Self-care practices in women with diastolic heart failure

Heart Lung. Jan-Feb 2006;35(1):9-19. doi: 10.1016/j.hrtlng.2005.04.005.


Background: For many patients with heart failure (HF), performing self-care is complicated by the complex medication regimen, symptom monitoring, and required decision-making. Women with HF are typically older and more physically debilitated, have more comorbidities, and may be at higher risk for poor self-care practices. Previous studies have largely excluded patients with diastolic heart failure (DHF), however, so little is known about their self-care practices.

Objectives: The purposes of the study were to describe the (a) performance of self-care behaviors and (b) demographic and clinical characteristics that affected self-care practices in women with DHF.

Methods: Thirty-two women who were 50 years of age or older and diagnosed with DHF were recruited through cardiologist referral from an outpatient HF clinic in an academic health care setting. Data were collected using a semistructured interview guide. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze participant demographic and clinical characteristics. The responses were tabulated in order of frequency and then coded into categories.

Results: The mean age of the women was 68 +/- 11 years; 81% had annual incomes at or below the poverty level, 41% lived alone, and the majority had three or more comorbidities. Although most perceived their HF knowledge to be fair to good, and 62% had received HF educational information, only six (19%) weighed daily, few followed the recommended sodium restrictions, and 91% were sedentary at the time of the interview. The only self-care behavior that was consistently practiced (72%) was taking prescribed medications. Exertional intolerance often interfered with household chores and was cited most often as the reason for poorer quality of life. Decision-making about self-care activities such as taking diuretics was typically based on daily plans and social outings. Medical attention was sought only when acute or life-threatening symptoms occurred. Few women actively participated in ongoing symptom monitoring, and confusion over symptom recognition was a recurrent problem.

Conclusions: Lower socioeconomic status and advancing age increase vulnerability for poor self-care and negative clinical outcomes in women with DHF. Recommendations to improve self-care practices among economically disadvantaged women with HF such as prescribing routine activities as exercise, screening for depression, and home visits to increase socialization are discussed along with areas for future research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Heart Failure / complications
  • Heart Failure / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Self Care / methods*