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NHLBI study finds improved heart failure survival

Survival after a heart failure diagnosis has greatly improved over the past 50 years, according to a study from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health. The study, which analyzed data from the NHLBI's landmark Framingham Heart Study (FHS), found that the risk of dying after being diagnosed with heart failure had dropped by about a third in men and women during that period.

The study, which appears in the October 31, 2002, issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, also found that new cases of heart failure had dropped by about a third for women during the same period. However, the number of new cases for men remained unchanged.

"These findings offer good news about a highly lethal disease," said NHLBI Director Dr. Claude Lenfant. "However, heart failure still affects far too many Americans and more than half of those who develop it die within 5 years of diagnosis.

"Prevention remains the best defense against heart failure. Americans can greatly reduce their chances of developing it by taking steps to prevent or control high blood pressure, heart disease, and other conditions that can lead to heart failure."

Heart failure occurs when the heart loses its ability to pump enough blood through the body. It often develops slowly, over many years. About 4.8 million Americans have heart failure, with about 550,000 new cases being diagnosed each year. Heart failure contributes to about 287,000 deaths a year.

In the new study, researchers, led by FHS Director Dr. Daniel Levy, analyzed data on 10,317 FHS participants drawn from the original enrollees and the offspring generation, including their spouses. The study had equal numbers of men and women.

The original participants, who began enrolling in FHS in 1948, were evaluated every 2 years; the offspring generation, which began enrolling in 1971, was evaluated in 1979 and every 4 years after that. The evalu
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Contact: NHLBI Communications Office
301-496-4236
NIH/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
30-Oct-2002


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