Vascular Disease in Schizophrenic Patients Bernard Sklar MD April 22, 2004. Patients with schizophrenia have a much greater chance of developing vascular disease than the general population.
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There may be something about the disease of schizophrenia itself which causes an excess of these problems; or vascular disease may be a result of the poor health habits which seem to be common in our patients (too much eating, too little exercise, smoking, drinking, drug use, etc – more on this later)
Each of the conditions to be discussed causes harm by affecting the large arteries, especially those of the heart, brain and legs (as well as the small arteries, especially those of the kidneys and eyes, but we’ll discuss those another time)
Type II diabetes occurs when too much fat “overwhelms” the cells of the pancreas which produce insulin. The level of the sugar in the blood rises.
We usually see diabetes in middle-aged overweight patients. Diabetes occurs twice as often in schizophrenic patients than in the general population and even more often in those taking the atypical antipsychotic medications.
Diabetes causes the process of “atherosclerosis” to go much more quickly, leading to heart attack, stroke, and poor circulation in the legs, also to blindness and kidney failure.
Cigarette smoke contains nicotine and other substances that cause the arteries to “constrict’ (narrow); less blood gets through the arteries to the heart muscle, the brain, the kidneys and the muscles of the legs.
Cigarette smoking greatly increases the risk of all the vascular diseases.