Question: Do medical conditions pose special problems for older adults taking medications for bipolar disorder?
Answer: Medical illnesses are part of the picture of long-term care for bipolar patients, as they are with other Americans. In fact, bipolar patients die of the same causes as are the leading causes of death in the general population. Those are heart disease, cancer and stroke. What's surprising is that the rates of death due to those conditions -- let's take heart disease as an example -- are two- to threefold times greater among bipolar patients as they are in the general population.
So particularly as we're talking about a group of patients in the United States who are getting older, we're going to see more and more of those conditions, and it will be expressed even more so among bipolar patients. The good news is the data suggests that being in treatment for bipolar disorder actually lessens the chance that you will die from one of those conditions as well as lessening the chance that you will die from complications of bipolar disorder itself.