Mindfulness Associated With Improved Psychological Health for Cardiac Arrest Survivors

Practicing mindfulness was associated with fewer psychological symptoms, such as posttraumatic stress, depression, and anxiety.

Survivors of cardiac arrest who practiced mindfulness reported fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder than survivors who were less mindful, according to preliminary research results presented at the American Heart Association’s Resuscitation Science Symposium 2021.

Cardiac arrest is often fatal if cardiac pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or defibrillator shocks are not delivered within minutes to restore normal heart rhythm. Increased survival rates can be partially attributed to better awareness and training to recognize and quickly treat individuals experiencing cardiac arrest among the general public and health care professionals.

“Although survival rates have improved, the physical, cognitive and psychological effects of surviving cardiac arrest may linger for years, signaling the need for both immediate and long-term care for survivors,” said Alex Presciutti, MA, MSCS, a PhD candidate at the University of Colorado, in a press release. “We conducted this study to examine potential ways to prevent and treat psychological symptoms, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, among cardiac arrest survivors. We focused on how mindfulness, defined as non-judgmental awareness of the present moment, may be related to psychological symptoms in long-term, cardiac arrest survivors.”

The investigators assessed 129 individuals who had survived cardiac arrest an average of 5 years and were members of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation’s online support group. Study participants completed 2 mental health surveys: the PTSD Checklist-5, which tests for post-traumatic stress disorder, and Patient Health Questionnaire-4, which assesses depression and anxiety symptoms. Participants completed these studies once for baseline and a second time in a 1-year follow-up.

According to the results of the study, practicing mindfulness was associated with fewer psychological symptoms, such as posttraumatic stress, depression, and anxiety. Baseline symptoms were moderately predictive of the psychological symptoms at the 1-year mark, meaning participants who had a greater symptom burden at baseline had a greater number of symptoms at the 1-year evaluation.

“These results suggest that psychological symptoms after cardiac arrest do not simply vanish. If untreated, they can persist,” Presciutti said in the release. “However, practicing mindfulness appears to be a potential protective factor against psychological symptoms and should, therefore, be studied further in this population.”

Potential limitations of the study include that all participants were white and members of the same online support group, reducing generalizability, and that investigators only measured mindfulness during a single follow-up as opposed to multiple evaluations throughout the study.

“Our study team is currently following people who survive cardiac arrest from hospital discharge over time, looking at the potential roles of mindfulness and other protective factors on psychological symptoms,” Presciutti said. “Our goal is to use the findings of these studies to develop interventions that may prevent and treat psychological symptoms in cardiac arrest survivors.”

REFERENCE

Mindfulness linked to better psychological health a year or longer after cardiac arrest [news release]. EurekAlert; November 8, 2021. Accessed November 8, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/933495