Epidemiology, pathophysiology, and etiology of congestive heart failure in older adults

J Am Geriatr Soc. 1997 Aug;45(8):968-74. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.1997.tb02968.x.


Objectives: To review the epidemiology, pathophysiology, and etiology of congestive heart failure (CHF) in older adults.

Methods: Published reports relevant to the epidemiology, pathophysiology, and etiology of CHF were systematically reviewed. Studies involving older adults and more recent studies were emphasized.

Results: More than 75% of patients with CHF in the United States are older than 65 years of age, and CHF is the leading cause of hospitalization in older adults. CHF is also a major cause of chronic disability, and annual expenditures for CHF currently exceed $10 billion. In addition, both the incidence and prevalence of CHF are increasing, largely as a result of the aging of the population. Older adults are predisposed to developing CHF as a result of age-related changes in the cardiovascular system and the high prevalence of hypertension, coronary artery disease, and valvular heart disease in this age group. Although the fundamental pathophysiology of CHF is similar in younger and older patients, older individuals are more prone to develop CHF in the setting of preserved left ventricular systolic function. This syndrome, referred to as diastolic heart failure, accounts for up to 50% of all cases of CHF in adults more than 65 years of age. Coronary heart disease and hypertension are the most common etiologies of CHF in older adults, and they often coexist. Valvular heart disease, especially aortic stenosis and mitral regurgitation, are also common in older adults, whereas nonischemic dilated cardiomyopathy, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and restrictive cardiomyopathy occur less frequently.

Conclusions: Congestive heart failure is a major public health problem in the United States today as a result of its high and increasing prevalence in the older population as well as its substantial impact on healthcare costs and quality of life. There is an urgent need to develop more effective strategies for the prevention and treatment of CHF in older individuals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aortic Valve Stenosis / complications
  • Cardiomyopathy, Dilated / complications
  • Cardiomyopathy, Hypertrophic / complications
  • Cardiomyopathy, Restrictive / complications
  • Chronic Disease
  • Coronary Disease / complications
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs
  • Health Expenditures
  • Heart / physiopathology
  • Heart Failure / economics
  • Heart Failure / epidemiology*
  • Heart Failure / etiology
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology
  • Heart Valve Diseases / complications
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / complications
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitral Valve Insufficiency / complications
  • Population Dynamics
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Ventricular Function, Left / physiology