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Heart failure: The good news

Created date

March 20th, 2012
Matt Narrett, M.D., is chief medical officer for Erickson Living and directs the provision of medical care at all Erickson Living communities. He received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School and is board certified in internal medicine and geriatrics. He is coauthor of Old Is the New Young, a guide to successful aging (available on Stop smoking. Get more exercise. Eat a low-fat diet. Lose a few pounds. Every time you see your doctor you may hear these same suggestions and it s actually for very good reason. We were recently reminded of the benefits of these suggestions in a study published in theJournal of the American Medical Association. Researchers found that hospital admissions related to heart failure dropped by almost 30% over a ten-year period. While there have been advances in the medical treatment of heart failure during this time period, it is unlikely that this dramatic drop is solely based upon health care interventions. Rather, researchers speculate that the reason people are being hospitalized less is a result of advances in prevention and lifestyle. According to the American Heart Association, approximately 5.8 million Americans are diagnosed with heart failure, and this disease is currently the most common reason that Medicare beneficiaries are hospitalized. Health care costs related to these inpatient stays are staggering. To give you some idea of the price tag, the recent drop in hospitalizations saved Medicare about $4 billion dollars in 2008 alone. Preventive measures Strategies such as exercising, eating a healthful diet, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and controlling high blood pressure can help prevent heart disease. Heart attacks and other vascular problems such as atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries) often lead to heart failure because the heart muscle becomes damaged. The good news is that even if you already have heart failure, these same preventive health measures can still help you stay well and avoid hospitalization. If the trend of healthful living continues, we may soon see a dramatic improvement in the prevention of other common health problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Living well and eating well do make sense and it s great to see lifestyle changes making a difference. In good health, Dr. Narrett