Schizophrenia-type illness linked to heart risk

The high rate of heart disease seen in people with “schizophrenia spectrum disorders” is not totally explained by the use of antipsychotic medications and by lifestyle factors, according to research reported in San Francisco at the American Psychiatric Association annual meeting.

“We are aware of historical reports as early as the 1920s - thus pre-dating antipsychotic availability - showing that individuals with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders are more likely than the general public to develop, and die because of, cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Stephen Woolley told Reuters Health.

Woolley and his team based at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut noted that some biological characteristics of individuals with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders are similar to characteristics of individuals with heart conditions.

They explored the idea that the two disorders might be connected using data on individuals 40 to 64 years of age, who enrolled in a study in 1980-1985 and were initially free of heart disease symptoms.

Participants with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders were identified based on 18 reported symptoms, such as believing someone was watching, following or spying on them.

The researchers estimated that odds for developing one or more cardiovascular disease symptom during a 1- to 2-year period was more than 4 times higher among people with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders than those without schizophrenia-spectrum disorders.

The team found that up to about half the extra risk could be attributed to poor diet, inactivity, and smoking.

“In sum,” Woolley said, “these analyses suggest a residual elevated risk not explained by lifestyles or antipsychotics.” He emphasized, however, that their research is still preliminary.

By Karla Gale
NEW YORK (Reuters Health)

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