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Jul 20, 2018

Resuming Work After Heart Attack Linked to Better Outcomes

Study finds that heart attack survivors who don’t return to work tend to face poorer health, financial hardship, signs of depression.

Heart attack survivors who don’t resume their normal work schedule face worse outcomes than those that do, based on a recent study that highlights the impact of employment on health status and depression after heart attack.

Published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, this study looked at physical and mental outcomes in heart attack patients after one year. It included 9,319 participants in the TRANSLATE-ACS study, which tracks outcomes among heart attack survivors in the United States.

Participants were 61 years old, on average, and treated for heart attack between 2010 and 2012 across more than two thousand U.S. hospitals.

Based on survey data, half of participants were employed at the time of their heart attack. Just one year after their heart attack, however, 3% of those patients cut back on their hours and 7% stopped working completely.

After analysis, researchers found that patients who reduced or stopped work were significantly likely to report symptoms of depression and had poorer overall health status than those who resumed work. Researchers also found that patients who didn’t resume normal work were more likely to report moderate or extreme financial hardship with medication costs.

Authors note that participants were less likely to return to work if they had high blood pressure or smoked. Having unplanned hospital admissions and bleeding complications were also associated with changes in employment status.

Study findings bring both good and bad news for heart attack survivors, explain experts. The good news is that only 1 in 10 heart attack survivors report not being able to return to work after a year. This number is significantly lower than previous findings, which suggested that as many as half of heart attack patients had a negative change in employment.

The bad news, however, is that patients not able to resume work continue to face poorer outcomes than those that do. Not only is their overall health poorer after one year, individuals who don’t resume work are more likely to show signs of depression, based on findings.

As a result, experts urge providers to consider these factors when treating heart attack patients. If patients hope to return to work after a heart attack, providers should work closely with them to achieve their goals. At the same time, when patients who want to cut back or stop working, providers should have a discussion about their motivations and concerns.

After a heart attack, it’s common for patients to experience fear, anxiety, isolation and depression, which can prevent them from returning to work. It’s important that providers discuss the emotional aspects that hinder recovery after heart attack.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How can I help prevent a second heart attack?
  • Patients with a history of heart attack have significantly increased risk of a second heart event. Participating in a cardiac rehabilitation program can help patients regain strength after a heart attack and teach individuals how to prevent a second heart attack, like by quitting smoking, reducing blood pressure, staying active, eating healthy, and adhering to therapies advised by the doctor.
  • How can I reduce my risk for heart disease?
  • You can reduce your risk for heart disease by maintaining a healthy weight, eating a heart-healthy diet and staying physically active. Any additional risk factors, such as high blood pressurecholesterol and diabetes, should be properly addressed and controlled through lifestyle changes and working with your healthcare provider.

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