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Looking after our physical health is important for everyone, but it can be an extra challenge if you have a mental illness.
This may be related to the symptoms of the illness or the side-effects of medication. It may be because of smoking, not getting enough exercise, or other lifestyle factors. Physical health problems can also get overlooked when everyone’s focus is on looking after your mental health.
Whatever the reasons, people affected by mental illness often have some of the following problems:
These problems may lead to heart disease, diabetes or other illnesses.
This makes it all the more important that you look after your physical health too. Here are some simple but effective things that you can do to look after yourself.
A healthy lifestyle means enjoying yourself without risking your health. It also means stopping or reducing as much as possible things that are not healthy (such as smoking or abusing other drugs).
being physically and mentally healthy in your day-to-day life helps make all the difference, and includes:
It’s a good idea to have a general health check when you first see your GP or psychiatrist. It’s also important to have a check-up when you start on a new medication.
Regular health checks are important for all of us to identify early signs of any problems. Early detection of any problem means earlier treatment and a better outcome.
In a health check, the doctor may:
See a dentist yearly and optometrist at least every two years to check the health of your teeth and eyes.
Seeing the same doctor regularly is ideal (or at least a doctor at the same clinic). It allows the doctor to get to know you, and makes it easier to talk about any issues.
After the first health check, ask your doctor to follow up regularly on your general physical health and any specific conditions or concerns you have.
Monitoring of some measurements, such as weight and waist measurement is best done every three months. Try doing this yourself too.
Talk to your doctor about the risks that are specific to your illness, its treatment or your lifestyle. Ask them to test for a broad range of symptoms. Remember, you are entitled to these health checks.
If any physical health problems are found, talk with your doctor about the options for improving your health. These may include:
Small changes can make a big difference
Removing or decreasing even one risk factor can make a big difference. By taking control of your life in this way, you can improve your long-term health, and feel better too.
Shared care – sharing information
Often there are a number of services involved in looking after your health (for example, a GP, psychiatrist or other health professional). It’s important that these providers make contact with each other so they know what the others are doing.