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Another Way Your Heart Can Give Out on You

Study looks at impact of newly recognized form of congestive heart failure

FRIDAY, Oct. 25, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- A newly recognized type of congestive heart failure kills more Americans than the more widely known form of the disease.

A new study makes that claim in a recent issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The newly recognized form is called diastolic heart failure. It occurs when the heart contracts normally but doesn't fill with enough blood. The more widely known form is called systolic heart failure and it occurs when the heart doesn't contract normally.

In both forms, the body fails to get the necessary amount of oxygenated blood to meet its needs.

"Even though the recently recognized form, called diastolic heart failure, is less deadly in individuals, it produces more deaths nationwide because of its much higher prevalence," says study author Dr. Dalane W. Kitzman, a cardiologist at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

"In our study of older adults with heart failure, over twice as many participants had diastolic heart failure, suggesting that a key to reducing heart failure deaths is successful treatment of this second type," Kitzman says.

The researchers examined data on cardiovascular disease in more than 5,000 adults over age 65 in four U.S. communities. They compared outcomes in four groups of people: diastolic heart failure; systolic heart failure; no heart failure; and those with no symptoms of heart failure but with weakened heart contraction that usually precedes systolic heart failure.

People with systolic heart failure had a 15.4 percent death rate, compared to 8.9 percent for people with early signs of systolic heart failure. The death rate was 8.7 percent for people with diastolic heart failure and 2.5 percent for people with no heart failure.

While the death rate was higher for people with systolic heart failure, there were more than twice as many people with diastolic heart failure. That means that diastolic heart failure actually caused more deaths, the researchers say.

The study challenges the idea that diastolic heart failure is not as serious a problem as systolic heart failure.

"People have thought these patients don't have high mortality. But this research shows that there is a significant mortality among elderly people with congestive heart failure - regardless of which type they have. This is a significant public health problem that we need to learn more about treating," Kitzman says.

More information

To learn more about congestive heart failure, go to the American Heart Association.

SOURCE: Wake Forest University School of Medicine, news release, Oct. 17, 2002
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