Depression is common among patients living with heart failure, but cognitive behavioral therapy can help, according to a clinical trial published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Conducted at the Washington University Medical Center in St. Louis, MO, this study tested the impact of cognitive therapy on heart failure patients living with depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of treatment that examines the relationship between thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Since heart failure is a chronic condition that requires close monitoring, experts wondered whether therapy might improve both self-care and quality of life for patients suffering from depression.
A total of 158 heart failure patients with major depression participated in the study. Half of participants were randomly chosen to receive intensive therapy, while the other half received standard care. Using questionnaires and medical exams, researchers assessed participants’ health over a six-month period.
After analysis, experts found that symptoms of depression and anxiety significantly decreased after six months among patients receiving therapy compared to standard care. Therapy also helped significantly improve quality of life and social functioning among participants in the therapy group. And interestingly, there were fewer hospitalizations among participants receiving therapy than those receiving standard care.
However, the study intervention did not improve self-care among participants. When it comes to heart failure, there are many steps patients can take to improve their own health—staying active, monitoring symptoms, limiting salt and fluids. Self-care can go a long way toward improving quality of life and outcomes for patients with heart failure. But in this study, therapy did not significantly change these behaviors among study participants.
The good news, as authors explain, is that cognitive behavior therapy helps treat heart failure patients with depression. Not only is depression associated with a lower quality of life for heart failure patients, it increases risk for hospitalization and death. Furthermore, depression is difficult to treat in patients living with heart failure. Experts hope that recent findings will lead to better treatment options, as well as improved quality of life and outcomes.