Antidepressants linked to heart risk -twins study

* Thickening of artery found in twins on antidepressants

* Depression itself not seen associated with thickening

By Bill Berkrot and Ransdell Pierson

NEW ORLEANS, April 2 (Reuters) – Middle-age men who use
antidepressants are more likely to have a narrowing of blood
vessels, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes, than
those who do not use the medications, according to a study
presented on Saturday.

A study of twins found evidence of atherosclerosis, as
measured by the interior thickness of the carotid artery,
regardless of the type of antidepressant taken.

Antidepressant use was found to cause a 37 micron increase
in carotid artery thickness, or roughly 5 percent, according to
the study of more than 500 male twins with a mean age of 55
which was presented at the American Cardiology scientific
meeting in New Orleans.

In 59 sets of twins in which one brother was taking an
antidepressant and the other was not, the brother taking the
medication had on average a 41 micron thicker inner lining of
the artery, the research found.

As each year of life has been associated with a 10 micron
increase in carotid artery thickening, the brother taking the
antidepressant had arteries that were essentially four years
older than those of his non-medicated twin.

Previous studies have linked depression to a heightened
risk of heart disease, but the condition was not deemed a
significant predictor of artery thickening in the study.

“Because we didn’t see an association between depression
itself and a thickening of the carotid artery, it strengthens
the argument that it is more likely the antidepressants than
the actual depression that could be behind the association,”
said Dr. Amit Shah, cardiology fellow at Emory University in
Atlanta, who presented the data.

“This study reminds us that medicines often have side
effects we can’t feel, and we should always take that into
account. These drugs provide a lot of benefit, but should be
considered on a case-by-case basis,” Shah said.

Shah hypothesized that the raising of levels of certain
brain chemicals, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, through
antidepressant use may cause blood vessels to constrict,
leading to decreases in blood flow to organs and higher blood
pressure — a risk factor for atherosclerosis.

“Because this was a twin study, we had a very well
controlled analysis comparing brothers who are anywhere from 50
to 100 percent genetically similar and were raised in the same
household,” Shah said.
(Editing by Vicki Allen)

Antidepressants linked to heart risk -twins study