The Connection Between Brain Health and Physical Health
Brain health and physical health are two distinct components of one’s overall health that influence each other. If you’re struggling with brain health issues, you might experience physical health issues and vice versa. There is a strong connection between the two that should not be overlooked.
In fact, your brain health is just as important as your physical health, and if you’re experiencing any symptoms or challenges, you’re not alone. We all experience various brain health issues at different times in our lives. Whatever struggles you’re experiencing, Iowa’s Mental Health and Disability Services (MHDS) Regions have the resources to help you. Let’s take a look at some of the factors to consider to better understand why brain health should be a part of your overall wellness strategy.
Brain Health Effects on Physical Health
Depression — one of the most common brain health issues people experience — can lead to feelings of anxiety, irritability and emptiness, and if left untreated, depression can also disrupt your normal physical functions. Specifically, depression can cause fatigue, energy loss, decreased/increased appetite, weight gain or loss, brain fog or trouble concentrating, aches and pains, digestive problems, sleep deprivation, headaches and more. Individuals struggling with depression are also more susceptible to strokes, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
There’s also a strong correlation between brain health and cardiovascular health, and it’s not only linked to depression, but also to stress, anxiety and PTSD. These brain health disorders can increase cardiac reactivity and can affect blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol levels in your body. Over time, these effects can lead to more long-term heart and metabolic diseases. A study on the effects of depression and anxiety on physical health found that individuals affected with high levels of anxiety and depression were 65 percent more likely to develop a heart condition, 50 percent more likely to develop high blood pressure and 64 percent more likely to have a stroke.
If brain health is impacting your physical health and causing more stress and discomfort in your life, know that you’re not alone! Individuals can get back on their path to wellness by reaching out to brain health professionals such as our MHDS experts.
Physical Health Effects on Brain Health
Physical illness and disabilities can have a profound impact on an individual’s brain health. Chronic diseases can be debilitating, and as symptoms persist, brain health stressors such as anxiety and depression can take hold. Individuals who suffer from chronic illnesses such as psoriasis, diabetes, chronic pain, cancer, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis likely know this is true. And individuals with disabilities, such as those who are limited in movement, sight, hearing and thinking, are also at higher risk of brain health distress. In fact, adults with disabilities report mental distress almost five times as often as adults without disabilities. And this has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic as these individuals are forced into isolating situations that don’t allow them to receive the treatment and support they’re accustomed to.
If you’re struggling with physical health issues that leave you feeling anxious or depressed, you’re not alone! Improving your brain health can be as simple as connecting with family, friends or an MHDS professional who can lend a helping hand and be a sounding board to help calm your anxieties and help you feel less alone or isolated.
MHDS is Here to Help
Seeking treatment for physical ailments is part of the healing process. It should be no different with brain health challenges. Seeing a therapist or psychiatrist when you’re feeling down, anxious or stressed is an effective way to seek treatment. And Iowa’s MHDS Regions are here to provide the resources you need to get your brain health on track. We have 14 established mental health and disability services regions to help Iowans in every area of the state. Our brain health professionals coordinate community services that support individuals with brain health issues and disabilities in obtaining their maximum independence.
A few of our resources include:
Brain health evaluations: Mental health professionals who are available to evaluate, verify and document a diagnosis and provide recommendations for improvement.
Crisis lines: Feeling down or need someone to talk to? Each MHDS region has a crisis line available to connect you to professionals who can help you when you need it most, anytime day or night.
Mobile crisis response teams: We have a team of experts available for on-site, face-to-face mental health services that can support you or a family member who is experiencing a brain health crisis. And we can travel to you, where you feel most comfortable.
Home Health Aide: Personal care assistance for individuals who need support with daily living activities, such as daily hygiene regimens, exercise and taking medications (as ordered by the physician).
Counseling/therapy: Counseling and therapy sessions are available by appointment for individuals who wish to speak directly with a licensed professional about their brain health concerns.
Job Development: We have services available to assist individuals in preparing for, securing and maintaining gainful employment.
Peer Support Groups: Peer support specialists who provide education and information, individual advocacy, family support, crisis response, and respite to assist individuals in achieving stability in the community.
Supported Housing: A combination of housing and services intended to offer a cost-effective way to help people live more stable, productive lives.
Service coordination: Meetings with social workers who will help you find and apply for programs and services to reach your brain health goals.
National Institute of Mental Health, “Chronic Illness & Mental Health,” https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/chronic-illness-mental-health/index.shtml
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Heart Disease and Mental Health Disorders,” https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/mentalhealth.htm
Medical News Today, “How do anxiety and depression affect physical health?” https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324030#Anxiety-and-depression-similar-to-smoking
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The Mental Health of People with Disabilities,” https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/features/mental-health-for-all.html