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Heart failure, a condition where your heart can’t pump blood well, can be a devastating diagnosis. It completely changes your life and can lead to depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, the CDC reports heart failure affects over 6 million Americans. There is always hope, though, and a recent study has brought hope into the spotlight.
The Journal of American College of Cardiology (JACC) study suggests spirituality can improve heart failure patients' lives. The study explored heart failure patients’ quality of life and spirituality associations and suggested that spirituality can prevent future hospital visits.
What is spirituality?
Researchers are deciding the best measure of spirituality, which can be hard to define. It’s associated with the “why” of life; why are we here? What purpose? Is there something beyond the physical aspect of human existence?
Rev. Alicia Harker, Regional Director of Spiritual Care and Mission Integration for Intermountain Health, frames spirituality as meaning making. "It is the work of how we connect with ourselves, with one another, to life events, to the world, and for faithing individuals and communities, our connection with God," she says. "Well-rounded spirituality encompasses our whole selves: physical, intellectual, and emotional and a rich spiritual life makes meaning and connection through all of our senses."
How can spirituality help when dealing with illness?
Spirituality can be foundational when facing chronic diseases. Several studies indicate spirituality is related to psychological well-being and can be managed by health-related behaviors.
Research also suggests that spirituality improves healing times and coping skills. There are a few possible reasons for this, but a simple answer is the lack of stress. Patients who feel connected to a higher power feel less grief and uncertainty.
Heart failure patients with spiritual well-being feel connected to this greater meaning, even when faced with severe symptoms. This peace translates to a better quality of life. And according to the JACC study, these patients show lower levels of anxiety and depression.
“Spirituality moves us beyond the finitude of our human lives and connects us with a deeper sense of purpose, meaning and connection,” said Alicia. “When we are connected with God, with others and deeply in touch with ourselves and the world around us, we are better supported, find deep peace, and are surrounded by a community enhancing the health of our mind, body and spirit.”
If you’re wondering how spirituality can affect you after a heart failure diagnosis, reach out to an Intermountain Health chaplain. Spiritual resources like Alicia Harker empower people to lean into their spirituality and encourage more profound connections. You might be surprised by how your quality of life improves.