“Research has shown that people with mental illness have shorter life spans, often because they neglect their health,” Garcia-Arcement said.
“For example, if you are depressed, you are less motivated to engage in pleasurable activities, get out and socialize, eat healthy ... and exercise. Many don't take their medication as prescribed, often forget doctor’s appointments, or don't have the motivation to make appointments and keep them. This in turn worsens their diabetes. As they get sicker, they often get more anxious and depressed.”
Elizabeth Mwanga, who was diagnosed in 2007 with type 1.5 diabetes (latent autoimmune diabetes), used to be morbidly obese and was close to death due to her diabetes. However, she made major changes in her eating and fitness routines, and since 2009 she hasn’t needed to take medication for diabetes and has even kept off the 100 pounds that she lost.
She definitely sees a connection between mental health and diabetes, especially because many diabetics have high and low blood sugar levels that tend to affect mood.
“Blood sugar lows and highs can cause mood swings, which can be very disruptive,” Mwanga said in an email.
She said low blood sugar levels can lead to anger and minimal energy, and sometimes hallucinations and delirium. With high blood sugar levels, depression and mood swings can be a result.
“Diabetes requires 24/7 self-care management,” Mwanga said. “Sometimes this can be frustrating, overwhelming and depressing.”
“Food and fitness is linked to better physical health and diabetes management, which in turn effects mental health,” Mwanga added.
“I find myself feeling a lot more energetic and happier when I eat a diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables. I have also begun doing research on foods that raise serotonin levels. For example, I drink green tea (for the energy boost/antioxidants) during the day, and chamomile at night (for the calming effect, also full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties). I eat whole raw almonds a lot, and lean turkey.