Study: Older Antidepressants, But Not SSRIs, Linked with Heart Disease

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Depression may literally break your heart. Research has long connected the disorder with increased risk of heart disease and stroke, and similar concerns have been raised about medications to treat depression. But a new study found that while older tricyclic antidepressants were associated with a 35% increased risk for heart disease and stroke, after adjusting for other known risk factors, the newer drugs like Prozac — which are much more widely used — had no such detrimental effect. (More on Retirement May Make You Happier, Depending on Where You Retire)

The study included 14,784 participants over 35 with no known history of heart trouble who had agreed to be part of the Scottish Health Survey. The average age of the participants was 53 and both men and women were included.

Two percent were taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the class of drug that includes Prozac, Celexa and Zoloft; 2.2% were taking tricyclic antidepressants and 0.7% were using other types of antidepressant medication. Data was collected in 1995, 1998 and 2003 (more recent data would probably show a much higher proportion of patients taking SSRIs or newer drugs).

Overall, 1,434 people had a “cardiovascular event” — heart attack, heart failure, heart surgery or stroke — and 26% of these incidents were fatal. (More on Study: The Link Between Diabetes and Depression Goes Both Ways)

Because the study was observational and did not randomize participants to receive the different medications, it can’t prove whether the tricyclic drugs themselves increased risk — or whether that risk was connected with some unknown difference between the two groups of patients. The research was published in the European Heart Journal.

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