Heart Troubles
A School of Public Health researcher and his team are calling an increase in heart failure over the past 20 years a new epidemic of cardiovascular disease.

_Howard Eisen

Eisen is chief of the Division of Cardiology in the College of Medicine.

_Longjian Liu

Liu is an associate professor in the School of Public Health, with research focuses on nutrition and diet, Asian health, early detection of cancer, longitudinal data analysis and more.

Heart failure is fast making a name for itself as one of the deadliest of cardiovascular diseases among men, African Americans and individuals over age 65, beating out others like coronary heart disease and stroke, with a bleak survival rate that rivals most cancers.


Age-adjusted prevalence of hospitalization attributable to hypertensive diseases (HTD) from 1980 to 2007 across four regions in the United States. The West had consistently lower prevalences.

“In contrast to other forms of cardiovascular diseases … the prevalence, incidence and mortality from heart failure are increasing and the prognosis remains poor,” says Longjian Liu, who co-authored a paper detailing the trend with the College of Medicine’s Howard Eisen, MD.

The report notes that heart failure affects nearly 5.8 million people in the United States, and more than 23 million people worldwide. Each year, more than 550,000 individuals in the United States receive new diagnoses of heart failure, and one in five have a lifetime risk of developing the syndrome.

“The worldwide prevalence of heart failure seems to have been increasing over the past decades,” says Liu. “Despite advances in therapy and health management, heart failure remains a deadly clinical syndrome.”

In 2008, heart failure accounted for more than $35 billion in U.S. health care costs, according to the report, which was published in the February 2014 edition of Cardiology Clinics.

The authors report that, in the United States, nearly 50 percent of people diagnosed with heart failure die within five years. A review of cases in Europe found mortality rates were 11 percent in the first year and 41 percent over five years.

The key to preventing heart failure is to control risk factors at early stages, says Liu. That’s achieved through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. And, those who are at a high risk for heart failure should take serious steps to reduce their risk by adhering to medications, avoiding drinking alcohol, reducing salt intake and receiving ongoing care from a physician, he says.


Colored angiogram of the coronary arteries of a patient with heart disease. Coronary arteries (orange) supply the heart muscle with oxygenated blood. Narrowing of the blood vessels is seen at left.