While it has long been known there is a strong association between depression and an increased risk of cardiovascular events, it has not been understood why. The Heart & Soul Study reveals the link is largely explained by behavioral factors, particularly physical inactivity.
This prospective cohort study is based on a sample of 1,017 patients who had stable coronary artery disease at the study's outset and were followed for almost five years. The patients were identified at two Veterans Administration hospitals, one university medical center and nine public health clinics. Data was developed through medical testing, interviews and self-reporting questionnaires.
This study evaluated depression and health behaviors simultaneously so it is not known whether the behaviors are the cause of depression or the result of depression; depressed patients are often less likely to take care of themselves. But, regardless, the findings do suggest behavioral modification, and in particular, increasing physical activity, could reduce the risk of cardiovascular events in depressed patients with stable coronary heart disease.