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A Controlled Pilot Study of Stress Management Training of Elderly Patients With Congestive Heart Failure

Frederic Luskin, Ph.D., Megan Reitz, B.A., Kathryn Newell, M.A., Thomas Gregory Quinn, M.D., William Haskell, Ph.D.

Preventive Cardiology 2002;5(4):168-172, 176.

For a PDF version of the complete paper, click here.

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of stress management training on quality of life, functional capacity, and heart rate variability in elderly patients with New York Heart Association class I-III congestive heart failure (CHF). While substantial research exists on stress management training for patients with coronary heart disease, there are few data on the value of psychosocial training on patients with CHF. Thirty-three multiethnic patients (mean age, 66±9 years) were assigned through incomplete randomization to one of two treatment groups or a wait-listed control group. The 14 participants who completed the treatment attended eight training sessions during a 10-week period. The training consisted of 75-minute sessions adapted from the Freeze-Frame stress management program developed by the Institute of HeartMath. Subjects were assessed at baseline and again at the completion of the training. Depression, stress management, optimism, anxiety, emotional distress, and functional capacity were evaluated, as well as heart rate variability. Significant improvements (p<0.05) were noted in perceived stress, emotional distress, 6-minute walk, and depression, and positive trends were noted in each of the other psychosocial measures. The 24-hour heart rate variability showed no significant changes in autonomic tone. The authors noted that CHF patients were willing study participants and their emotional coping and functional capacity were enhanced. This program offers a simple and cost-effective way to augment medical management of CHF. Given the incompleteness of CHF medical management and the exploding interest in complementary medical intervention, it seems imperative that further work in psychosocial treatment be undertaken.