Hugs and kisses halve risk of heart attack

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A really close relationship can halve risk of subsequent heart attack

Having a really close relationship with another person, whether it be friend, lover, or relative, can halve the risk of further heart attacks, suggests research in Heart.

The research involved 600 patients, with an average age of 60, almost three quarters of whom were men.They were screened three to four days after having had a heart attack and were monitored for 12 months to assess their risk of further attacks or death.

Screening included information on marital status; years of education; a history of smoking, drinking, and illicit drug use; and the presence of previous or familial heart disease. It also included details of mental health and whether the patient had been separated from his/her parents during childhood.

Around one in four of those screened had been depressed before having their first heart attack, but despite findings from previous research, these patients were no more likely to have a further heart attack or to die than the patients who were not depressed.

But the authors caution that the high prevalence of depression points to its influence in increasing the risk of having a heart attack.

Unsurprisingly, older age and previous history of heart disease increased the likelihood of having a further heart attack.

But patients who had someone close in whom they could confide had half the risk of those without such a confidant, even after taking account of the severity of the heart attack and other risk factors.

The patients without a really close relationship were more likely to drink heavily, to use illegal drugs, and to have had at least one previous heart attack before admission.

They were also twice as likely to have 'lost' both parents during childhood as patients who enjoyed a really close relationship with another person. The authors speculate that separation from parents during childhood might adversely affect the chances of forming an intimate relationship as an adult.

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