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Exercise May Ease Depression Tied to Heart Failure

One year of regular aerobic activity provided modest mental health benefits, study says

FRIDAY, Aug. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Exercise can help ease depression symptoms in people with chronic heart failure, according to a new study.

Researchers randomly assigned more than 2,300 heart failure patients in the United States to receive either education and usual care or supervised aerobic exercise for 90 minutes a week for the first three months followed by at-home aerobic exercise 120 minutes a week for the next nine months.

The patients in the exercise group had modest reductions in symptoms of depression after one year, compared with those in the usual care group, according to the study published in the Aug. 1 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Patients in the exercise group who most faithfully followed the aerobic workout program had the greatest decreases in depressive symptoms, but the absolute reduction was small, James Blumenthal, of Duke University Medical Center, and colleagues said in a journal news release.

The researchers also found that higher levels of depression symptoms were associated with a more than 20 percent increased risk for all-cause death and hospitalizations among the heart failure patients. This increased risk was independent of antidepressant use and known risk factors in heart failure patients, including age and disease severity.

Heart failure means the heart isn't pumping blood the way it should, which can cause fatigue, shortness of breath and fluid buildup in the lungs. About 5 million people in the United States have heart failure, and more than 500,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, according to background information in the study.

Depression affects as many as 40 percent of heart failure patients.

More information

The Heart Failure Society of America offers advice for managing feelings about heart failure.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, news release, July 31, 2012

Copyright © 2012 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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