Antidepressants Lower Risk Heart Attack and Stroke in Those with Severe Depression

By | Mar 08, 2015 06:43 AM EDT
Fluoxetine for severe depression

Persons with moderate or severe depression treated with antidepressants seemed to show lower rates of death, coronary artery disease and stroke than those who didn't take the drugs, according to a new medical study.

The three year study involving 5,311 persons afflicted by moderate or severe depression demonstrates the importance of evaluating patients for depression, not only in terms of improving their mood, but reducing their risk for heart disease.

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The association between antidepressant use and lower rates of death and heart attack seemed to be stronger for treating more severe cases of depression. Doctors from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah also found that treating a traditional cardiovascular risk factor didn't add to the heart benefit that seemed to be gained from tackling moderate to severe depression.

Of the over 26,000 patients in the study, 20 percent or 5,311 had moderate or severe depression. The remaining 21,517 patients didn't show depression or only mild depression.

"Antidepressants were not associated with a reduced cardiovascular risk in people with little or no depression, but in moderately to severely depressed people, antidepressants were shown to significantly improve cardiovascular outcomes," said study lead author, Heidi May PhD, a public health scientist.

She noted that in the more depressed people, the antidepressant really was what made the biggest difference.

"Antidepressants might have relevant physiological benefits, but I also think the behavioral changes that improve a person's mood can also improve cardiovascular health," said Dr. May.

The study will be presented at this month's annual conference of the American College of Cardiology.

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