Heart Health for the Mentally Ill

High blood pressure medication can be overlooked for patients with severe mental illness

(RxWiki News) Don’t be afraid to speak openly with a physician about medical needs. People with severe mental illness can also have high blood pressure and high cholesterol in need of management.

A recent study looked at the rates of prescribed medication for cardiovascular health. The researchers found severely mentally ill patients were 10 percent less likely to be prescribed blood pressure medication.

Authors said, “We suggest that the treatment of physical illness is prioritized in people with mental health problems, and closely monitored."

"Talk to your doctor about regular wellness exams."

Alex J. Mitchell, MRCPsych, from the Department of Psycho-Oncology at the University of Leicester in the UK, led the investigation. For the study, 1,931,509 people from 61 studies in 23 publications who were prescribed 12 different classes of medications were reviewed.

The prescriptions were for cardiovascular illness, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis and HIV.

People with severe mental illness (including schizophrenia) had 0.74 greater odds of not being prescribed medications for cardiovascular health compared to their non-mentally ill counterparts.

Specifically, patients were under-prescribed prescriptions for angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors), angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) and beta-blockers for high blood pressure and statins for high cholesterol. 

Based on calculations, researchers approximated people with severe mental illness were under-treated for physical conditions by 10 percent.

Dr. Mitchell said, “The inequality seems to result from prescribing differences not compliance issues, and there may be several reasons for this.”

“Mental health professionals may not feel confident in prescribing medication to treat physical problems and hospital specialists may be worried about interactions of mental health medication.”

Physical health must be monitored in patients with mental illness.

This study was published in December in The British Journal of Psychiatry. No financial information was given. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
December 1, 2012