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Treatment of heart failure in the elderly: Which drugs are essential and which should be avoided

Giampaolo Scorcu, Annarita Pilleri
  • Annarita Pilleri
    Azienda ospedaliera G. Brotzu, Italy

Abstract

With improved health care and with population aging, heart failure (HF) has become a common disease among the elderly and is one of the principal causes of mortality in elderly age. But the pharmacological management of HF in the elderly has still not yet been defined, as the clinical context is complicated by comorbidities, and differs from that of younger adults. In general, elderly patients with HF should be treated according to current guideline recommendations, for which ACE-I, beta-blockers and anti-aldosterones constitute the cornerstone of therapy. Interesting prospects are opening up with the use of new drugs such as neprilysin inhibitors, which appear to reproduce in the elderly the positive effects observed in the young adult population, and ivabradine, which may substitute the traditional use (now probably obsolete) of digitalis. Currently, however, treatment of HF in elderly patients is characterized by insufficient drug titration and by a habitual underuse of the recommended therapies – this is partly due to prescription inertia and in part to the negative effect of polypharmacotherapy on patient adherence. Even if HF therapy is similar in older and younger patients, the presence in older patients of more comorbidities, and frailty, functional status, and socio-environmental factors related to aging require a multidisciplinary approach to care and, above all, an additional assessment aimed at personalizing the treatment.

Keywords

Heart failure; elderly patient; pharmacological therapy.

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Submitted: 2018-04-24 11:35:12
Published: 2018-06-07 14:54:27
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