Urgent need to improve heart failure management

Urgent need to improve heart failure management
© shutterstock/Drazen Zigic

Patients with heart failure often suffer from co-morbidities, which places a great strain on healthcare services. Researchers now urge for improved risk management of the disease.

Up to 64 million people globally have heart failure, and this figure is expected to continue to increase. The disease means the heart cannot pump blood around the body properly, occurring when the heart has become too weak or stiff.

According to a new study by Karolinska Institutet, heart failure is placing great strain on healthcare systems globally, and new ways of improving risk management are urgently required. The research was published in the Heart report.

“Given that we know that the incidence of heart failure increases with population age, a modern, broad view of what the heart failure population looks like, involving risks and costs, is important for all forms of care planning,” said Anna Norhammar, adjunct professor at the Cardiology Unit, Department of Medicine (Solna), Karolinska Institutet.

Analysing 600,000 patients from around the world

The researchers collected data from digital medical records and the national registry on over 600,000 heart failure patients from 11 European countries, Canada and Israel, between 2018 and 2020.

The study found that between 1-2% of the population suffer from heart failure, and the average annual death rate is 13%. Furthermore, heart failure patients also suffer a higher rate of co-morbidity than previous national studies have suggested.

“Half of the heart failure patients had ischemic heart disease, half had signs of kidney failure, and a third had diabetes,” added Professor Norhammar. “One likely reason for the escalation in comorbidity in such patients is that we live longer nowadays with several concurrent conditions. This complicates heart failure care even more, as there are many contributory factors to take account of.”

The cost of heart failure on heartcare systems is growing

The study also highlighted how costly heart failure is. In Europe, 1-2% of the total healthcare budget goes on heart failure care, a cost expected to increase.

These growing healthcare costs are mainly associated with a deterioration in heart and kidney failure that requires hospitalisation. Traditional cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke are placing a lesser strain on healthcare services. The data indicate clearly that more investment is needed to prevent further kidney and heart failure.

“This is interesting because a possible new treatment is now available for these patients,” Professor Norhammar explained. “It’s a diabetes drug that, following extensive studies, is now used for heart failure, irrespective of whether the patients have diabetes. These new drugs were basically not used by our cohort since the evidence wasn’t in place until 2020. Now that the evidence is here, it’ll be interesting to see if the situation can be improved, as we have high hopes it will.”


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