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Stress Management Could Help Optimize Cardiac Rehab

When added to recovery regimen, fewer patients had heart attacks, strokes, or died

TUESDAY, March 22, 2016 (HealthDay News) — The addition of stress management training can make cardiac rehabilitation programs more effective, according to a study published online March 21 in Circulation.

James Blumenthal, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C., and colleagues looked at 151 heart patients, aged 36 to 84, in North Carolina. The patients received either 12 weeks of exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation alone or the same program along with weekly 90-minute group sessions on stress management. The stress management program included training in relaxation, coping skills, and stress reduction. Another 75 patients were in a control group that did not take part in cardiac rehabilitation.

After a median follow-up of more than three years, outcomes such as heart attack, stroke, recurrent chest pains requiring hospitalization, and death had occurred in 18 percent of patients in the cardiac rehab/stress management group. That compared to 33 percent of patients in the cardiac rehab-only group, and 47 percent of patients in the control group.

“Cardiac rehabilitation programs do not routinely offer stress management, but this may change should demand increase,” Blumenthal said in a journal news release. “And because patients may be reluctant to ask for the programs themselves, the onus is on the physicians to recognize that stress management is important for the optimal medical management of patients.”

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