Mental illness linked to increased risk for heart disease death, study finds

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People with severe mental illness may be at higher risk for death from heart disease, according to a new study. Photo by&nbspRigos101/Wikimedia Commons

People with severe mental illness, including schizophrenia, are about twice as likely to die from heart disease as the general population, an analysis published Tuesday found.

In the review of data from 108 published studies that collectively included more than 30 million participants, people with severe mental illness had a 96% higher risk for death from heart disease than the general population, the researchers said.

Those with schizophrenia were 80% more likely to develop heart disease and 93% more likely to die from compared with the general population, the data, published Tuesday by the journal PLOS Medicine, showed.

In addition, the risk for heart disease-related death among the people with severe mental illness, including bipolar disorder, has risen by up to 60% since the 1970s, according to the researchers.

More research is needed to understand the reasons for the higher risk for heart disease death and to assess why it appears to be worsening in recent decades, they said.

“We found that people with these conditions had increased risk of cardiovascular disease and risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than the general population,” study co-author Amanda Lambert told UPI in an email.

“The difference between those with severe mental illness and those without may also be increasing over time,” said Lambert, a doctoral student in the College of Medical and Dental Sciences at the University of Birmingham in England.

Previous studies have linked mental illness with an increased risk for other health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes.

Those with psychiatric disorders may also be at higher risk for “breakthrough” COVID-19, or infections that occur in the fully vaccinated, according to earlier studies.

It is not yet clear why mental illness may raise a person’s risk for other health problems, though researchers have theorized that it may be due to compromised stress response or a reluctance to pursue routine healthcare services.

Other possible factors include higher rates of smoking among those with mental health problems and weight gain side effects associated with the use of antipsychotic drugs, Lambert said.

People with schizophrenia experience persistent or relapsing episodes of psychosis, including hallucinations, delusions, paranoia and disorganized thinking, and they may withdraw from society, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Bipolar disorder, which was once known as manic-depression, causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration and the ability to carry out daily tasks, the institute says.

“It is particularly challenging for patients with mental health problems to reduce their risk of [heart disease] without support,” Lambert said.

“Additional support for people with mental health problems to stop smoking, control weight gain and ensuring access to preventive services for management of risk factors, such as high blood pressure, can help reduce their [heart disease] risk,” she said.

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