People Depressed After Heart Attack Less Likely To Make Recommended Behavior Changes To Reduce Risk

November 11, 1997

Nearly one in four people suffers from depression after a heart attack, according to a study by Johns Hopkins researchers, who found that these patients are less likely to comply with their doctors' advice to modify their diets and exercise more often.

Results of the study will be presented at 9 a.m., Nov. 11 at the American Heart Association's 70th annual Scientific Sessions in Orlando, Fla.

"We know from previous studies and from our own findings that people with depression are at greater risk of dying within the first few months after a heart attack," says Roy C. Ziegelstein, M.D., the study's lead author and an assistant professor of cardiology at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. "Our findings suggest that heart attack patients with depression have greater difficulty making recommended changes to lower their risk of having another heart attack. Further study is necessary to determine if this difficulty in making recommended lifestyle and behavior changes is related to the increased risk of death among depressed heart attack patients."

Level of depression was assessed in 222 patients approximately three days after they survived a heart attack and adherence to lifestyle and behavior change recommendations was assessed four months later. Average age for the patients was 63 years.

Of the 204 people who were still living after four months, 23.5 percent were significantly depressed at the time of their initial hospitalization. The depressed survivors were less likely to adhere to recommended behavior changes such as lowering their fat/cholesterol intake, exercising regularly and reducing stress. In addition, diabetic patients who were depressed were less likely to follow a recommended diabetic diet.

Depression was not a predictor of compliance with taking medications or carrying required medical supplies when out of the home.

The study's other authors were James A. Fauerbach, Ph.D.; David E. Bush, M.D.; and Sandra Sordo.

--JHMI--

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Johns Hopkins Medicine

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