Enhancing Cardiac Rehabilitation With Stress Management Training: A Randomized Clinical Efficacy Trial
Background—Cardiac rehabilitation (CR) is the standard of care for patients with coronary heart disease (CHD). Despite considerable epidemiologic evidence that high stress is associated with worse health outcomes, stress management training (SMT) is not included routinely as a component of CR.
Methods and Results—151 outpatients with CHD aged 36 to 84 years were randomized to 12-weeks of comprehensive CR or comprehensive CR combined with SMT (CR+SMT), with assessments of stress and CHD biomarkers obtained before and after treatment. A matched sample of CR-eligible patients who did not receive CR comprised a No-CR comparison group. All participants were followed for up to 5.3 years (median = 3.2 years) for clinical events. Patients randomized to CR+SMT exhibited greater reductions in composite stress levels compared with those randomized to CR alone (P = 0.022), an effect that was driven primarily by improvements in anxiety, distress, and perceived stress. Both CR groups achieved significant, and comparable, improvements in CHD biomarkers. Participants in the CR+SMT group exhibited lower rates of clinical events compared with CR alone (18% vs. 33%, HR = 0.49 [0.25, 0.95], P = 0.035) and both CR groups had lower event rates compared to the No-CR group (47%, HR = 0.44 [0.27, 0.71], P < .001).
Conclusions—CR enhanced by SMT produced significant reductions in stress and greater improvements in medical outcomes compared with standard CR. Our findings indicate that SMT may provide incremental benefit when combined with comprehensive CR and suggest that SMT should be incorporated routinely into CR.
Clinical Trial Registration Information—www.Clinicaltrials.gov. Identifier: NCT00981253.
- Received August 10, 2015.
- Revision received January 16, 2016.
- Accepted February 12, 2016.