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Stress-Reduction Therapy May Help Heart Disease Patients
Date:1/25/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Jan. 24 (HealthDay News) -- A stress management program based on cognitive behavioral therapy may reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and death in patients with heart disease, Swedish researchers report.

About 30 percent of heart attacks may be linked to "psychosocial factors," including chronic stressors such as poverty or emotional problems, such as depression and hostility, the authors note in the Jan. 24 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

"Psychological treatment appears to prevent recurrent [cardiac] events at least as effective as many of today's established pharmacological treatments," said lead researcher Dr. Mats Gulliksson, from the Family Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology Section at Uppsala University Hospital.

For the study, Gulliksson's group randomly assigned 362 men and women with heart disease to usual care and cognitive behavioral therapy or usual care with no therapy. Patients in therapy underwent 20 two-hour sessions over a year.

Usual care included medications to lower blood pressure and cholesterol or to prevent blood clots, Gulliksson said.

The premise of CBT is that by changing the way you think about something, you can help yourself feel or behave better. The study program included five key components with specific goals -- education, self-monitoring, skills training, cognitive restructuring and spiritual development -- and focused on stress management, specifically reducing the experience of daily stress, time urgency and hostility.

Over almost eight years of follow-up, the CBT group had 23 deaths, 69 cardiovascular events, and 41 heart attacks. However, among those who did not take part in therapy, 25 died, 77 had any type of cardiovascular event and 51 suffered heart attacks, the researchers found.

That works out to 41 percent fewer deaths and heart-related events and 45 percent fewer h
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