Debbie Nicholson

The risk of death resulting from a heart attack higher in schizophrenics than in the general public

People with schizophrenia on average have a shorter life span by twenty years in comparison to the general population. In part this is due to certain factors such as smoking, increased rates of diabetes, metabolic problems and the use of some anti-psychotic medications. 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.

View slideshow: Anti-psychotic mediations and negative effects

Dr. Paul Kurdyak, Chief, Division of General and Health Systems Psychiatry at Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Ontario and fellow researchers examined mortality and access to cardiac care after acute myocardial infraction (heart attack) in those with schizophrenia.

Researchers examined four years of Ontario-wide patient data and tracked all incidents of heart attack among people with schizophrenia, and compared results to people without schizophrenia.

When researchers examined the data they found people with schizophrenia had a 56% greater chance of dying after discharge from the hospital following a heart attack in comparison to those without the illness.

The studies also revealed those with schizophrenia were 50% less likely to receive cardiac procedures or to see a cardiologist within 30 days of discharge from 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," stated Dr. Kurdyak in a release.

Dr. Kurday states the solution is two-fold; prevention and aftercare.

"The possible solutions are two-fold: prevention is one. 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.”

"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."

This study is published online in Schizophrenia Research.

In 2008, Dr. Gail Daumit, MD, MHS, at John Hopkins University and colleagues evaluated the effects of anti-psychotic medications on Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness participants.

At the start of the study participants had a higher estimated 10 year CHD (coronary heart disease) risk in comparison to the general population and participants were treated with anti-psychotics on an average of 14 years.

The five antipsychotics were Zyprexa, Seroquel, Risperdal, Geodon and the conventional anti-psychotic perphenazine.

Researchers had found that the risk for CHD increased 0.5 percent for those taking zyprexa and 0.3 percent for those taking Seroquel.

Daumit and colleagues conclude by suggesting that when clinicians are choosing anti psychotic treatment for their patients, they should consider the relative cardiovascular risks associated with each medication, especially for older patients and those with existing cardiovascular risk factors.

This study was published in Schizophrenia Research, October 2008.

Researches from the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine had found schizophrenics who take anti-psychotic drugs are more likely to have cardiac arrest or ventricular arrhythmia those without schizophrenia. The study appeared in the British Medical Journal.

In the United States it is estimated 2.2 million Americans have schizophrenia.

Last year, anti-psychotic drugs were prescribed to 3.1 million Americans. The drugs were used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe depression.