In schizophrenia patients, a structured education program may help reduce weight. Schizophrenics face a higher risk of weight gain and obesity, and are more likely to develop diabetes and heart disease. Additionally, weight gain may be a reason why patients stop taking their medications, increasing the risk of relapse.
On the other hand, reducing weight may help improve health outcomes and quality of life overall.
The research will develop an education program to help reduce type 2 diabetes in schizophrenics. This will be examined in a randomized controlled STEPWISE (Structured lifestyle Education for People WIth SchizophrEnia) trial, and compared to usual health and social care.
The program will include four structured weekly sessions with clinicians, along with follow-up sessions three, six, and nine months after. The main focus of the program will be on diet and exercise.
Leader of the project Richard Holt said, “We know people with severe mental illness die 10 to 20 years earlier than the general population. The commonest cause is from heart disease and being overweight or obese increases this risk. We want to develop a programme for use in the NHS [National Health Service] that will help people with schizophrenia address the problem of obesity.”
Collaborator on the project Dr. David Shiers added, “Given how weight gain can damage long-term physical health as well as increase stigma, it is incumbent on clinicians to seek more effective ways to offset such a serious adverse effect of the antipsychotic medication they prescribe.”
Preventive tips to manage schizophrenia symptoms
With proper treatment, individuals with schizophrenia can live a normal life and, even though there is no cure, symptoms can be well managed. Medications are often diagnosed to relieve hallucinations and delusions. Antipsychotics, in particular, can help with any chemical imbalances in the brain.
There are non-drug treatments, too, like seeking out therapy, either one-on-one or group-based. Different types of therapy to treat schizophrenia include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Self-help groups
- Family therapy
- Integrated substance abuse treatment
Lifestyle changes, too, can work to better improve schizophrenia symptoms. These include eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting proper sleep, reducing stress, avoiding alcohol and drugs, doing things that make you feel good about yourself, taking medications as prescribed, creating goals for yourself and working towards obtaining those goals, and learning all you can about schizophrenia so you better understand the disorder.
By integrating a combination of medical and non-medical treatments, a person with schizophrenia can very well live a normal life.