Christopher Larson, M.S.
Carol Ewing Garber, Ph.D., FACSM, RCEP
Department of Health Science
Bouve College of Health Sciences
Heart failure is one of the most commonly diagnosed diseases today. Nearly five million Americans are affected by heart failure, with 550,000 new cases diagnosed each year (American Heart Association, 2005). With the advancing age and longer life span of our population, these numbers are likely to increase drastically. The price tag for treating heart failure will also rise in the future. The direct and indirect costs of heart failure for 2005 have been estimated at $27.9 billion (American Heart Association, 2005). As treatment for conditions contributing to heart failure, such as heart attacks and high blood pressure improve, it is expected more individuals will be diagnosed with heart failure.
The development of heart failure leads to many adverse effects on a person's life. A decrease in physical function is the hallmark of heart failure. However, other factors such as depression and anxiety also have a great impact on the health of those with heart failure. Depression has an additive impact on an already decreased functional level. Individuals exhibiting clinical depression have more constant symptoms of heart failure, and greatly decreased functional status and quality of life (Sullivan et al., 2004). Anxiety also has a negative effect on the standard of living in heart failure individuals and usually is accompanied by depression (Jiang et al., 2004). These adverse changes resulting from depression and anxiety can be mediated by treatment by a mental health professional, which may include the implementation of certain antidepressive medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)(Jiang et al., 2004). Changes in lifestyle including increasing physical activity and exercise, healthier diet, and a good support structure will also help symptoms of depression as well as improve the overall prognosis of heart failure (Jiang et al., 2004).