Australians with schizophrenia die 25 years earlier than the general population, University of Sydney researchers have revealed.
They say a lack of coordinated care between hospitals, community mental health services, GPs and other primary health care professionals is responsible for the gap in life expectancy.
“This is a preventable tragedy,” said psychiatrist Professor Tim Lambert of the University of Sydney Collaborative Centre for Cardiometabolic Health in Psychosis (ccCHiP).
People with schizophrenia and psychosis die early in life mainly from heart attacks, heart disease, and strokes due to untreated hypertension and high cholesterol, and high rates of obesity and smoking.
The new research also found that drugs used to treat schizophrenia and psychosis can increase weight and elevate blood fat levels, increasing the risk of poor heart health.
One commonly used drug is linked to a higher risk of myocarditis and cardiomyopathy, heart conditions that can cause sudden cardiac death.
Patients starting clozapine therapy should be screened for myocarditis have ongoing monitoring for cardiomyopathy with echocardiography.
The researchers say the physical health of people with schizophrenia needs serious and urgent national attention.
“There is no mystery about how to manage these diseases and risk factors,” Professor Lambert said.
He said that people with schizophrenia should have their physical health checked annually by general practitioners and primary health care professionals.
Where possible, their health should also be reviewed in specialised settings to find longer term interventions and preventative follow-up.
Read more about the health risks for people with schizophrenia here. Story credit: University of Sydney newsroom.
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