Heart problems can be addressed with telephone counselling

2 February 2011

People with a high risk of developing heart problems are more likely to adhere to difficult lifestyle changes if they are given counselling over the phone.

According to new research conducted by Robert Nolan, a psychologist who studies heart disease at the University Health Network in Toronto, regular over-the-phone counselling was particularly effective at making patients stick with exercise programmes.

The study, published in the American Journal of Cardiology, looked at a total of 680 patients - all of whom were aged between 35 and 74.

Prior to making lifestyle changes, all participants had their blood pressure, weight and cholesterol levels assessed.

The researchers then conducted a discussion with patients, informing them how they could go about addressing any problems - through lifestyle changes such as a reduced-salt diet.

During the six months the study lasted, half of those assessed were followed up six times with counselling phone calls.

The group sessions, which involved between four and eight individuals, were associated with significant improvements to a person's ability to stick to any dietary or physical exercise interventions.

However, the research needs further development if the counselling sessions are to be proven to have a positive heart health impact, Soeren Mattke, senior scientist at the RAND Health Advisory think-tank in Boston, told Reuters.

According to the British Heart Foundation, talking about heart health problems can be hugely reassuring for high-risk patients.

1 Nolan, Robert et al. "Therapeutic Benefit of Preventive Telehealth Counseling in the Community Outreach Heart Health and Risk Reduction Trial". The American Journal of Cardiology. January 2011.

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