Pharmacist Condition Insights: Congestive Heart Failure

Medication adherence is critical to control the symptoms of congestive heart failure.

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is diagnosed when the heart muscle doesn't pump blood as effectively as it should, which causes blood to back up and fluid to build up in the lungs, leading to shortness of breath. Certain conditions, such coronary artery disease or high blood pressure, can cause the heart to become weak or stiff, affecting the ability to fill and pump blood properly.

Effective treatments can improve the signs and symptoms of CHF and extend survival. Lifestyle changes, including healthy diet and exercise, weight loss, lowering sodium intake, and managing stress can improve patient quality of life. Individuals with heart failure may experience severe symptoms requiring a heart transplant or a ventricular assist device.

CHF results in more hospitalizations than all forms of cancer combined, and it is the most common diagnosis of hospitalized patients 65 years of age or older.Among those who are hospitalized with CHF, 17%-27% are readmitted within 30 days, with 50% being readmitted within 6 months.

Medication adherence is critical to prevent exacerbations and control debilitating symptoms of CHF. However, the pill burden associated with CHF is coupled with comorbid conditions such as depression, anxiety, and executive function impairment, which can further decrease medication adherence. Pharmacists can collaborate with patients to improve medication adherence, decrease polypharmacy adverse events, and improve quality of life.

The complexity of CHF management provides many opportunities for pharmacists to adopt impactful roles in these patients’ lives through medication therapy management, patient education, interdisciplinary collaboration, and coordinated transition of care.