Facts & Figures
Prevention starts with knowing facts
Chronic heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to sustain adequate circulation in the body’s tissues. The initial manifestation in heart failure is a decrease in blood output from the left ventricle. In many cases, this decrease in pumping output is accompanied by errant impulses from the heart’s electrical system.
These can result in accelerated rhythms that adversely affect the heart’s ability to pump blood and are potentially lethal. However, while heart failure is a serious condition, it is not necessarily the death sentence that its name suggests. Thousands of heart failure patients live with this condition.
The traditional symptoms of heart failure are:
- Dyspnea (shortness of breath from any type of exertion, including ordinary daily activities such as dressing, bathing, or shopping)
- Edema (swelling, usually of the feet and ankles)
Heart failure is typically a late manifestation of one or more other cardiovascular diseases, including coronary artery disease, hypertension, and valvular disease.
Restricted blood flow to the heart muscle (coronary artery disease or ischemic heart disease) is thought to account for approximately 70 percent of heart failure cases.
- Numerous other disorders and factors may also contribute to the development of heart failure, including metabolic disturbances, toxins or infections, hypersensitivity reactions, and a number of acquired or genetic diseases.
- Up to 50% of patients with advanced heart failure have electrical conduction problems within the heart, such as bundle branch block or ventricular tachycardia (rapid heart beats), which may contribute to worsening of symptoms.
- As treatment has improved for other heart conditions, particularly myocardial infarctions (heart attacks), more patients survive the short-term event only to develop heart failure later.
On the Rise
Heart failure is estimated to afflict approximately five million Americans, and this number is expected to double in the next five years.
Each year, more than 550,000 new cases of heart failure are diagnosed in the United States.
- From 1979-1999, heart failure deaths increased 145%, and heart failure is the only major cardiac disorder that is increasing in prevalence.
- In people diagnosed with heart failure, sudden cardiac arrest occurs at six to nine times the rate of the general population.
- Risk of heart failure increases dramatically with age. Heart failure affects approximately 10 of every 1,000 people over the age of 65.
- About 22% of men and 46% of women who suffer heart attacks will be disabled by heart failure within six years.
- It has been estimated that heart failure causes or contributes to about 290,000 deaths per year. Once heart failure is diagnosed, prognosis is poor: Overall mortality is 10% at one year and 50% at five years.
- Although nearly five million Americans suffer from heart failure, less than $30 million is spent on heart failure research each year. In comparison, lung cancer research, which affects about 390,000 Americans, receives $132 million annually.
- Heart failure is the most costly cardiovascular disease in the United States. Total cost of caring for U.S. heart failure patients is estimated to be about $40 billion per year and growing rapidly. Estimates for the global population range as high as $80 billion.
- Heart failure accounts for nearly one million hospitalizations annually, resulting in 6.5 million hospital days, with an average cost of $7,000-$15,000 per patient per hospitalization and an average stay of 5 to 10 days.
- Heart failure patients take an average of six medications for their conditions, and 15% of hospital admissions for heart failure are related to medication non-compliance.
- Heart failure is responsible for more hospitalizations than all forms of cancer combined.
1 American Heart Association. 2002 Heart and Stroke Statistical Update. Dallas, Texas: American Heart Association, 2000.
2 Rich MW. Epidemiology, pathophysiology and etiology of congestive heart failure in older adults. J Am Geriatr Soc. 1997;45:968-974.
3 O’Connell JB. The Economic Burden of Heart Failure. Clin Cardiol. 2000; 23(Suppl III) III-6-10.