Healing Hearts Together (HHT) is a relationship-education program for couples that aims to enhance couples’ relationship quality, and mental and physical health. The aim of HHT is to help develop emotional responsiveness and engagement between partners after one individual is faced with a cardiac event or procedure.
We are actively recruiting couples, in which one partner has had a cardiac hospitalization or procedure in the last six (6) months, to participate in a research study evaluating the Healing Hearts Together program.
We know from recent research and from our clinical experience that the social relationships, especially the relationship with one’s partner is important in helping patients recover from and live longer after a heart event. For example, one study found that patients who were in satisfying and supportive relationships were over 3 times as likely to be alive 15 years after bypass surgery when compared to those who were unsatisfied. In contrast, couple distress is associated with increased blood pressure, heart rate and cardiac output.
We also know that managing heart disease can be stressful for both patients and partners. In fact, some studies have reported more distress among partners than patients – up to 70% of partners report psychological distress! Although patients are offered many different programs at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, often these programs only involve patients, but not their partners. New research is showing that partners need help too.
Drs. Tulloch, Greenman, Demidenko and Johnson designed Healing Hearts Together, a relationship-education program aimed at improving relationship quality, mental health, and physical health outcomes in both patients and partners.
Initial testing of the program indicated that couples were highly satisfied with the program and saw positive changes in relationship quality, anxiety, depression, and quality of life. The next step is to investigate whether the program is effective in a wider sample of couples and if HHT can influence changes in physical health, such as blood pressure, in addition to relationship quality, mental health, and quality of life.
Dr. Tulloch and Dr. Greenman received funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to investigate the effectiveness of the HHT program as part of a research study [ADD CIHR LINK]. This research has been approved by the Ottawa Health Science Network Research Ethics Board (Protocol #20190101-01H) and is registered on clinicaltrials.gov.