Sedatives Linked to Increased Risk of Heart Attack

Sedative use for anxiety after heart attack linked to increased risk of dying within one year

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) After a first heart attack, patients may find they are in need of sedatives to cope with anxiety or to help them sleep. Such sedatives may actually be associated with an increased risk of another heart attack within the initial year.

This heightened risk includes an increased rate of fatal heart attacks with sedative use as compared to patients who don't take sedatives after a first heart attack.

"Talk to your cardiologist about the risks of sedatives after a heart attack."

Gunnar H Gislason, MD, of the Gentofte University Hospital in Denmark, noted that anxiety and sleep deprivation is associated with higher levels of circulating catecholamines and adrenergic stress, which might increase cardiovascular risk.

During the study researchers followed 24,217 patients using sedatives after hospital discharge for a heart attack compared to a similar number of recently released heart attack patients that did not take sedatives. The patients were without prior psychiatric disease, an average age of 71 and slightly over half were men. They were discharged between 1997 and 2009.

Drug use of the patients was followed through nationwide hospital registries and drug dispensing pharmacies in Denmark. The patients were followed for one year.

Researchers found that a second heart attack was recorded among 10 percent, or 2,411 patients, taking sedatives as compared to 8 percent, or 1,928 patients, who did not take sedatives within one year. Patients taking sedatives also were found more likely to die within the initial year after a heart attack.

A separate analysis revealed that patients who took sedatives called anxiolytics for anxiety had a higher mortality rate as compared to those who took hypnotics for sleeplessness.

Investigators said the findings suggest heart attack patients that take sedatives are at a higher risk and could benefit from more aggressive preventative interventions.

The research was presented Wednesday at the American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Review Date: 
May 9, 2012
Last Updated:
May 10, 2012