In the May 13th issue of TIME Magazine reports on the serious impact of depression on stroke risk. Reporter Mandy Oaklander writes, "People with prolonged depression had 114% higher risk of stroke than those without symptoms."
That statistic floored me. Prior to working for Life Line Screening, I worked for a nonprofit organization that specialized in mental health screening. One of our cornerstone projects, National Depression Screening Day, is devoted to raising awareness of depression signs and symptoms and help people connect with treatment.
Now, eight years later, I find my worlds coming full circle. What affects your mind, affects your body. We have to recognize that the two are not separate and in fact, are closely linked. Stress is also a serious risk factor for physical problems, especially cardiovascular problems, but also headaches, muscle aches and general fatigue.
I am going to offer completely personal advice for the best ways to deal with the mental health problems that can wreak havoc on your body. These are from my personal experience, and have proven useful in my own life. (Note: this is NOT a substitute for medical advice)
- Get treatment. If you have a feeling of sadness that has lasted for 2 weeks or more, and are not enjoying your usual hobbies and activities, seek help. Treatment works. You may need to work with your doctor over several weeks to find the right combination of medication and therapy, but the difference this can make is amazing.
- Exercise. This is the most important advice of all. Exercise is a fantastic tool to beat the blues and it is also great for your body and heart.
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, including weekends. Regular sleep patterns require a certain amount of discipline, but once you get in a routine, it truly helps regulate your mood and overall health.
- Get outside. Nature walks, or just walking along the street with some sunshine is remarkably energizing and yet also calming.
- Eat healthfully. A healthy diet full of leafy, green vegetables, nuts, fruits, tomatoes, and lean protein fuels both mind and body. Think of the computer term GIGO. Garbage in. Garbage out. Make sure you are putting the good stuff in.
- Get a pet. Walking a dog every day forces you to exercise and petting a cat or dog is relaxing. Their unconditional love doesn't hurt either. Besides, if you adopt from a rescue league, you are doing a great thing for the animal also. Double benefit!
I send my best to all of our readers who struggle with mental health and cardiovascular disease problems. Please know that you aren't alone. Support is available, and if you come to Life Line Screening for an appointment, we can give you some good information about your personal risk factors for stroke and cardiovascular disease.