Michele Kohli, BSc
Congestive heart failure (CHF), a clinical syndrome caused by failure of the left or right ventricle, is a leading cause of chronic illness in older persons. In the United States, CHF is the most common cause of hospitalization among those aged 65 years and above. Each year, approximately 400,000 Americans are diagnosed with CHF. Few statistics regarding CHF in Canada have been compiled, but the Heart and Stroke Foundation estimates that 200,000 to 300,000 Canadians have the syndrome. The incidence of CHF appears to be increasing in both Canada and the United States.
An individual's risk of developing CHF increases exponentially as a person ages (See Figure 1), due to age-related changes in the heart structure and function. Physiological and pathological alterations affecting heart rate, preload, afterload and contractile states of the heart reduce cardiac output (See More Fat, Less Specialized Cells in Old Heart). Concurrent changes in the kidney, respiratory and nervous systems may further impair the function of the heart. Congestive heart failure is a syndrome with multiple etiologies.
Early diagnosis of CHF greatly improves the success of treatment.