How Mental Health and Physical Health are Linked

 20th Nov 2017

We all know our physical health is important. Eating healthily and getting regular exercise are fundamental to a healthy body and overall good health.

Big factors in achieving a healthy life style are education and motivation.

Despite being part of the national curriculum for years, there is a surprisingly wide knowledge gap in terms of what constitutes a healthy diet.

Moreover the abundance of high sugar, low cost snacks, drinks and convenience meals available on the market is enough to tempt the most steel willed into caving.

But what if, on top of all things, you experience mental health issues?

Beyond the obvious low mood impacting on motivation, mental health issues can do far more to your body than you realise.

Disease

Studies conducted by Kings College London, University College London, Edinburgh University and the University of Sydney all concluded that there were links between severe mental health issues and life threatening disease.

A study conducted by Kings College, London showed a link between severe mental health issues and cardiovascular disease.

The study – involving 3.2 million people – found that those individuals with mental health issues like bipolar disorder and severe depression were 53% more likely to develop heart disease. The risk of dying from the disease was also 85% high than the general population.

Other studies highlight links between enduring mental health issues and cancer mortality rates.

There also appears to be a connection between mental health issues and an increased likelihood of diabetes.

man eating on bench

Why?

At present the reasons aren’t clear although there’s no lack of speculation.

Individuals experiencing mental health issues may find it harder to be motivated to do regular exercise. They may also be more likely to comfort eat or care less about their diet as – in some cases – eating is purely functional and the individual may take no pleasure in doing so.

It is also not unreasonable to assume that individuals who experience severe anxiety issues are more likely to suffer from heart related illnesses. The extra strain on the cardiovascular system – over the course of years – will inevitably take its toll.

Whatever the reason it is an alarming state of affairs and more needs to be done in order to support individuals with mental health issues to make changes.

What can I do?

Living with an enduring and severe mental health issue presents a great many challenges.

In some cases it’s all someone can do to get out of bed in order to eat and drink something. For others getting through the day requires so much energy and effort that the thought of attending a gym or going out for a run is almost too much to contemplate.

However, in order to prevent the kind of problems we’ve outlined above, something needs to be done. Here are our top 3 simple changes you can make to lead a healthier life.

  • Fitness

Technology has made it incredibly easy for individuals to get fit in the home.

Fitness DVDs are a low cost way of having an exercise routine that you can match to your outcomes, you fitness level and your free time.

Personal fitness equipment can not only be delivered to your home but there’s an exercise bike for almost every budget.

Don’t forget eBay and Gumtree can be great sources of second hand (and cheap) exercise equipment. Just make sure you check it over thoroughly before handing over your money.

  • Diet

Improving your diet is simultaneously the hardest and easiest thing to change. The abundance of unhealthy foods – as well as their low price – makes ‘a little treat’ when we’re feeling down all too easy.

Replacing a multipack of chocolate bars that cost £1 for a bag of apples that cost twice that amount seems like a false economy but by swapping sweets and chocolate for fruit you will see a big improvement not just around your waist but in your overall sense of wellbeing. Think of it as an investment in yourself.

Improving our diets gives us more energy and makes it far easier to get through that fitness DVD without ending a ruined sweaty heap on the floor. Moreover, eating fruit and vegetables over high fat, high processed sugar foods improves our skin and often our mood. Don’t forget, sugar is highly addictive.

  • Tell People

Making your support circle aware of your efforts to improve your diet and your overall health will make it easier to achieve your goals because you will have people helping you to watch what you eat and to stay focused on what you want to achieve.

It also gives you people you trust to train with. Whilst you may not be up for the gym, going for a jog or working through a DVD with a close friend can make exercise a really enjoyable and positive experience.

And here’s the funny thing about exercise – it’s addictive too. This is because exercise releases the same kind of ‘happy hormones’ that eating chocolate and other sweet foods give off.

  • Set Realistic Goals

When making any big change in life it doesn’t happen overnight. Expecting a super toned body or rock hard abs in a few weeks is a great way to be disappointed.

Set yourself easy to achieve goals in order to keep your motivation high.

Anything from short work outs to making it through the DVD in one sitting is a good place to start. If you want to set weight loss targets consult a GP or other health professional to ensure that you’re losing weight at a healthy pace.

  • Give Yourself a Break

It’s important to be compassionate to yourself during this process.

You may find you make lots of progress and then plateau – that’s quite normal.

You may also have a bad day and eat all the wrong things and skip your workout. That’s okay.

Providing you don’t slip back into old habits, a day off because you need a rest or because you’re going out to dinner is perfectly acceptable.

Part of being healthy is living your life the ways to you want to, that includes the occasional Chunky Kit-Kat.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure that at all times you make sure you are keeping your mental health in front of mind as well as this is by no means a magic wand to overcome all your challenges.

Improving physical health is important to leading a longer life with a decreased risk of major disease, but giving you the energy, the motivation and an improved desire to work on your mental health issues too.

Encompass Dorset is committed to supporting individuals with enduring mental health issues in both residential and domiciliary settings. If you or someone you know could benefit from our service click the links below or contact us today.

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