Myocardial infarction survivors more likely to use “emotion-focused” strategies to cope with stress

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Data presented at the 8th Emirates Cardiac Society congress (19–21 October, Dubai, UAE), which is held in collaboration with the American College of Cardiology Middle East Conference, indicate that patients with a history of myocardial infarction are more likely to use emotion-focused coping strategies for stress, such as eating more or drinking alcohol, than patients without a history of myocardial infarction.

Nastaran Ahmadi (Yazd Cardiovascular Research Center, Shahid Sadoughi University of Medical Sciences, Safaieh, Iran) and colleagues collected data for 220 patients who had experienced a myocardial infarction and 220 patients without any history of myocardial infarction or heart disease to determine their coping method with stress. Data surveyed included demographic information, a live events questionnaire, a stress inventory, a perceived stress questionnaire and a coping inventory for stressful situations.

Results

Ahmadi et al found that patients who had a myocardial infarction were more likely to employ emotion-focused strategies to deal with their stress, while those in the control group who did not have a myocardial infarction or heart disease were more likely to use problem-focused strategies (90.1% and 65.4%, respectively).

Further investigation showed that the levels of stress were similar whether an emotion-focused or problem-focused strategy was used. Commons types of emotion-focused coping strategies included suppressing negative thoughts or emotions, praying, eating more, drinking alcohol, blame and disclaiming instead of focusing on the actual situation of the problem. Patients who use problem-solving coping strategies use three common techniques to deal with the cause of their problem including taking control, seeking information and evaluating the pros and cons.

The questionnaire also showed that negative stress was perceived by 82.2% of the myocardial infarction patients who used emotion-focused strategy and by 72.1% of the control group who used a problem-focused strategy. And 60.2% and 53.6%, respectively, had a severe high level of stress.

Ahmadi says: “Our study suggests people with higher levels of stress are more likely to use inefficient coping strategies. Perhaps problem-focused coping strategies can help myocardial infarction patients reduce the likelihood of future events.”

She adds: “It is important that clinicians—including cardiologists, psychiatrists and psychologists—talk to their patients about stress and coping methods. If we can change our view about the perception of stress, then we can change our cognition process about stressful situations and make important lifestyle changes.”

According to the Ahmadi et al, further study is needed to determine the health impacts of this difference in coping strategies, including an interventional study to train myocardial infarction patients in different coping strategies for stress.


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