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Staying mentally strong….

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After some devastating news this week that my father has also been afflicted with the same awful syndrome as my mum, my focus turns to mental health awareness, and what can be done to improve your own mental health status.

One of my main personal goals over the year was to further increase wellness, part of which was mental health. Knowing this news as I do now, it has definitely escalated the priority listing of it somewhat!

After listening and speaking to the mental health doctor, I was given some pamphlets on dementia. I was interested on the general guidance about what factors can influence it, and what lifestyle factors I needed to be aware of to decrease its likelihood.

Clearly I thought of hereditary factors here and there can be hereditary links but it’s not a forgone conclusion that I would be predisposed.
There appears to be an increased chance of it being passed down the family chain with certain types of dementia. Unfortunately with my fathers type, there is an increased risk.

I decided to start doing more research so was interested to read the NHS 2014 guidelines, which are as follows;

To reduce your risk of developing dementia it’s recommended that you:

* eat a healthy diet (which they suggest low fat, wholegrain, 5 a day, low salt, and very low fat inc saturated fats)
* maintain a healthy weight -(using BMI as a guide and keeping overall weight lower).
* exercise regularly (2.5 hours of moderate activity a week)
* don’t drink too much alcohol (3-4 units daily for men, 2-3 units daily for women).
* stop smoking (if you smoke)
* make sure to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level

I would be very interested to see how the guidelines change with a proposed review later this year.

In my opinion these guidelines are hugely outdated.

I’ve read some very interesting and promising benefits of ketogenic eating related to improved mental health, which is pretty much the opposite of what these current eating guidelines say. This clearly has implications in the general public at large. There is also some fascinating research on fasting, which appears to help the body mend and repair itself and improve cell regeneration.

It is clear that keeping blood pressure in a healthy range, especially with the vascular issues with this condition, has benefits.

The healthy weight guideline currently uses the Body Mass Index which has implications for some people, like heavier muscled people who always come out clinically obese. Perhaps a waist: hip ratio might be instigated instead.

We know the negatives of smoking so it’s clear it’s not going to help in any form.

They were particularly concerned with long term alcohol drinking and its effects on blood pressure. It appears it can affect the vascular, neural and the endocrine system, giving negative effects.

I will add to this my own list of salient factors I feel can impact on long term mental wellness, from my reading;

* stress and it’s effective management
* Self perception/love/worth
* Work/life balance
* Rest and recuperation
* Family and friends network
* Social time and mixing with others
* Charity, helping others
* Change of routine
* A quiet mind/mindfulness
* Asking for help
* Being realistic with yourself and life
* Knowing your are in control of your own destiny

Not exhaustive, and it’s something I will write more about over the coming months but I hope that helps you gain some insight.

Best wishes
Stuart

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