Patients with first episode psychosis face higher health risks

Patients with first episode psychosis face higher health risks
Patients with first episode psychosis face higher health risks

Many patients with first episode psychosis will develop health risks such as heart disease and metabolic issues soon after the onset of their mental illness, says the National Institutes of Health. These health issues are associated with premature death. The findings were announced by Christoph Correll, M.D., of The Zucker Hillside Hospital, Hofstra North Shore-Long Island Jewish School of Medicine.

Past research has revealed that patients with schizophrenia have higher rates of premature death compared with the general population. The current study found that patients with first episode psychosis may be at a higher risk for metabolic issues such as high blood sugar and heart diseases due to a combination of factors such as an unhealthy lifestyle, antipsychotic medication, and the interaction of mental illness. The nearly 400 patients who were studied had an average age of 24 years, yet they showed significant health issues such as smoking, excess weight, and metabolic problems. The patients were ages 15 to 40 years old and were treated in 34 community-based clinics in 21 states.

The data originated from the Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RAISE) project, which was developed by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). NIMH researchers created the project to examine the effects of psychosis on physical health before and after patients were treated in community settings.

When compared to the general population, the participants had higher rates of smoking and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a combination of high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and abnormal blood fats such as triglycerides and cholesterol and is a risk factor for cardiovascular illness. The rates of pre-hypertension and abnormal blood fats were at least as high in the participants as those usually found in people who are 15 to 20 years older. Obesity rates were similar to the frequency in general population.

“Our results strongly suggest that clinicians need to pay much more attention to promoting physical health in people with severe mental illness,” said Dr. Correll. “We need to routinely educate patients about healthy lifestyle behaviors, monitor physical health, choose lower risk treatments whenever possible, and manage issues as they arise. Without a combined physical and mental health care approach, we miss major opportunities to improve psychiatric as well as medical health in patients with schizophrenia and other severe conditions.”

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