Exercise: A Powerful Weapon to Fight Depression and Heart Disease

Exercise: A Powerful Weapon to Fight Depression and Heart Disease

It might sound trite to say exercise is good for the heart and mind, but it is. In fact, research has shown that exercise can help those suffering from depression as well as heart issues such as atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib. Given that depression and AFib are common, serious problems for people over 50, it becomes more important than ever to get moving!

Depression Is A Serious Illness

The American Association of Geriatric Psychiatry says 15 percent of people over 65 have symptoms of depression that interfere with their physical, mental, and emotional health.

Researchers at the University of Washington say mature adults with significant depression have healthcare costs 50 percent higher than those without it. The World Health Organization says that by next year, depression will be the second leading cause of premature death and disability around the world.

The good news? Research proves that exercise:

  • Improves mood
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Increases the ability to handle stress
  • Improves sleep

Scientists at the Duke University Medical Center tested exercise against antidepressants in 156 outpatients 50 and older. The two treatments worked about the same in eliminating symptoms, and exercise was better than medication in keeping depression from recurring.

Something you might not have known is that depression brings a higher risk of heart disease.

And Exercise Is The Key to Reduce Both

A study published in the JAMA Network chronicles how exercise lowers the risk of depression and heart disease.

“Depression doesn’t exist in a vacuum,” said Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, who wrote the report. “Especially for people who are older, depression has a complicated relationship with other major medical diseases.”

Among the study’s findings:

  • Fit people are 16 percent less likely to develop depression.
  • Fit people are 61 percent less likely to die from heart disease.
  • Even among people with depression, those who are fit have a 56 percent lower risk of dying from heart-related problems.

“Exercise not only reduces your risk of heart disease but also improves your depression, so I really see it as a bonafide treatment related to depression,” said Trivedi. “I want primary care physicians to prescribe not only antidepressants but also prescribe a dose of exercise for the treatment of depression.”

But Before You Jump Into An Exercise Routine . . .

Experts say physical activity is usually good for people with AFib, according to WebMD. “But before you start ramping up your workouts, ask your cardiologist (your heart doctor) if you need any tests.”

The Mayo Clinic says doctors routinely recommend exercise and a healthy diet for patients with AFib. Again, talk to your doctor.

And the American College of Cardiology says:

Studies show that people with AFib who do exercise compared to those who don’t:

  • have fewer AFib episodes,
  • go to the hospital less often, and
  • report a higher quality of life

We always knew exercise was great for staying fit, but now we also know it’s a great way to fight depression and heart issues, too!

* See your doctor for more information about depression and heart disease, including AFib.