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Physically Fit May Bounce Back Better After Heart Attack

Survivors who had exercised regularly beforehand were less prone to depression afterwards, study finds

MONDAY, Feb. 29, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Physically fit people may be less likely to become depressed after a heart attack, a new study suggests.

Heart attack survivors are three times more likely to have depression than people who haven't had a heart attack. But this study found that a history of regular exercise can reduce that risk.

"Physical activity protects people from depression after a heart attack," study author Linda Ernstsen, an associate professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said in a university news release.

For the study, the researchers looked at 189 middle-aged and older people in Norway who had suffered a heart attack. On average, 11 percent of them suffered depression after their heart attack. But there were significant differences in risk depending on how much people had exercised before their heart attack, the investigators found.

Depression occurred in 17 percent of those who never exercised, 12.5 percent of those who once exercised but stopped before their heart attack, 9 percent of those who were inactive but began exercising before their heart attack, and 7.5 percent of those who were consistently physically active, the findings showed.

The researchers said that people who exercised regularly over several years were less than half as likely to become depressed after a heart attack than those who never exercised.

However, the study could not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between regular exercise and depression risk after a heart attack.

The study was published recently in The American Journal of Medicine.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about depression after heart attack.

SOURCE: Norwegian University of Science and Technology, news release, Feb. 25, 2016

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