A study by researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, sounded a warning for menopausal women who are subject to depression.
Depression is already a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease but it seems that taking antidepressants may significantly increase the risk of stroke for women who are postmenopausal.
The study is based on data from the well respected Women’s Health Initiative which was responsible for proving that hormone replacement therapy significantly increased the risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer and death in postmenopausal women.
This latest study took place over six years and involved over 136,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79. The study found that those taking antidepressants were 45 percent more likely to suffer from a stroke during that period than women not taking the drugs, and 32 percent more likely to die from any cause.
The risk of stroke for a postmenopausal woman taking an antidepressant was roughly one in 200 in each given year and the increased stroke risk from antidepressants remained the same regardless of which drug class women were taking – whether selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or tricyclics. However SSRIs appeared to pose a higher risk for a hemorrhagic stroke caused by brain bleeding.
Why is it that so many women are being prescribed anti-depressants to deal with the problems of the menopause?
Once doctors became more aware of the long term risks of HRT with its high doses of oestrogen, they began restricting its use to 5 years and taking women off it. Unfortunately this was not usually staged to support the withdrawal and so many women were taken off HRT and given antidepressants to help with some of the symptoms. It doesn’t seem logical to me, because if women are coming off HRT they are best supported by bioidentical hormones to ease the transition and restore natural hormone balance.
As there is now an agreed increased risk with HRT for strokes in any case, if antidepressants are added to the mix then the that risk increases. Bioidentical natural progesterone is an alternative way to reduce stroke risk and improve heart health in menopausal women and a bioidentical combination cream of progesterone and oestrogen can help with depression so might it not be better to at least consider those options?