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Women Need More Help After Heart Attack
Date:2/16/2010

Quality of life in first year's aftermath impacted by lack of social support

TUESDAY, Feb. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Women are in greater need of social support in the critical year after a heart attack than men, new research shows.

The study of 2,411 people treated for heart attacks at 19 U.S. medical centers found that both men and women who received the least support from health personnel, families and friends did worse on a variety of measures, according to the report in the March issue of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, which is a theme issue on women and cardiovascular disease.

"We were looking at a number of outcomes that are important for individuals, rather than just whether they die or remain hospitalized," said Judith Lichtman, associate professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine, a leader of the study. "We saw that lack of social support inhibits quality of life."

Men and women with the lowest level of social support had a higher risk of chest pain, worse mental functioning and more symptoms of depression. But the association between social support and general health was stronger for women than for men, she added.

"One goal of the study was to identify that there is a difference between men and women," Lichtman said. "It could be that men and women are coping differently after having a heart attack."

The source of social support is less important than just "having someone available to provide advice, love and affection, to talk with you and help make decisions," Lichtman said. "It could be a combination of family members, friends and caregivers."

Because women generally live longer than men, they are less likely to have a spouse or other male partner to provide support, she added. "Older women should look to other family members," Lichtman said. Children can help, but when there are no children, "friends can be part of the rehabilitation process, and there a
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