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Heart Disease Health Center

Antidepressants May Help Some Heart Patients

Emotional stress can harm cardiovascular health, experts say, so boosting mental resilience may be key
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Patients taking Lexapro also tended to have healthy changes in heart function and they reported feeling calmer and more controlled than the placebo group.

"Our findings support the hypothesis that short-term use of SSRIs improves levels of biomarkers associated with adverse cardiovascular outcomes," explained Jiang. Other SSRIs include Celexa, Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft.

The researchers concluded that SSRIs or other antidepressant treatments could help manage heart disease. They noted that more research is needed to determine the proper dosing of Lexapro for the treatment of stress-linked heart issues and to better understand how antidepressant drugs could also affect patients' risk for serious health conditions, including heart attack or angina, stroke, heart failure, or death.

Two experts said the study findings weren't surprising, given emotional stress' known role in cardiovascular woes.

"We have known that heart disease symptoms can occur from more than just physical stress like exercise, but also emotional stress as well," said Dr. Lawrence Phillips, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at NYU Langone Medical Center, New York City. "This study demonstrates that medication therapy to reduce emotional stress can decrease the risk of heart damage."

In fact, "when speaking to patients about a symptom of chest pain, physicians will typically ask them if the chest pain is brought on by exercise or by emotional stress," Phillips added. "Many of the interventions we work on address the physical stress portion. This study reminds us of the importance of treating the emotional stress and treating the patient as a whole."

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum is a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She agreed that emotional stressors are a piece of the puzzle in treating heart patients.

"With this data, it is important to evaluate patients for anxiety, depression and mental stress as part of the heart health paradigm, as not treating these psychological markers may worsen their disease," she said.

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