Teens who have a history of bipolar disorder and depression are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease later in life, according to a new study released by the American Heart Association (AHA).
While the connection may seem vague at first, scientists say the shared risk factors and side effects make the link very clear.
“There are a number of possible biological bridges between mood disorders and cardiovascular disease. One of the most likely bridges is inflammation. Inflammation is part of the body’s response to a host of problems including infections and injury,” said lead author Dr. Benjamin I. Goldstein, a child-adolescent psychiatrist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and the University of Toronto in Canada. “Mostly this is a helpful process, but excessive inflammation can be damaging to the body, including blood vessels and the brain.”
Dr. Goldstein said that while studies show the number of a child’s “mood episodes” correlates to greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease at an earlier age, the statistics for African-American youths are not clear.
“We really need to learn more about specific sub-groups, such as African-American teens and also teenage girls,” Dr. Goldstein told the AFRO. “Some studies have shown that, among youth with mood disorders, African Americans are more likely to have heart disease risk factors such as obesity. The combination of a mood disorder plus obesity places one at especially high risk for heart disease.”
The new research hopes to increase access to awareness, preventative screening, and intervention for teens fighting to stay mentally healthy.
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control show that 610,000 deaths each year occur from heart disease in America, with non-Hispanic Black Americans making up 23.8 percent of heart disease fatalities.
Risk factors include diabetes and obesity, which also disproportionately affect African Americans. Symptoms of heart disease include shortness of breath, nausea, physical pain in the chest or upper body, and cold sweats.
“As of now, we can’t say for certain whether mood disorders take a while to impact blood vessels and other cardiovascular risk factors, or whether these differences emerge together with the onset of mood disorders,” said Dr. Goldstein. “There is some evidence of greater inflammation in early-stage versus late-stage mood disorders. So it’s not simply a matter of longer time with mood disorders, it also seems that the of onset, and as mentioned earlier, the age of the person, is important.”
According to Goldstein, preventative measures include routine physical activity combined with “good sleep routines, healthy nutrition, and minimizing alcohol and substance use.”
“This type of heart-healthy leaving is especially important for youth with mood disorders,” he said. “Both because they’re at risk for heart disease and because heart-healthy living is also mood-healthy living.”
Read the entire study here.