Increase Life Expectancy – Throwback Thursday

life expectancy

Today’s Throwback is from March 13, 2014

Average Life Expectancy

The life expectancy of those with bipolar disorder is 9.2 years less than the U.S. national average, but don’t sit back and think there’s nothing you can do about it. The likely reasons for the shorter life are:

Higher suicide

Greater Risk of Chronic Disease

Lack of Medical Care

Medical Care

There are two primary factors that affect our medical care. The first is that few people in the public mental health care system are receiving high quality health care. The second being individuals with bipolar disorder are more likely to ignore early symptoms of illnesses.

In 2011, Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, stated

The unavoidable fact is that we will not improve overall longevity or contain health care costs in this nation without addressing the needs of the nearly 5 percent of Americans with serious mental illness.

We need better strategies for dealing with this urgent public health issue and we need to ensure that whether these strategies are collaborative care for depression or an innovative medical home for those with serious mental illness, we implement these interventions where the need is greatest.

I’ve shared numerous times my difficulty in receiving proper medical and physical care. I was homeless at one point and tried many times to get help from the Los Angeles County health care system only to be turned away because I was “too high functioning.” In other words, I wasn’t sick enough. One clinic, in particular, told me to come back when my symptoms get worse and maybe then I could be helped. As a result, I spent many hours in county hospital waiting rooms knowing I could not be turned away. Of course, the cost to have been accepted in a clinic would have been less expensive and less of a burden than going to the emergency room.

Reducing the suicide rate, and alleviating ineffective health care systems would increase the average life expectancy, however, the greatest impact would be for patients to seek help when needed. That’s right, it’s up to you.

A Stanford University study found that bipolar patients are at greater risk of dying from heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, the flu and pneumonia because they ignore the symptoms. The good news is that,

Bipolar patients who were aware that they had those physical illnesses, however, had death rates similar to people who were not bipolar, according to the researchers, who suggested “that timely medical diagnosis and treatment may effectively reduce mortality among bipolar disorder patients to approach that of the general population.

In other words, we can’t let the challenges of our healthcare system allow us to ignore signals from our bodies telling us that everything is not ok. Getting the help we need when we need it brings our life expectancy up to levels near the national average.

Increase Life Expectancy

In conclusion, If you want to increase life expectancy, it’s all up to you. It’s far from easy, but it’s in your hands if you want to increase your chances of living a longer and healthier life. You will need to work exceptionally hard to overcome the obstacles before you.

If you are suicidal, reach out to friends, family members and physicians to get you in a safe place both mentally and physically.

Stop slowly killing yourself with tobacco, alcohol, or drug use.

Get regular physicals and see a doctor when your body is telling you something is wrong, even if it entails long hours waiting in emergency rooms.

Breaking habits are hard and going to a doctor is a pain in the ass, but I plan to be an old man sitting for many healthy years in front of a checker board. I hope that you’ll be sitting across from me.

6 comments on Increase Life Expectancy – Throwback Thursday

  1. I had a heart attack at 33, which I firmly and truly believe was a direct result of years suffering with the mania and depression of bipolar disorder. I wasn’t officially diagnosed with the disorder until just before my infarction. Years of wildly swinging emotions and rapidly cycling thoughts caused my life to be filled with high-stress situations, usually caused by my inability to function well in relationships. I was flaky, aloof, moody, stubborn, angry, distant, wildly whimsical, and everything else by turns. My frustration about my inability to focus on a writing project to bring it to completion also contributed to my stress. And stress, we know, causes inflammation, and inflammation clogs the arteries, especially combined with low self esteem and compulsive eating of crappy foods.

    I was a walking time bomb that suffered a partial detonation. I am luck to be alive. The heart attack was one of those cosmic kicks in the ass I believe we all get and need from time to time, to break us out of the very human illusion that we all are immortal. Wake up! the universe screamed at me as it squeezed my comparatively tiny heart in its huge fingers. You don’t have 1000 years to live! Get moving, get healthy, and get to work!

    So for years now, I’ve been on a slew of medications, and live as healthy a mental, emotional, and physical life as I can. If it wasn’t for my brush with death, I would probably not be as alive as I am now.

    1. Wow. Very moving, Anthony. I’m glad you are still with us and that you turned your awful experience into a positive.

      1. Hey, I had to teach myself the “alchemy” of turning my crap into gold. It took a while, and some soul searching, and a vision quest or two…not to mention some serious and brutally honest conversations with myself. Glad to be here still as well! I sincerely hope that I can turn my mess into a message that people can learn from and be inspired by…thus the whole point of my blog.

  2. Your Captain is doing her best to best these ominous odds!

    I think that being 100% alcohol-free, smoke-free (I always have been, thank God, after watching my Grandmother die of lung cancer caused by smoking) eating healthy food, dropping 40 pounds, spending time in nature & with my family is helping me gain a few years!

    Sending you love and strength today, my friend.
    Captain Dy

    1. I’m with you on all the above. Being a sober alcoholic, I haven’t had a drink in 13 years, and I don’t smoke. (My mom died of lung cancer when she was only in her mid 50’s. My big concern, of course, is my weight. I have over 100 pounds I need to lose. I’m glad you take care of yourself.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: