Congestive heart failure in the elderly

F. Rengo, D. Acanfora, L. Trojano, G. Furgi, C. Picone, G. L. Iannuzzi, D. F. Vitale, C. Rengo, N. Ferrara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Several aspects of congestive heart failure are discussed in the light of international literature and of recent findings of our group. The annual incidence of heart failure in elderly subjects, aged ≤ 75 y, is 13 to 50/1000, while it is 1.6/1000 in people aged 45-54 y. The prevalence of heart failure is about 3% in subjects aged 45-64 y, 6% in subjects aged more than 65 y and 10% in subjects aged more than 75 y. These data are confirmed by our population based study in elderly subjects. The etiology of congestive heart failure is similar in elderly and middle-aged patients. However, several anatomo-functional, hormonal and autonomic nervous system changes, typical of congestive heart failure, occur during physiologic ageing processes also. These findings may explain the dramatic evolution of congestive heart failure in elderly patients. Moreover, some features of the elderly - e.g. comorbidity, atypical clinical presentations, loss of autonomy, increased iatrogen risk should be considered. No specific drugs exist for the pharmacologic treatment of heart failure in the elderly, so that the geriatric specificity in the treatment of heart failure can be recognized in the art of drug choice and dosage, to obtain the best results with the least side effects. The multiple etiology of congestive heart failure, the comorbidity, the loss of autonomy and the deterioration of cognitive functions suggest the need for multidimensioal approach and continuative intervention in elderly patients with heart disease, and in particular with congestive heart failure. Further studies on disease- and age-related changes are necessary to develop new and more potent. strategies to secure 'successful ageing'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-223
Number of pages23
JournalArchives of Gerontology and Geriatrics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1996


  • Aging heart
  • Comorbidity
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Elderly
  • Epidemiology
  • Etiology
  • Pathophysiology
  • Quality of Life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • Medicine(all)


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