First of all, well-being is not just the absence of disease or illness, but a complex combination of factors.
Physical well-being is, of course, related to the condition of your body. It’s dependent on the natural aging process, healthy eating, avoiding nicotine and drug abuse, imbibing in moderation, pursuing beneficial physical activities, getting enough sleep, and whether one’s dealing with a transitory illness or a chronic disease.
Mental well-being primarily refers to feeling a sense of happiness about one’s life. For some, this might be financial security, enjoying the company of friends and family, reading books, watching movies, or simply having quiet times without distractions.
What’s good for the body is often good for the mind.
Physical and mental health are intricately connected, combined as important aspects of your overall health that affect not only how you feel – but also how you feel about yourself, such as believing you’re leading a meaningful life.
Each month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services designates different health awareness campaigns to take place in the United States. The purpose is to raise awareness of various health conditions.
September has been designated Blood Cancer Awareness Month, National Cholesterol Education Month, and National Yoga Month.
Blood cancer awareness
Most blood cancers start in bone marrow, the spongy material in the center of bones. Bone marrow makes stem cells that mature and become red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
Blood cancer happens when something (we don’t entirely understand) disrupts how the body makes blood cells. Erratic, abnormal blood cells are produced and proceed to overwhelm normal blood cells to create problematic medical conditions.
There are three primary kinds of blood cancer: leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.
- Leukemia is cancer of the white blood cells or cells that become white blood cells. Leukemia prevents white blood cells from fighting infections in the body. Leukemia is the most common of the blood cancers for children and adolescents younger than 15 years.
- Lymphoma is cancer of the lymphatic system, an important part of the immune system, particularly the lymph nodes – the small bean-shaped structures of the lymphatic system that help filter out harmful substances. It affects a type of white blood cell called lymphocytes. The type of lymphoma we know the most about is called Hodgkin’s lymphoma, or Hodgkin’s disease. All others are called non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Lymphoma is the most common form of blood cancer in adults, accounting for more than half of diagnosed blood cancer cases.
- Myeloma is cancer within the plasma cells, which are lymphocytes that make antibodies to protect against infections. Myeloma affects the body’s immune system, leaving it susceptible to infection.
It’s widely believed that blood cancers develop from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Smoking, radiation exposure, and contact with certain chemicals have been linked to increased risks of some types of blood cancers. Epstein-Barr virus, HIV, and human T-cell lymphoma/leukemia virus infections are also risk factors for developing lymphomas and leukemias.
Symptoms of blood cancer vary by disease but typically include the following:
- Fever, chills, fatigue, weakness, bone and joint pain, and unexplained weight loss.
- Swelling of lymph nodes, liver, and spleen.
- Anemia, in some cases.
To ascertain a diagnosis, a physician will need to order lab or other diagnostic tests, which may include taking blood and urine samples, a tissue biopsy, an X-ray, CT, or PET scan. In some cases, a bone marrow biopsy may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis and determine treatments.
Treatment will depend on several factors, including the type of blood cancer, the patient’s age, how fast the cancer is progressing, and whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Common treatments may include chemotherapy, high-energy radiation, stem cell transplantation, surgery, immunotherapy, and follow-up visits with the medical team to make sure the patient is cancer free.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance. It’s not necessarily bad. The body needs it to build cells and make vitamins and other hormones. But too much cholesterol can pose a health problem.
Cholesterol comes from two sources:
- The liver, which makes about all that’s really needed.
- From foods we eat such as meat, poultry, and dairy products.
There are two types of cholesterol:
- LDL cholesterol, which is bad.
- HDL, which is good.
Too much of the bad (LDL) kind, or not enough of the good (HDL) kind, increases the risk of a slow buildup of cholesterol, called plaque, which can thicken, harden, and clog the inner walls of arteries that feed the heart and brain much-needed blood and nutrients.
Should arteries become too inflamed, narrowed, or clogged by plaque, serious cardiovascular consequences, such as heart attacks and strokes, can occur.
That’s why it’s important to have your cholesterol evaluated through lab work that is usually requested by a Family Medicine or Internal Medicine physician following a physical exam.
National Yoga Month
The Yoga Health Foundation, a nonprofit organization in the United States, seeks to promote awareness regarding the benefits derived from regular yoga practice.
Yoga has offered physical and mental health benefits and can become an integral part of treatments that may potentially hasten healing. Studies have indicated improvements for those dealing with arthritis, balance, women’s health, and pain management. Many who’ve practiced yoga for back pain, for example, have reported feeling better and with improved strength and flexibility.
If interested, yoga classes, including classes for senior citizens, are available throughout Greater Houston.
Physical and mental health work together
Although the mind and body may be viewed as being separate, mental and physical health are closely related. Good mental health can positively affect your physical health; poor mental health can negatively affect your physical health; and poor physical health can disorder your mental well-being.
Here are 8 suggestions to help you physically and mentally:
- Get regular exercise. Exercise is important for keeping physically fit but can also improve your mood. You can start gradually by walking 30 minutes each day in your neighborhood.
- Eat a proper diet. A diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in processed sugars or fats can make you feel better physically and mentally – and help manage your cholesterol level.
- Avoid nicotine and recreational drugs. Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation.
- Get enough sleep. Otherwise, healthy adults usually need 7 hours a night.
- Consider participating in regular yoga classes.
- Stay in touch with family and friends.
- Find a significant other. According to the National Center for Health Studies, married people tend to live longer than their unmarried counterparts.
- Have regular exams with a primary care physician that includes recommended health screenings and staying current with immunizations.
By Andrew Albrecht, M.D.
Dr. Albrecht is a board-certified Family Medicine physician caring for patients at Kelsey-Seybold’s Downtown Clinic, 1200 McKinney St., Suite 473.
For appointments, call 713.442.0000.