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Could Depression Medication Also Prevent a Heart Attack?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DURHAM, N.C.) -- New research suggests medication prescribed for depression could also help reduce patients' risk for stress-induced heart attacks.

In a randomized trial of over 300 people with stable heart disease, participants were put under a routine amount of mental stress by being asked to complete a difficult math problem or tell a story that made them mad or angry.  During the mental stress testing, about half of the participants became so stressed they actually had a small heart attack.  

After their heart attack, participants were randomized to start taking either an antidepressant medication -- in this case, Lexapro -- called an SSRI, or a placebo.  

Six weeks later, participants were again exposed to the same mental stress testing.  This time, those on the antidepressant medication were 2.6 times less likely to suffer another heart attack.  

Dr. Wei Jiang, a researcher on the study and an associate professor of psychiatry at Duke University, said, according to MyHealthNewsDaily, that the study's findings show antidepressants or treatments that help patients manage stress could help to ease symptoms for people with coronary heart disease.  Jiang added, however, that more research is needed to confirm the study's findings.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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