Mindfulness Training for Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure (CHF) patients today have similar outcomes as they did 20 years ago, regardless of advancements in care.

Congestive heart failure (CHF) patients today have similar outcomes as they did 20 years ago, regardless of advancements in care. This is partially driven by common comorbid psychosocial factors such as depression, anxiety, and social isolation that impede patient care and often affect dietary and medication adherence.

Mindfulness training is a holistic approach to aid patients in their efforts to improve their own health. It aims to provide patient education on medications, diet, exercise, sleep, stress management, mindfulness, self-compassion, love, and kindness.

A team of researchers from The Ohio State University (OSU) recently tested mindfulness training for CHF in a study published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine.

They enrolled patients with CHF symptoms who were discharged from a hospital to the OSU Medical Center’s Cardiology Clinic during a 12-month period. The patients spoke English, had a life expectancy of at least 3 months, lived within a reasonable distance from the clinic, had reliable means of transportation, and were willing to attend weekly 2-hour meetings for 8 weeks.

Stress is a key driver of cardiac decompensation inadequately addressed by the current standard of care. In fact, the CHF patients in the study reported higher levels of stress at baseline on the Perceived Stress Scale than healthy adults.

The mindfulness sessions taught by a multi-disciplinary team in the study were designed to reduce stress. Pharmacists led 2 of 8 visits focusing on optimization and patient self-awareness of medications with interventions to resolve medication-related problems.

The most promising outcomes were improvements in fatigue, depression, life satisfaction, resilience, and possibly mindfulness.

This proof-of-concept study was limited by its small sample size of 10 patients, fluid outcomes measures, self-reported subjective surveys, single-site location, and short duration. The study authors suggested that stronger research on mindfulness training for CHF use a longer follow-up period, cost-effectiveness analysis, and objective measures of exercise tolerance, medication adherence, behavioral adherence, and physiologic and clinical measures.

Future studies are poised to show how mindfulness training affects the rates of emergency room use and hospital readmission.