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New Study Reveals: Exercise May Reduce Heart Disease in Depressed People

Anxiety word cloud with abstract backgroundAsk any health professional about exercise and they’ll tell you the countless benefits of an active lifestyle. Now exercise can add another benefit to the list: a new study reveals that exercise may reduce heart disease for people with depression.

According to HealthDay News, the study compared depressed people who weren’t physically active with those who regularly exercised. Researchers took a close look at their hearts and aortic function to draw a conclusion.

The aorta is an artery that carries blood from the heart — a key component in a healthy circulatory system. Depressed people who did not engage in any sort of physical activity had stiffer and more inflamed aortas, which are indicators of heart disease.

Although they still suffered from depression, those who exercised had less aortic stiffening and inflammation.

Dr. Gregg Fonarow, professor of cardiology at University of California, Los Angeles, reviewed the study’s findings and agreed that “depression and physical inactivity have been shown to be associated with increased risk of cardiovascular events.”

Although Dr. Fonarow supported the correlation found in the study, he insisted that more studies are needed before we can definitely conclude that exercise reduces heart disease risk in depressed people. The study, published by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, is still new but offers promising insight to the world of heart disease.

Authors of the study claim they were not attempting to prove a cause-and-effect relationship; instead, they wanted to uncover the link between the higher risk of heart problems and other physical ailments to people with depression. The article states that depression has, in fact, been linked to worse outcomes for people with heart disease and other conditions.

The researchers noted that a full 20% of people who were hospitalized with a heart attack also were depressed and that those with heart disease are three times more likely to become depressed. Compared to the general population, the link between depression and heart disease is significant.

This study could help to reduce some fatalities of heart disease by encouraging depressed people to exercise to stave off the damaging effects of inactivity on the heart. In Maryland alone, heart disease was responsible for 25% of all deaths in 2010.

The study, led by Dr. Arshed Quyyumi at Emory University in Georgia, analyzed 1,000 people who were free of heart disease. At the time, they had not been diagnosed with depression.

Participants were given questionnaires on depression and physical activity. Researchers then checked them for early signs of heart disease and compared their answers to their physical conditions to support the hypothesis that exercise may help reduce symptoms of heart disease.

“This research also demonstrates the positive effects of exercise for all patients, including those with depressive symptoms,” Quyyumi said.

Experts suggest that all people can benefit from exercise as can depressed patients. There are many forms of physical activity from simply walking around the neighborhood to something more extreme like stand up paddle boarding; in fact, 73% of those who participate in the sport do it solely for exercise.

As Dr. Fonarow stated before, researchers cannot draw a definite conclusion that proves exercise will reduce heart disease among depressed patients, but the importance and benefits of exercise are still prevalent.

Exercise helps maintain arterial health and strengthen heart muscle, which is helpful for anyone, regardless of their risk for heart disease.

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