Participation from partners helps heart attack survivors stick to healthy, new habits

September 7, 2020
Participation from partners helps heart attack survivors stick to healthy, new habits

Heart attack survivors have a better chance of changing unhealthy habits or to form healthy ones, including exercise, when their significant others join their efforts. It also greatly helps patients prevent future repeat heart attacks.

Observing programs focusing on lifestyle improvement such as weight loss, physical activity, and smoking cessation, researchers at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, the Netherlands, saw that patients were most successful alongside a partner who was actively involved in their healing process.

“Our study shows that when spouses join the effort to change habits, patients have a better chance of becoming healthier — particularly when it comes to losing weight,” said Lotte Verweij, a registered nurse and postgraduate student at the university.

In the study, around 820 patients were randomly assigned to an intervention group (lifestyle programs on top of usual care) or a control group (usual care alone). From this, a total of 411 patients were referred to up to three of the programs (weight loss, exercise, smoking cessation). Their partners could join for free and were encouraged to attend at least one session of the program.

By the end, nearly half (48%) of the partners joined up; participants with a partner present were more than twice as likely to see improvements in at least one of three areas within a year. In the weight loss group, especially, patients with a participating partner were 2.71 times more likely to reduce their weight compared to patients without a partner.

Verweij believes that because couples often have similar lifestyles, changing our habits can become hard if only one person is putting in the effort. Practical limitations like grocery shopping or small acts of emotional support can make or break our resolve.

“If partners contribute to adopting healthy habits, it could become an important recommendation to avoid recurrent heart attacks,” Verweij reiterates.

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Category: Education, Features

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