Depression is a risk factor for heart disease. New research now explores the link between these two conditions, finding that for many who have depression in later life, exercise is the best treatment that can keep both the heart and the mind healthy.
For those who have already been diagnosed with heart disease, depression increases their mortality risk.
In fact, some studies have revealed that people with depression are at high risk of arrhythmia. Others, meanwhile, have pointed out that people who develop depression after being diagnosed with heart disease are twice as likely to die from it.
So, what can be done to prevent this bleak scenario? The solution might lie in exercising more, say researchers, as studies have continuously pointed out that in some cases, working out can be as effective as antidepressant medication.
But, when the feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness that characterize depression seep into every aspect of your life, it may seem impossible to find the motivation to exercise.
A new study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, shows the many ways in which depression negatively affects health and highlights the benefits of exercise for relieving depression and keeping the heart healthy.
A total of 17,989 participants (80.2% men) with a mean (SD) age of 50.0 (8.7) years were included. After 117,218 person-years of Medicare follow-up, 2,701 depression diagnoses, 610 deaths due to cardiovascular disease (CVD) without prior depression, and 231 deaths due to CVD after depression were observed. A high level of fitness in midlife was associated with a 16% lower risk of depression (hazard ratio [HR], 0.84; 95% CI, 0.74-0.95) compared with a low level of fitness. A high fitness level was also associated with a 61% lower risk of death due to CVD without depression (HR, 0.39; 95% CI, 0.31-0.48) compared with a low level of fitness. After a diagnosis of depression, a high fitness level was associated with a 56% lower risk of death due to CVD (HR, 0.44; 95% CI, 0.31-0.64) compared with a low fitness level.
The study showed that midlife fitness is associated with a lower risk of later-life depression, CVD mortality, and CVD mortality after incident later-life depression. These findings suggest the importance of midlife fitness in primary prevention of depression and subsequent CVD mortality in older age and should encourage physicians to consider fitness and physical activity in promoting healthy aging.