Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Heart Disease Health Center

Font Size

Depression May Up Heart Attack Risk

Study Shows Depressed Heart Attack Patients Less Likely to Exercise, Raising Their Cardiac Risk
By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News

Nov. 25, 2008 -- Cardiac patients who are depressed are less likely to exercise, which increases their risk of a cardiac event such as a heart attack or heart failure, a new study suggests.

So heart patients who experience depression may be able to lower their cardiac risk simply by getting more physical activity.

It's long been recognized that patients who suffer from depression are more likely to have heart attacks or other cardiac events. But the reason for the association has been unclear. According to the new study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, the higher risk may be due to behavioral factors, especially physical activity levels.

Researchers looked at 1,017 heart disease patients. All were outpatients at clinics in the San Francisco area. They were recruited between 2000 and 2002, and followed until early 2008.

Participants completed a questionnaire to gauge whether or not they had depressive symptoms. Out of the group, 199 had depressive symptoms. The depressed patients were more likely to smoke, were less likely to take their medications as prescribed, and were less physically active.

Among the participants with depression, 10% had a cardiac event during the follow-up period. Among the non-depressed participants, 6.7% had a cardiac event. Cardiac events included heart failure, heart attack, stroke, transient ischemic attack (sometimes referred to as a "mini-stroke"), or death.

Even when the researchers made mathematical adjustments that accounted for other health issues and the severity of heart disease at the outset of the study, the group with depression was still 31% more likely to have a cardiac event than the group without depression. However, when lifestyle factors were also accounted for, there was largely no difference between the likelihood of a cardiac event for the depressed group and for the non-depressed group. In the final statistical model, the researchers found that physical inactivity alone was associated with a 44% greater rate of cardiovascular events.

"These findings raise the hypothesis that the increased risk of cardiovascular events associated with depression could potentially be preventable with behavior modification, especially exercise," the researchers write. "Exercise training can improve both depressive symptoms and markers for cardiovascular risk."

The researchers point out that their study could not discern whether depression led to inactivity or if inactivity led to depression. Regardless, the incorporation of exercise into a comprehensive depression treatment plan may be beneficial to many patients who suffer from both depression and heart disease.

Today on WebMD

x-ray of human heart
A visual guide.
atrial fibrillation
Symptoms and causes.
heart rate graph
10 things to never do.
heart rate
Get the facts.
empty football helmet
red wine
eating blueberries
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Inside A Heart Attack
Omega 3 Sources
Salt Shockers
lowering blood pressure