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(HealthDay News) - A motivational women-only cardiac rehabilitation program helped reduce symptoms of depression in women with coronary heart disease, a U.S. study has found.
Depression, which is more common in female heart disease patients than in males, can interfere with adoption of lifestyle changes meant to improve health and willingness to attend cardiac rehabilitation.
"Women often don't have the motivation to attend cardiac rehab, particularly if they're depressed," lead author Theresa Beckie, a professor at the University of South Florida's College of Nursing in Tampa, said in a news release from the American Heart Association.
"Historically, women have not been socialized to exercise, and their attendance in cardiac rehabilitation programs has been consistently poor over the last several decades. This poor attendance may be partly due to mismatches in stages of readiness for behavior change with the health professional approaching from an action-oriented perspective and the women merely contemplating change -- this is destined to evoke resistance," Beckie explained in the news release.
The study included 225 female patients, average age 63, who attended either a 12-week traditional cardiac rehab program or a 12-week women-only program that included lifestyle education and exercise. The women's depression symptoms were assessed after the programs and again six months later.
Depression scores for women in traditional cardiac rehab dropped from 16.5 to 14.3, while scores for those in the women-only program dropped from 17.3 to 11, which was "a significant decline compared to the traditional group," Beckie noted.
Six months after completing the programs, the average depression score was 15.2 for those in the traditional rehab group and 13 for those in the women-only program, the study authors found. Patients in the women-only program also had better attendance and program completion rates.
The women-only program offers a more individualized approach to cardiac rehabilitation, and participants weren't pushed if they weren't ready to make heart-healthy lifestyle changes, Beckie explained.
"We have found that if some patients receive long lists of behaviors they are expected to change immediately -- such as quitting smoking, eating healthier, exercising regularly -- they are overwhelmed," she said.
"Pushing such patients who are not ready can lead them to tune out or drop out. Instead, for these women, we acknowledged their ambivalence about change and gave them strategies to move toward being ready by reinforcing their own motivations for changing. It's unrealistic to expect all patients to change their lifestyle all at once, right now in front of you," Beckie added.
The study was scheduled to be presented Tuesday at the American Heart Association's annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about cardiac rehabilitation.