Blog | Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How depression breaks the heart

It's been known for quite some time that depressed patients have a higher risk of heart problems than those who are mentally healthy. What's been unclear is why-- till now.

A new JAMA study finds that, in depressed patients with coronary heart disease, most of the higher risk of CV events can be chalked up to a lack of exercise.

The study followed more than 1,000 outpatients with CHD for nearly 5 years. Patients reporting symptoms of depression had a 50% greater risk of CV events. Adjusting for comorbid conditions and cardiac disease severity lowered the risk to 31%, but adjusting for lack of exercise pretty much wiped out the association completely (along with a few other "health behaviors," like diet). Put another way, not exercising was associated with a 44% higher rate of CV events-- almost the same as the depression association.

So now the real question is: how do you get those depressed patients to exercise? (Which, by the way, is likely to improve their mood.) That's a whole other study in and of itself. For now, the Mayo Clinic has these tips on motivating depressed patients.