Stress Management Course | Stress Management Reduces Heart Attack Risk Article From CNN Chicago

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Study: Stress management reduces heart attack risk

graphic October 19, 1997
Web posted at: 9:54 p.m. EDT (0154 GMT)

CHICAGO (CNN) — Heart patients can dramatically lower their chance of having more cardiac problems by utilizing stress reduction techniques, according to the results of a new study reported in the American Medical Association’s Archives of Internal Medicine.

Researchers at Duke University took 107 heart patients and put them on either a four-month stress reduction program, a four-month exercise regimen or allowed them to receive usual heart care from their personal physicians.

Only three of the 33 people given stress management suffered cardiac events, defined as a heart attack or heart surgery such as a bypass or angioplasty. Seven of 34 people in the exercise group suffered such events, as did 12 of the 40 patients receiving typical care.

Those in the stress management program were 74 percent less likely to have additional heart problems than those who received only routine medical care.

“They reported that their stress levels were reduced, they were less angry and they generally were functioning at a higher level,” said James Blumenthal, a professor of medical psychology at the Duke University Medical Center.

“It’s a very provocative finding, if replicated,” said Richard F. Sloan of Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City.

Though many studies have linked emotional stress with an increase risk of heart attacks, this is one of the first to report that stress reduction can actually reduce the risk, Sloan said.

The stress management program involved weekly sessions lasting 90 minutes. They included classroom teaching about heart disease and stress, training in stress-reduction skills and group support.

“We would have people systematically tense the muscles in their body, beginning with their feet — having them tense their feet, then relax their feet, then progress upward,” Blumenthal said.

All of the patients in the study suffered from ischemia, an impairment of blood flow to the heart, which is known to worsen the outlook for heart patients.

Ironically, only about 10 to 20 percent of heart patients even wind up in rehabilitation programs. Insurance is often an issue. And doctors say it is surprisingly hard to convince patients that they’ve got a stress problem, even after a heart attack.

Medical Correspondent Jeff Levine contributed to this report.


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At the tender age of 22, Natasha experienced a major traumatic event. Because of the intense emotional pain she suffered from this event, Natasha was completely driven to understand exactly how the mind worked, and why people behaved the way they did. When Natasha completed her NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) Master Practitioner qualification, it was a turning point in her life, and she was able to use the tools and techniques she had learned to set her mind free from the pain and suffering of that event.
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