Risk of Death from Heart Failure Has Declined 33% Since 1950s, NEJM Study Says
The risk of dying from congestive heart failure has decreased by approximately 33% since the 1950s, according to new findings from the nation's longest-running heart study, the Boston Globe reports. Researchers from the 54-year-old Framingham Heart Study studied 1,075 cases of heart failure, defined as a weakened heart that cannot pump blood through the body effectively, and found that death rates among such patients decreased 12% each decade (Barnard, Boston Globe, 10/31). According to the study, in today's New England Journal of Medicine, 59% of men died within five years of being diagnosed with heart failure in the 1990s, compared with 70% between 1950 and 1969. For women, the incidence of death fell to 45% in the 1990s from 57% between 1950 and 1969 (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/31). The study also found that the rate of heart failure among women decreased by 33%, but remained similar for men (Boston Globe, 10/31). According to study director Dr. Daniel Levy, newer drugs and treatments were likely responsible for improvements in survival (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/31). Researchers noted that heart failure still kills more than half of those diagnosed within five years. "The good news is that survival is improved for patients with chronic heart failure; this is the first study to document that improvement. But the other way to look at it is that despite improvements, heart failure remains a very serious and potentially fatal disorder," Dr. Michael Givertz, co-director of Brigham & Women's Hospital's cardiomyopathy and heart failure program, said. The Globe reports that the study's participants were "overwhelmingly white," making more research necessary among minorities, who have higher rates of heart disease than whites (Boston Globe, 10/31). An abstract of the study is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.