In a 3-year study of 5,000 patients with moderate or severe depression, doctors from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City found that those treated with antidepressants appeared to have lower rates of death, coronary artery disease and stroke than those who did not take antidepressant drugs.
Details of the study will be presented by the researchers at this month’s annual conference of the American College of Cardiology.
“This study demonstrates the importance of evaluating patients for depression, not only in terms of improving their mood, but reducing their risk for heart disease,” said lead author, Heidi May, PhD., a public health scientist.
The study showed that patients with moderate to severe depression who were taking antidepressants had a lower risk of death, coronary artery disease and stroke during the study period. This was compared to patients who were not taking antidepressants or statins, but had the same level of depression.
Said Dr. May, “Antidepressants were not associated with a reduced cardiovascular risk in people with little or no depression, but in moderately to severely depressed people, antidepressants were shown to significantly improve cardiovascular outcomes.”
And, the results suggested there was a greater protective effect from treating the more severe depression with antidepressants than from the addition of statins, cholesterol-lowering drugs that tackle cardiovascular risk directly.
The researchers say moderately to severely depressed patients taking antidepressants alone seemed to fare better than those taking statins alone or in addition to the mental health drugs.
“We thought we’d seen an additive effect,” said Dr. May. However, the researchers found, “that in the more depressed people, the antidepressant really was what made the biggest difference.”
Dr. May proposes: “Antidepressants might have relevant physiological benefits but I also think the behavioral changes that improve a person’s mood can also improve cardiovascular health.” “This study demonstrates the importance of evaluating patients for depression, not only in terms of improving their mood, but reducing their risk for heart disease.”
March 8, 2015