Mental Illness and Metabolic Syndrome

So as I have documented on this blog I was in hospital recently.  While I was there I made use of the hospital dietitian’s information groups because I had been neglecting that facet of my health recently by drinking instead of eating (bad Mac.)

In one of these groups the dietitian said something that I found interesting; that having a mental illness is a risk factor for developing metabolic syndrome.  He didn’t go into too much detail on how you get that or what it entails, the general understanding being that it happens when you neglect yourself.

I had heard of metabolic syndrome before thrown around as a cautionary tale as a result of a shitty lifestyle.  But I had never heard the mental health angle so I decided to do a bit of investigating to see a) what it is b) what the risk factors actually are and c) whether I am at risk.

Metabolic syndrome seems to be not related directly to your actual metabolism, but rather a collection of risk factors to developing lifestyle disease such as high blood pressure, large waist circumference, high cholesterol and high blood sugars.  Apparently around 35% of Australian adults have it, which I found surprising and a bit alarming.

The causes aren’t known but being overweight and inactive are risk factors.  This has me thinking I might not be a high risk case – I’m not overweight and pretty active, but that could change as I get older.

I found a few different figures for metabolic syndrome in people with a mental illness.  One website said 50% of people with a mental illness will have it, while this article said that in a case study the prevalence was found to be 54%, but people with bipolar disorder had a higher rate of 67% (oh crap) followed by people with schizophrenia at 51%.

The article goes on to say that while the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in patients with schizophrenia has been researched it hasn’t really been in other psychiatric disorders, so those numbers for bipolar disorder might not hold too much weight.

It does make sense; there is a relationship between mental illness and obesity plus other cardiac health risk factors such as smoking and drinking.  In my stays at the hospital I’ve observed that compared to the rest of the population, a much higher proportion of patients smoke, and a much higher proportion of patients are obese.

So where does that leave me?  As I said I am not obese.  I exercise through sport and running.  On the surface it would seem that I am not a huge risk factor but I don’t eat the best and I still drink a bit too much.  These things can and will affect my heart if I don’t reign them in.

So I guess the moral of the story is take care of yourself.  Even when you don’t feel like it.  Even when it feels too hard.  It’s easy to push your health to the back of your mind but developing a serious lifestyle disease is not the wake up call you want to have.

Mac

I Can’t Do Funerals

I went to a funeral for an acquaintance from my sports club this week.  It was a brief, tasteful service followed by lunch at the local RSL.  All of us from the club came wearing our jerseys.  I think his family would say the day went well.

Except I was a mess throughout the whole thing.  There weren’t enough seats available so I stood up the back with Pea and spent the service trying not to break down, wiping tears away on my jersey.  At one point in the service everyone took turns to place a rose petal on his coffin.  When it was my turn I went up with my head down because I was embarrassed at being so upset.  Our friend had more to do with Pea than me and he wasn’t crying.

I’m like this at every funeral I go to.  It doesn’t matter who it’s for, how well I know them – not at all in some cases – funerals turn me into a mess.  I get upset then try to hide my being upset because I worry that people will think I’m being inappropriate crying over someone I didn’t know very well.  And if I do know them well I still question the appropriateness of my grief.

As a person on the spectrum no event makes me question my behaviour more than a funeral.  Am I grieving too much?  What do I wear?  Do I talk to the family or do they want to be left alone?  Should I even be at this funeral?  Did I have enough to do with him to earn a place here?

I’ve got to remember that death and everything around it is awkward for literally everyone.  When I went to this funeral no-one said I shouldn’t be there.  Several people in fact said they were happy to see me.  And as we had lunch at the RSL exchanging stories and memories a sad day turned into a good one.

After all, nothing brings people together like a funeral.