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Feb 20, 2018

Study Explores Key Factors that Affect Heart Failure Risk

Study shows that sex, race and history of heart attack have an impact on heart failure risk.

Factors like sex and race have a significant impact on heart failure risk, based on an analysis of two large U.S. studies recently published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

Heart failure is a common condition that affects an estimated 5.7 million Americans. It occurs when the heart can’t pump enough blood to the rest of the body.  It can cause debilitating symptoms, such as fatigue and shortness of breath.

Since there’s no cure for heart failure, experts are always looking for strategies to help patients prevent or reduce risk for developing this chronic heart condition. Recent findings suggest that factors like sex and race should not be overlooked when it comes to treatment and prevention.

The analysis included data from the Cardiovascular Health Study and the Multiethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. These studies tracked the health of middle-aged to older adults to explore factors that impact heart health.

Together, the studies included 12,417 participants 45 years or older who were initially free of heart failure. Over twelve years of follow-up, nearly 18% of participants had developed heart failure. Researchers found that the participants’ risk for heart failure varied by sex and race.

The study participants’ risk for developing heart failure by age 90 was 27% in men, compared to 24% in women. Risk for heart failure was also lower in black adults than in other races (11% versus 8%).

Researchers also found that that these factors impacted the type of heart failure participants developed. Heart failure with reduced ejection fraction, which occurs when the heart doesn’t pump enough blood out of the heart, was more common in men than women.

A second type of heart failure, called heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, was more common in non-blacks than blacks. This condition occurs when the heart’s ventricles don’t fill with blood as well as they should.

Risk for these conditions were up to four times greater in patients with a history of heart attack.

The take-home message, according to authors, is that lifetime risk for heart failure varies across different populations. Factors that affect risk should be taken into account when considering prevention strategies, as experts explain. The more we can target prevention strategies, the better we can help adults reduce their risk for developing heart failure as they age.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is heart failure?

  • Heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to the rest of the body. Although there is no cure for heart failure, treatments such as ACE inhibitors and ARBs can help improve outcomes as well as quality of life.
  • What are health disparities?
  • Health disparities refer to differences in health outcomes or burdens of disease between groups of people. Health disparities can exist between different populations of race, sex, income, or even geographic location. In health care, the goal is to eliminate these differences so all individuals have the same ability to achieve good health.

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