Aim: To estimate the incidence rate of heart failure in the general population and to assess risk factors associated with the occurrence of newly diagnosed heart failure.
Methods: From the source population that was derived from the UK General Practice Research Database, we identified patients aged 40--84 years newly diagnosed with heart failure in 1996, and estimated incidence rates. We sent questionnaires to a random sample of heart failure patients (N=1200) and performed a nested case-control analysis to assess risk factors for heart failure.
Results: The overall incidence rate for heart failure was 4.4 per 1000 person-years in men and 3.9 per 1000 person-years in women. The incidence increased steeply with age in both sexes. The relative risk of heart failure was 2.1 (95% C.I.: 1.7--2.6) among men compared with women less than 65 years old and 1.3 (95% C.I.: 1.2--1.4) above the age of 65. Slightly more than half of the cases were categorized in NYHA III--IV at the time of the first diagnosis. Within one month of initial diagnosis 62% of the men and 50% of the women were referred to specialists and/or hospitalized for heart failure. Smoking, hypertension, diabetes, obesity were independently associated with heart failure as well as history of distant dyspnoea. Coronary heart disease was the most common cause of heart failure with a greater relative prevalence in men than women.
Conclusion: Incident heart failure cases mainly comprised elderly men and women frequently burdened with several diseases in general practice. Women had a lower incidence of heart failure than men. However, traditional risk factors such as smoking, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and dyspnoea appeared to confer the same relative increase in heart failure risk among women and men.