Depressed people at higher risk of strokes and premature death
Depressed people are at higher risk of fatal strokes and premature death caused by irregular heartbeats
- Patients taking antidepressants had a 3.18-fold higher risk of atrial fibrillation
- However, they had an even higher risk in the weeks before taking medication
- Researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark studied 785,254 participants
- Atrial fibrillation, or arrhythmia, is the UK’s most common heart rhythm disorder
Depressed people are at a higher risk of suffering from irregular heartbeats that cause strokes and premature death, according to a new study.
But it’s not their anti-depressants that triggers it. In fact, their medication seems to lower their higher-than-average risk.
Researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark studied 785,254 participants who took mood-stabilising drugs from 2000 to 2013, starting from the month before they began treatment.
They found that patients taking antidepressants had a 3.18-fold higher risk of atrial fibrillation during the first month of treatment. But the risk risk was even higher in the month before at 7.65-fold.
The scientists put the findings down to simply a ‘connection between the mind and the heart’.
Link: Depressed people are at a higher risk of suffering from irregular heartbeats that cause strokes and premature death, according to a new study by Aarhus University in Denmark
Furthermore, the association between arrhythmia and depression gradually reduced thereafter, to 1.37-fold between two to six months of treatment, and 1.11-fold at six to 12 months.
This means that while depressed people may be more likely to suffer from irregular or unusually fast heartbeats, their drug treatments seem to reduce it.
Study author Morten Fenger-Grøn said: ‘It is common knowledge that there is a connection between the mind and the heart.
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‘Depression predicts the development of coronary artery disease and worsens its prognosis. Our study investigated whether depression is also linked with atrial fibrillation
‘This suggests that antidepressant medication itself is not associated with the development of atrial fibrillation.
‘If you are depressed, there is no reason to worry that taking drug treatment will cause atrial fibrillation.’
Risk? Anti-depressants have been linked with serious, but rare, heart rhythm disturbances, prompting the question of whether they might also raise the risk of atrial fibrillation
WHAT IS DEPRESSION?
While it is normal to feel down from time to time, people with depression may feel persistently unhappy for weeks or months on end.
Depression can affect anyone at any age and is fairly common – approximately one in ten people are likely to experience at some point in their life.
Depression is a genuine health condition which people cannot just ignore or ‘snap out of it’.
Symptoms and effects vary, but can include constantly feeling upset or hopeless, or losing interest in things you used to enjoy.
It can also cause physical symptoms such as problems sleeping, tiredness, having a low appetite or sex drive, and even feeling physical pain.
In extreme cases it can lead to suicidal thoughts.
Traumatic events can trigger it, and people with a family history may be more at risk.
It is important to see a doctor if you think you or someone you know has depression, as it can be managed with lifestyle changes, therapy or medication.
Source: NHS Choices
‘In Denmark it is not typical for doctors to prescribe antidepressants at the first appointment.
Our findings indicate that the initial conversation with a doctor may start to ease depressive symptoms.’
One in four middle-aged adults in Europe and the US will develop atrial fibrillation.
It is estimated that by 2030 there will be 14 to 17 million patients with atrial fibrillation in the European Union, with 120,000-215,000 new diagnoses each year.
Signs of atrial fibrillation include palpitations, shortness of breath, tiredness, chest pain and dizziness.
Previous studies have found associations between depression a higher mortality in atrial fibrillation patients.
Anti-depressants have been linked with some serious, but rare, heart rhythm disturbances, prompting the question of whether they might also raise the risk of atrial fibrillation.
Mr Fenger-Grøn said: ‘Filling a prescription for antidepressants, which we used as an indicator of depression, was associated with a three-fold greater risk of atrial fibrillation. The decrease with time could suggest that treatment may alleviate this risk.”
‘The message for patients who already have atrial fibrillation is that you do not need to be concerned about taking antidepressant medication if you need it.
‘Look after your mental health because our study supports existing evidence that problems with the mind can be detrimental for the heart.’
The study was published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
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