Healthcare Technology Featured Article

October 19, 2021

Ashok J Bharucha Discusses The Link Between Physical and Mental Health

So, do you think it is important to take care of your mental health? Well, says Ashok J Bharucha of Lackawanna County, PA, it's just as important to take care of your mental health as physical health. The two are closely connected in a variety of ways. Keep reading below to learn more about the relationship between your physical and mental health so that you can achieve an overall healthy lifestyle.

Your body and mind are connected. When you take care of one, it benefits the other as well. For example, if you exercise more, your brain releases endorphins that help relieve stress and anxiety. If you eat healthier foods like fruits and vegetables (such as avocados), your brain receives the nutrients it needs to function better. Less than ideal physical health invariably translates into mental health concerns; for example, if you are recovering from a heart attack, the physiological changes associated with the heart attack, period of immobility, additional medications, etc. may adversely affect mood and sleep.

Here are some interesting facts about the relationship between your physical health and mental health.

Your Brain Directly Affects Your Body

The link between our brains and our bodies is truly extraordinary - they're far more connected than we have realized heretofore. Research demonstrates, says Ashok J Bharucha, that at least 31 neurological conditions have been directly linked with specific areas of the brain. For example, researchers know that damage to certain areas of the temporal lobe are associated with Alzheimer's disease which predominantly affects memory.

Scientists have also discovered that there is a strong correlation between our brain activity and cardiovascular health. This means that if your heart is healthy, then your brain stays healthier longer as well. For example, experiencing stress over time can contribute to high blood pressure (hypertension), which is a risk factor for heart disease. Then, if you have heart problems, this can lead to depression and anxiety not only because of the psychological and socioeconomic effects of illness, but also because of the underlying physiological changes that affect the brain.

Depression and Anxiety Can Affect Your Physical Health

You've probably heard about the link between depression and heart disease, but did you know that it's also linked with other physical illnesses? For example, according to research published in The European Journal of Preventative Cardiology, Ashok J Bharucha, people who suffer from depression are more likely to develop coronary heart disease.

Stress can also harm your immune system. You can manage your stress levels by spending time doing things you enjoy. Also, getting enough sleep is an important part of staying healthy mentally.

It's easy to forget how much our bodies affect our ability to think clearly and function well daily. Reduced levels of certain vitamins and minerals in the body may also lead to anxiety disorders or moodiness because they help regulate neurotransmitters (brain chemical messengers), which means a poor diet may harm your mental health.

Staying Active Can Have a Positive Effect on Your Mental Health

Physical activities can improve mental health by releasing hormones that help improve mood and reduce stress. Endorphins are neurotransmitters - chemicals released by neurons in the body - that play a major role in helping us deal with stress and pain. For example, says Ashok J Bharucha, exercise increases the amounts of endorphins released by our brains which can help improve mood and reduce anxiety. Exercise also reduces cortisol levels or the "stress hormone" that causes feelings like tension and hostility (which consequently improves your mental health).

A healthy body leads to a healthy brain, leading to greater focus at work or school, improved sleep patterns, higher energy levels, better decision-making skills, etc. Mental and physical health are not two separate issues, but rather two sides of the same coin.

The Smokers Fallacy

Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the world. Nicotine addiction is one of the most difficult chemical dependencies to break. Smoking has been shown to lead to many physical health problems like cancer, heart disease, stroke, pneumonia, and chronic bronchitis.

Many smokers claim that they light up a cigarette to relieve stress and depression. Studies have shown that they feel this way when they smoke because the habit of picking up and lighting a cigarette causes a spike in dopamine levels in the brain.

If you are a smoker, quitting would be the best thing you could do for your mental and physical health. However, there is a condition called hyper-excitability that occurs when people stop smoking. This phenomenon describes the increased levels of anxiety and irritability that smokers feel after quitting smoking. Scientists have shown a correlation between low dopamine levels and anxiety and depression. This is the root of the smoker's fallacy. They know smoking is harming their physical health, but it makes them "feel" good.

Research has shown that prolonged exposure to nicotine can damage certain brain functions in ways that increase symptoms of depression and cause the onset of depressive disorders in non-smokers. Smokers also often have mood swings or changes in personality which can lead to an increased risk of developing other substance use disorders, mood or anxiety problems, and insomnia, not to mention the adverse effects on the lungs.

Final Thoughts

To remain healthy, stop smoking in consultation with your doctor, remain physically active (30-minutes of walking at least five times per week), remain mentally active by participating in intellectually challenging activities such as puzzles, crosswords, etc., maintain good sleep hygiene, eat well-balanced meals, and avoid a sedentary lifestyle at all costs. These factors will have a positive effect on both your mental and physical health.

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