A Healthy Brain

This week I want to share two articles about living a health life—both mentally and physically. Good health starts with a healthy brain. The first article is about a study that links optimism with a longer lifespan. The second article is about a new practice that links nutritional health and mental health. Below you’ll find these articles and my thoughts on their implications.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed below are those of Mark Pew, Senior Vice President of Product Development and Marketing, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Preferred Medical.

New Evidence that Optimists Live Longer

The Boston University School of Medicine recently released a study that links optimism with prolonged life. This is important because while we know many factors contribute to a decreased life span we know little about what increases it. The study found that, on average, the most optimistic men and women lived 11-15 percent longer and had 50 to 70 percent greater odds of reaching 85 years old.

Mark’s Thoughts:
Are you a “glass half full” or “glass half empty” person? Did you know the answer to that question could have an impact on your life expectancy? Although it’s clear from this study that optimism increases life expectancy (“11 to 15 percent longer lifespan”) they don’t know why. I do. If you look at things as to how they CAN be done as opposed to how they CANNOT be done, there are ripple effects to your stress level (lower), the quality and quantity of your relationships (after all, who really wants to be around a negative person) and your choices (less self-destructive behaviors). I don’t care who you are or what your situation is—including the presence of Chronic Pain—there is at least ONE thing in your life for which you can be thankful and optimistic about. I dare you—find that one thing right now and let that infuse your entire outlook on life with optimism that if you can find one thing you can probably find others. Here are some suppositions as to the linkage:

  • “More optimistic people may be able to regulate emotions and behavior as well as bounce back from stressors and difficulties more effectively”
  • “More optimistic people tend to have healthier habits, such as being more likely to engage in more exercise and less likely to smoke, which could extend lifespan”

Bottom line—”Research on the reason why optimism matters so much remains to be done, but the link between optimism and health is becoming more evident.” It turns out that Monty Python got it right…”Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”

Why nutritional psychiatry is the future of mental health treatment

Mental health disorders have traditionally been treated by the use of psychotherapy and/or antidepressant medications. That combination has helped many people (especially when there is a chemical imbalance in the brain), although there are potentially significant negative side effects to long-term use of those prescriptions. However, there is an evolving method called nutritional psychiatry. This means using food and supplements to provide the essential nutrients people need when they have a mental health disorder. This discipline believes that many people are not eating enough vital nutrients that aid good brain health and believe there is a link between poor mental health and nutritional deficiencies. I guess you might call it whole-person treatment.

Mark’s Thoughts:
As I’ve mentioned many times, making good choices as to what you ingest into your body—food, drink, supplements, medications—is key to better outcomes. The first step in making good choices is consciously identifying the choices you’re making and then understand what’s a good choice and what’s a not-so-good choice. “A lack of essential nutrients is known to contribute to the onset of poor mental health in people suffering from anxiety and depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and ADHD. Nutritional psychiatry is a growing discipline that focuses on the use of food and supplements to provide these essential nutrients as part of an integrated or alternative treatment for mental health disorders.” I know from talking with really smart people that what you eat/drink also has an impact on Chronic Pain. For example, if the source of your pain is inflammation, shouldn’t you focus on an anti-inflammatory diet? Don’t overlook the simple options because the issue is complex. And don’t always assume that a pill is the best option. There were interesting points made in a linked article “Can food change your mood?“:

  • “Young adults (under 30) who ate fast food more than three times a week scored higher on levels of mental distress. Fast food is usually high in the saturated, trans- and omega-6 fatty acids that can provoke a low-grade inflammatory response in the body, which, in turn, is linked to anxiety and depression in both animal and human research.”
  • “Our study looked at the use of supplements. They produce no benefit on mood.”

If you want to dive into even more details as a clinician or individual, check out this clinical paper for a roadmap of how nutrition can be a part of the solution for these mental disorders:

  • Major Depression
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Bottom line? “Psychiatrists treating patients with mental disorders should be aware of available nutritional therapies, appropriate doses, and possible side effects in order to provide alternative and complementary treatments for their patients. This may reduce the number of noncompliant patients suffering from mental disorders that choose not to take their prescribed medications. As with any form of treatment, nutritional therapy should be supervised and doses should be adjusted as necessary to achieve optimal results.”

To read everything on my mind this past week, please visit me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/marks-musings-september-23-mark-rxprofessor-pew/.

Until Next Week,