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Deteriorating mental health linked to heart problems and early death

Highlights• Poor mental health may negatively affect dialysis patients’ heart health and survival. • Patients with poor mental health over time tend to die or be hospitalized for heart problems sooner than patients with good mental health.• Studies are needed to see if caring for kidney disease patients’ mental health may help prevent heart complications and even death.

Newswise — Washington, DC (April 5, 2012) — Dialysis patients whose mental health deteriorates over time have an increased risk of developing heart problems and dying prematurely, according to a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Clinical Journal of the American Society Nephrology (CJASN). Additional research should investigate whether caring for kidney disease patients’ mental health may help prevent heart complications and even death.

Research indicates that poor mental health can affect heart health. Because heart disease is the leading cause of death in kidney disease patients, Ea Wha Kang, MD, PhD (Ilsan Hospital, in Gyeonggi-do, Korea), Mark Unruh, MD (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) and their colleagues looked to see how changes in dialysis patients’ mental health relate to their heart health and longevity.

The study included 1,846 dialysis patients who were enrolled in a clinical trial called the Hemodialysis Study. The investigators assessed patients’ mental health at the start of the study and each year for three years through surveys and questionnaires.

Patients who had lower mental health scores over time tended to die or be hospitalized for heart problems sooner than patients with steady or rising scores. Specifically, their survival time decreased by 5.8% and their time to first hospitalization due to heart problems decreased by 7.6%.

“Our results emphasize the link between mind and body in patients with chronic illness and underscore the importance of attention to mental health for preventing cardiac complications and even death in dialysis patients,” said Dr. Kang.

Study co-authors include Francis Pike, PhD, Sarah Ramer, MD, Khaled Abdel-Kader, MD, Larissa Myaskovsky, MD, and Mary Amanda Dew, PhD (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center).

Disclosures: The authors reported no financial disclosures.

The article, entitled “The Association of Mental Health over Time with Cardiac Outcomes in HEMO Study Patients,” will appear online at on April 5, 2012, doi: 10.2215/CJN.06730711.

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Clinical Journal of the American Society Nephrology (doi: 10.2215/CJN.06730711)