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Dr. Andrea Moyer, St. Luke's Hospital

Women, heart attacks and support

We know from past research that social support can affect the clinical outcomes of heart patients. Heart patients who have a lack of social support have been shown to have higher numbers of rehospitalizations and death. More recently, a study suggests that the lack of social support may affect women more so than men.

A study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes looked at men and women who experienced heart attacks. The research showed that the relationship between social support and heart-related outcomes was stronger in women than men. In particular, women with less social support had more chest pain events, more depression and decreased quality of life in comparison to men with the same level of social support. A solid support system may be especially important for women due to differences in coping mechanisms between the genders.

WomenHeart is a national coalition dedicated to promoting women's heart health through advocacy, community education and support groups. Women who have benefited from this organization have had a variety of heart conditions including heart attacks, heart artery bypass surgery, angioplasty, valve replacement, congestive heart failure, arrhythmias and pacemakers. Support groups are tailored for women with heart conditions and offer encouragement and knowledge about exercise, diet and lifestyle. These groups can help with uncertainties following a new heart disease diagnosis or during recovery after a heart-related event or procedure.

WomenHeart support groups are free programs where women with heart disease can share their unique experiences in a group setting which can help them regain a sense of control, feel less alone, develop a positive outlook on life and find the strength to commit to lifestyle changes. Check the calendar at womenheart.org to find a support group near you.

Dr. Andrea Moyer is a board-certified cardiologist at Cardiac Specialists of St. Luke's. For more on support groups for women, call 314-542-4848 or visit the WomenHeart support group page. You may also visit Dr. Moyer's Meet the Doctor page.

This article was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on November 17, 2011.