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New Clues to Killer Heart Failure

Underlying health problems may be best treatment target, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, April 13, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- The most common cause of heart failure is often caused by health problems outside the heart, a new report suggests.

The findings, published in the April issue of the Journal of Cardiac Failure, challenge traditional explanations for diastolic heart failure, where the heart pumps normally but has trouble filling with blood.

The study also suggests the majority of patients with this kind of heart failure will receive more benefit from drugs that target the underlying health problems behind heart failure -- problems such as anemia, diabetes, hypertension and obesity -- rather than drugs that treat heart failure itself.

The study of 145 patients with diastolic heart failure used advanced 3-D imaging technology. It found that more than half the diastolic cases may be triggered by health problems outside of the heart.

"Our data suggests that the classic definition of heart failure fails to take into account the wide range of health problems that can be associated with the disease. A broader view of heart failure is necessary to understand its causes and treat these patients," principal investigator Dr. Mathew S. Maurer, a professor of medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, said in a prepared statement.

Heart failure is the leading cause of hospital admission in the United States for people age 65 and older. It's estimated that more than 5 million people in the United States have heart failure, and more than half have heart failure despite having normal heart pumping function.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about heart failure.

SOURCE: Columbia University, news release, April 11, 2005
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