New research out of Canada has found a person’s mental health has a direct impact on their heart health.
Presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress, researchers found the chance of having heart disease or stroke doubled if a person had experienced schizophrenia, depression, anxiety or bipolar during any point of their life.
In addition to this increased risk, those who use psychiatric medications such as antidepressants or mood stabilisers were twice as likely to have heart disease and three times as likely to have had a stroke compared to those not taking the medications.
According to Dr Katie Goldie from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, three main factors accounted for the increased risk.
First, people with mental health disorders often have a poor diet, are inactive and have excessive tobacco and alcohol consumption.
Second, psychiatric medications can often cause weight gain and slow down the way sugars and fats are broken down by the body, leading to obesity, high cholesterol and type two diabetes.
“The medications themselves account for a lot of risk in this group,” Dr Goldie said.
The third issue is access to healthcare, with those experiencing mental health issues struggling to communicate their health needs to professionals.
“Or they may not even seek care because of the symptoms of their disorder,” she said.
The stigma associated with mental illness also plays a part, with doctors less likely to prescribe risk-reducing medications.
The research recommended healthcare providers improve the cardiovascular health of patients experiencing mental illness by testing regularly, both before and after treatment.
This article first appeared on ‘9 News’ on 2 November 2014.