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HEALTH REPORT - Survival Rates for Heart Failure Increase - 2004-07-27

Broadcast: July 28, 2004

This is Phoebe Zimmermann with the VOA Special English Health Report.

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart cannot pump as much blood as the body needs. This condition can begin with a heart attack or high blood pressure. The heart becomes weakened. Over time, it loses the ability to pump blood. A sign of heart failure is breathing difficulty. But people often mistake that for just a sign of aging.

In the United States, doctors say about five million people have this major cause of sickness and death. They say heart failure is the leading cause of hospital treatment for people age sixty-five and older. But these doctors say the problem of heart failure has yet to be fully investigated.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota did a study of the last twenty years. They expected to find that heart failure has become more common. Hospital admissions for heart failure have increased. But they found that the percentage of the population developing heart failure has not changed. Instead, survival rates have improved.

People with the condition are living longer today than they were twenty years ago. But this means they are also living longer with the effects of the disease. So, they are being admitted to the hospital many more times than people in the past with heart failure.

The Journal of the American Medical Association published the findings. Doctor Veronique Roger [ro-ZHAY] led the study of about four-thousand-five-hundred people.

These patients all first learned they had heart failure between nineteen-seventy-nine and two-thousand. The study found that the chances a person would still be alive after five years improved during that period. The doctors say the gains were mainly among men and younger people.

They say there has been some progress against heart failure. More lives are being saved. But they say more work needs to be done to improve survival.

Doctor Roger notes that men remain at higher risk for heart failure at a younger age than women. And both men and women still have about a fifty percent chance of dying from heart failure within five years of discovery. The doctor says better ways are also needed to treat long-term effects like breathing difficulty. That way patients could remain at home and avoid repeated visits to the hospital.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Phoebe Zimmermann.