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This article is the author’s final published version in Epilepsy and Behavior, Volume 117, April 2021, Article number 107878.

The published version is available at Copyright © Terman et al.


OBJECTIVE: To evaluate whether cardiovascular risk, risk awareness, and guideline concordant treatment differ in individuals with versus without epilepsy.

METHODS: This was a retrospective cross-sectional study using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. We included participants ≥18 years for 2013-2018. We classified participants as having epilepsy if reporting ≥1 medication treating seizures. We calculated 10-year atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) risk using the revised pooled cohort equation. We compared unadjusted and adjusted risk for participants with versus without epilepsy. We then assessed hypertension and diabetes disease awareness and control, plus statin guideline-concordance. We assessed mediators for both ASCVD risk and cardiovascular disease awareness.

RESULTS: Of 17,961 participants, 154 (0.9%) had epilepsy. Participants with epilepsy reported poorer diet (p = 0.03), fewer minutes of moderate-vigorous activity per day (p < 0.01), and increased frequency of cardiovascular conditions (e.g. coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction, stroke). There was no difference in control of individual examination and laboratory risk factors between groups (A1c, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, high-density lipoprotein, low-density lipoprotein, total cholesterol). However, epilepsy was associated with 52% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0-130%) increase in ASCVD risk, which became nonsignificant after adjusting for health behaviors. No single studied variable (income, Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9), diet, smoking) had a significant indirect effect. Participants with epilepsy reported increased hypertension awareness which was trivially but significantly mediated by having a routine place of healthcare (indirect effect: 1% absolute increase (95% CI: 0-1%), and they reported increased rates of hypertension treatment and guideline-concordant statin therapy. Participants with versus without epilepsy reported similar rates of blood pressure control and diabetes awareness, treatment, and control.

CONCLUSIONS: Participants with epilepsy had increased ASCVD risk, despite similar or better awareness, treatment, and control of individual risk factors such as diabetes and hypertension. Our results suggest that epilepsy is associated with numerous health behaviors leading to cardiovascular disease, though the causal pathway is complex as these variables (income, depression, diet, exercise, smoking) generally served as confounders rather than mediators.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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