Couples' Experiences With Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors After Cardiac Rehabilitation

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Abstract

Purpose:

Many cardiac patients discontinue heart-healthy eating and physical activity (PA) behaviors in the months following cardiac rehabilitation (CR). Involving the spouse in CR with the patient may be 1 strategy to increase the maintenance of these behaviors after CR. Assisting patients and spouses with the maintenance of healthy eating and PA behavior following CR begins with a better understanding of the couple-focused factors, impacting their experiences with these behaviors. The purpose of this study was to qualitatively examine couple-focused facilitators and barriers to maintaining changes in healthy eating and PA behavior from the perspectives of both cardiac patients and their spouses following phase 2 CR.

Methods:

A purposive sample of 11 couples (patients undergoing postcoronary artery bypass graft surgery and their spouses) were selected from a larger randomized control trial. Semistructured, in-person interviews were conducted with patients and their spouses separately following CR. Data were analyzed using line-by-line coding to identify facilitator and barrier themes.

Results:

Two couple-focused barrier themes emerged: unnegotiated situations and unshared behaviors. Two couple-focused facilitator themes emerged: supportive exchanges and partnerships.

Conclusion:

These findings will help guide interventions targeting changes in diet and PA behavior in both patients and their spouses through minimizing unnegotiated situations, fostering supportive exchanges, and creating a partnership for the couple to work together on shared diet and PA goals. Targeting both patients and their spouses may be an innovative and effective way to intervene to increase adherence to healthy eating and PA behaviors post-CR.

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