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Heart Failure Hospitalizations Up Sharply
Date:11/9/2008

Epidemic linked to hypertension, obesity, diabetes, study shows

SUNDAY, Nov. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Hospitalization rates for heart failure among older Americans have increased dramatically in the past three decades, an epidemic that represents a mounting burden on the health-care system, a new study has found.

In 2006, an estimated 807,082 men and women over 65 were hospitalized for heart failure, up from 348,866 in 1980 -- a 131 percent increase.

And the increase in hospitalization rates has been more dramatic among women than men, according to the Drexel University study, to be presented Sunday at the American Heart Association's annual scientific sessions in New Orleans.

"You could probably talk to any cardiologist, no matter what practice setting they're in, and even primary-care physicians who do hospital work, and you're going to find this is an extremely common scenario," said Dr. John Erwin III, an associate professor of internal medicine at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and a senior staff cardiologist with Scott & White Hospital in Temple.

"By far, heart failure is the leading diagnosis code when patients are admitted to the hospital, especially in those over 65," he said.

"Clearly we know that patients who are older in age require longer hospital stays and usually have other co-morbidities [illnesses] such as renal failure or anemia," Erwin added. "This is going to put a huge burden on the health-care system. It already is."

Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle can no long pump enough blood to the different parts of the body. More than 5 million Americans are thought to live with heart failure, with another 660,000 cases diagnosed each year.

Medical advances have, ironically, led to more heart failure, Erwin said. "Patients that used to come into hospitals with heart attacks and died in years past are living, but are living
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