AHA Research: Heart Disease Patients Need More Palliative Care

Multidisciplinary palliative care offers clear benefits to patients with cardiovascular disease.

Palliative care with effective medication management, shared decision making and symptom management can help improve quality of life for heart disease patients, according to a scientific statement from the American Heart Association (AHA) — “Palliative Pharmacotherapy for Cardiovascular Disease.”

“Given the complexities of medication management in people with heart disease, a team-based approach is urged,” said Katherine E. Di Palo, senior director of Transitional Care Excellence at Montefiore Medical Center, in a press release. “Collaboration between multidisciplinary clinicians across primary care, cardiology and palliative care is needed to deliver effective, person-centered care.”

Di Palo is also assistant professor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City and chair of the AHA’s scientific statement writing group.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. In 2020, heart disease took the lives of nearly 929,000 people in the United States. And by 2030, associated costs are expected to reach $1.8 trillion, according to CDC.

“Cardiovascular disease” includes a range of illnesses. Coronary heart disease, valvular heart disease, pulmonary arterial hypertension and heart failure are a few examples.

Interdisciplinary palliative care can aid patients with these conditions by reducing physical symptoms, managing emotional distress and assisting patients in making health care decisions and setting goals, according to the AHA’s scientific statement.

Involving palliative care clinicians in medication management for heart disease patients benefits patients. However, these services are often underutilized, the statement indicated.

“Although medical, surgical, and device therapies can certainly prolong a life span, disease progression from chronic to advanced to end stage is temporally unpredictable, uncertain and marked by worsening symptoms that result in recurrent hospitalizations and excessive health care use,” the AHA statement authors wrote. “Compared with other serious illnesses, medication management that incorporates a palliative approach is underused among individuals with cardiovascular disease.” 

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