Patient Blogs | Schizophrenia
How I Handle Additional Health Conditions and Schizophrenia
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As someone with schizophrenia, I have to do my best to keep my mental health in tip-top shape. But what about my physical health? In doing my research,  I found that the World Health Organization says people living with schizophrenia are two to three times more likely to die earlier than the general population.

This is often due to physical illnesses, such as cardiovascular, metabolic, and infectious diseases.  This is why I think if you’re living with this disease, you need to make your physical health just as important as your mental well-being.

In addition to schizophrenia, I have several health conditions I need to monitor. I’ve always had issues with my weight, I have high cholesterol and high triglycerides, and I’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea.

It doesn’t help that some of the side effects of my prescriptions make my other conditions worse. Weight gain is one of them. With the added pounds, my pancreas stopped producing enough insulin and I developed type 2 diabetes.

All of my additional conditions seem to compound on each other. For example, having type 2 diabetes comes with an increased risk of high cholesterol and triglycerides and sleep apnea. Sleep apnea puts you at a higher risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. This all also affects my diagnosis of schizophrenia and my mental health symptoms.

My symptoms of fatigue, social isolation, and lack of motivation are all impacted by my additional health conditions. So it becomes a vicious cycle of overall poor health if not taken care of and looked after.

So I had to come up with a plan to not only take care of my mental health but my physical health as well. I did this by speaking with all of my doctors. My primary care physician and endocrinologist helped me to come up with a plan to get my cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar levels under control so I could manage my diabetes. I also took part in a sleep study to see how bad my sleep apnea was affecting me and my other diagnoses.

This took time, and just like my mental health recovery, it wasn’t an overnight process. I had to be patient with the process. I have to admit that for most of my life I led a very sedentary lifestyle and I had poor sleeping habits due to the symptoms of schizophrenia. My poor diet didn’t help those situations either. Once my psychiatric medications were stabilized, I was able to begin working on my additional health conditions.

Now, I do my best to eat a proper diet, drink more water, watch my carbs, and read all the labels on the food I buy. I also make it a point to get some exercise every day. I start my day by stretching and using a fitness tracker to monitor my steps. I like walking, so I do my best to take a walk every day.

Getting a good night’s sleep is very important to my well-being, so I go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. I also have a CPAP machine that helps me to rest well and makes sure that I don’t stop breathing throughout the night.

I’m fortunate that I have private insurance through my job that helps with paying for my medical costs. It can be very expensive to remain mentally and physically healthy. Many people diagnosed with schizophrenia don’t have the resources to help keep them mentally and physically fit. You have to do your best to be proactive and take care of yourself as best you can.

Educating yourself about all your ailments and knowing the side effects of your medications help tremendously. Working closely with your psychiatrist and primary care physician is also key. Eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, getting proper sleep, and exercising every day will also help to manage your symptoms of schizophrenia, as well as remain physically fit.




Photo Credit: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / DigitalVision via Getty Images

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Lisa Guardiola

Lisa Guardiola

Diagnosed since 2004

Lisa Guardiola has been living with schizophrenia for 17 years. Passionate about helping others with mental illness, Guardiola is a community outreach and education trainer for the Sertoma Centre and the Vice President of NAMI South Suburbs of Chicago, where she leads educational and training initiatives. She loves journaling, oil painting, and spending time with her family and cat Loki. Connect with her on Instagram and Twitter.

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