Predicting individual risk for heart failure

Javed Butler, MD, MPH, and colleagues

Javed Butler, MD, MPH, director of heart failure research at Emory Healthcare and associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine, says heart failure is any condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood for the metabolic needs of the body, but that does not mean that the heart is not pumping or the heart has stopped working.

Heart disease is not a disease but a syndrome, so a whole family of different diseases can precede this condition. Diabetes, obesity, heart valve problems, lung disease, heart attack and irregular heartbeats are only some factors that can cause heart failure. “Pinning down the roots of heart failure can be confusing,” says Butler, who serves as deputy chief science advisor for the American Heart Association. “Unlike some heart problems, heart failure is not one disease. It has a few common causes, and a few less common, even rare, causes.”

Finding new ways to identify people at risk for developing heart failure—before damage is done—is his raison d’etre and primary research focus, according to Emory Medicine magazine.

Along with his colleagues, Butler recently created a statistical model, called the Health ABC Heart Failure Model, based on patient data to identify those at risk heart failure despite its elusive and wide-ranging causes.

Study results affirming wide-ranging aspects of the model are reported by publications such as Circulation, Cardiology, Archives of Internal Medicine and other peer-reviewed scientific publications.

The ABC model uses nine measures to estimate heart failure risk, including age, history of heart disease, smoking, blood pressure, heart rate, left ventricular hypertrophy measured by electrocardiography, and blood levels of glucose, creatinine, and albumin. Butler says this model is the first to combine heart failure risk factors into a system to predict individual risk.

“Now we are working on models for effective interventions for intermediate- and high-risk patients,” he says. “We’re stepping back to learn how to prevent heart failure, which is a dire need.”

Learn more about Butler and his work at Sound Science and Emory Health magazine.

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