Latest figures show 23,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease (CVD) could be prevented if people with mental health problems had the same outcomes as the general population.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is calling for integrated care to be made a priority for NHS services, to reduce this shocking number of deaths resulting from current, disparate services. It is also committing to offer more support in helping those living with mental health conditions to improve their physical health through new resources, its Heart Helpline and alliance of healthcare professionals.
People with serious mental illness die, on average, 20 years earlier than the general population – a life expectancy similar to the 1950s. This is often because behaviours which increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, including an unhealthy diet, smoking, excess alcohol and lack of exercise are more prevalent amongst people with mental illness. Weight gain is also a common side effect of several drugs used to treat various mental illnesses.
The charity say scope to improve the physical health of people living with mental illness is vast, as 11 million people in the UK experience mental health problems and 5.5 million live with a common mental disorder2. With these patients twice as likely to develop diabetes and three times more likely to die from heart disease3, the BHF wants to see a transformation to ‘person centered’ care which will improve treatment and save lives.
Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director for the BHF, said: “Too many lives are needlessly lost because of historic attitudes towards treating mental health problems. There are huge links between mental and physical health and we need to put an end to the view that the body and mind are two entirely separate entities.
It is essential that we adopt a holistic approach to treatment and offer patients the support and resources to make them more aware of their health risks. The BHF’s new booklet, ‘Everyday Triumphs’, helps people living with mental health conditions make small lifestyle changes to ensure a healthier heart.”
To improve these shocking mortality rates the BHF is urging key decision makers to address the disconnect between physical care and mental health services.
The Everyday Triumphs booklet can be given to patients by GPs and mental health professionals as part of the care they are giving patients.
For more information on this visit: bhf.org.uk/triumphs