Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Longer survival, more cases, boost heart failure population

Heart Beat

Longer survival, more cases, boost heart failure population

Here's a classic good news, bad news report: People with heart failure are living longer than they were thirty years ago. But combine this with more people surviving heart attacks and the graying of the population, and you can see why we're in the midst of what some are calling an epidemic of heart failure, according to a report in the Feb. 14, 2006, Circulation.

In the 1970s, only about 20% of people lived for five years or more after being diagnosed with heart failure. By the 1990s, that was up to 30%. As of 2006 it's about 50%. This trend parallels dramatic improvements in our understanding of heart failure coupled with earlier diagnosis and better treatments.

Another paper in Circulation suggests that cholesterol-lowering statins may be good for people with heart failure. In a nationwide survey of older Americans hospitalized for heart failure, those prescribed a statin before leaving the hospital were less likely to have died within the next three years than those who weren't. The benefit was seen in those with and without high cholesterol, as well as those with and without coronary artery disease.

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