At the Psychiatry Department’s seminar are (from left) Professor Bonga Chiliza, Professor Christer Allgulander and Dr Lennart Eriksson.

Anxiety a Risk Factor of Cardiovascular Disease, UKZN Seminar Hears

Swedish Professor Christer Allgulander has suggested screening patients in a variety of medical areas – especially cardiology, endocrinology, dermatology, neurology and primary care – for symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Allgulander made the suggestion while addressing a seminar hosted by UKZN’s Department of Psychiatry in the College of Health Sciences and attended by specialists from a variety of psychiatric, clinical and therapeutic disciplines in the health sector in KwaZulu-Natal.

In his presentation titled: Anxiety as a Risk Factor of Cardiovascular Disease, Allgulander said depression was one of the psychiatric conditions increasing the risk of myocardial infarction, strokes and type 2 diabetes. A more recent discovery is that anxiety is also a risk factor and that it appears to drive other well-known risk factors such as obesity, smoking, sedentary lifestyle and substance use.

‘Anxiety may increase the wear and tear of the cardiovascular system via stress hormones and by impairing adherence to medications. Poor adherence must be addressed regarding maintenance therapies for both psychiatric and somatic conditions,’ he cautioned.

He recommended the use of PHQ2 – a patient health questionnaire and a self-administered tool for screening and diagnosing depression in patients – by psychiatric specialists. He said the questionnaire also assisted psychologists in selecting and monitoring treatment.

Allgulander encouraged psychiatry researchers to focus and widen their research on two interesting phenomena which, he says, have not been sufficiently explained – Takotsubo (broken heart syndrome), and White Coat Hypertension.

Allgulander is a senior lecturer in Psychiatry in the Department of Clinical Neuroscience at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. He specialises in pharmacotherapy, epidemiology, genetics and the prognosis of generalised anxiety, panic anxiety, and social anxiety.

Allgulander is also an honorary professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at the University of Cape Town, and an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the Washington University School of Medicine in the United States.

He is on the advisory board of the Taiwanese Journal of Psychiatry as an honorary member of the American Psychopathological Association and is an honorary member of the South African Society of Psychiatrists. He is also a member of the Anxiety Disorders Research Network of the ECNP, and a member of the F1000 Faculty.

Words: Lihlithemba Sosibo