Shaline Rao, MD: Causes of Rising Heart Failure Rates


A discussion on why heart failure rates have climbed over the past decade while research indicates rates of cardiovascular disease, as a whole, have begun to decline.

While rates of cardiovascular disease have plateaued—and some research suggesting even declined—in recent years, projections expect heart failure rates to skyrocket in the near future.

In 2017, the American Heart Association’s Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics update painted a grim picture, predicting heart failure rates to rise 46% by 2030.

For some, the disparities in trends between rates of heart failure and cardiovascular disease as a whole prompts the question: Why did the number of heart disease patients rise by 800,000 from 2012 to 2017 when so much progress has been made in the fight against heart disease?

To get a better perspective on the emerging issue, we sat down with Shaline Rao, MD, heart failure cardiologist and assistant professor of Medicine at NYU Langone Health, for her take on the subject.

MD Mag: What do you think has driven the surge in the prevalence of heart failure over the past decade?

Rao: One of the other benefits of medical care is that we're having our patients or family members, friends survive heart disease for longer. It used to be that heart attacks were fatal—we didn't expect people to do well after a large heart attack. Now with better awareness in the community, earlier diagnosis, and earlier intervention, we're actually able to help people who have coronary disease, but that doesn't mean we've prevented all the disease. We're just catching it early. That means we have a lot more people living with cardiovascular disease over many, many years.

So, now you have to take into account the injury that happened at the time of the heart attack, and the processes of aging and comorbid illnesses that go along with it. So, it's not a surprise that we're seeing a rise in heart failure. I think it's part of being able to live well and live longer that we have this problem, but it is an important thing for us to focus on as we move forward in the medical community.

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