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Mental health and physical health are interlinked

When we're talking about our health or thinking about visiting the doctor we can easily overlook our mental health and just focus on the physical.

We all have mental health – though many of us see our physical health as more important. But both are important and usually affect each other.

Problems with mental health are a lot more common than you might think. One in four of us live with them. So if you’re feeling out of sorts, don’t think you’re alone.

Sometimes, when you don't feel quite right in yourself it can be easier to assume it must be something physical. But, actually, there are plenty of symptoms that might surprise you as signs that there could be something else going on.

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Feeling sick or dizzy.
  • Losing your appetite.
  • Feeling tired all the time.
  • Talking slower than usual.
  • Feeling like your heart is racing.
  • Heavy limbs.
  • Feeling weak.
  • Having a lump in your throat.

A lot of these can be mental health symptoms that are more common in older adults and are often overlooked. These aren't trivial matters and you shouldn't ignore or downplay them; they're crucial to your health and wellbeing.

Physical health conditions can have an impact on your mental health

You may have lived with a physical health condition for some time, your health may be getting worse or you may have recently received a diagnosis. This can also affect your mental health and make you feel anxious, stressed and out of sorts.

If you're worried your mental health is having an effect on your physical health or vice versa then talk to someone about it. Maybe mention it at your next doctor's appointment?

If you broke your leg, you wouldn't just struggle on without help and wait for it to fix itself. It would only get worse. And while it might feel daunting, the doctor is there to help you when you're not feeling as well as you could mentally as well as physically. Talking about how you're feeling is an important first step to feeling better.

What else can affect my mental health?

Struggling with your mental health isn't just an inevitable side effect of getting older. But as you age, things happen that can have a negative impact on your moods and self esteem.

How can I help improve both my physical and mental health?

There are some things you can do that can help you feel better both physically and mentally. 

Sleep

Sleep patterns change as we get older and lack of sleep can directly affect the way we feel. If you’re having difficulty sleeping, try cutting back on daytime naps and reduce the amount of caffeine you drink. Try to make time to relax and unwind each evening, perhaps by reading a book or listening to the radio. Find out more here about getting a good night's sleep. 

Eat well and drink sensibly

What we eat and drink affects how we feel. Try not to fill up on the wrong things, but also don’t ignore any signs you may not be eating enough, such as losing weight unexpectedly. We have more advice on healthy eating here.

Exercise

As well as keeping you healthy, exercise is a great way to improve your mood as it increases the production of endorphins – brain chemicals that make you feel happy. It can also be a good way to clear your mind and relax. It’s never too late to get active. Simply getting outside for a few minutes every day can improve your mood. Perhaps you could think about joining a walking group or local activity class? Have a look at our tips on being active

Review your medications

Taking medications becomes more common as we get older, but can contribute to us feeling out of sorts, especially if taking several different ones. If you’re worried this might be the case, ask your doctor for a review of your medications. We have more information about medicines here.

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Last updated: Jan 08 2020

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