People with schizophrenia are 56 percent more likely to die from a heart attack, according to new research.
According to scientists the lifespan of people with schizophrenia is 20 years shorter than the general population.
This is partly due to factors such as smoking, increased rates of diabetes, and metabolic problems brought on by the use of some antipsychotic medications, the researchers explain. These factors often worsen once a cardiac condition arises because people with schizophrenia are less likely to make the necessary lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, to offset the problem.
Dr. Paul Kurdyak, chief of the Division of General and Health Systems Psychiatry at Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, analyzed four years of Ontario-wide patient data and tracked all incidents of heart attack among people with schizophrenia, and compared those results to people without schizophrenia.
“When we looked at the data, we found that people with schizophrenia were 56 percent more likely to die after discharge from hospital following a heart attack than those who did not have schizophrenia,” he said.
The study also found that people with schizophrenia were 50 percent less likely to receive cardiac procedures or to see a cardiologist within 30 days of leaving the hospital.
“The numbers tell us that people with schizophrenia — the ones who are at most risk to develop and subsequently die from heart attacks — are not receiving adequate care,” he said.
He noted the possible solutions are two-fold: prevention and aftercare.
“We need to support patients whom we know are at risk of developing medication-related metabolic issues by working with them to provide strategies to offset weight gain, such as healthy eating and physical activity,” he said.
“The other part is aftercare — the mental health care team, primary care providers, and the cardiac specialists need to work together to ensure that patients are seen again after a first incident of heart attack.”
The study was published online in Schizophrenia Research.