Exercise, Stress Management Boost Heart Health

Patients with heart disease fared better than with drugs alone

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TUESDAY, April 5, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Cutting down on stress and boosting aerobic fitness fights both heart disease and depression, a new study finds.

Reporting in the April 6 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers at Duke University Medical Center tracked the mental and physical health of 92 men and 42 women, aged 40 to 84, with stable ischemic heart disease and exercise-induced myocardial ischemia -- decreased blood flow to the heart muscle.

The study participants received either their routine medical care; usual care plus supervised aerobic exercise for 35 minutes three times a week for 16 weeks; or usual care and weekly 1.5-hour stress management training for 16 weeks.

Patients in the exercise and stress-management groups had lower average depression scores and reduced distress scores compared with the patients who received only usual care, the researchers report. The exercise and stress-management patients also had more favorable improvements in certain cardiovascular risk factors.

"Results of this randomized, controlled trial demonstrate that behavioral treatments provide added benefits" to heart disease patients already receiving standard medical care, the study authors wrote.

The longer-term effects of exercise and stress management still need to be evaluated in a larger study, they add. But they believe that, based on these findings, exercise and de-stressing "offer considerable promise" to patients threatened by heart disease.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about ischemic heart disease.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, April 5, 2005

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