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Being Spiritual May Help Heart Failure Patients Live A Meaningful And Healthier Life

Spirituality is more about finding meaning and purpose in life, than religious beliefs.

Previous studies have linked spirituality to improved quality of life for people with chronic diseases like cancer.

Patients with heart failure experience a poorer quality of life in comparison with the general population. This is because they have to deal with various physical and emotional symptoms such as shortness of breath (dyspnea), chest pain, fatigue, edema, sleeping difficulties, depression, and anxiety, which limit their daily physical and social activities. Diminished quality of life is linked to high hospitalization and mortality rates in these patients. Now a new study has suggested that being spiritual may help improve quality of life for heart failure patients.

Earlier studies have linked spirituality to improved quality of life for people with chronic diseases like cancer. The new study, published in JACC Heart Failure, stated that spirituality can also have a positive impact on quality of life for heart failure patients. The authors proposed that spirituality should be considered a potential target for palliative care interventions to improve clinical outcomes in these individuals.

The study's lead author Rachel S. Tobin, MD, resident in Internal Medicine at Duke University Hospital, said, "heart failure, unlike many other chronic diseases, is very unpredictable and can lead to hopelessness, isolation and altered self-image."

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According to Tobin, patients who have heart failure also experience a high level of spiritual distress.

Palliative care for heart failure patients

Spirituality is described as how individuals find meaning and purpose in life, which can be separate from religious beliefs. Major cardiovascular societies including the American College of Cardiology recommend palliative care for heart failure patients, and spirituality is a core domain of palliative care.

To explore the impact of spirituality on heart failure patients, Tobin and his team conducted a review of 47 articles. They found that spiritual well-being improved in patients randomized to a palliative care intervention compared to usual care. In addition, patients who were randomized to palliative care showed increased quality of life and lower levels of anxiety and depression.

Based on the findings of the literature review, Tobin asserted that not only spirituality can help improve quality of life for the patient, but it can also help support caregivers and potentially help heart failure patients from needing to be readmitted to the hospital.

"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," her added, as quoted by Science Daily.

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