According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression and heart disease have long been associated, and one can often lead to the other.
Now a study is suggesting that heart attack patients who suffer from depression, can cut their risk of another heart attack by taking antidepressant drugs.
C. Barr Taylor, a physician at Stanford University School of Medicine, who was the lead author, says the study provides strong evidence that antidepressants are safe and may benefit these patients.
When people are depressed they often find it hard to take medication and depression can lead to elevated levels of stress hormones which can be harmful to the heart.
The study involved 1,834 men and women who were depressed or "socially isolated" after suffering heart attacks, and it found that use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, a class of drugs that includes Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft, was associated with a 43 percent lower risk of death or recurrent nonfatal heart attack compared to those in the group studied who did not take the drugs.
Taylor says the results basically suggest that these medications are very useful for patients who have had heart attacks and are depressed, he adds that he would recommend that any post-heart attack patient, with depression, be evaluated for treatment.
The study was paid for by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and is published in the July issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.