Heart failure in women: Epidemiology, biology and treatment

Department of Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL, USA.
Women s Health 10/2009; 5(5):517-27. DOI: 10.2217/whe.09.50
Source: PubMed


Although women account for a significant proportion of the growing heart failure epidemic, they have been poorly represented in clinical trials. As emerging epidemiologic data reveal a growing prevalence and burden of disease among women, it is increasingly important that treating physicians and researchers recognize sex-based differences. Despite the overall incidence of heart failure being lower in women compared with men, the magnitude of improvement in survival over the last several decades has been less apparent in women. Women with heart failure are more likely to be older, have preserved systolic function and nonischemic cardiomyopathy. While clinical trials have demonstrated improved outcomes among heart failure patients, they have predominantly included men, yielding results that are sometimes inadequately powered to detect a benefit for women. Without adequate representation of women in clinical trials, one cannot assume that the same level of therapeutic evidence also applies to women. Nonetheless, it appears that beta-blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors provide the same survival benefits in women with systolic dysfunction as in men. In addition, some studies suggest that angiotensin-receptor blockers may lead to a better survival in women when compared with angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors. Focused research is needed to understand and guide the management of women with heart failure.

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    ABSTRACT: We aimed to develop a multivariable statistical model for risk stratification in patients with chronic heart failure with systolic dysfunction, using patient data that are routinely collected and easily obtained at the time of initial presentation. In a cohort of 2331 patients enrolled in the HF-ACTION (Heart Failure: A Controlled Trial Investigating Outcomes of Exercise TraiNing) study (New York Heart Association class II-IV, left ventricular ejection fraction ≤0.35, randomized to exercise training and usual care versus usual care alone, median follow-up of 2.5 years), we performed risk modeling using Cox proportional hazards models and analyzed the relationship between baseline clinical factors and the primary composite end point of death or all-cause hospitalization and the secondary end point of all-cause death alone. Prognostic relationships for continuous variables were examined using restricted cubic spline functions, and key predictors were identified using a backward variable selection process and bootstrapping methods. For ease of use in clinical practice, point-based risk scores were developed from the risk models. Exercise duration on the baseline cardiopulmonary exercise test was the most important predictor of both the primary end point and all-cause death. Additional important predictors for the primary end point risk model (in descending strength) were Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire symptom stability score, higher serum urea nitrogen, and male sex (all P<0.0001). Important additional predictors for the mortality risk model were higher serum urea nitrogen, male sex, and lower body mass index (all P<0.0001). Risk models using simple, readily obtainable clinical characteristics can provide important prognostic information in ambulatory patients with chronic heart failure with systolic dysfunction. URL: Unique identifier: NCT00047437.
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