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Patients with Depression Have Slow Heart Rate Recover - Depressed Cardiac Rehabilitation Participants May Have Higher Death Rate - Attack

June 1st 2006

Patients with Depression Have Slow Heart Rate Recover - Depressed Cardiac Rehabilitation Participants May Have Higher Death Rate - Attack

Dr. Joel Hughes

Researchers have discovered that there is a link between depression and the length of time it takes for a patient to return to a normal heart rate during cardiac rehabilitation.  The research, published in the American Heart Journal, indicates that heart rate recovery after exercise was slower among patients with symptoms of depression. 

The heart rate recovery after a treadmill stress test is a good indication of how the autonomic nervous system is functioning, according to a report by Reuters Health. Dr. Joel W. Hughes, co-author of the study, and colleagues from Kent State University of Ohio said that patients who take longer to recover their normal heart rate also have an increased risk of mortality.

The report says that the autonomic nervous system helps the body to adapt to changes in the environment, adjusting or modifying body functions in response to stress.  The autonomic system also regulates blood pressure, heart rate, airflow to the lungs, the digestive process, insulin secretion, urinary function and sexual response.


The research was based on a study of 260 patients entering phase II cardiac rehabilitation who completed an exercise treadmill test.  This test gives a good assessment of heart rate recovery two minutes after the patients exercise. 

The patients were also given the Beck Depression Inventory which is used to assess symptoms of depression.  They found that heart rate recovery after exercise was slower among patients with higher scores on Beck Depression Inventory.  The researchers considered factors such as the patient age, sex, and the use of beta-blocker drugs. 


The report says that the relationship between depression score and heart rate recovery was not “statistically significant” after factoring in the effects of exercise capacity.  This indicates that exercise capacity may partly explain this relationship.  Hughes believes that "anxiety and depression confer an increased risk of death following a heart attack".

The researchers said “A role of physical fitness in the relationship between depression and heart rate is not surprising in light of the evidence that heart rate recovery is highly correlated with exercise capacity, depression predicts physical inactivity among patients at risk for heart disease, and depression symptoms are associated with reduced exercise capacity for patients with coronary artery disease.”


They believe that altered exercise capacity may be one mechanism whereby depression leads to autonomic dysfunction and poor prognosis among cardiac rehabilitation patients. It this is true, treatment programs that focus on improving physical fitness may benefit depressed cardiac patients.

Hughes and his team say "A number of related psychosocial factors appear to confer risk for the development of hypertension and coronary heart disease. Examples include hostility, low social support, anxiety, and depression. Psychological distress is also implicated in cardiac patients’ prognosis."

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Important:  The material on Best Syndication is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical conditions. You should promptly seek professional medical care if you have any concern about your health, and you should always consult your physician before starting a fitness program.

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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                   Last Updated Saturday, July 10, 2010 09:51 PM