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Climate change ups mental health risk

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. Email questions to youdocsdaily@sharecare.com.

QUESTION: 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, N.Y.

ANSWER: Yes, rising temperatures and air pollution ramp up the risks to your mental health and well-being.

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.

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