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

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