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Stroke: ‘Serious mental illnesses’ tied to higher risk for heart attack and stroke – study

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The study was recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. It found there was a significantly increased cardiovascular risk associated with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or schizoaffective disorder (SMI) even in young adults. The researchers suggest this shows the importance of addressing uncontrolled major cardiovascular risk factors in those with SMI at as early an age as possible.

The study looked at patients aged 18 to 75 years with a primary care visit in January 2016 to September 2018, who were included and were grouped into those with and without SMI using diagnosis codes.

Ten‐year cardiovascular risk as was 30‐year cardiovascular risk.

Demographic, vital sign, medication, diagnosis, and health insurance data were collected from the electronic health record by a clinical decision support system.

A total of 11, 333 patients with SMI and 579, 924 patients without SMI were included.

It found the 10‐year cardiovascular risk was significantly higher in patients with SMI compared with patients without SMI.

Similarly, 30‐year cardiovascular risk was significantly higher in those with SMI, 25 percent of patients with SMI in the highest‐risk group compared with 11 percent of patients without SMI.

Among SMI subtypes, patients with bipolar disorder had the highest 10‐year cardiovascular risk.

The study found patients with schizoaffective disorder had the highest 30‐year cardiovascular risk.

The Stroke Association (SA) notes: “A stroke can happen to anyone, but there are some things that increase your risk of a stroke.

“It’s important to know what the risk factors are, and do what you can to reduce your risk.”

It adds: “Many people think that strokes only happen to older people, but stroke can strike anyone, at any time.”

Indeed, there are some risk factors that you may be able to influence to help lower your risk.

The SA explains: “The way we live has a big impact on our risk of stroke. Things such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol, being overweight and eating unhealthy foods can damage your blood vessels, increase your blood pressure and make your blood more likely to clot.”

In the UK, the government advises that to keep health risks low, it’s best to drink no more than 14 units a week, and to spread the units over the week. The limit is the same for men and women.

The SA adds: “Being overweight or obese can raise your risk of a stroke.

“Extra weight affects your body in many ways, such as raising the risk of high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, which are both linked to stroke.“

There are also certain diets to adopt. The SA says: “Fruit and vegetables are important sources of vitamins and minerals and you should aim to have five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.”

It adds: “Foods that are high in fibre help to reduce the amount of cholesterol in your blood, so when choosing starchy foods, go for wholegrain cereals, brown rice or grains such as whole wheat couscous.”

Moreover, eating saturated fats can raise your cholesterol and too much salt can increase your blood pressure.

The SA says: “Even making small changes to your eating habits can make a difference to your overall health, particularly if you’ve been told that you’re at risk of having a stroke or TIA.”

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