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U.S. heart failure costs could skyrocket

Updated: April 24, 2013 02:58 PM EDT
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WEDNESDAY, April 24 (HealthDay News) -- The number of Americans with heart failure could rise 46 percent, from 5 million in 2012 to 8 million in 2030, new research says.

And the direct and indirect costs of treating the condition could more than double, from $31 billion to $70 billion, over the same time period.

That means that by 2030, every U.S. taxpayer could be paying $244 a year to care for heart failure patients, according to the American Heart Association policy statement. It said the findings highlight the need for strategies to prevent and treat heart failure.

Heart failure -- the leading cause of hospitalization for Americans over age 65, according to the AHA -- occurs when the heart becomes weak and can no longer pump enough oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood throughout the body. Patients often experience fatigue and breathing problems as the heart enlarges and pumps faster in an effort to meet the body's needs.

The rising number of people with heart failure is the result of an aging population and an increase in the rates of conditions that contribute to heart failure, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Being older, a smoker, poor or a member of a minority group also are risk factors for heart failure.

"If we don't improve or reduce the incidence of heart failure by preventing and treating the underlying conditions, there will be a large monetary and health burden on the country," said Dr. Paul Heidenreich in an AHA news release. "The costs will be paid for by every adult in this country, not just every adult with heart failure."

"Awareness of risk factors and adequately treating them is the greatest need," said Heidenreich, a professor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine and director of a chronic heart failure research initiative at the VA Health Care System in Palo Alto, Calif.

The statement includes recommendations on how to tackle the issue. These include the following:

--More effective distribution and use of therapy recommended in guidelines to prevent heart failure and improve patient survival.
--Improving the coordination of care when hospitalized patients go home in order to help them achieve better outcomes and reduce their risk of having to return to the hospital.
--Specialized training for physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other health care professionals on advanced heart failure care.
--Improving heart failure prevention and care for minority groups and lower-income people.
--Increasing access to palliative and hospice care for patients with heart failure in advanced stages.

The statement was published online April 24 in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure.

"We have the solutions we need to change the course of heart failure in this country, but we must take steps now to reverse the trend," American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said in the news release. "If we treat patients using existing guidelines, improve care transitions, adequately train our health care workforce and reduce disparities in the health outcomes of specific populations, we can lessen the burdens of heart failure."

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about heart failure.

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