Connections between heart failure and mental health

A webinar on supporting psychosocial needs and the heart-brain connection

This webinar answers common questions and provides insights about heart failure from people with lived experience and their families and caregivers.

In this Patients Included Certified webinar, Drs. Cindy Yip and Jillianne Code share common questions and insights that are being heard from people with lived experience and their families and caregivers in the HeartLife Foundation Patient Education Day.

They interpret emerging data on the heart-brain connection in those living with heart failure with the aim of discussing potential strategy and solutions that provide support to the challenges they are facing.

Useful resources

First ever! HeartLife Patient Education Workshop

Resources for people with lived experience

Professional education resources


Key guidance from our speakers
Cindy Yip, Director of Data, Knowledge Management and Heart Program at Heart & Stroke +

Background statistics

  • About 3/100 people over the age of 40 in Canada have been living with diagnosed heart failure (HF) from 2007-2017,1 and almost 1 in 2 people with HF are managing 5 or more other conditions.2 1 in 5 have depression,3,4; and an estimated 1 in 4 have impaired cognitive function.5
  • There is a significant gap in psychosocial and cognitive support for people with HF and their caregivers.6

How are our hearts and brains connected from a heart failure perspective

  • When the heart doesn’t pump enough blood to supply oxygen and nutrients to the brain, it can change the cells of brain tissue. These cellular changes can have functional impact such as trouble remembering, concentrating, and learning new things.
  • Increased risk of cognitive deterioration causes stress, which negatively impacts the heart – a vicious cycle.

Heart failure and brain health during COVID-19

  • People with underlying medical conditions such as HF are at an increased risk of facing serious complications from COVID-19.7,8 Public health measures, including physical distancing, add stress and further challenges to these people and their caregivers.
  • We have seen a huge increase in the number of questions and concerns from people with HF and their caregivers in our Heart & Stroke online peer support Facebook groups. It is important to reach out and know that you are not alone.

Cindy Yip is also a heart failure caregiver.

Jillianne Code, Co-founder and President of HeartLife Foundation +
  • “Living with heart failure is not a function of the quality of care we receive, but dependent on our ability to act on the care and advice we’re given.”
  • We need to ensure the medical professionals understand what it is like to live with HF and to care for HF, and the importance of considering cognitive impairments and how that affects lives.
  • The heart failure continuum from diagnosis to advanced HF, and then even living with transplant: HF is always a part of those patients’ lives.
  • Need for more focus on mental health, and so Heartlife created a questionnaire for HF patients and caregivers. We found that 72% of patients were not offered mental health care, and 89% of caregivers were not offered mental health care.
  • Mental health services need to be provided for patients and families. It is an integral part of how patients function and deal with HF.
  • A big issue is that access to mental health services is limited and expensive.

Jillianne Code is also an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia and a person with lived experience.

Survey +

Heart & Stroke is conducting a five-minute survey to better understand the needs of those discharged from the hospital following a heart failure event.

Help us better understand your needs by participating in this survey.

References +

1.   PHAC, CCDSS, 2007-2017. 40+ Years of Age. Yukon Data Not Available.
2.   Foebel AD, Hirdes JP, Heckman GA, Tyas SL, Tjam EY. A profile of older community-dwelling home care clients with heart failure in Ontario. Chronic Dis Can. 2011;31(2):9.
3.   Mbakwem A, Aina F, Amadi C. Expert Opinion-Depression in Patients with Heart Failure: Is Enough Being Done? Card Fail Rev. 2016;2(2):110-112. doi:10.15420/cfr.2016:21:1
4.   Rutledge T, Reis VA, Linke SE, Greenberg BH, Mills PJ. Depression in heart failure a meta-analytic review of prevalence, intervention effects, and associations with clinical outcomes. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2006;48(8):1527-1537. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2006.06.055
5.   Vogels RLC, Oosterman JM, Harten BV, et al. Profile of Cognitive Impairment in Chronic Heart Failure. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2007;55(11):1764-1770. doi:10.1111/j.1532-5415.2007.01395.x
6.   Sun LY, Tu JV, Coutinho T, et al. Sex differences in outcomes of heart failure in an ambulatory, population-based cohort from 2009 to 2013. CMAJ Can Med Assoc J J Assoc Medicale Can. 2018;190(28):E848-E854. doi:10.1503/cmaj.180177
7.   Zhou F, Yu T, Du R, et al. Clinical course and risk factors for mortality of adult inpatients with COVID-19 in Wuhan, China: a retrospective cohort study. The Lancet. 2020;395(10229):1054-1062. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30566-3
8.   CDC. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published February 11, 2020. Accessed March 23, 2020.

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