Sometimes, life can feel less like a bowl of cherries... and more like the pits.
Even in the midst of sunny summertime (not to mention cherry season), if you’re feeling anxious or lonely or have suffered a loss, it can cast a dark cloud over your day.
Or things could be going perfectly well, and something could hijack your happiness, like some prescription meds or hormone fluctuations, for starters.
We all get down in the dumps, but when it’s more severe… or doesn’t go away… it could be depression.
Being depressed can do a number on your head for sure, but it can also wallop your heart – and I’m not just talking about the “heartache” that those cowboys used to sing about.
Depression can also raise your risk of a cardiac event that could send you six feet under.
But according to a new study, there's a natural way to slash your risk of both depression AND your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease: Get moving!
In the study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, researchers put nearly 18,000 middle-aged folks on a treadmill to measure their cardiorespiratory fitness. When they analyzed those same folks’ health records years later, they found that those with the highest levels of fitness in midlife had a 16 percent LOWER risk of depression after age 65 than those with the lowest levels.
And the most highly fit folks also lowered their risk of death from cardiovascular disease by a whopping 61 percent when compared to the least physically fit.
But here's the kicker: Even when the participants DID deal with depression later in life, the fittest folks were 56 percent LESS likely to die from cardiovascular disease than the least fit.
That means that even when the clouds are gathering over your head, physical activity can buffer your heart from the storm!
Now, when you’re feeling depressed, it could be tied to low levels of the brain chemical serotonin. And being down in the dumps can send your levels of inflammation soaring, which can threaten your heart health by damaging your blood vessels and even making your blood more likely to clot.
So, the theory is that physical activity gives a one-two punch to depression and heart disease because it BOOSTS your levels of "feel-good" serotonin... and LOWERS your levels of inflammation.
Plus, exercise helps you sleep better and relieves stress -- both of which help stave off depression and protect your ticker.
So, if you want to beat the blues while keeping your heart beating steadily, aim to work up a sweat more often!
Don’t worry if you don’t have access to a treadmill like what was used in the study. Any aerobic activity that gets your heart pumping -- running, biking, or dancing, for instance -- is effective exercise for raising serotonin levels and lowering inflammation.
But previous studies have shown that even low-intensity activities -- like gardening, walking the dog, or hitting the links -- can ease depression and slash your risk of death.