Background: Most persons with congestive heart failure are elderly, and many elderly persons with congestive heart failure have normal left ventricular systolic function.
Objective: To evaluate the relationship between left ventricular systolic function and outcome of congestive heart failure in elderly persons.
Design: Population-based longitudinal study of coronary heart disease and stroke.
Setting: Four U.S. sites: Forsyth County, North Carolina; Sacramento County, California; Allegheny County, Pennsylvania; and Washington County, Maryland.
Participants: 5888 persons who were at least 65 years of age and were recruited from the community.
Measurements: Total mortality and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.
Results: Of 5532 participants, 269 (4.9%) had congestive heart failure. Among these, left ventricular function was normal in 63%, borderline decreased in 15%, and overtly impaired in 22%. The mortality rate was 25 deaths per 1000 person-years in the reference group (no congestive heart failure and normal left ventricular function at baseline); 154 deaths per 1000 person-years in participants with congestive heart failure and impaired left ventricular systolic function; 87 and 115 deaths per 1000 person-years in participants with congestive heart failure and normal or borderline systolic function, respectively; and 89 deaths per 1000 person-years in persons with impaired left ventricular function but no congestive heart failure. Although the risk for death from congestive heart failure was lower in persons with normal systolic function than in those with impaired function, more deaths were associated with normal systolic function because more persons with heart failure fall into this category.
Conclusions: Community-dwelling elderly persons, especially those with impaired left ventricular function, have a substantial risk for death from congestive heart failure. However, more deaths occur from heart failure in persons with normal systolic function because left ventricular function is more often normal than impaired in elderly persons with heart failure.