Depression Treatment Gives Heart Failure Patients a Boost

Managing depression key to physical improvement for heart failure patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Depression can affect the health of heart failure patients, even impacting the quality of their lives. New research suggests managing depression may give patients a health boost and even improve their social lives.

Depression has been known to negatively impact patients with a variety of diseases, but few studies have shown that management of depression could improve overall health and quality of life.

"There may be underlying genetic or other physiological differences, such as inflammatory markers, that alter the opportunities for treatments to work optimally," Dr. Xiong said.

"Knowing that relieving depression can be accompanied by broad physical health benefits, we want to be able to identify ways to make treatment modalities as helpful as possible for as many people as possible, especially for those with serious heart disease."

"Seek treatment if you notice symptoms of depression."

Glen Xiong, MD, lead researcher and associate clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at University of California-Davis, said heart failure patients with managed depression experienced a significant endurance benefit.

This is important because, as the heart's pumping ability becomes weaker as a result of heart failure, patients often lose endurance, may struggle with performing basic tasks and can develop increased disability.

Dr. Xiong said the study's findings may provide more motivation for doctors to both screen for and treat depression in those with heart failure because such therapy could offer significant functional improvements for patients.

During the study, investigators performed a secondary analysis of data from the 2008 Sertraline Against Depression and Heart Disease in Chronic Heart Failure (SADHART-CHF) study. During that 12-week clinical trial, 469 heart failure patients with a major depressive disorder took the antidepressant sertraline (Zoloft). All of the men and women participating were over the age of 45.

That study found the drug did not provide a significant benefit to depression management compared to an inactive medication. The current research focused on depression and health status of the participants, regardless of the medication they took to manage depression.

After the review, researchers found participants whose depression relented during the trial also had improved physical health scores measured through health surveys and a six-minute walk test completed by most patients.

With less depression, patients also had fewer physical limitations, less frequent symptoms and fewer overall symptoms. They also reported less social limitation and a better quality of life.

Participants whose depression was in remission scored a full 13 points higher on the Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire compared to currently depressed participants.

An improvement of five points is considered clinically significant. Patients in remission also could walk about 154 feet farther than patients struggling with depression.

Researchers said the findings suggest therapies that connect the mind and body could help stabilize patients with heart failure.

The study, funded by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, will be published in the Nov. 20 edition of Circulation: Heart Failure, an American Heart Association journal.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 2, 2012
Last Updated:
November 7, 2012