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

Cracking the Breakfast Dilemma

Oh hey, long time no blog post.

Solving this breakfast problem has been ongoing over the past year. The problem started when I began taking the antipsychotic Zeldox and mood stabiliser Topamax which supressed my appetite.  I can’t remember what I was doing for breakfast before that – I tended to sleep in until past midday so I probably wasn’t having it, although if I stayed up late enough I would get Macca’s breakfast before I went to bed.  Is that breakfast?  Or dinner?  I don’t know.

Anyway so I’m on this new cocktail of drugs and between the nausea and low appetite, I’m not eating much. When I do eat, it’s usually the wrong kind of food – something fast and easy.  And it’s usually in the middle of the day.  I never ate breakfast, even though on these meds I developed some more reasonable sleeping habits (mostly.)

So I lost a lot of weight. After about twenty kilos lost my psychiatrist referred me to a dietician to help me develop a healthier diet.  And of course when I gave him my first food diary the first thing he noticed was that there was no breakfast anywhere.

His first solution? Drink Up&go.

up&go

It’s quick, easy and much easier to stomach than solid food when I first get up. So I started having the up&go in the morning, every day until it became a habit.  I bought up on the supersize 12 packs in the strawberry flavour – has to be strawberry, can’t do any of the others – and that became my staple breakfast.

This went on for months. Then recently the dietician tells me that up&go isn’t good enough anymore and I need to start eating ‘real’ food for breakfast.  The up&go has too much sugar.

Habits are hard to break for me. I was in the habit of not eating breakfast, then I was in the habit of drinking these up&gos instead of breakfast.  It was only meant to be a stepping stone onto something more acceptable but I found that transition difficult.  When I get up I just don’t feel like going to the trouble of preparing something.

He had a few suggestions of what I could do instead. Poaching an egg – I’m useless at poaching so that’s out – or some cereal because he wants me to take in some milk, or yoghurt with fruit.

So for a week I tried eating cereal. I ate low sugar cheerios, which aren’t that great but were the best option we had in the house at the time.  And I gained weight.  I couldn’t believe it!  How could cereal affect my weight like that?  Did I eat too much?  I doubt it because I was eating out of a mug for portion control.

So cereal is out. The next idea I had I got from this blogger, I figure she looks super fit so whatever she eats must be all right.  She uses chobani yoghurts to make overnight oats which looked super easy so I thought I’d try it.  I liked it, although it took me awhile to eat.

So far the overnight yoghurt oats are a winner. The problem with up&gos is eventually my appetite started to come back and I started getting hungry midmorning but with the oats that doesn’t happen.

I’m still working on myself and working toward eating a proper balanced diet and will continue to pull apart the puzzle one piece at a time. So far breakfast is looking close to solved, and I’m happy with that for now.

Mac