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Keywords:

  • cardiovascular risk factors;
  • diet;
  • exercise;
  • mental illness

Objective: The objective of this study was to document the prevalence of risk factors for cardiovascular disease among people with chronic mental illness.

Method: A cross-sectional survey was conducted of 234 outpatients attending a community mental health clinic in the North-western Health Care Network in Melbourne, Australia. Prevalence of smoking, alcohol consumption, body mass index, hypertension, salt intake, exercise and history of hypercholesterolemia was assessed.

Results: Compared with a community sample, the mentally ill had a higher prevalence of smoking, overweight and obesity, lack of moderate exercise, harmful levels of alcohol consumption and salt intake. No differences were found on hypertension. Men, but not women, with mental illness were less likely to undertake cholesterol screening.

Conclusions: Psychiatric outpatients have a high prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors which may account for the higher rate of cardiovascular mortality among the mentally ill. Further research is needed to trial and evaluate interventions to effectively modify risk factors in this vulnerable population.