Patients with Bipolar Depression Have a Higher Mortality Rate, Especially if They Also Have Cardiovascular Disease

December 18, 2012 · Posted in Peer-Reviewed Published Data, Risk Factors · Comment 

cardiovascular risk

In a large longitudinal study of depressed patients in Taiwan that was published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research this year, Chang et al. found that after 10 years, patients with bipolar depression (N=1,542) had significantly higher mortality rate than those with other types of depression (N=17,480). Patients with bipolar depression were twice as likely to have died from suicide or accidental death than were patients who had other types of depression.  When cardiovascular disease was also present in both groups, patients with bipolar disorder were also four times more likely to have died from suicide or accidental death than those with other types of depression.

Editor’s Note: These data again emphasize the critical importance of patients with bipolar disorder carefully looking after their medical and cardiovascular health both early on and throughout the entire course of their illness.

Much of the excess medical mortality in bipolar disorder is attributed to cardiovascular disease, and now those with cardiovascular disease also appear more prone to suicide. This should be a call to action to improve the long-term treatment of both bipolar disorder and its common comorbidity, cardiovascular disease.

Get your medical illness treated!

It will improve your health and longevity. Especially treat these signs of the metabolic syndrome, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease:

  • Cholesterol–Increase “good” cholesterol (high-density lipoproteins or HDLs) and lower “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins or LDLs)
  • High Triglycerides–Triglycerides should be below 150 mg/dL
  • Blood Pressure–Aim for 130/85 mmHg or lower
  • Blood Sugar–Fasting blood sugar (glucose) should stay below 100 mg/dL
  • Overweight & Obesity–Keep waist circumference under 40” for men or 35” for women

Exercise is good for all of these!

Keep Your Heart and Cardiovascular System Healthy

May 7, 2012 · Posted in Risk Factors · Comment 

heartMiddle aged folks, watch your risk factors for cardiovascular disease. These include: high blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, and blood sugar (diabetes).

According to Heartwire, an article in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that having any of these risk factors increases the likelihood of cardiovascular disease later in life.  The more risk factors one has, the greater the increase in risk.

Across the whole meta-analysis, participants with no risk factors at age 55 (total cholesterol level: <180 mg/dL;
blood pressure: <120 mm Hg systolic and 80 mm Hg diastolic; nonsmoking; nondiabetic) had drastically better odds
of avoiding death from cardiovascular disease through the age of 80 than participants with two or more major risk
factors (4.7% vs 29.6% among men and 6.4% vs 20.5% among women).

People with an optimal risk-factor profile also had lower lifetime risks of fatal coronary heart disease or nonfatal MI (Editor’s Note: myocardial infarction, or heart attack) (3.6% vs 37.5% among men, <1% vs 18.3% among women) and fatal or nonfatal stroke (2.3% vs 8.3% among men,
5.3% vs 10.7% among women), compared with those with two or more risk factors.

What this article does not mention is that depression is a risk factor for coronary artery disease, and should be treated just as aggressively and persistently as the other cardiovascular risk factors.

Also as we’ve written before in the BNN, exercise is one element of a healthy life style that can positively affect all of these risk factors.  Starting a healthy diet and exercise regimen in middle age will have long-term positive effects and reduce risks later in life.

Tricyclic Antidepressants Linked to Cardiovascular Disease

February 29, 2012 · Posted in Peer-Reviewed Published Data · Comment 

heartResearch from 2010 shows that tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are linked to 35% greater risk for cardiovascular disease, while selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) were not shown to confer any extra cardiovascular risks.

Editor’s Note: This is another one of many reasons to use second generation antidepressants such as the SSRIs and bupropion instead of the first generation tricyclics.  The TCAs have more side effects, are more dangerous in overdose, are not indicated for children or adolescents, and are more likely to cause switches into mania in individuals with bipolar disorder than the newer ADs.

The Evolving Omega-3 Fatty Acid Story: The Icing on the Cake (And Why It Shouldn’t Be Eaten)

October 3, 2011 · Posted in Current Treatments · Comment 

sources of omega-3 fatty acidsOmega-3 fatty acids are important for brain development and function and are essential to the human diet since they cannot be synthesized by the body. Omega-3 fatty acids are derived from canola oil, walnuts, flax seed oil, leafy vegetables, and especially fish. The main omega-3 fatty acids include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). They have anti-inflammatory effects, unlike omega-6 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory. The omega-6 fatty acids come from soy, peanuts, corn oil, and meats, and are associated with increases in obesity, myocardial infarction, and stroke.

In a recent review of the literature, John Davis and Joe Hiblen found that diets that include high levels of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with decreased incidence of depression, suicide, and cardiovascular disease. The researchers performed a meta-analysis of all the prospective depression treatment studies of omega-3 fatty acids compared to placebo. They found that EPA had antidepressant effects in humans, with moderate effect size and a high degree of statistical significance. DHA, however, did not appear to have an antidepressant effect, and pure DHA was even associated with some worsening of depression.

Editor’s note: This meta-analysis helps clarify some of the ambiguities in the literature about the antidepressant efficacy of the omega-3 fatty acids, clarifying that EPA alone is an effective antidepressant. The one study that did not find antidepressant effects with EPA was carried out by the Bipolar Collaborative Network, in which I am an investigator. Our study, published in an article by Keck et al., showed that 6g of EPA was not significantly more effective than placebo in bipolar depression or in rapid cyclers. However, there is some indication that 6g may be too high a dose of EPA, and most of the recommendations now suggest using 1-2g of either EPA or an EPA/DHA combination. Read more

Inflammation and Oxidative Stress in Bipolar Disorder

January 6, 2011 · Posted in Current Treatments, Neurobiology, Potential Treatments · Comment 

A number of studies presented at the 4th Biennial Conference of the International Society for Bipolar Disorders conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil in March reported new data relevant to inflammation and oxidative stress. Both inflammation and oxidative stress increase risk of cardiovascular disorders, and patients with inadequately treated mood disorders lose 10 or more years of life expectancy from cardiovascular disorders compared to the general population. Inflammation and oxidative stress may also contribute to the symptoms, evolution, and progression of the mood disorders themselves.

It is possible that these two processes could become new targets for therapeutic intervention in addition to more traditional psychopharmacological drugs that primarily target the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, and the neurotrophic factor BDNF. Read more

Smoking Multiplies Risks for Bipolar Patients

no smoking sign

Smoking is associated with a less successful outcome in the naturalistic treatment of bipolar patients, reported Seetal Dodd and colleagues at the 4th Biennial Conference of the International Society for Bipolar Disorders in Sao Paulo, Brazil in March. Nicotine dependence has also been found to be a risk factor for depressive symptoms, as reported in a recent article in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

In addition to these direct effects on mental health, smoking is also a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease when combined with the presence of any three of the five primary risk factors that constitute the metabolic syndrome. (These five factors are: increased waist circumference, high blood pressure, increased cholesterol, increased triglycerides, and insulin resistance or elevated fasting blood glucose.) Cardiovascular disease co-occurs with bipolar disorder at a high rate and is one of the major causes of decreased life expectancy in those with inadequately treated illness.

Because smoking is a powerful risk factor for comorbid illnesses such as heart attack and stroke and is itself associated with a poor clinical outcome in the treatment of bipolar disorder, every effort should be made to help patients with smoking cessation.  Suggestions after the jump. Read more

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