At the American College of Cardiology meeting in New Orleans, Emory University School of Medicine scientists have just announced they`ve discovered that the drugs are linked to thicker arteries. The significance? The findings strongly suggest Prozac and similar meds could raise the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Dr. Shah worked with Viola Vaccarino, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Epidemiology at Emory`s Rollins School of Public Health, on the groundbreaking study which involved 513 middle-aged male twins who both served in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. Twins are genetically the same but may be different when it comes to other risk factors such as diet, smoking and exercise, so studying them is a good way to factor out the effects of genetics.
The Emory research team measured the thickness of the lining of the main arteries in the neck (carotid intima-media thickness, or IMT) by ultrasound. The results showed that among the 59 pairs of twins where only one brother took antidepressants, the one taking the medication had a significantly higher carotid IMT -- even when heart disease risk factors such as smoking were taken into account. In fact, the thicker arteries were found in antidepressant users whether or not they had ever had a stroke or heart attack in the past.
In the new study, the scientists documented higher carotid IMT in research subjects who used SSRIs (60 percent of those who took antidepressants) as well as those who used other kinds of antidepressants. Curiously, higher levels of depressive symptoms were associated with thicker arteries only in those taking antidepressants -- so the Big Pharma meds themselves seem to be the key to this disturbing change in the cardiovascular system.