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Good Mental Health is a Precursor to Good Physical Health

It’s no secret that our society is living longer.  Based on the U.S. 2017 Census Report, by 2040 the number of individuals 85 years old and over are projected to increase by 129%.  The thought of my friends and family living longer is certainly appealing to me.  However, with the aging process comes added physical and mental health concerns for caregivers.

According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the most common chronic physical conditions aging adults experience include:

            Health Disease

            Cancer

            Chronic bronchitis or emphysema

            Stroke

            Diabetes mellitus

            Alzheimer’s disease

Many of us are familiar with the physical conditions but did you know, mental conditions can be just as debilitating if not treated?  Mental health issues are often overlooked or viewed as a “normal” part of the aging process.  Let’s be clear, mental health problems are not a normal part of aging and should not be overlooked!  One in four (6 to 8 million) older adults age 65 or older experiences a mental health disorder and the number is expected to double to 15 million by 2030.  The most common conditions include anxiety, severe cognitive impairment, and depression/bipolar. 

Good physical health is a precursor to good mental health and good mental health is a precursor to good physical health.  To age at our full potential, we must place the same value for treatment of mental conditions as we do on physical.  Recognizing the warning signs and seeking treatment can improve quality of life.  Signs and symptoms can vary but examples include:

            Noticeable changes in mood, energy level, or appetite

            Feeling flat or having trouble feeling positive emotions

            Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much

            Difficulty concentrating, feeling restless, or on edge

            Increased worry or feeling stressed

            Anger, irritability or aggressiveness

            Ongoing headaches, digestive issues, or pain

            A need for alcohol or drugs

            Sadness or hopelessness

            Suicidal thoughts

            Feeling flat or having trouble feeling positive emotions

            Engaging in high-risk activities

            Obsessive thinking or compulsive behavior

            Thoughts or behaviors that interfere with work, family, or social life

            Unusual thinking or behaviors that concern other people

If you notice any of these warning signs in yourself or a loved one, please make an appointment to discuss these concerns with your doctor.  Treatment works and the earlier the intervention the better the outcome for recovery and improved quality of life. 

Please remember if you or someone you know is in crisis, call the toll-free National Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or text the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.  Both hotlines are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and all calls/texts are confidential! 

Written by: Lorrissa Dunfee, M.S., Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University

Reviewed by: Emily Marrison, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension

References:

Older Adults Living with Serious Mental Illness – The State of the Behavioral Health Workforce. store.samhsa.gov/system/files/new_older_adults_living_with_serious_mental_illness_final.pdf.

“Older Adults.” Older Adults | Healthy People 2020, http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/older-adults.

“Behavioral Health for Older Adults: Mental Health.” NCOA, http://www.ncoa.org/center-for-healthy-aging/behavioral-health/.

“Older Adults and Mental Health.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/older-adults-and-mental-health/index.shtml.

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