Researchers say the results show that a healthy attitude can go a long way toward improving the odds of surviving the difficult-to-treat heart condition, as people who adhere to their treatment plan may also be more likely to adopt other healthy behaviors.
The study showed people with chronic heart failure who took their pills, whether it was an actual drug or a placebo, as prescribed more than 80% of the time had a 34% lower risk of death than those who rarely took their medication as directed. Those who stuck with the treatment plan also were less likely to be hospitalized for their condition.
Heart failure is responsible for more than 1 million hospital admissions each year in the U.S. and occurs when the heart does not pump blood as effectively as it should.
Attitude May Do More Than Drugs
In the study, published in The Lancet, researchers looked at the impact of adhering to a treatment plan in a clinical trial of the heart failure drug Atacand, which compared the effects of the drug vs. placebo in 7,599 people with chronic heart failure. They followed participants for 38 months.
Researchers found that most participants (89%) were at least 80% adherent and only 11% of participants were less than 80% adherent. The less-adherent participants were more likely to be smokers, women, have faster average pulse, and also have more coexisting medical conditions.
The results showed that people who stuck with their treatment plan were 34% less likely to die during the 38-month follow-up period than people who didn't. Even looking at the Atacand group and placebo group separately, there was similar lowering of risk between the two groups.
The researchers note that adherence to medication may reflect adherence to other lifestyle and treatment recommendations given for heart failure patients, like stopping smoking or following an exercise regimen.
In a commentary that accompanies the study, Harvey White of Auckland City Hospital in New Zealand says the study shows that adherence is about more than just taking pills, and poor adherence is common in chronic heart failure.
White says new ways to improve adherence to both drug treatment plans and healthy lifestyle changes should be developed to help heart failure patients reap the benefits of the recent advances made in the treatment of the condition.