Most antidepressants regulate the levels of certain molecules in the brain, such as serotonin, thus alleviating the symptoms of depression.
Researchers have sought to examine the effects of these drugs on other systems in the body, such as the heart, and a recent study presented at the annual conference of the American College of Cardiology demonstrated that antidepressants might offer protection from heart disease.
The results suggested that in cases with moderate or severe depression the risk was lower in patients who were being treated with antidepressants than patients who were not. There was no additional benefit in those taking cholesterol-lowering drugs and antidepressants.
The study was conducted over a 3-year period and included 5,311 patients with moderate to severe depression. With reference to the level of depression and its treatment, data regarding death, heart disease and stroke was analyzed. Depression screening questionnaires evaluated factors such as mood, sleep and appetite to assess the extent of depression in the patients.
Although the mechanisms by which antidepressants reduce the risk of heart disease are unknown, this research provides the foundation for further exploration of the previously unknown benefits of these drugs.