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Patients are more likely to survive six months or longer after heart surgery if they are spiritual or participate in social groups. This is reported in new findings published by Thomas Oxman of Dartmouth Medical School, who studied 232 people after bypass and/or heart valve operations.

Oxman said those who gained comfort from religion were more than three times as likely to be alive as patients who drew no strength from religious beliefs.It wasn't attending church per se that appears to promote survival. "Just showing up won't do it," Oxman said. "You actually have to get something out of the service."

He also found that patients who were social joiners were more than four times as likely to be alive more than a half year after difficult heart surgery. The groups included college alumni clubs, veterans' organizations and hobby and political groups.

Oxman, a psychiatrist, published his findings in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine. He speculated that participation in a church or social group "gave people a sense of comfort and belonging and put them in a more positive mood."

Mood may enhance recovery and survival from heart ailments, because heart rate and beating patterns are partly controlled by the autonomic nervous system, which, in turn, is influenced by mood. Feeling isolated or without support and comfort "could make someone more susceptible to having lethal heart arrhythmias," Oxman suggested. - Maturity News Service

Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate



New treatment for adult leukemia

Study says heart patients with religious beliefs, social contact live longer.

Armed with a new study, a group of Boston researchers are recommending a treatment change for patients with the most common type of adult leukemia, acute myelogenous leukemia or AML. An estimated 10,000 Americans have the disease, and with traditional treatment, 25 percent to 30 percent survive five years or longer.

In traditional chemotherapy for AML, physicians administer the two drugs daunorubicin and cytarabine for one week. In the new study, researchers added a higher dose of one of the drugs, cytarabine, for three additional days.

The change improved the five-year survival rate to 55 percent for the 94 patients in the study. The research was done at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Community Health Plan, New England Medical Center and Beth Israel Hospital and reported in the current issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

- Usha Lee McFarling, The Boston Glove