With increasing age, the prevalence of heart failure also rises – already more than 10 % of people over 70 are affected.
Approximately 1-2% of the adult population in the industrialized world suffers from heart failure, or 70,000 to 140,000 people in Austria. Hospitalizations due to heart failure are not uncommon in Austria, with over 24,000 hospitalizations per year. Increasing life expectancy, rising survival rates after myocardial infarction, and risk factors such as arterial hypertension and diabetes mellitus have led to an increase in the incidence and prevalence of heart failure in recent decades.
Heart failure is a severe disease of the heart in which the heart is unable to supply sufficient blood to the body and organs, resulting in a lack of oxygen and nutrients. Typical symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath, ankle edema, fatigue, and decreased exercise capacity caused by a structural or functional abnormality of the heart.1 In more than 50% of cases, chronic heart failure is due to arterial hypertension or coronary artery disease. Heart failure patients can be classified into four different stages (NYHA stages) according to their physical capacity (without physical limitation to discomfort during all physical activities) according to the New York Heart Association.
Drug therapy is the primary treatment for chronic heart failure patients; angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (e.g. Enapril®) or angiotensin receptor blockers (e.g. Candeblo®, Valsax®), beta blockers (e.g. Nebilan®) and aldosterone antagonists (e.g. Eplezot®) are administered. The patient is titrated up to the desired target dose depending on blood pressure, heart rate, renal function and individual tolerance. Diuretics (e.g. HCT G.L.) are recommended for symptom relief, but physical activity and lifestyle modification (e.g. reduction of alcohol consumption, smoking cessation and normalization of body weight) are also advised. Thanks to improved treatment methods, 5-year survival rates have increased significantly with adherence to medically prescribed therapy.2
1 Mörtl D. DFP literature review: heart failure. ÖAZ, no. 8, 25.4.2016.
2 BVA – Versicherungsanstalt öffentlich Bediensteter (ed.). Information for physicians on heart failure. www.bva.at/herzinsuffizienz (accessed: 11.08.2016).