leukemia because they both can be related to blood-form tissues such as bone marrow. We believe it’s important to help everyone understand the differences.

Recently, in a brief radio interview,  Dr. Steven Schuster spoke about lymphoma and provided listeners with a better understanding of lymphoma. (Listen now.)

A few of the topics covered: 

  • What is lymphoma?
  • How many people are affected by it?
  • What are the early warning signs and risk factors or ways to test for it?
  • What are the treatment options for those affected by lymphoma?
listeniconClick here to learn more about
University of Colorado Health’s
cancer care program.
Dr. Schuster is a medical oncology and hematologist for University of Colorado Health. He primarily practices  in Fort Collins.

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