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Health Information Couples Working Together for Heart Health

Study Examines How Couples Work Together for Heart Health

It might have taken a lifetime of less-than-healthy eating and exercise habits to bring on your heart trouble. Changing those habits now won’t be easy.

But learning how to involve your spouse or partner in your new healthy lifestyle might make things a lot easier — for both of you.

That’s the thinking behind an ongoing study led in part by Lynne Braun, PhD, RN, a nurse practitioner at RUSH University Medical Center’s Preventive Cardiology Center.

The study, funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, involves 60 couples in which one member of each pair has heart disease.

The couples were divided into two groups. In one, the heart patients attend training sessions alone, learning how to cope with heart disease. In the other, the patient learns the same information but attends the sessions with his or her partner.

Additionally, in the couples group, the partners learn how to get along better. They receive instruction and practice in problem-solving, emotional expressiveness and other techniques so that they can more effectively help each other maintain heart-healthy behaviors.

Both groups will be monitored at six-, 12- and 18-month intervals to see how patients are complying with a regimen of exercise, weight management and medication.

So far, preliminary data suggest that there is a trend for the people assigned to the couples group to participate more in physical activity and have a greater degree of medication adherence, Braun says. “That’s what we’d hoped to find.”

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