Blood Pressure Meds Could Raise Your Depression Risk

CNN/ Newswire | 10/10/2016, 5:58 p.m.
Some of the drugs most commonly used to treat people with high blood pressure could also be affecting their mood ...
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By Meera Senthilingam


(CNN) -- Some of the drugs most commonly used to treat people with high blood pressure could also be affecting their mood -- particularly their risk of depression -- according to a new new study.

Research published in the journal Hypertension found that people taking one of two classes of drugs, known beta blockers or calcium channel antagonists, had twice the risk of being admitted into the hospital with a mood disorder, such as severe depression. However, people taking a class of drugs known as angiotensin blockers -- ACE inhibitors -- had a lower risk of developing severe mood disorders, even compared with healthy control groups with no history of hypertension or depression.

"They are both extremely important findings," said Dr. Sandosh Padmanabhan, professor of cardiovascular genomics and therapeutics at the University of Glasgow and lead author of the study. "And they were both unexpected."

Patients taking a fourth class of drugs, known as diuretics, were found to have the same risk of developing mood disorders as people not taking any form of treatment.

"There is a lot of data that depression and cardiovascular disease are related ... but current hypertensive practices do not consider depression," said Padmanabhan. "This validated those (earlier) findings, but also means blood pressure tablets could be repurposed for mental health conditions."

High blood pressure is estimated to cause 7.5 million deaths worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization. Almost a billion people around the world lived with uncontrolled hypertension -- high blood pressure -- in 2008, and that number is expected to rise to more than 1.5 billion by 2025. As more people develop hypertension, it's expected that more will be taking these blood pressure-lowering drugs.

Medication and your mind

Previous studies have showed links between anti-hypertensive drugs and mental health. One small study in the United States found that calcium channel blockers helped improve symptoms of bipolar disorder, while drugs such as beta blockers have been linked to depression for some time.

"We know that some hypertensive drugs cause depressive symptoms," Padmanabhan said, citing beta blockers and another class known as methyldopa. These two classes of drugs are more often prescribed during pregnancy, as they are not harmful to fetuses, but the researchers would now like to investigate whether they could play a role in postpartum depression.

"Nobody has studied this," he said.

Exposing the link

The researchers collected data from a database of more than 520,000 patients across two hospitals in Scotland. From this, they selected 144,066 patients who were not diagnosed with depression but were being treated for hypertension exclusively with one of the four chosen classes of drugs to be included in the study: beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin blockers or diuretics.

These subjects were compared with more than 111,000 people who were not receiving any form of treatment for either hypertension or depression, over a five-year period. The numbers admitted to a hospital for severe mood disorders, such as depression of bipolar disorder, were monitored.