Link Between Antidepressants & Heart Disease

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Pro
  • According to the results of a recent study men using antidepressants may be at increased risk for atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis increases risk for heart attack or stroke.

    According to this small, preliminary study, antidepressants were associated with a 5 percent increase in thickness of the carotid artery. The carotid artery carries blood to the brain.

    Study Participants

    Researchers looked at 513 middle-aged male twins. Out of the 513 individuals, 16 percent were taking antidepressants. Of this 16 percent, 60% were using selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Lexapro.

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    Participants had the thickness of their carotid artery (carotid intima-media thickness) measured. A twin using antidepressants was found to have a greater intima-media thickness than their brother not using antidepressants.

    According to researchers an association between depression alone and carotid artery thickening was not found. This strengthens the argument that the antidepressant medication is playing a role.

    As we age, each additional year is linked to a small increase in intima-media thickness. This study found a twin taking antidepressants to physically be 4 years older than their brother not using antidepressants.

    Researchers state that even a small increase in intima-media thickness can increase heart attack and stroke risk 1.8 percent.

    Are results conclusive?

    It's worth noting that experts not involved in the study argue that these results are not conclusive. Depression on its own can increase heart issues. In some cases, you could potentially argue that the use of antidepressants decrease heart disease risk by treating depression.

    More studies need to be completed before a definitive connection can be determined.

    What should you do?

    This was a small preliminary study. You shouldn't base your antidepressant use on these results. However, I shared this study to make you aware of the potential connection.

    All medications have side effects. Discuss fully with your physician to weigh the pros and cons to ensure your treatment plan is the right choice for you.


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Published On: April 21, 2011