High Risk For Cardiovascular Disease In Severely Mentally Ill

In a commentary article in the Oct. 17 issue of JAMA, John W. Newcomer, M.D., professor of psychiatry, of psychology and of medicine and medical director of the Center for Clinical Studies at Washington University, reports that those with illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression lose 25 to 30 years of life expectancy compared to the general population.

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Patients with severe psychiatric illness are at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. There are many mental illnesses that can lead to cardiovascular problems, which include depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

How depression is bad for your heart?

Depression is more likely to break your heart than eating unhealthy foods and smoking. Reappearance of cardiovascular problems like heart attacks, severe chest pain, strokes, and cardiac arrest are more likely linked to depression than to high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes and high cholesterol.

Anxiety in depressed people adds to their problems. Therefore, when depression doubles the risk of heart diseases, anxiety triples the risk. When a person is under depression, stress hormones rise, inflammatory chemicals increase in the blood damaging the lining of arteries, blood vessels constrict and become less flexible, and your heart speeds up.

Constriction of arteries decreases the flow of blood and increase the risk of angina attack. The more attacks the patient gets, the more depressed he/she becomes, which again affects arteries and heart.

Bipolar and schizophrenia patients at increased risk of cardiovascular disease:

People with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases than others. The reasons may be related to lifestyle factors, genetic predisposition and stress. The risk factors for heart disease include obesity, smoking, hypertension and low good cholesterol levels. These lifestyle factors are the reasons for increased risk of cardiovascular disease in bipolar disorder and schizophrenia patients.

Mentally ill patients to achieve healthy heart:

The treatment for preventing heart diseases is drugs and visiting psychotherapist regularly. There are different types of medications for different types of mental illnesses. Antidepressant medications are used to treat depressed people and 60 to 70 percent of people are responding to these medications.

Mood stabilizing medications are useful for people who have bipolar disorder antipsychotic medications are used to treat psychotic illnesses

Different psychological therapies are also used in the treatment of mental illnesses. The therapies include cognitive behavior therapy useful in the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and interpersonal psychotherapy is useful to treat depression.