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Some Antidepressants May Cause Heart Disease

Tricylic antidepressants are an older class of medications that are still used to treat depression and other medical conditions such as chronic pain. A new study shows they may have a serious side-effect – an increased risk of heart disease. Get the full scoop.

Antidepressants aren’t just for treating depression these days. They’re also used to treat conditions such as chronic pain, pre-menstrual syndrome and sleep problems – to name a few. But if your doctor recommends taking tricylic antidepressants, think twice. New research shows taking this group of older antidepressants could increase your risk of heart disease.

Tricyclic Antidepressants: Do They Increase the Risk of Heart Disease?

Researchers in Scotland questioned over 15,000 people without a history of heart disease about their lifestyle habits and the medications they were taking. After following them for 8 years, they discovered men and women taking tricyclic antidepressants were 35% more likely to develop heart disease than those who weren’t.

People who are depressed or anxious may at a higher risk of heart disease regardless of what medication they’re taking. Could this explain the results? Apparently not. The researchers controlled for anxiety, depression and mental illness in this study – and they still saw a greater risk of heart disease. There may be something inherent to the medication that elevated the risk of heart disease in this study.

Do Newer Antidepressants Increase the Risk of Heart Disease?

The most common class of antidepressant doctors use these days are serotonin-reuptake inhibitors, also known as SSRIs. Fortunately, this class of antidepressants didn’t increase the risk of heart disease, at least not in this study.

Why are Tricylic Antidepressants a Problem?

Tricyclic antidepressants speed up the heart rate by altering nerve activity to the pacemaker of the heart, which makes it beat faster. A faster heart rate has been associated with a greater risk of sudden cardiac death even in individuals without known heart disease. This could be one explanation for the increased risk.

Should you take tricyclic antidepressants? Tricyclic antidepressants have numerous side-effects, and even SSRIs are associated with a higher risk for stroke and cataracts. If you suffer from severe depression that doesn’t respond to lifestyle changes, antidepressants may be your only option. In this case, it’s safest to avoid older antidepressants such as tricyclics and take SSRIs. Even then, avoid taking them long-term. Talk to your doctor about other treatments such as meditation, yoga, hypnosis and exercise. These natural therapies for depression are effective for many people.

References:

Eurekalert.org. “Tricyclic Antidepressants Linked to Increased Risk of Heart Disease”

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