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Aug 18, 2011

Better Self-Care Reduces Stress in Heart Failure Patients

Why heart failure patients should adhere to treatment plans.

Heart failure is a chronic condition caused by the heart’s inability to pump enough blood to the rest of the body. This condition worsens over time, causing uncomfortable symptoms that can limit patients’ comfort and mobility. Fortunately, there are many treatments including medication and medical procedures that can minimize symptoms and slow the progression of heart failure. However, the success of these treatments relies heavily on the ability of the patient to adhere to the treatment plan.

A recent study confirmed the importance of treatment adherence, reporting that heart failure patients who report better self-care have reduced cardiovascular stress, which may translate to improved outcomes. This study involved 168 heart failure patients around the age of 59, whose self-care management was evaluated based on the Self-Care of Heart Failure Index, ranging from 15 (poor management) to 100 (optimal management).  Researchers found that with each 1-point increase in self-care management score, odds of having increased myocardial stress and inflammation were reduced by 12.7%.

Minimizing myocardial stress and inflammation in heart failure patients is extremely important, because increased stress levels are associated with poor outcomes, including death. And if better self-care can help reduce stress and inflammation, physicians should ensure that heart failure patients understand their condition and symptoms in order to promote better self-care. In turn, better self-care may improve quality of life and improve outcomes in heart failure patients.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How can heart failure patients improve their self-care management?

  • Proper self-care in heart failure patients includes taking medicines regularly, eating a low-salt diet, exercising and limiting alcohol and tobacco use. Most importantly, heart failure patients must recognize worsening symptoms and take the necessary actions to address them.
  • How can doctors teach better self-care management in heart failure patients?

  • It is important that doctors teach heart failure patients early symptom recognition, so that they recognize new or worsening symptoms and can work with their physician to properly address them. Doctors should also make sure that patients understand the lifestyle changes necessary for improved maintenance of heart failure and provide any help possible to improve sticking with these changes.

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