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After a Heart Attack, Back to Work is Good Medicine

After a Heart Attack, Back to Work is Good Medicine

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Returning to work after a heart attack often requires patients to clear unexpected psychological hurdles in addition to the physical ones they already face.

But the effort could pay off. Research suggests going back to work can be critical to fighting off depression and improving overall health, in addition to avoiding financial hardships.

In a study published last month in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, 9 out of 10 people who suffered a major heart attack had returned to work within a year. For those who did not, or who ended up working less, many reported depression, a poor quality of life and money problems that made it difficult to pay for medication.

Dr. Haider Warraich, a cardiologist at Duke University Medical Center and the lead author of the study, said relaying such findings to patients can help reassure them about the safety of returning to work. His research looked at more than 9,300 heart attack patients, more than 50% of whom were employed at the time of their heart attack.

“There are a lot of misconceptions around whether work-related stress might cause a heart attack,” he said. “While stress is a risk factor for heart disease, it’s much lower than traditional factors like high blood pressure and smoking.”

In addition, “treatments for heart attacks are better than they’ve ever been,” Dr. Warraich said. “That kind of information might help ease some of the fears or psychological barriers patients might have about returning to work.”

For survivors, The Big Q is: “will I ever get back to where I was before?” comes up repeatedly.

Rachel Dreyer, who co-wrote an accompanying editorial to Dr. Warraich’s study, said the findings are “a call to action” for doctors to look beyond a clinical perspective.

“How do we help patients transition from hospital to cardiac rehabilitation and to maintenance of their long-term health? Part of this challenge is helping patients return to work,” said Dreyer, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Yale University’s School of Medicine.

The study found patients who had excessive bleeding after their heart attack or who later were readmitted to the hospital were less likely to return to work than people who did not have such complications.

“Employment represents well-being and good health, and not being able to get back to work leads to detrimental effects, which we know from the literature can mean an impact on physical and mental health,” Ms. Dreyer said

Returning to work after a heart attack often requires patients to clear unexpected psychological hurdles in addition to the physical ones they already face.

But the effort could pay off.

Research suggests going back to work can be critical to fighting off depression and improving overall health, in addition to avoiding financial hardships.

In a study published last month in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, nine out of 10 people who suffered a major heart attack had returned to work within a year. For those who did not, or who ended up working less, many reported depression, a poor quality of life and money problems that made it difficult to pay for medication.

The sooner you can get back to that normalcy the better, because it can be so easy to spiral down into an anxious depression,

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