Thursday, April 14, 2016

Physically active individuals cope better with heart attacks

Public Release: 25-Feb-2016
Physically active individuals cope better with heart attacks
Exercise habits affect how the body handles the aftermath of a heart attack
Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Researchers know that exercise increases a person's chances of surviving a heart attack. Now it turns out that exercise habits also affect how the body handles a heart attack's aftermaths.

Depression is three times more common among people who have experienced a heart attack compared to people who have never been afflicted by one. But the new study shows that people who exercise regularly for a long time before a heart attack occurs are far less likely to be depressed afterwards.

"Physical activity protects people from depression after a heart attack," says Associate Professor Linda Ernstsen. She is the lead author of an article on the results of her research, which stem from her postdoctoral work at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) Department of Nursing Science.


On average, 11 per cent of all participants were depressed by the third HUNT study, but this varied greatly depending on previous training habits. Researchers divided the survey participants into four groups:

Among people who had never exercised, over 17 per cent were depressed after a heart attack. This was by far the most depressed group.

Among those who exercised during the first study period, but who had stopped in the second, 12.5 per cent were depressed after a heart attack.

Participants who didn't exercise to begin with, but who did train during the second study period, fared better, with only 9.1 per cent suffering from depression in the aftermath of the heart attack.

Participants who exercised consistently throughout fared best, with only 7.5 per cent suffering from depression.

The researchers found 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

The survey also provides reason for optimism. It helps if you have exercised and are in good shape from training earlier in life, even if you have since stopped. But it is apparently even better to have started exercising regularly in older age, even if you get off the couch late in life.

"It's never too late to start exercising," Ernstsen says.


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