Stress Management Programs May Reduce Future Heart-Related Problems and Save Money Too Psychosocial factors have been well known to contribute to the occurrence of heart-related problems such as heart attack and even death.  It has been estimated that programs which attempt to intervene and modify such stressors may reduce fatal and non- fatal cardiac events by 30- 50%. In a study recently com- pleted at Duke University Medical Center,  121 patients with documented coronary heart disease were assigned to 16 sessions of stress management for 1 fi hours each week over a 4 month period, structured exer- cise 3 times per week for 16 weeks, or to usual care as defined by their primary physi- cians.  These patients were then followed for 5 years and all adverse events were recorded and costs related to the pro- grams as well as hospitaliza- tions were estimated and tabu- lated. Just what is the Duke Stress Management Program? Sessions were conducted in groups of 8 people.  The initial phase began by focusing on education regarding coronary heart disease, related risk fac- tors and emotional stress.   The later phase focused on instruction regarding specific skills people can utilize to modify behavior and the physiologic components of stress-those fac- tors which may contribute to ele- vated blood pressure, increased heart rate etc…  Each person learned progressive muscle relaxation techniques and had at least 2 individual sessions on biofeedback. Over the course of 5 years fol- lowing the above therapies, 48% of patients experienced at least one adverse heart-related prob- lem.  Those patients enrolled in the stress management program had significantly fewer problems compared with those receiving usual care and tended to have fewer events compared with patients in the exercise group. The patients enrolled in the stress management program had lower short-term costs for con- ducting the therapies and heart- related hospitalizations.  At 5 years, the stress management patients continued to have lower costs than the usual care patients, but the costs were simi- lar for the patients in the exer- cise group. While more information is need- ed, this research suggests that stress management training should be considered for per- sons suffering from coronary heart disease. Title: Usefulness of Psychosocial Treatment of Mental Stress-Induced Myocardial Ischemia in Men Authors: James A. Blumenthal PhD, Michael Babyak PhD, Jiang Wei MD, Christopher O'Connor MD, Robert Waugh MD, Eric Eisenstein PhD, et al. Source: American Journal of Cardiology 2002;89:164-168 Stress management training was associated with significantly fewer heart-related adverse events for a full 5 years following the 4 month program compared to usual care.  In addition, stress man- agement training led to less medical expenditures.
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