Clear Links Established Between Mental Illness, Heart Disease
> 10/31/2007 9:27:20 AM

Evidence of clinical depression's insidious influence on our general well-being is widely available for all who care to investigate. Suicide is the most unfortunate embodiment of this trend, but the life expectancies of individuals suffering from depression and related mental illnesses are up to 30 years lower  than those in the general population due to a multitude of complimentary variables unrelated to the act of taking one's own life: declines in one's degree of professional productivity, physical health, social interaction, and, in a more general sense, depression's ability to compromise the physical body's resistance to disease. New data further illuminates the last point, noting a considerably higher risk for mentally ill patients to succumb to the planet's number one killer: heart disease. Rates of death by cardiovascular illness have declined significantly in the face of superior science, but many patients suffering from concurrent mental illness have not shared in the benefits of advanced technology: individuals suffering through depression are approximately twice as likely to experience coronary artery disease or heart attack.

Previous data established a state of dual causality between depression and cardiovascular conditions like heart attack, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, and clogged or constricted arteries. The fact that rates of depression increase significantly for recent vicitms of stroke or heart attack is less revealing than its converse: mental illness leaves patients more susceptible to the very same conditions. And when they strike, it compromises recovery rates as well.

Some of these statistics obviously arise from the increased propensity of depressive patients to indulge in notably unhealthy behaviors (without applying the very necessary principle of moderation) either as a means of coping with the depression itself or due to a resulting state of indifference or seeming lack of concern for one's own well-being: rates of smoking, drinking, illegal drug use, dangerous sexual activity, and intentional self-injury are far higher among patients suffering from major mental illnesses. These individuals also more likely to be physically inactive, make poor dietary choices and grow obese due to the lethargy and low self-opinions so commonly associated with depression and related disorders.

These trends, while not universally true, leave patients not only far more likely to develop potentially fatal cardiovascular conditions but far less likely to seek, receive and comply with appropriate treatments. Large-scale studies of schizophrenic patients, for example, found that these individuals were not only screened for diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure problems at considerably lower rates but that a majority who'd already been diagnosed were not taking relevant medications. Whether these patients were less receptive to the idea of seeking treatment, simply refused to take medications once they'd been prescribed, or whether their cases went overlooked because of their doctors' desire to treat the psychiatric condition at the unfortunate expense of other health concerns, physical health and overall quality of life measures suffered.

Of course, some medications commonly prescribed for schizophrenia and other severe disorders may facilitate some of the same negative health trends, including weight gain and a greater risk of heart disease, but this unfortunate fact does not render them any less essential, requiring patients and their loved ones to devote even more time to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Interventions in which family, friends and professionals conspire to convince patients to adopt healthier modes of living also prove far more challenging among patients with schizophrenia, major depression or related conditions, but they can be very successful with time, patience and effort. Working through mental illness requires the very same, and it may even be viewed as a companion to heart disease in terms of effective approach: each must be aggressively countered with all available forms of appropriate treatment and the continued support of friends, family and licensed professionals.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy