Good social support helps people with heart failure

19th November 2015

People with heart failure who have good social support tend to stick better to cardiac rehabilitation exercise programmes, says a new study.

People with stable chronic heart failure did less exercise if they had poor social support and high barriers to exercise, although this did not always impact on how patients did, said the trial led by Dr Lauren Cooper of the Duke Clinical Research Institute in North Carolina, America.

But people who exercised less had a higher risk of death from heart problems or hospital admission due to heart failure compared with patients who exercised more.

And when compared to patients who were fully or partially adherent to exercise programmes, patients with poor adherence had a lower quality of life and higher levels of depression. They were also less likely to be married or living with a partner

The findings added to results from a prior analysis which looked at exercise intensity as well as exercise time and showed that moderate exercise was associated with better survival from heart disease and a lower risk of hospital admission for heart failure. Even low levels of exercise have been shown to be beneficial compared to no exercise at all said the researchers.

"When doctors refer their heart failure patients for a structured exercise programme such as cardiac rehabilitation, they must recognise the psychosocial factors that may limit a patient's ability to participate and benefit," said Dr Cooper.

She said the study could help doctors identify patients at high risk of not sticking to an exercise regimen, she added. Addressing these limitations may require individual strategies and include getting family members and friends involved for support and assistance.

The study was reported online in Circulation: Heart Failure