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American Journal of the Medical Sciences:
Reviews

Use of Beta-Blockers in Older Adults with Chronic Heart Failure

Ahmed, Ali MD, MPH; Dell’Italia, Louis J. MD

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Abstract

Most heart failure patients are older adults. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors reduce mortality and morbidity in patients with systolic heart failure. However, the annual mortality rate in patients with systolic heart failure receiving ACE inhibitors is about 12%. Beta-blockers further reduce mortality rate by an additional 35% to 65%. Because of potential adverse effects, the rate of beta-blocker use is likely to be low in older adults with systolic heart failure. In this article, we review the findings of the major beta-blocker trials in systolic heart failure and discuss the potential benefits and adverse effects of beta-blockers, along with various practical aspects of their use in older adults with systolic heart failure. Subgroup analyses of these trials suggest that the survival benefits of beta-blockers observed in the main trials are also observed in persons 65 years of age and older. However, data are limited for heart failure patients 85 years of age and older. About half of the older adults with heart failure do not have systolic heart failure, and currently there is no evidence that beta-blockers also improve survival in these patients. Beta-blockers might play a beneficial role in heart failure patients without systolic heart failure by reducing high blood pressure, high heart rate, or myocardial ischemia, conditions known to impair ventricular relaxation. Adequate knowledge of the commonly used beta-blockers, along with careful patient selection and close monitoring for adverse effects will allow safe initiation and continuation of beta-blocker use for older adults with systolic heart failure. It is likely that lower doses of beta-blockers are as effective as higher doses.

© Copyright 2004 Southern Society for Clinical Investigation

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