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For Heart Attack Survivors, Social Support is Key

Update Date: Oct 01, 2014 01:36 PM EDT

The survival outcomes and quality of life of people who have experienced a heart attack depend greatly on the amount of social support they get from family members and friends, a new study reported.

In this study, the researchers examined 3,432 people who survived a heart attack. The patients were between the ages of 18 and 55. They were assessed at three points in time, which were immediately after the heart attack, one month after and then at 12 months.

During the initial assessment post heart attack, the researcher found that 20 percent of the patients reported low levels of social support. This group of patients was more likely to be living alone, single and unemployed. They had more heart risk factors, such as being a smoker, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and alcohol abuse.

At the one and 12-month follow-ups, the researchers found that these patients with low social support from family members and friends had worse outcomes, such as poorer mental health, more depressive symptoms and a lower quality of life.

"We shouldn't just be concerning ourselves with pills and procedures. We have to pay attention to things like love and friendship and the context of people's lives," senior study author, Dr. Harlan Krumholz, director of the Center of Outcomes Research and Evaluation at Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut, said in a journal news release reported by WebMD. "It may be that these efforts to help people connect better with others, particularly after an illness, may have very powerful effects on their recovery and the quality of their lives afterwards."

The study, "Effect of Low Perceived Social Support on Health Outcomes in Young Patients With Acute Myocardial Infarction: Results From the VIRGO (Variation in Recovery: Role of Gender on Outcomes of Young AMI Patients) Study," was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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