Metabolic Syndrome: Those with Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder at Highest Risk
Metabolic syndrome defined and discover why people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are at highest risk for developing metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
Metabolic syndrome is a very important concept for everyone in the psychiatric community to understand. One reason is that metabolic syndrome is the current hot topic in mental health management and everyone is talking about it; hopefully, this includes your healthcare professionals. In fact, it's not possible to talk about diabetes and mental health without mentioning metabolic syndrome as they are intricately connected.
What is Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic Syndrome is a group of risk factors present in a single individual that promote the development of coronary artery disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. The symptoms of metabolic syndrome include:
- unhealthy cholesterol levels
- high blood pressure
- high blood sugar
- excess belly fat (waist circumference over 35" for women and 40" for men)
Those with metabolic syndrome are at risk of serious health problems including heart attack, stroke and diabetes. In fact, the chance for diabetes can be as much as five times higher than in the general public. A person is said to have metabolic syndrome when elevations of the above measurements are present along with the increased waist size. Thus, it's the combination of the four criterion that leads to the most risk.
There are two direct connections between psychiatric disorders and metabolic syndrome:
- poor diet and exercise regimen
- high-risk antipsychotic medication use - especially with Clorazil and Zyprexa
Years of research show that psychiatric disorders are associated with heavy smoking, reduced income, lack of exercise, poor diet in terms of nutrition, obesity and medications that cause weight gain. It's a perfect storm for metabolic syndrome.
Which Mental Illnesses Are Associated with Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes?
Due to treatment with certain high-risk antipsychotic medications, those with schizophrenia are at the highest risk of developing the risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome, closely followed by those with bipolar disorder. One of the key reasons is because some antipsychotic medications can raise blood sugars and cholesterol to dangerous levels and produce significant weight gain (referred to as "antipsychotic induced weight gain"). It's important to note that without the weight gain and antipsychotic use factors, there does not seem to be a connection between metabolic syndrome and psychiatric disorders in general.
Even having one of the risk factors of metabolic syndrome, such as high blood sugar, isn't healthy, but when a person has combined risk factors such as high blood sugar and high cholesterol, this is a set up for very serious health problems- especially when a person has the added burden of a psychiatric disorder. When you experience the risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome, it doubles your risk of blood vessel and heart disease, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. And as mentioned above, you also increase your risk of diabetes by five times.
More details on the link between antipsychotic medications, metabolic syndrome and diabetes here.
Last Updated: 11 March 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD