Dealing with Physical Health and Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar patients were more likely to have other physical health conditions

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) People with bipolar disorder may also be more likely to have poor physical health, according to a recent study.

Using information from medical records, researchers found that people with bipolar disorder were more likely to develop conditions like kidney disease and diabetes than the general population.

Additionally, bipolar patients with heart disease or high blood pressure were less likely to be prescribed medication to treat those conditions than people without bipolar disorder.

"If you have bipolar disorder, visit your physician regularly."

Daniel Smith, MD, of the Institute of Health and Wellbeing in the University of Glasgow, led this study.

According to Dr. Smith and colleagues, people with severe mental health problems tend to have worse physical health.

This study investigated whether people with bipolar disorder were more likely to have health conditions than those without bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized by alternating periods of intense depression and mania, or an elevated, energetic mood.

For this study, the researchers used data from the Primary Care Clinical Informatics Unit at the University of Aberdeen in the UK. The data included 1,751,841 living patients.

The patients with bipolar disorder diagnoses were identified, and their medical records were compared to patients without bipolar disorder.

The researchers determined that 2,582 patients had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Of those patients, 63.9 percent had at least one physical health condition.

Physical health conditions, including kidney disease, chronic pain and diabetes, were significantly more common in patients with bipolar disorder.

Patients with bipolar disorder were 1.27 times more likely to have one of the 32 most common physical conditions compared with patients without bipolar disorder.

Moreover, bipolar patients were about 1.4 times more likely to have two or three physical conditions in addition to their mental illness.

People with bipolar disorder and heart disease or high blood pressure were significantly less likely to be taking medication to control their physical conditions than people without bipolar disorder.

The researchers concluded that patients with bipolar disorder were more likely than the general population to have a coexisting chronic health problem.

The authors of this study also noted that bipolar patients were less likely to receive prescriptions to control heart disease and high blood pressure when diagnosed with those conditions.

These authors suggested that equal access to health care may not result in equal treatment and care for people with bipolar disorder.

They called for more research intended to improve the diagnosis and treatment of bipolar patients with physical health problems.

"This is an important topic; many adults and children who suffer from mental and behavioral health challenges also often have increased medical health issues. I'm a big advocate in promoting natural health and it's incredibly important for men and women suffering with mental health illnesses to have a healthy diet and exercise regime," said Julie Gladnick, MA, LMFT, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Denver, Colorado.

"Meeting regularly with a nutritionist and taking care of our bodies can have incredible effects on our minds," Gladnick told dailyRx News.

This study was published in BMC Medicine on December 23.

The research was funded by the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health Directorates. The researchers declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
December 26, 2013
Last Updated:
January 5, 2014