Zoi Aggelopoulou, a nurse and one of the study authors at NIMTS Veterans Hospital of Athens, said the current study was a meta-analysis of nine randomized controlled trials that were pooled. The researchers evaluated whether psychological interventions could improve outcomes of patients with coronary heart disease when combined with a conventional rehabilitation program.
"The nurses on our coronary care unit observed that patients were less likely to have another heart attack, die or return to hospital when we talked to them about their treatment, played music for them or helped religious patients to say prayers. It made us think that coronary heart disease is not just physical but also has a psychological component," Aggelopoulou said in a statement.
"We wanted to find out if others had observed the same thing, and whether psychological support had a real impact on the outcomes of patients with coronary heart disease."
The study found the addition of psychological interventions reduced mortality and cardiovascular events by 55 percent after two years or more. However, the benefits were not significant during the first two years.
"We found a huge benefit of psychological interventions after two years, with less patients dying or having a cardiovascular event and therefore fewer repeat hospital visits. The interventions included talking to patients and their families about issues that were worrying them, relaxation exercise, music therapy and helping them to say prayers," Aggelopoulou said.
"Patients want to know what will happen to them when they leave [the] hospital, whether or not they can have sex, and how to take their medication. Our research shows that giving them information and providing reassurance decreases the chances of them dying or having another heart attack. Patients can help instigate this new culture of information by asking more questions and getting more involved in decisions about their treatment."
The findings were presented at the Acute Cardiac Care Congress, the annual meeting of the Acute Cardiovascular Care Association of the European Society of Cardiology in Madrid.