Health Team

Study examines heart failure treatment

Posted September 21, 2010 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated September 21, 2010 6:43 p.m. EDT

For Katie Coffee, successfully managing her heart failure means listening to her doctor by taking all of her medications as prescribed and making important lifestyle changes.

"I feel better, and I've been walking a lot, so the more I walk, the better I feel,” Coffee said.

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at 900 patients with mild to moderate heart failure.

Half received self-management skills training and educational tips, while the other half received only an educational tips sheet.

“We were looking to see whether or not we could change patients' behavior through education as well as helping them learn self-management techniques,” said Dr. James E. Calvin Jr., the head of cardiology and internal medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

“We concluded that self-management counseling added to education did not improve outcomes for patients with mild to moderate heart failure,” said Lynda H. Powell, the head of the department of preventive medicine at Rush University.

However, after the trial finished, researchers saw certain subgroups that did benefit from the treatments.

“Self-management counseling actually had a benefit for the low-income patients, and education actually had a benefit for the high-income patients,” Powell said.

Researchers found 40 percent of patients were not taking their medications, and their salt intake was about 3,500 milligrams daily – about 1,500 milligrams more than recommended.

So, doctors have to figure out how to get their patients to follow their recommendations to effectively manage their heart failure.

Researchers say the next step is to study the effect of tailoring treatment based on the economic status of a patient.