Study: Coronary heart disease patients can treat depression with exercise

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There’s good news for coronary heart disease patients with depression.

A recent study shows that exercise is an effective treatment in the short term. This is compared to more complicated care, antidepressants and psychotherapy.

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Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland conducted the study, which was published in the journal, Psychosomatic Medicine.

“Depression is common in patients with coronary artery disease. Having both conditions can have a significant impact on the quality of life for patients, so it is vital that they have access to the most effective treatments,” lead study author Dr. Frank Doyle, senior lecturer in population health sciences at RCSI, said in a statement.

Researchers analyzed treatment studies that evaluated exercise, psychotherapy, antidepressants and combined psychotherapy and antidepressants. The trials also investigated collaborative care such as those developed by a multidisciplinary clinician team with patient input.

Then, researchers evaluated the effectiveness by reviewing factors such as patient dropout rate and how depression symptoms changed after eight weeks of treatment. It was discovered that exercise and combination treatments had the biggest effects. Still, combination study results have a high bias risk. As such, the RCSI study indicates exercise is the most effective treatment. Research mostly supported antidepressants. Psychotherapy and collaborative care didn’t have high performance, however.

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“Our study indicates that exercise is likely to be the best treatment for depression following coronary artery disease. Our findings further highlight the clinical importance of exercise as a treatment as we see that it improves not only depression but also other important aspects of heart disease, such as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, in these patients,” Doyle said.

“We continue to see emerging evidence of the importance of lifestyle to treat disease – in comparison to other treatments – but further high-quality research is needed,” he continued. “People with coronary heart disease who have symptoms of depression should talk to their doctor about treatments that are most suitable for their personal needs, and clinicians can be confident of recommending exercise to their patients.”

Exercise has been shown to have several mental health improvements. Benefits include mitigating symptoms of low self-esteem and social withdrawal. Aerobic exercise has been proven to decrease anxiety and depression.

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