Heart Failure, Aging, and Us
By Michael Hodin
When the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) holds its annual meeting with the World Congress of Cardiology in Paris this weekend, the assembled leaders have a chance to make history. How? Focus on heart failure — a widespread, debilitating, deadly, and expensive condition, but one that has been underrecognized and inadequately addressed for far too long. In particular, attendees can build on the new World Heart Federation Roadmap for Heart Failure, which provides a framework for policymakers and cardiac advocacy groups to guide national initiatives on heart failure. This roadmap can help innovators, scientists, providers, patients, payers, and others to seize unrealized opportunities for improved health outcomes and cost savings.
Experts and policymakers are beginning to recognize that heart failure, now increasingly driven by 21st century longevity, is one of the biggest missed opportunities in health care today. In other European locations — not too far from Paris where the ESC will meet — there is parallel momentum powerfully linked to aging and heart failure. In Geneva, the World Health Assembly will declare the Decade of Healthy Ageing starting next May, and in Brussels, the Finnish European Presidency is carrying out a healthy aging theme, which they announced as they assumed their Presidency at the Silver Economy Forum in Helsinki this July. These leaders are drawing attention to the links between cardiovascular health and aging, which requires a reframing of how we detect, diagnose, and treat cardiovascular diseases. And, yes, heart failure is a disease; it is not a normal part of getting older.
This is the central challenge of heart failure: its early symptoms are too often overlooked or dismissed as normal parts of aging. As a result, diagnosis or treatment too often only takes place in the acute hospital setting, leading to high rates of mortality and soaring costs. Heart failure, in fact, is the world’s leading cause of hospitalization. This is further exacerbated by high rates of hospital readmissions, which cause even more pain to the patient, as well as increased costs for families and society itself.
How do we move forward?