A new study by scientists at Wake Forest University School of Medicine further characterizes a second and distinct type of heart failure, a progressively debilitating condition common among older people. The report, which appears in the November 6, 2002, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), should help physicians better understand the condition, and suggests that additional studies be undertaken to see if this second type of heart failure, called diastolic heart failure, is as amenable to treatment as the more well-recognized form of the disease.
The researchers compared 4 measures -- left ventricular structure and function, exercise capacity, neuroendocrine function, and quality of life -- among healthy volunteers, people with "classic" systolic heart failure (in which the heart's ability to contract decreases), and people with what is presumed to be diastolic heart failure (which occurs when the heart has a problem filling). For most of the measures, the outcomes were similar, indicating that people with both types of heart failure had severely reduced exercise capacity, increased neuroendocrine activity, and impaired quality of life. The findings, researchers say, provide evidence that diastolic heart failure is a "real" heart failure syndrome, although not quite as severe as the systolic type of disease.
The research was conducted by Dalane W. Kitzman, M.D., William C. Little, M.D., and colleagues at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) part of the National Institutes of Health at the Department of Health and Human Services, provided research grants supporting the study. The project was also funded in part through the NIA-supported Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center at Wake Forest. The nine "Pepper Centers" around the U.S. focus on research relevant to the clinical care of older people.
"Diastolic heart failure appears to have all the earmarks of a heart failure syndrome that can compromise the health and independence of many older people," says Andre Premen, Ph.D., of the NIA's Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology Program and NIA program official for the study. "With this study, it becomes increasingly clear that diastolic heart failure is a condition that should be addressed as a separate and distinct clinical syndrome."
To discuss the findings with Dr. Premen, media may call the NIA Information Office at the number above.
Materials provided by NIH/National Institute On Aging. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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