Harvard Heart Letter

Balancing hope and reality in heart failure

Hope is a powerful force. It can sustain you through personal tragedy or carry you through the dark tunnel of disease. A sense of realism matters, too, grounding hope before it flits into fantasy.

Striking a balance between the two is important for anyone with cancer, heart failure, or other potentially life-shortening diseases. Hope begets a positive mental attitude, which fuels the drive to fight back. Untethered by reality, though, hope can become false hope or blind faith that everything will turn out fine. That can lead to futile treatments or missing the chance to plan a final good-bye.

How people with heart failure juggle hope and reality was the unspoken subject of an interesting study. Duke University researchers asked 122 men and women in varying stages of heart failure questions about their condition. They also asked them to gauge how long they expected to live. Using information from the volunteers' doctors, the researchers estimated survival with the most accurate computer model available.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »