Mental health drugs may double death risk in people with heart disease

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In a recent study published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, researchers found antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs are linked to an almost doubled death risk in patients with heart conditions.

They found that the use of psychotropic drugs is common in those with heart disease. In addition, almost one in three patients had symptoms of anxiety.

The study is from Copenhagen University Hospital and was conducted by Pernille Fevejle Cromhout et al.

Previous studies have found an association between symptoms of anxiety and poor health outcomes, including death, in patients with cardiac disease.

This study explored whether this link might be explained by the use of psychotropic medication.

In the study, the team enrolled 12,913 patients hospitalized for ischaemic heart disease, arrhythmias, heart failure or valvular heart disease.

They found that 2,335 participants (18%) used at least one prescription for psychotropic medication during the six months prior to hospital admission.

The most commonly used drugs were benzodiazepines (68%) and antidepressants (55%).

The use of psychotropic medications was higher among women, older patients, smokers, widowed patients, those with less education, and patients with greater numbers of co-existing health problems.

Nearly one-third of cardiac patients (32%) were classified as having anxiety. Psychotropic drug use was twice as high in patients with anxiety (28%) compared to those without anxiety (14%).

A total of 362 patients (3%) died within the first year after discharge from the hospital. The one-year death rate was much higher in users of psychotropic medication (6%) compared with non-users (2%).

The presence of anxiety was associated with a 1.81 higher odds of all-cause death during the same time period.

The team says patients with heart disease who suffer from anxiety should inform the healthcare professionals involved in their treatment as they would do with any other co-existing condition.

They should also ask that their anxiety be recognized as important and equal to their heart disease.

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