Antidepressants' toll on arteries

Video with Amit Shah: "Antidepressants Linked to Thicker Arteries"

Antidepressant use has been linked to thicker arteries, possibly contributing to the risk of heart disease and stroke, according to an Emory study of U.S. veterans who are twins.

soldiers antidepressants

Viola Vaccarino, epidemiology chair at the Rollins School of Public Health, and Emory cardiology research fellow Amit Shah used data gathered from twins to separate the effects of antidepressants from depression itself, which can also heighten the risk of heart disease. The study included 513 middle-aged male twins who served in Vietnam.

The arteries of those taking antidepressants resembled arteries of people roughly four years older. The effect was seen both in twins who had and had not experienced a heart attack or stroke. Researchers measured the thickness of the lining of the main arteries in the neck by ultrasound.

Antidepressants’ effects on arteries may be coming from changes in serotonin, a chemical in the brain targeted by antidepressants. Most serotonin in the body is actually found outside the brain, and changes in serotonin may be affecting the blood vessels as well, Shah says.

“Antidepressants have an established clinical benefit so nobody taking these medications should stop based only on these results,” he says.—Quinn Eastman

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