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Psychosocial Risk Factors and Ischemic Heart Disease: A New Perspective

[ Vol. 14 , Issue. 2 ]


Adriana Roncella*   Pages 80 - 85 ( 6 )


Background: Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, with ischemic heart disease (IHD) accounting for roughly 50% of these events in industrialized nations.

In recent years, the relative importance of IHD in less industrialized countries is also rising at an alarming and steadily-increasing rate.

Objectives: Many experimental, observational and epidemiological studies have demonstrated the importance of psychosocial risk factors in the development and clinical manifestations of IHD. They act both indirectly, associated with an unhealthy lifestyle; and directly, through the activation of inflammatory cascades and the sympathetic nervous system. They also cluster with biological risk factors to increase the incidence and clinical manifestations of IHD. From these assumptions, there emerges the potential that an integrated approach that incorporates psychological therapy in various forms might reduce IHD patients’ symptoms and maladaptive behaviors, and thereby enhance their prognosis.

Methods: To date, three psychotherapeutic approaches have been utilized within cardiac psychology practice: (1) cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy; (2) psychodynamic psychotherapy; and (3) ontopsychological psychotherapy. The current article briefly describes these three approaches and how their use might enhance the care of IHD patients.

Results: A range of psychological characteristics influence the development, course and management of cardiac patients’ IHD. Among others, these include patients’ emotions, attitudes, behaviors, relationships, and stressors. State-of- the-art literature suggests that psychological interventions should be considered in much the same way as medical interventions, in terms of their relevance to both patient management and outcomes.

Conclusion: For this reason, it is essential that professional psychological and psychotherapeutic support be rendered available to cardiology patients, as a means to enhance both the effectiveness and efficiency of care.


Cardiac psychology, cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy, ischemic heart disease, ontopsychology, psychodynamic psychotherapy, psychosocial risk factors.


San Filippo Neri Hospital, Via Giovanni Martinotti, 20, 00135 Rome

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