This Issue

Checkup

Mental health
is equally important

Back to school health checklist

Q & A

Mind and body:
Your emotions can affect your health


When you are stressed, anxious or upset, your body tries to tell you that something is not quite right. The following are physical symptoms that your emotional health may be off kilter:

• Back or chest pain
• Change in appetite
• Constipation or diarrhea
• Dry mouth
• Extreme fatigue
• General aches and pains
• Headaches
• High blood pressure
• Trouble sleeping
• Lightheadedness
• Palpitations — feeling that your heart is racing
• Sexual problems
• Shortness of breath
• Upset stomach
• Weight gain or loss

If these symptoms persist for several weeks and have no known medical cause, you should discuss them with your doctor.

Source: American Academy of Family Physicians

Are you depressed and don’t know it?

Mind and body: Your emotions can affect your health

Take a good look at yourself

Get the right number

Health
screenings

Health screenings

RoxComp
435 Warren Street, Roxbury
Date: August 10
Time: 4 - 7 p.m.
617-442-7400 x2278

United for Elders Expo
Central Boston Elder Services
Boston Sheraton Hotel
39 Dalton Street, Boston
Date: August 11
Time: 8 a.m. - 3 p.m.
617-267-2244

South End Community
Health Center

1601 Washington Street, Boston
Date: August 13
Time: 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
617-425-2000 x3088

Health Care Revival
Mattapan Community Health Center
294 River Street, Mattapan
Date: September 10
Time: 9:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.
617-296-0061


Upham’s Corner Health Center

Strand Theatre
543 Columbia Road, Dorchester
Date: October 15
Time: 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
617-740-8128
Another good reason to visit the dentist


“All you have to do is open your mouth.”

— The Head and Neck Cancer Alliance


The oral cancer examination is painless and quick … and life-saving. When cancers of the head and neck are found early, the cure rate is high. Annual screenings by a doctor or dentist should be a part of your regular physical or dental checkup. The provider:

• Inspects your face, neck, lips and mouth.

• Feels the area under your jaw and the sides of your neck, checking for unusual lumps.

• Asks you to stick out your tongue to check for swelling, color and texture.

• Using gauze, lifts your tongue and pulls it from one side, then the other.

• Checks the roof and floor of your mouth and the back of your throat.

• Feels and examines the insides of your lips and cheeks for red or white patches.

• Places one finger on the floor of your mouth and, with the other hand under your chin, presses down to check for unusual lumps or sensitivity.

Source: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

Oral, Head and Neck Cancer
Awareness Week is May 8 – 14.


Photo by Vannessa Carrington/Mass. Eye and Ear

Get screened for head and neck
cancer. It’s free, quick and painless.

Boston Medical Center
Moakley Building Lobby
830 Harrison Avenue
Date: April 2
Time: 8 a.m. - noon
617-638-8260

Tufts Medical Center
860 Washington Street
Date: May 12
Time: 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.
617-636-1664
Mass Eye and Ear
243 Charles Street
Date: May 13
Time: TBA
617-573-3340
Dedham Family Dental
Dr. Helaine Smith
30 Milton Street, Dedham
Date: May 11
Time: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
781-326-4600

Mass General Hospital
Voice Center

One Bowdoin Square,
11th Floor
Date: May 13
Time: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
617-726-0218
Remember to call ahead to confirm
time and date
of screenings.

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Get the right number

Blood Pressure

• Normal
Less than 120/80

• Pre-hypertension
120 to 139 / 80 to 89



• Stage 1 hypertension
140 to 159 / 90 to 99

• Stage 2 hypertension
160/100 and above
Cholesterol

• Total — Less than 200

• HDL — “Good” Cholesterol
Greater than 40




• LDL — “Bad” Cholesterol
Less than 100
Triglycerides
Less than 150
Blood Glucose

• Fasting
Less than 100


• Random (after eating)
Less than 140
Waist Circumference

• Women
under 35 inches


• Men
under 40 inches
Body Mass Index (BMI)
18.5 - 24.9

Mental health is equally important

 

When most people think of summer, they conjure up visions of picnics, the beach or outdoor concerts.

But Dr. Nina Mitra, a licensed psychologist at The Dimock Center, has other thoughts in mind. “Summer’s a perfect time to do a mental health self-assessment,” she said. “There’s more sunlight, more daylight. If you’ve been thinking about recharging your batteries, now’s the time.”

Mental health disorders are often overlooked as a component of a yearly physical. Yet, it is not possible to separate mind and body — the two are inextricably linked.

“It’s always good to check up to see how you’re doing — physically as well as mentally,” Mitra said. “It’s a healthy thing for everyone to do.”

Healthy — yes — but not so easy to do, particularly for some African Americans. Historically, blacks are resilient and so used to hardships, they often fail to see the signs of a mental disorder. They assume that sadness is “just the blues” and a normal part of life. Furthermore, the stigma associated with mental illness prevents many blacks from owning up to emotional problems let alone receiving care for them.

Yet, in surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), blacks admit to feelings of sadness, hopelessness and that “everything is an effort” — typical symptoms of depression — more often than whites. Income is a factor as well. The CDC further reports that the lower the poverty level the higher the percentage of serious psychological distress reported among African Americans 18 years of age and older.

Such barriers — lack of awareness, poverty and cultural stigma — are factors contributing to the low rates of mental health treatments in blacks and other minorities, as reported in a recent study published by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Blacks turn to family, the community and religious leaders more often than mental health professionals.

Mental illnesses are not rare. More than 26 percent of the adult population in this country is diagnosed with some sort of mental disorder, according to the NIMH, and 22 percent of these cases are considered severe.

Common disorders are depression, anxiety, stress and alcohol or substance abuse. And the symptoms can be so subtle, they often escape attention or correct interpretation.

Identifying the problem is a big challenge.

People tend to view mental disorders in the extreme — the person talking to people only he or she can see, or an alcoholic down on his luck. These indeed may demonstrate mental disorders, but most of the time, the signs are not as obvious.

Mitra ticked off several typical symptoms. Depression can result in loss of energy or concentration, loss of interest in things you previously enjoyed, having a negative attitude, a change in appetite. People who are anxious might experience obsessive worrying about something, are irritable, short-fused or lashing out.


Nina Mitra
Licensed Psychologist
The Dimock Center

If you find that you’re not sleeping well at night, that you are unable to fall asleep or you keep waking up, that signals a problem, said Mitra.

Stress takes a physical toll as well. “You feel it anywhere in your body. It’s where you keep your stress,” she explained.

For instance, some are more prone to backaches or headaches while others suffer upset stomachs when under undue stress. For some blacks, the problem may be more serious and go beyond mild aches and pains. In a recent study conducted at the University of California at Los Angeles, the researchers concluded that high levels of stress resulting from discrimination may be a factor behind higher rates of hypertension, diabetes and obesity in blacks.

Several factors can upset the emotional cart — finances, family relationships, work or living environment. “Juggling too many things causes stress,” Mitra said. “Sit back and take a look at yourself. “How am I handling this?”

Mitra offered advice. “If you think that you are experiencing emotional symptoms that are significantly different and last longer, it’s best to take a closer look,” she said. There is less concern about a problem that is short-lived, she added.

But if the stress is disrupting life or causing other difficulties, it is probably time to see someone — your primary care physician or a mental health specialist.

There are things a person can do to try to maintain sound mental health. Being physically healthy is one of them. Exercise and healthy eating are key. Keep things in balance and take time to enjoy yourself, recommended Mitra. Sometimes just the little things can help, like reading a good book, watching a comedy or getting together with friends.

“Make a personal mental health check list,” she added. “And take stock of yourself.” Self-assessment questionnaires have some value. They can help point you in the right direction, but they cannot diagnose a problem.

Mitra warned against letting things go on too long. “You have to take the time to take care of daily life stresses,” she said. “It sneaks up on you.”

For more information on depression

For more information on stress