Mental Fitness for patients with acute coronary syndrome: A randomized clinical trial

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The aim of this study was to verify the efficacy of a manualized, cognitively oriented psychological intervention, called Mental Fitness, in improving the mental and physical health of patients with acute coronary syndrome (ACS). Mental Fitness is a small-group four-session treatment aimed at increasing awareness of one's own bodily perceptions, emotions, and thoughts and is overall tailored on participants' perception of control over their health.


Prospective randomized controlled single-blind trial.


Patients with ACS were recruited within a week from their acute cardiac event. Patients in the intervention group underwent one of two variants of Mental Fitness, depending on their perceived (internal or external) control over their health. Patients in the control group underwent standard treatment. All the patients were submitted to a clinical and psychological follow-up for 8 months.


The patients who underwent the Mental Fitness intervention (N = 31) showed, compared to the control patients (N = 34), increased quality of life in its physical, psychological, social and environmental domains, more functional emotional and problem-centred coping strategies, and higher emotional awareness. They also showed improved high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides, heart rate, and left ventricular ejection fraction compared to the controls. In addition, they were more successful in maintaining physical exercise.


This study demonstrates the efficacy of Mental Fitness in modifying specific psychological and physical variables conditioning cardiological patients' prognosis. It also confirms the importance of differentiating psychological interventions based on the psychological characteristics of the patients.

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What is already known on this subject?

Statement of contribution

Traditional symptom-based interventions in heart disease are aimed at diagnosing and reducing psychological symptomatology (e.g., depression), but recent work has shown the usefulness of orienting psychological interventions to patients' representations of themselves and of the world and to how such representations influence their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours (e.g., Chiavarino et al., 2012).

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