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Int J Cardiol. 2009 Feb 6;132(1):30-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2008.10.002. Epub 2008 Nov 11.

The impact of mental illness on cardiac outcomes: a review for the cardiologist.

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  • 1Harvard Medical School, TMEC, 260 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Traditional cardiac risk factors, such as smoking, hypertension and obesity, are widely accepted contributors to the onset and progression of cardiovascular disease (CVD), one of the foremost causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Largely overlooked, however, is the impact of mental health on cardiac disease. From extensive MEDLINE and PsycINFO searches, we have reviewed the association between specific psychiatric disorders and CVD-related morbidity and mortality, the efficacy and safety of their treatments, and plausible behavioral and biological mechanism through which these associations may occur. The preponderance of evidence suggests that depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are all important cardiac risk factors, and patients with these disorders are at significantly higher risk for cardiac morbidity and mortality than are their counterparts in the general population. Antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers and benzodiazepines are effective therapeutic interventions, and many are safe to use in cardiac populations. Some, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and atypical antipsychotics, may even improve cardiac outcomes in healthy individuals and patients with CVD, although more work is needed to confirm this hypothesis. A combination of behavioral and biological mechanisms underlies the association between cardiac disease and mental illness, many of which are shared across disorders. With further research, it may be learned that psychiatric treatments definitively reverse the detrimental effects of mental illness on cardiac health. Currently, however, the challenge lies in raising awareness of mental health issues in cardiac patients, so that basic but critical treatments may be initiated in this population.

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