January 25, 2011

Stress Program Saves Hearts

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Lowering stress may be the key to preventing another heart attack. In a new study, researchers found that a cognitive behavioral therapy program, which focused on stress management, reduced the risk of recurrent heart attacks in patients with heart disease.

According to background information in the study, psychosocial factors -- such as low socioeconomic status, marital distress, depression, anger and anxiety -- account for about 30 percent of heart attack risk.

Researchers in Sweden studied 362 men and women who were discharged from the hospital after a heart disease event. A group of 192 patients were assigned to participate in a cognitive behavioral therapy program, while the other 170 patients received standard care. The therapy was delivered in 20, two-hour sessions during one year.

"The program has five key components with specific goals -- education, self-monitoring, skills training, cognitive restructuring and spiritual development -- and is focused on stress management, coping with stress and reducing experience of daily stress, time urgency and hostility," the study authors wrote.

Results show those who participated in the behavioral program had a 41-percent lower rate of both fatal and non-fatal heart events. They also had 45-percent fewer recurrent heart attacks. Attending a higher proportion of therapy sessions was associated with a further reduction in risk.

"These results imply that, to affect cardiovascular disease or coronary heart disease end points, the interventions need to be long-term (possibly six to 12 months), be conducted in groups and include specific techniques for altering behavior," the study authors write. "A possible mechanism is decreased behavioral and emotional reactivity, which would lead to less psychophysiologic burden on the cardiovascular system."

SOURCE: Archives of Internal Medicine, Jan. 24, 2011