Coping Skills Training in Heart Failure: Outcomes and Mechanisms. Over 5 million Americans suffer from heart failure (HF), with an associated annual health care cost in excess of $33 billion. With 500,000 new cases developing each year, HF is the only major cardiovascular disease that is increasing in prevalence. Despite intensive medical therapy, symptom instability and clinical deterioration are common and lead to frequent physician visits, hospitalization, and ultimately death. HF symptoms, including dyspnea and fatigue, are a major source of distress for patients with HF, and often impose severe limitations on their daily activities. Depression also is common in HF patients, and its presence is associated with increased risk of hospitalization and mortality, independent of disease severity. There is growing evidence that behavioral management is a critical component of living with HF that can reduce hospitalizations and help optimize health status. Although previous studies have demonstrated that case- management programs are effective, benefits appear to be short-lived once ongoing care is reduced. Prior research from our laboratory and others has shown that coping skills training (CST), designed both to teach patients self-management skills and to cope more effectively with psychological distress associated with their medical condition, is effective for such chronic diseases as diabetes, ischemic heart disease, and lung disease. However, CST has not yet been evaluated as an intervention to facilitate self-management of HF. We propose a randomized clinical trial comparing a 16-week CST intervention with Extended (Standardized) Care in a study sample of 200 HF outpatients, who are receiving medical treatment for HF according to current clinical practice guidelines. The CST intervention, delivered over the telephone, is designed reduce stress and depression and to improve aspects of health behavior that are related to HF outcomes, including symptom monitoring, medication adherence, dietary compliance, and physical activity. Before and following treatment, patients will be carefully assessed on important intermediate medical endpoints including HF disease biomarkers (B-type natriuretic peptide, ejection fraction, vascular endothelial function, autonomic regulation, and inflammatory activity), as well as on quality of life (QoL) indicated by both physical and psychosocial functioning. Effects of CST on clinical outcomes will be evaluated according to all-cause hospitalizations or mortality over a median follow-up period of 3 years. The data generated by the proposed study will provide important insights regarding the value of CST over and above usual medical care. If successful, we believe that the study findings should translate into initial recommendations for the incorporation of CST into self- management behavioral interventions as cost-effective approaches to enhance disease management, QoL and longevity in HF patients.

Public Health Relevance

Heart failure, a disorder in which the heart loses its ability to pump blood effectively, affects over five million Americans, with 500,000 new cases being diagnosed each year. Heart failure restricts both quality and quantity of life, and is the number one reason for hospitalization in the United States, with an associated annual health care cost exceeding $33 billion. Our proposed clinical trial is designed to evaluate a Coping Skills Intervention designed to enhance health-related behaviors and reduce psychological distress in heart failure patients, resulting in improved health status, better quality of life and lowered health care costs.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Research Project (R01)
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Behavioral Medicine, Interventions and Outcomes Study Section (BMIO)
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Cooper, Lawton S
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Duke University
Schools of Medicine
United States
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