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Antidepressants May Be Helpful for Some Heart Patients: Study
Date:5/22/2013

TUESDAY, May 21 (HealthDay News) -- Use of the antidepressant Lexapro appears to help prevent a potentially serious stress-related heart condition, a new study finds.

The condition is known as known as "mental stress-induced myocardial ischemia." Although people with this condition may not develop noticeable symptoms, their heart muscle is not receiving adequate blood supply, according to researchers from Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C.

However, the researchers found that people taking the antidepressant Lexapro (escitalopram) were more than two and a half times less likely to be affected by the condition, which can be spurred by emotional stress.

The study was funded by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and is published in the May 22 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Mental stress-induced myocardial ischemia is a serious condition, as patients with the condition tend to have worse heart problems compared to patients without it," study author Dr. Wei Jiang, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and internal medicine at Duke, said in a university news release. "This study showed for the first time that it is treatable with an emotion-modulating medication."

The study involved 310 people diagnosed with heart disease whose condition was stable and under control. To identify those with the stress-linked heart condition, the researchers first had participants undergo exercise stress tests on a treadmill. They also had to complete three mental stress tests: First they had to solve a difficult math problem, then trace a star while looking at their hand movements in a mirror, and then tell a story that made them feel sad or angry.

As the participants performed these tasks, they underwent echocardiograms and electrocardiograms, and had readings taken of blood pressure and heart rate.

According to Jiang's team, 127
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