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Treating depression may improve recovery of heart rate variability following coronary syndromes
Date:9/3/2007

t the 16-week follow-up visit, the depressed patients had recovered their heart rate variability more slowly than expected and some even experienced a decrease. Patients who took sertraline had a 9 percent increase in heart rate variability and patients who took placebo had a 10 percent decrease, compared with the 28 to 33 percent increase in recovery of heart rate variability observed in previous studies of non-depressed patients.

Both sertraline treatment and symptomatic recovery from depression were associated with increased heart rate variability compared with placebo-treated and non-recovered postacute coronary syndrome control groups, respectively, but this results primarily from decreased heart rate variability in the comparison groups, the authors write.

The mechanisms behind the relationship between heart rate variability, depression and cardiac death remain unclear, the authors note. What is clear is that depression is associated with biological changes involving increased heart rate, inflammatory response, plasma norepinephrine, platelet reactivity, decreased heart rate variability and now absent postacute coronary syndrome heart rate variability recovery, all of which is associated with life-threatening consequences. Understanding why these characteristics so strongly associate with depression is crucial to understanding the nature of depression itself, they conclude.

From a clinicians point of view, patients with depression after myocardial infarction, especially those with prior episodes, should be both carefully watched and aggressively treated, because they are at an elevated cardiac risk and less likely to get better spontaneously.


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