AUSTIN, Texas—An estimated one-third to one-half of hospital re-admissions for chronic heart failure could be prevented with better education about symptoms, medications and diet, says a University of Texas at Austin nursing researcher who is conducting a new study to help those living with the disease.
A self-care program for people with chronic heart failure—an illness which affects five million people in the United States—is the focus of “Promoting Your Health While Living with Heart Failure.” The research is funded by a two-year, $140,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“Chronic heart failure is the most expensive medical diagnosis in America,” said Dr. Angela Clark, associate professor of nursing and principal investigator of the study. Annual health care costs for heart failure, she said, are now $28 billion in the United States, “thus challenging health care providers, patients and families to see better outcomes for treatment.”
“It is the only major cardiovascular condition still on the rise and a primary diagnosis in almost one million hospitalizations a year in the country,” Clark said. “And, a vicious cycle of repetitive rehospitalizations for symptom relief is common.”
The study’s in-home teaching sessions will include education on diet, possible side effects and schedules of medications, symptom management, management of emergencies, including when to call for help, stress management, exercise, healthy attitudes and positive thinking.
“There are some things that we can’t control, like having heart failure, but there are things we can control, like what we eat and how we choose to use our energy,” said Clark. “We have more control over our attitude and general outlook than we usually realize.
“Targeting potential memory problems and cognitive impairment with specific memory enhancing strategies also is needed and is part of the study’s education.”
Heart failure, diagnosed when the heart doesn’t pump blood well enough, can be caused by a heart attack, years of high blood pressure, a viral infection that attacks the heart, a congenital condition, severe anemia, overproduction of thyroid hormones or other heart conditions. Though slightly more women have heart failure, more men are hospitalized with it.
Symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue and weakness, poor exercise tolerance, memory problems, swelling, depression or anxiety, stomach problems and dizziness.
Clark, a past president of the American Heart Association, Capital Area Division, specializes in cardiovascular health and illness, and diabetes care.
The study is being offered to people 45 years or older who have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and are undergoing medical treatment for the condition. To learn about participating contact Clark at 512-471-9078 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information contact: Nancy Neff, School of Nursing, 512-471-6504.