Mental illness may mean higher heart attack, stroke risk for people under 40

(CNN) According to a new study, adults in their 20s and 30s with mental disorders are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.

The study published Monday in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology reviewed the health data of more than 6.5 million people through the Korean National Health Insurance Service database.

The people included in the new the study was aged 20 to 39 and underwent health screenings between 2009 and 2012. Their health was monitored until December 2018 for new heart attacks and strokes.

About 13% of participants suffered from some type of mental disorder, including insomnia, anxiety, depression, somatoform disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use disorder, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or a personality disorder, depending on the study.

These people younger than According to the study, 40 people with a mental disorder were 58% more likely to have a heart attack and 42% more likely to have a stroke than those without any disorder.

“We’ve known for some time that mental health and physical health are linked, but what I find surprising about these findings is that these links were observable at such a young age,” said Dr Katherine Ehrlich, associate professor of behavioral and brain sciences. science at the University of Georgia. Ehrlich was not involved in the research.

Coronary heart disease and heart attacks are rare before the age of 40, so a study as large as this was needed to see the relationship between mental health and such an unusual occurrence in young people, she said.

Mental health and lifestyle

Ehrlich said she would like to learn more about the physical activity and diets of those involved to better understand whether these factors influence the relationship between mental health issues and heart attacks and strokes. .

“For example, if you have chronic depression, you may find it difficult to maintain a healthy diet and get adequate physical activity, which could in turn increase your risk of cardiac events over time,” a- she declared.

But the increased risk could not be attributed to lifestyle differences alone, as the authors controlled for factors such as age, sex, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, chronic kidney disease, smoking, alcohol, physical activity and income, the study says.

That doesn’t mean lifestyle should be ignored, the study author said. Dr. Eue-Keun Choi, professor of internal medicine at the Seoul National University College of Medicine in South Korea.

“Although lifestyle behaviors do not explain excess cardiovascular risk, this does not mean that healthier habits would not improve prognosis,” Choi said in a statement. “Lifestyle modification should therefore be recommended for young adults with mental disorders to improve heart health.”

Changes and checks

One in eight people between the ages of 20 and 39 studied suffered from some kind of mental illness, which means that a significant number of people could be predisposed to heart attacks and strokes, according to the study author, Dr. Chan Soon Park, a researcher at Seoul National University Hospital in South Korea. said in a statement.

This could indicate an increased need to manage psychological conditions and monitor the heart health of those at risk, Park added.

“If we can reduce the number of people living with chronic mental illness, we might find secondary benefits in the years to come in terms of the number of people with heart disease,” Ehrlich said.

Importantly, the results do not show that mental illness causes heart attacks or strokes, she added. But research points to a risk factor to watch out for.

There may be benefits to taking preventative measures to minimize risk, Ehrlich said, which may include maintaining a healthy diet and incorporating physical activity.

Choi recommends that people with mental disorders also have regular checkups.

These findings may also underscore the importance of fighting loneliness, she added.

“Many people with mental illness experience social isolation and loneliness, and for years researchers have been sounding the alarm that loneliness is detrimental to physical health,” Ehrlich said.

“Efforts to improve social connections among young people can be key to addressing rising rates of cardiometabolic disease in adulthood,” she added.

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