Mental Health Tied to Heart Health

Cardiovascular problems like heart disease and stroke were more common in those with mental health disorders

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) A mental health disorder can affect both work and family, but can it also affect your heart health? A new Canadian study suggests so.

The study looked at health survey data from across Canada.

The study authors found that those with a mental health disorder were more likely to also have a stroke or heart disease.

The authors of this new study, led by Katie Goldie, PhD, of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, said that although past research has tied mental health disorders to heart problems, further research is needed to better understand the extent to which these issues are connected.

To explore the topic, Dr. Goldie and team used data from the Canadian Community Health Survey, which measured many topics, such as the presence of mental health disorders, heart disease and stroke, risk factors for heart troubles and the use of psychoactive medications.

Psychoactive medications are a class of medicines used to treat a number of mental health conditions, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. They can include benzodiazepines (e.g., Valium and Xanax), antidepressants (e.g., Zoloft and Celexa) and antipsychotics (e.g., Haldol and Zyprexa).

The study authors found that patients who reported having a mental health disorder at any point were two times as likely to also have heart disease and 2.3 times as likely to have a stroke than their peers without mental health disorders.

Patients who used psychoactive medications were 2.4 times as likely to have heart disease and 2.8 times as likely to have a stroke than those not using these medications.

In a news release from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, Dr. Goldie explained that a number of factors could contribute to these raised risks, including the fact that those with mental health disorders tend to use alcohol and tobacco more and exercise less than the general public. Also, the psychoactive medications these patients often use can interfere with how the body processes fats and sugars and lead to weight gain.

"Access to health care could also play a role in increased heart problems as mental health patients may face stigmas in treatment or may not seek treatment at all," said Deepika Gopal, MD, a clinical cardiologist with The Heart Group and on the medical staff at The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano.

"It would therefore be a good idea for health care providers to routinely assess their patients for cardiovascular risk factors both before and after they start to use psychoactive medications," Dr. Gopal told dailyRx News.

Further research is needed to confirm the findings from this study, Dr. Goldie and colleagues noted.

The study was presented Oct. 27 at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress. Studies presented at conferences are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The authors disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
October 28, 2014
Last Updated:
November 3, 2014