Mental Health Conditions Puts Veterans at Higher Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke
A study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes and the American Heart Association Journal, found that veterans with specific mental health conditions, including depression, psychosis, and bipolar disorder had an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from cardiovascular disease.
Cardiovascular Disease and Mental Health
The link between mental illness and cardiovascular disease is well established. Coronary heart disease and mental illness are some of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality throughout the world, however research has suggested that both may actually cause one another. There is a lot of research which shows that people with mental illness, as a group, have an increased risk of developing heart disease. However, there is little research and data on which mental health conditions in particular pose the highest risk.
About the Study
In this study, it was assessed whether veterans with depression, anxiety, PTSD, psychosis, and bipolar disorder are at a heightened risk for heart disease, stroke, and death.
This study included data from 1.6 million veterans ages 45 to 80 who received care within the VA health care system from 2010 to 2014. Of these veterans, 45% of men and 63% of women had been diagnosed with a mental health condition.
Results of the Study
The study found that both men and women with various mental health diagnoses, except for PTSD, had a higher risk of cardiovascular event and death over five years. The findings also demonstrated the following:
- For men, depression, anxiety, psychosis, and bipolar disorder were associated with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Depression, psychosis, and bipolar disorder were also linked to cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke.
- For women, depression, psychosis, and bipolar disorder posed a higher cardiovascular disease risk. Additionally, psychosis and bipolar disorder also increased the risk of death.
- A diagnosis of psychosis (e.g. schizophrenia), among both men and women, posed the strongest risk for heart attack, stroke, and death from cardiovascular disease
What Does this Mean?
This research has implications for helping determine cardiovascular risk among patients and helping determine who might benefit from interventions such as cholesterol-lowering medications and blood pressure treatment. Overall, when considering a veteran’s health care needs, mental health status should be taken into account when calculating cardiovascular disease risk and determining the appropriate treatment options.
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