Sudden cardiac death or sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) has gained worldwide attention because of Michael Jackson’s passing last month. To review some SCA statistics from the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Coalition:
- Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a leading cause of death in the United States, claiming more than 250,000 lives per year.
- That’s a life every two minutes or over 650 SCA-related deaths each day.
- This number is greater than the number of deaths each year from breast cancer, lung cancer, stroke, or AIDS.
- Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and most deaths from CVD are attributable to Sudden Cardiac Arrest.
- SCA is extremely deadly, with a mortality rate of approximately 95 percent.
As I’ve posted before, there are many things that can interfere with the heart’s electric system, leading to a full stop and death. A recent study by researchers at Columbia University indicates that depression – and the use of anti-depressants – can also cause SCA. And it’s not about overdose on anti-depressants, but regular use at normally prescribed dosage.
The study followed up 63,469 women who were participants in the Nurses’ Health Study and who did not have a history of cardiovascular disease or any other life-threatening disorders. The participants were monitored for depressive symptoms and anti-depressant use for eight years. The study results confirmed what previous studies have reported: Depressive symptoms were significantly associated with cardiac events, and especially strongest with fatal events.
However, what is new is the fact that the use of antidepressants to manage the depressive symptoms does not actually lower the risk for cardiac events but rather increases the risk of SCA. According to the present study
It is not clear how these medications exactly can affect heart function but researchers believe it has something to be with triggering arrhythmia or irregular heart rhythms. A previous study has linked antidepressant use to increased high blood pressure.
The authors warn that more study is needed to confirm the antidepressant use – SCA link.
“It is unclear whether SSRI agents might cause [sudden cardiac arrest]. While cardiac events are well documented with . . . tricyclic antidepressants, evidence for a link with SSRIs is mixed… Moreover, it is quite possible that antidepressant use merely indicates that depression is of sufficient severity to merit treatment.”
There have been high profile deaths due to SCA mainly because of the widespread use of prescription drugs among celebrities as a means of coping with their stressful, high-flying lifestyles. Among these prescription drugs are sleeping pills, anti-depressants, and pain killers.