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22-05-2012 | Mental health | Article

Heavy smoking linked to high cholesterol in schizophrenia patients


Free abstract

MedWire News: Patients with schizophrenia who are heavy smokers have higher cholesterol levels, and are more likely to use alcohol, cocaine, and other substances than those who are not heavy smokers.

"It is clear that smoking and elevated cholesterol contribute to a higher [mortality] risk than smoking alone," comment the researchers.

"Due to these combined effects, every effort to decrease cigarette intake or stop smoking should be made for smokers with schizophrenia as part of a multifaceted treatment plan for the mental and physical health of this patient population," they add.

Heidi Wehring (University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, USA) and team studied clinical and demographic data on 745 smokers with schizophrenia, aged a mean of 41.3 years, who were admitted to inpatient mental health facilities between 1994 and 2000.

Of these patients, 319 were defined as heavy smokers (one or more packs per day) and 426 were defined as non-heavy smokers (less than one pack per day).

The researchers found that there were no significant differences between heavy and non-heavy smokers regarding age, gender, race, weight, body mass index, glucose levels, or blood pressure.

There were also no significant differences between the groups regarding Global Assessment of Functioning scores, although both groups had scores in the high 30s, indicating severe symptomatology and reflecting inpatient status.

However, total cholesterol levels were significantly higher in heavy smokers than non-heavy smokers, at 190.7 versus 178.2 mg/dL.

Furthermore, heavy smokers were more likely than non-heavy smokers to use alcohol (68 vs 58%), cocaine (35 vs 25%), and other substances of abuse (34 vs 23%).

Wehring and team conclude in Schizophrenia Research: "Heavy smoking may be a particular health risk in schizophrenia and significant efforts for smoking cessation or reduction are needed."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Mark Cowen

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