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Dec 16, 2015

Optimism Protects Patients from Hospital Readmission After Heart Attack

Having a positive attitude may be an important part of recovery.

Attitude impacts more than just mood, based on a recent study that found optimistic patients are less likely to be readmitted to the hospital after a heart attack.

Published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, this study analyzed the association between mental health and key outcomes after heart attack.

Heart attack is a leading cause of death in the United States, affecting roughly 735,000 Americans a year. Many studies have found that factors like depression, anxiety and even pessimism increase risk for heart events like heart attack and stroke. Poor mental health has also been linked to worse outcomes after a heart attack. However, experts wonder if the reverse is true. Could having a positive attitude actually protect patients from complications after a heart attack?

To learn more, researchers analyzed data from the GRACE study (Gratitude Research in Acute Coronary Events). Conducted between 2012 and 2014, this study tracked the heart health of 164 patients hospitalized for acute coronary syndrome. Acute coronary syndrome is an umbrella term used to describe situations where there is sudden, reduced blood flow to the heart. Acute coronary syndrome includes conditions like unstable chest pain and heart attack and requires immediate treatment, as it can be life-threatening.

At the start of the study, participants completed questionnaires about their mental health and lifestyle choices. Researchers then followed participants for six months, tracking hospitalizations and complications associated with heart attack.

After analysis, researchers found that patients who were optimistic were less likely to be re-hospitalized in the six months following their heart attack than those with negative attitudes. Optimistic patients were also more likely to be more physically active than pessimistic ones.

As authors explain, findings are encouraging when it comes to improving outcomes after heart attack. Each year, over 2.5 million people worldwide are hospitalized for acute coronary syndrome. Experts estimate that 20% of patients hospitalized for acute coronary syndrome are re-hospitalized or die within the following year.

The good news, however, is that optimism may help protect patients from complications and reduce hospital readmissions. Studies continue to suggest that mental health has an impact on heart health, especially after heart events. Having a positive attitude may be an important part of recovery after heart attack.

The next step, as authors explain, is to assess interventions to increase optimism in patients. If programs can improve attitude and mental health, they may help boost outcomes after heart events.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is acute coronary syndrome?
  • Acute coronary syndrome is an umbrella term used to describe situations where there is sudden, reduced blood flow to the heart. Acute coronary syndrome encompasses chest pain and heart attack, both of which can be serious and life-threatening.
  • How is acute coronary syndrome treated?

  • Acute coronary syndrome can be treated with a variety of medications and/or procedures, depending on how blocked the arteries are. Medications can include any combination of aspirin, thrombolytics, beta blockers, cholesterol-lowering drugs and ACE inhibitors, among others. Procedures can also help treat acute coronary syndrome, including angioplasty, stenting and coronary bypass surgery.

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