Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Nearly 1 in 5 adults will have a diagnosable mental health condition in any given year. Yet, 56% of adults with mental illness do not receive treatment. Amid COVID-19 and preparations being made to reopen the country, the timing couldn’t be more perfect.

Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month was created in 1949 by Mental Health America to reach millions through local events, screening, and media. The purpose is to show that everyone should care about mental health. The theme of 2020 is “Tools 2 Thrive.” A toolkit has been created to provide real-life tools and techniques that can be used by everyone to increase resilience and improve their mental health.

The printable handouts include ways to connect with others, screening kit, tips for staying positive, and more. This information can also be modified for the short term in response to dealing with COVID-19 and social distancing.

 

COVID-19 and Mental Health

Mental illness directly impacts your body. For example, those with depression are at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. Scientists have found that increased inflammation, metabolic changes, and changes in heart rate and circulation are present in those with depression.

The lifetime prevalence of any anxiety disorder is 31.6%, making the number of U.S. adults diagnosed a whopping 42.5 million. COVID-19 has changed the way we live our lives, possibly forever. The number of cases, misinformation, and distance learning are just a few reasons anxiety these days can increase. Learning how to recognize when it’s more than “worry” is only one of the reasons why mental health awareness is so important.

What You Can Do

 

Mental Health America states, “84% of the time between first symptoms and first treatment is spent not recognizing the symptoms of mental illness.” When a mental illness is screened and caught early, treatment is more effective, resulting in positive effects being seen sooner. Many have said that before the results of their screening, they would not have known they needed treatment or had a mental illness. Mental Health America offers a free screening tool to see if you have any early warning signs. Although it is not a diagnosis, it provides insight into beginning those conversations with your doctor or family about your mental health.

Participating in clinical trials is also a great way to learn more about different mental health conditions, and be a part of potential new options that are being studied to diagnose and manage them. To learn more about getting involved in future mental health studies at one of our locations, visit our website here.

References:

https://www.mhanational.org/mental-health-month

https://www.mhanational.org/mentalhealthfacts

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/chronic-illness-mental-health/index.shtml

 


The Truth About Autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a prevalent neurodevelopmental disorder. It can be diagnosed as early as the age of 2, although some adults with milder symptoms live undiagnosed. Males are four times more likely to develop a form of autism than females. ASD is complex, and there is a lot of false information out there. Unfounded assumptions can have unintended, lasting effects on any medical condition. We are going to arm you with the basics of adult autism and reveal the truth to some common myths. Let’s get started!

Autism Defined

ASD covers a group of conditions that reflect challenges in social interactions, speech, communication skills, and repetitive behaviors. It has many subtypes, impact levels, and associated disorders. Some will need assistance for their entire lives, while others do not and can live independently. Genetics plays a role in most of the cases, although other factors increase the chances of someone being born with it.

Adults with ASD may exhibit different behaviors than those younger than them. Adult ASD symptoms include:

  • Clumsiness
  • Challenges conversating with others
  • Understanding other’s emotions
  • Challenges regulating emotions
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Involuntary noises such as repeatedly clearing their throat
  • Trouble understanding sarcasm or jokes

ASD is more common in males, but the “why” is not so clear. Some research suggests that those diagnosed with ASD have brains that are anatomically more male-like. Others indicate the testing that is used is based on male characteristics, and so more women may be misdiagnosed.

Common Myths

There is no shortage of the myths and stigma that surround ASD. Some people think that if you have ASD, you act just like Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man.” This not true. No two people have the same characteristics with ASD. Here are some other typical myths and the truths behind them:

  • “Vaccines cause autism.”
    • Truth: Vaccines do not cause autism. The original study published in 1997 by a British surgeon has been discredited. In addition, numerous studies have debunked this myth.
  • “Autism is the result of bad parenting.”
    • Truth: ASD is coded into the genetics of the vast majority of cases. The 1950’s “Refrigerator Mother” theory contributed to this ridiculousness, citing that mothers who lacked emotional warmth caused ASD.
  • “If you have ASD, you are intellectually disabled.”
    • Truth: ASD can mean just as many exceptional abilities as it does challenges. Individuals diagnosed can have IQ’s in the typical to high ranges.

Learning More About ASD Through Research

Clinical research studies help substantiate information around medical conditions like ASD. The information learned sets the foundation for improving how these conditions are detected and managed.

Evolution Research Group routinely conducts autism studies evaluating potential new options at our Rogers, AR location. To get involved in future study opportunities, click here.

 

Reference:

https://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/gender.aspx

https://www.autismspeaks.org/

 


Patient Safety in Clinical Trials

Healthcare safety is a growing public health concern since we all will interact with the healthcare system at some point in our lives. Although clinical trials aren’t technically part of the healthcare system, participants do receive health care in similar ways. Those that participate may receive expert care by a team of doctors, nurses, and trained clinical research professionals, and may have access to current or investigational medications throughout the duration of a trial.

Patient Safety Week takes place this month, so we wanted to show you how clinical trials keep patients safe.

What is Patient Safety Week?

Patient Safety Week is held annually in March. Its purpose is to create awareness about patient safety and recognize the work already being accomplished. This year, the week is March 8th-14th, and the goal is “to advance important discussions locally and globally and inspire action to improve the safety of the health care system — for patients and the workforce.”

Why is Patient Safety Important in Clinical Trials?

Clinical trials collect data on the safety and effectiveness of new drugs, diagnostics, devices, and therapy practices. Healthy volunteers and patients are enrolled in studies to compare the new product or medication with currently available options.

Although every possible safety measure and test has been performed before trial enrollment, there is still some level of risk.

How Trials Keep Patients Safe

Before being used in clinical trials, new interventions are first studied extensively in the lab and/or in animal studies. Trials can take place only after the FDA approves the trial process to begin.

The FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) evaluates new drugs before they can be sold. They accomplish this by setting up review points before, during, and after the clinical trial process. Each study must follow the Good Clinical Practice (GCP) guidelines that oversee clinical research. The GCP guidelines ensure that trials ethically operate in the rights, safety, and welfare of patients and the collection of data.

Participants in clinical trials also go through an informed consent process before they can enroll. It confirms the participant understands the research and its risks.

Advancing Patient Safety

We all have a role to play in improving patient safety. To see how you can get involved, visit the IHI’s patient safety page, here.

Choosing to volunteer in clinical research is an important and individual decision. You can learn more about participating, where our site locations are, and view a list of upcoming studies, by visiting us here.

 

References:

http://www.ihi.org/Engage/Initiatives/Patient-Safety-Awareness-Week/Pages/default.aspx

https://www.aha.org/initiativescampaigns/2017-03-09-patient-safety-awareness-week-march-10-16-2019


Healthy Hearts and Healthy Minds

 

Keeping your body healthy is something that has been instilled in us all our lives. If you take care of your body, you can live longer and have a happier life. Your brain is one of the vital organs that relies on a properly functioning body to have the blood flow needed to perform its daily functions. When your mind has what it needs, you can better solve problems, pay attention, communicate, and more. February is American Heart Month, and your heart is the key to giving your brain the blood flow it needs, along with the rest of your body. Learning how mental health and heart health affect each other along with what easy, healthy changes you can make, are the first steps to live a healthier life.

Mental Illness and Heart Health

 

Many believe that the relief of symptoms of depression, anxiety, etc. through smoking, eating fatty foods, and drinking are the main contributing factors linking heart disease and mental health. However, there are biological and chemical changes in the body that can also trigger mental health issues and impact heart disease. For example, stress can affect your blood pressure and heart rate from the increase in specific hormones it causes.

Also, those who have mental illness may lack the energy to do the things they need to keep up with their physical health, like exercise.

Getting Healthy

 

The arteries from the heart are the highways that supply vital oxygen, blood, and nutrients to the brain. Plaque buildup and hardening of the arteries from food and lifestyle choices isn’t just specific to the heart; it’s everywhere in the body. Diet and exercise are the keys to getting your health back on track and maintaining it.

Here are some food choices that will pack a punch:

  • Fish- One or two (4 oz) servings a week can reduce your risk of dying from heart disease and can reduce inflammation in arterial walls, which keeps blood flowing to the brain. Salmon, mackerel, rainbow trout, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • A Glass of Red Wine- The compounds in red wine help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. They also help thin out the blood, thus helping prevent dangerous blood clots.
  • More Produce- Every serving of fruits and vegetables eaten improves blood flow helping to lower high blood pressure. Produce rich in potassium such as bananas, tomatoes, and artichokes may also help prevent artery walls from thickening.

Exercise is right for your heart and brain. It helps improve heart function, and some activities can give your brain a workout through rhythm, strategy, and coordination. Below are some fun ways to work up a sweat:

  • Walking, Jogging, or Running
  • Ballroom Dancing
  • Circuit Workouts

Continuing clinical research is needed to better understand the diseases of the heart and its relation to mental health. These efforts improve diagnostic and therapeutic options for those affected by mental illness. Click to learn more about upcoming mental health studies at our research sites in DaytonRogers, and Little Rock.

 

References:

https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/brain-health

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/mental-health-and-wellbeing/mental-health-and-heart-health

(http://www.eatingwell.com/article/42303/what-to-eat-for-a-healthy-heart-and-a-healthy-mind/

https://www.prevagen.com/brain-health-tips/healthy-exercises-for-heart-and-brain/

 


Show Your Liver Some Love

The primary job of the liver is to filter blood coming from the digestive tract before passing it to the rest of the body. It also detoxifies chemicals and metabolizes drugs. If care is not taken, mainly when other chronic conditions exist, damage to the liver can occur. Diabetes is one of those chronic conditions. Diabetes increases your risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Without proper diet and lifestyle changes, fatty liver disease will progress to NASH and lead to chronic inflammation and eventually scarring of the liver. It’s February, and with all the love in the air, it is never too late to show your liver some love by taking the right steps to keep it healthy.

 

How Diabetes Affects the Liver

 

About half of those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes will develop fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease happens when a chronic buildup of fat occurs in the liver. Everyone’s liver has a little bit of fat, but with this condition, there is a lot. The excess fat acts as a toxin to the liver cells, causing inflammation that can develop into NASH. NASH is the halfway point in the progression to cirrhosis, which is where irreparable damage is done to the liver. Poorly managed diabetes can make fatty liver disease worse.

How to Prevent NASH/Fatty Liver

Fatty liver and progression to NASH can be prevented with a few easy steps:

  • Eat a Healthy Diet- Choose a healthy diet that consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats.
  • Maintain Healthy Weight- Reduce the number of calories you eat each day if you are overweight or obese.
  • Exercise- Keep active by exercising almost every day. If you have never regularly exercised, check with your doctor first.

If you do have diabetes or are overweight, you are at a higher risk of developing liver disease. A fibroscan is a non-invasive and painless way to check the health of your liver. It can help detect fatty liver and scarring all without the need for a liver biopsy. Those determined to have fatty liver may be eligible for upcoming clinical studies that may help. To learn more, click here.

 

References:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/expert-answers/diabetes/faq-20058461

https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/picture-of-the-liver#1

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/nonalcoholic-fatty-liver-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20354567

 


Coping with Depression

Three hundred million people worldwide suffer from depression, and 16.2 million adults in the U.S. have had at least one depressive episode in a given year. Although it’s not uncommon to feel sadness from time to time, major depression is much more. Lasting feelings of sadness, lowered energy, loss of appetite, and lack of interest in things that once made you happy can be overwhelming. Depression leaves no age, race, or gender untouched, although women are twice as likely as men to experience a depressive episode. Clinical depression is manageable with the right treatment and coping strategies.

Learning How to Cope

Depression can feel like a force sucking the life right out of you. Most who are diagnosed know what things they can do to feel better, but just the thought of doing them may seem impossible. There is not a cure-all for depression that will work immediately, as most available treatments take time to see the effects. Finding the right one, or combination of options, takes diligent work with your doctor, and patience. Learning how to cope in the meantime, or when things get worse, is a necessity.

 

Helpful Coping Mechanisms:

  • Stay Connected- Build a solid group of loved ones who you can reach out to for support. Do your best to keep up with social activities, even if you don’t feel like it.
  • Do the Things that Make you Feel Good- Schedule fun things to do through the day that energize and relax you.
  • Keep Moving- Exercise is a mental health booster and something you can do now that will boost your mood. Thirty minutes a day is the recommendation, and rhythmic exercises have the best benefits like walking, running, Tai Chi, and swimming.
  • Eating Healthy- Your diet has a direct impact on the way you feel. Avoid overindulging in sugars and refined carbs. Don’t skip meals and add more foods with Vitamin B (citrus fruit, leafy greens, chicken, eggs), and ones that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids (tuna, salmon, flaxseed, and soybeans).
  • Daily Dose of Sunlight- Serotonin is a mood booster and is activated by the rays of the sun. Fifteen minutes daily is all you need with the proper precautions taken.

Some days taking the first step is difficult. Starting small and being consistent can make it more comfortable, along with working closely with your doctor if things become overwhelming.

To learn more about upcoming depression studies looking into possible new options at Evolution Research group, click here.

 

References:

https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/facts-statistics-infographic#2

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/coping-with-depression.htm


More Than Forgetting

Occasional forgetfulness is a natural part of the aging process. As we get older, you may forget where you placed your keys or what you went into the kitchen for. If memory issues have begun to prevent you from living a full, typical life, then it could be something more. Dementia, changes in medication, head injury, and other diseases of the brain can all cause memory problems. Is your forgetfulness becoming worrisome? We have some clues that will help you take the right steps and get the appropriate diagnosis and care.

Age-Related Memory Loss

Aging brings many changes to our bodies. We can see the obvious ones from the outside, but there are also changes going on inside. The brain shrinks as age increases, making the body more susceptible to certain health conditions, and causing the natural decline in memory. Forgetting things from time to time and making a wrong decision here and there do not interfere with daily life. Age-related memory loss is infrequent and still allows you to carry on your regular life duties.

Medical Condition-Related Memory Loss

Certain medical conditions can cause lasting memory loss that may or may not prevent you from performing everyday tasks or even living independently. Some of the conditions may go away once the condition is identified and treated. Others can be treated but may be a part of a progressive indication that requires long term interventions.

Medical conditions that should go away once treated include tumors, blood clots, infections in the brain, thyroid, liver, or kidney disorders, alcoholism, head injury, and side effects from medication.

Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia affect memory, reasoning, judgment, and other skills. They typically begin gradually and worsen over time. Asking the same question repeatedly, placing items in inappropriate places (wallet in the freezer), getting lost while walking or driving, and mood or behavior changes without apparent reason are a few examples. Treatment is focused on symptom management since there is currently no cure.

Evolution Research Group and Memory Loss 

 

If memory issues are causing concern in your life, talk to your doctor. It is better to be checked out, than to not and miss valuable early interventions.

Evolution Research Group is a group of clinical research sites committed to bringing new options for memory-related and other medical conditions. Volunteers participating in clinical research help make these new options available. To find out more about upcoming studies at any of our nine locations, click this link, or you can fill out an online application, and your local site will contact you.

 

References:

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/do-memory-problems-always-mean-alzheimers-disease

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/in-depth/memory-loss/art-20046326

 


Could it be Anxiety?

Anxiety is a term that is used so often; it seems to have lost some of the credibility. Anxiety and stress share similar symptoms, so it is understandable why the two are interchanged so frequently. Chances are, many adults and children may have anxiety that they have brushed off as stress, or as a phase, missing valuable interventions. So how do you know if it is stress or anxiety? We have some clues that can help.

Stress Response

A stress response is a way the body protects itself from a real or perceived threat. For example, the car in front of you slams on their brakes, and you come to a screeching halt just in time. Your heart is beating fast; your muscles are tense. Your stress response is what enabled you to act precisely in the nick of time to avoid the real threat of crashing into that car.

Perceived threats also trigger the stress response, and these happen more often than the real ones. Examples for adults include stress from financial issues, relationship problems, and pressures from work. Examples for children include worrying about grades, family problems, natural disasters, and health. Common stress symptoms are:

  • Recurrent Headaches
  • Sweaty Palms or Feet
  • Sleep Disturbance
  • Excessive Worry
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty Concentrating

 

Anxiety

 

The stress response is a good thing when it helps us stay safe or meet that crazy deadline. However, your body is not meant to handle chronic stress, and health problems can occur. Generalized anxiety disorders can be triggered by chronic stress. Once the “threat” is solved, stress symptoms usually go away. With anxiety, the symptoms stay around, eventually disturbing work, social, and personal functions.

Anxiety is defined as excessive worry about any number of things and affects both adults and children. This feeling lasts more days than not for longer than six months and is not proportionate to the actual likelihood of the event occurring. Some additional anxiety symptoms are below:

  • Struggling to Control Worry
  • On Edge
  • Fatigues Easily
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Muscle Tension
  • Sleep Disturbances
  • Shortness of Breath, Excessive Sweating, Chest Pains

Children Get Anxiety Too

 

Anxiety is a normal part of childhood, and sometimes it is difficult to recognize the difference between a phase, or more. A phase is something harmless and temporary when an anxiety disorder cannot be resolved, no matter how much comfort and reassurance is offered. Children with anxiety disorders show persistent shyness and avoid places, activities, and people.

Stress is the New Normal

Everyone experiences the ebbs and flows of stress, so it is important to learn how to manage it when you can. If you feel you or your child is unable to manage stress or symptoms are interfering with your daily life, talk to your doctor. Treatments for anxiety include therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.

Forty million adults and one in eight children suffer from anxiety disorders in the United States. It is the most common mental health issue. To learn more about what upcoming anxiety studies Evolution Research Group is conducting that are exploring new options, click here.

References:

 

https://www.psycom.net/stress-vs-anxiety-difference

https://adaa.org/sites/default/files/Anxiety%20Disorders%20in%20Children.pdf


Bipolar Disorder and Reducing the Stigma

There are a lot of stigmas that surround bipolar disorder and other mental health diagnoses. This stigma paves the way for discrimination, self-doubt, secrecy, and treatment avoidance. It’s hard to imagine how thoughts and assumptions could hold so much power over the action of others. Through educational conversations and a little compassion, we can change the way the world looks at mental health.

 

Bipolar Explained

 

 

Bipolar disorder causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs and lows. Formerly known as manic depression, bipolar disorder encompasses three main episode types. These are mania, hypomania, and major depressive. The highs of mania or hypomania can feel euphoric, more energetic, or unusually irritable.

Mania and hypomania episodes share the same symptoms, although mania is more severe. These include having three or more of the following: euphoria, increased energy, racing thoughts, and decreased need for sleep. A major depressive episode includes five or more the following symptoms: thoughts of suicide, depressed mood, significant loss of interest in activities, insomnia, sleeping too much, fatigue, or feelings of worthlessness.

There are several types of bipolar disorder and other disorders that are related.

  • Bipolar I- Experienced at least one manic episode that may be preceded or followed by hypomanic or major depressive episodes. For some, mania may cause a break from reality (psychosis).
  • Bipolar II- Experienced at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode, but you've never had a manic episode.
  • Cyclothymic- You've had at least two years — or one year in childhood and adolescence — of many periods of hypomania symptoms and periods of depressive symptoms (though less severe than major depression).
  • Others- When bipolar or other related disorder is brought on by drugs, alcohol, medication, or medical condition (Cushing’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or stroke).

Stopping the Stigma Starts with YOU

 

Supergirl and Grey’s Anatomy actress, Chyler Leigh, recently went public about her diagnosis of bipolar disorder. She also announced her collaboration with the Be Vocal: Speak Up About Mental Health initiative. She hopes that by sharing what she went through and learned, others will be inspired to speak up and get the support needed. Leigh credits open conversations in her family have helped each other deal with their own neurological disorders and not focus on their diagnosis. She teaches her kids to view their conditions as superpowers versus deficits that will dictate the rest of their lives.

Mental illness is not anyone’s fault. It’s time we stopped allowing the burden of stigma to be carried by those affected. How will YOU help end the stigma?

Evolution Research Group is helping stop the mental health stigma by conducting clinical research studies that explore new options for those diagnosed. To learn more about getting involved in upcoming studies, click here.

 

References:

 

https://people.com/parents/chyler-leigh-talking-to-her-kids-bipolar-disorder-mental-health-exclusive/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bipolar-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355955