Heart attacks can give couples a new lease of life

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Heart Attack and Family Life

A third of people who suffer heart attacks discover new meaning to their lives and reconnect with their partner, but others see it as a threat to their well-ordered existence, according to research published in the latest Journal of Advanced Nursing.

Researchers from Switzerland and the USA teamed up to explore the in-depth experiences of 24 couples to see whether the experience had changed their lives and their relationships.

"All the couples experienced a brush with death at the onset of the disease which called for changes in their lifestyle" says lead researcher Dr Romy Mahrer-Imhof, from the Institute of Nursing at the University of Basel, Switzerland.

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"Three distinct patterns of dealing with the patient's heart attack emerged. People either made positive changes to their lives, felt negative about the experience or tried to turn their lives around but failed."

Nine couples reported that the heart attack was an important and necessary event which had brought them closer together and transformed their lives.

"He used to be a very normal person but then he became reserved" said one partner. "When he suffered the heart attack he emerged transformed. He is much more open, much more relaxed. Now we can speak together again. We have succeeded in turning our lives around."

This particular couple had also made practical changes to their lives.

"For example, I don't do the grocery shopping anymore" she adds. "He goes now with the bike

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