Self-Care Help Needed for Heart Failure Patients

AHA offers recommendations for clinicians and family to improve outcomes and quality of life
By Jeff Muise
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Acknowledging shortcomings of the health care system in promoting self-care for heart failure patients, the American Heart Association (AHA) has offered recommendations for clinicians and family members in a scientific statement published online Aug. 31 in Circulation.

Barbara Riegel, R.N., of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in Philadelphia, and AHA colleagues reviewed the medical literature and identified the major self-care components for heart failure patients, including medication adherence, symptom monitoring, dietary adherence (sodium restriction), fluid restriction, alcohol restriction, weight loss avoidance, exercise, smoking cessation and general preventive behaviors, such as hand washing and dental hygiene.

The recommendations for clinicians include education of patients, simplified medication regimens, providing low-sodium diet support, assessing over-the-counter drug use, discouraging non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug use, screening for mental health issues, and aggressively treating comorbid conditions. Among the family member recommendations are providing dietary support, watching for symptoms, and monitoring medication adherence.

"Every aspect of the medical care system requires improvement if patients with heart failure are to achieve adequate self-care. In a seamless health care system, patients could begin self-care education in the hospital and be supported in the transition to the outpatient setting. Skilled providers would be available to address the complexities described in the present scientific statement, such as a patient population with increasing age and multiple comorbid illnesses. Support from the health care system for this large and compromised patient population is needed urgently," the authors write.

Several of the authors reported receiving pharmaceutical company grants in the past.

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