SATURDAY, April 2 (HealthDay News) -- Men taking antidepressants may be at risk for atherosclerosis, which can increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke, a small, preliminary study suggests.
Antidepressants were associated with about a 5 percent increase in the thickness of the large artery in the neck called the carotid artery, which carries blood to the brain, the researchers from Emory University found.
Yet experts not involved with the study noted that it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between antidepressant use and heart trouble, and added that depression itself can increase the risk of cardiovascular problems.
"Antidepressant medications may decrease cardiovascular risk by treating depression," said Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Since the new findings are very preliminary, Fonarow said, "Patients should not be concerned or stop taking antidepressant medications on the basis of this study."
Results of the research were scheduled to be presented Saturday at the American College of Cardiology's annual scientific session, in New Orleans. Experts note that studies presented at medical conferences do not undergo the same vetting as research published in peer-reviewed journals. The study was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
For the study, a team led by Dr. Amit Shah, a cardiology fellow at Emory, collected data on 513 middle-aged male twins who were part of the Vietnam Era Twin Registry. Sixteen percent of the men were taking antidepressants, and of these, 60 percent were taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac, Lexapro and Zoloft. The others were taking older antidepressants.
To try to isolate the effect of antidepressants on blood vessels, the researchers measured the thickness of the carotid artery -- called carotid int
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