A study presented at the ESC Congress 2020 has found that among heart attack survivors, weight loss is highly successful when partners or spouses work together in their efforts to diet in order to shed pounds.

Lotte Verweij, author of the study said, "Lifestyle improvement after a heart attack is a crucial part of preventing repeat events. 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."

Understanding Partner Involvement in Lifestyle Programs

Couple
Couple (Representational Picture) Pikrepo

The RESPONSE-2 trial previously found that heart attack survivors referred to programs for weight reduction, physical activity, and smoking cessation were more likely to modify behaviors compared to those receiving usual care. In both groups, living with a partner was linked with greater success in shifting bad habits. The most notable improvements were in patients who took part in lifestyle programs and lived with a partner.

This follow-up study investigated whether partner involvement in lifestyle programs had an impact on behavior change. "If partners contribute to adopting healthy habits, it could become an important recommendation to avoid recurrent heart attacks," explained Ms. Verweij. A total of 824 patients were randomly assigned to the intervention group (lifestyle programs on top of usual care) or control group (usual care alone).

This analysis focused on the 411 patients in the intervention group, who were referred to up to three lifestyle programs for weight reduction, physical activity, and smoking cessation depending on their needs and preferences. Partners could attend for free and nurses encouraged them to participate. Partner participation was defined as attending at least once.

Joint Efforts to Lose Weight

Nearly half (48 percent) of partners participated in lifestyle interventions. Compared to those without a partner, patients with a participating partner were more than twice as likely (odds ratio 2.45) to improve in at least one of the three areas (weight loss, exercise, smoking cessation) within a year.

When the influence of partners was analyzed in the three areas separately, patients with a participating partner were most successful in reducing weight compared to patients without a partner (odds ratio 2.71). "Patients with partners who joined the weight loss program lost more weight compared to patients with a partner who did not join the program," said Verweij.

She continued: "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."

Verweij noted that the study did not find more improvement in smoking cessation or physical activity when partners actively participated. "These lifestyle issues might be more subject to individual motivation and persistence, but this hypothesis needs more investigation," she said.

(With inputs from agencies)