According to scientists at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) Center for Addiction and the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) the risk of dying from a heart attack is significantly higher in individuals with schizophrenia than in the general public.
Those who suffer from schizophrenia generally have a lifespan that’s 20 years shorter than the public, as a result of certain factors including increased risk of diabetes, smoking, and metabolic problems caused by some antipsychotic medications.
If a cardiac condition occurs, these factors become worse, because those suffering from schizophrenia aren’t likely to make the necessary changes to exercise, diet, and lifestyle in general, to reduce future risk.
Schizophrenia Patients Double the Risk of Death from Heath Attack
Schizophrenia Research online published the results of a study that examined mortality along with cardiac care and access after a heart attack, in those suffering from schizophrenia.
Dr. Paul Kurdyak, Chief, Division of General and Health Systems Psychiatry at CAMH, analyzed four years of Ontario-wide patient data and tracked all incidents of heart attack among people with schizophrenia, and then compared results to people without schizophrenia.
“When we looked at the data, we found that people with schizophrenia were 56 per cent more likely to die after discharge from hospital following a heart attack than those who did not have schizophrenia,” says Dr. Kurdyak, also an Adjunct Scientist at ICES. “We also found that patients with schizophrenia, despite the increase in mortality risk after a heart attack, were half as likely to receive life-saving cardiac procedures and care from cardiologists, than those patients not suffering from schizophrenia.”
Specifically, the study found that people with schizophrenia were 50 percent less likely to receive cardiac procedures or to see a cardiologist within 30 days of discharge from hospital.
More Synergy Between Medical Providers Needed
“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,” says Dr. Kurdyak. “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.”
What does this mean in the day-to-day lives of those individuals dealing with schizophrenia? After reading the results of the research, it would appear that the medical community needs to do a better job of connecting the dots. By this I mean, first and foremost a better job needs to be done to ensure the appropriate preventative steps are in place including regular physicals and treatment of conditions such as high blood pressure.
It also means that should an individual who is dealing with schizophrenia have a heart attack a much better job needs to be done in the follow up care. Why are these patients not receiving adequate follow up care? It would appear that all of the various medical professionals that are involved in the care of the schizophrenia patient are not communicating well among each other and so they are getting fragmented care. It is unacceptable that 50 percent are less likely to see a cardiologist after a heart attack and release from hospital. The study doesn’t make it clear why this occurs but it would indicate that this needs to be further explored.
In a perfect world there would not be an increased risk of dying from a heart attack because you have a mental illness, unless it was directly related to the condition. It’s obvious our world is far from perfect, especially when it comes to the health and well-being of the schizophrenia patient.
1) n.p. (2012, October 7). “Heart Attack Mortality Risk Greater For People With Schizophrenia.” Medical News Today. Retrieved from