Persistent Mental Distress Ups Mortality in Heart Patients

Significantly higher cardiovascular and all-cause mortality risk compared to patients with no distress

heart and a pump

TUESDAY, June 27, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- The cumulative burden of psychological stress increases mortality risk in patients with stable coronary heart disease, according to a study published online June 26 in Heart.

Ralph Stewart, M.D., an adjunct professor of medicine at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and colleagues looked at data on 950 patients with stable coronary heart disease who took part in a long-term trial on statin use. The participants were between 31 and 74 years old, and all had had an acute myocardial infarction or hospitalization for unstable angina pectoris in the previous three to 36 months. The patients completed a general health questionnaire to gauge their levels of mental distress six months after hospital admission and again one, two, and four years afterwards.

During an average follow-up of 12 years, 398 patients died from all causes and 199 died from cardiovascular disease. Questionnaire responses showed that 3.7 percent said they suffered from persistent moderate or more severe distress. The researchers found that their risk for early mortality was substantially higher (hazard ratios, 3.94 and 2.85 for cardiovascular and all-cause mortality, respectively, compared with patients with no distress). According to the investigators, 7.7 percent reported persistent mild distress, which was not linked to greater risk of early mortality.

"Despite epidemiological and other lines of evidence linking psychological distress with the risk of coronary events or mortality, many aspects of the association between psychological distress and these outcomes remain poorly investigated," write the authors of an accompanying editorial.

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