Exercise helps heart attack patients who are depressed, without social support

udy to date has looked specifically at the impact of exercise on heart attack patients considered at a high psychosocial risk for another heart attack, said the researchers.

Most previous studies on the effect of exercise on heart disease enrolled predominantly Caucasian men and patients under at age of 65, and most of those studies did not include a non-exercising group of patients as a control, said the researchers.

In 1996, the National Institutes of Health awarded a $29.6 million grant to an eight-center consortium to investigate the promise of behavior therapy interventions in a "real-world" group of patients with heart disease who were either depressed or socially isolated. The trial was dubbed ENRICHD (Enhancing Recovery in Coronary Heart Disease Patients).

Last year, The ENRICHD investigators reported in the Journal of American Medical Association (June 18, 2003), that counseling and group therapy reduced levels of depression and social isolation in these patients, but did not lower mortality or morbidity rates of study participants. For the current study, the researchers went a step further to compare the outcomes of patients enrolled in ENRICHD who exercised and those who did not.

"Our latest findings suggest exercise can be just as beneficial for patients who are older, minority or women," Blumenthal said. "This finding is important because previous studies show that men and Caucasians are more likely to exercise than women and minorities."

Blumenthal said that being sedentary should be considered as a cardiac risk factor just like other risk factors such as smoking, improper diet or uncontrolled high blood pressure.

"While our study cannot determine whether patients in the trial were sedentary because they were depressed, or whether they became depressed because they weren't physically active, we can say that patients who are depressed and sedentary are at a m

Contact: Richard Merritt
Duke University Medical Center

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