Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Commonly used antidepressants may raise heart disease risk

I don't really understand it but I can tell almost from reading the title of a medical research report whether or not it is going to be B.S. I must have an inbuilt B.S. detector. It went off when I saw the article below.

When I read the article, however, I was surprised. It seemed quite strong methodologically. Most unusually strong, in fact. So then I looked at the journal article, as I usually do. And I find this sentence: "Neither class of drug was associated with all-cause mortality risk"

What a laugh! The tricyclics MAY give you heart disease but apparently they protect you from other causes of death! There's still no fault in my B.S. detector! No wonder there were some rather cautious comments toward the end of the article!

Why are people so regularly misled?

Old style anti-depressant drugs were linked with a 35 per cent increased risk of cardiovascular disease, the study found. However, newer drugs were not associated with a rise which may signal that the older drugs may be causing the effect rather than the depression itself.

The research conducted by University College London involved nearly 15,000 people in Scotland and the results were published in the European Heart Journal.

Dr Mark Hamer, Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at UCL (London, UK), said: “Our study is the first to contain a representative sample of the whole community, including elderly and unemployed participants, men and women, etc.

"Therefore, our results can be generalised better to the wider community. Given that antidepressants are now prescribed not only for depression, but for a wide range of conditions such as back pain, headache, anxiety and sleeping problems, the risks associated with antidepressants have increasing relevance to the general population.”

The study compared people on the old-style drugs called tricyclic antidepressants to those on the newer ones called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs and those on none.

There were around 12m prescriptions dispensed in England for tricyclic antidepressants last year compared with more than 21m SSRIs.

Dr Hamer said: “Our findings suggest that there is an association between the use of tricyclic antidepressants and an increased risk of CVD that is not explained by existing mental illness. This suggests that there may be some characteristic of tricyclics that is raising the risk.

"Tricyclics are known to have a number of side effects; they are linked to increased blood pressure, weight gain and diabetes and these are all risk factors for CVD.”

He added: “It is important that patients who are already taking antidepressants should not cease taking their medication suddenly, but should consult their GPs if they are worried. There are two important points to be made. First, tricyclics are the older generation of antidepressant medicines and we found no excess risk with the newer drugs (SSRIs).

"Secondly, people taking the antidepressants are also more likely to smoke, be overweight, and do little or no physical activity – by giving up smoking, losing weight, and becoming more active a person can reduce their risk of CVD by two to threefold, which largely outweighs the risks of taking the medications in the first place. In addition, physical exercise and weight loss can improve symptoms of depression and anxiety."

Amy Thompson, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “The results of this research should be interpreted with caution. The study wasn’t originally set up to assess the effect of antidepressants on heart disease risk, but it raised some questions.

“We know that findings like these can turn out to be red herrings, so before firm conclusions can be drawn there needs to be more research looking closely at the effects of these drugs on your heart.

“Anti-depressants are beneficial for many people and so it would be unwise for anyone taking them to stop based on the results of this study alone.

“We already know that people with depression are more likely to have unhealthy habits, like smoking, eating junk food and not getting enough physical activity. By addressing these lifestyle factors you can lower your risk of heart disease and help keep your heart healthy.”


The remarkable potato

Potatoes occasionally come under fire from food freaks (after all, what would a Big Mac be like without fries?) so one guy decided to show 'em

AN American man is preparing himself for a change of diet, after successfully eating his 1200th potato to as part of a 60-day challenge.

Chris Voigt, the executive director of the Washington Potato Commission wrote on his website that he took up the challenge to "remind the public about the nutritional value of potatoes," and show it was possible to live healthily off potatoes alone for an extended period of time.

Beginning on October 1 and ending today, Mr Voigt ate nothing but 20 potatoes a day - the only allowance being cooking oil and a light topping of seasonings or herbs.

For Thanksgiving, he ate his holiday meal with a twist - mashed potatoes fashioned into a "turkey", fake gravy care of a bouillon cube and potato starch and for dessert, fake pumpkin pie.

During his challenge, Mr Voigt said he lost 9.5 kilograms, his cholesterol level went from 214 to 147, and his glucose dropped from 104 to 94.

On his 20potatoesaday blog, he wrote: "I'm thinking about what tomorrow [Tuesday] will look like... all of a sudden I get this weird vibe like I'm not going to be able to break away from my potato diet!"


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