Heart Failure Misunderstood by Many Americans

Nearly half of Americans miscomprehend fundamental facts about heart failure.

Nearly half of Americans miscomprehend fundamental facts about heart failure.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recently commissioned a survey in conjunction with Novartis to measure heart failure awareness and knowledge gaps throughout the United States. Survey respondents included the general public, heart failure patients, and caregivers.

Of the 1600 people surveyed, 58% incorrectly identified heart failure as a natural cause of death that occurs when the heart ceases to beat, and two-thirds confused signs of heart failure with those of a heart attack. Nearly half mistakenly described heart failure as “a silent killer with no symptoms,” according to an AHA press release.

These findings are troubling because of the condition’s prominence. It has been estimated that 1 in 5 Americans will develop heart failure within their lifetimes, and heart failure is a contributing cause in 1 in 9 deaths in the United States.

Misconceptions about heart failure are also a major cost burden on the US health system, as hospitalizations and related costs for heart failure patients exceed $30 billion annually.

“Being aware of the risks and symptoms of heart failure and receiving prompt and proper treatment are key to battling this disease, and that’s why these survey results are concerning,” stated Gregg C. Fonarow, MD, in the AHA press release. “Heart failure is a serious, chronic condition. It requires recognition, treatment and constant monitoring of signs and symptoms to make sure the condition is not worsening, so that quick action to adjust medications or behaviors may be instituted.”

Pharmacists are well positioned in the community to close these knowledge gaps and disseminate information about managing heart failure to patients, caregivers, and the general population. They can educate patients, monitor adherence to treatment regimens, watch for drug interactions and intolerances, and facilitate medication reconciliation during transitions of care.

In fact, Jeannette Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP, recently wrote that pharmacists have been “hailed as key members of multidisciplinary care teams” for heart failure patients because medication management “is at the core of heart failure therapy.”

Pharmacists’ skills are especially important because patients with heart failure can lead normal lives if they manage the condition properly and make necessary lifestyle changes.