Facts About Heart Failure in Older Adults: CDC-OC


Article title: Facts About Heart Failure in Older Adults: CDC-OC
Conditions: Congestive heart failure
Source: CDC-OC

Facts About Heart Failure in Older Adults

March 5, 1999

Contact: Kathryn Harben
CDC, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention & Health Promotion
(770) 488-5362
CDC, Division of Media Relations
(404) 639-3286

Congestive heart failure is a major chronic disease for older adults, accounting for about 260,000 deaths a year. The majority of the nearly 5 million U.S. patients with heart failure are older than 65 years. In 1995, $3.4 billion was paid by Medicare for heart failure. As the "baby boomers" age during the next 40 years, the number of heart failure patients older than 65 is expected to double.

Results of a new study published in the March 7 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine suggest that heart failure survival after 6 years in adults 67 years and older on Medicare is very low and may be worse than the prognosis for most types of cancer.

In a review of Medicare records from 1986 through 1992, less than 25% of women and 20% of men survived 6 years after being discharged from hospital with congestive heart failure. One third died within a year.

Survival was better among persons who also had a diagnosis of either high blood pressure or coronary heart disease during the same hospital stay. More contact with health care providers and better use of effective medications during earlier treatment may have reduced their severity of disease and improved their chances for survival.

Heart failure happens when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the demands of the body. Symptoms include shortness of breath, lung sounds on examination, fluid retention, and fatigue.

The two major preventable conditions that increase a person's risk of heart failure are high blood pressure and heart attacks. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can weaken the heart, and heart attacks damage or destroy heart muscle.

The key to reducing heart failure is reducing risk through stopping smoking, eating a low-fat, low-cholesterol, diet, being physically active, and using effective medications such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and beta blockers, both of which are currently underused in treatment of heart failure.

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