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Serious mental illness 'increases diabetes risk'

Serious mental illness 'increases diabetes risk'
17th October 2007

New US research has revealed that mentally ill patients are failing to receive the benefits of progress in the treatment of cardiovascular disease.

A study by Dr John Newcomer, professor of psychiatry, psychology and medicine at Washington University, found that the lower life expectancies of sufferers of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression were attributable largely to heart conditions, although suicide also claimed many of their lives.

The life expectancy of such patients is 25 to 30 years lower than that for people without the psychiatric conditions.

Dr Newcomer said: "Not only are these patients dealing with the serious burden that accompanies their psychiatric disorder, but they also have an increased risk and an increased burden from major medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease and stroke."

He added: "They are more likely to eat more high-fat food and to burn fewer calories, so it's not surprising that this population also tends to have higher rates of overweight and obesity."

Some antipsychotic drugs can have adverse effects on body weight, glucose metabolism and lipid levels. However, Dr Newcomer stressed that he was not advocating that people stop taking medication.

He said psychiatrists and primary-care givers should coordinate to raise screening rates among the mentally ill and explore alternative treatment options.

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