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Antidepressants reduce risk of repeat heart attacks

July 5, 2005

For heart attack patients who have depression, taking antidepressants may reduce the risk of another heart attack, according to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. The study involved men and women with depression following a heart attack, and treated patients received selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) a class of drugs that includes Zoloft, Prozac and Paxil.

Patients who suffer from depression after a myocardial infarction (MI), or depressed patients who experience an MI, have a higher risk of repeat MI and death. Although the cause of this increased risk remains unclear, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depression can "limit the energy needed" to maintain proper treatment for other disorders, such as heart disease.

"Effective treatment for depression is extremely important, as the combination of depression and heart disease is associated with increased sickness and death," states an NIMH article on depression and heart disease. "Prescription antidepressant medications, particularly the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are generally well-tolerated and safe for people with heart disease."

The article also notes, however, that some antidepressants medications may interact with other medications and cause unwanted or potentially harmful side effects. Therefore, people receiving treatment for heart disease and depression should inform their physician of all medications they are taking.

Study Results

The study published in Archives of General Psychiatry involved 1,834 depressed or "socially isolated" men and women participating in the Enhancing Recovery in Coronary Heart Disease trial.

During an average follow-up period of 29 months, the risk of recurrent MI or of death (from any cause) was significantly lower in subjects taking SSRIs, compared with depressed patients who were not treated with antidepressants.

The study researchers concluded that use of SSRIs in patients after an acute MI may reduce the risk of further cardiac events and death. They recommended that a controlled trial be carried out to investigate this issue in greater detail.

The National Institute of Mental Health: Depression and Heart Disease
Archives of General Psychiatry, Vol. 62, pages 792-798, 2005.

Posted: July 2005