Heart Failure Society of America Kicks Off 2002 National Heart Failure Awareness Campaign

SAN DIEGO, CA (January 28, 2001) - The Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA) supports the 3rd National Heart Failure Awareness Week, February 10-16, 2002. The focus of this year's campaign is to develop and provide educational materials to primary care physicians, patients, and their families and individuals at risk for heart failure.

To kick off the 2002 heart failure awareness initiative the HFSA will host a CME symposium in San Diego, CA, on Saturday, February 9th, 2002 for primary care physicians. In addition, heart failure clinics and academic institutions will hold events during heart failure awareness week and throughout the year. These events will focus on patients and their families (luncheons, health fairs) or raising the level of awareness in the medical community through CME symposia for health care providers. Presentations at the national event in San Diego by world-renowned experts in heart failure will be audio and videotaped. The videotape will be shown as a web cast on the HFSA web site in mid-March and the audiotape will be distributed to 10,000 primary care physicians. Both are available for CME credit.

In addition to the FACES card and brochures currently available, new education materials (10 modules) for patients are in production. These modules are specifically written for patients, their families, and individuals at risk. Each will highlight a different aspect of heart failure (i.e., diet, exercise, life style, heart failure medicines, etc.). As they are completed, they will be added to the HFSA website (www.hfsa.org), where patients and/or clinics can place an order. The first module, "Taking Control of Heart Failure," will be released on February 1, 2002.

"As the population ages and more and more people survive heart attacks but are left with damaged hearts, the incidence of heart failure will increase," said Barry Greenberg, MD, Chairman - Heart Failure Awareness Committee. "The number of deaths in the U.S. from this disease has more than doubled since 1979. Each year, 400,000 to 700,000 new heart failure cases are diagnosed."

Heart failure is responsible for more hospitalizations than all forms of cancer combined. Unfortunately, millions of Americans are living with heart failure but may be unaware of their condition. To increase awareness about the disease, the Heart Failure Society of America, a non-profit professional organization, launched this campaign in 2000 to bring attention to this life-threatening disease and encourage people to talk to their doctors if they think they have symptoms or are at risk.

"Heart failure is a serious public health problem in this country and is responsible for more than 11 million physician visits," said Barry Greenberg, MD. "We are very excited to be in the third year of the national awareness campaign to increase recognition of this often misunderstood disease."

Heart Failure: A Growing Epidemic
Despite its name, heart "failure" does not mean that the heart has suddenly stopped working. The disease usually develops slowly as the heart gradually weakens and works less efficiently. Heart failure frequently develops following damage to the heart (e.g., heart attack or chronic high blood pressure and other causes). As more and more people survive heart attacks but are left with damaged hearts, the incidence of heart failure is increasing. The aging of the population, the increase in the number of Americans with diabetes and the high incidence of hypertension in the population are also major contributors to the considerable rise in heart failure. In fact, heart failure is the only major cardiovascular disease that is increasing in incidence and prevalence. The number of deaths in the U.S. from this disease has more than doubled since 1979. In comparison, the death rate from coronary heart disease has dramatically decreased statistically over a similar time period. Each year, 400,000 to 700,000 new heart failure cases are diagnosed.

Management of Heart Failure: New Approaches to Treatment
Although there is no cure for heart failure, there are treatments and devices that help manage the disease. Heart failure treatment guidelines released by HFSA and published in the Journal of Cardiac Failure recommend a three to four drug combination to treat heart failure. This regimen includes digoxin to help the heart pump better and improve blood circulation and diuretics, sometimes called "water pills," to help remove extra fluid in the body and reduce swelling in the legs and ankles. While diuretics and digoxin do a lot to help patients feel better, doctors are now prescribing two newer classes of drugs to be used with them that help patients live longer and keep them out of the hospital. These drugs are ACE inhibitors and beta blockers, which have been shown to slow disease progression and work by blocking certain stress hormones in the body that are believed to be responsible for the progression of heart failure. Despite these known benefits, ACE inhibitors and beta blockers are dramatically underused.

"There has never been a more promising time for patients with heart failure, due to a variety of treatment options and medical devices, heart failure patients are still able to do many of the activities they enjoy," said Barry Greenberg, MD. "Early diagnosis and treatment are critical to slowing disease progression. We encourage anyone who thinks they may be at risk for heart failure to talk with their doctor."

To help people recognize the common symptoms of heart failure, HFSA has developed the FACES card, which stands for:

  • Fatigue
  • Activities limited
  • Chest congestion
  • Edema or ankle swelling
  • Shortness of breath

This card can be found on the abouthf.org web site.

Support for Heart Failure Awareness was provided by unrestricted funds from the HFSA Heart Failure Awareness Roundtable: Abbott Laboratories, AstraZeneca, Aventis Pharmaceuticals, GlaxoSmithKline, Medtronic, Merck, Novartis, Scios, and Vasomedical.

The Heart Failure Society of America, Inc. (HFSA), a non-profit professional organization, represents the first organized effort by heart failure experts from the Americas to provide a forum for all those interested in heart function, heart failure, and congestive heart failure (CHF) research and patient care. The goals of the organization are to promote research related to heart failure and provide a forum for presentation of that research; educate both physicians and caregivers to enable them to diagnose and treat heart failure more effectively; encourage preventive measures to reduce the incidence of heart failure; enhance the quality of life for those with heart failure; and promote and facilitate the formal training of physicians, scientists and allied health care providers in the field of heart failure.

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