This week I’ve written about how to increase life expectancy of those with bipolar disorder being 9.2 years less than the U.S. national average. I touched on what you can do to close that gap. Having BP can be a daily struggle just to perform “normal” activities. The last thing I want to hear is despite overcoming obstacles my entire life that the end result is to die too early. The likely reasons for the shorter life are::
Greater Risk of Chronic Disease
Lack of Medical Care
Today I will cover the lack of medical care and what steps we can take to overcome all these challenges.
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 will be sitting across from me.
5 comments on Increase Life Expectancy – It’s Up To You
I have found that I feel significantly better (ie: less suicidal, more like that gently rocking boat) since I have begun practicing Nichiren Buddhism. It has provided me with a sort of second family full of people who mindfully practice appreciation, compassion and respect for others. When I was doing the med and therapy thing, and nothing else, I was still very much at risk. But, once I encountered Nichiren Buddhism and understand that all problems and solutions lie within me, I became a lot more grounded, and a lot more aware, I do not want to call it “enlightenment” because I am far from that, but I have learned a great deal about myself, and I have learned to value not only myself but others.
I truly believe that faith in something is a very important part of staying healthy while living with this disease. I do definitely believe that meds and therapy are necessary, but without the spiritual component, you will never be completely healthy. A healthy spirit leads to a healthy body and that leads to a healthier mind. I call it my three pronged attack on my various diagnoses; the main one, of course, being Bipolar I. Of course I had to develop that worst version of this illness. Never have been known for doing anything half-a*&^ed 🙂
You make some very good points though. There are definitely lifestyle changes that can be made to increase one’s life expectancy. It just takes knowing that you are worth the time and the effort. Disease be damned! 🙂
” It just takes knowing that you are worth the time and the effort. Disease be damned!”
I posted something to that effect on my Facebook page. I tell you, it is hard when the “disorder” has decided to go rabid and bite you in the butt. But, one does not make frivolous promises to the Universe, If you make such a vow, you have to reach deep inside yourself sometimes to find that self-worth. It also helps being away from a toxic environment.
As someone in my Buddhist group put it, “Divorce becomes her”
Very informative post, Bradley. Maybe a mention, as well, as how there are just not ENOUGH clinics, it seems.
Very true, Rose, which is precisely why none if the county clinics would accept me as a client. The limited number of clinics is why they only take the worst of the worst. Preventative care, which was what I needed, isn’t even given a consideration.