For some women, antidepressants may increase stroke risk

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A new study of post-menopausal women between the ages of 50 to 79 found that, those taking antidepressants had a slightly higher risk for stroke than those not taking the medications. The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, followed more than 136,000 women for about six years, and found that women taking both selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI) and tricyclic anti-depressants (TCA) were about 45% more likely to suffer strokes, and 32% more likely to die from any cause, than peers not taking antidepressants.

Previous research has shown a correlation between depression and heightened risk for stroke, and researchers say that future study is needed to determine the significance of these latest findings. And they stress that, even among women taking antidepressants, overall risk for stroke remains very low: the odds for stroke among post-menopausal women are about 1 in 300; for women who have been through menopause and are taking antidepressants, that risk increases to about 1 in 200.

While further study is conducted, the researchers are careful to emphasize the improvement that antidepressant medications can make in many patients’ lives, and point out that physicians and patients should consider those against potential increases in stroke risk, as well as a patient’s individual medical history when determining the best treatment for women battling depression. As Dr. Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University, told the BBC: “You have to weigh the benefits that you get from these antidepressants against the small increase in risk that we found in this study.”

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