Couples who attempt to lose weight together are almost three times more likely to be successful, a study has found.
Heart attack survivors in the Netherlands were given lifestyle plans to aid recovery and cut their risk of suffering another.
Partners were encouraged to join in, so scientists could compare the success rates between couples who attempted to lose weight together and those who didn’t.
Survivors keen to drop the pounds lost more weight if they were supported by their spouse, results showed.
And they were 2.7 times more likely to lose weight over a year than those who did it without the support of their partner, the researchers said.
But partner participation did not influence the success rates of quitting smoking or exercising more, which the researchers suggested requires more personal motivation.
Heart attack patients in the Netherlands keen to drop the pounds lost more weight when they were supported by their significant other compared to when they were not (stock)
The study, led by Lotte Verweij, a registered nurse and PhD student at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, was presented during a virtual briefing today at the annual European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress.
Ms Verweijj said: ‘Our study shows that when spouses join the effort to change habits, patients have a better chance of becoming healthier – particularly when it comes to losing weight.’
A heart attack is when heart tissue dies because blood to the heart is blocked, most often due to a buildup of fat or cholesterol. It’s different from cardiac arrest, when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions.
It’s important for heart attacks survivors to receive follow-up care so doctors can monitor their recovery and prevent another episode.
It typically includes annual blood pressure checks, a blood test for cholesterol and kidney function and a review of medication.
The three main ways to prevent a heart attack are to eat healthier to avoid hardening of the arteries, stopping smoking and keeping blood pressure down, the NHS says.
Being active can lower your blood pressure by keeping the heart and blood vessels in good condition.
If a person has persistent high blood pressure, it puts an extra strain on the arteries and heart, increasing the likelihood of a heart attack.
A total of 824 heart attack survivors were randomly assigned to receive either standard care with the addition of a lifestyle programme or standard care alone.
The 411 patients in the intervention group were able to pick from three programmes for weight reduction, physical activity, or to stop smoking.
Research had previously shown heart attack survivors were more likely to adjust their behaviour if they were given programmes to guide them.
The latest analysis — which tracked patients for a year — wanted to see if partner contribution helped make those changes easier.
Spouses were encouraged to attend the free sessions. Some 48 per cent of partners participated, defined as attending at least once.
Patients with a participating partner were almost three times more successful in losing weight compared to those who did it alone.
They lost more weight compared to patients with a partner who did not join the programme, said Ms Verweij, but did she did not reveal by how much.
There was no more improvement in smoking cessation or physical activity when partners actively participated, however.
‘These lifestyle issues may be more subject to individual motivation and persistence,’ Ms Verwij said.
‘Lifestyle improvement after a heart attack is a crucial part of preventing repeat events.
‘Couples often have comparable lifestyles and changing habits is difficult when only one person is making the effort.
‘Practical issues come into play, such as grocery shopping, but also psychological challenges, where a supportive partner may help maintain motivation.’
The weight loss programme was weekly group sessions with a Weight Watchers coach for a year. For physical activity, an online coach was provided.
The smoking cessation programme was motivational interviewing by a trained professionals for three months plus a prescription of nicotine replacement or varenicline therapy as appropriate.
Standard care consisted of visits to the cardiologist and cardiac rehabilitation plus up to four visits to a nurse-coordinated programme to encourage healthy living.
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS
• Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count
• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain
• 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on
• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) choosing lower fat and lower sugar options
• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts
• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day
• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide