Higher risk of stroke for veterans with mental health disorders

Veterans with mental health disorders had an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and death from cardiovascular disease, according to new research published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, an American Heart Association journal.

As some months ago, we wish to talk again about veterans and PTSD. However, at the beginning of 2019, another research of the American Heart Association declared that PTDS alone is not proved to increase heart disease. Now, another study published in the American Heart Association journal wishes to explain why veterans with specific mental health disorders had an increased risk of heart attack.

The link between mental illness and cardiovascular disease is well assessed. That’s why, according to some data, mental health conditions pose the highest risk for cardiovascular disease.

In this study, researchers assessed veterans at risk for major heart disease and stroke events and death associated with depression, anxiety, PTSD, psychosis and bipolar disorder. The analysis included data from more than 1.6 million veterans ages 45 to 80 who received care in the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system from 2010-2014. About 45% of the men and 63% of the women had been diagnosed with a mental health disorder.

Cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol, other mental health conditions and psychiatric medications, both men and women with various mental health diagnoses except post-traumatic stress disorder had a higher risk of cardiovascular events and death over five years.

Other results of this study: among men, depression, anxiety, psychosis and bipolar disorder was associated with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease. In addition, they are also linked to cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke. On the other hand, among women, depression, psychosis and bipolar disorder posed a higher cardiovascular disease risk.

Psychosis and bipolar disorder also increased the risk of death. A diagnosis of psychosis, such as schizophrenia, among both men and women posed the strongest risk for heart attack, stroke and death from cardiovascular disease.

In the study, a PTSD diagnosis among men was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to the study population as a whole. This finding differed from some previous studies. This might be the largest-scale assessment of the associations among different psychiatric conditions and major cardiovascular outcomes. Researchers state that these findings have implications for estimating cardiovascular risk among patients and determining who might benefit from interventions such as cholesterol-lowering medications and blood pressure treatment.

This study was not designed to assess why veterans with mental health conditions have heightened the cardiovascular risk, although the authors raise the possibility that chronic stress due to mental health problems could play a role.

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