Heart attack patients are typically offered lifestyle classes – called cardiac rehabilitation – unless they have a particular reason why it’s not suitable for them.
Classes include exercise, smoking cessation, advice on diet and stress management, and the importance of taking medications.
“Exercise improves fitness, which has both physical and mental health benefits. If you’re more able to participate in activities that bring you happiness, then you’re more likely to have a better quality of life,” said study lead author Dr Ben Hurdus from the University of Leeds in the UK.
The study, presented on ACVC Essentials 4 You, a scientific platform of the European Society of Cardiology, investigated the impact of those classes on how heart attack patients feel about their physical and mental health (collectively termed ‘health-related quality of life’).
Heart attacks have a detrimental effect on the quality of life, including problems with mobility, self-care, and daily activities which many people take for granted such as work and leisure.
Previous research has shown a link between cardiac rehabilitation and improved quality of life in heart attack patients.
However, most of these studies were conducted prior to modern drugs and procedures such as statins to lower ‘bad’ cholesterol and stents to open clogged arteries.
For the findings, the research team recruited 4,570 patients who were admitted to 48 hospitals across England with a suspected heart attack from 2011 to 2013.
Patients completed a questionnaire while in hospital and then at one, six, and 12 months after discharge. Questions included whether they attended cardiac rehabilitation, their perceived quality of life, and their physical activity levels.
The researchers found that patients who attended cardiac rehabilitation had a higher quality of life at all time points compared to those who did not.
Patients who went to cardiac rehabilitation and exercised 150 minutes or more per week had an even higher quality of life scores compared to those who did neither.
“Cardiac rehabilitation involves not only exercise but also advice on lifestyle and medications which likely all contribute to making people feel better,” said Hurdus.