Poor mental health after a heart attack may increase young and middle-aged adults' risk of another heart attack or death a few years later, a new study suggests.
The study included 283 heart attack survivors, aged 18 to 61 with an average age of 51, who completed questionnaires that assessed depression, anxiety, anger, stress and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) within six months of their heart attack.
Based on this information, the researchers ranked the study participants as having mild, moderate or high mental distress.
Within five years after their heart attack, 80 of the 283 patients had another heart attack or a stroke, were hospitalized for heart failure or died from heart-related causes, the findings showed.
Rates of such outcomes were 47% for patients with high distress, compared to 22% for those with mild distress, according to the study, which is scheduled for presentation May 16 at the American College of Cardiology (ACC) virtual annual meeting. Such research is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
"Our findings suggest that cardiologists should consider the value of regular psychological assessments, especially among younger patients," lead author Dr. Mariana Garcia, a cardiology fellow at Emory University in Atlanta, said in an ACC news release.
"Equally importantly, they should explore treatment modalities for ameliorating psychological distress in young patients after a heart attack, such as meditation, relaxation techniques and holistic approaches, in addition to traditional medical therapy and cardiac rehabilitation," Garcia added.
According to the researchers, the study is the first to examine how mental health affects the outlook for younger heart attack survivors.
The findings are similar to previous studies focusing on older adults, and add to evidence that mental health is a crucial part of recovery after a heart attack.
The researchers also found a possible link between stress, inflammation and increased risk of heart attack, and also that heart attack patients with high distress were more often Black, female, poorer, more likely to smoke, and to have diabetes or high blood pressure.
"This finding highlights the importance of socioeconomic status in regard to higher distress and raises important questions about the role of race, sex and other factors," Garcia said.
The American Heart Association has more on heart attack recovery.
SOURCE: American College of Cardiology, news release, May 6, 2021