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Prayer, music and other nursing interventions boost heart attack survival

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Praying, letting patients listen to music and other psychological interventions cut heart disease deaths by half, finds new study.

Surviving heart attack could be as simple as listening to music, praying and talking, finds a new study. Researchers are beginning to recognize heart disease is not just a physical problem, but there are also psychological components that are important for clinicians and patients to address.

European researchers have found when nurses talked to patients in the coronary care unit about their treatment plan, let them listen to music or said prayers with patients, the likelihood of a second heart attack or other cardiovascular events was 55 percent lower after two years.

Dr Zoi Aggelopoulou, a nurse and one of the study authors, said in an e-mail press release to EmaxHealth: “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. It made us think that coronary heart disease is not just physical but also has a psychological component."

The findings, presented at the Acute Cardiac Care Congress 2013 found psychological interventions after someone has a heart attack evident after two years or more.

"The benefits were not significant during the first 2 years," the authors wrote.

Dr Aggelopoulou said the benefits of psychological interventions as "huge" after 2 years. Fewer patients died from a cardiovascular event, which means lower rates of re-hospitalization and hospital visits. Talking to patients and families about issues, relaxation exercises, music therapy and helping patients pray were interventions included in the study.

The study

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The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 9 randomized controlled trials that looked at traditional cardiac rehabilitation combined with praying, relaxation, music therapy and talking to let patients know how to take their medications, whether or not they can have sex and discussing other issues that worry patients and their families after a heart attack.

Aggelopoulou points out that heart attack risks include a variety of factors that aren't always from the likes of high cholesterol, blood pressure or metabolic syndrome.

Depression, social isolation, lower socioeconomic status, marital, occupational, caregiver and other forms of chronic stress all increase the chances of having a heart attack in the first place.

The study finding "...validates our view that cardiovascular disease is not just a physical disease but also has a substantial psychological component," Aggelopoulou said.

Nurses and other clinicians can substantially help patients with heart disease by simply talking to them or by introducing new interventions like listening to music into patient care.

Aggelopoulou acknowledges that cardiac care units are busy places for nurses that are often short-staffed. "But our finding that the addition of psychological support on top of physiological therapies reduces death and cardiovascular events by 55% should be a wake-up 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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Source: ESC

Updated December 28, 2013