Stress Control Lowers Cardiac Risk

People with heart disease can lower their risk of subsequent cardiac events by over 70% if they learn how to manage stress. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center say that patients with coronary vessel disease and ischemia who learned stress management had a lower risk of a future heart attack or of needing cardiac surgery than those who underwent exercise training or those who received standard cardiac rehabilitation care.

Those people who underwent four months of stress management training had only a 9% incidence of cardiac events, defined as heart surgery, angioplasty, myocardial infarction (heart attack), or death compared to 30% of patients who received usual medical care. Of course we need to get people to stop smoking and reduce their cholesterol and blood pressure -- the traditional risk factors -- but what's also significant is the role that stress management has in people's lives and the value of reducing stress and positively influencing their subsequent health.

Archives of Internal Medicine (1997;157:2213-2223)

COMMENT: I found it particularly interesting that the Duke researchers found that the exercise intervention group experienced smaller reduced risk than the stress management group. Most people would think that exercise was more important at lowering the risk of heart disease. Of course exercise provides some stress reduction benefits but they are two distinctly different approaches.

I am clinically convinced that the vast majority of heart disease and cancer is foundationally related to unresolved emotional conflict. Suppressed emotions, such as anger, fear, and sadness, that are not fully transformed will severely limit one's ability to cope with the normal stresses of life. It is not so much the stress that kills us, but our impaired ability to cope with it. Emotional and spiritual transformation are probably the keys to resolving this.

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