Cases of heart failure continue to rise; poorest people worst affected

November 22, 2017, University of Oxford
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The number of people being diagnosed with heart failure in the UK continues to rise as a result of demographic changes common to many developed countries, new research by The George Institute for Global Health at the University of Oxford suggests.

There are now as many new cases of each year as there are of the four most common cancers combined (lung, breast, bowel and prostate cancer), and people in the most deprived socio-economic groups are about 60% more likely to be affected by the condition, the research found.

The study, published in The Lancet, analysed data from four million people in England and was led by Nathalie Conrad and Professor Kazem Rahimi. It found that despite modest improvements in prevention, and an increase in the age at which patients develop the disease, the total number of new heart cases grew by 12% between 2002 and 2014.

The rise in cases is largely due to an increase in the number of older people in the UK, a demographic change reflected in many other high-income countries, which are likely to experience a similar burden.

The gap in incidence between the richest and the poorest didn't close at all between 2002 and 2014. Disparities between different socio-economic groups actually grew during the study period, with the age at which heart failure is diagnosed rising for the most affluent, but dropping slightly among the most deprived. People in the poorest neighbourhoods are likely to be affected by heart failure about 3.5 years earlier in life than those in the wealthiest areas (at an average age of 74.5, compared with 78).

"These socio-economic disparities in the incidence of heart failure and age at onset within the same country highlight a preventable nature of the disease, and suggest we still have a lot of work to do to tackle it," said Conrad.

"If we could achieve the incidence rates we see among the most affluent groups for the population as a whole, we would see a fall of about one-fifth in the number of new cases every year."

Further research is needed to understand what is behind the varying rates of heart failure in different communities. The discrepancies may be linked to the presence of other illnesses; to risk factors such as blood pressure, smoking and diet; or to a less effective use of drugs that can help prevent heart failure.

The study also found a substantial increase in the number of other illnesses experienced by those with heart failure; the proportion of patients suffering three or more additional conditions rose from 68% to 87% between 2002 and 2014.

"The number of diseases associated with heart failure was high, and increased over time," said Professor Rahimi, deputy director of The George Institute UK. "This suggests that as the number of patients with heart failure grows, caring for them is also becoming more complex, increasing the burden on health services."

Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, which funded the study, said:

"Heart failure is a cruel and debilitating illness affecting nearly a million people across the UK, with sufferers in severe cases often having poorer survival rates than many cancers.

"Currently, heart failure is incurable and difficult to treat, and the number of people living with it is increasing. This study highlights the urgent need for more to be done to end the postcode lottery in failure incidence."

Explore further: Heart's pumping function is not an indicator of heart failure survival rates

More information: Temporal trends and patterns in heart failure incidence: a population-based study of 4 million individuals, dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(17)32520-5 , www.thelancet.com/journals/lan … fulltext?elsca1=tlpr

Related Stories

Heart's pumping function is not an indicator of heart failure survival rates

November 12, 2017
Contrary to popular practice, a measure of the heart's pumping function known as "left ventricular ejection fraction" is not associated with the long-term outcomes of hospitalized heart failure patients, a UCLA-led study ...

Moderate alcohol consumption tied to lower heart failure risk

October 16, 2017
(HealthDay)—Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with reduced risk of heart failure but not atrial fibrillation (AF), according to a study published online Oct. 11 in JACC: Heart Failure.

Heart failure is as 'malignant' as some common cancers

May 4, 2017
A new analysis finds that, despite advances in care, men and women with a diagnosis of heart failure continue to have worse survival rates than patients with certain common cancers.

Risk of heart failure up for rheumatoid arthritis patients

March 14, 2017
(HealthDay)—Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have increased risk of heart failure, according to a study published in the March 14 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Many adults have insufficient knowledge about heart failure

March 22, 2017
In the largest German survey on heart failure to date, investigators found that the overall awareness of heart failure has not increased over the past decade and is not at a satisfactory level.

Diabetes may have important effects in patients with acute heart failure

June 26, 2017
Researchers have found that patients with acute heart failure and diabetes, compared with those without diabetes, have distinct markers related to inflammation, cardiovascular function, and kidney health.

Recommended for you

Can stem cells help a diseased heart heal itself? Researchers achieve important milestone

December 14, 2018
A team of Rutgers scientists, including Leonard Lee and Shaohua Li, have taken an important step toward the goal of making diseased hearts heal themselves—a new model that would reduce the need for bypass surgery, heart ...

Higher risk of heart attack on Christmas Eve

December 12, 2018
The risk of heart attack peaks at around 10pm on Christmas Eve, particularly for older and sicker people, most likely due to heightened emotional stress, finds a Swedish study in this week's Christmas issue of The BMJ.

Your weight history may predict your heart failure risk

December 12, 2018
In a medical records analysis of information gathered on more than 6,000 people, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers conclude that simply asking older adult patients about their weight history at ages 20 and 40 could provide ...

Age is the biggest risk for heart disease, but lifestyle and meds have impact

December 12, 2018
Of all the risk factors for heart disease, age is the strongest predictor of potential trouble.

New understanding of mysterious 'hereditary swelling'

December 12, 2018
For the first time ever, biomedical researchers from Aarhus University, Denmark, report cellular defects that lead to a rare disease, hereditary angioedema (HAE), in which patients experience recurrent episodes of swelling ...

Researchers have found that incidence of heart failure was around two-fold higher in people with diabetes

December 11, 2018
Researchers have found that incidence of heart failure was around two-fold higher in people with diabetes.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.