Authors: Blumenthal JA, Sherwood A, Smith PJ, Watkins L, Mabe S, Kraus WE, Ingle K, Miller P, Hinderliter A.
Journal: Circulation. 2016 Apr 5;133(14):1341-50.
Background—Cardiac rehabilitation (CR) is the standard of care for patients with coronary heart disease. Despite considerable epidemiological evidence that high stress is associated with worse health outcomes, stress management training (SMT) is not included routinely as a component of CR.
Methods and Results—One hundred fifty-one outpatients with coronary heart disease who were 36 to 84 years of age were randomized to 12 weeks of comprehensive CR or comprehensive CR combined with SMT (CR+SMT), with assessments of stress and coronary heart disease biomarkers obtained before and after treatment. A matched sample of CR-eligible patients who did not receive CR made up the no-CR comparison group. All participants were followed up for up to 5.3 years (median, 3.2 years) for clinical events. Patients randomized to CR+SMT exhibited greater reductions in composite stress levels compared with those randomized to CR alone (P=0.022), an effect that was driven primarily by improvements in anxiety, distress, and perceived stress. Both CR groups achieved significant, and comparable, improvements in coronary heart disease biomarkers. Participants in the CR+SMT group exhibited lower rates of clinical events compared with those in the CR-alone group (18% versus 33%; hazard ratio=0.49; 95% confidence interval, 0.25–0.95; P=0.035), and both CR groups had lower event rates compared with the no-CR group (47%; hazard ratio=0.44; 95% confidence interval, 0.27–0.71; P<0.001).
Conclusions—CR enhanced by SMT produced significant reductions in stress and greater improvements in medical outcomes compared with standard CR. Our findings indicate that SMT may provide incremental benefit when combined with comprehensive CR and suggest that SMT should be incorporated routinely into CR.