Dr. Bill tells us about a simple blood test that could help determine a person’s risk of suicide. Show Notes

Thursday, August 07, 2014 Host(s): Dr. Bill Maier
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Could a simple blood test could determine a person’s risk of suicide and maybe event prevent them from taking their own life?

According to the Washington Post, researchers have discovered a genetic indicator that shows a person’s vulnerability to the effects of stress and anxiety. They believe that information can predict the how likely they are to try to commit suicide.

The study, done by Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, looked at how a group of chemicals known as methyls affect a particular gene, which modifies how the brain reacts to stress hormones.

If the gene’s function is impacted by a chemical change, someone who is stressed won’t be able to shut down the effect of the stress hormone. The researchers say that’s like a faulty brake pad for the “fear center” of the brain, worsening the impact of even everyday stresses.

The research team found that people who had died by suicide had significantly higher levels of the chemical that altered the stress gene.  As a result, it was not able to “switch off” the effect of the stress hormone cortisol.

Zachary Kaminsky, a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, says that although this biomarker indicates a person’s vulnerability to stress and anxiety, it does not mean they are destined to experience suicidal thoughts. In fact, it could also make them more resilient.

Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death for Americans, according to the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. That organization aims to reduce the national suicide rate by 20 percent within five years, through research and identifying people who are the greatest risk.

If you’ve ever contemplated suicide or know someone who might be at risk, go to AFSP.org, or just google “suicide prevention.”

I’m Bill Maier for WBCL.
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