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Pain After Heart Attack May Predict Long-Term Survival
  • Posted August 16, 2023

Pain After Heart Attack May Predict Long-Term Survival

Whether a patient experiences pain a year after a heart attack -- and not necessarily heart pain -- may predict a person's long-term survival.

New research suggests it is linked with higher likelihood of death within the next eight years.

“Pain causes significant loss of function and may lead to disability, all of which contribute to major, global public health issues. Research indicates that pain is linked to higher risk of cardiovascular disease and overall death; however, the impact of pain on death after a heart attack has not yet been examined in large studies,” said study author Linda Vixner, an associate professor of medical science at the School of Health and Welfare at Dalarna University in Falun, Sweden.

In the study, published Aug. 16 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, Vixner's team members analyzed the health data for more than 18,300 adults who had a heart attack, from the Swedish registry called SWEDEHEART.

They found that nearly 45% of the participants reported moderate or extreme pain one year after their heart attack.

Patients who had moderate pain were 35% more likely than those with no pain to die from any cause during the study period of 8.5 years.

Those with extreme pain were more than twice as likely to die during the study period, compared to heart attack survivors who had no pain.

About 65% of the participants experiencing pain at the two-month follow-up were also experiencing pain at their 12-month follow up. This was an indicator of persistent and long-term pain.

“After a heart attack, it's important to assess and recognize pain as an important risk factor of future mortality. In addition, severe pain may be a potential obstacle to rehabilitation and participation in important heart-protective activities such as regular exercise; reduced or lack of physical activity, in turn, increases risk,” Vixner said in a journal news release.

“For patients with pain, it is of particular importance to reduce other risk factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels," she said.

A heart attack happens every 40 seconds in the United States, according to the American Heart Association.

Data came from a two-month follow-up and a questionnaire completed one year after patients' heart attacks. The average patient age was 62. They had their heart attacks between 2005 and 2013. About 24.5% were women.

The study also only included people living in Sweden, so results may not apply to people living in other countries.

Doctors should consider if patients are experiencing moderate or extreme pain when recommending treatment and making prognoses, the authors said.

More information

Here's more on heart attacks.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Aug. 16, 2023

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