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Those on antidepressants are at higher risk of Atrial Fibrillation

Sunday March 25, 2018 8:18 PM, UNA-OIC

AFib risk for stroke

Dallas (Texas): People who struggle with depression may have higher risks for a common heart arrhythmia, new research suggests.

The new study, conducted by the American Heart Association, revealed that those who were on antidepressants or scored in the highest category for depression symptoms were 30 percent more at risk for Atrial Fibrillation (AFib), Mail Online Health news reported.

As of yet, it is unclear how exactly the mood disorder might impact the heart, but the researchers say their findings underscore the importance of treating depression to overall health and well-being. Depression affects an estimated 16 million Americans, and the mental health issue has been linked to an increasing number of physical ailments in recent years.

Once relegated and dismissed as distinct from medical issues, mental health is increasingly being accepted as and demonstrated to be just another part of physical health. The widespread condition has been linked to higher risks for everything from osteoporosis to diabetes, obesity to addiction and heart disease.

Recent research has identified links between depression and inflammation, which may contribute to the development of AFib. Women are at greater risk of AFib - though this is at least in part a consequence of their longer average life spans and, as levels of progesterone rise and estrogen levels fall, women are thought to be at elevated risks of irregular heartbeats. Estrogen also plays an important role in the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which tends to be lacking in those suffering from depression.

Now, a large study of more than 6,000 people has shown a connection between depression and atrial fibrillation (AFib) heart arrhythmia. AFib affects somewhere between 2.7 and 6.1 million Americans, a number the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) anticipates will only grow as the population ages. Someone suffering from AFib is five times more likely to have a stroke than those with a regular heartbeat, and their strokes are likely to be more severe.

In part due to its implications for stroke victims, AFib is considered at least partially responsible for killing about 130,000 people every year, and these deaths have been on the rise for the last two decades, according to the CDC. Depression, too, has been surging in the US, where twice as many people now take antidepressants as did in the 1980s.

The new study suggests that their parallel rises may not be a coincidence, but how depression might impact the heart is not entirely clear yet. Researchers from the Keck School of Health at the University of Southern California (USC) tracked the mental and heart health of 6,600 Americans over a median of 13 years. At an average age of 62, the men and women were 30 percent more likely to have atrial fibrillation if they reported high symptoms of depression or took antidepressants.

"Our findings identify a large portion of Americans who may be at an increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation," said lead study author Dr. Parveen Garg. "Clinicians and patients should be aware that depression has been shown in several studies to be a risk factor for heart disease in general and, in this study, for atrial fibrillation as well," said Dr. Garg.

"If our findings are affirmed in future studies, especially those that formally assess for clinical depression, then we will need to see if treating depression may, in fact, lower the risk for atrial fibrillation," he added.

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