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Dr Zoi Aggelopoulou, a nurse and one of the study authors, said: “The nurses on our coronary care unit observed that patients were less likely to have another heart attack, die, or return to hospital when we talked to them about their treatment, played music for them or helped religious patients to say prayers. It made us think that coronary heart disease is not just physical but also has a psychological component.”
Dr Aggelopoulou said: “We found a huge benefit of psychological interventions after 2 years, with less patients dying or having a cardiovascular event and therefore fewer repeat hospital visits. The interventions included talking to patients and their families about issues that were worrying them, relaxation exercise, music therapy, and helping them to say prayers.”
She concluded: “We can help our patients by simply talking to them or introducing new things like music therapy into our clinical practice. Coronary units are busy places – in Greece we sometimes have 1-2 nurses for 10-20 patients in the coronary care unit and we are under time pressure. But our finding that the addition of psychological support on top of physiological therapies reduces death and cardiovascular events by 55% should be a wake-up call that these interventions really do work. Preventing repeat hospital visits would free up the time we need to implement them.”
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