Can Irrational Health Beliefs Be Bad For Your Heart?

Why do so many people with heart problems have trouble sticking to a rehabilitation program?

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in most industrialized countries.  For people experiencing heart problems, participating in a cardiac rehabilitation(CR) program can be one of the most effective ways to ensure a longer life.   In a comprehensive program, heart patients can learn about potential risk factors,  develop healthier lifestyle habits,  and establish an exercise schedule that can ensure proper fitness. 

Studies show that heart patients who successfully complete a CR program have lower mortality rates, reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels, lower blood pressure, and better lifestyle habits.  CR programs can also reduce psychological problems linked to coronary artery disease.   Having had a mild heart attack myself two years ago, I consider the CR program I attended afterward to be one of the most valuable educational experiences in my life. 

Still, despite the clear benefits that a CR program can produce, an estimated twenty to fifty percent of all heart patients either fail to stick to the full CR program or drop out completely.  Research studies looking at different factors that can influence heart patients to drop out of CR program suggest that depression and emotional distress may play a role.    Another potential explantion for poor compliance with CR programs deals with cognitive distortions relating to health care.

To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.


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