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Penn Nursing > Science in Action
Science in Action
Barbara Riegel, Penn Nursing
Cardiac Health

Heart Failure: Taking Care of Yourself Really Works

Healthcare providers have been dispensing advice to heart failure patients about diet and exercise and for the first time researchers have found that it really works. While self-care is believed to improve heart failure outcomes, a highlight of the recent American Heart Association scientific statement on promoting heart failure self-care was the need to establish the mechanisms by which self-care may influence neurohormonal, inflammatory, and hemodynamic function.

Christopher S. Lee, PhD, RN of the Oregon Health & Science University School of Nursing led a team of researchers who examined the biological mechanisms by which self-care influences heart failure outcomes.

"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first clinical investigation of the relationship between participant reported self-care and serum biomarkers of myocardial stress and systemic inflammation in persons with heart failure," explains study co-author Barbara J. Riegel, a professor at Penn Nursing.

This study investigated the relationship between heart failure patients who complied with self-care plans and serum biomarkers of myocardial stress and systemic inflammation. Heart failure patients who followed doctor's advice for self-care (such as taking medications, monitoring and interpreting symptoms, eating a low-sodium diet, and exercising) showed lower levels of myocardial stress and systemic inflammation, thought to be associated with greater risk of mortality, urgent ventricular assist device implantation, and urgent heart transplantation.

Nancy C. Tkacs, an associate professor at Penn Nursing, also participated in this first study which strongly suggests the decision-making process of self-care management be measured and included as a determinant of heart failure biomarkers and health outcomes in future research.

The researchers conclude evaluating, teaching, and promoting effective self-care behaviors in persons with heart failure influences health outcomes through multiple cardioprotective means, and may decrease myocardial stress and systemic inflammation. This research was funded in part by the National Institute of Nursing Research and the findings are published in the July/August issue of the Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing.