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WEDNESDAY, June 27, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- If you're fit in middle age, you might be guarding against not only depression as a senior, but also dying from heart disease if you do develop depression, a new study suggests.
Among nearly 18,000 Medicare patients, the most fit were 16 percent less likely to develop depression, the researchers found. The most fit were also 56 percent less likely to die from heart disease if they developed depression, and 61 percent less likely to die from heart disease if they remained free of depression.
Dr. Satjit Bhusri, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said, "Patients should know, however, that depression and fitness are not only intertwined, but also can result in organic changes in their risk of developing heart disease." Bhusri was not involved in the new study.
But only 50 percent of Americans meet the minimum guidelines for aerobic activity -- 150 minutes of exercise a week, Willis said.
The good news is that the benefits of exercise kick in regardless of how old you are when you start, he added.
"Always consider your own health status and check with your physician before embarking on a new physical activity program," he cautioned.
For the study, Willis and his colleagues collected data on 17,989 healthy men and women, average age 50, who visited a clinic for a preventive medical exam when they were middle-aged. The data were collected from 1971 through 2009. Study participants were eligible for Medicare from 1999 to 2010.
Because the diagnoses of depression came from Medicare claims, how severe the depression was could not be determined.
The report was published online June 27 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
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