Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) researchers have found that schizophrenia patients are at higher risk of dying from heart attack. Reuters

Schizophrenia patients are more vulnerable to a fatal heart attack than people who don't suffer from the illness, according to new research.,

Researchers from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) made the discovery while studying the health conditions of schizophrenia patients.

During the study, researchers tracked all incidents of heart attack among people with schizophrenia, and compared results to people without schizophrenia.

"When we looked at the data, we found that people with schizophrenia were 56 per cent more likely to die after discharge from hospital following a heart attack than those who did not have schizophrenia," said Paul Kurdyak, Scientist at ICES.

Based on their findings, the researchers claim that people with schizophrenia have a lifespan 20 years shorter than the general population. This is partly due to factors such as smoking, increased rates of diabetes, and metabolic problems brought on by the use of some antipsychotic medications.

These factors often worsen once a cardiac condition arises because people with schizophrenia are less likely to make the necessary lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, to offset the problem.

The study found that patients with schizophrenia, despite the increase in mortality risk after a heart attack, were less likely to receive life-saving cardiac procedures and care from cardiologists than those without schizophrenia.

"The numbers tell us that people with schizophrenia-- the ones who are at most risk to develop and subsequently die from heart attacks -- are not receiving adequate care" said Dr Kurdyak.

"The possible solutions are two-fold: prevention is one. We need to support patients whom we know are at risk of developing medication-related metabolic issues by working with them to provide strategies to offset weight gain, such as healthy eating and physical activity.

"The other part is aftercare - the mental health care team, primary care providers, and the cardiac specialists need to work together to ensure that patients are seen again after a first incident of heart attack."