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Depression Health Center

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Older Antidepressants Linked to Heart Risk

Tricyclic Antidepressants Associated With 35% Increased Risk of Heart Disease

Don't Stop Taking Medication continued...

Mark Hamer, PhD, senior research fellow in the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London, tells WebMD, "People who are treated for depression tend to be on the newer ones: SSRIs or even the newer generation.”

However, some patients, for reasons such as intolerance to other treatments, are still prescribed the older types, but Hamer says it isn’t just depression that tricyclic antidepressants are used for: “They are also being used to treat headache, migraine, and tension-related headaches as well.

“There should be some concern about whether they should be using them in the first place.”

Do doctors take enough time to look at the patient’s overall health, not just depression? Hamer says, “That’s a big problem in this area. Mental health and physical health are seen quite separately. We know from our research that the two are very closely linked together.

“A lot of patients with mental health problems also have lots of risk factors for heart disease: They tend to be quite heavy smokers and they don’t exercise. Those sorts of lifestyle factors could be quite easily addressed.”


In a statement, Amy Thompson, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, says, “The results of this research should be interpreted with caution. The study wasn’t originally set up to assess the effect of anti-depressants on heart disease risk, but it raised some questions.

“We know that findings like these can turn out to be red herrings, so before firm conclusions can be drawn there needs to be more research looking closely at the effects of these drugs on your heart."

She agrees with Hamer that people with depression are more likely to have unhealthy lifestyle habits. “By addressing these lifestyle factors you can lower your risk of heart disease and help keep your heart healthy,” she says.

The study is published online in the European Heart Journal.

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