(NaturalNews) One class of antidepressant drugs may increase a patient's risk of developing heart disease by 35 percent, according to a study conducted by researchers from University College London and published in the "European Heart Journal."
The researchers compared heart disease risk among 15,000 residents of Scotland who were taking either older (tricyclic) antidepressants or antidepressants in the newer selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) family. They found that patients taking tricyclic antidepressants were significantly more likely to suffer heart disease than those taking SSRIs, indicating that depression itself was unlikely to be causing the heart disease.
"Our findings suggest that there is an association between the use of tricyclic antidepressants and an increased risk of CVD that is not explained by existing mental illness," researcher Mark Hamer said.
"This suggests that there may be some characteristic of tricyclics that is raising the risk. Tricyclics are known to have a number of side effects; they are linked to increased blood pressure, weight gain and diabetes and these are all risk factors for CVD."
Just because SSRIs appear to pose less risk of heart disease, however, it does not render those antidepressants safe.
"All of the SSRI antidepressants have very similar and often identical adverse effects, so that as of early January 2005, the FDA has required the identical black-box warning for all of them concerning drug-induced suicide and mental deterioration in children and youth age eighteen and younger, which was then expanded to include young adults," writes Peter Breggin in his book "Medication Madness."
"Given that antidepressants are now prescribed not only for depression, but for a wide range of conditions such as back pain, headache, anxiety and sleeping problems, the risks associated with antidepressants have increasing relevance to the general population," Hamer warned.
Hamer noted that people taking antidepressants are more likely to smoke, be overweight, and engage in less physical activity than people not taking such drugs. Changing these three factors can lead to a dramatic decrease in heart disease risk and can also reduce the symptoms of depression.