Chronic stress (employment or marital problems) and emotional issues (depression, anxiety, hostility) have been tied to a higher risk of heart attacks, or acute myocardial infarction (AMI). But does managing these psychological risk factors reduce the risk of AMI? The studies that have asked the question so far have had conflicting results, but a new, large one reported today in the Archives of Internal Medicine seems to suggest that stress-management therapy may reduce the risk of a heart attack in people who have already had one.
The strength of this study is that they compared two treatments. All of the patients had had MIs during the past year. All received "normal" post-MI medical care, meaning that no one got substandard help during recovery. All patients had similar "traditional" risk factors for MI, like high blood pressure and cholesterol problems. But slightly more than half of the participants also got stress management therapy--20 two-hour sessions over the course of a year. Researchers kept in touch with the people for an average of 94 months. The outcome? The rate of recurrent cardiovascular events was 41% lower in people who participated in the stress management program. And one of the most interesting findings was that among the people who were assigned to get stress management therapy, the risk was lower in those who went to sessions regularly than those who skipped frequently.
Pretty cool. Read the study summary here.