Climate change ups mental health risk
Q. I know that air pollution and rising temperatures put us at a higher risk for asthma and heart disease, but is it true that there’s also a heightened risk for mental health problems? — Jerome Q., Bronx, New York
A. Yes, rising temperatures and air pollution ramp up the risks to your mental health and wellbeing. Physically, rising temps put you at greater risk for diseases transmitted by ticks and mosquitoes, respiratory problems, heart disease and stroke, Type 2 diabetes and bacterial infections from contaminated water. That’s a big dent in physical health and emotional well-being. But that’s not all. The incidence of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues is increased by rising temperatures, according to a new study. Researchers at Arizona State University looked at daily meteorological data coupled with information from nearly 2 million Americans from 2002-2012, and found that living in hotter temperatures worsens mental health; multiyear warming and exposure to hurricanes (and overall increased precipitation) is also linked to worsening emotional well-being. In fact, warming of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit over five years is associated with a 2 percent increase in the prevalence of mental health issues. Hurricane Katrina, for example, was associated with a 4 percent increase in mental health problems. Women and low-income Americans are especially affected.
So how can YOU protect yourself and your family from the effects of something you can’t do anything about on a national level right now? Well, you can control much in your local environment, and you can protect your health by following these tips:
1. Get regular checkups .If you or your children develop shortness of breath (bad air will do that), it could be from asthma, which can be effectively treated if caught early. In adults, it also might signal cardiovascular disease, which can be controlled with early intervention.
2. Eat between seven and nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and say “no” to processed foods, added sugars and red meats. A healthy immune system, stress management and a nurtured gut biome help maintain a healthy body and mind.
3. Exercise regularly —60 minutes most days. Getting your activity in a tree-filled park offers cleaner air and is naturally destressing. It’s ever more important, mentally and physically, to go to such places to get your
10,000 daily steps.
Q. My brother was on a wait list for a liver transplant, and was lucky to receive one. But the donor was an opioid over- dose victim. He seems OK so far, but isn’t getting a liver from someone who overdosed a big risk? — Scott M., Orlando
A. It may not be as risky as you think. Yes, there is a disease risk associated with this organ donation pool, but they are tested for HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases, and there’s some very reassuring new research on the safety of this.
Just recently, the medical director at the University of Utah Heart Transplant Program researched heart and lung transplantations and found that after one year (when complications are most likely to show up), there was no difference in the survival rates of people who received heart and lungs from cadavers of opioid overdose victims and those who received them from donors who died from blunt force trauma.
This bodes well for transplantation of other organs from people who have OD’d. When someone dies from an opioid overdose, the lungs and heart are the organs initially affected by the loss of oxygen. If they’re still healthy enough to be transplanted then, say the researchers, they expect that liver and kidney transplants from people who’ve OD’d also will be safe.
More than 13 percent of all organs transplanted in the U.S. now come from people who died of a drug overdose, up from about 1 percent in 2000. And there’s been a tenfold (some reports say twenty-fourfold) increase in available donor organs. That’s important news for the 11,000 people who die every year while waiting for an organ transplant.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.