There are some must-do preventive healthcare measures you should regularly make time for in case if you have a chronic mental condition, such as depression or bipolar disorder.
If you have depression or bipolar disorder, it can be hard to stay on top of your physical health. You spend so much time and energy battling symptoms and staying in control of your mental health that physical health sometimes suffers. Severe or chronic depression can keep you from seeking preventive healthcare, like blood pressure screenings.
Symptoms also make it hard to follow diet and exercise recommendations.
The biggest physical health problems seen in patients with depression and bipolar disorder are preventable conditions. These include diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and an increased risk for cancer.
Making it even worse, the most common treatments for depression and bipolar disorder can further erode physical health in patients.
The bottom line is that depression and bipolar disorder symptoms and treatments contribute to poor health and result in a shortened lifespan.
For this reason, you should make time for certain preventive healthcare measures to avoid these unfortunate happenings.
1. Stop smoking
People with mental illness use tobacco products more than the general population. In the United States, adults with mental illness consume almost 40% of all cigarettes smoked by those over 18.
The mood-altering effects of nicotine mask the negative symptoms of mental illness, making people with these disorders at higher risk for nicotine addiction. Because of the effect that nicotine and addiction have on the brain, you may need special programs or additional assistance to give up tobacco use if you have depression or bipolar disorder.
Quitting smoking and conquering nicotine addiction can lower your risk of various cancers. Involve your mental health care provider in your efforts to stop smoking so that your medication is adjusted to compensate for the increase of symptoms and lack of nicotine.
2. Regular dental care
Severe depression often results in neglected dental care. If your depression symptoms render you unable to perform basic tasks like brushing and flossing, it can have long-term consequences on your overall physical health.
Advanced gum disease raises your risk for health complications like respiratory infections, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, dementia and premature birth.
Talk to your dentist about alternatives to brushing your teeth when you are unable to leave the bed. Studies have shown that chewing sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol can drastically lower or eliminate the bacteria that cause cavities.
Good oral hygiene can lower your risk factor for developing more serious health conditions.
3. Weight management
People with depression and bipolar disorder often struggle to maintain regular physical activity, raising the risk for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. If your depression is unrelenting, it can be especially hard to focus on insulin regulation and diet restrictions.
Even successful treatment for mental illness can contribute to weight gain, as is the case with antipsychotics and antidepressants. Psychotropic medicines also cause cardiovascular disease, and side effects like hypotension and ventricular fibrillation. All these can contribute to the risk of stroke.
Make every effort to control your weight with lifestyle and behavior changes to limit life-shortening complications. Have your cholesterol and A1C checked regularly so that you can address the conditions with your doctor before they become life-limiting.
4. Preventive disease screenings
Psychiatric disorders can make it challenging to make appointments and get in for treatment. But it’s even harder to make multiple visits to separate offices. Instead, seek out community healthcare programs that offer patient-centered care.
When you go in for mental illness treatment, you can also receive preventive disease screenings and lifestyle counseling.
Limiting the workload of coordinating appointments, transportation, and follow-up visits will make it easier to stay healthy and avoid costly hospital visits. Housebound patients should seek in-home or mobile support to avoid deteriorating health.
5. Reproductive health testing
People with bipolar disorder have a high incidence of risky sexual behavior associated with manic phases. Even with successful treatment, the disorder can lead to unprotected sex or unplanned pregnancies.
Highly sexualized behavior as a symptom of mania can cause higher than expected rates of infectious diseases. It is also associated with some forms of cancers, and increase the prevalence of HIV infection by eight times.
Make reproductive health screenings a regular part of your checkup to help slow the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
Five preventive healthcare measures can lead to a longer life
The reasons are complex, but symptoms of serious mental illness can boost risky behaviors like smoking or contribute to a lack of physical activity. Struggling to maintain mental health can take precedence for many patients over traditional healthcare for controllable and curable diseases.
Doctors agree that a combination of fragmented health care, risky health behaviors, and symptoms of the disorders can put you at risk for preventable disease and earlier death.
Do your best to stay on top of your preventive healthcare measures and dental hygiene, stop smoking and maintain a healthy weight to give yourself the best shot at leading a long and healthy life.