Treating Depression May Lower Repeat Heart Attack Risk

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Treating depression with medication appears to help lower the risk of a repeat heart attack, according to a study published last year in JAMA.

It’s common for people with heart disease to become depressed, and those who do face an increased risk of further heart complications and premature death. It had not been clear, however, whether depression treatment can lessen those risks.

The study of 300 people with depression, who had recently been hospitalized for a heart attack or unstable angina, attempted to show that it can. All participants were screened for depression. Researchers randomly assigned them to take the antidepressant escitalopram or placebo pills for six months.

Over the next eight years, less than 9 percent of people taking the antidepressant (14 people) had another heart attack, compared with more than 15 percent of those taking placebo (22 people). There was no difference in the death rate.

Why would depression treatment make a difference? One possibility is that when depression lifts, it’s easier to follow a healthy lifestyle. Depression treatment may also reduce inflammation in the blood vessels or result in a healthier heart rate, said the researchers.

If you have depression symptoms, talk with your doctor. While this study tested an antidepressant, there are also nonmedication treatment options such as psychotherapy.