Heart Disease Risks and Prevention Strategies for Individuals with Serious Mental Illness: An Overview

In 2014, over 10 million adults in the United States were living with a serious mental illness. Serious mental illness describes any mental disorder that interferes with or limits major life activities. Examples of serious mental illness include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression. Without treatment to manage symptoms, individuals with serious mental illness are at a greater risk for chronic illness. This reduces their life expectancy; one study estimated that individuals with serious mental illness died on average 8 years younger than the general population.

Mental health is only one piece of the puzzle. Physical health conditions also need to be treated to achieve overall wellness and recovery. Among people with serious mental illness, cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death. The risk of dying from cardiovascular disease is two to three times higher for people with serious mental illness compared to the general population. This is in part because of risk factors like weight gain from diet or medications, hypertension, lack of physical activity, and tobacco use. Primary care providers may not work closely with mental health services to provide solutions for their patients, and people with serious mental illness may face barriers to care because of finances or transportation access. Integrated mental health services with primary care providers may also be underfunded and not able to serve populations in need. Awareness of these issues can ensure patients get the treatment needed to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease.

This video is the first part of a two-part series. Watch part two.

This resource was first shared in 2017.

(Animated Video, YouTube)

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