Stress management ‘helps the heart’

An American study of patients with cardiac problems appears to show a significant improvement when stress-management training forms part of their treatment.

A group undergoing exercise-based cardiac rehab was split into two, with one half also receiving anti-stress interventions such as techniques for relaxation and coping under pressure. Those patients were found to have a 50 percent lower risk of complications like heart attacks and strokes. Another similar group who did not take the exercise programme, but received the stress reduction training, showed a 40 percent lower risk than those who took neither.

This was only a small-scale study, with no opportunity to evaluate the anti-stress interventions individually, or to investigate reasons why some patients had rejected exercise-based rehab. And stress management is not a curative therapy. But the findings do suggest that this approach could help improve cardiac rehab programs. “Given that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., this could represent a new treatment that will help us reduce the impact of this disease,” said Dr. Eric Aldrich, a researcher in neurology and rehabilitation at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. (As reported in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.)

  • Cardiac patients were taught how to relax and cope with pressure
  • The anti-stress training was found to cut heart problems by 40%-50%
  • These findings may be used to improve cardiac rehab programs

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