Heart failure strikes fewer seniors

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. However, its prevalence also makes it the focal point of researchers who aim to prevent and treat it and it seems that now we re seeing the positive effects of their efforts. Last week, the CDC reported that there had been a continued decline in coronary heart disease incidence, as well as its associated mortality. Now, a group of Yale researchers has found that the percentage of senior citizens hospitalized for heart failure has dropped by nearly one third since 1998.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, tentatively attributes the improvement in heart failure statistics to advances in the treatment of coronary artery disease, better blood pressure management, and more outpatient treatment of the condition. And whatever the cause, say the researchers, the decline in heart failure admissions in this aging population translates to about $4.1 billion in savings for Medicare.

ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross agrees that better prevention, detection, and treatment are key to managing the coronary heart disease and high blood pressure that lead to heart failure. Once you have heart failure, the prognosis is grim, he says. But now, the number of people who actually progress to late-stage heart failure is gradually declining.