Bipolar Disorder:
Type 2 Diabetes & Cardiovascular Disease

Bipolar Disorder, Type 2 Diabetes & CVD | >> Click to Read!The disconnect between mental health and physical health continues. There’s a gap where the two should overlap. And because of this, many people with severe mental illnesses are falling through the cracks.

U.S. adults living with severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, are estimated to die, on average, 25 years earlier than the general population. At 53.8 years, that’s a life expectancy on par with some third-world countries. And this is due largely to premature cardiovascular disease {CVD}.

These statistics come from a research letter published on November 9th, 2015 by JAMA Internal Medicine. It references a large cohort study of adults with severe mental illnesses taking antipsychotics in the California public healthcare system. Researchers found that almost 70% were not screened for diabetes using validated screening measures.

Diabetes is a risk factor for developing CVD. And considering that type 2 diabetes rates among patients with bipolar disorder are three times higher than those of the general population, these are disturbing results. Bipolar disorder is often treated with antipsychotic medication, which increases one’s risks of developing type 2 diabetes.

According to the research letter, the Institute of Medicine has “called for improvements.” And the American Diabetes Association recommends annual diabetes screenings for individuals being treated with antipsychotics.

The thing is, the relationship between bipolar disorder, type 2 diabetes, and CVD has been known for years. So why are we still seeing these staggering statistics?

At first glance the answer appears clear. It’s the ongoing disconnect between behavioral health and primary care. But there’s another layer which I’ll discuss further down.

The Disconnect Between Behavioral Health & Primary Care

The continuing disconnect between behavioral health and primary care leads to CVD going undiagnosed and untreated. Because it’s going unacknowledged that the head is attached to the body, or more specifically, that the mind is linked to the heart, we need to make sure we’re adopting an active role in our own health care.

This means being proactive rather than reactive. And taking self-care steps to minimize our risks.

Heart Balloons


  • Be Our Own Advocates: Do our own research. Speak-up! Ask, no, demand diabetes screenings. Do not rely on doctors to tell us everything we need to know. Educate ourselves and ask questions.
  • Exercise: A sedentary lifestyle increases our risks of developing diabetes and CVD. The recommendation is 30 minutes of exercise most days. If you haven’t exercised in a while you should probably get a physical and a doctor’s okay first. Debbie in Shape is a well-rounded, healthy living resource. She has you covered with body, mind, spirit, and holistic health.
  • Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet: Here are some tips from the American Diabetes Association.
  • Don’t Smoke: Smoking also increases our risks of developing diabetes and CVD. may be a good place to start. I’m going to check it out, errgh.
  • Get Enough Sleep: The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get 7-9 hours for adults.
  • Get Regular Health Screenings: Including but not limited to blood pressure and cholesterol. And especially annual diabetes screenings for those taking antipsychotics.

It’s difficult to admit, but true, I’m currently on track to develop CVD. I do every single thing wrong. I have many changes to make, and I intend to. However, this leads me to the other layer. . .

Line_BlackLacking Consistent, Good Self-Care

When battling a severe mental illness, like bipolar disorder, sometimes it can be difficult to take the most basic self-care steps; much less concern yourself with the ones listed above. I mean, just check out my post titled, Bipolar Depression Sucks. Yeah, the title doesn’t leave much to the imagination does it? But I wasn’t really in a place to care much either.

When I’m depressed, getting out of bed is an achievement. Brushing my teeth? I deserve a freaking award! So in theory, that list above looks absolutely doable. But in reality, not so much. At least not consistently.


We need to close the gap too!

In the same way healthcare providers need to close the gap between mental and physical, we do too. We need to start caring for our bodies with the same diligence we do our minds. {Easy for me to say, right?} The thing is, caring for our bodies is actually caring for our minds. It’s all connected. We know that exercise is excellent for psychological well-being. As is getting enough sleep, eating a well-balanced diet, etc.

Don’t get it twisted. I’m not sitting on a high horse claiming to be doing all of these things. I’m trying to inspire and motivate myself as much as I am you. We just do the best we can. We take advantage of the times we feel well. Perhaps we shift our perspectives. First we look at ourselves as a whole, no split between body and mind. And rather than looking at that list above as a list of improvements we need to achieve, or resolutions, we focus solely on taking good care of ourselves. And treating our whole selves with love and compassion.

What do you think? Do you have this health thing all figured out or do you also have changes to make? Please share your helpful advice, tips, and opinions in the comments!

Sources not noted above: Current Psychiatry | The relationship between bipolar disorder and type 2 diabetes: more than just co-morbid disorders {Calkin CV; Gardner DM; Ransom T; Alda M; 2012} | Cardiovascular Morbidity and Mortality in Bipolar Disorder {Weiner; Warren; Fiedorowicz; 2011}



  1. Totally agree that this needs more attention!

    When I was hospitalized for psychosis and diagnosed with Bipolar 1, and on heavy duty antipsychotics, a little while after every meal I would almost faint. It was so bad that I carried a small packet of sugar and a little pack of jam(jelly) in my pocket all the time! When I tried to tell my psychiatrist about it she wouldn’t believe me of course..since I was quite clearly crazy and lacking insight.

    This a big problem, since it seems that psych meds are so critical that it you have side effects and gain 30 pounds in a month then that’s OK! I have diabetes and heart disease in my family, which has never been considered.

    Also, fluctuating moods are a symptom of uncontrolled blood sugar in and of themselves – I was married to a late onset type 1 diabetic, so I have direct experience.

    Time for a more multidisciplinary approach maybe?

    Thanks so much for posting!

    1. Yes to multidisciplinary! Good grief, almost fainting… I also have heart disease and diabetes in my family {my mother}. Yep, it’s time to start taking better care of myself. Thanks so much for visiting and taking the time to comment! Take care!


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