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Spirituality can help people with heart failure

Many studies have argued that spirituality could help improve the quality of life for people with chronic conditions such as cancer. According to an extensive literature review led by Duke University School of Medicine, spirituality can also have a positive impact on quality of life for patients with heart failure. The scientists argue that spirituality should be considered a potential target for palliative care interventions to improve patient-centered and clinical outcomes in these patients.

“Patients who have heart failure experience a poorer quality of life compared to their peers, with high levels of depression, anxiety, and spiritual distress,” said study lead author Rachel S. Tobin, a resident in Internal Medicine at Duke University Hospital. “Contributing to diminished quality of life is the fact that heart failure, unlike many other chronic diseases, is very unpredictable and can lead to hopelessness, isolation, and altered self-image.”

The National Academy of Medicine defines spirituality as “the needs and expectations which humans have to find meaning, purpose, and value in their life. Such needs can be specifically religious, but even people who have no religious faith or are not members of an organized religion have belief systems that give their lives meaning and purpose.”

By conducting a literature review of 47 articles exploring the role of spirituality in heart failure patients, Dr. Tobin and her colleagues have found that searching for meaning, purpose, and value in life is crucial for such patients. Moreover, spiritual counseling as palliative care has often been associated with decreased levels of anxiety and depression, thus playing a fundamental role in improving the life of these individuals.

“The literature suggests that not only can spirituality improve quality of life for the patient, it can help support caregivers and potentially help heart failure patients from needing to be readmitted to the hospital,” Dr. Tobin explained. 

“What we have suggested and are now doing is developing a spirituality screening tool, similar to ones used to screen for depression. This can be used to identify heart failure patients in palliative care who are at risk for spiritual distress. However, this is just a start. More research needs to be done.”

The study is published in the journal JACC Heart Failure.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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