Unfortunately, things could get worse. As if the stomach flu couldn’t get worse, now this: Your risk of mood disorders skyrockets if you’ve be...
As if the stomach flu couldn’t get worse, now this: Your risk of mood disorders skyrockets if you’ve been hospitalized for an infection or an autoimmune disease, reports a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Danish researchers followed nearly 92,000 people for about 34 years. They found that people who’d been previously hospitalized with an infection (think: the stomach flu or a respiratory infection) had a 62 percent increased risk of a mood disorder. Those with a history of an autoimmune disease (like multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, or lupus) saw a 45 percent increased risk of mental health issues. Both? The risk increased more than twofold.
“Normally, the brain is protected by the blood-brain barrier,” says study author Michael Benros, M.D., Ph.D. “But infections and inflammation can make it more permeable.” The result: Antibodies and inflammation-related molecules can reach the brain, causing fatigue, decreased appetite, or sleep problems. When left untreated, this could evolve into depression and other mental health disorders, Dr. Benros says.
Although, in this case, the risk of mental health issues is highest the more recently you’ve fought off an infection, you may still be at risk years after the disease has cleared. So if you notice psychological symptoms or changes in your behavior, chat with your doc right away—the sooner you treat symptoms, the greater the chance you have of controlling them, Dr. Benros says.
But the recipe for preventing problems in the first place? Exercise regularly, clock plenty of shut-eye, eat your fruits and vegetables, and, of course, wash your hands (only 5 percent of people do it properly!) to fend off infections and keep your immune system in disease-fighting shape.
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