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How can mental illness affect physical health?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
A recent study by the British Medical Journal revealed that healthy minds lead to healthy bodies after discovering a connection between psychological distress and premature death. Whether you keep your mind healthy with yoga, music, talking to friends, or seeing a mental-health professional, it can all be a wise investment that can lengthen your lifespan.

The researchers in this study kept track of 68,222 healthy adults for eight years and found that those with lower levels of confidence and higher levels of anxiety, depression, worthlessness and social dysfunction had a significantly higher risk of death from all causes. The thousands of surveyed persons who had died from cardiovascular disease or cancer reportedly had no history of disease from the beginning, but developed it later.

The study assessed psychological distress with a General Health Questionnaire, a simple 12-question survey that assessed if participants had ever lost sleep over worry, considered themselves reasonably happy, or constantly felt under strain. Interestingly, many of the adults who were considered psychologically distressed never received help from a mental-health professional -- mostly because there wasn’t an urgent need for one.

Mental health is a controversial concept. However, most mental health professionals agree that it involves some level of self-awareness. However, not everyone needs to sit on a shrink’s couch to keep their mental health in check. The American Psychiatric Association gives tips for those who want to do a mental self-check.

The first thing to assess is your ability to sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping, it may be a sign of emotional distress. Many studies have connected the benefits of good sleep hygiene with mental health. Another important thing to assess is your stress level. If you feel tense all the time or find it hard to unwind at the end of the day, your body may be telling you to find better ways to keep your mind healthy.
Left untreated, mental disorders interfere with personal relationships, work and even physical health. Chronic illnesses and medical events, including cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, heart attacks, and strokes, can trigger depression.

There is also evidence that a history of depression is a risk factor for certain conditions, including heart disease, heart attacks, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, back pain, and asthma.
Ms. Ashley Koff, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Doctors from Harvard University conducted a joint study with several Boston-area hospitals designed to examine the connections and interactions between the mind and the body, specifically the skin. They dubbed their findings the NICE network, which stands for neuro-immuno cutaneous-endocrine. In plainspeak, it's a network consisting of your nervous system, immune system, the skin, and your endocrine (hormonal) system. All of these are intimately connected through a dialogue of shared interactive chemicals. Like a giant wireless network, when one phone rings, the others can hear it and respond.

The Boston researchers studied how various external forces affect our state of mind, from massage and aromatherapy to depression and isolation. What they discovered confirmed what we had already known anecdotally for centuries: our state of mind has a definite impact on our health and even our looks. People suffering from depression, for example, look older and less healthy, and not because they've let themselves go and aren't grooming themselves as rigorously as their happier counterparts. But they actually are older than happier comrades who are the same biological age. The stress of living with depression has accelerated the aging process and damaged their health.

The World Health Organization has estimated that by the year 2020, depression will be the second leading disability-causing disease in the world. In many developed countries, such as the United States, depression is already among the top causes in terms of disability and excess mortality.
Mom Energy: A Simple Plan to Live Fully Charged

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Mom Energy: A Simple Plan to Live Fully Charged

       From celebrated dietitian Ashley Koff and fitness trainer to the stars Kathy Kaehler comes Mom Energy, an exciting new way for moms to tap into their own natural and renewable sources of...
Many studies have noted excess mortality among patients with mental illness. Up to 50% of people with serious mental illness have recognizable co-morbid physical health conditions. Approximately 35% may have undiagnosed medical disorders and about 20% have medical problems that may explain or cause exacerbation of their psychiatric conditions. The conditions associated with long term mental illness include asthma, chronic obstructive airways disease (COPD), diabetes, coronary heart disease (CHD), arthritis, some specific tumors and cancers, skin conditions including psoriasis and some smoking related diseases.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.