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Stress Reduction Helps in Cardiac Rehab

A recent study published in "Circulation" says stress reduction may be a vital part of cardiac rehabilitation. Current approaches to rehabilitation after a cardiac-related event include medication, daily moderate physical activity and eating a heart-friendly diet. Researchers found that stress management may provide powerful benefits to the rehabilitation approach.

Data from 151 patients with coronary heart disease were reviewed by researchers from Duke Health and University of North Carolina Health Care. Of these patients, approximately half received the standard of care while the remaining patients participated in a 90-minute stress management class each week.

The classes included muscle relaxation exercises, group support, stress-lowering techniques and cognitive behavioral therapy. Thirty-three percent of the patients receiving standard care alone experienced a second cardiac event, while only 18% of patients who participated in the stress management class experienced a second cardiac event.

James Blumenthal, PhD, co-author of the study, is a clinical psychologist and professor in psychiatry and behavioral science at Duke University. "Patients were reluctant to admit they were stressed," Blumenthal said. "Clinicians should get patients to recognize stress is important to their recovery. Simply recognizing how stressful having heart disease can be is an important step."

The study was conducted over 3 years. Findings were published in the April 2016 edition of "Circulation" with the title "Enhancing Cardiac Rehabilitation With Stress Management Training: A Randomized, Clinical Efficacy Trial."

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