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Regular Exercise in Patients With Depression Reduces Risk of Heart Disease

Regular Exercise in Patients With Depression Reduces Risk of Heart Disease

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  • Regular exercise regimen in depressed patients key to cut down risk of death due to heart disease later in life
  • Depressed patients can perform up to 75 percent of fitness exercises that doctors advise them to do
  • Depression has been related to many chronic illnesses such as diabetes, obesity and chronic kidney disease; exercise may be more effective than antidepressant drugs in such patients

Exercising regularly may be just as effective as an antidepressant as well as preventing death due to heart disease according to a recent study which is a joint effort between UT Southwestern and The Cooper Institute. Findings of the study appear in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry.

Many chronic diseases can cause depression and likewise depression can affect a person's health in many ways such as causing heart disease and premature death. However it is essential to overcome the feelings of despair and hopelessness and find the time and energy to exercise. This could improve the overall health of the patient and reduce risk of heart disease and early death.


"Maintaining a healthy dose of exercise is difficult, but it can be done. It just requires more effort and addressing unique barriers to regular exercise," says Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, co-author of the study and Director of the Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care, part of the Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute at UT Southwestern.

Details of Study

  • The study enlisted 18000 participants from a Cooper Institute database who then had their heart and lung function assessed at an average age of 50 years.
  • The study team used Medicare office data to check for associations between the patients' fitness levels at middle age and rates of depression and heart disease later.
  • The key findings showed that participants with high fitness levels were 56 percent less likely to die due to heart disease even if diagnosed with depression.

Trying to Stay Fit While Fighting Depression

It may not be easy but it can be done. Previous studies have found that depressed patients can perform up to 75 percent of exercises prescribed for them. Additionally, patients can employ the following measures to stay motivated and keep fit during depression.
  • Find an exercise partner; it is more enjoyable and you are more likely to continue longterm
  • Do exercises at a specific time every day when you are free
  • Do not get discouraged by periods of inactivity; restart as soon as possible
  • Maintain a log to keep track of goals and achievements
  • Try a different set of exercises each day to break the monotony and make it more interesting
  • Enlist a friend or family member's help to hold you accountable for following the exercise program

Staying Fit - Beats Depression as well as Heart Disease

Regular exercise and healthy lifestyle have been found to reduce occurrence of depression as well as heart disease. The reasons for this could be the fact that exercise improves well-being as well as reduces inflammation in the body. Studies have shown lowering inflammation can have a positive effect on cutting down risk of depression and heart disease.

Scope of Study

  • The findings of the study are especially important in youngsters who are starting a career and are more likely to stop or reduce physical activity due to pressures of work and lack of time.
In the words of Dr Trivedi, "This is the age where we typically see physical activity drop off because they're not involved in school activities and sports. The earlier you maintain fitness, the better chance of preventing depression, which in the long run will help lower the risk of heart disease."
  • Many chronic diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease, arthritis and obesity are associated with depression. Studies have shown that exercise and counseling are more helpful in these patients than antidepressants. Giving medications when they offer no benefit should be discouraged and avoided.

Future Plans

Further studies have been organized to validate the close interlinking between fitness levels, depression and heart disease. One such study is the RAD, Resilience in Adolescent Development, a 10-year study that plans to enlist 1,500 participants who are at risk to develop depression but are currently healthy.
  • The study mainly aims to examine whether personal factors such as lifestyle and biology could play a role in preventing development of depression in an adolescent
  • At the same time, the scientists will also document fitness levels and see whether depression and heart disease occur at a later age
In conclusion, the current study establishes the significant connection between wellness of mind and body and the importance of physical activity from a young age to promote a healthy mind and heart as a person grows older.

Reference :
  1. Benjamin L. Willis, MD, MPH1; David Leonard, PhD1; Carolyn E. Barlow, PhD1; et al JAMA Psychiatry. Published online June 27, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.1467

Source: Medindia

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