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Psychological interventions a boon for patients with heart disease

Tuesday October 15, 2013
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Psychological interventions reduce by half deaths and cardiovascular events in patients with heart disease, according to a data analysis.

“The nurses on our coronary care unit observed that patients were less likely to have another heart attack, die or return to hospital when we talked to them about their treatment, played music for them or helped religious patients to say prayers,” Zoi Aggelopoulou, RN, PhD, a study author from NIMTS Veterans Hospital Athens in Greece, said in a news release. “It made us think that coronary heart disease is not just physical but also has a psychological component.

“We wanted to find out if others had observed the same thing, and whether psychological support had a real impact on the outcomes of patients with coronary heart disease.”

As presented in Madrid at the annual meeting of the Acute Cardiovascular Care Association of the European Society of Cardiology, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of nine randomized controlled trials that had been published previously. They evaluated whether psychological interventions could improve outcomes of patients with coronary heart disease when combined with a conventional rehabilitation program.

The researchers found the addition of psychological interventions reduced mortality and cardiovascular events by 55% after two years or more. The benefits were not significant during the first two years.

“We found a huge benefit of psychological interventions after two years, with less patients dying or having a cardiovascular event and therefore fewer repeat hospital visits,” Aggelopoulou said in the news release. “The interventions included talking to patients and their families about issues that were worrying them, relaxation exercise, music therapy and helping them to say prayers."

The researchers concluded psychological interventions should be incorporated into the rehabilitation of patients with coronary heart disease. “More clinical trials are needed to clarify which interventions are most effective and how they can best be implemented,” Aggelopoulou said in the news release.

“We can help our patients by simply talking to them or introducing new things like music therapy into our clinical practice,” she added. “Coronary units are busy places — in Greece we sometimes have one to two nurses for 10 to 20 patients in the coronary care unit, and we are under time pressure.

“But our finding that the addition of psychological support on top of physiological therapies reduces death and cardiovascular events by 55% should be a wakeup call that these interventions really do work. Preventing repeat hospital visits would free up the time we need to implement them.”


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