Mechanisms of cardiovascular disease in children with mental health conditions

Prescriptions of second-generation antipsychotic  (SGA) medication for children in British Columbia increased 22-fold from 1996 to 2010. These medications treat the underlying mental health issues (e.g. psychosis, depression, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) but often come with side-effects, including metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of clinical features that includes excess weight around the middle, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar or triglyceride concentrations. Given that metabolic syndrome is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, there are serious implications for the long-term health of these children. Development of a secondary chronic disease such as CVD, on top of an existing mental health condition, further marginalizes the life-long health of these children.

Accordingly, there is a need to develop a means by which to distinguish children at risk for developing metabolic syndrome from those who are not. The goal of this research is to identify genetic markers that will indicate which children will develop risk factors for heart disease and stroke when treated with SGAs so that appropriate prevention strategies may be implemented in these children.