Study Compares Quality Of Life For Men And Women With Congestive Heart Failure

November 11, 1997

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 11 -- The quality of life for women with congestive heart failure may be greater than the quality of life for men with the disease, according to a study by University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) researchers presented Nov. 11 at the annual scientific meeting of the American Heart Association in Orlando, Fla.

"More and more we see that women with heart disease behave differently than men," said Srinivas Murali, M.D., associate professor of medicine in the division of cardiology and director of Transplantation Cardiology at the UPMC.

"In every study evaluating new treatments for heart disease, the majority of patients enrolled are men. So, we make decisions on women's cardiovascular health based on information from men. In this study we wanted to evaluate whether the quality of life was affected differently for men and women with the same degree of impairment of heart function."

An estimated 4.8 million Americans have congestive heart failure, in which the heart cannot maintain adequate circulation of the blood because it fails to pump blood properly. It is the chief cause of about 40,000 deaths in the United States each year and is a major contributing factor in an additional 225,000 deaths.

"Restoring quality of life is an important goal in the care of heart failure patients," according to Nora Olds, R.N., clinical transplant coordinator in the UPMC division of cardiology.

The study surveyed 26 men and 26 women with congestive heart failure and used standardized measurements to determine their feelings about the quality of their lives. While both groups had scores indicating a lower quality of life than the reported norm in the United States, women scored higher than men in physical functioning, bodily pain, general health and vitality.

"Women scored significantly higher for social functioning, indicating that emotional and physical problems did not interfere with social activities as much as with men," Ms. Olds reported. Women also reported significantly higher mental health scores and had fewer feelings of depression and greater feelings of peacefulness than did the men.

"These gender differences may in part explain the failure of some heart failure drugs to improve the already heightened quality of life in some women," Ms. Olds said.

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